Diagnosing gun violence

Diagnosing gun violence
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As I noted my HuffPo column yesterday, a ghastly coincidence has largely prevented Friday’s monstrous Colorado shooting spree from generating the sort of smug Canadian righteousness that traditionally follows spectacular incidents of American gun crime. Just four days before James Holmes opened fire in an Aurora movie theater, after all, some lunatics of our own making shot up a Toronto street festival, mowing down 24 members of the all-ages crowd — but thankfully only killing two.

Though the two incidents aren’t really very comparable in motive or purpose — the mad Torontians were said to be trying to pull a gang hit on some enemies present at the party, while Holmes was fulfilling some deranged fantasy of an even more make-believe world — the close proximity of the two grisly incidents has nevertheless served as a stark reminder that fanatics with guns remain unrestrained by national stereotype.

Listening to an American radio station the other day, I was quite taken aback when the host began prattling off a long list of all the various gun massacres that have taken place outside the United States in recent years. I haven’t been able to find a link to the exact list he was citing, but this fairly tasteless website allows you to sort history’s worst killing sprees by date. You can see firsthand that in the last five years alone, several dozen non-Americans have died pointlessly in supposedly “U.S.-style” mass-shootings that have gone largely unreported on this continent.

The point of observing this fact isn’t to get defensive or righteous, but rather to simply note that such viciously violent acts are clearly a global disease that no nation has been able to cure.

In the wake of the Toronto killings, columnist Matt Gurney at Canada’s National Post wrote a very good, and quite resigned article in which he diagnosed shooting sprees as simply inescapable “random outliers” in otherwise free, safe societies — and not a phenomena we can do much to prevent as a result.

A city like Toronto, he noted, is run by multiple levels of government that have “done all that can be realistically done” by the standards of most decent, liberal criminologists to curtail public violence.  And yet a massacre happened anyway. One imagines the same is true of the various levels of governments in Norway, whose even more progressive society proved similarly helpless in preventing the emergence of an even more horrific monster.

Of course, the failure of this form of liberalism to prevent violence does not automatically prove the justness of the social-engineering theories of the right, either. In pre-emptive response to the inevitable “if everyone had just been armed…” chorus from gun-loving conservatives, someone churned out this useful internet meme, which reminds just how impossibly well-armoured Holmes was on Friday, and how his massacre was hardly just one granny-with-a-revolver away from being stopped. Indeed, since the shooting, there’s been a fair bit of discussion regarding body armour in general, and the degree to which it makes the standard NRA vigilante fantasy narratives increasingly redundant.

I like Gurney’s term “outlier” to describe these sorts of episodes because of the way that term notes a  complete and total rejection of society’s expectations, even the standards of other forms of murder. Since the evidence suggests that mass-killings are actually exceedingly rare — and declining — in some twisted way their random occurrence actually confirms our culture’s larger decency in the way we react with such raw horror, outrage, and sadness. We are still a civilization capable of recognizing true, cruel, senseless evil when we see it, and mustering genuine emotion and sympathy for its victims. We are most moved by that which is most unusual, and are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that no society can ever fully prevent, anticipate, or adjust to acts which, by their very nature, are beyond the facilities of decent human beings to contemplate.

The challenge is to learn to maintain this sense of shock at outliers without crossing over into the equally natural impulse to promote and glamorize them. There’s a very good YouTube video going around right now where a British journalist criticizes his fellow reporters’ treatment of another mass killer (a German, interestingly), particularly the degree to which their coverage exacerbated the very sort of vainglorious personality traits that provoked the killings in the first place.

Obnoxious as it is, however, this sort of thing can easily be seen as yet another signifier of our common morality as much as any creepy predilection for gory vicariousness. We want to try and understand that which is least familiar. And despite the many stern warnings we receive about it, we can’t seem to stop.

I’m well aware that many find this routine “five stages of grief”-style cycle of horror-mourning-outrage-politics-obsession that follows national tragedies frustrating in its seeming pointlessness and passivity, but I think it would be far more troubling if we ever completely abandoned the tradition, stale though it is.

