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December 15, 2012

Guns, police, class, society
Posted by Teresa at 08:40 PM *

First, a moment of human kindness. If this message can travel back to the kids who made that sign and lit those candles, please tell them we said “thank you” with all our hearts.


As I tweeted last night:

We pay too much for certain citizens’ FRPG (fantasy role-playing game) in which they pretend that gun ownership, not civil society and the rule of law, makes them safe.
I later tweeted a second version of the sentiment:
Americans love owning guns because it lets them pretend their safety isn’t a function of our shared society. They should grow up.
Jurie Horneman ‏replied:
JurieOnGames: Ah, individualism? So easy to forget that as a European.

tnielsenhayden: I’ve seen photos of real Tea Party signs demanding that the federal govt. keep its hands off their Social Security.

JurieOnGames: I’ve seen those. It’s… beyond satire.

tnielsenhayden: There’s something very strange about their concept of society. It’s like they think trans-suburbia is a natural landscape.


1. Almost all of the actual law enforcement that happens in the United States is handled by police officers.

2. When gun enthusiasts discuss the kind of hypothetical interactions that in their opinion make gun ownership necessary, the interactions are framed in terms of endangered citizens vs. wicked gun-wielding criminals. The police are scarcely mentioned, if they appear at all, and

3. gun enthusiasts, the NRA collectively included, put near-zero energy or resources into lobbying for more and better police departments.

4. This seems odd.

A different set of propositions:

If the world really worked the way it does in gun-enthusiast scenarios, no one would ever lay out mixed public/private space the way it’s done in American suburbs, with limited-access chokepoints for everyone going in and out. All it would take would be a few guys with automatic weapons and lots of ammo to turn a gated community or limited-access corporate office park into a killing field, hostage situation, or poultry to be plucked at leisure.

The reason that doesn’t happen, and those configurations are seen as safe, is because suburbia is actually designed to slow down perps until the police arrive. If someone marketed a portable device that blocked all phone calls within a half-mile radius, trans-suburban American communities would turn into the world’s biggest collection of sitting ducks.


Also yesterday evening, Patrick was exchanging tweets with Charlie Stross and Saladin Ahmed:

Saladin Ahmed, @saladinahmed
People say they want a world w/o guns. What they want’s a world where only cops/FBI/DEA/army have guns. Must be nice to feel safe w/ that…

Charles Stross, @cstross
@saladinahmed Hello? That’s the world I live in — the CIVILIZED world. The USA is an exception, and not in a good way. Scary place to visit!

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@cstross There are over 200,000,000 privately owned guns in the US. I have come to believe that this is a threat to liberty. @saladinahmed

Charles Stross, @cstross
@pnh @saladinahmed Those 200M private guns are why policing in the US is heavily militarized. Which itself is corrosive to democracy.

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@cstross They’re not the only reason for police militarization. It’s a broad-based pathology. @saladinahmed

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@cstross Worth keeping in mind the roots of white American obsession with owning guns: defense against blacks and Indians. @saladinahmed

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@cstross In other words, we’ve been hysterical for 300 years about the need for lethal force against those we’ve wronged. @saladinahmed

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@cstross This mixture of buried guilt and existential terror is a perfect recipe for long-term, multi-generational craziness. @saladinahmed

Saladin Ahmed, @saladinahmed
@cstross @pnh You guys, I’m not NRA, ok? Just seeing lot of tweets that ignore complex history of gun law, esp. for people of color in US.

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@saladinahmed Oh, I know. I also know that the point when white Americans went full cross-eyed crazy about “black power”… (1/2) @cstross

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@saladinahmed …was when the Panthers started, not unreasonably, suggesting that black people arm themselves. (2/2) @cstross

bob calhoun, @bob_calhoun
@saladinahmed The most sweeping gun control legislation was signed in 1966 because of fears of urban rioting. Go figure.

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@bob_calhoun Just so. Because Americans are enthusiastic about guns precisely up to the point when brown people have some. @saladinahmed

adamselzer, @adamselzer
Imagine a group called “Arab Americans for Gun Rights.” Exact same positions/rhetoric as NRA, but brown guys. How would they be viewed?

P Nielsen Hayden, @pnh
@adamselzer They would be destroyed with as much violence as necessary, their leaders killed or driven insane. As has happened before.

Saladin Ahmed, @saladinahmed
If we’re going to talk history of gun law, we have to talk about Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, etc.
Retweeted by P Nielsen Hayden


Endbits: The New York Times has released the names, ages, and the occupations of the the adults, who were killed in the latest shooting in Sandy Hook, CT. The most obvious pattern is that the shooter preferred female targets. The dead children were hit by 3-11 shots apiece.

Teacher Victoria Soto, age 27, crowded all of her pupils into a closet, then lied to the shooter, telling him they were in the gymnasium. He killed her and moved on.

We have no reason to assume that this will be the last such incident in 2012.


Amanda Marcotte, retweeted by Patrick and Heresiarch:

Amanda Marcotte, ‏@AmandaMarcotte When I claim gun nuttery is about psychosexual weirdness, wingnuts say “Nuh-uh!” Here’s an ad for the gun Lanza used.

On another branch of the conversation:

William Gibson, @GreatDismal
The elephant in the center of the room: white fantasies of shooting minority home invaders

Chris Turner, ‏@retrophisch
@GreatDismal That is an utterly despicable, vile assumption with absolutely no proof or basis in reality.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, ‏@tnielsenhayden
@retrophisch @GreatDismal Oh yeah right it doesn’t exist. I’ve been hearing them talk about that all my life.

Michael Moore, ‏@MMFlint
If only the first victim, Adam Lanza’s mother, had been a gun owner, she could have stopped this before it started.
Comments on Guns, police, class, society:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 08:50 PM:

I just want to say that I have a lot of respect for Saladin Ahmed's suspiciousness of "gun control". Any Melanin-American is justified in feeling that suspicion. The only times America gets it together to actually control guns are when the guns are in the hands of brown people.

#2 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 09:28 PM:

I do not know of any way to prevent tragedies such as Newton. I don't even know of ways to make them happen less often. I do know that to give up on even trying in an obscenity,

#3 ::: Pangolin ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 09:30 PM:

I don't think there's evidence to say that he preferred female targets based on the adults all being female, without knowing the gender makeup of the staff at the school. At my kids elementary school, which is of a similar size to Sandy Hook, there is a staff of around 60 adults, which includes just 3 males.

#4 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 09:43 PM:

I posted this in the open thread just before this thread went live:


Counting murders, suicides, and accidents, there are around 30,000 firearm-related deaths every year in the USA.

That works out to around 85/day.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 10:28 PM:

A teenager was arrested in Oklahoma (Bartlesville), for planning a school massacre. He apparently was arrested yesterday morning, before the shooting in Newtown.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 10:44 PM:

"Consider your man card reissued." In the name of Our Freud!

If your masculinity is so uncertain that it requires an automatic rifle to reassure it, you need help. That help should come from a mental health professional.

#7 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 10:54 PM:

I'm not at all convinced on the proposition that "Almost all of the actual law enforcement that happens in the United States is handled by police officers."

In my observation, police are a great backup. Without enthusiastic agreement by and help from society, they can't do much to stop illegal behavior (think of marijuana use as an example). And for many probably-illegal behaviors, social pressure and non-police groups do most of the work--the police only get involved in the cases where it escalates beyond anyone else's ability to act and is considered serious. (For example, I can think of several stolen bikes recovered by local bikers; I can think of none recovered by police.)

#8 ::: Marc Mielke ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 11:01 PM:

#3 Pangolin: Yeah, that grade level is very female dominated. Reflexive suspicion of any male who wants to work with children is unfortunate fallout from the myriad high-profile paedo scandals.

#9 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 11:49 PM:

Steve C., #2: In the long term, the best way to reduce the number of incidents like this is to make it easier for people with mental problems to get medical help -- hopefully before those problems escalate to the point of sending them over the edge.

In the interim, one approach which has been proven over and over again to reduce, not necessarily the number of such events, but their severity, is... to make it more difficult for someone who has gone over the edge to get hold of a gun. Notice that of the 22 primary-school students who were stabbed in China (in a chillingly similar incident) on Friday, nobody died. It's a lot harder to kill people with a knife than it is with a gun.

Now, there are guns and there are guns. Part of the point a lot of people are making is that there is no legitimate reason for any civilian to have the kind of gun this loon used. If he'd gone into the school with a single-shot bolt-action hunting rifle, the outcome might have been very different. Some kinds of guns need to be much more heavily regulated than others.

But the fact remains that we know of one thing we could do to help mitigate these situations while we work on longer-term approaches... but we, as a society, flatly refuse to do it. And our children continue to be "collateral damage" as a result.

SamChevre, #7: I can think of several stolen bikes recovered by local bikers; I can think of none recovered by police.

This is quite true; by and large, bicycle theft is simply not taken seriously by the police. This is partially because, by and large, bicycle riders are not taken seriously by society. And that's all I'm going to say, because I don't want to hijack the thread.

#10 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:19 AM:

I can't help but think that the prevalence of guns in the US isn't just about white hysteria over brown folks. There's a money element, too.

Juan Cole published a blog entry stating that Glock sold 350,000 Glock 17's the first year they were available: 100,000 of those were sold to the Austrians, who had asked for them. The other quarter million were sold to American collectors.

Big money. And Clackamas, Sandy Hook, and this morning's incident in an Alabama hospital? All just the cost of doing business.

Jay Lake wrote a rather passionate post about owning the consequences of the technology you use. If you drive, you own a piece of every one of the 30,000 car-related deaths per year in the United States. But people are actively working to make driving safer -- seatbelts, airbags, automatic park assist... Can the same be said for guns?

Heck, you can't even get the collectors to admit guns kill people. Pfft.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:20 AM:

Huh. Well.

Mom of suspected school shooter -- first to die -- was avid gun enthusiast, friend says

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The mother of the suspected Sandy Hook Elementary School gunman, herself slain at the outset of the murderous rampage, was an avid gun enthusiast who liked to take her sons to the shooting range to practice their marksmanship, a friend tells NBC News.

Dan Holmes, a local landscaper and a friend of Nancy Lanza, mother of 20-year-old suspected gunman Adam Lanza, said she also was a collector.

“She had a pretty extensive gun collection,” Holmes said. “She was a collector, she was pretty proud of that. She always mentioned that she really loved the act of shooting.”


#12 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:23 AM:

I have a failing: my family was involved in one of the ugliest environmental battles of the 80's (pre-web, so nobody knows about it outside of the area where it happened) so I was steeped in tactics from age 8 or so. Because of this I get extremely annoyed with most discussions of getting rid of guns because all too often, when it comes to how to get the changes through the senate, it brings to mind the most famous cartoon by Sidney Harris: "I think you should be more explicit here in step two," i.e. no concrete steps that are workable.

With that in mind I'd like to see two intermediate steps considered because they should work and could possiby get through Congress: neither would stop a crazy, but both should cut the body count. First: stop production of large ammo clips. Yes, I know, they could tape together smaller clips, it doesn't take that long to reload, yadda yadda yadda. The important thing is that they're going to have to reload, which means there's at least a little more time for folks to get the hell out of there or for the gunman to get taken out--the body count when Giffords was shot would have been much lower if the shooter didn't have large clips for his primary weapon.

Second is the old analysis by Pat Moynahan: there are three hundred years of guns in the USA. There are about three months of ammo. Tax the shit out of pre-packaged high-powered ammo and you'll lessen the amount of guns in use. (I know that Moynahan had "Black Talon" in mind because it could penetrate body armor--doesn't change the basic idea.) Most of the serious hunters I've know were self-loaders, so this shouldn't put them in the poorhouse, and the time and effort involved in putting together a large amount of ammo might be enough for someone to notice when someone is spending a whole lot of time in the basement and start to wonder why.

#13 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:32 AM:

Sorry, brain error. Tax the shit out of pre-packaged high power ammo and the rising costs will lessen the amount of such guns used--if you can't afford large quantities of ammo you can't shoot large quantities of ammo.

#14 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:40 AM:

Martin Bryant, the man who killed 35 people at Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996, is in a secure facility for the dangerously insane in Hobart, where he will stay until he dies.

The uniform gun laws across Australia that were brought in by the then Howard Liberal government are, with exquisite irony, known as the Bryant laws.

John Howard responded in retirement to a question about his government's greatest achievements by citing those laws. I actually agree with him on that, one of the few matters where I do.

Briefly, there is not, and never has been, any right to own a firearm in Australia. The licencing laws were lax in some states, including Tasmania. They are not so now.

I may obtain a licence to own a specific firearm, registered by unique serial number, if I am of good character and pass a course and a test, and can demonstrate a legitimate purpose, which does not include "generalised self-defence" or "defence of property" or some such. This firearm will never be a military assault rifle, automatic or semi-automatic weapon or non-target pistol. Hunting or vermin control weapons - the vast bulk of allowed weapons - are limited to single-shot shotguns or bolt-action rifles with limited magazines, of suitable caliber for the specific use. Target pistols must be kept locked in a safe at the range where they are used, and will be signed out to the licencee with limited ammunition only.

If I am a registered and licenced security guard, or police or military, I may be further licenced to carry a firearm outside that class, but only when authorised and on duty.

No weapon may be modified or altered or tampered with in any way. To do so is a criminal offence, as is going armed in public.

The rate of gun deaths in Australia has declined since 1996 by about 30%. No commensurate rise in deaths or manslaughter using other weapons or methods has occurred. The Australian murder rate per capita is about a third of the American rate, like for like.

Guns in the US are regarded rather as the other Western democracies regard capital punishment. It's difficult to understand the visceral American attachment to them.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 01:21 AM:

Ungh . . . Nancy Lanza was reportedly a Doomsday Prepper type, stockpiling food as well as guns for the coming apocalypse.

Nice atmosphere to raise a troubled kid in.

#16 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 01:48 AM:

Patrick @ 1: A very merry American Christmas, from Randy Newman! WARNING: Strong language included, free of charge.

#17 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 01:55 AM:

PNH's sidelight about gun culture feels right to me, though my experience was different.

I didn't learn to shoot from my parents; I doubt my father ever touched a gun after UK National Service. I learned from a Scout leader in Australia. Though I don't own a gun and haven't actually used one in a long while, I've shot at clay pigeons quite a few times, which is fun, and I have unsuccessfully fired shotguns in the general direction of ducks.

The people who taught me thought of shooting as a generally useful countryside skill. They didn't have semi-automatic weapons. They talked about shooting people in terms of gun safety, not self-defense. I'm happy for people like that to have guns, and I don't know where to draw the line, but I'm pretty sure the US draws it in the wrong place.

#18 ::: Thomas S ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:33 AM:

The ad for the gun ("consider your Man Card reissued") is particularly chilling. People who run amok often have a complex about persecution, dishonor, and getting even. The ad is specifically targeted to men with enormous resentments and feelings of powerlessness. Sure, not your ideal customer, but a sale is a sale, amiright?

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:57 AM:

An interesting analysis of the phenomenon of "suicide by mass murder" and its relationship to "masculinity". (PDF; published in 2010)
ABSTRACT: School shootings have become more common in the United States in recent years. Yes, as media portrayals of these 'rampages' shock the public, the characterisation of this violence obscures an important point: many of these crimes culminate in suicide, and they are almost universally committed by males. We examine three recent American cases, which involve suicide, to elucidate how the culture of hegemonic masculinity in the US creates a sense of aggrieved entitlement conducive to violence. This sense of entitlement simultaneously frames suicide as an appropriate, instrumental behavior for these males to underscore their violent enactment of masculinity.

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 03:29 AM:

Pagolin @3:
I don't think there's evidence to say that he preferred female targets based on the adults all being female, without knowing the gender makeup of the staff at the school. At my kids elementary school, which is of a similar size to Sandy Hook, there is a staff of around 60 adults, which includes just 3 males.

True, but remember what Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks.

There's a list of the dead now, and even with the usual generational name ambiguity, I'm making it about a 2:1 ratio of little girls killed to little boys.

We don't know why this happened, but it's a thing to observe.

#21 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:50 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 14

What really pushes the US to extremes in both gun violence and executions is the former Confederacy. The South leads the US in executions. It also leads the US in lethal assault by quite a bit:

My hunch is that the violence necessary for slavery and later Jim Crow has left a serious mark on Southern culture. I further suspect that the Republican Southern Strategy in turn has both exploited and reinforced that dark strain.

#22 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:01 AM:

SamChevre @7: Policing in the modern sense -- as opposed to a gendarmerie (an arm of the state carrying out the will of the executive) -- probably dates to Sir Robert Peel. Whose Principles still bear repeating:


* The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

* The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.

* Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

* The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

* Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

* Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.

* Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

* Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

* The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.


There are certain problems with the applications of these principles in the United States today.

Willing cooperation is eroded by the application of laws that either deviate significantly from the social norms of large minorities (or even a majority) of the population, such as drug laws. It's also eroded by "send a message" laws that legislators enacted in order to maintain a public image rather than with applicability in mind.

Co-operation inversely proportional to use of force is unfortunately incompatible with policing a polity with two firearms per three people: you can't reasonably expect the police to deal with armed criminals from a less well equipped/trained position. Hence my point about the prevalence of guns leading to the para-militarization of policing.

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police -- this is great when it works, but it's impossible to maintain if your police force is semi-militarized.


* The Peelian approach to policing has largely broken down in the USA because the police have perforce become semi-militarized.

* This is an understandable but sub-optimal response to the prevalence of weapons among the general public and the environment in which the police operate.

* The hostile policing environment exists because the police are called on to enforce laws that are widely resented and disobeyed (e.g. the war on drugs). They are also used in many areas as a tool of social repression of the underclass, which undermines policing by consent.

* If you can't trust the police, a first-order response is to get a gun (never mind that the underlying problem is a self-reinforcing failure mode in policing that is a side-effect of a broken legislative environment).

(This leaves aside the issue of the 2nd amendment, pro-gun lobbying groups such as the NRA, the relationship between systematic racism and the American policing model, and a bunch more things.)

TL:DR; there is no simple fix for this.

#23 ::: Charlie Stross has been gnomed! ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:08 AM:

One minor addition: Bruce #12 -- banning high capacity magazines is going to work even worse in future than it did when it was tried in the past, with the spread of 3D printers that can manufacture metal (as well as plastic) components. And banning high power ammunition won't stop hand-loaders.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that banning firearms or ammo or their components in the US is likely to prove as ineffective as banning drugs, and for the same reason. To gain traction, it's necessary to reduce demand rather than pursue a broken supply-side approach.

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:24 AM:

I have an odd point of comparison. This same set of characteristics:

-- male with a sense of aggrieved entitlement
-- has enormous resentments and feelings of powerlessness
-- has a complex about persecution, dishonor, and getting even
-- violently resents attempts to curb or modify his behavior
-- feels entitled to hurt others if he doesn't like what's going on
-- tends to disproportionately blame and target women
-- has little or no insight into his condition
is also the manufacturer's formula for your classic online trolls, vandals, and malign thugs.

A few months back, I mentioned in a couple of places that I'd come up with a unified field theory of trolls. That list is most of my theory.

I've always been uncomfortable about coming out and saying what every moderator knows, which is that the vast majority of aggressive problem users are male, and that they consistently have a sense of aggrieved entitlement that spurs them to misbehave. I'm also uncomfortable about pointing out that the really hardcore trolls, the ones that are instantly recognizable and completely unmanageable, share a distinctive set of cognitive and behavioral problems. All those things are nevertheless true.

It's a good thing TCP/IP doesn't support "shoot other users."

#25 ::: Jurie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:02 AM:

I must admit it kinda freaked me out to see my tweet mentioned in this very thoughtful blog post. For what it's worth: my tweet was not meant to be flip or arrogant towards Americans. It really can be difficult to remember basic forces that cause differences in the way large groups of people see the world. (At the same time, of course, generalizations are just that.)

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:14 AM:

Charlie, I'd compare it to the problem of having too many cars in NYC. Some careful and sophisticated studies have indicated that any change in circumstances that makes it less painfully inconvenient to operate a car in the city will lead to additional automobile traffic. You don't have to demonstrate a linkage to know that it will have that effect.

We can't interdict all the technology of guns and ammo, but we can sure as hell make it less cheap and convenient. There are too many places in the United States where it's easier to buy ammo than a blister pack of Sudafed. I'd also like to see laws requiring guns and ammo to be stored in separate (and separately keyed) safes. Knowing where one of your relatives keeps their guns should not be all it takes to equip yourself when you're having a bad day.

Where I really think we should start is by going after anything labeled "tactical". If that stuff wasn't mindlessly available, my cousin Karen Shiflet's son Steven (nice kid, not a rocket scientist) wouldn't be up on federal charges for setting fire to 18,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest with an incendiary shotgun round. There is no legitimate hunting or target shooting need for a tactical round that's advertised to set fire to everything between here and there. Steven and the other guys at the bachelor party had a mixed stash of shotgun rounds of uncertain provenance, and the idjit grabbed that one.

It shouldn't be that easy.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:16 AM:

Jurie: No problem. We're trying to understand it too.

#28 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:04 AM:

The other week I finally got around to seeing Skyfall, which is very good. The cinema website warned me beforehand that it contained "intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking". As far as I remember, only one (female) character with a speaking part smoked; do we really need to be warned about this? Evidently we do. Which goes to show how much has changed since Bond's 60-fags-a-day 1950s glory days. It is possible for a culture to change. A chain-smoking Bond would look ridiculous now.

But a Bond who shoots dozens of bullets in crowded areas and never hits the wrong person is still OK. I like films with big explosions and guns as much as the next man, but I notice it's a thing that spree shootings are starting to interfere with film premieres. One of the drawbacks of making a certain popular kind of film is that Real Life these days might ruin its launch; I wonder whether that might lead film-makers to tone things down just a little bit (just on the grounds that perceived poor taste hits box-office; irrespective of difficult questions of how fiction affects life).

TNH@24: that's a plausible list of traits, but it just makes me wonder where all the trolls and mass-murderers were in decades past. (Possible answer: taking their frustration out privately on their wives and families.)

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:16 AM:

Steve with a book: I think they've always been around. The internet has enlarged their opportunities to be affronted and get even for it, and in the process made them much more visible.

A pattern I've been noticing all my life is men who decide that things aren't going the way they want, so they kill their wife and children, and frequently themselves. I'm wondering whether it's another manifestation of the same impulse.

#30 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:18 AM:

Jurie @25:

As an American abroad, I can confirm the impression you're reflecting in that tweet. There's something different about American individualism as a phenomenon.

It's my impression that it's a relatively new thing, but it's been back-formed and mythologized into our history. Popular culture forgets that barn raisings and quilting bees are at least as American as the lone cowboy on the frontier, and the proud history of labor activism is somehow un-American now. All of our collective works, like public education, the interstate highway system, and the space program, are scorned as liberal bastions, cast as foreign or otherwise corrupt, and underfunded to their death.

And if I hear "individual responsibility" used as code for "I don't have to care about anyone else because I don't think they're taking it" one more time there's gonna be bad words.

And all of this is wrapped up with American exceptionalism, with the notion that the way it's done in the US is definitionally superior to the way things work elsewhere—even if the way it's done now is different than how it used to be done.

Sorry. Ranting at you. But you're Dutch; you know that the American way isn't the only way.

#31 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:46 AM:

abi #30: This represents several decades worth of propaganda by the NRA, and increasingly by the Republican Party. Both have reason to exploit people's insecurities (e.g. playing the Man Card), but the Republicans, led by the PNAC gallery, have made it an ongoing mission to discredit, ransack, and/or destroy all of America's actual strengths -- what Teresa described as a "bustout scam".

(PNAC == People for a New American Century -- this was the 60s-70s think tank that basically founded the "neoconservative" movement, and trained most of its original crop of leaders. Look them up....)

#32 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:49 AM:

tnh: "I've always been uncomfortable about coming out and saying what every moderator knows, which is that the vast majority of aggressive problem users are male, and that they consistently have a sense of aggrieved entitlement that spurs them to misbehave."

Why does this make you uncomfortable? It's obviously true and needs to be said. If someone wants to use this as evidence of 'man-hating' on your part they're clearly an idiot, so fuck'em.

#33 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:54 AM:

Teresa @ 29: For quite a while now, I've been calling these "American honor killings". "We" are so concerned about them in other cultures because "we" want to deny we have so many of them in ours.

(For values of "we" that converge on "those people".)

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:01 AM:

Rob Hansen @32:

For one thing, because there is another subset of the internet population at large who, though they won't behave badly on their own, will swing in behind anyone with a really good persecution narrative.

A lot of those people are particularly susceptible to pleas of "misandry", particularly in relation to female moderators (and guess which gender does more web moderation). The perception of discrimination authorizes, in their minds, going to any number of lengths to counterbalance. (A common problem with people who, looking for some kind of balance in an unbalanced society, try to construct one that makes them the victims of gender discrimination too.)

And Teresa has an observation about multiple trolls in one thread, egging one another on. It's not that they make the place a better one, either.

#35 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:26 AM:

Rob, abi @ 32, 34: There is actually a certain amount of misandry in the world, but the misandry promoted by patriarchy is very much not the misandry these poor entited men are talking about. It's the misandry of what E. J. Graff calls the "masculinity patrol" and I think it explains things like why popular culture found it more difficult to accept gay men than lesbians.

I don't have the vocabulary to make that argument better. Help is welcome.

#36 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:39 AM:

"I think it explains things like why popular culture found it more difficult to accept gay men than lesbians."

This is a widely held belief, but it's not supported by the numbers. Look at say the number of gay male characters on UK or US TV versus lesbian characters and there are way more of the latter than the former. Gay entertainment sites such as afterellen and afterelton have been tracking and commenting on this phenomenon for years.

#37 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:42 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @35:

That's a very real thing, and a deeply damaging one.

But naming it with a term invented and popularized to convey the notion that men are discriminated against and hated by "feminists", simply for being men, isn't really that useful. I've certainly never heard "misandry" used to describe it, and I rather hope it isn't a general usage. It muddies the waters and lends undeserved validity and weight to the other definition.

#38 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:57 AM:

abi @ 37: That's why I would dearly love better vocabulary. It isn't a general usage, but I have heard it from gay men. It's definitely not what feminists mean by it. Again, help is welcome.

Rob @ 36: I was going off my personal observation and could easily be wrong about that. Good numbers would be valuable, but lacking that, I'll defer to those who've watched it more closely than I have.

#39 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:29 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @38:

For clarity: it's not a word feminists use. It's a word MRA's and other jerks use against feminists.

I like "gender policing" as a term for what you're talking about. It's within the large bucket of heteronormative societal controls. Of course, I'm not at the sharp end of it, so I can't name it very effectively.

But as a woman on the internet and a moderator, I am on the receiving (and cleaning up) end of the bucketload of crap that the people who use "misandry" are flinging, so I like to think I have some right to vote for Not That.

Basically, if anyone uses the term "misandry" seriously in my presence, they're assholes until proven otherwise, and their causes are assumed to be in direct opposition both to my causes and to me personally. If that's a bucket the targets of the gender police want to be in, that's their choice. But the word is irrevocably polluted in my experience, and that of many, many feminists.

#40 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:38 AM:

abi @ 39: Whoops! I misread you. Yes, feminists only use the word to criticize it. My mistake.

I like "masculinity patrol" better for this particular usage than "gender police" because it points up the particular pressure laid on men who step out of line.

This might be becoming a derailing. I'll pause now.

#41 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:49 AM:

When I hear that the solution to school shootings is to have more guns in schools, I like to point to this video of a DEA agent shooting himself in the foot in a classroom.

It's unsafe to have guns in the classroom.

DEA Agent Shoots foot in Classroom by mistake.

#42 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:53 AM:

Dave Harmon #31: PNAC == People for a New American Century -- this was the 60s-70s think tank that basically founded the "neoconservative" movement, and trained most of its original crop of leaders.

I think you're referring to the Project for a New American Century, which was started in 1997. It was a rallying point for the neocons, but not where they got their start.

Sorry to nitpick.

#43 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:11 AM:

A.J. #42: You're right about "Project" vs. "People", but I'm pretty sure it got started a lot earlier than 1997 -- closer to Nixon or post-Nixon era. 1997 might be when they started having a "public face'.

#44 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:28 AM:

#22 ::: Charlie Stross

Speaking of laws which the majority do not respect or obey, what effect do you think non-consensus speed limits have had?

I've been told that speed limits are obeyed in Canada because they're set by engineers rather than politicians. Is this true?

In the US, police officers occasionally get killed because they use violent methods to attempt arrests and are mistaken for independent criminals.

"The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it."

I'm quoting that from the list because I like it so much.

#45 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Steve with a book @ #28, do a search on "Bath school disaster".

Sean Sakamoto @ #41, busted link?

#46 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:35 AM:

I'm surprised-- I've been using misandry as a neutral word to describe what I see as a real thing.

I think there's a streak of misandry in some feminism though it's not central to the movement, and I know a couple of men who were raised in misandrist (though not feminist) households.

#47 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:41 AM:

A thought - if enough popular US Country Music singers/bands/groups/etc. came out with catchy songs (and started a long term trend of same) that argued for a shift in US culture away from glorified rugged individualism/excess gun worship, it might help. Tricky to do right, as fans can turn on a group pretty quick if the songs cause too much cognitive dissonance. There are movements afoot in the hiphop and rap communities trying to tone down and eliminate the misogny, homophobia, violence, etc. so there is precedence.

I pick country here because it had the largest chunk of heroic pro-america uber alles stuff after 9-11. My wife is an avid country fan and due to early long term exposure I have come to appreciate some of the genre. She has often commented that there is a song for every situation and/or emotional state and has demonstrated it a number of times so the genre certainly has the reach for such a project.

Not saying it will be easy - look at what happened to the Dixie Chicks after a particular political/cultural statement they made a while back. Then again, none of this is easy.

#48 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:45 AM:

Nancy @46:

I'm open to reconsideration, given that.

My experience thus far with the term, particularly over the last couple of years, is that there has been an attempt to create a perception of a society-wide pattern of discrimination against, and hatred toward, men that is the mirror of (and, in many cases, cited as the excuse for) the genuine society-wide problems facing women. As used in that context, it doesn't describe an actual societal bias, but it gives the MRA types who want it the veneer of victimhood and thus makes it easier for them to undermine and damage any attempts to actually improve things. As I say, it's been used in my presence in a purely disingenuous and thoroughly toxic fashion.

It's not a term that I'm likely to lose my visceral distaste for, but given your counterexamples, I'm willing to give people using it otherwise the benefit of the doubt. It'll be a conscious effort, though.

#49 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:55 AM:

Lila@45: interesting. What struck me as immediately familiar about this story is that the perpetrator killed himself in his vehicle. Over here it's not an uncommon story for an estranged father to kill the children that he doesn't have custody of and then kill himself, and often all the bodies are found in his car. Obviously the car makes certain types of murder/suicide uniquely possible (it's an enclosed space suitable for exhaust poisoning or violence), but I think there's also something symbolic: the deed's being done in his personal space.

#50 ::: Michael C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:04 AM:

Like Bruce E. Durocher II (@12 & @13), I'm in favor of some version of Moynahan's "Ammo Tax".

What I really want to see is all ammo taxed and the funds generated be dedicated to mental health, specifically for "Massacre Prevention". A nickel a shot may double the price of a brick of 100 to $9.99, but such a rate would have raised about $600M for mental health care. That might prevent a massacre or two. Texas spends $36.09 per capita on mental health and a source of consistent funding that the lege couldn't raid would help.

I'd even be willing to have an exception to the tax for rounds purchased at and expended at a gun range, in order to channel people who want to shoot a lot to place where there can be some control.

I don't know that this would work, but I don't know that it would hurt. It would attack both ends of the Massacre problem, and I think that's important.

#51 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:09 AM:

A thought - if enough popular US Country Music singers/bands/groups/etc. came out with catchy songs (and started a long term trend of same) that argued for a shift in US culture away from glorified rugged individualism/excess gun worship, it might help. Tricky to do right, as fans can turn on a group pretty quick if the songs cause too much cognitive dissonance. There are movements afoot in the hiphop and rap communities trying to tone down and eliminate the misogny, homophobia, violence, etc. so there is precedence.

I pick country here because it had the largest chunk of heroic pro-america uber alles stuff after 9-11. My wife is an avid country fan and due to early long term exposure I have come to appreciate some of the genre. She has often commented that there is a song for every situation and/or emotional state and has demonstrated it a number of times so the genre certainly has the reach for such a project.

Not saying it will be easy - look at what happened to the Dixie Chicks after a particular political/cultural statement they made a while back. Then again, none of this is easy.

#52 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:18 AM:

Maybe it's worthwhile making a distinction between two types of impossible.

I'm thinking of this in relationship to comments like:

#2: I do not know of any way to prevent tragedies such as Newton. I don't even know of ways to make them happen less often.

