Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This is the best paragraph I've ever read on gun control and mass shootings


Maybe something will change; maybe this time we will manage to act. But it's difficult to be anything but pessimistic, and when I think about why that is, my mind goes back again to Virginia Tech and 2007, when the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik wrote what is, to me, the single most powerful paragraph I have read on the subject.
The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why. As the police cleared the bodies from the Virginia Tech engineering building, the cell phones rang, in the eccentric varieties of ring tones, as parents kept trying to see if their children were OK. To imagine the feelings of the police as they carried the bodies and heard the ringing is heartrending; to imagine the feelings of the parents who were calling — dread, desperate hope for a sudden answer and the bliss of reassurance, dawning grief — is unbearable. But the parents, and the rest of us, were told that it was not the right moment to ask how the shooting had happened — specifically, why an obviously disturbed student, with a history of mental illness, was able to buy guns whose essential purpose is to kill people — and why it happens over and over again in America. At a press conference, Virginia's governor, Tim Kaine, said, "People who want to ... make it their political hobby horse to ride, I've got nothing but loathing for them. ... At this point, what it's about is comforting family members ... and helping this community heal. And so to those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere."
Many things have been written and will continue to be written on America's gun ownership rate (the highest in the world), its gun violence (the worst in the developed world), and the political and social forces that keep this from changing.

What Gopnik captured was not just the horrific costs of gun violence or the frustrating politics of gun control, but the special sort of anguish that we inflict on ourselves in the United States by forbidding any meaningful conversation around the tragedies that unfold over and over again.

There is an unwritten American rule that the aftermath of a mass shooting is the wrong time to talk about gun control. Even Obama's comments on the subject in June, while urgent and even angry, carefully avoided mentioning gun control directly. As Gopnik wrote, this logic would be recognized as absurd if applied to anything else: "the aftermath of a terrorist attack is the wrong time to talk about security, the aftermath of a death from lung cancer is the wrong time to talk about smoking and the tobacco industry, and the aftermath of a car crash is the wrong time to talk about seat belts."

Gopnik ended his piece with a call to ban handguns — a political nonstarter in 2007 and, in 2015, something that would be unimaginable to even discuss. That fact itself, that his concluding line has become more politically unthinkable rather than less, seems to drive home his point: that mass shootings will continue in America, and that Americans will refuse to seriously debate whether our culture of gun ownership is worth the costs. 

"There is no reason that any private citizen in a democracy should own a handgun," he wrote. "At some point, that simple truth will register. Until it does, phones will ring for dead children, and parents will be told not to ask why."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Australian Suicides are Down


However, the paper's findings about suicide were statistically significant — and astounding. Buying back 3,500 guns correlated with a 74 percent drop in firearm suicides. Non-gun suicides didn't increase to make up the decline.

There is good reason why gun restrictions would prevent suicides. As Matthews explains in great depth, suicide is often an impulsive choice, one often not repeated after a first attempt. Guns are specifically designed to kill people effectively, which makes suicide attempts with guns likelier to succeed than (for example) attempts with razors or pills. Limiting access to guns makes each attempt more likely to fail, thus making it more likely that people will survive and not attempt to harm themselves again.

Bottom line: Australia's gun buyback saved lives, probably by reducing homicides and almost certainly by reducing suicides. Again, Australian lessons might not necessarily apply to the US, given the many cultural and political differences between the two countries. But in thinking about gun violence and how to limit it, this seems like a worthwhile data point. If you're looking for lessons about gun control, this is a pretty important one.

Cars and Guns

Intential Fatal Shootings

Graph depicting Breakdown of Intentional, Fatal Shootings

Politics that work

Description: This pie chart shows the distribution of intentional shooting deaths between suicides, murders of acquaintances, murders of strangers, murders of family members and justifiable homicides such as self defense, defense of others, defense of property and the prevention of the commission of a felony. The division of murders based on the relationship between the shooter and the victim is extrapolated from the incidents recorded in the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Reports for which the relationship between the offender and the victim was known. The data comes from 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Discussion: Of the approximately 30,000 intentional firearm killings each year, over 70% are suicides. Suicide rates are much higher in states with high levels of gun ownership than in states with low levels of gun ownership. Numerous studies have found that the ready availability of guns dramatically increases both the number of suicide attempts that are carried through and the fatality of such attempts.

Almost 29% of intentional, fatal shootings are murders. Murders of strangers are relatively rate, constituting only 8% of all intentional, fatal shootings. Slightly over half of murders take place between acquaintances, neighbors or friends. The remaining 4% take place between family members.

Less than 1% of fatal, intentional, shootings are defensive or otherwise justifiable legally. Note that justifiable homicide standards differ by state and that a number of these killings would be classified as murders if they occurred in other states.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

‘Gun family’ head gets 18 years for trafficking weapons into New York

Man gets 18 years for trafficking guns into New York

Quick (upper right) was head of a six person “gun family”

Guns dot com

A Brooklyn judge handed down sentencing Thursday in the case of a man who sold 151 guns brought from Georgia to an undercover New York cop on a street corner.
According to a release from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Michael Quick, who maintained addresses in both New York and Georgia, made 13 trips in an eight month period between September 2013 and April 2014, shuttling guns, some stolen, northward.
This garnered Quick a conviction following a plea bargain earlier this month to one count of first-degree criminal sale of a firearm and one count of first-degree criminal possession of a weapon, to which Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun sentenced the man to 18 years in state prison and five years of post-release supervision.
As noted by Chun’s office, Quick was the nexus of an enterprise that focused on acquiring guns in Georgia from multiple sources then transporting them to Brooklyn where, in each instance, the lots were sold to the undercover buyer on the corner of Foster Avenue and East 96th Street in the working-class Canarsie residential neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Arrested in April 2014, Quick and his wife along with four associates, all relatives, were booked on a 558-count indictment on a mix of firearms and conspiracy charges.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to Talk about Guns and Suicide

California Man Shoots and Kills Two Fleeing Robbers in Arizona and Gets Away With It

Cal GunLaws Porterville ShooterSaleh
Kamhen "Omar" Saleh

Guns dot com

Two years ago, a 20 year old California man withdrew $44,000 from the bank for the family business.  He placed the money in a backpack in his vehicle.  He also had a 9mm pistol in the vehicle.  Two men attempted to steal the money; he saw one in his SUV and confronted him; ultimately shooting both men.  In the confrontation they had occupied another vehicle, taking the backpack and money with them.

Saleh fired 8 shots from his 9mm pistol.  The men were in the other vehicle by the time he started shooting.  He says he feared that they were going to run him over.  His bullets hit the side and rear of the vehicle.

While the defense attorney criticized the prosecutor for pursuing this case, I can see the prosecutor’s side. The robbers were in a vehicle, so their knives were not a threat. Saleh shot into the side and rear of their vehicle. The prosecutor questioned Saley’s judgement on a couple of points.