The moment killing sprees, or other spectacularly gruesome outlier crimes of the sort, actually stop surprising us, or provoke genuinely easy, quick, uncontroversial explanations and answers is the day the unthinkable will have become far too familiar.

If that’s the choice, ‘ll gladly take a few days of cliched, ritualistic soul-searching and cheap media sensationalism.


  1. @Ryan_in_SEPA

    Yet another example of why we need stricter mental health laws. We in the west have abandoned the institutionalization of psychopaths in the name of "civil rights."

  2. Dryhad

    Would that have stopped the Colorado or Toronto shootings? Were the perpetrators previously diagnosed as dangerously unstable and would have been locked up but for the liberal establishment demanding their release? It seems to me at least as common that this kind of thing comes as a complete surprise, or that the "warning signs" are only discovered in retrospect (making them completely useless as warning signs). Really, what is your pragmatic solution? Oh, if only we could get rid of these annoying civil rights this would never happen, clearly!

  3. Jbot

    I completely agree. We need to screen everyone and commit anyone whose mental health is a danger to the people at large.

    And not just the violent ones. Mentally ill people are such a drain on our society that if they won't take their medication then they have to be segregated from the rest of normal society.

    Preach it, brother!

  4. Jbot

    I fear this may be too subtle for some people.

    So let me drop the sarcasm.

    As someone who does have a mental illness and has to deal with people's ignorance every single day of his life, I'd rather not lose my civil rights, thank you very much.

    It's only a matter of time before people like Ryan will lump people with bipolar disorder and many other mood and personality disorders as "psychopaths".

  5. Rasden

    More Weapons would have stopped any shooting . If man is shooting wait till he turns back and blast him . Also he didn't have all that tacticool garbage he had a cup as a groin protecter and a police style helmet .

  6. Zulu

    Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. The Colorado shooting only lasted 1 minute or so, and everyone's immediate reaction was to either stare in shock or squirm in panic. No normal person thinks in that short time how to disable the shooter, even if they know it is indeed a shooter (a lot of people didn't even know what was gone till seconds after or till they were shot).

  7. Zulu

    Good commentary, JJ. Beyond that, this event will also get into the Death Penalty debate in the US. Colorado is a death penalty state…

  8. ThePsudo

    Will it open the debate? Advocates against the death penalty will probably wait for a more sympathetic, possibly innocent convict in order to make a better case.

  9. Rasden

    Why even have life in prision it is obvious he did it . GIve him a knife to slit his own wrists and lets be done with it

  10. SES

    In a state with a more active and widely supported death penalty, I don't think it would, but Colorado has only executed one person since the 1970s, it has a very small death row, and the state very nearly abolished capital punishment altogether in 2009 (it failed by one vote in the state Senate).

  11. Jake_Ackers

    When the US got a ton of Italian immigrants the US ban switch blades. That led to gangs using guns. Then when they cracked down on guns, the gangs simply just hide guns like squirrels hide nuts. Ban guns and see what's next. People will take anything in their cabinet and mix it together. GB is an island and yet it has a worst violent crime rate than South Africa. Here is the problem. Mental health laws are weak. We need to go after the bad guys, no use restricting guns from honest good people.

    There is key thing people ignore though when talking about US gun violence. People compare the US to ONE country in Europe. When the US is actually the size of a content, has border issues and gang violence in addition to being a lot more multicultural than any one country in Europe. Thus the US as a whole has to be compared to the EU. Even problems in the US still unique like during the 60s and 70s we had judges releasing mental health patients and several states deem many mental health patients to be legally cured even though they are not.

    In short, crazy people will do crazy things. Banning guns, stun guns and the sort just stop regular people from defending themselves. Addressing guns is a symptom, the problem is mental health. The US is notorious for over medicating it's population, and deeming them cured and thus then released.

  12. Rasden

    Every Citizen should be forced to take education on the manual of Arms and see what guns do to people along with some conscript service . The problem would solve itself . Unlike most nations of Europe the Americans Unified const. and their member state Const. all state it is your sovereign Right to defense of yourself and to raise a private army to defend the state

  13. @Cristiona

    It's not just crazy people, they just make the news. I was digging up some numbers the other day and found a rather depressing coincidence: on Memorial Day weekend, Chicago had almost the exact same number of people murdered and injured by firearms as what happened in Colorado. Almost the same. That speaks to the level of misery caused by this one person, but also speaks to the on-going misery in Chicago. At least this murdered has been apprehended.