Or even

#26: We can't interdict all the technology of guns and ammo

In one sense, these are both wrong, or close to wrong. We can make such tragedies happen dramatically less often, and can inderdict nearly all the tech, because it's been done: Japan is the best example, so far as I know. (Won't link to the Atlantic piece b/c I'm afraid of Gnomes, but that's what I'm referring to.)

So when we say it's impossible, we don't mean it can't be done, we mean we won't do it, where "we" means all of us, collectively.

And we won't do it because too many people care more about their rights to own guns than about actually reducing death and horror (to the point where trying to confiscate guns would almost certainly create lots of death and horror). Because people think (like Nancy Lanza did) that keeping guns is preparing for the worst rather than enabling the worst.

And I guess I think we should say this, because I think that the national conversation would be improved by making it clear that "impossible" means not "it can't be done" but rather "these people won't let it happen". Makes vivid what's ultimately behind the horror.

(And yeah, as PNH said, melanin Americans have good reasons not to trust their protection to the police. But so far as I can tell, they're not the problem -- and not only in the sense that nearly all the people who go shoot up schools happen to be white. But more importantly in the sense that the people who have and will block gun control are white: if they were to value human life more than (as TNH puts it) FRPG's, it would happen.)

...Maybe this is all clear to everyone already and doesn't need to be said. Maybe I'm saying something offensive, in which case I really am sorry. Typing out of my emotions here, which is not a good thing to do. But you know how Charles Pierce says that the best thing about Occupy is that they were shouting at the right buildings? It seems to me that we need to shout at the right people, and the right people are people who think guns keep them safe.

#53 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:32 AM:

Lila #45:

We've written about Bath School right here at Making Light: Tax Protest.

Yes, #41 Sean Sakamoto has a busted link.

I note that Victoria Soto, who died for her students, was 27; the same age as Katherine Weiler when she died for her students at Collinwood School.

As Doyle commented then, an unstated part of the teachers' contracts is to die for their students if necessary. Which makes the current attempts to bust the teachers' unions even more reprehensible.

As to the calls for armed security officers in schools, I note that Columbine in Colorado had just such an armed guard in the building on the day that they had their massacre; it didn't help.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:48 AM:

abi #30: An equally American communal activity, one that brought a community together and reinforced its bonds, was the lynching. Individual initiative has its positives -- in enterprise, in the willingness to step forward and take responsibility, in the readiness to head into the unknown -- and community can have some really nasty negatives.

#55 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:12 PM:

Goddess forgive me, but right now I would love to put all those who allowed the assault rifle ban to lapse, plus the key people in the NRA, in a closed room and put them through the experience those poor children and teachers went through.

You know, pour le encourage les autres...

In my heart I know it wouldn't make any difference, and would just mean more dead bodies, and more fractured families. But I'm having trouble shaking the anger.

#56 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:22 PM:

I grew up not too terribly far from Newtown (not Newton, by the way; that's a different place). In this area, which is still fairly rural for an urban region, there's lots of people who hunt in the fall. I grew up around those guns and was taught to have a healthy respect for them.

I do not own a gun, nor do I expect to. My son has both the rifle and shotgun merit badges, as well as archery, and I'm happy that he knows how to handle guns, but I do not need one of my own.

I have had very positive interactions with the police in my county, and in my home town as well. Guns are -- in my humble opinion -- not needed for self-defense.

When I first heard of Newtown, I immediately thought of Dunblane. I know people who grew up near Dunblane, who were affected by the losses. I never expected to learn that one of my cousins was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, and was killed in the classroom with her kids.

Personally, I'm fine with people wanting to hunt deer and turkey and all that. I have no issue with people who want to go down to the range and fire away at targets. Carrying a weapon around outside of those activities? I don't think so. There's a lot of legal jousting over the wording of the Second Amendment, but there's also a lot of other things that the Founders never considered, and which are also not specifically mentioned or covered by the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or previously-decided cases.

We must come to an agreement on guns, or we will only continue to see more senseless deaths, preventable senseless deaths.

#57 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:23 PM:

Jurie, I've added Bill Gibson's tweet to the main entry.

Abi: Knowing some history puts a dent in that rugged American individualism thing. When Basil Hayden came through the Cumberland Gap in 1785, he brought twenty-five Maryland families with him, because settlement works better when you have neighbors. When my people settled in the Intermountain West, they were still practicing a homebrewed version of socialism, which was how they could build the only successful large-scale water control and irrigation projects in the U.S. not subsidized by the gummint. Then and for a long time after, cooperation was a major social value.

The whole One Lone Man rugged individualism thing was a synthetic product cooked up by the early mass media, right around the time the frontier was closing. It's an easy story to tell; the only character who has real agency has few motives and doesn't talk much, and the action of the story is the only thing happening in the landscape. Later on, those same characteristics made it an easy story to film.

I remember my grandparents not finding it a compelling narrative. Hollywood might think that Colts and Winchesters tamed the West, but they knew it was really windmills, barbed wire, and about a zillion elbow-bend irrigation pipes.

Patrick and I were talking just the other day about how Westerns never worked for us the way they were supposed to, because we knew they weren't happening in some hypothetical mythic space. The more dramatic the background, the more likely we knew where the footage was shot. It's not the same when you're aware that it's a real place. What surrounds you isn't the vast emptiness of the imagined frontier. It's just same old web of roads, gas stations, and towns that string together every other real place, and you're still in a world you have to share with other people.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:23 PM:

Fragano @53:

I never said America's communal history was all good. But it had good in it as well as bad, and it was, in fact, our history. Erasing it serves no one, teaches no one, and gives no one a native option beyond the current peculiar fetishization of the individual.

#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:29 PM:

TNH @56:
Patrick and I were talking just the other day about how Westerns never worked for us the way they were supposed to, because we knew they weren't happening in some hypothetical mythic space.

I have much the same reaction to the Old Trek episodes filmed in the California desert east of LA, particularly Arena and Friday's Child. They just don't look like alien planets to me.

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:35 PM:

Rob Hansen @32:

tnh: "I've always been uncomfortable about coming out and saying what every moderator knows, which is that the vast majority of aggressive problem users are male, and that they consistently have a sense of aggrieved entitlement that spurs them to misbehave."
Why does this make you uncomfortable? It's obviously true and needs to be said. If someone wants to use this as evidence of 'man-hating' on your part they're clearly an idiot, so fuck'em.
Rob, you're still stuck being one of my heroes. Thank you. Sensible as always.

Truth matters more. Idiots matter less.

#61 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:40 PM:

Ginger, did I get that right? You lost a cousin?

#62 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:42 PM:

My experience of the word “misandry” matches Abi’s. I’ve pretty much only seen it used by people with an axe to grind about feminism.

My current reading is David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years. The chapter I’m currently in (Chapter 7: Honor and Degradation) talks about honor (which he distinguishes from simple integrity):

Men of honor tend to combine a sense of total ease and self-assurance, which comes with the habit of command, with a notorious jumpiness, a heightened sensitivity to slights and insults, the feeling that a man (and it is almost always a man) is somehow reduced, humiliated, if any “debt of honor” is allowed to go unpaid. This is because honor is not the same as dignity. One might even say: honor is surplus dignity. It is that heightened consciousness of power, and its dangers, that comes from having stripped away the power and dignity of others; or at the very least, from the knowledge that one is capable of doing so.

#63 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:52 PM:

Reading Saladin Ahmed's comments on Twitter were the first time I'd realized how complex gun ownership issues were in the area of race. And though it's not from the same comment thread, this in particular--"white fantasies of shooting minority home invaders"--was uncomfortably revelatory.

I was robbed a few months back by a black man and a white woman; it's a particular pair of people that we've seen around this neighborhood several times. When other people talk about the robbery--aside from the neighbor who witnessed them--they always focus on the first person, and not the second. Especially the armed neighbor who talked about wishing they had tried to break into her house, because she was ready to shoot people.

The most physically threatened I've ever felt in my life was by a white woman. But that's not who people are thinking about when they talk about shooting home intruders. (And frankly, much as I am upset to lose my things, my stuff is not worth anyone's life. It is not worth escalating into violence over personally, and it's not worth shooting someone else over, either. It's not like they took my cats, or my spouse.)

#64 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 12:54 PM:

Charlie # 12: good, inexpensive 3D printing will probably make it easy as pie to generate whatever gun parts you need--the fact that the gent who used a 3D printer to make a gun could only fire five shots with it is more of a demonstration of the quality of what printers can do now rather than a flaw in concept. Similarly, you can certainly hand-load: as I said the majority of the hunters that I know do. The thing is that both take more time and are more inconvienant than what we have here now which means that, for example, the theater shooter would still be hard-loading today if he wanted the amount of ammo he acquired before the attack. I suspect that few "zip guns" like Harlan described from his gang days are used anymore because they're too much of a hassle to make and were only good for a shot or two.

I agree that prohibition has no virtues compared to reduced demand, but it's something that can be done for the short term, and as things currently are here you aren't going to be able to get extensive gun legislation through Congress. Hell, I was no GWB fan, but nobody remembers that he said that if Congress re-authorized the existing semi-automatic weapons law he'd sign it. Congress didn't--and if I remember correctly Cheney bitched about his boss even considering the idea. Changing the zeitgeist is all well and good, but it will take time, and if we can lower the death toll a little until then it looks worth trying to me. With the higher prices of more powerful firearms I don't really see a speakeasy culture developing, although I could be wrong.

(I haven't been able to get the guts together to call my sister, who was and still may be the third best black powder shootist in the U.S.A to get her opinion on this...)

#65 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 01:06 PM:

IMHO, there are two components to the kind of batshit-insane gun-love practised in America, and they are as follows:

First, a large segment of the White population is convinced that rampaging Black/Latino/Asian gang members, probably hyped up on crack or bath salts or some other weird ghetto drug is highly likely to bust down their doors, steal all their stuff, and rape all their women, causing said women to come down with horrible cases of jungle fever and turn into degenerate whores who will never want to mate with a White man again.

I doubt I need to say much about the cultural/mental health issues involved here; the problems of paranoia, racism and sexual jealousy are obvious.

Second, there is a giant and very weird apocalyptic streak embedded in the American culture, as exemplified by a guy I dealt with at a child's birthday party yesterday. Said gentleman is an American Indian, ex-con and survivalist who told us, when the conversation turned to the Connecticut shooting, that he knew for a fact that the people who shot up all these children were a Muslim sleeper cell and that government was covering this up to prevent a race war which would destroy America, and this is why it was essential for him to buy guns and move to an isolated shack in Montana... (He should only hurry up and move as quickly as possible. I'm inclined to buy him some ammo and a bus ticket, just so I don't have to see him again!)

But consider the significance of the paragraph above. The man is not Christian and he does not hang out, for the most part, with right-wing types (most of us are pretty pagan, liberal and free-thinking) but he's absorbed and personalized this irrational narrative from Glenn-Beckistan, and he's filling up someone's living room with this garbage at a birthday party and before the bodies are cold. Everyone around him was just suffering through the conversation because of course, he's nuttier than a jar of peanut butter, but he's sure he's giving us sooper-important wise counsel that we've just gotta have! *Sigh* We finally opened birthday presents before all the guests had arrived, just to shut him up!

I also don't have to add, (at least for the Americans here,) that the that NRA, the Republican party, ALEC and half the churches in America are pushing this line of BS for all it's worth.

#66 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 01:26 PM:

Avram: Yes, "misandry" is part of the vocabulary of anti-feminism. Very much my experience of it.

That quote from Debt is a killer. It answers longstanding questions I've had about pre-Civil War Southern rhetoric, which frequently goes on about honor and affronts thereto. The way they use the word matches David Graeber's description. The hypersensitivity grows out of the fear that they might be treated as they have treated others.

#67 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 01:55 PM:

Also, TNH, on the issue of gender, note Doctor Science's post on Obsidian Wings from 4:00 on Friday. She made 8 predictions, pooh-poohed by the usual suspects for the usual reasons in the comments:

  1. The shooter will turn out to be male.
  2. He will turn out to be white.
  3. He will turn out to be angry at a woman, or women in general
  4. If he's angry at an ex (wife or lover), she either works at the school or he murdered her before going to the school.
  5. More than half of the victims will be female.
  6. The weapons will have been obtained legally.
  7. There will be no legislation to make such weapons harder to obtain, stockpile, or use.
  8. Most reliable of all: gun sales will increase, especially for the particular weapons used in the shooting.

We're on track for 8 for 8, if you consider the substitution of "mother" for "ex". Given his age, I think that's a reasonable gimme.

#68 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:00 PM:

It occurs to me, on the topic of people's after-the-fact fantasies about how they would have stopped the shooter, that the only case I can immediately think of where a heroic bystander *did* successfully stop someone, was Oliver Sipple -- who to the best of my knowledge was not carrying any weapons at the time, but who grabbed Sara Jane Moore's arm so the bullet went downwards (it still ricocheted and hit a bystander, but not fatally, and she didn't get any other shots off).

Granted, there was a lot of luck involved, in that Sipple happened to be in the right place to notice Moore and grab her, but his action was demonstrably useful, far more so than pulling a gun himself would have been. It seems like he's a better model to emulate than anyone in an action movie. (The media's subsequent focus on his sexual orientation rather than his heroism may also be related to topics under discussion.)

#69 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Abi @ 58... They just don't look like alien planets to me

I dunno. When I'd watch George Pal's "Time Machine", I'd catch shots of alien-looking plants with tall feathery bits at the end of long stalks. I now live in New Mexico and guess what one of my backyard's plants are?

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:12 PM:

I think Michael Moore got off the definitive line:

If only the first victim, Adam Lanza's mother, had been a gun owner, she could have stopped this before it started.

#71 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:22 PM:

Sarah @67--This also happened in the case of the Gifford shootings. To quote the Wikipedia article: "[the gunman]stopped to reload, but dropped the loaded magazine from his pocket to the sidewalk, from where bystander Patricia Maisch grabbed it. Another bystander clubbed the back of the assailant's head with a folding chair...The gunman was then tackled to the ground by 74-year-old retired US Army Colonel Bill Badger, who himself had been shot, and was further subdued by Maisch and bystanders Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zamudio. Zamudio was a CCW holder and had a weapon on his person, but arrived after the shooting had stopped and did not use the firearm to engage or threaten the gunman."

Not one of these people used a gun, but they stopped the shooter with what they had, most importantly their wits. The same applies to Oliver Sipple. He reacted mindfully and effectively, which is what you need in that sort of situation.

#72 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:40 PM:

Pursuant to my #9 above: Thinking the Unthinkable.
I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.
- The mother of a disturbed 13-year-old boy with semi-regular violent episodes, who is reaching the end of her rope and has no help available

Teresa, #26: Knowing where one of your relatives keeps their guns should not be all it takes to equip yourself when you're having a bad day.

Which seems to be a common factor in a lot of these cases. This indicates that preventing the mentally ill from buying guns is not by itself sufficient as a preventive tactic.

John A, #35: You appear to be talking about what I call "the fragility of masculinity", and the way that even the smallest departure from the lockstep of "things REAL MEN do" can be enough to cause social ostracization. This is also one of the things that plays into homosociality.

Rob, #36: Whether or not pop culture finds it easier to accept lesbians than gay men, the queer-bashing section of society certainly does! One of my friends refers to this as the phenomenon of "gay sex is icky, but OOH LESBIANS HOT!"

One of the things mentioned in the book True Porn Clerk Stories is that, when observing what porn customers check out over the long term, the most common progression starts out with lesbian porn (by which she means, not porn intended for lesbians, but porn with two women getting it on which is intended for men) -- because many guys are so freaked out about seeing another man's penis that they won't even rent porn featuring het sex! From there it goes to straight sex, and then less commonly to "bisexual" (meaning bisexual woman in a threesome).

Nancy, #46: I submit that this is one of those things (like the Confederate flag) which has become entirely corrupted by its hate-based use. Unless you are quoting an academic article, using the term "misandry" is going to give people the wrong impression.

cajunfj40, #47: Yes, and part of the reason the Dixie Chicks got slammed so hard was gender-based. It wasn't just that they were disagreeing with the narrative, it was that they were uppity bitches disagreeing with the narrative. C&W has always had a strong misogynistic streak, even though some of its most celebrated artists are female. If you could persuade some male C&W artists to record things that push back against the narrative, they wouldn't see as much of a backlash.

(note to self: pausing @56)

#73 ::: Sgaile-beairt ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:46 PM:

....guns keeping family safer.....

Rochester pastor who shot granddaughter thought she was intruder

#74 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 02:51 PM:

Jurie @25:
Popular culture forgets that barn raisings and quilting bees are at least as American as the lone cowboy on the frontier

Plus, it tends to forget that the "lone cowboy on the frontier" was, as I understand it, was more like "ranch employees working in small groups."

#75 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 03:16 PM:

Stuff like this always makes me think of the crime prediction "technology" in the movie "Minority Report" and how, in some senses, we already have the raw materials for a similar tech right now.

For crime pre-detection, we have loving parents who struggle with children whose minds seem seriously broken.

For acting on the crime before it happens, we have professionals who can work with these parents. In some cases, there may be chemicals that can help heal the seriously broken minds of these children. In other cases, there may be other "therapeutic technologies" (counseling and so forth).

We have the raw materials but we can't seem to reliably assemble them into a useful tech. Said tech might involve:

(1) giving loving parents the tools to recognize a seriously broken mind in a child,

(2) giving them, more importantly, the courage (or at least the tools) to admit to themselves they recognize a seriously broken mind in their child,

(3) making heroes of them for displaying such courage,

(4) giving them a place they can comfortably go to seek reliable and ongoing help, either inside or outside the home, without shame or stigma,

(5) giving them some sort of hope that by acting "precognitively", they could spare themselves, their child, and maybe a great many others, the kind of grief we're suffering through right now.

In some cases, we manage to pull it off. We ought to try harder to get a lot better at it. Of course that would require money, and education, and the abandonment of our secret belief in Demon Seeds.

#76 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 03:30 PM:

Alex R. #65

Do you honestly believe that your first point is true? That it's within a mile of true?


#77 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 03:33 PM:

fidelio (71): The Long Island Railroad shooting in 1993 featured a similar scenario: the shooter was stopped when unarmed passengers tackled him as he stopped to reload. From Wikipedia: "While reloading his third magazine, somebody yelled, "Grab him!" Passengers Michael O'Connor, Kevin Blum and Mark McEntee tackled Ferguson and pinned him to one of the train's seats. Several other passengers ran forward to grab his arms and legs and help hold him pinned."

#78 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 03:54 PM:

Nancy @44: I can assure you that Canadians do not obey speed limits.

#79 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Jim @ 76.

What do you think "home-defence" means? What do you think it means to the average teabagger? To the average southern racist? Is the average white, male gun-owner imagining shooting his fellow white people during his testosterone-fuelled home-defence fantasies?

Crime has been dropping steadily for the last 40 years, while gun ownership has been steadily increasing. There is obviously a gigantic element of fantasy involved. (When I say "fantasy" I mean elements ranging from paranoia to demonizing "the other" to to massive overestimation of how likely it is that an armed intruder will come to your house plus - and this one is really big - a complete lack of understanding of what a real gunfight is like.)

Much of this is fuelled by the kind of reporting described with the phrase "if it bleeds it leads." We also saw gigantic increases in gun/ammo buying just after each of the two most recent presidential elections, much of it driven by Republican propaganda that "Obama is going to take our guns."

Some combination of poor mental health, poor understanding of known facts, and racism is clearly involved. I do understand that there are many responsible gun-owners, but such people aren't the problem. They do real safety training, own gun safes, and don't have any illusion that carrying a weapon makes them omnipotent in a fight.

This leads directly to the issues which need to be addressed to reduce the carnage in our nation. As long as substantial numbers of gun-owners are apocalypse-believers and racists, egged on by Fox News, the NRA and fear-pushing politicians, there is very little chance of change.

So yes, racism and "othering" is a giant part of gun-ownership in America. I've no doubt about it.

BTW, I don't know if you read it, but the sidelight posted by PNH titled, "The alternate, fetishistic reality of modern gun culture: nothing like the hunting-and-marksmanship subculture it replaced" is one of most intelligent things I've read recently.

#80 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:08 PM:

We are reminded, also, of the history of corporate private armies for use against employees, in an article on "right-to-work" laws. Some of the aspects of US firearms culture are very dirty indeed.

Jim, the article also touches on the history of racism and firearms culture.

#81 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:11 PM:

Ginger #56: Oh, my goodness. My sympathies.

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:17 PM:

abi #58: I didn't say you did. Reality is just very complex, and history follows a very twisty path. 'Out of the crooked timber of humanity,' as Kant said, 'no straight thing was ever made.'

I am more inclined towards communitarianism than to unvarnished liberalism myself, but have come to believe that community must include liberty and that liberty must be tempered with community. Call me a republican (small r, please) in the tradition of Pettit.

#83 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:21 PM:

Teresa @ 61: Yes, Anne Marie (McGowan) Murphy was a cousin of mine. Her maternal grandmother and mine were first cousins. The last time I saw her was at a large family reunion, probably 7 or 8 years ago. Her kids were one of many running around that day, and I know I have the group picture around somewhere.

#84 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:24 PM:

TNH #70: Given that this has been an argument advanced at every mass killing in the past few years , I await the explanation from the defenders of "armed citizenry" as to why this case is exceptional.

#85 ::: Fragano Ledgister is back in Gnomistan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:25 PM:

Probably hit too many spaces. Drat. Would their lownesses like a bean and cheese burrito?

#86 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 04:54 PM:

Abi @67: I've been marveling at Doctor Science's predictions.

For "his ex" substitute "woman he's been accustomed to think is unendingly responsible for accommodating his f*cked-up emotional life, but who has more recently proved unsatisfactory."

Have any of the naysayers come back and acknowledged that she was spot-on?

I don't know whether it's still there, but in the comment thread on Anarchist Soccer Mom's site there was a long comment from some guy named Macey who went after her in facile and abusive language for all kinds of wrongdoing she never committed. Basically, he was less a commenter on the problem than an illustration of it.

A couple of people in the thread commended his remarks.

Fragano @84: Given that none of the pro-gun senators were even willing to appear on the Sunday political talk shows, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that explanation.


I am Officially Confused by Jim and Alex's argument. I'm pretty sure both are arguing in good faith, but I can't identify the point of contention.

#87 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:04 PM:

The 2008 shooting in Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was halted by five men who restrained the gunman. Another man had previously blocked the gunman and was killed, likely also helping to keep the gunman from killing as many as he otherwise would have done. (He killed two people and wounded seven.)

#88 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:06 PM:

Ginger: My profound sympathies to your extended family. As to all who lost someone.

#89 ::: MJ ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:16 PM:

Michael # 75
In California, at least, no one over 18 can be made to enter treatment or take meds, even by worried or frightened, loving parents. Unfortunately, a number of mental illnesses seem to manifest in the early 20s. Even when a young person's behavior leads a police officer or doctor to place him or her on a 72-hour hold, the family can do absolutely nothing if the mental health facility decides on release at the end of that time.

#90 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:18 PM:

Teresa, #57: Patrick and I were talking just the other day about how Westerns never worked for us the way they were supposed to, because we knew they weren't happening in some hypothetical mythic space. The more dramatic the background, the more likely we knew where the footage was shot.

I have to wonder how that relates to what's happening in Arizona, where it seems that a lot of the people living there have bought into the myth wholesale.

Bruce D, #64: I wonder whether taking actions that would reduce the supply might not result, in the longer term, in a reduction of demand. It's already been noted that part of the reason people want guns is the perception that they are threatened by other people with guns; but if more people became accustomed to living in a society where gun violence wasn't a fact of life, they might become less inclined to return to one. Is this a case where treating the symptom might actually be a start to addressing the problem?

Jim, #76: There are in fact two gun cultures in America right now. One of them is sane. The other is pretty much exactly what Alex describes. You don't believe it? Spend a little time over on the winger blogs and in the comment sections of news articles about the Newtown spree. This second culture is heavily reinforced by popular neocon news sources and pundits (whoever said Glenn-Beckistan upthread has it nailed), and it is indeed about paranoia, racism, and sexual jealousy, in roughly that order. We had a couple of representatives of it show up in the "Keep Your Head Down" thread, which you mentioned recently re-reading.

Ginger, #83: My condolences.

#91 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:23 PM:

My condolences, Ginger.

#92 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:32 PM:

MJ @ #89:

Yeah, whenever I hear of a late-teen, early 20s guy doing something like this, I immediately think of the onset of schizophrenia. That's about when it happens, often.

I'm thinking of situations more like the mom from Boise with her 13 year old. But I also think part of the reason we are so willing to let obviously broken people enjoy their right to be dangerously broken, no matter their age, is because we don't take their misfortune seriously and we CERTAINLY don't want to pay enough to actually help them.

Letting these poor lost souls wander the countryside, doing whatever damage they do to themselves and others, is seen as just a cost of doing business in this culture, I guess.

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 05:41 PM:

Michael Weholt @92:
Letting these poor lost souls wander the countryside, doing whatever damage they do to themselves and others, is seen as just a cost of doing business in this culture, I guess.

Well, yes and no and kinda. It's also an expression of the belief in personal liberty. That includes a certain reluctance to lock up the ones who refuse treatment on their own unless and until they've committed a crime.

(Then we lock them up in prison, which is...not an optimal solution.)

#94 ::: MJ ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:25 PM:

Abi @93
Some of this respect for personal liberty goes back to the days when people used to force their gay and lesbian children into terrible "treatments," but we've overcorrected. The cost is most often lives that could be productive wasted for lack of treatment. Suicide is another. And then we have these horrible violent incidents. In many cases somebody recognized the person was broken, but there is no good mechanism for heading off even obvious impending disaster.

#95 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:28 PM:

TNH #86: Why am I not surprised? Why is it never the time to raise the subject?

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:41 PM:

So here's my proposal: if it's going to be legal to own assault weapons, we need to address the problem of inner-city residents being unable to afford them. Giving out heavily subsidized guns and free ammo to core urban populations would do a lot to equalize those disparities.

I don't actually think this would fix anything. I just want to watch the NRA's reaction.

#97 ::: Joerg R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:43 PM:

Ginger - my condolences.

Generally, the debate reminds of a certain part from "The Gun Seller", a 1996 novel by Hugh Laurie of pre-House fame.

‘Now take a guess at the single most important commodity in the world. So important, that the manufacture and sale of every other commodity depends on it. Oil, gold, food, what would you say?’
‘I’ve a feeling,’ I said, ‘that you’re going to tell me it’s arms.’
‘Correct, Mr Lang,’ he said. ‘It is the biggest industry in the world, and every government in the world knows it. If you’re a politician, and you take on the arms industry, in whatever form, then you wake up the next day and you’re no longer a politician. Some cases, you might not even wake up the next day. Doesn’t matter whether you’re trying for a law on a gun ownership registration in the state of Idaho, or trying to stop the sale of F-16s to the Iraqi Air Force. You step on their toes, they step on your head. Period.’

It is mostly played as comedic thriller and the speaker is a kind of conspiracy nut, but it is still a bit eerie.

IMO, the political power of the gunmakers is even more problematic than the influence of lobbyists like the NRA.

And from an outsider's perspective, it seems that racism is another important reason for so many aspects of American exceptionalism:
Not only the wide-spread conviction that white Americans must arm themselves to defend their homes against "melanin Americans", but also the wide-spread hatred of social programs (keyword "welfare queen"), the glorification of small rural towns and farms or the mythologization of the Founding Fathers' times with their restricted freedom and suffrage.

I fear this is more rambling than intended and full of incorrect word choices, but I am still a bit feverish and my Englich is exceptionally bad. Sorry.

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 06:44 PM:

I'm sorry, Ginger, I missed your most recent comment. My sincere condolences on the loss of your cousin.

#99 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:03 PM:

I'm so sorry, Ginger. May her name be a blessing.

#100 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 07:16 PM:

Michael Weholt @92 & abi @93:
You know who operates some of the largest mental health provider systems in the US? Correctional systems. Because people can't afford/are unable to access/are unwilling to be stigmatized by accessing treatment. Then they end up behind bars, for one reason or another. Quality, needless to say, is wildly variable, depending on whether they want actual improvement or just more docile inmates.

#101 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:04 PM:

abi, #93: That includes a certain reluctance to lock up the ones who refuse treatment on their own unless and until they've committed a crime.

An issue similar to this has been addressed before, when "stalking" became actionable. Prior to the definition of stalking as a criminal activity in its own right, the standard response to complaints about creepy/threatening behavior was, "We can't take any action unless and until he actually does something." And a lot of women died. One would think that there would be some analogous way of legally tagging this kind of creepy/threatening behavior as well.

#102 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:14 PM:

My condolences, Ginger.

#103 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:20 PM:

I have to say it's pretty shocking to read what purports to be an "expose" of the mental instability of the Boise "soccer mom". I read the "expose" of her "darker" writings and it sounds to me like she's a, you know, divorced mom with four kids who daily has the end of her rope in sight just above the horizon but keeps herself away from it by means of comic hyperbole and self-deprecating "melodrama".

Sheesh. This "expose" feels like the very sort of KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT IT crap that keeps all of this so deeply in the closet.

p.s.: I'm purposefully not linking to this "expose".

#104 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:37 PM:

I despair:

Me: And let's talk about this. Let's talk about the poisonous vocabulary of "Be a man." "Grow a pair." "Man up." All that crap:

Every time I point out that gun nuttery is about psychosexual weirdness, wingnuts say "Nuh-uh!" Here's an ad for the gun Lanza used.

A professional writer: Let's not, John. I'm going to have to stop you there.

Me: Okay. That all these killers turn out to be men, usually with grudges against a woman, means nothing. It's not the American version of honor killing when a guy kills his wife and his family and himself. It's not our society and it's not our culture. I will happily let that be the point of view expressed under your editorship. I'll stop now and apologize for being a feminist. And think about my daughter.

A professional writer: To be brutally frank, John, I have no clue what you are talking about.

I despair.

#105 ::: John A Arkansawyer has been gnomed for whining ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:38 PM:

Or maybe not for being a man. May I offer you some ladyfingers, dear gnome?

#106 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 08:58 PM:

Michael, as I said to someone on Twitter, I'd believe her less if she didn't have a history of stress-related symptoms and behaviors.

#107 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:10 PM:

Here is the article by the mom in Boise. Worth reading.

Talking about "gun control" is not going to work, we all know that. Might we re-frame the discussion? What if we talked about "gun safety?" Might it allow us to discuss the issue?

#108 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Holy crap! She's a big old Reagan fan! And she says she has hostile feelings towards her other kids sometimes! This makes, a pretty normal American single mother, which is to say, wildly stressed out beyond reason.

Yes, you can argue that she shouldn't have been so public about her problematic son. That made me uncomfortable too. OTOH, I'm also really uncomfortable with trashing every mother who speaks up, based on their social-media history as a less-than-perfect human being. As @brigidkeely said on Twitter, "If all moms who fantasized about throttling their children were bad moms, we'd have like 90% less moms in the world."

#109 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:38 PM:

As stated in a couple of places (elf's spot on Dreamwidth, Scalzi's "Whatever") yesterday, I live in a country which has strong gun control laws.

Now, the Australian attitude to guns has always been different to the attitude in the USA. Part of this has to do with our origins - at least three of our populated states started as penal colonies (which led to some rather understandable concerns about weapon ownership in our society, and why it shouldn't be completely unregulated). In addition, by the time Australians were ready to stand as a separate country, the UK had learned from the whole debacle with regard to the USA - our independence was gained via an act of parliament, rather than a war. In addition, we don't have the kind of ecosystem which is able to support unrestrained hunting, so hunting was always restricted and seasonal as well (even in - particularly in - the various Indigenous Australian cultures).

All of this means that Australian gun culture was always a much more restrained thing than US gun culture. The majority of Australians lived in the suburbs, and neither needed nor wanted to own guns.

When the Port Arthur massacre occurred, the whole country was shocked. There had been other gun-fuelled massacres before, but they'd mostly been the result of criminal gangs fighting each other, or shooting at police. This was the first time we'd had someone who fit the "mass murderer" profile stand up and start shooting people because they felt it would satisfy some psychological need. We haven't seen another such incident since the passage of the Bryant laws.

Criminals in Australia are still able to get hold of guns - nobody is arguing they can't. But the sort of person who is likely to go out and shoot up a school, a fast food restaurant, a shopping mall, a parade, a university campus, or anywhere else simply because they're wanting to find "fame" quickly and easily by killing a lot of people - this sort of person generally isn't in contact and isn't able to get into contact with the career criminals who have access to guns in Australia. It's not that we don't have people with this personality type floating about in our society - we probably have them at the same incidence as the UK and Europe, and almost certainly at the same incidence as the USA. It's just in Australian society, they're denied the "easy out" of committing a massacre as a way of achieving their psychological goals.

We also have a more robust mental health system than the USA, with a lot more attention being paid to publicising the idea that mental illnesses exist, they aren't necessarily scary, and if you have something like depression you're not as alone and isolated as you think you are. Help is out there, and people do want to provide it. There's a lot of support in the Australian system for mentally ill persons (particularly if you have one of the emotional or perceptual disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and so on).

I don't know how to get from where the USA is to where Australia is (we're not perfect, but we're a lot safer to live with). But here's a suggestion on how to deal with this type of personality long-term: ensure the names of the shooters who do these things aren't publicised. Not in the press coverage of the incident itself, not in any press coverage of any trial, nowhere should there be the linkage between the name of the shooter, and the names of the victims. The men who are doing this are doing it in a twisted effort to become a "success", as a grab at fame. So far it works - they get their names in the papers, they go out in a "blaze of glory", and they become an inspiration to other such individuals. So let's start by removing the "reward" for their actions. Stop naming the shooters. Let them keep their non-entity forever.

The second part of this is removing superlatives and comparatives from any reporting of this kind of incident. Don't use terms like "worst" or "greatest number" or "biggest". Again, the aim is to remove the psychological reward for committing this sort of act. Mention the number of dead and wounded, but don't compare it against other incidents. Even comparatives like "more" or "less" give a sense of these sorts of atrocities being ranked on a scale. They shouldn't be. And it shouldn't be easy for the sort of person who'd commit such an atrocity to figure out how many people he'd need to kill to be at the top of the rankings.

#110 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:38 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 86: "I am Officially Confused by Jim and Alex's argument."

I don't think we're really arguing at all.

I suspect Jim is arguing on behalf of sane gun owners. This species of gun owner does exist, and they regard guns as tools for hunting, vermin control, and target shooting. To sane gun owners, guns are dangerous tools, and using them correctly requires training, maturity and a commitment to community standards of safety.

I'm not arguing against sane gun owners. I think they're great, and I wish I knew a sane gun owner... I've got two kids who should probably receive firearms training and maybe spend a little time hunting or otherwise sharpening those all-important survival skills.

Hopefully the argument ended when I clarified my intent.

#111 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:41 PM:

Ginger, my condolences as well. This must be a very difficult time for you.

#112 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:45 PM:

Avram @61, I'm now very curious about this book, because I'm wondering how the author is using the term "debt of honor." I'm used to two. The first refers to gambling debts, and, IMHO, is really neither good nor bad except as it might encourage men not to bet more than they can afford to lose. The second one, as it springs to mind, is about reciprocity of service: if someone has done you a service above and beyond the call of duty (the obvious one is saving your life, but it can refer to lesser ones as well), then it's a debt of honor and it puts you under an obligation to render that person a similar service, should they ever need it, even to the point of severely taxing your power to provide it -- they saved your life, you must risk yours for them.

On the whole, I see this as a positive thing. And it is not the same thing at all as an INSULT to one's honor, the sort of nonsense that leads to men fighting duels.

Does the author make that distinction?

#113 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 09:47 PM:

OK, I misattributed this to Patrick when I posted it on Facebook. I blame eyes full of tears for the error, which I've now corrected.

Teresa 29: They're called "Family Annihilators," IIRC.

abi 30: Emphatic agreement about 'individual responsibility'. Yesterday someone said that about the mother in the case, and I said that I'm not willing to depend on the "individual responsibility" of the likes of her to keep little kids from being killed, that I think that's bloody well a SOCIETAL responsibility.

ibid. 34: And Teresa has an observation about multiple trolls in one thread, egging one another on.

Remember the two guys who killed Matthew Shepard? Their later (reported and observed) behavior made me think neither one of them wanted to kill him, but neither was willing to be the first to stop hitting him. Maybe we need a separate crime of "macho murder."

Sarah 68: Yes, and Sipple's life was ruined by it. Harvey Milk was far from blameless. And ordinarily someone who saved the President's life would get an invitation to the White House; Sipple got only a note of thanks.

He regretted his heroic act in later years.

Ginger 83: I'm sorry for your loss, and your family's.

#114 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:43 PM:

Ginger, I am sorry.

Thoughts about "change": if we cannot change the gun culture, or the way guns permeate our society, might we turn our attention to the terrible job our legal/medical system does dealing with people with brain disorders aka mental illnesses? Megpie 71 at 109 says: We also have a more robust mental health system than the USA, with a lot more attention being paid to publicising the idea that mental illnesses exist, they aren't necessarily scary, and if you have something like depression you're not as alone and isolated as you think you are. Help is out there, and people do want to provide it. There's a lot of support in the Australian system for mentally ill persons (particularly if you have one of the emotional or perceptual disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and so on). Can we in the US learn from Australia, or other places which do a better job than we in supporting/treating the mentally ill and their families?

I seem to have only questions -- no answers...

#115 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 10:58 PM:

Ginger, my condolences too.

(This is all too big for words for me just now. But that I can say.)

#116 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:04 PM:

Dear god, Ginger, that's awful. I'm so sorry.

#117 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2012, 11:57 PM:

WRT shooting minorities in times of crisis? Not just a fantasy

#118 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:16 AM:

Rikibeth @112, yes, Graeber distinguishes (in the very next paragraph after the one I quoted, even!) between honor and simple integrity. Still it’s possible that he’s misusing the term “debt of honor” to refer to insult, or a deficit of honor. Since most of the cultures he’s talking about were not English-speaking, and wouldn’t have actually been using that phrase anyway, I’m not overly bothered by it.

#119 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:50 AM:

Ginger, my condolences to you and your family.

#120 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:51 AM:

As someone with an extensive family history on the autistic spectrum, can I ask that we not include it in lists of mental illnesses? Particularly not alongside things like schizophrenia, and in a conversation about how/whether mental illnesses cause people to commit mass shootings?


I agree that better mental health care would benefit both the mentally ill and the neurologically different. But that's not the same thing as saying that neurological differences are a mental illness.

#121 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:59 AM:

Avram @118, thanks. The book still sounds fascinating! It's just that I've been immersing myself in Napoleonic-Wars-era English history for the last nine months or so, and I've grown used to "debt of honor" and "affront to my honor" being specific terms of art, sometimes splendid and sometimes ludicrous in their manifestations.

#122 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:43 AM:

abi @ 120

My apologies for doing so.

Vaguely along the same lines, I find myself wondering whether there's a way of clearly distinguishing in the public mind between persons with mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (who largely aren't dangerous to the majority of society; who indeed tend to be more of a danger to themselves than they are to others) and those with the personality disorders such as narcissism, anti-social personality disorder and suchlike.

I've been reading a lot these past couple of days about "the mentally ill" in various iterations of this discussion, and a lot of it tends to lump "the mentally ill" together as this homogeneous group, all of them equally dangerous and worthy of being treated as deadly weapons waiting for a place to explode. Given I'm mentally ill myself, it doesn't really help.

#123 ::: Tom ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 03:30 AM:

"... suburbia is actually designed to slow down perps until the police arrive."

This strikes me as something an Australian would never imagine. Teresa do you really believe this is why (modern) suburbs are laid out the way they are?

I've always assumed it was just to limit traffic flow to local residents once you get off arterial roads.

#124 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:30 AM:

Ginger: my condolences to you and your family.

#125 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 07:22 AM:

I shall just note that one of the rabid right-wing, headline-inventing, newspapers in the UK is attributing the shootings to "violent video games", getting the idea from unidentifianle "reports" in the USA. (No, we cannot blame Rupert Murdoch for this one.)

If they're right about the identity of the game, it is very popular in Japan, which is obviously an unreported charnel-house.

#126 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 07:44 AM:

Dave Bell @ #125: ...attributing the shootings to "violent video games"...

Yeah, I'm hearing that on TV here this a.m. It sounds like they're setting up one of our Famous Fair-Minded Trade-Offs: "Yeah, all right, we'll do something about assault weapons but ONLY IF YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES AND MOVIES FIRST!"

I'm beginning to suspect Fair Minded Trade-Offs are the product of a hobgoblin's small mind.

#127 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:30 AM:

If Adam Lanza hadn't been a Pokemon fan, he would have been able to properly use and respect the semiautomatic weapons in his mother's house.

(Yes, I've seen that kind of talk in print, though maybe not as explicitly as this. )

#128 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:36 AM:

Ginger: My God, how horrible! My condolences.

#129 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:45 AM:

Ginger, my condolences to you, the rest of your family, and all the other victims' families.

#130 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:48 AM:

Thanks for the condolences. I have to admit it doesn't change the depth of feeling I've had since the news first started trickling out, about the shooting, because we are all parents and human beings first, we can all feel sorrow and grief without having any relatives directly involved. I hadn't seen my cousin in years; that side of the family has a lot of cousins (the Irish-American, predominantly Catholic side of the family), but I certainly knew who she was and had been to her parents' house. Knowing someone who was there just enhances the "small-world" feeling of this disaster; it was already too close to home as I grew up in neighboring NY state.

Now is the time for us to make a strong case for appropriate gun control -- whether it's increasing the price of ammunition, enhancing the waiting periods, adding classes for licensure, or some combination of these and more -- we must act. Already I see the opposition gearing up to resist, with all the propaganda they can drag out. I think they're a little desperate this time, because this -- Sandy Hook -- could be our Dunblane.

I hope it is, most sincerely. I don't want to lose any more children, teachers, cousins, fellow human beings. Period.

#131 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:01 AM:

I think both gun control and involuntary treatment of the mentally ill are issues that get raised by a mass shooting, but whose actual impact will happen much more around the mundane cases than the extreme events. And these involve tradeoffs--in each case, we can probably make ourselves safer from both the extreme scary events like mass-shootings, and the much more mundane scary events like ordinary murders with guns, by moving the slider bar over toward less respect for the rights or preferences of a subset of people (people who want to own guns/people with some mental illness or at least people who are notably different from the neighbors in the way their minds work).

I'm not sure what the right tradeoff there is. I no longer believe that widespread gun ownership is particularly important in maintaining political freedom--it may be important in the extreme case where you're looking at a civil breakdown or civil war or something, but jackbooted thugs doing midnight raids on suspected small-time pot dealers don't seem to be deterred by the large number of guns in the country. (Police militarization isn't primarily about the presence of guns in US society, either, as far as I can tell. Thirty years ago, we had lots of guns, a much higher level of violent crime and political violence, but far fewer SWAT raids. This is a change in culture and incentives.)

On the other hand, the huge, overwhelming majority of gun owners don't do anything wrong. I don't have polling data or anything handy, but Alex R's description of the beliefs of gun owners sure doesn't track with the gun owners I know. I rather suspect it is easy to find a few nutbars whose quotes will justify a similarly nasty view of any group you don't like.

And similarly, the vast, overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are no threat to anyone, and making it easier to forcibly treat or lock them up is probably going to do a lot of harm in their lives. That's even more true for doing that to everyone on the autism spectrum or everyone who has creepily-weird political and personal beliefs, or whatever.

#132 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:06 AM:

I don't think raising the price of ammunition works the way you'd like it to. Make bullets $10 apiece, and J Random Nutbar can still afford enough ammo to massacre people. Similarly, J Random Paranoid can afford the loaded gun under his pillow he barely knows how to fire. But responsible gun owners who want to practice so they know how to hit what they shoot at, and people who like target shooting, will be priced out of the market. This mainly screws people who aren't the people causing the problems.

#133 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:13 AM:


Yeah, if Teresa's theory were true, we would have seen a huge upsurge in crimes in suburbia with the availability of GPS and Google Maps. The nice, safe suburb I live in is only a few minutes' drive to a big, heavily-traveled highway, and that's true for most of them that I'm aware of in this area of Montgomery County, MD. If all that's keeping the criminals away is inability to figure out how to get away quickly, then we're toast, because that's like five minutes with Google Maps planning your getaway route.

I'm pretty sure the main reason for winding roads and dead-end streets is safety of kids playing on your roads. If your house is on a road that leads from point A to point B, especially during rush hour, it will not be safe for kids or dogs to be unattended outside near it, as people will be whipping by at 50 MPH trying to get to work on time.

#134 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:23 AM:

Teresa, #24: on your extended comparison between trolls and mass murderers.

Hypothesis: this is a sign of a pattern of failure of psychological development. I've long said that trolls have criminal psychology. Could this hypothesis be tested and, if it turns out true, the theory be used as a guide to future policy?

My predictions on the shooter were more modest, but also appear to have been validated: "I will venture the speculation that, when more information about the shooter comes out, we will find that he gave plenty of warning, may even have been treated for mental health problems, and no authority acted on this."

As a culture, I think, the USA has patterns that make it more likely that the potential for violence be realized. A federation that has conquered half a continent and goes to war at the drop of a hat is going to produce more than its fair share of violent people.

#135 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:27 AM:

I would just like to mention that as an advanced (relatively speaking) civilization (relatively speaking) we probably ought to be able to discuss reworking the way we handle people with broken minds without going immediately to the notion that we need to make it easier to forcibly treat them.

We often seem to go there, maybe reflexively, maybe too quickly.

Most people understand that the vast majority of those with mental illness are not violent. Or, at least, not inherently anymore violent than any other member of the species.

Most people are not interested in establishing a Soviet Style Psychiatric System where dissidents or just plain odd-balls are "treated".

I don't know. Being a Fan, I have a vision of a future society where people who have terrible mental difficulties are treated with love and compassion and concern, from childhood forward, such that people with such difficulties, and their families, have one thing and one thing only burned into their awareness:

"If you need help, if you feel you might be a danger to yourself or to others, go here. Go to this *specific* place and say this *specific* thing and we will help you, we will love you, we will comfort you. Come to us. Please. Come to us if you feel even the tiniest whisper of the need for our help."

#136 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:30 AM:


When the Patriot Act was shoved through with little debate, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I thought it was badly done. Changes to the law don't need to be done in panic mode, they need to be thought through. Now, the proponents of the Patriot Act would probably make a case like "well, those damned obstructionist civil libertarians and paranoids will fight us on all these necessary and sensible measures, unless we jump on the opportunity created by everyone being in shock from a horrible tragedy covered 24/7 on the cable news channels." They might even have been right, but I still don't like the process that happened there, and I like the results still less.

So I'm a little uncomfortable with the notion of urgency in writing laws. Right now, the opposition to gun control is beaten down by the horror of the tragedy in much the same way civil libertatians were beaten down by the horror of 9/11. It seems like a bad way of making policy to jump on the latest scare or outrage or tragedy, and write laws based on that. It's commonplace (see pretty much the whole war on terror), but I am not at all convinced it leads to good decisions.

#137 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:55 AM:


Anyone who worries about gun control opponents being "beaten down" really hasn't been paying attention to U.S. politics for the past few decades.

#138 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:59 AM:

albatross, I agree with you that writing laws quickly may not be the best idea -- Law of Unintended Consequences, etc. Michael at 135 is right: particularly as regards making changes to how people with mental illness are treated in our society. No one here has suggested that forcible treatment is what's needed, only that the current way we deal with mental disorders is inadequate. How about looking at the ways insurance companies fund, or don't fund, various methods of voluntary treatment? I wonder -- I don't know -- what the ACA says about treatment of brain disorders. Does it make obtaining and paying for treatment any easier or more consistent? Anyone know?

#139 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:00 AM:

Michael Weholt, THANK YOU. I am bipolar. It took me until I was 40 to get diagnosed. By the time I felt bad enough to seek out help, it was a herculean effort to jump through all the hoops necessary to GET it. And I, at least, had coverage for it. Many don't. Single-payer health care and a streamlined form of access to mental health services would do SO MUCH good for people in general, whether or not it cut down the occurrence of spree killings.

I was almost never a danger to anyone but myself. My (hypo)manias tended towards euphoric, leading to a depleted bank account as I bought presents for people, and for me to engage in some risky-to-myself behaviors in the pursuit of a good time. My depressions mostly involved immobilizing misery. The only time I can think of where depression even hinted at danger to others was when I was working at a job that didn't require a box cutter in the way a previous one had, but did involve a moderate commute, and the suicidal ideation shifted from wrists to oncoming traffic -- and one of the things keeping me from acting on it was the awareness that it was an asshole way to go because of the likelihood of taking others with me. I've been known to say "Don't just dismiss the shooter as crazy. He was also an asshole. I'm crazy, but I'm not an asshole."

I don't know if the manifestations of mental illness that can precipitate or accompany the urge to go on a killing spree come with any sort of awareness that you need help. If Teresa's comparison of this sort of killer to internet trolls is accurate (and it sure feels like it), my guess is no.

But your image of mental health treatment is so desirable, we should do it ANYWAY.

#140 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:01 AM:

Oops. The punctuation in the paragraph above is screwy. It should read: Michael at 135 is right: particularly as regards making changes to how people with mental illness are treated in our society: no one here has suggested that forcible treatment is what's needed, only that the current way we deal with mental disorders is inadequate.

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:09 AM:


Yeah, I like the idea of people mostly trying to avoid giving the mass-shooter free publicity. I'll note that the 24 hr news channels almost have to do saturation coverage of something like this--it's their business model. And to the extent that this sort of attack draws copycats based on its media impact, that turns the volume up to 11 on that impact. It is practically impossible to live a normal life and not see a lot of coverage of this, and it's quite easy to soak your brain in the repetitive coverage of the shooting, memorial services, slowly developing details of the story, etc.

One simple thing anyone can do--don't refer to the bastards by name, but by place. The VA Tech whacko, the Ft Hood nut, the lunatic that shot Gabrielle Giffords, etc.

#142 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:12 AM:

@8: "Yeah, that grade level is very female dominated. Reflexive suspicion of any male who wants to work with children is unfortunate fallout from the myriad high-profile paedo scandals. "

Since when has K-6 *not* been taught mainly by women?

#143 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:19 AM:

Things I've been thinking about this weekend.

1. The US really really needs to expand and improve our mental health system. Make it easy to access. Remove the stigma. Somehow. If the first thought of an angry frustrated young man was "maybe I should see a doctor about this", rather than "maybe I should get some guns", our world would be improved.

2. It should be unthinkable for someone with a mentally ill (or even just "disturbed") young man in the house to have firearms in the house. Just unthinkable. Possibly criminal. Like a bartender selling a couple more drinks to someone they know is going to drive school bus.

3. There should be a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons. They are called assault weapons. They are intend to assault people. Assault is illegal.

4. Firearms owners must be held responsible for what is done with their weapons. I mean seriously responsible. If someone commits murder with your gun, you get charged. If someone holds up a bank, you get charged. Even if they stole the weapon. If they could get it, you did not properly secure it. It's your fault too. If your kid takes your handgun to school and shoots a classmate, you get charged with murder. The only out might be if you can prove that the perp actually broke into your gun safe, and that you reported that to the police, and there is evidence of the broken safe.

I've had other thoughts this weekend, and I imaging I'll be formulating them, too. In a while.

One of those thoughts is that these people should be called Suicide-shooters.

#144 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:29 AM:

Rikibeth @ #139: I don't know if the manifestations of mental illness that can precipitate or accompany the urge to go on a killing spree come with any sort of awareness that you need help...

Over the weekend, I saw a report on a study that two agents of the Secret Service had undertaken to see if there were indications that things were heading in a very bad direction for a kid. Like: toward shooting up a school.

They had a list of predictive behaviors. I don't recall them at the moment and don't really have time right now to track down a link, maybe somebody else has it handy. I think it's a pretty well known study.

#145 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:38 AM:

Sean Sakamoto (#41) never reposted the link to the DEA agent shooting himself in the foot, but it's all over the 'Net. Here's one iteration.

There's followup, too: DEA agent who shot self in foot sues over Internet video. The agent was upset because he became "the target of jokes, derision, ridicule, and disparaging comments."

Here is another compilation video of people doing stupid things with firearms.

#146 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:40 AM:

A couple of years ago, a man was arrested in the small town in Missouri where I grew up. He had plans to kill his ex-wife, their son, her father, and to blow of the police department. He was not in fact, a random unemployed loser, but a well-paid engineer managing an oil recycling plant in Illinois. In addition to his marital problems, he also had a great deal of concern about "where the country was going" and had been stockpiling ammunition and bomb-making materials--over 300,000 rounds of ammunition and nearly 100 guns, plus the rest of it. He was released on bond (yes, he was white, why do you ask?) and then missed his hearing date and had to be removed from the manager's apartment at the recycling plant--they managed to force him out with a firehose, and no one was shot. He had a history of manic-depression and didn't like taking his medication.

First of all, no one goes out and buys that much ammunition at once. I'm sure Aughenbaugh accumulated it gradually. Raising the price will make it more difficult to buy a lot at once, but the obsessed will hang in there. After all, they have a mission. Secondly, you will notice how closely he matches up with Dr. Science's guidelines. Thirdly, you will notice that even though they all knew he had issues, he was released on a not-unreasonable (from his point of view) bond and allowed to return to Illinois.

More than legislation, we need to address attitudes--this is, after all, what we have done with regard to drunk driving and smoking. It is also what both the NRA and its fellow-travellers have done, and one of the reasons the NRA is lying low right now. Back in the 1970s, when I was a troubled teenager who wold have taken great pleasure in blowing my high school off the face of the map, automatic and semiautomatic weapons were rare, tightly controlled, and not something most gun owners were liely to express a felt need for. There was a clear divide between people who had guns and hunted or shot targets, and people who were obsessive about them--and it was the former who led the discussion, and most were prepared to see some limitations on gun ownership and use. They knew what they had in their hands, and they repsected it. If guns were tools to them, they were ready to say guns were dangerous tools that needed trained and careful users, just like heavy industrial equipment and power saws.

Like a lot of things in this country, the Overton Window on this topic has been seized and jerked in a radical direction. Among other things, we are now, as Teresa noted, subsidizing a few people's FRPGs with lives, blood, and tax money.

Things that might help, beyond legislation on assault weapon ownership and certain types of ammunition, and taxing the hell out of ammunition purchases: limiting advertising on weapons and ammunition, the way we do tobacco products. Putting more money and thought into the existing ad campaigns against domestic violence and for seeking mental health treatment is a start; one against being a mass shooter might sound extreme, but it's worth a try. Make sure access to effective mental health treatment is practical and affordable.

Laws are not enough. You have to go after attitudes. There are enough people who agree, but they need the presence of open discussion to be sure they have support from others. If you have an opinion that appears to go against the zeitgeist, you need to know you're not alone--and once you find that out, you often discover that far fewer people support that Zeitgeist than you thought.

Consider where we were before the antismoking and and drunk-driving campaigns took hold--and they didn't do so overnight. Effective legislation from those campaigns didn't happen right away--it followed long campaigns of lobbying and advertising. This fight won't be any shorter, but the attitude fight is as important as the regulatoy fight--and without the former, the latter doesn't stand a chance.

If you haven't followed Patrick's Sidelights link to Gary Wills's pieces, I urge that you do. He lays out a great many details about how the pro-gun forces have operated that we need to understand if we are to do anything about them.

#147 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:54 AM:

While there's no question the DEA agent metaphorically shot himself in the foot, do we know that he literally did? Though the angle of the gun is hard to see, it doesn't look to me like it's pointing at his feet (unless his wrist is twisted more than it looks like it is), and it doesn't look to me like he's injured afterwards. Of course, adrenaline may account for that.

#148 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:56 AM:

The hacker group Anonymous has declared war on the Westboro Baptist Church, after they heard that Westboro was planning to picket the funerals of the kids shot in Connecticut:

(Sorry; I don't know how to make a neat little link.)

#149 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:00 AM:

Michael Weholt @144: Was it one of the articles on this list?

#150 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:00 AM:

re 123/133: I cannot speak to Levittown, but around here the outer suburbs were initially laid out in curvilinear networks precisely because that was not a city grid pattern; also, up here in the piedmont, a grid is hard to sustain very far anyway. Nobody worried about policing in the outer suburbs; indeed, Howard County still does its overall dispatching out of a single main station just as it did back in, oh, 1910 or so. Now they do have "community policing" satellite stations, and therein hangs the tale. When they started building Columbia in the 1960s, they went way beyond the connected-but-curvy street plans of the older suburbs ("older" locally being a matter of only a few years, but the older pattern traced back into the 1930s around DC) and made a highly disconnected rats nest which makes navigating the new town area a real pain. But as far as this having anything to do with crime: well, James Rouse's views about crime in Columbia were borderline utopian, full of the kind of the social engineering of the times which was falling apart even as construction continued. Thus Columbia had provision for lower income and upper income areas alike, and you can to some degree work out where the former are by looking for the presence of a community policing station.

Cul-de-sacs and "no outlet" communities also arose out of economy. Roads are land that cannot be sold, so developers naturally were moved to minimize them. The police and fire departments aren't always to keen on them precisely because they can slow or even deny access when it is needed.

#151 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:03 AM:

The last entry under HTML Tags above the type-in window (just above the Spelling Reference) shows how to form a link. Or you can go HERE and not worry about missing that elusive ".

#152 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:07 AM:

fidelio @ 149:

I think this is one I saw the report on: Secret Service Safe School Initiative.

I didn't see it on the page you linked to. It may be that all of those are more recent or more complete. I think the Secret Service study is from 2000.

#153 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:10 AM:

Beth @143

I am not so sure that a blanket ban on semi-auto weapons is necessary. The Police mostly stuck with revolvers until the 1970s, I think, but there is little practical difference between a 6-shot revolver and something such as the M1911 Colt with its 7-shot magazine.

I'm not going to suggest where to draw the line, but I can imagine the screaming from the direction of law enforcement agencies, who seem to have gone for such guns as the Glock, with seventeen rounds. What do they think they are facing on the streets?

#154 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:17 AM:


1. I agree completely.

2. I suspect it depends quite a bit how you define mental problems. I certainly know people who got rid of their guns due to a family member seeming unstable (the only time I have ever had a handgun in my home was this sort of situation--a friend asked me to keep it there, because her husband was having big drug and mental health problems. But I imagine there are huge numbers of people who could in principle fit the category of mentally ill or dangerous, after the fact, whose family members see them as weird but harmless. And the overwhelming majority are.

3. I think you mean assault rifles (which I gather more or less means semiautomatic rifles that look kinda military). You may be right, but the name used for them doesn't make much of an argument. The argument that does make some sense involves a tradeoff, involving what's allowed and useful for hunting or target shooting.

4. That seems wildly unreasonable to me, and I have a hard time imagining you would accept the standard for people whose activities you approved of. What should happen when someone breaks into the home of a model rocket fanatic, and uses the model rockets in some kind of a crime?

#155 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:20 AM:

That Anonymous attack on Westboro may be a hoax by Westboro.

#156 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:25 AM:

albatross, 154: When somebody murders twenty children and six adults with a model rocket, we can talk about it.

#157 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:46 AM:

albatross @154 Model rockets are not manufactured and sold for the purpose of killing animals and people. Firearms are functioning as designed when people use them to kill. I am proposing that people who own them be held legally responsible for their use.

Note that I do not propose that people be prevented from owning firearms (except automatic and semi-automatic weapons), nor from using them in a safe and legal manner. But clearly, history shows us that Americans need to be more strongly encouraged to take proper precautions with their lethal weapons. It's no infringement on anyone's right to keep and bear arms to hold them responsible for what is done with those weapons.

I don't suppose that this kind of law would have stopped the perfect storm of paranoid gun-nut mother and emotionally disturbed young man. But it might stop a significant percentage of the other 30,000 firearms-related deaths that happen every year.

#158 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:46 AM:

albatross @133:

I think the age of a particular suburb is highly relevant here. My area of inner Montgomery County, just inside the Beltway, was built up in the late 1930s, and is very navigable. It's not precisely a grid, but there are regular through streets, the streets are relatively straight if not perpendicular, and there are few dead-ends or cul-de-sacs. This is vastly different from the sort of single-entry-point development popular out west in newer suburbs; in some that I've driven through (especially in wealthier areas) there's definitely an impression that they're made deliberately confusing to deter outsiders.

#159 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 12:22 PM:

Please don't assume someone who shoots other people is necessarily mentally ill. Despite the DSM, we can't make every bad thought and behavior a mental illness.

#160 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 12:30 PM:

I have a Level 1 model rocket certification. I'm allowed to buy rocket motors that you are probably not allowed to buy. People with Level 2 certifications are allowed to buy motors that I'm not allowed to buy, and people with Level 3 certs are allowed to buy the biggest motors of all. So no, model rocketry is not completely unregulated. Be that as it may, to the best of my knowledge, nobody's ever been murdered with a model rocket.

#161 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 12:34 PM:

Michael Weholt, those checklists seem great for OTHERS identifying that a potential shooter needs help -- but unless the individuals in question are minors, that may not do any good in GETTING them help. I was wondering more if the shooters themselves had an inner awareness that they needed treatment for mental illness. From what little it's possible to deduce from media reports, they don't -- they're convinced of their rightness. And if they're not moved to seek treatment on their own, improved access might not be the one solution to the problem.

It's a fantastic idea in itself and should happen. But I don't think it'll stop the violence without a concurrent reduction in access to firearms. Not just for the mentally ill. For everyone.

#162 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 12:42 PM:

Manny @159 I think most people would agree that thinking it's a good idea to kill a large number of 6 year old children is a sure sign of mental illness.

#163 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 12:48 PM:

My favorite preventative measure is to force everyone to purchase a gun safe before they purchase a gun. Then they have to register their gun safe so it's size and capacity are known to gun sellers. All guns and ammo must be kept inside the gun safe and there are penalties for buying (or attempting to buy) more stuff than fits inside the safe. If you want to buy more ammo, you bring in your empty shells.

If someone gets ahold of your gun (because you haven't kept it in the safe) and uses it, you go to jail. The advantage of this is that it forces people to make purchases from the gun industry rather than restricting purchases from the gun industry, and therefore it has a chance of passing.

My suspicion, BTW, is that Adam Lanza's mother didn't have a gun safe, or that she shared the combination/keys with her children.

#164 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 12:59 PM:


Hmmm. I don't think I'm expressing myself well.

There are ways you can make guns available to people who ought not to have them (the mentally ill, children, felons, etc.), which can and should make you somehow criminally liable. (I think this is a pretty straightforward way to get put in jail for child endangerment, for example, if you're letting your little kids play in a room with a loaded gun unattended in the drawer or something.)

But holding you responsible for whatever is done with a gun that is stolen from you, in some across-the-board sense, seems completely wrong to me. Assuming this nut's mom had been away the day he snapped, it seems like Beth's proposal would require us to put her in prison forever, or perhaps to execute her. After all, if she's responsible for shooting up an elementary school and murdering a whole bunch of people, what else could we do?

Now, would that look like justice? It looks a hell of a lot more like revenge, to me And I think passing laws for the sake of revenge, or the sake of "sending a message," is almost always a very bad idea.

Further, I don't think this is a good general principle. It might make sense to have a legal requirement for how guns are to be stored, with some specific penalty for not doing so. But I can't see how it could make sense to say that if someone steals a gun from your house, and then murders someone with it, you are held responsible. We don't do that with other things, do we? Like, if someone steals your car[1] and crashes it into someone, or breaks into your house, steals your ID, and uses the ID to get into someplace where he can steal something or kill someone, we do not, in general, try to hold you responsible for the crime. Where that kind of law does exist (say, selling alcohol to someone who then kills someone in a car crash leading to a manslaughter charge for you), it seems like an injustice amplifier--it doesn't give you consistent rules with consistent consequences, it gives you a Russian Roulette like scheme where 99+% of the time, you do X and nothing happen, and the other 0.1%, your life is wrecked for the same behavior.

[1] Note that cars kill a whole lot of people.

#165 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:15 PM:

albatross, 164: Okay, yes. The unpacked version is not disingenuous.

The comparison to model rockets and cars, however, ignores Beth's point that semiautomatic weapons with large clips are designed with one purpose: killing humans. If the gunman's mother knew he was unstable, and gave him the keys to the gun safe, then she does bear some moral responsibility for his murders.

Your mention of capital punishment is going to be a temptation to derail, BTW, because the gun-control people in the thread are all going to go "no, we're against that too," so I wish you hadn't brought it up. Can the Fluorosphere agree to leave the death penalty out of it for the length of this thread? Gun control is hard enough to talk about already.

Also, my mention of the gunman's mother's possible responsibility is not meant to victim-blame or to say OMG BAD MOTHER RAWR. I'm just pretty sure that if she hadn't owned all those guns, far fewer people would be dead now.

#166 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:17 PM:

I'm glad TNH posted her "characteristics of trolls" list. On Friday I posted a "modest proposal" that straight males no longer be permitted to have firearms, and that women and LGBT folks have mandatory concealed carry (the guns having a James-Bondian "will only fire for woman or LGBT person it's registered to".) on my Wordpress page. I put a crap-ton of disclaimers on it, because I knew it was sexist. In less sexist and more practical gun safety measures, if gun advocates insist that automobiles are also dangerous, why not institute a licensing system for the gun owner, as with a car? You have to take classes and pass a written and behind-the-trigger test. You have to purchase insurance should your gun be used in a crime. And there are some guns that aren't street-legal.