    Events like this make political wonks start squawking and making noise (on both sides). Meanwhile, a single city has nearly a thousand(!) shootings in six(!!) months and it's barely noticed.

  14. Rasden

    Chicago has a group of people living in it like most major American cities that are naturally more violent and aggressive then most other humans . And that is all we will say of that issue .

  15. Etc.

    Stay classy, Rasden.

  16. Rasden

    Stay ignorant , Etc.

  17. Jake_Ackers

    Philly has had more Americans killed in 10 years than we had killed in Iraq. But that's all drugs and gang violence. 3/4 have been young black men. It's a genocide on our streets and the gov't doesn't care. There solution? More drug laws. It doesn't work. More people die due to drug trafficking than drug use. Trafficking related crime is gov't made. The same will happen if guns are ban.

  18. Rasden

    Philly is full of Afacanized Homo Sapiens

  19. Snobby

    Phenomena is plural.

    JJ, you are an excellent writer, but I think your English could use just a bit of polish. Enough to take you to the next level. Do you read any novels? I find that conceptual non-fiction, your obvious literary habitat, can sometimes open a gap between us and the facts everyday language.

  20. @MHR_Topher

    Hey I down voted him too, but remember, his name is Snobby, so it kind of makes sense.

  21. Cicero

    On the one hand, I agree that there is nothing that will stop things in this general vein from happening. If it's not guns, it'll be bombs or something else (look at the antics that Brevik went through, opening up a fake farm business to legitimately acquire lots of fertilizer among other things).

    On the other hand, I think it is a fair criticism to say that these killers get far too much long-term attention. I don't just mean the press (who, it can be sadly said, are just doing their jobs by trying to sell papers), but also the police. It would be a nice twist if they made a point of declaring his motives, etc. to be not worthy of interest (the motives being irrelevant in light of the magnitude of the crimse), especially in a case such as Colorado that seems to be open and shut (even some sort of insanity plea/verdict would likely result in life confinement in an asylum).

    I understand the tapdance of "alleged attacker" and the like, but it would be nice to see an firm and open attack on those speculations.

    As to the bit on the body armor point that has come up, there are four points worth noting:
    1) Even with a "good" set of armor versus a mid-range gun, the shot may not be fatal but it might well either debilitate the attacker or slow him down. The armor stops you from getting killed, but in a lot of cases that's about all, and such a distraction (as I rather suspect getting shot would qualify as) should provide time to line up additional shots…and armor isn't designed to take but so many shots.
    2) Even a military-grade helmet won't stop much in terms of bullets.
    3) More to the point, all of this ignores training. There's alwaus been the NRA point about get the good guy training. Well, the counter to be had there is that it's not hard for a non-assailant to conceal a set of armor (I do know folks who are almost always wearing concealed armor of some sort), so a good guy with that and a gun is going to be right back on reasonably even terms with the attacker. I'm trying to avoid the dust-up over gun-free zones in this post, but…yeah, that comes up here as well. Getting guns in peoples' hands doesn't do much good if they don't know how to use them; getting guns and decent (I'm thinking a couple of weeks' worth here, by the way, not just a few afternoons at the range but also not quite "full-on military" training) training is going to at /least/ give some people in the room the chance to suppress the attacker and make him take cover, giving others a chance to get away.
    4) If guns are hard to control, then just /try/ restricting access to steel rifle plate and the like.
    -Actually, just try making the argument to folks that, as there are lots of guns floating around, they shouldn't have armor (if for no other reason than to facilitate an escape from a shooting situation [mad shooter, gangland hit, or otherwise]…or to deal with a bad shot while out hunting). There the problem is that the armor alone, at least, is strictly defensive, and that a ban just exacerbates the "sitting duck" problem.