Last night I was confronted with a work friend's reposting of the most egregious and offensive meme I've ever seen: a picture with writing asking god why so many had to die at the shooting, and a response from god that it was because he was no longer allowed in schools. As a Christian, this makes me incandescent with rage. I have never seen a more bald example of Taking The Lord's Name In Vain than attributing, even facetiously ("it's funny because it's true") that the same God, who through his incarnation as Jesus Christ requested that children be allowed to come to him, who warned that those who offended children would rather have a millstone hung on their neck and be tossed in the ocean. That God is some sort of deity that can be summoned or not summoned by spellcraft, and that he would turn his back on innocents because the correct incantation hadn't been used.

I swear, for every time some Fundie gets up and spouts this garbage, three new atheists are created. It certainly makes it harder for me to explain to my atheist friends that the God I worship gave us free will, and the brains and compassion to form communities, care for each other, and even gave us the example of Jesus to follow as a road-map, was somehow not the same God as the profoundly immoral one that the Louder Christians worship. I cannot understand the Huckabee Christians. What's the difference between "god allowed a bunch of 1st graders to be slaughtered because you stopped allowing prayer in schools" and what the Westboro Baptists are saying?

#167 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:26 PM:

fidelio @ 146

Back in the 1970s... automatic and semiautomatic weapons were rare, tightly controlled..

That was true for automatics; it still is. (The controls are actually tighter now than they were in the 1970's, but automatics have required an FBI background check and a federal permit to own since the 1930's.)

I do not think that semi-automatics were any more tightly controlled in the 1970's than they are now, and they weren't at all uncommon--the Colt M1911 pistol especially was very widely available as military surplus.

#168 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:41 PM:

re 158: Stuff that's a lot newer, like the King Farm development, has gone back to the older curvilinear-but-connected pattern of the inner suburbs; the single point entry with no interconnections in now unfashionable with the planners. There are still 2-3 acre and a McMansion developments out there, and they tend to employ the single entrance plan, but anyone who thinks these places are at serious risk for violent crime is excessively paranoid.

#169 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:43 PM:

Nerdycellist: yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

This post by Garry Wills at the NY Review of Books blogsite is stunningly relevant.

#170 ::: Lizzy L is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:44 PM:

Sorry, gnomes. I've got nothing to share.

Probably the link, yah?

#171 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:51 PM:

Rikkibeth @112: Graeber is an anthropologist by profession: "Debt: the first five thousand years" is a magisterial (if not uncontroversial) look at the origins of the entire conceptual framework we call "debt", and with it related topics such as money, credit, honour, slavery, and alienation of labour.

I really can't recommend it highly enough, but it's a bit too complex to reduce to a sound bite (upwards of 500 pages before you hit the crunchy endnotes).

#172 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:52 PM:

All I have right now are random disjointed thoughts. For whatever it's worth, I grew up in a rural culture where guns were ubiquitous, and only a few people were weird about them. I want to find some way to prevent these kinds of massacres.

So here goes:

1. I think it's clear that school shootings are not a "black swan" phenomenon. They're a real thing, not some freakish one-off coincidence. Thus, this is an appropriate matter for legislation.

2. Something has gone badly wrong with some parts of rural gun culture. You can see some of the symptoms in this New York Times article about Newtown—the explosions in the woods, the paranoia, the arguments between hunters and the people living in their own private reality. But there's not a clean boundary. The clearest warning sign is people who endlessly tell themselves stories about self-defense against scary Others or the government. But this mindset is hard to distinguish from the old rural observation that "you can leave your door unlocked around here—anybody stupid enough to break and enter would eventually run into somebody with a deer rifle."

3. Recent history does not suggest that armed insurrection against a tyrannical state necessarily results in a functioning civil society. Some significant fraction of the time, it leads to teenagers in jeeps with AK-47s and a Hobbesian war of all against all.

4. A lot of people fantasize obsessively about self-defense with a concealed handgun. Very few of these people have the kind of training that's required to deescalate dangerous situations, to retain their gun if somebody tries to take it from their holster, or to hit moving targets at close range while panicking.

5. A huge number of voters own guns. It's something like 40% of American households. Many of these people vote Democratic. I know this is a crass time to discuss politics, but I'd hate to see those people radicalized and pushed into the arms of the extremists.

6. What's the actual difference between a modern hunting rifle and an "assault rifle"? As far as I can tell—and I may be wrong—the hunting rifle is often a high-powered, highly-accurate semi-automatic rifle with a capacity of a few rounds and a vanished wooden stock. (Deer are big, and it's bad to wound them and let them die slowly.) The "assault rifle" looks like something from a war movie, and it often has a big clip, but are there any other non-cosmetic differences? Would hunters be willing to stick to single-shot rifles?

7. Do we want to ban guns based on how scary they look? Given that some large fraction of this problem is psychological, that might actually be good public policy for all I know.

8. How many deaths could we prevent with proper licensing, training and storage? What do we do about people who become senile or otherwise unable to be responsible gun owners?

9. With 200M+ guns already in circulation, and vast numbers of law-abiding people who'd feel weird about a mandatory government buyback, what kinds of gun control are realistic? Could we do better than Prohibition? Better than the drug war?

What should we do? What can we do?

#173 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:53 PM:

nerdycellist @ 166

I've often wondered how, in the Fundamentalist Christian view of things, we're supposed to interpret the fact that God attempts to communicate with us by killing children with guns. Does he use Morse Code?

Morbid humor aside, there are a number of logical problems with this idea, and more theological inconsistencies than I can successfully mock in a post of less than 10-20 pages.

And how are we supposed to distinguish such a god from Satan?

#174 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:57 PM:

Yes, in fact, I do mean that if Lanza's mother had survived the shooting (for whatever reason), she should be held legally responsible for it. She failed to secure her weapons. People were killed. Her negligence led directly to those deaths.

If you have firearms and are afraid that such a law would put you in prison, then you'd better reconsider how you secure them.

Nerdycellist @166 - my response to that incredibly offensive idea is to say that the God you claim to worship is supposed to be omnipotent and omnipresent. The only place He can be excluded from is your own heart.

#175 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 01:58 PM:

#147 Cally While there's no question the DEA agent metaphorically shot himself in the foot, do we know that he literally did?

Well, he's visibly limping afterward, and appears to be going into shock so, yeah, I'd say he literally did.

#176 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:01 PM:

"But I can't see how it could make sense to say that if someone steals a gun from your house, and then murders someone with it, you are held responsible. We don't do that with other things, do we? Like, if someone steals your car[1] and crashes it into someone... we do not, in general, try to hold you responsible for the crime."

You're not *criminally* responsible in those cases, but you can be held *civilly* responsible in some jurisdictions if the theft was aided by your negligence. Here's a summary of a case from New Mexico's high court, for instance, where a dealer who left keys in the cars on their lot was found partly responsible for a fatal crash cause by someone who stole one of those cars. There's a general notion of "duty of care" that can be used for keeping guns safely secured as well. (Indeed, in a number of jurisdictions "negligent storage of a firearm" is a tort and/or a misdemeanor.)

#177 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Per Fidelio @146, and attitude shifts: obviously, you're all familiar with the current gun control regime in the UK.

However ...

In the mid-1970s to early 1980s I attended a Grammar school in Yorkshire.

Like many such schools it had a combined cadet corps (air force and army). Minimum age was 15. I avoided joining up -- I wasn't much of a team player -- but it was impossible to avoid seeing them marching around in their uniforms.

They kept about thirty SMLEs and a Bren gun in the school firing range. And used them.

Yes, this was a British school. It had its own light machine gun and a platoon's worth of battle rifles (albeit obsolescent by modern army standards), and ammunition, just thirty years ago.

(I strongly suspect they don't have them any more ...)

The point I'd like to make is that cultural attitudes can change. The current situation in the USA is the result of a decades-long attempt to shift the Overton window in one direction ("assault rifles for all"). It can be shifted back again. It will take a generation, but it can be done.

(A good start would be to sic the FBI on the NRA to see if there is any evidence of corrupt lobbying practices, for example by accepting donations from arms manufacturers to line the pockets of legislators. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and after the way the last Senate went after ACORN ...)

#178 ::: Charlie Stross is Gnomed. Again. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:12 PM:

Yup. What's the gnomish for "trolling"?

#179 ::: Michael Pullmann ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:16 PM:

To PJ Evans, post #5: Judas Priest, I grew up in Bartlesville. Now I'm morbidly wondering if it was the kid of anyone I knew.

(I know this is rather after the post, but I only just today was able to brave this thread. Discussions like this take a lot out of me.)

#180 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:24 PM:

Eric K. #172 The "assault rifle" looks like something from a war movie, and it often has a big clip, but are there any other non-cosmetic differences?

No, they're mechanically identical. (BTW, in interest of strict accuracy, it's a magazine, not a clip. There are very few clip-fed models out there.)

Would hunters be willing to stick to single-shot rifles?

By that I presume you mean bolt action or lever action or pump action? (Those tend to have small magazines, but they do have magazines so you don't have to literally dig a round out of your pocket and put it into the chamber each time you want to shoot.)

I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to go bolt action. Those weapons are more accurate and more reliable than the semi-autos. If you need thirty rounds in rapid succession to bring down a deer you really need to put in more range time. The reason for big magazines is to allow someone to spray-and-pray in order to make someone who's shooting at him keep his head down and ruin his aim. If your intent is to get the deer to keep his head down, maybe you're unsure on the entire concept.

Given that the psychological is likely a big part of the problem, I'd say, sure, ban the scary-looking weapons. Ruin the fantasy. Make the bad guys look like Elmer Fudd rather than Rambo.

#181 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:24 PM:

nerdycellist @ 166: As today's duty unbeliver, I'd like to say there are much better ways of producing atheists. That method tends to produce brittle product.

#182 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:26 PM:

I think what makes it worse is that I had no idea this co-worker was a fundie, or fundie-adjacent. But then she posts the snotty "God lets people die because they don't pray in public" thing RIGHT BEFORE some Ben Stein bullshit about how dare the Obamas call it a Holiday Tree and not a Christmas Tree?!

Really? Please explain to me the meaning of Christmas. I'm a relatively new Christian, and I don't think there's anything in the bible about the correct nomenclature of a decorative evergreen, and something about God being born as Jesus to show us how to live (peacefully, with loving-kindness) and then making the ultimate sacrifice (something those teachers did). I honestly didn't think it was possible to offend me, but I guess I was wrong.

#183 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:26 PM:

Jim @ 179: Real deer hunter hose that buck down with bullets till it looks like you mistook a colander for a soup tureen. It's hell on the rack and you can't salvage the pelt, but it sure saves on the butchery.

And isn't that what America is all about?

#184 ::: Michael Pullmann ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:38 PM:

Anarchist soccer mom makes me think of my own mother. I put her through as much hell, easily. And my dad, too. I was lucky; my folks could afford to get me treatment, and my doctors were able to identify the problem and find the right solution. There but for the grace of God (or your preferred expression).

My heart goes out to her.

#185 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:47 PM:


Perhaps we can require all firearms sold in the US to be painted hot pink, with Hello Kitty labels? I've proposed this before for SWAT team gear, for the same reasons.


I agree, and I'm sorry I mentioned the death penalty, which is kind of outside the point of the discussion.

John 176:

That legal reasoning makes sense to me--there's a big difference between civil liability for negligence or a law that requires some precaution in storing firearms, and holding you responsible in criminal terms for crimes carried out with things someone stole from you.


Yuck. What an ugly thing to spread around, as though God were wandering the Earth looking for opportunities to smite down the children of people who offended him in any particular.


Yeah, I suspect there is nothing better to calm the paranoid fears that the government is coming for your guns, so as to make some reasonable discussion of gun control possible, than to have a politically-motivated investigation of the NRA run by the Obama administration. Unless we could somehow get the UN involved.

#186 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:53 PM:

Teresa #29:

Teresa, Historiann:

"Every time we have a mass murder in the U.S. (on a university campus, in a mall, in a church, in a school etc.) *I* anyway have written about the gendered component. Lots of people are suicidally depressed, but it’s only young and usually white men who feel entitled to kill a bunch of people before they shoot themselves."

#187 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 02:58 PM:

I notice watching that video of the DEA agent that he actually says the only right thing he could in the circumstance: -"See? Accidents happen with guns. One just happened to me. If it happened to you, it could blow you away."- He didn't try to deny the accident; he didn't try to defend it; and the only thing he could have done better (aside from not having the accident happen in the first place) was to use the incident as a way to teach how to react to an accident like that and use first aid quickly, and how important that is. But I can understand his denial and desire to get back to the lecture.

And I honestly think, having watched him, that he's a very good person to teach firearm safety precisely because of the accident. He could use that as part of what he teaches.

#188 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 03:01 PM:

Hey, another hobby-horse! My lucky day.

Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas trees. The decorated fir tree is a northern pagan tradition that was retained by the Germans and imported to England by the Hanovers. It's a Yule tree.

#189 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 03:16 PM:

albatross @ #185: though God were wandering the Earth looking for opportunities to smite down the children of people who offended him in any particular.

Sorry if I've got this wrong, I am not religious, but isn't that pretty much Passover?

#190 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 03:51 PM:

albatross, #131: Why is it that when the government does something that infringes on the rights of citizens to live peaceful lives, you are on the front lines demanding change -- but when there is a repeating pattern of individuals doing things that infringe on the rights of citizens to live peaceful lives, you're always out there arguing for the status quo because "you don't see how to address this without making matters worse"? Do you even realize that this is how you come across?

Michael W., #135: I would just like to mention that as an advanced (relatively speaking) civilization (relatively speaking) we probably ought to be able to discuss reworking the way we handle people with broken minds without going immediately to the notion that we need to make it easier to forcibly treat them.

I would just like to mention how discouraging it is that so many people, when the concept of involuntary treatment for people who are demonstrably showing signs of being dangerous to others is broached, immediately leap straight from there to accusing us of wanting to lock up anyone who's a little strange.

There is a huge difference between what you're talking about and people who act the way this guy did. Nobody wants to see "mental illness" used as a one-way ticket to an institution, but there has got to be a better approach to handling people who display the warning signs of uncontrolled violence and are unwilling to seek treatment for themselves.

I suspect that a significant part of the problem is that many of the early-warning signs for this sort of thing have become normalized to the point of being invisible (or even admirable) in some parts of our culture.

beth, #143: Re your point #2 -- if I'm reading the news correctly, his mother was also somewhat warped WRT guns, so that wouldn't have helped in this instance. (And I see that you've addressed this @157.)

TexAnne, #165: Your mention of capital punishment is going to be a temptation to derail, BTW, because the gun-control people in the thread are all going to go "no, we're against that too,"

Not necessarily. But I don't want to derail the discussion either.

nerdycellist, #166: Unfortunately, if you suggest licensing for gun owners, the first thing you run up against is people saying, "But-but-but gun ownership is a RIGHT, and driving is a privilege." To which I say, there are regulations on the First Amendment, why not on the Second?

I cannot understand the Huckabee Christians. What's the difference between "god allowed a bunch of 1st graders to be slaughtered because you stopped allowing [mandatory] prayer in schools" and what the Westboro Baptists are saying?

1) Corrected something they left out. "Prayer in schools" has never been stopped and stands no chance of being so in the future. What has been declared inappropriate is mandatory and/or school-sponsored prayer in public schools. The difference is significant, and generally conflated in just that way by would-be theocrats.

2) There is absolutely no difference. Both groups are claiming that God is an extortionist. "Nice little country / mall / school you've got there, be a shame if something should happen to it. But I can make sure nothing does, for just a small fee."

Note also that many of these are the same voices who say things like "taking our country back" and "Second Amendment solutions", not to mention actively encouraging violence against non-Christians of all sorts. They are guilty of the same thing as Randall Terry talking about "justifiable homicide" and then being shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, when people took him up on it.

Lizzy, #169: From the linked article --
Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

EXACTLY. I cannot tell you how sick and tired I am of hearing that the solution for the problem of guns is MORE guns -- guns in schools, guns in the malls, guns on the streets. There's a Zenna Henderson story that postulates a society in which children are issued their first gun* at age five, and talks about how much FUN a real gun is when you first get one, with predictable results.

This is what I was thinking about upthread when I suggested that perhaps a short-term solution that removed "somebody will SHOOT me if I don't have guns!" as a constant background threat in everyday life would eventually lead to a saner long-term policy. If people became accustomed to living in a society where that sort of thing is not Business As Usual, I think they'd be very reluctant to return to it.

Erik, #172: Re your #5... a lot of black people have guns for home protection. But they don't advertise the fact -- and they don't join the NRA. Partly because they can see who does join the NRA.

* Well, it's more of a futuristic death ray, actually. And nobody ever says the word "kill" any more, because it's considered crude and obscene. People are "cindered".

#191 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 05:26 PM:

Jim Macdonald #180: Ruin the fantasy. Make the bad guys look like Elmer Fudd rather than Rambo.

If that's the goal, then reinstating the assault weapons ban would make sense. My admittedly-imperfect understanding was that the law banned big magazines and scary-looking guns.

And I remember some of the guns made in that era. They were good for a few shots, and most of them looked like hunting weapons. They weren't a lot less dangerous on a shot-for-shot basis—I've seen a police officer practicing with an old-fashioned Remington 870 pump action shotgun, and it's impressive. But if the problems are (1) big magazines and (2) people living in action movies, then maybe small magazines and Elmer Fudd-style guns are a plausible solution.

What other kinds of practical changes would make a real difference, and pass muster with responsible gun owners?

#192 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 05:53 PM:

Two side comments, just because no one else has brought them up yet...

1) The whole "now isn't the time" thing reminds me very strongly of the old joke about the man with the leaky roof. Why doesn't he fix it? Well, he can't fix it while it's raining -- and when it's not raining, he doesn't need to fix it!

The only time we ever attempt to have a serious discussion about America's gun problem is when something like this happens -- and that's exactly when the gun-worshipers try to shut it down with the "now isn't the time" thing. The sane gun-owners don't play that card at all.

2) If "guns aren't the problem, people are the problem", then the solution is twofold: first, change our society in such a way that fewer people feel either so unsafe or so desperate that they think they have to shoot somebody; secondly, make sure that anyone who commits a crime using a gun stays in prison for a good long time, no matter what color they are or who their friends are. Get the people who misuse the tool off the streets. That by itself would go a long way toward accomplishing the first objective.

Of course, we'd have to either build more prisons, or stop locking people up for victimless crimes like simple pot possession...

#193 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 05:55 PM:

Sometimes I think that if you want to own firearms you should join the National Guard or the Drilling Reserve. Maintain grooming standards, pass the PFT, do one weekend a month and two weeks a year, plus stand ready to get called up whenever the Governor needs your unit.

#194 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 05:57 PM:

Steve with a book @28: TNH@24: that's a plausible list of traits, but it just makes me wonder where all the trolls and mass-murderers were in decades past. (Possible answer: taking their frustration out privately on their wives and families.)

Right after the Columbine shooting, a friend of mine was pondering this point. He grew up in Butte, Montana. Guns of various sorts were commonly available. The rage was certainly there.

He speculated that the only reason something like that hadn't happened before was that it simply hadn't occurred to anyone. The only thing he could really identify that had changed between his high school days (say, early-mid '70s) and the '90s was the media's willingness to portray wildly random mass violence. When he was in school, people just didn't have that picture in their heads.

And I remember seeing Whoopi Goldberg's movie Fatal Beauty in '87. The climatic shootout in the mall was a perilous stretch of the disbelief suspenders. Friend I watch it with commented, "Hah! If anything like that ever happened in real life, it'd be all over the news." Forsooth.

#195 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:04 PM:

While in danger of veering off topic, I would like to chime in for another recommendation of Debt. I'm still working through the book very slowly, and I have bookmarks at the endnotes so that I can check them as I hit each tiny superscript number. But it's an excellent book, and has that marvelous ability to take a lot of disparate data that I already had, and some that I hadn't, and show how things Make Sense when put together in one place.

#196 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:21 PM:

nerdycellist, here's a Christian writer who agrees with you about the blasphemy of Huckabee and his ilk. And she says it well.
God did not give David an AK-47 to tackle Goliath, but a slingshot.

Jacque, #194: He speculated that the only reason something like that hadn't happened before was that it simply hadn't occurred to anyone.

I agree. There was a point during my junior-high days when I might very well have gone that route if the idea had occurred to me and I'd had access to guns. But in all of my revenge-fantasies, that thought wasn't even above the event horizon. I also remember, after Columbine, thinking that this wasn't going to be the last time, now that it had been brought into the realm of possibility.

#197 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:25 PM:

abi @48: MRA

The expansion of this acronym is not obvious to me...?

#198 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:28 PM:

Since the last time we ventured to have a discussion about firearms proliferation in this space, i.e. in the Stand Your ground thread, I've had an interesting discussion with an acquaintance of an acquaintance living in Alabama, a person whose name is not important.

I started my argument in favor of renewed action to address the public safety issues related to unchecked firearms proliferation with the formulation I previously articulated before, namely that the effect of our current regulatory regime is quite obviously a massive subsidy to arms manufacturers by shifting the risk of damage and liability for misuse away from gun owners, dealers and makers and toward the giant risk pool of society at large.

Privatize the profit, socialize the risk. It's the American way.

Anyway, to the discussion I had with this individual who engaged me in debate over firearms proliferation policy. One of the policy ideas I proposed went like this:

Instead of arming the teachers unions and forcing every American into a reeducation program to learn advanced firearm tactics, how about we try something more sensible: require anyone who handles a firearm to carry adequate liability insurance? I'm sure that insurance companies can figure out how to assess risk and set premiums according to levels of skill and training.
The response to this was interesting.
Yeah, and that cost will be very high, making only the rich able to afford it. Not a good option in my humble opinion.
At which point, I retorted that we could probably devise some kind of welfare program for people who can't afford to pay full market prices for the insurance required under the new law. Alas, I made the mistake of also using the words "communist" and "hillbilly" in the very same sentence, and thus the chance of eliciting a thoughtful response was dashed into a zillion tiny globules of blather.

So, dear friends of the fluorosphere. Don't make my mistake.

#199 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:31 PM:

Lee #189: There's a Zenna Henderson story that postulates a society

If I remember that one right, that guy is stuck in a timewarp with a caveman and a "modern" man, both armed. And promptly discovers that the rules of the timewarp make his weapon useless, while both of the others can shoot him (the modern man can't shoot the caveman either). Which, of course, is all beside the actual point of the story....

Mental health issues: A competent mental health system is not limited to locking up anyone who "goes over the line". It has to include providing treatment for milder mental illnesses and psychiatric excursions. (Insurance is not a care-provision system, precisely because the folks holding the purse-strings have a natural incentive to deny treatment..)

It also needs to provide places to competently treat and humanely house people who are not safe to be walking the streets. The U.S. used to have public mental institutions. Even the nastiest ones (failing "humane") at least kept their inmates fed and off the street. Others did provide treatment, and a refuge from the outside world. A few decades ago, we closed most of them down, amid promises to create a network of "halfway houses" for treatment and housing. Funny thing though, nobody wanted one of those halfway houses in their neighborhood...
few were ever built, but the institutions closed anyway, and our mentally-ill population was dumped onto the street.

Nowadays, we know a lot more about treating the mentally ill, and we could do a lot better at building good mental hospitals. But even if the governments were willing to fund them, they'd still have to get past the NIMBY crowd.

#200 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:40 PM:

#72 ::: Lee (and also Avram, Teresa, and abi)

Is there a non-tainted word for the hatred of men?

#201 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:41 PM:

Jacque @197: I believe MRA expands to "Men's Rights Activists".

#202 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:49 PM:

"Is there a non-tainted word for the hatred of men?"

I'd say "hatred of men" works fine when needed. Or, for more mild cases, "anti-male bias" works.

I sympathize with the frustration over loss of a word-- I used to use "misandry" myself, for the general concept of hostility towards males-- but I'd have to agree that the prevailing pattern of online usage, largely by "men's rights" activists with grudges and senses of entitlement that can often be seen from space, the term is now about as poisoned as, well, "men's rights".

#203 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 06:53 PM:

There's a petition titled "Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress". It has the most signatures ever logged on that site. As I write this, it's up to 161,195. I've signed it, and I delude myself that it would shake up some politicians who think their chief customer is the NRA if it went over a million (or two, or three, or fifty).

#204 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 07:03 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @155: That denial from Anonymous is dated 21 Feb 2011. That must have been for some previous allegation that they were getting involved after some previous bad behavior by Westboro.

The video looked like classic Anonymous to me, and it specifically called out Westboro Baptist Church for unChristian (and hypocritical) behavior, which I just don't see Westboro doing.

#205 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 07:33 PM:

Nancy @200,

You're probably not satisfied with misanthropy, because you want a word that specifically conveys hatred of the male sex the same way that misogyny does for the female sex.

I recommend not trying to find one. Suppose you pick another untainted word, e.g. say "androphobia," and start using it. If it achieves any kind of success as a useful word at all, it will quickly be adopted by antifems, and now you'll have two broken words in the language instead of just one.

Just use an ugly circumlocution every time.

#206 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 07:41 PM:

From Abi's Parhelia "Autistic does not mean Violent":

My experience has been that once an autistic becomes aware of the other person's emotion, the feeling comes without a social construct, naked and in full, unmodulated.

Yes, this. The author, Emily Willingham gets it.

#207 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:26 PM:


I usually start out skeptical about proposed new laws, governmental powers, and programs, partly because we've got a lot of all three already, and often they haven't worked out as advertised. Maybe I go too far in that direction, but as best I can tell, my instincts have been probably 90% right in the case of the war on terror.

I have been and continue to be very skeptical of anyone's ability to detect mass-shooters and other terrorists ahead of time, without a really large amount of collateral damage to innocent but weird peoples' lives. I'm certainly up for learning I'm wrong about this, but it seems like the numbers just don't work out. Screening for terrorists and mass-shooters has big problems, because false positives will massively, overwhelmingly dominate your responses.

I agree we ought to do something big to make mental health services easier to get. My impression is that even when there are services available to you, it often requires a lot of work and care to get them lined up, which is probably not reasonable to demand of someone who's, say, in the midst of crushing depression that makes him nonfunctional. That needs to change, and it's something I think we can do with relatively little risk of making things worse.

When we start talking about involuntary treatment, I'm less sure how that will work out. I don't know enough about the current system to really be entitled to an opinion, but I'll admit that in general, making it easier for weird/creepy/disturbing people to be forced into some kind of treatment sounds like something I'd like done with a lot of care to minimize collateral damage, including loss of personal freedom. OTOH, my understanding is that a fair number of homeless people and people in prison are mentally ill people who aren't getting much in the way of help, either from inability or unwillingness to get it. Moving people from sleeping on storm grates or sitting in godawful prisons to mental institutions is very likely a net improvement.

I don't think we should do stuff that violates general good principles for this issue, so I'm not too thrilled with laws that would let us really make an example of someone related to some big public tragedy. Similarly, I don't think changing the law ought to happen in panic mode in response to this kind of tragedy, just like I didn't after 9/11 or the Oklaholma City bombing. Changing the law ought to be something done with plenty of time to think things over and let tempers cool, because badly-written laws and laws that were overreactions tend to stick around forever. (See the patriot act, the AUMA, mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession, even longer sentences for crack than for cocaine, and those sex-offender mark of Cain databases for examples.)

More generally, skepticism about whether a program or law will work does not equal indifference to the problem the program or law is intended to fix. Neither do concerns about the costs of some proposed program or law.

#208 ::: MsAnon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:40 PM:

@ cajunfj40 #51:

See, the thing is that country music of the '50s and early '60s had plenty of songs like that. Witness, as the major expression, Johnny Cash's "Don't Take Your Guns to Town".* Guns focus in a lot of country music of the era, but they mean something different, symbolically, than our idea of what they mean to gun-nuts nowadays. In those songs, the gun is always used by the protagonist to commit a murder that puts him outside of society. Interestingly, it's often very ambiguous as to whether the man would have "gone bad" if the gun hadn't been there, as the songs very often focus on the split-second decision to kill that puts him outside of the law. And, of course, the songs then focus on the protagonist's lawful and just punishment by society--prison or execution. That is *very* different from the idea that a gun is a symbol of freedom, sometimes a symbol of freedom against a society that might otherwise oppress you.

I don't think it was the songs driving the society. Rather, I think that in the late '60s, there was a shift among coountry music fans that took them from a people who were concerned about themselves and their children falling on the wrong side of the law and society--a society controlled by wealthier, middle-class people, but often grudgingly acknowledged to have some moral legitimacy--vs the "new" ideas of their place in society, which splits into two forms: Either they are a part of legitimate moral society, and guarding it against degenerate forces with their guns, or society itself is degenerate and they, with their guns, will enforce a new, better society, at least amongst themsleves.

* See also "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Cocaine Blues" (Cash), "Frankie and Johnny" (Trad.), and "Mama Tried" (Haggard). This is by no means an exhaustive list.

#209 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 08:49 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @200: Is there a non-tainted word for the hatred of men?

Probably not. The problem is that accusations of man-hatred are so common from misogynists that any such accusation has to be carefully hedged around with qualifiers and supporting evidence to keep the speaker from seeming to be a misogynist. I don’t expect you’re going to find a single word to take care of all of that.

That said, I think “misandry” is especially tainted. It’s an unusual word, so the speaker is indicating familiarity with anti-feminist vocabulary.

#210 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:03 PM:

#208 ::: MsAnon

Do you have some current titles that show the change in attitudes? ("Ninety-nine days, ninety-nine nights / Ninety-nine years to wear the ball and stripes." Little Sadie, trad.) ("Ninety-nine years on the chain gang, / Why judge that ain't no time. / I got a brother in New Orleans / Got nine hundred ninety-nine." Delia's Gone, trad.)

#211 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:03 PM:

albatross #207: There's also the point that "the mentally-ill problem" doesn't stand on its own -- it's deeply intertwined with our basic failure to take care of our poorest and most vulnerable people in general. Twenty-odd years ago a (West?) German tourist was telling me that in Germany, the only "homeless" were the folks she described as "too crazy to stay under a roof", because the government would find you someplace to live. Here, it was already a matter of "well, if they can't manage to pay rent, there must be something wrong with them, nothing we can do". And of course, if you weren't mentally ill when you became homeless, a few years on the street are likely to supply you with a few "issues", not to mention what it does to kids.

Even now, as more and more people are landing on the streets, provably due to corporate greed, there's still the assumption by both far too many in power, and far too many "ordinary people", that if someone's too poor to house or feed themselves, they "oughta be able" to be supported by family, or get by on charity, or hang themselves by their bootstraps, or other such nonsense... but it's "obviously" not the government's business to actually feed or house them. And never mind that it was government negligence and complaisance that left many of them destitute....

#212 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:08 PM:

Very, very few street people are involved in mass-murder incidents in any role other than victim.

It takes time, money, and a secure location to put together the supplies, arms, ammunition and make the plans (often over a period of months) that are typically involved.

#213 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:14 PM:

So did my father and his siblings, which is one reason it caught my eye.
I don't know the name of the kid - he's apparently a juvenile. At least he was noticed before he could actually do any damage.

#214 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Well, it would certainly fit the 'well-regulated militia' part of the second.
(I've elsewhere suggested requiring joining the Guard or a reserve unit. Police and sheriffs' reserves would fit, as long as they have to go out and practice enough to get over their FRPGs.)

#215 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:28 PM:

Jim @212:

I think the obvious modern example would be Toby Keith's "Beer for my Horses" ("When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune/We'll all meet back at the local saloon/We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces/Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses")

#216 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:29 PM:

Oops, got Jim's post number's mixed up. I meant to respond to #210

#217 ::: joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:48 PM:

Jacque: MRA == "Male Rights Advocate", whose pet idea is that it's the (white) males who are being oppressed. Generally because their lives suck they made a choice that ended up putting them behind the eight-ball, as opposed to being behind it to start.

#218 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:49 PM:

Erp, enter key got away from me. Should read "...their lives suck due to their making a choice..."

#219 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Ginger, have you seen the statement from Dylan Hockney's parents yet? Here's a relevant excerpt:

We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy. Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed at her picture on our refrigerator every day. Though our hearts break for Dylan, they are also filled with love for these and the other beautiful women who all selflessly died trying to save our children.

I wanted to make certain you know this. I wanted everyone here to know this.

#220 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:03 PM:

albatross @ 141


Not The VA Tech whacko, the Ft Hood nut, the lunatic that shot Gabrielle Giffords.

You don't refer to these shooters by name. You don't refer to them by place. You refer to them as shooters, as murderers. But other than that, you leave them as non-entities.

And more importantly, particularly when you're replying to someone who has actually said they're mentally ill elsewhere in the thread, you DON'T refer to them using derogatory terms for mentally ill people.

For gods sakes, I have spent the past three days largely hearing constant demonisation of people like myself from people in the USA. It's leaked into the media coverage here in Australia, in the UK, everywhere. Do you have any damn idea how profoundly alienating and frightening it is to hear?

When you talk about "whackos", "nuts", "lunatics", or "the mentally ill", you're talking about me and people like me. People who, by and large, aren't dangerous. People who are more likely to be aggressed against than aggressors. By talking up the "threat" posed by us, by talking up the "danger" we are to others, you put me and people like me more at risk of being hurt for "acting weird".

[sarcasm] Thanks heaps. [/sarcasm]

#221 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:16 PM:

Dave H., #199: Yes, that's it. The title finally floated up out of the depths of memory: "Three-Cornered and Secure".

janetl, #203: Done, and thank you.

albatross, #207: It's easy to say "we'll never be able to predict when someone will snap," because it's also true. However...

1) There are indeed some fairly clear predictors of increased risk that someone will snap, and we need to pay more attention to those. One common theme in many of these incidents is that the perpetrator gave plenty of warning, which was ignored by the people around him and/or brushed off if they tried to bring it to the attention of someone who could actually do something about it.

2) Doing things to rein in the unlimited access to guns might cause some of the ones who do snap to grab for a less-lethal weapon instead, like that guy in China who went on a rampage, stabbed 22 children, and didn't kill a single one.

3) It would also have a significant impact on the 30,000 people killed by guns every year -- that figure includes homicides, suicides, and accidents. And that reason alone is enough to say "enough" to the gun-worshiper subculture which is currently in control of America. Never mind "for the CHEELDRUN!" arguments; for how many more years are you willing to let 10 times the number of people killed in the WTC attack die because of your ideology?

It's not enough to say that you're just concerned about the effects of proposed solutions, or about the costs of implementing them (as opposed to the costs of not implementing them?) -- that's the concern-troll tactic. We are in one helluva hole right now, and it's time to remember the First Law of Holes and stop digging.

#222 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:33 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @219: That's awesome. Thank you. (It's especially meaningful as my son has relied upon Special Ed teachers and aides all his life; the good ones make a huge difference in his school life.)

In general: mental illness comes in many flavors, and the vast majority of people with a mental illness are just ordinary humans with an illness. My son has ADHD, which leads him to commit impulsive behaviors -- some good, some not-so-good -- and depression, which leads him to consider the possibility of suicide. Those two traits are very good reason to never let him near any guns, and we were asked (prior to his release from hospital on Friday) whether we had any guns around. We were also encouraged to keep our knives secured in some way. He hasn't tried to actually hurt himself, but he's reported enough dark thoughts in times of stress that we do take this seriously.

One of the statistics I found fascinating is that Israel does not allow its soldiers to take weapons home while on weekend leave. They changed their rules and consequently saw a significant drop in their soldiers' suicide rates on weekends, without any increase in suicides during the week.

Israel, surrounded and infiltrated by political enemies, does not allow its soldiers -- trained soldiers -- to take home their weapons.

If Israel can do the right thing, then the US can do it too. We can admit that guns and vulnerable people -- whether that is related to a mental illness or a chronic inability to function or some other issue -- do not mix well. We can address the violence knowing that there are other methods to resist criminals besides carrying guns.

Otherwise, we're headed for Robin Williams' vision of Road Warrior on the Freeway, only in the classrooms, shopping malls, and bike trails of our daily lives.

#223 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 10:55 PM:

Ginger, I am grateful I could show that to you.

I'm convinced by the discussion here that misandry is probably a word I'm going to have to drop for almost use cases. On running through my memories, I recall seeing it used by gay men mostly in writings from the relative past, from the seventies and early eighties. I don't recall seeing it from them since and I suspect that means something. Another one bites the dust.

#224 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2012, 11:29 PM:

The Amazing Digby has hauled up a net full of foul smelling stuff here...

I'm reminded of the rhetoric we often saw deployed in 2003 leading up to the invasion of Iraq for the purpose of whipping up fear of militant Islamists by pounding the table about the inherently violent character of Muslim society. It was awful bullshit, of course, but it's not hard to read that stuff that Digby is finding today and conclude that the same sort of rhetoric could easily be deployed against Americans, and by using the stuff she highlights as supporting material for it.

The kernel of truth that gives it staying power is that we really do have a sizable and heavily armed subculture of alternative reality role-playing gamers in this country, who have developed a kind of "pseudo-intellectual asset bubble" that needs to be deflated, in a controlled fashion, before it collapses rather suddenly and, probably, very violently.

I don't think that problem is mainly a public mental health problem. I think it's a political problem. Deflating that bubble needs to be on the agenda. I have my own ideas about how to do that, but I wonder what others think about that.

#225 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 12:15 AM:

Ginger @222, I’ve been wondering for a while now if we could make progress with conservatives by branding various liberal political initiatives as “Israeli [whatever]”.

Nation-wide may-issue gun licensing (limited to those with military experience), a ban on assault rifles, and limits on ammo purchases, are “Israeli gun licensing”. A top income-tax marginal rate of 48% is “Israeli tax reform”. A variety of national not-for-profit HMOs could provide “Israeli health care”.

#226 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 12:41 AM:

Megpie71 @220: Thank you.

#227 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 01:04 AM:

There have been several posts in this thread with heartening descriptions of the success in Australia in controlling gun ownership and reducing murders. I saw this article which has links to more info about Australia's story. It is possible to change laws. I look around every day and see things that were unimaginable when I was a teenager. In the most recent votes, marriage equality has passed (that phrase didn't even exist until recently). The President of the United States is African American. The likely next Secretary of State will be a white male for the first time in 15 years. In the 1970s, these things weren't imagined outside of science fiction. Look at the mundane. In the 1970s, everybody smoked and no one wore seat belts. OK, laugh at me on that, but seriously, I can't even imagine someone in my work or social circle lighting up a cigarette in an office or someone else's car or home. Back then, every table had an ashtray.

The demographics are on our side in this one — the trend in gun ownership is down. Fewer people own guns, and the main gun owners are white males, who (as the election analysis mentioned over & over again) aren't as big a share of the population as they used to be. I'm pressuring every one of my elected officials to go big on this.

#228 ::: janetl has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 01:05 AM:

I've got way too many snacking options for the gnomes. Please, eat something and save me from myself!

#229 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 08:50 AM:

It would also have a significant impact on the 30,000 people killed by guns every year -- that figure includes homicides, suicides, and accidents.

It's very unclear that the suicides (which are more than half those deaths) would be much at all affected by lower gun availability--worldwide, suicide rates aren't correlated with gun availability.

Not that 15,000 killed is insignificant...

#230 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:11 AM:

to Patrick's observation, "The alternate, fetishistic reality of modern gun culture: nothing like the hunting-and-marksmanship subculture it replaced":
This is the power of the market at work. As a lapsed-NRA-member hunter friend says,
"Never forget that the NRA is a gun manufacturers lobby organization. What it had been went away in the purge of 1977, since when the board of directors come from the industry.........."
The fetish has been carefully and lavishly constructed, and the profits reaped.

I didn't know about the 1977 purge, but that was when the hunter/environmentalist/conservation wing of the NRA was purged and replaced with right-wing-nuts. History here,

#231 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:13 AM:

The thing with firearms suicides is that they're very effective. Fast, easy, require no preparation, done in an instant, and they work really well. If what you're looking at is the classic "cry for help" attempt, well, still dead.

There's more than one person walking around today, alive, happy, loved and loving, with scars on the wrist of their non-dominant hand, where if a firearm had been easily available they'd be a marker stone that no one visited any more.

#232 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:56 AM:

SamChevre @229: I will point again to the Israeli study which showed that once the military started restricting weapons going home on weekends, they found a reduction in weekend suicides, with no increase in suicides on other days of the week.

This is very similar to the reduction in suicides off bridges, by adding fencing and signage. If we make it impossible to act impulsively at the moment of suicidal need, we find that the suicide rates drop. People get through that momentary spasm of pain, and get help.

For this alone, we should make access to guns more restricted, as a public health service to our population.

#233 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 12:16 PM:

People who are into suicide-by-cop also find firearms very useful.

#234 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 12:33 PM:

I'm catching up on everything at once. First, five random general responses:

"Misandry" seems to be the word martyrbating he-man womyn-haters use when "feminazi" is insufficiently highbrow.

When gun laws are out, the law is outgunned.


I'm glad to see how many people here do not blame gun nuts, per se, for what's wrong in things like this. My dad's a gun nut, and from knowing him, I opine that most gun nuts are decent people (even if their politics disagree with mine) and not harmful to society. I used to help him cast shot and slugs, put in primer caps, and load slugs into shells. Nobody but him was ever permitted to measure the powder. We also did arrows. Shooting was a lot of fun, and I was pretty good at it last time we went out with me holding an air rifle to bring justice to a number of cold cream jars lurking suspiciously at Granddad's ranch. (John @183, Hunting was something Dad enjoyed, but from childhood on it was also a matter of necessity. By the time he had a wife and four kids to feed on a musician's earnings, the venison really mattered.)

Here's a modest proposal from Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars about mandatory insurance for gun owners, and some conditions & restrictions.

[This is the tomb of the uknown point, which vanished from the preview screen when I hit two buttons together. I wrote all this in a text editor, but couldn't help editing it in the window at Making Light. Suffice to say it must have been the most brilliant thing ever, because it's gone.]

#235 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 12:39 PM:

And here are some specific responses (I had them with links to comments, then thought about the hardworking gnomes and deleted those links.):

Teresa @24: I think I know of a malign thug like the one you mention in passing. He sounds like the fellow Mark Twain wrote about so feelingly, though Twain didn't mention making lone gunmen in his image. Of course, not everyone agrees about that, or takes away that message from reading his books.

Serge @69: [Abi @ 58... They just don't look like alien planets to me]
I dunno. When I'd watch George Pal's "Time Machine", I'd catch shots of alien-looking plants with tall feathery bits at the end of long stalks. I now live in New Mexico and guess what one of my backyard's plants are?

No, no, Serge! She said "planets," not "plants…"

Lee @72: I took up this point years ago with a friend, asking why woman-on-woman porn was so popular, and he said because men could imagine themselves in it as either party or as a third party.

Ginger @56, I'm very sorry.

albatross @141: One simple thing anyone can do--don't refer to the bastards by name, but by place. The VA Tech whacko, the Ft Hood nut, the lunatic that shot Gabrielle Giffords, etc.
Agreed. I first had this brought to my attention when someone wrote something like "ASSHOLE MURDERS JOHN LENNON," and stated that the writer declined to gratify the killer's wish for publicity by ever mentioning the filthy little creep by name. (The term "asshole" works, I think, better than those quoted above.)

#236 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 01:06 PM:

Kip W @ 235... Leigh Brackett had many a tale in pulp "Plant Stories".

#237 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 02:49 PM:

Kip W. @ 234: Trademark point ii, right this instant! Then make it available. Please. It's great.

#238 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 04:58 PM:

Ah, now the follow up. I had a brief double-take; I went to South Kearns Elementary - this incident was at West Kearns Elementary. We always got "fall recess" at the start of hunting season, but I never remember any of my hunting friends doing anything this disturbing, or even trying to sneak their guns out to show them off.

Regardless of whether it's true that parents sent their 11 year old to school with an unloaded weapon "for protection" (11 year olds are not known for their deep commitment to the truth) what would have happened if the Gun Worshiper's idea that teachers should be armed had come to pass? He held the gun to a girl's head - would the they hypothetically armed teacher have taken a shot at him? And what would be the reaction of the Gun Worshipers when confronted with yet another dead child? Condemn the teacher they'd armed?

Also I note that this little butthole held the gun to the head of a little girl. The misogyny starts early.

#239 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 05:15 PM:

Most gun owners in the U.S. live nowhere near "brown people," and in fact none of those I know personally, hate them indiscriminately. One, in fact, IS one of those "brown people." It's dismissive, narrowminded, and intellectually self-serving to toss that kind of statement off.

I live among "brown people" in Philadelphia, and individually they vary a very great deal. More than a few are quite nice. Culturally, however, on average, they're far more likely to scream, whoop and shout abuse and foul language at each other than the Hispanic, Asian and white people in the neighborhood. It's a rare week that we don't call the police because there are two or more black people screaming at each other nearby, and I witnessed a neighbor of mine rushing at a car idling at the curb, shouting, "I'm gonna stab you, nigger!" Any stereotypes of them that might exist as being violent, loud, short-sighted, impulsive and emotional have at the very minimum a solid kernel of truth. No doubt that isn't pleasant to hear-- but in fact it isn't pleasant to experience, either. Republican leaders are often enablers of narrowmindedness, religious lunacy and various kinds of -isms, but they're not enablers of this culture.

As for whether there's any justifiable fear of black people with guns, I suppose that depends on whether you think the government tells the truth. According to FBI statistics, about two-thirds of murders are committed with a firearm (very rarely rifles of any sort, for those of you favoring a new assault weapon ban), and 40%-60% of murders are committed by black people, despite their being 12.6% of the population. If you could get black people to kill only as often as everyone else, American homicides would drop by a third, which would be a savings of ten times as many lives as were homicidally ended with a rifle of any kind in 2011. Doubt me? Go here:

#240 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 05:20 PM:

Alex R. @ 163 - The measure is a little simpler and more accessible than a gun safe. You just require a trigger lock and separate (locked) storage of ammunition; a locked ammo box is sufficient. The goal isn't to stop someone determined, but rather to delay them. The process of removing the locks takes long enough for the suicidal/homicidal ideation to weaken and be abandoned, which can happen in a matter of minutes, particularly when focused attention is being given to a (non-violent) intellectual task.

At least, so they taught me in my firearms training. The whole focus is to reduce suicides and heat-of-the-moment attacks using easily accessible weapons, usually discounting the owner of the weapon. That clearly doesn't stop all cases, but dramatically reduces accessibility to youth and other with poor impulse control.

#241 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 05:53 PM:

Matt @ #239: Any stereotypes of them that might exist as being violent, loud, short-sighted, impulsive and emotional have at the very minimum a solid kernel of truth.

It is unclear to me what the antecedent of "them" is in that sentence. Please clarify and be specific.

#242 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 06:05 PM:

Since Friday, there was one publicized incident in Western Washington of someone making threats on Facebook to go shoot up the schools, apparently under the impression that someone was coming for his guns.

Yesterday morning, there was an unpublicized (apart from emails to parents, as far as I can tell) incident in my local school system where a high schooler made some 'unfortunately worded threats' and was arrested and expelled.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to explain to my kids why there was suddenly all this security related stuff going on at their school. They really needed to know that occasionally, someone randomly loses it and shoots up a school.

#243 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 07:35 PM:

Matt at 239,

The fear of white people who live no where near black people isn't logically justified because more of the victims of gun violence are black also.

According to the fbi, in 2011, about half of the victims of gun homicide were black.

#244 ::: Nancy C. Mittens has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 07:39 PM:

For a post with a url in it, but not an actual link.

May I offer our gnomish friends a nice cup of tea and some candy?

My boyfriend suggests I offer some plum pudding made of the plums in the refrigerator.

#245 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 07:40 PM:

Wow! The gnomes are fast! I am glad I did not offer the leftovers we are having for dinner in a half hour or so!

#246 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 07:44 PM:

Jim #212: Even the currently-housed are affected by the fear and insecurity produced by our current conditions, and those same conditions give many folks who do have housing, an entirely reasonable dread of Someone Taking Their House. When we're piling that sort of anxiety onto so many people, some folks will be pushed to the edge, and some folks.... beyond.

#247 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 08:06 PM:

Dave #246

True enough, but it's still a fact that the Connecticut fellow went on his rampage carrying upwards of $5,000 worth of firearms and ammunition. That isn't the sort of firearm owner I'm more familiar with -- the ones who are relying on deer and rabbits to supplement the family food budget.

Raising the price of ammunition to the point where a rabbit would cost more than Filet Mignon doesn't strike me as an ideal solution.

#248 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 08:08 PM:


The best easy to get numbers you are going to get to describe how rational is a white guy's fear of being murdered by a black guy is the fraction of murders of whites done by blacks. There is good data on this, here, which says that of all murders of whites, blacks commit about 16%. If you are a white guy, you are much more likely to be killed by someone white than someone black. By comparison, about 47% of the time, a white murder victim is done in with a gun. About 42% of women who are murdered are done in by a boyfriend, husband, or ex-husband. In general, only about 20% of people are murdered by a stranger.

The more important question is, how likely am I to be murdered? That's a reasonable first cut of how likely I am to wish I had a gun. (There are other crimes you might deter with a gun, and some murders wouldn't be prevented with a gun, but it is a first cut.). The rate in 2008 was about 5 per hundred thousand. That is a pretty low risk, overall. For most of us, we are far more likely to die of accident or illness.

#249 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 08:22 PM:

Matt @ 239: Long time, no see.

One data point and one statistical observation.

The data point:

Two weeks ago, a good friend had her home invaded, a shotgun stuck in her face, and her things taken. She was unhurt and the men have apparently been caught.

I followed Facebook comments on this. This one stood out in my head (paraphrased but very close):

"Be on the lookout for black males between the ages of 14 and 84 and between the heights of 4'10" and 6'8"." It got a lot of likes. I saw no one call it out.

Now the statistical observation: Those American blacks who kill overwhelmingly kill other American blacks. Mostly it's domestic violence or criminal against criminal.

So black people have a justified fear of being killed by other black people. White people? Not so much. But my god, how the white people buy the guns!

#250 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 08:41 PM:

Matt @239, y’know how, in your first paragraph, you wrote that none of the gun owners you know “personally, hate [brown people] indiscriminately” — note the qualifier — and then spent the rest of your comment justifying discrimination? Did you think none of the rest of us would notice?

#251 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:20 PM:

Matt #239:

Funny thing, being one of said "brown people" myself, I keep not noticing the sort of behaviour you describe in either the neighbourhood where I live, which is overwhelmingly African-American. Perhaps you'd care to explain why?

#252 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:25 PM:

Jim #247: Um, you may be confusing subthreads here. I have not commented on the taxation ideas, or for that matter any actual tactics -- I'm too ignorant of the lay of the land there. (I assume confiscating and destroying excess gun factories would be a non-starter. ;-) )

#253 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:42 PM:

What I'm saying, Dave, is that the stereotypical gun-nut/survivalist/collector is well-heeled. So too is the mass shooter. This isn't a poor person's hobby.

The guys who shout at you on street corners, the ones who live in refrigerator cartons, aren't going to be amassing a personal arsenal. Neither are your urban or rural poor.

The suggestion has been raised about taxing ammunition. That will come down disproportionately on your conservationist/ecologically-aware hunters, your target shooters, your farmers doing pest control, and your survival hunters. It won't touch the militias, the survivalists, and the collectors. The latter are wealthy enough to make firearms their hobby.

Rather than deal with the second amendment, how about dealing with the first amendment? How about banning all advertisements for firearms and ammunition?

#254 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:43 PM:

Colorado officials to discuss Governor Hickenlooper's proposal to expand mental health services

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced on Tuesday a plan to improve the state's mental health care services.

Hickenlooper said that in the wake of the theater shootings in Aurora, he asked the new head of the Department of Human Services to identify gaps in services and to formulate a fix.

The governor told reporters at the State Capitol that the tragedy in Connecticut adds emphasis to the need to act.

#255 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:53 PM:

Jim, #252: I could get behind that. We did it for tobacco, so there's precedent -- and I would love to NOT see billboards all over town advertising gun shows. (The dates and locations change, but there are always some.)

I also like the idea of having all the guns be Barbie pink with Hello Kitty decals.

#256 ::: Jeremy Leader sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:01 PM:

Jim @252: We did that advertising ban thing with cigarettes, and given how addictive they are, my impression is that it's worked to some extent.

One difference between guns and cigarettes as health risks to society is that the second-hand bullets are the worst part of the gun problem.

#257 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:41 PM:

Jeremy Leader @ 256: "worked to some extent"? The rate of cigarette smoking in the US today is half what it used to be. That 20% number for today surprised me. I daresay it differs by region and other factors. In my circles, I'm sure it's less than 10%.

When I was a kid, and it was my mom's turn to host the bridge club, I'd come home to a house full of cigarette smoke. It was normal that tables in homes had an ashtray. My older brothers and sisters smoked in college. By the time I reached college, the American students rarely smoked, though student from abroad did. Restaurants had non-smoking areas, cigarette packs had warning labels, and the only TV ads that mentioned cigarettes were the PSAs against them. It made a difference.

#258 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:50 PM:

Restricting advertisements isn't the only thing that happened to smoking. Cigarettes have high taxes, and (possibly the most important) people aren't allowed to smoke in a lot of public places.

#259 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:56 PM:

Cigarette ads were banned from TV and radio in 1970 because the FCC has authority over broadcast media. The removal of tobacco ads from billboards in 1999 was part of the legal settlement of the late 1990s, which came about when most of the states sued the tobacco companies to recover Medicaid costs. There were also lots of private lawsuits.

If you want to do something like that with the gun manufacturers, first you’ll probably have to get the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act repealed. Don’t expect the Supreme Court to help you out.

#260 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:18 PM:

Avram, I had understood that Jesse Helms negotiated a deal where the tobacco companies voluntarily took the cigarette ads off television in return for the Feds taking anti-smoking PSAs off. The PSAs were working, you see, and the tobacco companies were losing business.

A friend of mine called this "the worst deal since Peace In Our Time."

Is that wrong?

#261 ::: Xopher HalfTongue is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:19 PM:

I suspect keywords. *offers gnomes some crunchy-crunchy*

[Mismade filter. All better now. -- JDM]

#262 ::: Xopher HalfTongue is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:21 PM:

My gnome comment was gnomed. I don't gno why.

[New filter, for the latest spam-wave. Didn't work as planned. Removed. -- JDM]

#263 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:20 AM:

Xopher @260, I don’t know anything about that.

#264 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:22 AM:

Thanks, Jim!

#265 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 07:41 AM:

Jacque#254: Lots of proposals there, the question is how many will survive the political process. For example, I see a couple of those halfway houses I already mentioned (under various other names)... but besides being budgeted, will those actually get into neighborhoods, or be NIMBYed out to wherever the voters aren't? And what happens when those 30 beds are full? Similarly, will those crisis centers actually be "walk in", or "drive very far to where they are"? There are also legal changes under discussion, and it would be really easy for those to go very sour. Lots of support staff under discussion, and really easy to decide "oh we can't afford that many... so they must not be really necessary". And the thought that their mental hospitals currently don't have "de-escalation" rooms, is horrifying.

#266 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 09:53 AM:

In the original blog entry, TNH writes:

We pay too much for certain citizens’ FRPG (fantasy role-playing game) in which they pretend that gun ownership, not civil society and the rule of law, makes them safe.

And several other correspondents embraced her "FRPG" metaphor.

In #224, j h woodyatt writes:

The kernel of truth that gives it staying power is that we really do have a sizable and heavily armed subculture of alternative reality role-playing gamers in this country...

It must be strange for role-playing gamers to encounter "role-playing gamers" being tossed around as a pejorative.

#267 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 10:18 AM:

The important difference is that FRPGamers actually know that they're playing a role in a fantasy game.

Guys who think ownership of an SLR makes them Rambo, not so much.

#268 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 11:50 AM:

I give props to Hick for trying, but the state's mental health budget got TABORed in the recession, so that money doesn't even get us back to zero. Plus new programs with no indication of continuing funding.

It also doesn't address the problem. Looking back on the shootings since the mid nineties, there's some commonalities amongst the shooters -- familial affluence, a few brushes with the law that were warnings in retrospect, but mostly either private social control (such as campus security) or private mental health care. These shooters are privileged -- less likely to be stop-frisked at any point, more likely to be given warnings or put in diversion programs than prosecuted, are insulated by money and tuition, and have either the disposable income to buy their arsenals or access to what others have bought.

Most of what Hick proposes will help those already in the system -- most mass shooters are not in the system at the time of their crime. I'm happy for more money for the system, but Hick's proposal is light on prevention.

#269 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:14 PM:

Bill Higgins #266, I admit I was rather concerned when the first sketchy reports came in that the Connecticut shooter liked to get together with his friends for gaming. As a very longtime D&Der (I started playing back when the books were small, brown, and came in a box with a single set of dice, which you could buy nowhere else) I was braced for a return of the Bad Old Days of the early 1980s when D&Ders, according to the press narrative, all LARPed (reporters still don't know what LARPing is) with actual swords and actually attached each other. As opposed to the boring reality of interactive storytelling, sitting on couches and drinking diet soda.

The fact I own several actual swords is beside the point; I *like* swords, and I practice good blade safety. They're not left where anyone can just pick them up, unless they're in my bedroom and then there's a whole different issue...

Anyway, I took fencing for many years and consider a sword to be much more reliable home security than a pistol. A bullet might go anywhere, but a blade will go somewhere....

Then I heard it was for LAN parties, and I wondered how my friends who play first-person-shooters would react. (I don't play those; I prefer problem- or puzzle-solving games.)

Then I heard it wasn't first-person shooters after all...


#270 ::: Cassy B. has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:15 PM:

For a long post. Lots of ellipses; I wonder if some extra spaces got into it. I'm at work; I have a dish of stale candy for the gnomes...

#271 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:33 PM:

A nitpick to Albatross's nitpick @248 ("The best easy to get numbers you are going to get to describe how rational is a white guy's fear of being murdered by a black guy is the fraction of murders of whites done by blacks") - the problem with all the statistics is that those fearful people are simply not rational on the subject. We can quote all the numbers we like, and they still are predisposed not to listen. It's going to take one heck of an educational campaign to break through that fog bank.

#272 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Charlotte @ 271: Yes--unfortunately, the problem with reasoning with someone who's unreasonable is that you are reasoning with someone who's unreasonable. It frequently makes me wonder what other alternatives there are--bypassing those people when possible, sure, but sometimes it isn't....

#273 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:06 PM:

While I'm certain that there are white people who want nothing so much as to have a black person break into their homes so that they can shoot them legally, I don't for a moment believe that it's a majority of white people, a majority of gun-owning white people, or even a large minority of gun-owning white people who have this fantasy. Those few who do have that fantasy will most likely live out their lives in disappointment.

Yes, some white people did shoot some black people in New Orleans after Katrina -- in a part of the world where lynching is still within living memory. That doesn't translate to survivalists living in Idaho.

Gibson's tweet is as true as, "The elephant in the center of the room: white fantasies of being tied up and peed on by lesbians."

The two quoted responses could be run verbatim.

#274 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:35 PM:

Clarentine, #271: An important step in breaking thru the fogbank would be to shut down the Faux News network. They have successfully created an echo-chamber effect wherein people are convinced that only what they hear on Faux News is true -- anything else, especially anything which contradicts that narrative, is nothing but lies being spread by the Liberal Media. Real live people trying to reason with them are assumed to have been brainwashed by said Liberal Media. It's the kind of ourobouros that can't be broken from outside, which is why it's so effective.

#275 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:47 PM:

CZEdwards @268: These shooters are privileged -- less likely to be stop-frisked at any point, more likely to be given warnings or put in diversion programs than prosecuted, are insulated by money and tuition, and have either the disposable income to buy their arsenals or access to what others have bought.

...Which loops around handily to Jim's point.

Mostly I give Hick props for directing his response in the "mental health" direction rather than the "gun control" direction. May still be inadequate to the purpose, but at least he's thinking (maybe) in the right (or at least not wrong) direction.

#276 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 08:12 PM:

Lee @ 274

My Fox News fantasy is that someone sues them for false advertising, so that they can no longer advertise themselves as "news."

#277 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 06:01 AM:

One thing that might be easy to overlook is the age if the perpetrators.

Columbine was done by students at the school, and it's at least possible that the school environment fed into the development of the situation. We've had enough stories of abusive schools in the illumination sidebar. And some of those stories mesh rather too well with the "protection from tyranny" talking about the Second Amendment.

But there wasn't the sort of immediate link in this case.

What we have is an adult, making some sort of plan over at least several days, and reported as smashing his own computer which has a chance of hiding evidence of planning. So responses that deal with impulsive behaviour seem unlikely to change things. It doesn't look as though teens are the immediate threat either.

Though changes to education that deal with the abusive elements could pay off in a lot of other ways. I'm reminded of something Abi reported about the schools in the Netherlands teaching conflict resolution as routine (Do I have that right?).

It's the old detection triumvirate of motive, means, and opportunity. The easy availability of guns affects the means. For some types of crime it also affects opportunity. But the planned spree killings might be affected more by looking at the motive element.

But, while we're at it, can we replace the politicians? I don't want a pony.

#278 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 12:47 PM:

Megpie @220:


#279 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 02:15 PM:

Lee #274:

I've watched that phenomenon, and it's creepy, but I sure don't see what is going to stop it. I mean, a month and a half ago, Fox and its ilk was telling people Romney was winning and the polls were all a liberal conspiracy, right up until Obama got almost precisely the vote totals the aggregated polls had predicted. This is like having the propaganda channel tell you it's sunny outside and then you walk outside without a raincoat and get soaking wet. And yet, peole still seem to be taking Fox and such sources seriously, and are actively hostile to the idea that anyone should see this completely wrong picture of realty as a reason to doubt them in the future.

#280 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:28 PM:

albatross, #279: Worse, they're rewriting reality to fit the narrative. If Faux News said Obama was going to lose and Obama won, it must be because of "voter fraud". The polls were wrong, and reality is wrong too. This is what I mean about an ouroboros that can't be broken from the outside.

The only thing that's going to make a dent in this is to remove the source -- Faux News itself. Absent that constant reinforcement of the fantasy bubble, reality will start to seep back in. The bubble itself wasn't built overnight, and it won't go away overnight either, but we can at least get rid of the self-reinforcing factor.

#281 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:45 PM:

While we have the example of gun control working in many countries, I don't know if it's been tried any place where a lot of people are convinced that owning guns is a very good idea.

It seems plausible to me that if there were tight gun control, there would also be a large black market for guns, and probably deadly fights over territory. Am I missing something?

#282 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 09:32 PM:

We have an unacceptable situation: 30,000 people dying of gunshot injuries each year. I, for one, am no longer prepared to accept this as "the price of freedom".

We have one solution (implemented variously by Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, among others) of demonstrated effectiveness: vastly reduce the number and density of guns readily available, so that people can't just grab one and shoot when they get mad. It won't eliminate every gun-related death, but it will probably cut the numbers back by at least 80-90%.

We also have as an option the Swiss solution: everybody has an officially-issued gun, but under tight government control (because those guns are the weapons of the official Swiss militia). If you are not actively using your gun for an approved purpose, it is locked up securely.

Anybody want to suggest other potential solutions? Remember, "keep the status quo" is not acceptable any more.

#283 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 10:08 PM:

This Pew poll is interesting, especially down in the cross tabs. The people favoring extending gun control are the groups most likely to be threatened or harmed by guns (women, African-Americans, the young, the elderly).

I've often heard gun advocates tell women to carry to protect ourselves, but even if my non-theist Quaker ethics allowed that, I never could. More likely that introducing a weapon means it gets taken and turned against me.

#284 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:31 AM:

So this popped up on a message board I frequent.

I found one thing about it silly--the accidental drowning comparison--and one questionable--the two million self-defense uses per year--but the rest plausible and somewhat convincing.

Where would a relatively uninformed person go to get a good understanding of the technical issues involved? Ideally, I'd like it from someone not taking sides, but that's probably a vain hope.

#285 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:47 AM:

The "two million self-defense uses" is an absolutely bogus figure, derived by rectal extraction, which never-the-less some folks believe.

#286 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 05:16 AM:

Lee, I used to think that the sort of licensing system for guns which the UK has had since the 1920s, amended a few times, was fairly effective.

Unfortunately, the fall-out from Hungerford and Dunblane suggests that such a system is too susceptible to political stupidity. Dunblane, in particular, lead to a ban on all pistols, when the recommendation to the government was a ban a defined subset, essentially meant for killing rather than target shooting. This was down to politicians wanting to look tough, and made the shooting competitions at the Olympics a bit awkward.

Since the UK system tracks individual weapons, it was easy to enforce the ban on legal weapons.

With the Second Amendment as a constraint on government, a system that tracks individual weapons might not be abused in that way. But, like concealed carry in some US States, there were instances of licence issue being refused for arbitrary reasons. The local Police made the decision, and some forces had a reputation for refusing a licence issue, being taken to court, and losing.

But the whole firearms control system was from a time when there was a looming threat of class-war. There had been revolution in Russia. The Police had gone on strike in some places. There was bloody war in Ireland. And a huge number of ordinary men had been trained to use guns.

The British system was biased towards keeping the ruling class armed. It was an instance of class-war thinking.

Looking at our current politicians, that thinking hasn't gone away.

I picked up the safety basics from my grandfather, who was one of those WW1 soldiers whose presence put the wind up the politicians. It's not the guns that scare me, it's some of the stupidity I see, things such as muzzle discipline.

I'm inclined to think that every Policeman in Britain, unarmed though they are, should know those basic safety rules. I have seen signs that they do not. I've heard a few stories.

And who would dare criticise a cop?