    I do agree that there are issues with a defective mental health system, but honestly…nothing is going to stop incidents totally, period. It's not like the Fort Hood shooter was someone who wouldn't still have had access to guns, and I don't even want to think of the other things that can be thrown together for a would-be attacker with a little technical skill to use.

  22. Rasden

    I have shot people in body armor they go down if you hit the back and side . If he dosen't wear a heavy plate a shot to the chest will knock him flat or put him off balance .

    2. True

    3 The Cinema Disarmed the movie-goers and should be punished accordingly . The man was not well trained in his attack having bought a gun and not lubing it and buying Aftermarket Beta-C Mags which are notorious for being jamming POS.

    4. Give me a home improvment store and a hour I can build 2-3 Rifles in that time and proving any mesurment of control is silly . Shit a shoestring on a semi-auto weapon can create an auto fire mechanism

  23. Jake_Ackers

    What I am still wondering is how is someone able to get in via the emergency exit? How many people could sneak in? Isn't that just basic economics. Don't let people steal from your business. Wonder if there was any fire safety violations.

  24. Rasden

    prop open and probabley has a silent trip instead of a massive blaring alarm .

  25. Cicero

    My understanding is that he bought a ticket, propped the door and snuck out, grabbed his gear, and came back.

  26. Cicero

    On #3, the one thing I'm not totally sure of is whether the cinema was a gun-free zone by their own decision or if there was a law or local regulation involved. With that said, the question comes up of either passing laws restricting gun-free zones (i.e. cutting back on them and/or limiting the ability of some owners of public locations to make their property so) or creating a liability if you have, in so many words, someone there who is normally armed/would normally be armed but who isn't solely because of the presence of the zone.

  27. Jake_Ackers

    I never understood gun free zones. Criminals do not follow those laws. Just seems like a feel good law.

  28. Rasden

    SImple Whiny liberal and bitchy blacks ruin all the fun

  29. Jake_Ackers

    There are things that can be done to spot this ahead of time. The Fort Hood guy was not looked into because of political correctness and that is a known fact. The Colorado guy is nuts. Some fall between the cracks but there are several who because of political correctness or some weird mental laws, they are allowed through.

    The experience thing is not really a major issue. Any sane person without experience that has a lucky shot would of taken him down. Good people must be allowed to carry weapons and yes they must know gun safety.

    Gun experience stops people from accidentally shooting someone or yourself (Plaxico Burress). Does gun experience help in a situations in stopping bad guys? Yes. But so does a lucky shot in between the bad guy's eyeballs.

  30. Cicero

    I agree on most points there. The big problem with a lack of experience/training is stray shots. Now, when the shooter is against the screen/wall with nobody behind him, that's not a big issue…in theory, at least, you can just lay down suppressive fire and hope you hit him if there's nobody around him. It's when he starts moving through the theater that those stray shots become an issue.

    And that's also why I refer to more than just limited training courses (i.e. "gun control means use both hands" training).

  31. @Cristiona

    "He was wearing body armor" may turn out to be just as true as "he was a member of the Tea Party". That is to say, not at all. It's possible that media outlets saw this ( http://www.stltoday.com/tacticalgear-sales-receip… ) receipt and assumed "Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest" was body armor. It is not. It's a tactical vest; cargo pants for your chest.

  32. Jake_Ackers

    Body armor or not. I don't see the issue with the body armor. One bullet to his forehead or eyeball and he is down.

  33. ThePsudo

    "Aim small, miss small."

    It's probably better to shoot him in the armor and probably break some ribs than shoot him in the head and probably miss. Probably.

  34. bificommander

    And I suppose you can hit an eyeball-sized target in a dark, crowded cinema filled with stampeding people while standing in teargas? If you can, good for you. Also, have you considered applying for the olympics?

    Or do you mean that if the entire theater was armed, one of the patrons was bound to hit something vital evenutally. In which case, maybe, but how much you wanna bet they'd have hit 20 other patrons first in the crossfire. Even without taking into account that the 10th person to draw his gun will see 10 people shooting and having to guess which is the attacker and which 9 are 'defenders'.