#287 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 07:02 AM:

Jim, that's what I thought, just mulling the numbers over in my head--that'd be (assuming a very flat distribution) one per fifteen hundred people per year. You'd think at my age I'd know several people who'd done that. And if it isn't a very flat distribution, if someone is truly using a gun for self-defense a lot, I doubt that it's self-defense As We Know It. I figured you'd know.

What about the claims about defining an assault weapon? True, false, or irrelevant distraction? (I'd still like to know a little more about the technology, but what isn't that true of?)

#288 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:22 AM:

CZEdwards: This calls to mind the discussion between Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan about stunners vs nerve disruptors.

Lee: There is no political way to address the problem of Fox News that doesn't trample all over the first amendment.

John: I think the nmbers for mass shootings are comparable to the numbers for terrorist attacks--they are very rare, and so it's easy to find lots of other things that kill more people. Both kinds of attack are spectacular and get lots of media attention, but a magic talisman that protects you 100% from terrorist and mass shooter attacks will have almost no effect on your life expectancy. As a middle-aged man, I would probably be better off taking a daily statin, baby aspirin, and fish oil tablet than wearing such a talisman with me every day.

#289 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:24 AM:

John Arkansawyer @ 284

Probably the best discussion of defensive gun uses is this one from guncite. Basically, as long as you don't use the NCVS, which is really the wrong study design for the question, the available studies are in pretty goood agreement that it's in the 1-2 million range.

Estimating defensive uses of guns from acquaintance anecdotes has many of the same problems that estimating sexual assaults from the same source does--it's not something most people are going to talk about unnecessarily, and the at-risk populations are somewhat concentrated.

The linked article seems to me to be about right on assault weapons bans. Especially on the "high-capacity magazines" issue, where the definition of high-capacity was weirdly low (lower than most standard production guns); it would be like defining cars with gas tanks holding more than 5 gallons as having high-capacity gas tanks.

On "what to do", there are basically 4 sets of gun-related deaths (31000 total) (a href="">Table 11 on page 44 :

Suicides--this is the majority (around 60% of the total). While Ginger @ 231 and Jim MacDonald @ 232 have good points, the US already has a suicide rate lower than France. Probably focusing on discouraging divorce would help more than anything to do with guns, as it's the number one risk factor.

Hommicides--this is around 37% of the total. Homicides are at half their 1991 rate--this one we are making progress on (at the cost of very high incarceration rates.)

Accidents are relatively small--at most 3% of the total (that includes accidents and "events of undetermined intent"). I can't find an unbiased source (can't find the CDC tables for 1991)--the NRA reports the rate in 2009 as half that in 1991.

#290 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:33 AM:

#288 ::: SamChevre :

Thanks for the first link. It's the best thing I've seen about the definition of assault weapons, and when I say best I mean it's the only one I've been able to focus on. Lack of insults combined with clear explanations helps a lot.

#291 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 10:13 AM:

Same @ 288: I personally do know three civilians who've shot someone in self-defense.

The first was a street musician in Fayetteville who'd been harassed by someone. He took a handgun down to Dickson Street and, the next time he was confronted, killed the man. He did eight years.

The second was my cousin back in the Ozark hills, who had a troublesome neighbor. (Californians.) As he tried to pass down a road to his place, the man blocked the road and wouldn't let him pass. My cousin shot and wounded him. He got three years probation, successfully served, and now he has his deer rifle back. A good thing, as your sixties are not the time to learn bow hunting.

The third is my cousin-in-law on my ex-wife's side. He shot a young man fleeing a robbery in the butt. He's a police officer and, after an investigation, was restored to duty.

One of these things is not like the other.

#292 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 10:19 AM:

John A Arkansawyer

The linked article is bogus for several reasons. First is that the fellow uses crime, and gun crime, when what he should be talking about is mass shootings. While assault weapons play a minor part in all crime, they play a major part in mass shootings.

The argument that deaths from mass shootings are rare is also bogus. Deaths from dirty bombs inside the US are non-existent. Try to put together the materials to build a dirty bomb and see how far you get.

Perhaps if we defined mass shootings as domestic terrorism this would become clearer to him.

Next, it's true, mechanically assault weapons are identical with hunting weapons. So why's he got his knickers in a twist about banning weapons designed to play to the fantasies of the sort of people who want to go shoot up a mall? I'd go farther, and ban other features like mounting rails for flashlights. What, he's planning to go jacking deer?

The argument from Slippery Slope is a non-starter. As he admits, full-automatic weapons are already highly regulated, and that hasn't led to taking away Gramps' deer rifle. Perhaps if the same restrictions were put on assault weapons that he's fine with for full-auto weapons we could put this one to bed?

The high-capacity magazines: If we follow his arguments, the limit of 10 rounds was too high. If that takes a whole bunch of standard production weapons off the market, Oh Well. Perhaps all detachable magazines should be banned.

His last argument is that a whole bunch of weapons remained on the street last time assault weapons were banned. True. Any assault weapon ban would need to be accompanied by a buy-back. Given that most of your mass-shooters use legally-acquired weapons, closing that avenue is a good first step.

#293 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 11:10 AM:


There is a pattern of passing broad laws and imposing restrictions and costs on huge numbers of innocent people in exchange for addressing a very small risk that is unusually telegenic and becomes the panic of the moment. I oppose following that pattern when we're talking about terrorism, and see no better reason to follow it when we're talking about mass-shootings. As best I can tell, the real impact of gun control laws is almost all in suicide and the normal kinds of crimes--make it harder for the severely depressed, gang members, and abusive boyfriends to have guns, and you make a big impact on the number of people we bury each year. Things we do to prevent mass-shootings will not have anything like that impact. They may still be worthwhile--ideally, there would never be a mass shooting--but this kind of horrible mass-shooting is rare enough that the impact will be limited.

In other contexts, I am similarly skeptical of cosmetic get-tough measures, which an assault rifle ban kinda looks like to me. I mean, I get why the NRA fought against it--cool looking weapons probably sell better than functionally equivalent but unsexy ones, and as I understand it, the NRA is largely a lobbyist for the gun industry. But I am a bit skeptical about how this affects mass-shooters. Would this Newtown mass-murderer have really not grabbed the hot pink Hello Kitty rifle, if that had been the only one available? In general, would this have made any difference in this or most other similar cases? It looks like the sort of policy that is better at looking like something is being done than addressing a real problem, though I certainly could be wrong--it's not like I know much about the psychology of mass-shooters. (For other murders, I think handguns are enormously more important, probably because they're more easily available when you decide the guy who just insulted you needs killing, and easier to carry into the liquor store unnoticed till you're ready to empty the cash register.)

#294 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:03 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 290

The problem is that none of those things should be counted as self-defense. The first involves a man who felt he was "being harassed." Unless the harassment took the form of (at the very least) sub-lethal force such as punching, kicking, etc. it's not self-defense. It's using a gun to escalate a non-lethal problem into a lethal problem. At the very least, in terms of this discussion, you need to show us why lethal force was required.

The second event you describe is also not self-defense. Barring some kind of special circumstance, such as an emergency trip to the hospital, blocking a road is not a life-threatening act, though it is annoying and idiotic. Why didn't your cousin call the police/sheriff or take another road?

Lastly, your cousin-in-law was not using the gun in self-defense, (though he probably did use it in an appropriate law-enforcement context.) The suspect was "running away" from him. When your opponent is running away it's not self-defense.

From here, it looks like two of your examples are exactly the kind of inappropriate use of guns most of us are arguing against.

#295 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:05 PM:

In the meantime, the NRA has made a statement.

#296 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:39 PM:

So -- the NRA wants to put a trained armed person in every school.

They're also (in general) opposed to raising taxes.

How do they intend to pay for this? At the national level, that many armed guards would not be cheap. And schools are already facing problems paying for what's already mandated (like, enough teachers to actually teach kids).

This does not make sense to me.

#297 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:49 PM:

So -- the NRA wants to put a trained armed person in every school.

That's the equivalent of responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by ringing every tall building in America with anti-aircraft guns and doing nothing else.

How about putting trained armed guards in all the malls and all the movie theaters, while we're at it?

Seriously, did they not notice that there was a trained armed guard in the building at Columbine?

#298 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:50 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 291

"The argument that deaths from mass shootings are rare is also bogus."

Jim, that's just not correct. Statistically speaking, deaths by mass shooting are incredibly rare. To put things into perspective, about 2.5 million Americans die every year. We lose 400,000 to tobacco alone. (If you want a really common killer, tobacco is your major villain.) If you look up the CDC statistics, you'll discover that about 7,500 people a year die after taking the wrong over-the-counter pain medication. This is an incredibly rare way to die, and I've never heard of anyone who actually died that way, but apparently it happens.

How many people die in mass shootings every year? Per CBS News, "...Crimesider has reported on more than a dozen public shootings that left at least 80 victims dead in 2012." (No URL to avoid the gnomes - this was the fourth hit on a Google search for "mass shootings in 2012")

So I'm willing to concede that we might have as many as 100 mass shooting deaths in any year. A little math tells us that this is .004 % of our annual death toll in the US. A little more math tells us that you're 75 times more likely to die by purchasing the wrong brand of aspirin than by being the victim of a mass shooting.

So yes, death by mass shooting is, in fact, incredibly rare. They're just incredibly well-reported, unlike the 1300 murders in California in 2010, which number was reported in the LA Times, but did not set off a national media firestorm in the same manner as the Sandy Hook shootings. (Ahem, can we have a better media? Just asking guys!)

And just so we understand each other completely, I agree that we do need to do something about gun deaths in the US. At 30,000/year they are much higher than they need to be, but the "let's stop mass shootings" approach is statistically incorrect, as it only fixes 1/300th of the problem.

BTW, I'm sorry to be a numbers dick, but I felt that we needed some perspective.

#299 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:59 PM:

*Deep, heavy sigh*

Make that 84 mass-shooting deaths this year. Apparently some nut shot four people and wounded 3 state troopers in Pennsylvania today while the NRA was having their press conference.

What the fuck is wrong with people?

#300 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:00 PM:

Same @ 288: I personally do know three civilians who've shot someone in self-defense.

The first was a street musician in Fayetteville who'd been harassed by someone. He took a handgun down to Dickson Street and, the next time he was confronted, killed the man. He did eight years.

That doesn't sound like self-defense, and it seems the jury didn't think it was self-defense either.

#301 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:12 PM:

Alex R: Apparently some nut asshole shot four people and wounded 3 state troopers in Pennsylvania today while the NRA was having their press conference.

Fixed that for ya.

#302 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:17 PM:

Rikibeth @ 301

Right. Sorry 'bout that.

#303 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:19 PM:

"The argument that deaths from mass shootings are rare is also bogus."

Jim, that's just not correct.

I didn't state my argument well. Yes, deaths from mass shootings are rare, but so are deaths from any other single cause. Nevertheless, we regulate drugs, we regulate automobiles, we regulate tobacco, we regulate alcohol.

Very, very few deaths are caused by missing or non-operational turn signals. The state still requires that we have operational turn signals on our cars.

#304 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:35 PM:

My point, which I tried but failed to express with light sarcasm, was that "self-defense" often isn't.

I do doubt Sam's claim that self-defensive use of guns is underreported due to stigma similar to that which causes rape underrporting. I could still be convinced the number wasn't bogus, but not by that.

#305 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:39 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 303

All I'm saying is that we should consider our problems in order of statistical significance. Since we have the political ability right now to do something about our massive gun problem, I'd hate to waste the opportunity on large magazines when we might find some statistically more significant ways to spend our political capital, whatever that might be.

Better licensing? Gun safes? I suspect there is a statistically valid approach, but I haven't researched it. However, I did read recently that gun accidents kill about 500 children every year, which gives mandatory gun safes a better ROI on our political capital than making large magazines illegal.

#306 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:45 PM:

albatross, #288: Actually, there is one way to address the problem of Faux News that has nothing to do with the First Amendment: make it illegal to broadcast a provably false statement as factual. Make them do fact-checking, and if they blow it, they have to (1) pay a fine that they're actually going to notice, and (2) broadcast a detailed retraction in the same time-slot and with the same length as the original statement.

This would be well within the purview of the FCC, and would be just as useful applied to CNN and MSNBC, so it wouldn't be discriminatory. We used to have something very like this, but it went away with "deregulation". Canada still does, which is why they won't let Faux News into their country. They don't want to be facing the same batshit-crazy effect 10 years down the road that we're dealing with now.

and @293: All right. Remember that we are trying to make a significant reduction in the number of gunshot deaths per year (all deaths, not just mass-murder sprees). How would you suggest doing it? "Retain the status quo" is not an acceptable option any more.

Jim, #303: It sounds as though you meant to say that the argument of "deaths from mass shootings are extremely rare, so any law attempting to address them is a waste of effort" is bogus. Would that have been closer?

#307 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:49 PM:

Alex R @ 305

I'd equate the statistical rarity of mass shootings with the statistical rarity of intentional mass murder by poison.

Poisoning murders are much, much rarer than murders with any conventional weapon, and yet a bunch of poisons are RIDICULOUSLY hard to get. Try to get most of the best murder-poisons, and you need to be a doctor, or a technician in a very specific field, or buy very smal amounts from a large number of different sources over a long period of time. In some cases you can get them with mandatory permits and licensing (which is one of the proposed solution for guns). It is hard to buy poisons. The thing is, strychnine does have a valid use as a pest control poison. This is fairly similar to one of the primary uses that gun owners cite when they talk about needing guns.

I can't see how you could be against the regulation of various firearms and firearm accessories but in favor of the regulation of poisons... yet I don't see the NRA or libertarians campaigning for the legalization of all poisons, only of all guns.

I wonder if that's because poison is thought of as a "woman's weapon?"

Until you're standing on a stump shouting for the legalization of unlimited quantities of strychnine, it's impossible to take your "statistical rarity of use is mass murder" argument very seriously.

#308 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 01:59 PM:


And we regulate guns in various ways, partly to try to avoid mass shootings, partly to try to avoid other gun-related crimes. The question is not whether we will have some regulations, but what changes it would make sense to make to those regulations. My claim is:

a. The overwhelming majority of the impact that such changes can have on the world will not involve mass shootings, but rather other things.

b. To the extent we're trying to make the world a better place, we should focus mainly on those other things and only very peripherally on mass-shootings, which are horrible, scary, telegenic disasters that don't actually kill all that many people compared to the other things we might be able to affect.

For example, if we make it much easier to get mental health services, the main impact there will almost certainly be on the vast number of people who need mental health services and can't manage to get them now. There may or may not be any impact at all on mass-shootings, and that's okay.

Similarly, if we make it harder for people inclined to shoot their girlfriend or wife or ex-wife to get hold of a gun, we are likely to have a large impact on the number of people who die of gunshot wounds, even if we have no impact whatsoever on mass-shootings.

Now, both of these may very well decrease the number and severity of mass-shootings. But that will be a side-effect of the much bigger and more important impact these measures will have elsewhere.

#309 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:01 PM:

Well, there isn't an amendment to the constitution that says, "The control of pests and varmints being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to obtain and keep poisons shall not be infringed."

I don't see how it follows that being against licensing/restricting firearms means that someone must be against licensing/restricting poisons. That way we run into the arguments in the form, "Why are you concerned with Cause Y? People are starving/being killed in Place X. Work on that first!"

#310 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:07 PM:

Leah Miller @ 307

I think you're missing my point, which goes as follows: Sandy Hook gave gun control activists some really good political capital. I think that capital should be spent on the statistically most significant method of lowering gun deaths.

I'll repeat my example (with the caveat that I haven't studied gun control issues much - there may be better options than I've chosen.)

A.) If gun control advocates spend their political capital on smaller magazines, with the aim of eliminating mass shootings, 100 deaths per year might be eliminated

B.) If gun control advocates spend their capital on mandating the use of gun safes, then 500 deaths per year might be eliminated. (Once again, 500 children die per year while playing with guns, and many more are wounded.)

Obviously, any sane person prefers option B. It potentially saves 5 times as many people as option A. So taking a statistical approach actually saves the most possible lives.

#311 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:12 PM:

Albatross, how many mass shootings/domestic terror attacks are too many?

Give me a number, and when we cross that line can we revisit this issue?

Let me note that Playing Dress Up seems to have been a big part of at least a couple of recent mass shootings (Newtown; Aurora). So restricting Scary Looking Guns may well have an effect there.

#312 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:16 PM:

@ albatross @ 288:
Okay, okay, indeed, I really need to read those. (I don't know why I haven't.)

re: NRA statement (And biting sarcasm should be assumed in the following.)
We have over 100K public schools. One armed security person at each will cost somewhere around $5 billion. This notion failed at Columbine. For that amount of money, would not cameras attached to a Call of Duty type interface with remotely aimable weapons and perhaps knockout gas be more appropriate? (Wait -- knockout gas has been used, and ended up killing more people than the hostage takers.) Of course, then the target becomes the hackable system...

No, NRA, we do not need an arms race on the playground. To quote Wargames: The only winning move is not to play.

#313 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:28 PM:

The problem with mandating gun safes is enforcement. Unless we do random police spot checks how are we going to know if people are keeping their firearms in them?

Banning the manufacture and sale of Scary Looking Guns is something that we can do, which may result in saving some lives.

Back to the statistical argument for a moment. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Nevertheless, most Americans will die of something else. And if we break "heart disease" down into the several-hundred different diseases that are covered by the term we can show it's very unlikely that one particular kind of heart disease will be the thing that gets us.

There are perhaps thirty different dysfunctional cardiac rhythms. An AED is only useful with two of them. The odds of suddenly getting one of those two while in a public place are small. Still, we hang AEDs in public spaces all over America.

#314 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:30 PM:

From the local news over the last few days: (local news, but happened in Oregon. Go figure)

A man in Oregon, who has(d) a concealed carry permit, took his handgun to a showing of the Hobbit, where it fell out of his holster. It was found the next day by a 7th grader, loaded, one round in the chamber, and the safety off. The man, who has been carrying for 40 years for protection, but never needed to shoot at a human before, defends the lack of safety and round in the chamber as being necessary for one handed operation in an emergency.

At the Clackamas mall shooting recently, a bystander with concealed carry permit drew his weapon, but did not fire because he saw other people behind the shooter in the line of fire.

#315 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:35 PM:

I accept that (due to a recent Supreme Court decision) the 2nd amendment allows individuals to keep and bear arms, and that right shall not be infringed.

I don't want the government to violate that right. But I don't think that reasonable regulation = infringement. We regulate speech ("Fire"/crowded theater.) We regulate the right to assemble. We define what "due process of law" means. At the moment, we don't allow individuals to purchase nuclear material, or rocket launchers, or all kinds of military weaponry. So what kinds of regulations would the majority of my fellow-citizens who are gun owners accept? (There is, I believe, a minority who would accept none, zilch, nada. Not talkin' to you.)

How about:

1) You must register your gun(s) with the county you live in, and pay an annual registration fee, per gun.
2) You must purchase insurance which would insure you against unauthorized use of your guns. If you fail to purchase this insurance, if someone steals your gun and uses it to commit a crime, you are civilly liable.

Would these be acceptable?

#316 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:37 PM:

One more local story, a small arsenal was stolen from a Green Beret's garage while he was overseas. If only there were a weapon in the house to protect against that sort of thing.

Oh wait.

#317 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:40 PM:

I know this particular smart remark has been made before, but the Constitution says "arms", not "guns".

Ban private ownership of guns, let 'em have all the swords they want...

#318 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:06 PM:

eric, #314: In the Clackamas incident, the "bystander" was a trained, professional security guard who happened to be off-duty and out of uniform at the time. I am not at all surprised that someone with actual training chose not to fire when he could not do so safely.

#319 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:28 PM:

Oregon is still doing great on guns in public, though the current story doesn't involve anyone getting shot. A group of school children were taken to the movies in Tillamook, Oregon to see The Hobbit. When one of the boys pushed down his seat, he heard something metal hit the floor. It was a semi-automatic handgun. Fortunately, he'd had gun safety training and was a sensible child, and he backed up and called for his teacher.

The safety was off, and there was a bullet in the chamber.

The man who accidentally dropped the gun from his holster and didn't notice has had his concealed carry permit revoked, and is probably going to be charged with some sort of "reckless endangerment charge". He should be feeling very, very lucky.

Here's what he wrote in letter: "This whole episode is unfortunate for all involved and I truly regret any distress this may have caused. ... You all have my most sincere apologies for the mishap and rest assured my intent is for the betterment and security of my friends and neighbors in Tillamook and nothing else."

Yeah, that whole 'make the world more secure by carrying a gun all the time' intent that works so well.

#320 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:35 PM:

oops, duplicated eric's post @ 314

#321 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:50 PM:

You didn't duplicate, janetl @319 -- there's a lot more information in your post (which I, for one, value).

#322 ::: Tom Whitmore visits the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 03:51 PM:

The lamb hasn't even started roasting; may I bring you a plate when it's done?

#323 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 04:33 PM:

janetl @319 writes: "Yeah, that whole 'make the world more secure by carrying a gun all the time' intent that works so well."

As with many important policy debates in America today, where on only one side there is a powerful, entrenched business interest with a business model that depends on externalizing the costs of the intended use of its products by its customers... we find there is a sizable proportion of the population convinced by public relations campaigns that there is either no problem that requires a public policy response, or if there is a problem, then the public policy response is to encourage more business for the products, not less.

We saw it with the tobacco industry, which needed to externalize the costs to public health related to smoking. We're seeing it again with the fossil fuels industry, which needs to externalize the costs to national security related to economic dependency on the consumption of carbon fuels. And we're also seeing it to some extent with the firearms industry, which needs to externalize the cost to public safety related to escalating small arms proliferation.

If the only permissible question in the debate is "how do we put more guns on the street?" as it is with a sizable fraction of the public, then we have a very big problem. I've been contending for a long time that, until we tackle that problem in the center, we're not going to make much progress nibbling at the smaller problems around the edges.

#324 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 05:51 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 313

Of course banning magazines/scary looking guns won't stop mass shootings either. It will just make it harder to kill lots of people. No solution is perfect, and it's possible to be uncompliant with any law.

Ideally there won't be a argument; we'll do both and some other stuff besides. :)

#325 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 06:18 PM:

janetl, #319: From the letter: "You have people shooting up malls, building bombs," he said. "And I'm the bad guy."

As someone said in the comments -- "No, you're the STUPID guy." You're the guy who escaped being the bad guy only by an amazing stroke of luck and a couple of kids being way smarter than you are. Other commenters are noting that his description of the chain of events doesn't seem to hold water. And do you notice that he's now claiming the safety was on when it was in the holster?

And he's definitely got the FRPG attitude as well -- he was carrying that gun with the specific idea that if somebody was shooting up a mall, he could be the hero and take them out. This is what I mean when I say that guys who feel like they have to have a loaded gun with them at all times "for safety" -- that it's basic equipment like a seatbelt or an umbrella or a multitool -- scare me much, much more than the thought of some random guy "losing it". ONE guy shooting, I stand some chance of getting away from. Two or more in a firefight? Not so much.

#326 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 07:04 PM:

Lee @ 325

It would be interesting to see someone build a first-person shooter that makes the point of just how hard it is to take someone down in a difficult situation.

The player is in a mall, restaurant, DMV or other crowded space and they are wearing street clothes and carrying a pistol with a small magazine. The enemy has a rifle with multiple great big magazines, ballistic armor, and secondary weapons they can use in a pinch.

There's a panicked crowd to contend with, (including possible hostages,) who will run someone down if they are moving in the wrong direction, tackle, punch, or shoot someone carrying a gun because they might be a "second gunman," or simply get between the "hero" and the shooter.

In addition, the simulations would involve difficult terrain, such as the foodcourt of a mall, a crowded theater, or simply a flat space littered with wounded/bodies. The lighting could range from excellent to poor, objects, such as chairs, tables, trash cans, carts, doors, etc. could be moved by crowds and windows can be broken. In other words, all the disadvantages of the real world are there.

The player, as in the real world, might have to unzip their jacket before they can get their gun, then take the safety off before they can start shooting. (The game counts how many people got killed while the "hero" was unzipping their jacket and removing the safety.) Then the hero has to cross the food court against a panicked crowd, jump over tables, make sure they don't trip over chairs, bodies, etc. and deal with being mistaken for a second gunman by members of the crowd and/or by a security guard, then face the killer's a semi-automatic rifle with the big magazine, while hoping that the person they judge to be the killer isn't a security guard in tactical gear. Or the "hero" can try shooting across the crowd to kill the shooter.

I wonder how many people would win on their first try?

#327 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 07:21 PM:

Alex R.

Add in that 85% of the time the controls won't allow you to do anything at all.

How about this for low-tech solutions: Put locks controlled by the teachers on the insides of classroom doors.

#328 ::: Marc G. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 07:52 PM:

SamChevre @289

I will agree that unlike other studies on the topic, the NCVS was not designed to show that there are 1-2 million incidents of self-defense with a gun per year ;)

Seriously, though, the fact that the NCVS has a larger sample size than the other studies mentioned, has gone through decades of methodological refinement, and consistently delivers numbers much closer to 100,000 than 1,000,000, needs a better answer than "Well, they aren't *specifically* looking for self-defense with a gun, so we can ignore it."

#329 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 08:32 PM:

Jim #311:

What is the acceptable number of drownings, deaths by lightning strike, deaths from falls, or ordinary homicides? The best number of all those things would be zero, if there were no costs or tradeoffs to be made. But long before we got to zero of any of those, we would have spent vast amounts of money and made lots of people much worse off and unhappier for a relatively small benefit.

it seems to me that a great many half-baked laws that we can never be rid of, even when they are wrecking lives and doing little good, come from asking just this question, and then trying to get the number down to zero and damn the costs. See the endless war on terror, the even more endless war on drugs, the constant sexual abuse of kids panic, etc. In every one of those cases, there are real horrible tragedies driving laws and policies that don't make any sense, and that make the world a worse place.

#330 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 08:33 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 327

Add in that 85% of the time the controls won't allow you to do anything at all.

I'd rather build that into the circumstances of the game; the usual inaccurate handgun, floors slippery with blood, etc.

To make it really devastating, each time the game finishes up it shows the player a view from above, and the player can observe themselves fumbling to get the gun out of the ankle holster, getting body-checked by the frightened mother, stumbling over the chairs, slipping on someone's blood and going down, getting up and shooting two bystanders and a security guard, then getting shot by the bad guy, or whatever.

#331 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 08:48 PM:

Jim, everyb classroom I've ever taught in had a door that was lockable from the inside. Also we've down lock-down drills for years, here. Along with the fire drills, the earthquake drills, and the high wind drills.

#332 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Our Constitution can be altered only by referendum, a simple majority of electors in a simple majority of states - only six states.

I understand the hurdle to amend the US Constitution is higher. Nevertheless, could it be passed, given the prevailing mood?

Something like rewording the second amendment to make it clear that the right of the citizen to bear arms applies only to "well-ordered militias" under the command of commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces, or some such?

#333 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:16 PM:

Dave Luckett @332, Technically, yes, it could. Practically, no, it cannot. Not with the prevailing culture of the US.

#334 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 10:48 PM:

SamChevre @289, could you unpack what you mean about discouraging divorce?

#335 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 11:18 PM:

Alex, #326/330: That would be a really good game, if you could get people to play it. Unfortunately, exactly the people who most badly need that reality check would complain bitterly about how badly it's rigged against being able to win (and many of them would use the term "unrealistic" in absolute seriousness) and refuse to play it a second time. If it was sold for arcade use, it would stand vacant after the first 2 weeks and be discarded quickly thereafter; if for individual use, players would be demanding their money back.

I'm not just dissing your idea, because I really do think it's a good one if it could be made to work. But a friend and I have been discussing something along similar lines, to be called "Get Out of the Ghetto" -- a simulation of why poor people can't just "do X, do Y, stop doing Z" and magically move up to the middle class -- and that was one of the issues we identified as being major problems. Gamers don't want a realistic simulation; they want to WIN.

Persephone, #334: According to the article SamChevre linked, divorce is one of the things which statistically seriously increases the risk of suicide. It should also be noted that separation and/or divorce seriously increases the risk of homicide as well -- some people decide to kill themselves, others to kill the person who left them.

However, I don't think that working on lowering the divorce rate is necessarily the best -- or even a feasible -- approach here. Someone who can be tipped into suicide or homicide because of the loss of a relationship clearly has other mental issues to begin with. Rather, if we made it easier for people who need mental-health care to get it, I suspect that both the divorce rate and the statistical increased risk of suicide/homicide as a result of divorce would drop... though not for the same reasons.

#336 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 11:32 PM:

Leah @307 said that very few people die from poison, so why do we regulate poisons. That's exactly why we do - in the 19th century, poison was a common cause of murder, suicide, and accidental death. NOW it's rare, after decades of not being able to casually buy arsenic, strychnine, etc.

And someone equated the deaths from OTC meds with taking the "wrong kind of aspirin". My dad nearly died because he kept taking aspirin to treat the stomach pains he was having, which were caused by a gastric ulcer, which started bleeding. (That was in the 1960's, they didn't really know how powerful an anticoagulant it is.)

You can die from accidentally taking an overdose of tylenol over a few days; it's very hard on the kidneys, and not keeping track of how much you have taken can be fatal. There are many other OTCs that are dangerous one way or another.

There are, alas, many ways to die. But IMHO, aspirin has more uses than guns.

#337 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 01:22 AM:

How real people (students, actually) with guns, with varying amounts of experience and some training, actually react in a school shooting situation. A brilliant piece of reporting, IMO.

#338 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 02:24 AM:

Here's the next video from that story Tom linked to.

Which is pretty much what I've said all along.

#339 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 08:32 AM:

Alex R. @ #310:

Can I suggest that the phrase "Obviously, any sane person prefers the option I support" is ... not useful. If its correctness is really that obvious, the rhetorical flourish is unnecessary - and if there is anyone who needs persuading of its correctness, they're more likely to be amenable to persuasion if you don't start out by impugning their mental health.

#340 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 08:49 AM:

Alex @ 326/330, Lee @ 335:

It would make a stellar social media game, though -- along the lines of the poverty simulator (where you have to stretch a paycheck). It doesn't need to be infinitely replayable.

#341 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 10:21 AM:

Lee #335: Gamers don't want a realistic simulation; they want to WIN.

Once could say the same of economists, stockbrokers, and politicians.

#342 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 10:53 AM:

Jim @ 337 and 338

I can't get the videos to play. Summaries please?

#343 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 11:23 AM:

Paul A. @ 339

Paul, I don't know much about gun control. The idea I "liked" was an example, not a policy recommendation on my part. I "liked" the idea because statistically it seems to save many more lives than the counter-example. I was pointing out the value of a statistical approach, not advocating a particular position.

I'd have to 'fess up that I prefer the idea of mandatory gun safes to banning scary guns and big magazines, but it may well be the "second worst" idea rather than a good idea. The idea I was pointing to as "sane" was the statistical approach to setting policy, not a particular policy endeavour. Read it as "any sane person prefers the option that saves more lives" and you'll get what I was really trying to say. (I thought that was implicit, but perhaps I didn't imply hard enough.)

#344 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 11:57 AM:

If you REALLY want to nip mass shootings in the bud, it would be better to put a mental health expert in every school, and screen the entire school population and do it every year.

Don't assume the parents will be able to spot a mental problem, and even those who do may experience denial as to the seriousness of the condition -- make treatment of discovered problems mandatory and free.

I also think the assault weapons ban should be reinstated, and high volume magazines should be banned as well.

#345 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 12:12 PM:

Cally Soukup @342: College students with varying degrees of familiarity with guns (from little to hundreds of hours) get basic training in using real guns with paint ammunition. They're then put (individually, with other students played by law enforcement people) in a classroom where they're getting a lecture on protective gear. A shooter comes in and aims for the instructor, then students. Half of the students with the gun can't get it out to fire. None of them manage to take out the shooter without getting hit multiple times in the chest by the shooter's bullets. All the students comment about how different it is from a game.

I'd recommend finding a way to see both parts. It's good work.

#346 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 12:50 PM:

Anyone have information handy about whether these mass murderers were bullies and/or bullied as children, and if a high proportion were, do you think anti-bullying programs might help?

#347 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 12:54 PM:

You may be able to watch the 20/20 show here. (That's at Yidio -- Season 31 Episode 33.) It's also available on Netflix. The name of the episode is "If I Only Had A Gun."

To be totally fair, Wyatt Earp himself couldn't have done any better in that scenario. 100% of what the students could do in that test would be to make themselves one with the floor and freeze.

IF you aren't part of the initial incident AND you can't get away, AND you can't hide, AND you are armed, THEN you can try to run an ambush, being aware that even then 85% of people with their lives on the line won't shoot and you can't know if you're one of the other 15% until you're in that situation.

In the meantime you're far more likely to use that firearm you got for home defense to shoot your spouse than to use it defending your spouse from an intruder.

#348 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 01:13 PM:

This is more-or-less a text version of the 20/20 show.

#349 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 01:35 PM:

Alex, #343: Read it as "any sane person prefers the option that saves more lives" and you'll get what I was really trying to say.

Counterpoint: exactly the same thing can be and has been) said about the brtn argument. And yet you still see plenty of quite sane (in the sense of "can function in the real world") people fighting against things which are proven to reduce the number of brtns. I suspect that the cause in both cases is the same: the putative topic of discussion is at least partially a mask for something entirely different.

#350 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 02:36 PM:

I think that most of your mass shooters are sane, in terms of a) knowing right from wrong and b) knowing that what they are doing is wrong. They're c) capable of making long-term plans, and d) carrying out those plans.

#351 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 02:56 PM:

Thanks for the text link, Jim. The Yideo link, alas, gave me "Sorry, this episode is not yet available online. Please, check back later." But text? Text I can read! Stupid browser....

#352 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 03:13 PM:

Lee @ 349

Oh. That argument. My standard for "sanity," in political terms, includes being able to critique the statements of those who lead your movement, and attempt to accomplish the movement's aims without the movement's baggage. And yes, I am doubtless overly-optimistic to the point of... let's not go there! :\

#353 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 03:22 PM:

There's also a nasty complication to the "do what saves more lives" argument, which is that when it comes to getting government to do something, it's not just about the number of lives -- its about the amount of fear they induce in the populace. We worry way more about sudden and unexpected deaths than about the long-term results of behavior -- that's why shootings are simply not on the same radar screen as heart disease.

There's another distinction too, regarding deaths that breach our sense of agency, the idea that our fate depends on our own actions. That's where a lot of the wanna-be heros come in, but beyond that my thoughts aren't sorted well enough for me to write much just yet.

#354 ::: Heteromeles ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 03:56 PM:

First, the good news: we're a week closer to the end of the year, and no more successful mass shootings yet (I'm not counting the nut who emptied 50 bullets into the air and ground at the California mall). My feeling was that the nuttiness would end after the apocalypse failed, so hopefully we'll have a peaceful Christmakwanzasolstihanukkanalian celebration.

That said, while I'm in favor of assault weapons bans (do we really need so many?), I've also be made aware (thank you Fresh Air) that the NRA supports increased sales of assault weapons at all costs because sales of other types of guns have been decreasing, along with decreases in hunting and other sport and hobby shooting. The unintended consequence of sane attempts to get rid of this surplus of guns floating around is that we may not have the arms suppliers we need when the next major war blows up. In other words, we'll be in the same boat as we were in prior to WWI and WWII. Yeah, those wars we won, unlike, oh Vietnam.

On second thought, I don't think the gun industry needs more welfare.

The nice thing to remember is that, even now, you've got somewhere between a 1 in 1,000,000 and 1 in 100,000,000 chance of getting caught in a spree shooting. At those odds, doing precisely nothing to protect yourself will be effectively as good as getting the gun, the concealed carry permit, the ammo, the training, and so forth. Furthermore, the lack of paranoia-induced stress will undoubtedly help you live longer.

So spend that gun money on enjoying your particular holidays, I say.

#355 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 04:08 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 353

And then you come to the idea of "what really works" vs. "what works politically."

If you only have to worry about what works in the absolute sense, you take away all the handguns and you probably save 10-20,000 lives a year, but a vast majority of people just won't go that far, so you take what you can get, which brings us back to much less effective territory.

#356 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 04:55 PM:

First, the good news: we're a week closer to the end of the year, and no more successful mass shootings yet (I'm not counting the nut who emptied 50 bullets into the air and ground at the California mall).

Aside from the four dead (including the shooter) and three cops injured in Pennsylvania, that is.

#357 ::: Heteromeles ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 05:29 PM:

Damn, missed that one. Um, thanks Jim, I guess. More sad holidays for more people.

#358 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 05:42 PM:

I've already linked this elsewhere, but since this is where the discussion is taking place:

Houston Releases PSA With Tips For Surviving Workplace Shooting

#359 ::: Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 06:21 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 356

Ironically, that one happened at the same time/day as the NRA was holding a press conference about Sandy Hook.

#360 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 10:09 PM:

I don' t think I can write what I really think about the idea of "focusing on discouraging divorce," as a way to reduce the incidence of mass shootings, without getting myself disemvowelled at best.

Why is it that I so rarely hear any women complaining about the advent of the no-fault divorce? And whenever I do, it's a good bet the same woman is on record as wanting to repeal the 19th amendment?

#361 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 10:25 PM:

j h woodyatt, right with you. If we're to speak of discouraging divorce at all, it can't take the form of discouraging people on the point of divorce, and even premarital counseling isn't a proper solution; it has to go much deeper, teaching young people skills for forming healthy relationships from the beginning, and communicating within relationships, and, oh, how about we change the cultural narrative that finding your One True Love fixes everything ever?

Making divorce more difficult is the stupid (and harmful) way of discouraging divorce.

#362 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 01:47 AM:

The Altoona shooter is being variously reported as age 26 and age 44. I found one report that included a headshot of a white guy next to a photo of the crime scene, but there was no specific identification of that person as the shooter -- he could have been one of the victims.

#363 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:06 AM:

A couple of people upthread mentioned the idea of using a requirement for 3rd party insurance as a way of discouraging some kinds of gun-ownership. While that strikes me as a creative and politically imaginative response to the problem, I'd like to mention one thing about it which seems like a significant drawback: namely that it creates another group with a strong financial interest in expanding gun ownership (and thus weakening existing regulation). I think that ought to put it quite clearly in the realm of second-best solutions.

(Not being a US citizen or resident there's a certain amount of 'not my circus, not my monkeys' about this debate for me. Still, I'm inclined to think that if people were prepared to adopt the same interpretive approach to the 3rd Amendment as they do to the 2nd, the idea of armed guards in schools would seem obviously unconstitutional.)

#364 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 12:09 PM:

I've heard that the number of men murdered by their wives dropped dramatically with the advent of no-fault divorce.

#365 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 01:39 PM:

The article at divorceinfo dot com that SamChevre cited above pinged my radar. The article cites the National Institute for Healthcare Research. It is not part of NIH, NIMH, HHS or NSF -- it's a private foundation funded entirely by the Templeton Foundation.

Templeton is by no means a Discovery Institute, but it's got
-- very deep pockets,
-- NIHcR's financial records show high salaries to a small staff, and a high income to expenses ratio,
-- NIHcR's has almost no visible web presence, (rare for an org that produces peer-reviewed research) nor a public board of directors,
-- NIHcR's name is extremely similar to a well-respected British governmental institute (National Institute for Health Research)
-- NIHcR's location is probably intentional, possibly intentionally confusing (since NIH/NIMH are in Rockville & Bethesda)
-- Templeton is on the conservative, Christian fundamentalist (old school Presbyterian, to be precise) side of the curve,
-- and over the past few years, Templeton has become significantly more radically conservative in its support and statements. (Specifically, since the founder died and was replaced by his son.)

Taken in total, those look more like an advocacy organization producing the results they want rather than objective science. Templeton has supported some suspect work in the past -- intelligent design, remote intercessory prayer research, and some very small scale studies in psych and sociology which prove what appears to be a pre-determined conclusion, and which contradict much larger scale, more solidly peer-reviewed studies. That doesn't mean their work should be ignored, but lacking scrupulous peer-review, it does mean that they must withstand a higher level of scrutiny. (N.B. I cannot find the specific article to which divorceinfo dot com refers, but I don't have a good citation, either.)

There is much better, more recent, large-scale (1M) research on suicide and divorce. See Denney, Justin, et al at Adult Suicide Mortality in the United States: Marital Status, Family Size, Socioeconomic Status and Differences by Sex that posits that, while divorce is a significant factor for men who commit suicide, the greater factors are diminishing social and practical ties and support*, decreasing apparent socioeconomic status**, education*** and substance abuse/risky behavior****. However, being widowed poses the highest chance of suicide. (So... the best way to reduce the numbers of men committing suicide is to prevent married women from dying...)

The biggest gender difference is between attempted suicide and successful suicide -- women attempt suicide slightly more often than men, but men are four times more likely to be successful. That's method dependent and has its own body of research.

*Men with large families and/or extensive social connections are less likely to attempt suicide, regardless of marital status. It's not so much that divorce causes suicide as isolation. This is always true, no matter gender.
**Unemployment is as strong a predictor in some studies as divorce; low income and/or low status are consistently strong predictors.
***Every year of education decreases the chance of suicide.
****Never-married men are more likely to use drugs, drink heavily and engage in risky activities than their married counterparts. Divorced men fall into the middle ground between the two cohorts, but whether divorce causes the behavior or the behavior causes the divorce is debatable.

#366 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 02:21 PM:

Thank you CZEdwards.

I recalled that divorce was a very significant risk factor for suicide, googled, and linked the first coherent-looking article I found. Yours is better.

#367 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 02:33 PM:

praisegod barebones at 363: I think you make a good point, that requiring insurance gives insurance companies a financial stake in gun ownership. I submit, however, that this might not be a bad thing.

What's the one thing insurance companies hate more than anything in the world -- more even than government regulation? Paying claims. I can see insurance companies setting up all kinds of self-policing regulations for gun owners to follow before they can qualify for insurance. Safety classes. Gun safe. Limitations on which guns can be owned, and how many. Do you have kids? Sorry, your premium will be [insert large number here] unless you can prove to us that your kids cannot access your weapons. And so on.

#368 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 03:27 PM:

Mandatory insurance makes this even more a rich person's game.

#369 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 04:34 PM:

Jim at 368: yes, I suppose that could happen, and that's not an outcome I like. But again, I can see some ways to mitigate that. For example, gun clubs and hunters clubs could self-insure. The NRA could offer insurance. (Okay, just stop laughing.) The State National Guard could offer insurance for members and families, along with safety classes.

#370 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 04:49 PM:

Lizzy L @367

I can see this going both ways: on the one hand, if you're an insurance company you don't want to pay out claims; on the other hand, you want as big a market as possible for policies.

I have a nasty feeling that you might easily end up with something analogous to the mortgage market of early to mid 2000s.

Now, if there was some way of forcing the NRA into the insurance under-writing business...

#371 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:08 PM:

Jim @348: Another thanks from here for the text link. Many of us who are hearing-impaired get weary of links that blithely lead to videos with no transcript. Thank you for not letting that happen here.

#372 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:09 PM:

On the one hand, I see the appeal of gun insurance. On the other, I also see the very strong likelihood that we'd end up with all of the flaws currently inherent in both automobile and health insurance*. I don't think I can in good faith support a gun-insurance requirement until we fix the overall brokenness of the insurance system itself.

* What Jim said about turning it into a rich-person's game; also, how many people here have had their cars totaled by an uninsured driver (who shouldn't have been driving in the first place)? There's a huge enforcement issue on that last as well.

#373 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:14 PM:

I know this is probably politically impossible, but I'm in favor of requiring a routine mental health screening in order to obtain a license for a gun. These screenings would be free, paid for by a tax on larger magazines, armor-piercing bullets, and all the specific scary things people have discussed banning. I'm always for the "tax rather than ban" approach.

If you live in a residence with someone who hasn't been screened, you have the option of getting that person screened or storing your guns at a shooting range.

We could make it so that antique weapons and basic hunting rifles don't require the screening. But at the very least there should be a threshold above which the screening kicks in, whether it's your first assault rifle or your second handgun.

#374 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:19 PM:

CZEdwards, #340: It would make a stellar social media game, though -- along the lines of the poverty simulator (where you have to stretch a paycheck).

Missed responding to this when posted. Could you elaborate a little more on this? I don't play social-media games at all, and the friend with whom I was discussing "Get Out of the Ghetto" isn't even on Facebook. How do you see that it might be implemented?

#375 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:46 PM:

Lee @372: one reason why this strikes me as creative and imaginative is that from where I'm standing, many of the otherwise bad features of the insurance business end up working as features rather than bugs.

Admittedly, where I stand maybe quite a long way from where some of the other participants in this thread stand, and from where the average American stands. I'm not at all sure that it's a problem if owning assault rifles becomes a rich person's game; and I can see reasons for premiums for hunting weapons being lower.

#376 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 05:47 PM:

I know this is probably politically impossible, but I'm in favor of requiring a routine mental health screening in order to obtain a license for a gun.

This reminds me of an ER doctor I knew who used to say, "In order to get a motorcycle license first you have to fail an IQ test."

Routine mental-health screenings. Routine vision checks. Routine hearing checks. Routine checks for cholesterol and glucose. All good things.

The crazy SEALs have what they call a "shrink in." Every year they have to take a mental-health screening to see if they're enjoying their jobs too much. If they are ... reassignment to something a bit farther from weapons.

#377 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 06:11 PM:

So many people are pretty normal, though, right up until something in the brain snaps, and they shoot themselves, or someone else.

Gun safes, locked, with the ammunition stored in a separate lock place (even a locked ammo box). Because slowing people down even a little helps.

#378 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 06:51 PM:

@ SamChèvre: No problem. I really like good social science and dislike the fake stuff, which just makes my job harder. Interesting note, not in Denney's study -- men raised before 2nd wave feminism had a much harder time psychologically with no-fault and streamlined divorce, but men of my generation seem to be handling it fine. (I'm an Xer.) Of course, we Xers marry later (economic reasons) and often cohabitated first, and we're more open to alternatives to monogamy. The oldest Xers are just hitting midlife crisis stage now, but so far, numbers are holding steady. Check back with me in 20 years; when we hit retirement age will be the next big test.

Lee @ 374: Not being a game developer, I'm not quite sure of the mechanics of how it could be done, but there are a lot of viral games that run via browser, and spread by people sending notice to Twitter, FB and so on. The first one (which name is escaping me and I'm failing my Google INT check) that I think most suits the scenario begins with the player as an agent searching for someone who has been marked a terrorist for escaping a quarantine. The game taught about surveillance, Internet privacy and media driven fear, and played in semi-real time. (It took several days, as clues were emailed to the player and leads followed.) It used Google maps and tools as part of the game-play.

The second one is a flash game called Spent, that is a mini choose your own adventure in living on the minimum wage. The player makes choices and the simulator alters getting through the month based on those choices.

A gory image doesn't make as deep an impression as it once did since we're so marinated in unreal gore. From a Choose Your Own Adventure setting, the player can be dropped into any number of scenarios with a timer and an innocent bystander counter. The faster the player makes decisions counts, but fast, violent decisions cost lives, which show up on the score counter. However, so does hesitating. The trick of the game could be that only following best practices (like don't be a casualty, find cover, help those less able to protect themselves first) results in a win.

#379 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 07:58 PM:

#376 ::: Jim Macdonald :

How much do you think routine mental health screening can catch?

#380 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 08:44 PM:

Nancy, mental health is what we do worst. I expect that most civilian-level mass screening would catch the equivalent of Missing A Leg.

#381 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 10:12 PM:

NRA doubles down: New gun laws won't work

CNN -- The National Rifle Association made clear Sunday it will not budge on its opposition to any new gun laws, despite heated criticism of the organization's response to the Connecticut school massacre.

"I know this town wants to argue about gun control," the group's CEO, Wayne LaPierre, told NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington. "I don't think it will work."

LaPierre stood by remarks he made at an event Friday billed as a news conference -- though he took no questions -- in which he argued for armed guards in schools.

"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," he said on Sunday.

Okay, Wayne. Anything you say.

How about this, instead? How about the Department of Homeland Security declares the NRA a domestic terrorist organization? If Wayne were named "Mohammed" they already would have.

#382 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 10:16 PM:

Jim Macdonald #380: I expect that most civilian-level mass screening would catch the equivalent of Missing A Leg.

Which is arguably an improvement... but the kicker is, AFAIK you can't spot the people who will be broken by future experiences. The thing is though, if you build the system right, the "screening" (besides catching the obvious cases isn't just a mental-health screening. First of all, you can spot (some) people with weak social networks, and refer them to services or even social groups. Also, you can make sure everyone knows there are local support services and how to contact them. If you don't have support services, then your screening is likely to be purely punitive (No gun for you! Also, forget about whole categories of jobs), and probably counterproductive.

#383 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 10:27 PM:

On the games subthread: I happen to be a game developer, so I'll toss out some thoughts.

The "realistic chance of successfully reacting in a crisis" game could conceivably be produced, but it'd have to be either a mod or a mini-game for a larger game, especially with the kind of AI/crowd modeling/physics that have been discussed here (they aren't easy to pull off from scratch, but there are existing engines you might be able to work with). I can actually see a company like Valve considering it, though the possible media controversy might dissuade them. I'm fairly certain that a gifted modder could build that simulation in the Counterstrike/Halflife engine. It's something that I can see conceivably being kickstarted, but it would be a lot of work for something that probably doesn't represent much of a payoff, and it could even possibly damage the careers of people involved (if some opposing political organization got it in their heads to smear someone, etc.)

Creating a game that is not designed to let you win easily or often isn't as big of a problem as you might imagine. There are quite a few successful games that are essentially "failure sims." In these games, you try to do something incredibly difficult and fail in painful and absurd ways. The most famous and ridiculous is QWOP, but I remember watching people play a motorcycle game where they attempted to complete an obstacle course, dying in hideous and painful ways every ten seconds. Punishing, repetitive failure is actually sometimes described as "Nintendo hard," referring to the games on the first generation NES, which were notoriously challenging. There's a subset of gamers who like these punishing difficulties, and the idea of a game designed not to be won is a pretty respectable meme in pop culture: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

Gamers tend to be "younger" (40 and under), and the demo contains people all across the political spectrum, so a game about the difficulties inherent in armed response could possibly find a decent audience. I can see a "food court hero" mode added to a squad-based tactical shooter, for instance... where after you've been playing with the smoothness and coordination of a highly trained ideal tactical squad, there's another mode where you play as an untrained civilian. The replays where you are slipping on the wet floor or getting trampled by panicked people would be part of the "fun," as it is in games devoted to fantastical car crashes, or examinations of the physics of the human body during skating accidents.

As for that "poverty simulation game," one already exists, and is completely heartbreaking: Play Spent. There are a few others, but I haven't played any of them. Google "poverty game" and you'll find at least half a dozen, probably more. They could be done in a variety of ways that haven't been tried yet, too.

The problem with these games (both hypothetical and existent) is the problem with all sorts of media that attempt to educate about political realities: your primary audience will be people who already agree with you.

And while a few members of the potential audience for a game like like "Spent" or our hypothetical "food court hero" game might actually understand and learn the appropriate lesson from them, many of the people who most badly need that lesson either won't play, or will play and then spend hundreds of hours online describing how the game is, in their minds, poorly designed.

#384 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 10:29 PM:

dunno why... have some peanut M&Ms?

[It was three spaces in a row. -- JDM]

#385 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 10:34 PM:

AFAIK you can't spot the people who will be broken by future experiences.

Quite right. Just as the Army found that you can't tell who'll be in the 15% group that actually fights in combat, rather than participating as unwilling bullet-catchers. 4.0 garrison soldiers, dirtbags in and out of the stockade for assault and insubordination ... no correlation. The only way to find out is to see what they do on the day.

We see the same thing in EMS. You don't know who's going to stick with it. The person who passes the class with flying colors, who aces the practical on the first try, all gung-ho to start running ... that same person, they go out on one call and you never see them again.

#386 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 11:01 PM:

Dave H., #382: you can't spot the people who will be broken by future experiences

It all keeps coming back around to that, doesn't it? Nobody can predict who will lose it or when it happens. The only approach to that which stands any chance of working is to reduce their ability to reach for a gun when it does. Or, for that matter, to stockpile guns for months in advance while planning one of these "sudden breaks". Which then gets reframed as "punishing people who haven't done anything wrong" and we go back to square 1, lather, rinse, repeat.

So help me, when the statements of a group of people make me actively flinch at the word "freedom", something is very, very wrong.

#387 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 07:01 AM:

Jim @ 381: I'm sure that if someone suggested that the way to stop teen drug use is to provide a variety of drugs in every school, Wayne would call that person crazy.

... and then there's this:

Ola Betiku ‏@OlaBetiku

After Trayvon Martin was shot, I don't remember the NRA saying that every black teenager should go out and get a gun for protection...
Retweeted by Neil Gaiman

#388 ::: johnofjack got gonmed ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 07:02 AM:

For citing a source on Twitter.

#389 ::: johnofjack got gnomed, actually ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 07:06 AM:

typo to the contrary. I'm not sure what it would mean to gonm somebody, though it puts me in mind of both Gangnam and Gundam.

#391 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 08:44 AM:

Probably for Facebook/twitter link.

#392 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 10:44 AM:


Are those things just observed correlations, or is there some evidence or argument that they're causal? I wouldn't be surprised if having few contacts with friends or family led people to suicide, but I also wouldn't be surprised if the same mental problems that led to losing touch with friends and family also led to suicide.

Anytime you see correlations between bad life outcomes and suicide, it seems likely that there is a mental health problem driving both--the same depression that lost you your job and wrecked your marriage leads you to suicide, say.

#393 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 10:48 AM:

Weren't most of the recent high-profile mass-shooters already under the care of some kind of psychologist? If so, that suggests that providing mental health care won't have that big an impact. I remember reading that the VA Tech and Aurora mass-shooters had not only been under some kind of care, but their psychologists had both noted dangerous patterns and alerted some authorities--so maybe we need to combine that care with taking the doctors' warnings seriously.

#394 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:10 AM:

albatross #392: Mental health problems aren't always endogenous... you can also get depression triggered, (or, of course, aggravated) by external events, including abusive workplaces, getting fired because the company's closing your store, finding out your spouse is cheating on you, etc.. And likewise, external stress can imperil a marriage....

#395 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:10 AM:

Providing mental health care to everyone is necessary but not sufficient. Heck, providing just regular health care to everyone is necessary. Wouldn't it be interesting if what gets single-payer, tax-supported health care for us starts as single-payer, tax-supported mental health screenings to stop spree shootings?

#396 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:23 AM:

And in Webster NY, 4 firemen were shot responding to a house fire. 2 are dead, 2 in hospital.

#397 ::: Lizzy L is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:24 AM:

Would the gnomes care for some hot chocolate? It can be arranged.

#398 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:44 AM:

Oh F******!!
They're in a dangerous job, and someone decides to shoot at them???

#399 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 12:27 PM:

praisegod barebones @ 363,

Part of the crazy-making aspect of this circus from the perspective of people not used to living inside the United States, is that our courts have adopted an expansive view of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is notoriously difficult to change even when we don't— like we do now— have rump minority of stooges in the Congress willing to burn the country to cinders to keep from having to adjust to a new political realignment.

It's so extraordinarily difficult— simply as a matter of law, much less as a practical matter— to do the obvious thing, i.e. strongly regulate the private trade in firearms, that we're pretty much forced to consider half-assed measures aimed at pitting two or more fiercely competitive power centers against each other in a competition and hope the side effects can be made beneficial.

So I skipped a few steps getting to the point of adopting a 3rd-party liability insurance scheme. Let me highlight them now.

p1. Hand in hand with adopting a requirement to carry liability insurance before handling firearms, we would certainly need to adopt some kind of scheme whereby people could be held accountable for mishandling firearms. We don't really have that in the United States.

p2. Creating yet another way that High Finance can profit from small arms proliferation would be more troubling if that sector of the economy didn't already have a lot of ways to profit from it and powerful interests in expanding it. So, yes, the idea here is to shift the interest the arms trade away from profiting from the huge volatility provided by all the mayhem, and toward profiting from the less volatile but likely more reliable insurance premiums.

#400 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 12:40 PM:

Just read a very relevant story in the YA anthology After: "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ford. It posits a near-future in which every high-school student is armed, with the Senator who made this possible as a very minor character. It's the next logical step from what the NRA has suggested, and it's a really unsettling story in the current situation. I'm surprised more people haven't started talking about it.

#401 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 01:37 PM:

Albatross @ 392:

That's a population study, so purely observational and thus, correlational. Given a data set of 1M, it couldn't be anything but correlational. Smaller data set studies have looked at previous mental health care records, but those are not as robust in methodology, and the conclusions are muddier. (Silly humans, demanding medical records be private and not wanting to live in perfectly spherical labs...) In the US, out-patient mental health is still very young, and expensive -- half of all health insurance doesn't cover it, those that do don't cover it well -- average of 10 counseling sessions per year, higher copays, and there is still a stigma about using those benefits when they do exist. (It is not illegal in right to work states to fire an employee for using benefits and proving that was the cause is difficult.) I'm looking for a comparable EU study right now.

Your question is the underlying question of almost all psychology -- is mental illness idiopathic or environmental? (And thus, how do we treat it?) I'm somewhere in the middle -- if political science and sociology would do their half of the job and build a robust safety net, then psychology and psychiatry would have more time for treating the rest. The advantage of the big correlational studies is once we can identify the markers, regardless of whether they're chicken or egg, then we can work backwards from the markers in smaller scale studies.

#402 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 03:16 PM:

Jim MacDonald @395

Curses, you've toppled my nefarious plan.

#403 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 03:39 PM:

Ohio governor signs law slightly weakening gun controls

(Reuters) - Ohio's Republican Governor Johns Kasich on Thursday signed into law a measure that would slightly weaken the state's law on carrying concealed weapons, less than a week after a Connecticut school massacre focused national attention on gun control.

The bill would require Ohio residents demonstrate competency with the weapon only once rather than each time the concealed carry permit expires. It also would allow carrying concealed weapons in the parking garage of the State Capitol.

#404 ::: Nameless Regular ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 04:24 PM:

Argh. Elderly conservative (but not Fox-watching, thank you Jesus) relative just forwarded an email about how one of the Columbine parents testified before that House that it was all those damn liberals' fault because kids can't pray in school anymore. ARGH.

#405 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 04:25 PM:

Last night I came across a comments thread from 2011 on Offbeat Home, on the topic of "would you get a gun for home security?" Bear in mind that all the commenters in the thread were people who could have a discussion on a fraught topic without a flame war breaking out.

Several commenters on the pro-gun side kept repeating two statements which to me seemed bizarre and horrifying, but which they viewed as simple common sense, and which seemed to be the two main reasons they kept guns:

Premise 1: if someone breaks into your home, it is a given that they plan to murder you and your family, in addition to stealing your stuff. Attacking them is therefore your best chance of survival.
Premise 2: If you attack someone in self defense, make sure they end up dead, so they can't tell the police a story that contradicts yours.

Every few comments someone would respond to Premise 2 with "Wait, are you actually advocating killing someone to save legal hassle?" and would get a response of "Can't help it, it's the crazy law system -- burglars have successfully sued homeowners for injuries they got breaking into their house." (Anyone know if this is true, or is this an urban legend or a misstatement of a real case like the McDonalds hot-coffee lawsuit?) Meanwhile, several posters from other parts of the world were saying things like "um, the one time we got broken into, we just chased the guy off with a frying pan and he never bothered us again."

Finally much further down, someone warned people to check their state's self-defense laws during their firearms training if they did decide to get a gun, as in some places "self-defense" requires you to make a credible case that your life really was in danger. Suddenly the reason for the "make sure they don't survive to contradict your statement" rule became clear to me.

The thing is, I believe the posters who'd been advocating it had sincerely believed that it was an honest and sensible course to take in an emergency.

#406 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 04:45 PM:

Sarah @ 405: I grew up armit-deep in the gun culture. I'm not a big gun enthusiast, but I know well and love dearly many people who are. The culture is not foreign to me.

The business about making sure that you kill anyone you shoot is absolutely authentic. As far as I can tell, it's a universally held belief among gun enthusiasts. I don't know if it's good legal advice or not, but it's certainly the kind of thing gun people say to each other all the time.

I thought of this when I read about that Minnesota whack-job who thought it was morally and legally proper to use a handgun to kill a badly wounded teenage girl who'd broken into his home, and whom he'd already shot with a rifle.

If you're wondering where someone can get the idea that they're on the side of the angels when they stand over a gravely wounded young girl and put a bullet in her brain, my answer is that you can believe absolutely anything if you mostly hang around with other people who believe it.

Some of these guys just live for the day they finally get an excuse to put a bullet in somebody.

#407 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 04:55 PM:

Sarah and Laertes: I wonder if that belief mutated from an earlier form that discouraged warning shots and "shoot to wound" vs. "if you're going to shoot at all, don't fool around; aim for center mass".

#408 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 05:47 PM:

The Minnesota asshole that Laertes mentioned in #406 is here.

#409 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 06:27 PM:

I remember hearing the same advice/common wisdom as a kid, including the bizarre notion that you should move the body inside your house, if you shot him on the way out of the house. I'm no lawyer or anything, but I've got to guess that tampering with the scene after a self-defense shooting is an immensely bad idea. Once the jury hears you tampered with the scene and lied to the cops, how likely are they to believe anything else you say?

#410 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 06:41 PM:

albatross @ 409: Yeah, my gun guys also used to talk about the "move the body back into the house" thing. Sounded dodgy to me too, but it was gospel to all of them.

They seemed to more concerned about what the responding officers would think and do, rather than what some jury would do. About half of these guys were the sons of police officers. The idea I got, at least among these guys, was that a body inside the house was less likely to lead to a jury trial than a body outside the house. The presumption was that the police would be on the side of the shooter, and the aim was to present them with a scene that permitted them to quickly close the case.

#411 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 07:44 PM:

Jim Macdonald #408, albatross #409, Laertes #410:
I notice a few interesting things about that story:
* Applying to the general trend: Never mind forensics, do these folks think the cops are idiots? An execution like that one isn't going to even remotely resemble "shot and killed in progress of robbery". Even shooting someone who's already prone will leave plenty of tip-offs for forensics.
* BTW, so will "moving the body inside the house" -- if the cops are even slightly suspicious about the scene (and at least some of them have likely seen more such scenes than the shooter has), or if they're not so eager to dismiss it as "dude took down some trash"... then the killer is screwed.
* But then, far from actually trying to pretend that was actual self-defense, this one was apparently bragging to the cops about how he made sure they were dead.
* This asshole had apparently been a "security officer" for the State Dept. Does that just translate to "armed guard"? What training would it imply? Perhaps in the relevant laws?
* Not to mention claiming he didn't call the cops for a couple days because "he didn't want to bother them over a holiday weekend". That might well be a crime in it's own right....
* Come to think of it, why would he be charged with second-degree murder instead of first-degree?

#412 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 07:49 PM:

Dave Harmon @411 -- you'd have a hard time convincing me that the murder was premeditated, a requirement for first-degree. Second-degree is plenty bad enough.

#413 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 08:58 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 411 But then, far from actually trying to pretend that was actual self-defense, this one was apparently bragging to the cops about how he made sure they were dead.

I suspect that, in his mind, this was self-defense, and that he felt so certain that he was acting well within the four corners of the law that he offered that statement about the "nice clean finishing shot" without imagining it might implicate him.

The gun people I've known, it would never occur to them that they aren't allowed to torture and eventually murder anyone who's inside their home without their permission. I've heard many discussions about when you're allowed to shoot and when you're not. I've never heard one about a case in which one shot was permitted and a second was not. To these guys, once they've disabled or disarmed an invader, they're holding the winning lottery ticket they've long dreamed of, and it's time to play out all the dark vengeance fantasies they've been nurturing all this time.

(Come to think of it, I've heard a few discussions about how one should take care to avoid shooting home invaders in the back. Best practice, it seems, is to instruct your prey to face you before you fire. It's also good form to stand at least a few feet away.)

The idea that they're allowed to kill under certain circumstances, they understand that reasonably well. The idea that that could change once circumstances have changed and they've demonstrated that they're no longer in any reasonable fear for their lives--say, after they've dragged a grievously wounded victim around the house a bit and had a bit of fun with their living rag doll, thus demonstrating that they are no longer in any physical danger--I'd be surprised if that'd ever occur to these guys.

Given what I'm seeing in comments on various new stories about this case, it seems that there's a lot of that going around.

#414 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 09:12 PM:

CZEdwards, #401: It is not illegal in right to work states to fire an employee for using benefits and proving that was the cause is difficult.

There is so much Wrong in that sentence that I'm having trouble finding the words to express it. Although we could start with the Orwellian nature of calling laws under which employees have no rights at all "right-to-work"...

Your question is the underlying question of almost all psychology -- is mental illness idiopathic or environmental?

From my own layman's viewpoint, that's a silly question to ask because the answer is so clearly "both". Part of the reason that clinical depression (idiopathic) is so poorly understood outside the mental-health field is that many people undergo episodes of situational depression (environmental) and have trouble grasping the difference. Beyond depression it's not as clear-cut, but I think there's a good case to be made for environmentally-produced paranoia mediated by Faux News and hate radio.

Sarah, #405: I have more trouble believing Premise 1 than I do Premise 2. IIRC, most people who want to steal stuff do not want to find anyone in the house when they break in, and are likely to cut and run if confronted. This may not hold true if they are actually hopped-up on something at the time.