    Even if he wasn't wearing armor, I'm of the opinion that if everyone just caries a weapon, the total amount of casualties these kind of shooting sprees inflict MAY go down if everyone gets a lot of training (state-payed, cause a lot of people couldn't afford it) to make sure they don't hit bystanders and know how to distinguish other defenders from attackers (a problem in every army, where even wearing matching uniforms doesn't prevent friendly fire all the time). But the frequency of such attacks will probably go way up. Very few people are like this shooter, preparing for months for a massacre of random people. But there's a lot more people who might loose their temper during an argument. If they have a gun handy right at that moment, things can get ugly fast. It's dangerous to draw a gun when you know everyone is armed of course. But really, how many people who today get into fist fights do so out of a rational reasoning that this fight will somehow improve their situation, and how many just snap in frustration?

    Even if everyone in the armed society keeps his head cool at all times, there's still a big risk of escalation. If you're having a heated argument with someone you know for a fact is armed, you'll probably keep an eye on if his hand comes close to any of his pockets. And if he does, you probably don't want to risk being the last to draw and put you hand near your weapon as a warning. Which the other guy will see and respond by putting his hand on his weapon. Then you need to draw yours. Then he needs to aim his. Then you need to shoot. This will not happen like this all of the time, or even most of the time. But if 1% of all daily heated arguments go like this, we'll have a large increase of shootings on our hands.

    So I'm with JJ. As horrible as these shootings are, we probably can't prevent all of them. Handing out SMGs at every streetcorner won't make us any safer.

  35. Jake_Ackers

    I think you misunderstood my point. My point is that body armor in this case is a non issue as no one had a gun. Even if they did the only way to stop him would a few shots center mass, maybe a couple depending on the size or one very lucky shot in the forehead. Which would be one very lucky shot. Either way due to this situation whether he had armor or not is irrelevant as no one was armed.

    Oh and in a gunfight you only pull out a gun when you know who the target is for sure. So a responsible person would identify before shooting thus elimanating the whole gun fight in a Wild West Bar scenario. Although that is ideally speaking. Again we need to address the bad guys not disarm or arm everyone else.

    I do agree that handing out guns or filling every single public place with cops is not the way to go. We don't want to be a fascist society with there are more cops and metal detectors than people or become the Wild West. Gun laws address a symptom and not the problem, people.

  36. Colin Minich

    It should be noted that the argument about having guns in the theater are often faulty because of the disarmament and plus the sheer lack of realism from some of the commentary. It's acting like we're all commandos. More often than not your average twentysomething has zero weapons training and tear gas training, so I'd rather be spared the tactical lecture. I've been in the military for nine years and even I acknowledge the difficulty of finding the gaps in armor with something as weak as a 9mm. If you had an AR-15 or a higher caliber pistol then maybe but that too would raise alarms with security. Also, these incidents, as JJ pointed out, are random and very hard to prevent unless we set up some sort of psychic screening and immediately culled those mentally sick enough to plan this out. Warning signs are often tough to see even with Brievik. Gun laws alone don't constitute the violence factors but more the culture and socioeconomic factors surrounding as well.

  37. Jake_Ackers

    Truth is that some people are just evil regardless. They will pull things no matter what we do. We need to protect society in different ways than just simply banning the evil act. Murder is illegal so is drug use and whatever else but it still happens. Only good people are hurt by these banning laws and restrictions. We need to address the problem, bad people.

  38. Colin Minich

    The article I linked below cites that Mexico has tougher gun laws yet has horrid homicide gun rates (cartels are a big factor there FYI) while Switzerland, despite the lower population, has very open gun laws yet little violence. To get closer to the US, Vermont and New Hampshire are very lax with gun laws as New England states yet with very little incidents of massacres to show.

    It's a matter of personal accountability…really.

  39. Jake_Ackers

    Exactly. Bad things happen address what we can instead of going over board with everything.

  40. Colin Minich

    I've got a friend to personally thank for forwarding me that piece.