Premise 2, though, is something I've been advocating for a long time in the case of fighting back against stranger-rape. And the reasons for that should be tolerably obvious.

Jim, #408: Another white guy, I notice.

Tom, #412: IMO, "finishing shots" after the other person is already down and helpless qualify as premeditation. He had the option of not killing them, and chose to do it anyway.

#415 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 09:32 PM:

This asshole had apparently been a "security officer" for the State Dept. Does that just translate to "armed guard"?

Not necessarily. A security officer could just be the guy who signs classified documents out of and back into the safe.

I note that this asshole used a Ruger mini-14. That weapon comes in two configurations: One is the standard hunting-style rifle with the wooden stock and forearm. The other is an assault-style weapon with a pistol grip, collapsible stock, and extended magazine.

Mechanically, internally, those weapons are identical.

Without knowing any more about this case than what was in that one story, I do wonder which model the asshole owned.

#416 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 09:39 PM:

Lee #414

Jim, #408: Another white guy, I notice.

What of it? So were the victims.

#417 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 09:51 PM:

Laertes, #413: The gun people I've known, it would never occur to them that they aren't allowed to torture and eventually murder anyone who's inside their home without their permission.

And in Texas, they absolutely can. Once someone is inside your domicile without your permission, they are yours to do with as you will. This would also explain the meme of "if they're outside, drag them inside". But that isn't the case in Minnesota, so that creep is SOL.

#418 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 09:59 PM:

And he's only being charged with SECOND-degree murder! WHAT DOES IT TAKE? Clearly, as Lee points out, premeditation.

And Lee...I bet that leads to a lot of people in Texas doing murders and then claiming the person was in their house without permission. No way to prove it after the fact.

Once again, the United States is not a civilized country, and Texas is the most uncivilized state.

#419 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:55 PM:

Nosing around a bit, I stumble across the "Defense of Dwelling and Person Act" which was pushed by MN Republicans and vetoed not long ago by the Governor. I gather it would have complicated the Byron Smith case somewhat.

Here's a link to what I think was the text of the bill:

I'm struck by how sneaky, cowardly, and weaselly this bill is. The bits that jump out me:

At 1.22, criminal background checks (pursuant to exactly what, I can't tell, but I'm going to guess it has something to do with gun permits) are weakened. Rather than delete the language that offends the gunners, they just leave it in place but render it toothless by changing a shall to a may. Feh.

3.30 "JUSTIFIABLE TAKING OF LIFE" is changed to "JUSTIFIABLE USE OF DEADLY FORCE IN DEFENSE OF HOME AND PERSON." Boil it down and these titles are saying the same thing, but the overall sense of the thing is radically different. The act of taking life vanishes--where it had been expressed clearly, it now lives on merely as an implication of the word "deadly" and we have some gunner propaganda tacked on to the end. It's as though a statute defining MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE was changed to NOT-AT-ALL DEADLY FOOLING AROUND THAT, TOTALLY BY ACCIDENT, LEADS TO THE DEATH OF SOME GUY WHO PROBABLY HAD IT COMING ANYWAY.

I'm also...okay, on second thought I'm not going to keep going because reading this horror of a bill makes my blood boil, and I just can't take it all in in one go to do a proper summary. Lacking legal training I'd likely miss a lot of important stuff and misunderstand some of what I do find, and anyway the damn-fool thing got vetoed so it's kind of getting angry over nothing.

It's fascinating, though, as an illustration of exactly where the battle lines are drawn right now in one not-yet-completely-crazy state.

For all the talk of banning this or that kind of gun, I wonder if we might do as much or more good by rolling back all these little adjustments to background checks and honoring out-of-state concealed carry permits and broadening self-defense laws.

#420 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 04:46 PM:

Lee @335: According to the article SamChevre linked, divorce is one of the things which statistically seriously increases the risk of suicide. It should also be noted that separation and/or divorce seriously increases the risk of homicide as well -- some people decide to kill themselves, others to kill the person who left them.

Obviously, the thing to do is to outlaw marriage. That would solve a whole host of problems. :-)

#421 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 05:15 PM:

Tom Whitmore #412: The asshole stated outright that he wanted to kill those kids, and he did so after there was clearly no remaining danger to his person.

#422 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 05:54 PM:

Tom, IIUC, premeditation doesn't have to be planning days in advance. If you think "I guess I'll kill this person" and then do it, that's premeditation. Second degree, again IIUC, is where you shoot before quite deciding to and they die (or, in some states, where someone dies as a result of your commission of a felony, even if you didn't kill them).

This guy premeditated and killed and had none of the valid excuses like self-defense. He's just a bloodthirsty asshole and should be in prison for good.


#423 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 06:16 PM:

Given that second degree murder in Minnesota gets 20-30 years in prison, and this asshole is in his sixties now, a conviction will probably be a life sentence ... and a second degree murder conviction is probably a lot easier to get than a first degree conviction. Reasonable doubt and all that.

#424 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 06:28 PM:

We should probably also mention the asshole in New York who set a fire on Christmas Eve then shot the responding firefighters, killing two of them. Seven houses burned to the ground and an eighth was severely damaged by fire.

This asshole, too, used an assault-style rifle.

#425 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:12 PM:

Lee @417: It is absolutely not true that Texas law allows you to do whatever you wish to an intruder in your home.

What it does is allow someone to assume that someone unlawfully and forcefully entering their occupied home, vehicle, or place of business means them harm; there is no need to prove any more than the unlawful and forceful entry.

The standard rules of self-defense with lethal force still otherwise apply. Executing an incapacitated criminal is still illegal, as would be torturing them.

It'd be nice to criticize the actual laws rather than mischaracterizations of them.

#426 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:13 PM:

Oh, and I forgot to link to the actual change in Texas law that allowed it:

#427 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:21 PM:

Jim, #416: cf. "unmarked state"

and @423: I'll take that as a good reason to go for second- rather than first-degree. The important thing is getting him off the streets.

#428 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:40 PM:

It strikes me that one of the issues is how a very toxic gun culture has grown up over the years in the US.

That culture does not consist of all gun owners. It doesn't contain me (as someone who's spent a fair amount of time shooting, though I presently don't own a gun), or the gun owners I personally know and am friends or acquaintances with.

But it includes the kind of people that if I see too many of them at a firing range, I don't go back there. The kind of people that work at shooting stores I won't frequent. It's a mindset I see in way too many articles in even the published firearms press, let alone online.

I think responsible firearms owners have to work to change the culture, and the law. It's incumbent on us, in fact, to do so; we are the ones who benefit from being able to legally own guns, and we should especially work hard to mitigate the dangers of them.

#429 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:59 PM:

Interesting discussion.

Here, in the first place, IF I had access to a firearm in my home (unlikely) and I shot a home invader with it, I would automatically be charged appropriately. There would be no question about not laying charges. A defence of self-defence (so to speak) might get up, but there would be no question about a cop making that decision - that would be up to a jury.

At the trial, for self-defence to fly, I would need to show that I was in reasonable fear of my life or the life of another. The intruder being on my property, in my house, stealing my stuff - that would be irrelevant. I would have to convince the jury that the intruder was actually and credibly threatening me or another, AND that the deadly force I used was commensurate to the threat actually posed.

So if I killed an intruder who was running away, even if he/she were still in my house, it's murder. Manslaughter would be an alternative if the jury were convinced that I had not formed an intention to kill; wilful murder if they were convinced that there was premeditation; that is, that I had time for reflection, and still killed, meaning to kill. "Murder" approximates to "second degree", I believe. "Wilful murder" to first.

"Credible threat" means what it means to a well-instructed jury. It appears to have been taken to mean that there was a well-founded belief that the deceased had been armed or physically more powerful than the killer; and that the deceased had actually threatened physical violence or at least advanced in a threatening manner on the killer or another.

Of course, nothing is hard or fast. Circumstances alter cases.

#430 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 09:13 PM:

Lee @ 414:

Oh, yeah, it's so filled with wrong. And of course, the people who are already sick (be it a physical or mental illness) are the least prepared to spend time, money and health on getting a lawyer and fighting a much better funded company. Under ADA, a person can't be fired for getting sick, but they can be fired for absenteeism, tardiness, or just no longer being an asset to the company. Employers know this. The ethical ones have disability insurance as part of the benefits package, but in a minimum wage, kept at 29.5 hours a week to prevent full time from kicking in? Not so much.

Jacque @ 420:

You may be on to something there. Consensus is still out, but there is some evidence that the rate of domestic violence is decreasing in parallel with the rate of marriage. (And intimate partner violence is down in aggregate, incidents like Longmont's most recent not withstanding.)

#431 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 09:45 PM:

Matthew Brown @425: I am very glad to hear that Texas law is not so terrible as has been implied. However, I should note that when I moved to Texas, multiple people living within the state told me outright that I should get a gun, and that I could kill anyone on my property who was there without my permission, with impunity.

A few of them went so far as to add that this would be easier to get away with because I'm female and white. But many people seemed quite convinced that this could be easily done. With quotes like "If you shoot someone while they're running away, just make sure to drag them back inside before you call the police. And then the police won't even ask any questions."

So it is, I think, a relevant point of data, that even if the law doesn't say that's okay... a lot of people in this state seem to believe that it's allowed anyway.

#432 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2012, 01:04 AM:

@Fade Manley: indeed -- the written law is only one aspect of things. What people believe is permissible is another; what police think, likewise; what judges and case law think; and what juries think.

Witness how lynchings were (I believe -- correct me if I'm wrong) consistently illegal and murder, according to the letter of the law, in the post-Civil War South. Finding a police officer, prosecutor, judge or jury who would consider a lyncher guilty was quite another matter.

#433 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2012, 03:00 AM:

xopher @418: I just finished reading Harry Crews' A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, which is his account of growing up in the rural South in the 1930s and 1940s. One of the things that struck me was the social code about settling disputes, particularly ones that happened on someone's land. A man who was insulted or threatened didn't call the sheriff, because that was tantamount to admitting that he couldn't protect himself without the sheriff hovering by (and thus, if the sheriff wasn't around, as was the case virtually all of the time, that man became a target). If an altercation happened on a man's property and the other man died, well, the sheriff would show up, hear the story and leave; as long as the story made sense, there wasn't any question of investigating as to whether the landowner acted rightfully in killing someone on his property.

Dave @429, there's an old saying among experienced criminal-defense attorneys that the way to beat a murder charge is to show the victim needed killing and your client was the man for the job. Obviously that doesn't fly everywhere, but in an area like Fade Manley describes @431?

#434 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 03:09 AM:

Jim Macdonald #180
Given that the psychological is likely a big part of the problem, I'd say, sure, ban the scary-looking weapons. Ruin the fantasy. Make the bad guys look like Elmer Fudd rather than Rambo.

Oh yes! I love that!

Re gated communities and paranoia - the one near where I live has the highest population of registered sex-offenders in California...

#435 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 04:51 AM:

MinaW @434

Re gated communities and paranoia - the one near where I live has the highest population of registered sex-offenders in California...

I think that we Brits would call it a prison.

#436 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 05:52 AM:

Inspired by Dave Lucket #429 - here in the UK things are a little different, but here's an example of firearms use against burglars:

Nobody was killed, which obviously made it a bit easier. The couple were arrested at first, which caused a ruckus amongst the media and know nothings. But the police are obliged to investigate, and arresting people is usually the best way to do so since it allows a proper talk, investigation of the scene without interference etc. The CPS then decided not to prosecute and the burglars were later jailed.
So generally a win all round, and surely an example of how laws etc should work.

By contrast, Tony Martin was sent to prison because he lay in wait for the teenagers who were persecuting him and then shot someone in the back as they were running away.

#437 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 07:54 AM:

I have an idea, but have found no information to support it, that a large number of gun deaths (homicide, accident, etc.) are committed with, for lack of a better word, cheap guns.

Also that a large number of gun deaths are committed by people with short-term views of the future (eg heroin addicts, people who just found out their spouse is cheating, twelve year olds screwing around, etc.)

If these are both true, this makes a "serious money" gun buyback useful. I'm thinking something like "five hundred dollars a gun, the gun must be five years old or older and in operating condition, runs from black friday to Christmas." Cash for clunkers.

Some people will spend the five hundred dollars on new guns or drugs, it is true. Some will spend the money on Christmas presents, though, or utility bills, or warm shoes.

I'm thinking that (say) 6 million guns off the proverbial street might cut gun deaths and injuries by a really disproportionate amount. I don't have quite enough evidence to really stand behind this statement, though. Opinions?

#438 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 09:02 AM:


I don't know how much is offered, but gun buybacks are relatively common in big cities. It would be interesting to see of there's any detectable decrease in gun deaths after them.

#439 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 10:18 AM:

The gun buyback probably helped in Australia, since the aim was to reduce the number of guns around. The problem in the USA is surely how cheap are the guns, and the porousness of any setup that isn't national. If you could buy an old gun for $100 and sell it to the government for $500, I foresee sudden imports of old handguns from wherever they can be found.

#440 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Los Angeles had its annual gun buyback last Wednesday. Among the over 2000 guns collected were 75 assault rifles.

#441 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 01:01 PM:

Janet @400

And two rocket launchers.

#442 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 01:02 PM:

Err, slip of the fingers. That should have been "Janet @440". Sorry.

#443 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2012, 09:55 PM:

I saw a picture of one of their bought-back items. I though it was a grenade launcher, but a rocket-propelled grenade would seem to fit the description. And WTF it was doing in someone's private possession is a question that really needs to be asked and answered.

#445 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 01:33 AM:

CZEdwards, #430: Unfortunately, the homicide/suicide response to a breakup doesn't seem to be limited to marriages; anything that one of the parties perceives as a long-term relationship will do.

#446 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 02:55 AM:

The link didn't work.

As to what such things are doing in people's private possession -- you'd be astounded what soldiers bring home as souvenirs.

This particular buy-back offered pennies on the dollar for the weapons. If there were ever a mandatory buy-back, trying to get collectors' weapons, for example, I'd hope they'd pay full market price.

#447 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 05:35 AM:

Jim @446

I am pretty sure that the "rocket launcher"—the link worked for me and there was a photo of a policeman holding it—is an M136 LAW single-shot weapon, also known as the AT4. And it's a recoilless gun. Swedish design, manufactured for the US Army in the USA.

If it had been fired, all the Police would have seen is an empty tube with basic sights and a firing mechanism. It looks to be well-labelled, and they ought to be able to figure out what it is, but as soon as a journalist sees it, all bets are off. It's like every armoured car and personnel carrier being called a tank.

#448 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 09:53 AM:

Dave, how'd you get the link to work? The link at 444 isn't attached to anything.

And a LAW rocket will fit in a duffel bag. Anything that'll fit in a duffel bag, it's a good bet that it came come with a returning soldier.

#449 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 11:37 AM:

Sorry, Jim, the link I used was in #440. I didn't realise #444 had a link.

The M72 LAW is a bit smaller than the M136 but I agree they're not huge. What's significant is that it is US issue. It does not absolutely have to come from overseas. But I expect it can be traced within the supply chain in the USA, at least.

#450 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 12:16 PM:

Damn, the link broke. Try again. (The first time I was aiming at the actual picture,not the story.)

#451 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 12:21 PM:

The story I read, not the one with the photo, said that (IIRC) AT-4s are apparently favored by gangs.

#452 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 02:08 PM:

AT-4'S against WHAT? It was designed as a tank killer. Are they taking out armored cars?

#453 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 04:58 PM:


Well, you've got to admit, it's hard to beat the stopping power of an antitank rocket. No mugger you shoot with *that* thing is going to get back up and shoot you.

#454 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 05:41 PM:

albatross: True, but if you miss he's going to ignore the explosion behind him just to beat you to death with the launcher.

#455 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 05:55 PM:

I think it's more the Action Movie Fantasy again; "Woo! You have an anti-tank rocket! You must be really badass!"

See also how assorted inner-city youth started firing their pistols sideways, because that's the way they saw guys do it in the movies, not aware that the reason the guys in the movies were doing it that was was because the fight arranger didn't want hot brass to fly into the actors' eyes. They did it to look cool, even though it's nearly impossible to aim the weapon that way.

And why doesn't this matter? Because looking cool and making a lot of noise is the important part, not hitting a target.

See above, macho fantasies.

#456 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 11:19 PM:

Perhaps the right way to deal with the macho fantasy is simply to accept it. You can buy the perfectly functional gun with the pink paint and the Hello Kitty logos on it, or the really badass-looking Rambo gun that is, underneath the cool-looking exterior, a single-shot bolt action .22.

#457 ::: John A Arkansawyr ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 01:47 AM:

Bruce @ 454: I don't know that would work. My understanding of LAWs is that, once they're fired, one drops them to the ground and crunches them with ones foot. This prevents a hostile from boobytrapping it for the unsuspecting who might really need one.

I've never handled one, so I could be wrong, but this is what I've been told by people who have.

#458 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 02:30 AM:

The news story said that these two rockets were sans rocket. Demo/classroom pieces? Props?

#459 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 05:44 AM:

I think that, if I were the Army, I would want to have a look at those rocket launchers, if only to figure out the likely source: fired on a US range, or classroom item, or brought back from overseas. Whether it's worth a full-blown game of hunt the soldier, knowing it was not live when last seen is something that matters.

One of the pictures, at the edge of the frame, showed a small part of wooden-stocked rifle. Not enough to be sure, but possibly an M1 Garand. Given the situation, I find myself wondering at the reaction. It isn't an evil assault weapon, so why have it at a press call? Or was it an M14-type? There's at least one semi-auto rifle of that M1/M14 type with that sticky-out magazine.

Politics, I guess. Scare the taxpayers. Ho-hum, what's new?

#460 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 10:01 AM:

#456 ::: albatross

Cute, but I expect it wouldn't be too hard to paint or refinish a gun.

#461 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 11:09 AM:

Several people elsewhere have said that the yellow ring indicates training equipment, and that they're only good for one shot. (I'm sure there are people here who would know if that's true.)

I doubt that the LAPD is going to track down the people who turned them in and take back the grocery-store gift cards.

#462 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 12:41 PM:

Re: Rocket Launcher* -- if you were a cop, and you knew two of these had surfaced in LA -- wouldn't you feel the hair rising on the back of your neck when you consider the possibility that there are LIVE ones out there?

*Now I'm going to have Black Book Band in the back of my head all day...

#463 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 03:05 PM:

As I understand it, the whole point was "no questions asked". If they start asking questions now, there might well be fewer turned in in the future.

#464 ::: Farley ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 03:13 PM:

The LA buy-back "rocket launchers" were demilled, as in rendered inert and non-fireable. Non-operable scary-looking metal tubes, not functioning weapons. As dangerous as a metal fence post.

#465 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 05:47 PM:

Farley (464): Source?

#466 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2012, 06:39 PM:

This here is the LAW that I'd heard about from others. The failure to reference the possible boobytrapping of an exhausted launcher is surely Wikipedia's fault, as it is simply not possible that I was misinformed over beers.

Once fired in combat the launcher is required to be destroyed to prevent its use by the enemy. Due to the single use nature of the weapon, it was issued as what is called a "wooden-round"[8] of ammunition by the Canadian Army and the United States Army, requiring no checks or maintenance, just as small arms ammunition can be stored in the same manner for years without any problems.

This appears to be its replacement. This one has an outer shell of fiberglass, which sounds much more like the underfoot crunchy that was described to me.

#467 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 03:12 AM:

@464 and @465

Partly the pictures, partly a bit of Google searching, but the rocket launcher is a use-once weapon, with seals on the ends of the tube. The pictures show the seals are missing. There are inert training versions, with specific markings on the tube, and there appear to be those markings on the rocket launcher shown.

The inert version is what you use for training people to handle the thing. It could easily be in a National Guard Armory and used without even going to a range. There's another version with a special sub-calibre component for actual shooting practise.

These things cannot be reloaded. The only way you can get the propellant and projectile is in another firing tube, unless you have access to the factory.

Also relevant, they're a recoilless gun rather than a rocket launcher. There's a lot of pressure in that tube when it fires, and it's designed to be just strong enough.

There are rocket launchers I would be far more worried about. Many of the alternatives are even able to be fired from a confined space, and would be ideal to use from the window of a meth factory.

You wouldn't want to be within range...

#469 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 04:52 PM:

I remember seeing M72 LAW tubes for sale in surplus stores in the 80s for about $20 a pop. They were well-worn inert training devices, with busted triggers and arming handles. This was around the time that the AT4 was being more widely adopted.

When I trained on the M72 in the late 80s, we were taught to stomp on them after firing to prevent them from being booby-trapped.

#470 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 01:30 PM:

albatross @456: ... in the spirit of the "macho" guys who wear hair-nets.

#471 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 07:35 PM:

Bearing Witness to Gun Violence including this little bit:

Emergency rooms are themselves volatile environments, not immune to violence. Over the last decade, a quarter of gun crimes in American E.R.’s were committed with guns wrested from armed guards.
#472 ::: eric is doing the gnome thing ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 07:37 PM:

Half of a chocolate espresso bar?

#473 ::: Matthew Jude Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2013, 04:15 PM:

Jim @ 468: I'm not sure there's evidence that anything does any good, in mass shootings. They generally are over before anyone can intervene, whether cops, security guards, or the public.

It really doesn't take long to kill a few dozen people, and it generally doesn't take long for the killer's appetite for murder is sated, either. Most of the killers subdued by those nearby had stopped shooting by that point, whether by loss of desire to kill any more, or technical reasons (gun jam, out of ammunition, etc.)

So yes, I think the NRA is full of shit and pushing its agenda. Ain't the only one, though; pretty much all the suggestions to prevent such things are nonsense and pushing other agendas.

How do we prevent mass killings? Lack of widespread weapons ownership; it's probably the only thing that works, and even then, not completely. If we're not willing to do that, and my feeling is that we're not, then everything else is pointless.

Tough gun licensing and gun-securing requirements didn't stop the British massacres at Hungerford and Dunblane, both committed by gun owners who passed the requirements.

Designing the law around the rare incidence of the mass killing of strangers isn't the answer, anyway. The arguments actually taking place aren't really about this, most of them; they're using this as an opportunity to talk about wider issues, whether sensibly or poorly.

#474 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2013, 05:15 PM:

#473 Matthew --

Actually, there is something that can be done (absent removing the easy access to weapons): If you hear gunfire make yourself one with the ground, then consider your options. If it's distant, get the heck out of there. Distance = safety. If it's close, remain under cover/in concealment; barricade if possible. If very close and flight/concealment aren't possible, fight. At the ranges at which pistols would be useful, remember that simple expedients like a handful of change thrown at a guy's face will give you the time to close the distance and get into a hand-to-hand situation.

If you're that close and he's already shooting, there isn't anything you could do even if you had a machine gun strapped to your back, NRA Hero-myths to the contrary.

See my post and comments on the thread Keep Your Head Down.

You might want to familiarize yourself with what firearms sound like. It isn't in the movies/on TV.

#475 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:17 AM:

NH House bans guns from floor and gallery

CONCORD - The House voted Wednesday to ban weapons from Representatives Hall, its anteroom and gallery, though numerous lawmakers warned they do not want to be sitting ducks in a "gun-free killing zone."

The 196-153 vote reinstates a policy in place for 40 years - until two years ago, when the first action of the newly elected House under former House speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, was to lift the ban on carrying firearms, although they could not be displayed.

#476 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:15 AM:

And there's another killing (4 people) in Aurora CO tonight -- hostage situation, the hostages were killed, looks like suicide-by-cop for the hostage taker (my guess, from the description of what happened).

#477 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 03:31 AM:

Nobody is saying that keeping most firearms, all semi-automatic and automatic firearms, and pretty much all handguns out of the hands of ordinary civilians would stop gun massacres, only that it would much reduce them, and any steps in that direction would do something to reduce them.

But I accept the advice I received, that it's impossible to amend the Constitution and laws so that military-style weapons at least may be carried only by "well-regulated militias" commanded by officers holding a current US commission. US culture simply won't accept that, no matter how many people are killed by these weapons in the hands of random crazies.

Very well. There is nothing further to be said.

#478 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 11:19 AM:

My favorite piece in response to the Newtown situation was from (surprisingly to no one) Ta-Nehisi Coates; the whole thing is well worth reading, but these two paragraphs speak for me.

if I have "have a gun" in that situation, other things are then also true of my life. In other words, there is no "me" as I am right now that would have a gun. That "me" would spend a good amount time being responsible for his weapon. It's not so much a situation that, if I were with you and we were facing down a crazy dude, I wouldn't want to have a gun. It's that I've already made choices that guarantee that I couldn't have one. It just isn't possible, given my life choices.

And the fact is that I would actually rather die by shooting than live armed.

This is not mere cant. It is not enough to have a gun, anymore than it's enough to have a baby. It's a responsibility. I would have to orient myself to that fact. I'd have to be trained and I would have to, with some regularity, keep up my shooting skills. I would have to think about the weight I carried on my hip and think about how people might respond to me should they happen to notice. I would have to think about the cops and how I would interact with them, should we come into contact. I'd have to think about my own anger issues and remember that I can never be an position where I have a rage black-out. What I am saying is, if I were gun-owner, I would feel it to be really important that I be a responsible gun-owner, just like, when our kids were born, we both felt the need to be responsible parents. The difference is I like "living" as a parent. I accept the responsibility and rewards of parenting. I don't really want the responsibilities and rewards of gun-ownership.

#479 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:06 PM:

SamChevre @478: Thanks for the link, I'm about to go read it, but those 2 paragraphs capture in a way I've never seen before my own reasoning that led me to decide I wasn't interested in concealed carry as a hobby/way-of-life.

#480 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 12:04 PM:

One critical thing in TNC's post linked to there involves risk-balancing--the moral-hazard-like effect of safety equipment, in which having 4WD makes you more willing to drive on icy roads, and thus can actually make you more likely to wreck your car, even though the 4WD may make you safer on a given icy road under given conditions.

One reason I haven't ever carried a gun around (alongside the general expense, hassle, and risk) is the fear of that effect. In the modern US, at least in my adult experience, there are almost no violent situations for which retreat or diffusing the situation isn't the best option. (That would be different under other situations, of course, but here and now, where I live, the police and ambulance are like fifteen minutes away once I or anyone else pull our our cellphone and call.) There is good reason to suspect that, largely due to unrealistic portrayals in books and movies, most of us probably overestimate the protective effect of a gun viscerally--hardly anyone has any personal experience with armed violence, whereas everyone has seen guns used in all sorts of dangerous and unrealistic ways on TV, and even when you intellectually know that your assumptions are wrong, it's hard to know that viscerally.

So, one plausible cost of carrying a gun is that you may escalate situations where you would otherwise have prudently walked or run away, that you may take extra risks you would normally have avoided. Most dark alleys in bad neighborhoods do not, in fact, need to be walked down in the middle of the night, and most belligerent public drunks don't need to be confronted.

There is a legal risk there--the adrenalined-up decision to escalate a conflict, which seems sensible to you at midnight in a dark alley, may look quite different to a prosecutor the next morning. There is also a moral risk--killing someone is by all accounts incredibly traumatic for almost everyone who does it, so even if you stay out of jail, knowing that you could have avoided the conflict that left that other guy dead must weigh on your soul.

But there is also a simple physical risk. A gun isn't a magic talisman, and you aren't the only one in the world who might have one. If it leads you into situations that make it more likely you will get shot or stabbed or otherwise hurt, there's a good chance it isn't actually making you any safer, even if it saves your life once you're in one of those bad situations.

#481 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 02:30 PM:

It's different enough that the comparison makes me uneasy, but I can see why a gun might resemble a fire extinguisher. Around a quarter century ago, a British fire extinguisher company made the assertion, in its advertising, that you couldn't expect fire fighters to arrive soon enough to stop an incident becoming a large fire. My own experience suggests that is more true than most advertising.

So you have a fire extinguisher in the house, because it could deal with small kitchen fire (assume the right sort of extinguisher) before it got too big. But you don't carry one slung on your hip.

(Chuck Connors is The Fireman)

I just don't know enough to suggest that home-defense is a ridiculous motive in the USA, but what I hear from the USA, it often seems to be an argument used by ridiculous people.

#482 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:01 PM:


I recall from a fire extinguisher training I took awhile ago that one of the first lessons they wanted us to learn was never to let the fire get between us and the exit. That seems like a pretty clear attempt to avoid having people put themselves at greater risk because they think they have the means to deal with it.

Re: silly arguments, I always try to remind myself that most of the ways we learn about stuff involve massively biased sampling. Big media organizations are famously bad about this, especially for anyone outside the mainstream or outside the normal experience of the people who work in the media. (Think of the media portrayal of Occupy, the Tea Party rallies, the antiwar movement, the drug legalization movement, Promise Keepers, etc.) The internet brings a way to do an end-run around those guys, but it also introduces a different kind of biased sampling--the kind of self-selection of self-appointed prostheletizers for some movement or idea, plus the MSM-like selection of weird and offensive people for the sake of generating outrage that's very common on the net. (A great many blog posts in the big wide world could easily be labeled "Get a look at *this* idiot.")

#483 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 11:21 AM:

An interesting and thoughtful piece by Timothy Burke. Hard to summarize, but one key sentence:

The two deep cultural ideas that we hold to that manifest around guns and gun control alike–and around many other things besides guns–are as follows: 1) that individual action focused by will, determination and clarity of intent can always directly produce specific outcomes and equally that individuals who fail to act when confronted by circumstances (including the actions of other individuals) are culpable for whatever happens next and 2) that there are single-variable abstract social forces that are responsible for seemingly recurrent events and that the proper establishing structure, rule or policy can cancel out the impact of that variable, if only we can figure out which one is the right one....

It’s a deep and abiding idea that expresses itself in otherwise antagonistic ideologies or very different local cultures across the country. That each of us can act as independent individuals, of our own accord, with deliberate intent, and change what would have been. Or in failing to act, be held responsible for what actually did happen.

All I can say is, read the whole thing.

#484 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 12:56 PM:

Sam: Your link points back to your comment.

#485 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 01:01 PM:

Thank you Jacque: Here is the correct link.

#486 ::: SamChevre has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 01:03 PM:

A very short comment, correcting an error,
Has been held by the gnomes,
And, though lacking in terror,
I beg with great beggings,
And gifts of good stew,
May my comment please be released from review.

#487 ::: Idumea Natick Cowper ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 01:17 PM:

The way your link
Was formed, dear Sam
Made us think
It led to spam

It's now right there*
In its rightful home.
Signed, Idumea*,
Duty Gnome

*sorry! it is a Monday.

#490 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2013, 10:06 PM:

Jim Macdonald@489: Have you seen David Waldman's "GunFAIL" posts on Daily Kos? They're weekly catalogs of the sort of thing you've mentioned. Written in a humorous style, but it's still depressing to see eight screenfuls of Damn Fools Shooting People week after week. The latest one is here.

#491 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:44 AM:

Parkside woman shoots, kills husband during gun lesson

Egan says Wanko's 42-year-old wife, Michele, said they'd been drinking lemonade and vodka for hours when she said she wanted to learn how to use a weapon in case someone tried to break in while he was away.
#492 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2013, 04:15 PM:

William T. Woodward, the Florida Man Who Shot and Killed Two Unarmed Neighbors, Cites 'Stand Your Ground' and 'The Bush Doctrine' as Defense For Killings

A Florida man who killed two neighbors and injured another on Labor Day has invoked Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, as well the “Bush Doctrine” as his defense for the crime.

44-year-old William T. Woodward of Titusville, Fla., says that his neighbors have harassed his family in the past, and regardless of the fact that he was the one who confronted them, the shooting can be justified as self-defense. Woodward’s attorneys say that he had been the target of threats made by those neighbors, and was exercising his rights under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to defend himself.

#493 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2013, 10:29 PM:

If that's not a bridge too far even for Florida, a) I'll be amazed and b) expect that state to tear itself to bits in bloodfeud before long.

DAMN but abandoning all the trappings of civilization is popular today. Let's hope Florida has the sense to put this guy away for good.

#494 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2013, 01:20 AM:

Xopher, #493: Depends. The murderer is white; I haven't been able to find any references to the race of his victims. If they were black, all bets are off.

This is pretty much what everyone who wasn't a gun worshiper said would happen when Florida enacted that law. It's just taken a little more time than expected and one very high-profile killer who walked away to get it started. There may very well have been inertial effects for a while; people who are brought up with civilized standards of behavior don't just abandon them overnight.

#495 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2013, 01:52 AM:

The events in the news story took place a year ago, Labor Day 2012.

Here's a photo of one of the victims:

Here's an interview with the survivor (includes photos of the two other victims).

All three appear to be white.

#496 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2013, 09:07 PM:

Colorado teen shot and killed in prank gone wrong

The combination of a gun and a surprise gone wrong left a beloved 18-year-old track star dead, authorities in Longmont, Colorado, say.

Premila Lal jumped out of a closet as a harmless joke to surprise a family friend, her father says. But the noise startled the friend, who grabbed a gun and shot her.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.