  41. Rasden

    New England is More civilized then the rest of the nation . It is the air

  42. Pegasus

    Four points occur to me.
    1. The purpose being an armed citizen is to increase your survival chances, and the chances of those around you, in brushes with the criminal sort. However, armed citizens are not a magic panacea. There are situations where it really is better to get yourself away from the danger and call for help than to try to draw your gun and be a hero. The greatest weapon in these sorts of situations is not a gun – it's having a working brain and a clarity of mind. Having the capacity to evaluate the situation in a second or two and determine a course of action that will let you and the people around you survive the critical moment. A gun does not give you that, and you can have it without carrying a gun.
    2. The problem is not guns, it's morality. Many countries have tried banning guns, and they've seen killings by other means rise to match. Some countries now have such stringent laws that the armed homeowner who chases off the burglar or serial rapist is in greater danger from the law than the criminal who was chased off. That's what happens when nations try to remove the tools of crime, rather than addressing the moral shortfalls of potential criminals.
    3. Pro-gun Americans are very sensitive about the aftermath of these sorts of situations due to the presence of an active and rather virulent anti-gun party. Some of the anti-gunners have pure motives (genuinely thinking that removing guns will solve the violent problems of society), but many others oppose gun ownership in order to de-fang the opposition to their *other* radical social ideas. I've had one virulent anti-gunner say to me, without a blink of irony, that "Pro-gun people like you should be dragged into the streets and shot." This evolved in the course of a discussion over just such a massacre; a discussion which really heated up when the anti-gunner expressed nothing but glee over the thought of more blood to use to further his political agenda. Such people serve to justify the paranoia of the pro-gunners, and inadvertently raise the stakes of the argument by giving greater voice to the more… extreme ends of the debate.
    4. Americans of the armed citizen persuasion (I include myself in this group) feel that being armed not only increases their personal security, but also provides a distinction between the Citizen and the Subject – and is linked to our ideals of personal autonomy and responsibility. In general, we believe that we are responsible for ourselves – for our actions, our property, the safety of ourselves and our families. We believe that the police are a supplemental personal security provider, rather than the primary security provider. Thus, when the anti-gun groups try to use these sorts of situations to justify the total disarming of the populace, we see them attacking not a tool that we use, but the entire principle of how we expect to live safely in a dangerous world.

  43. @Kisai

    I think what would happen is that even if the guy was taken down (eg shot) because there was an armed non-law enforcement type in the cinema, if there was more than one citizen with a weapon, they may fire on each other, mistaking each other for an accomplice. Having more people with guns does not work like in the movies, where it's clear to everyone who the bad guy is.

    Law enforcement types that are on-duty are clearly identified from bad guys. Your average person is not.

    I also don't see how this could have been prevented as there's too many variables:
    1. The door. For safety reasons these doors can not be locked (fire code), and must be opened from the inside. At best, all that could have been done is have magnetic seals and sensors that detect when the door fails to close after being opened to alert security.
    2. The Audience. Even if there was an armed audience member, they're far more likely to shoot the wrong person. The gas just makes it harder.
    3. The Theater Management. It's not an airport. If you go visit theme parks or national tourist attractions, you may have to go through airport style security. Most of the time all they ever do is remove contraband (eg bringing your own food and drinks) and are otherwise a waste of money to the attraction. I'm pretty sure that having the cost of a movie ticket jacked up to 100$ will not go over well.
    4. Guns. Even if he didn't have guns, he still booby trapped his apartment. Who's to say he wouldn't have just pulled off the same stunt with explosives instead? This is another movie trope that doesn't play out like in the movie. Carrying around homemade explosives are much more likely to kill the person with the explosives because they're chemically unstable. Remember the reason for liquid bans at the airport?

    Unless you have a magic time machine that lets you predict the future, most acts of violence are going to play out if the person wanting to commit the acts has the intent. What stops the rest of humanity from being killing each other when they have a bad day, is the need for self-preservation.

  44. Jake_Ackers

    I must say thus far on Filibuster everyone has been level headed about this. Seems we all agree to some degree or another that people and society seems to be the problem regardless of the laws.

  45. Manguy

    To me, the 2nd Amendment is all about having an armed citizenry to bolster the militia, so being a member of the National Guard or another "well regulated militia" should be a prerequisite to private arms ownership. You pass a background check, you pass a mental stability check, and you receive the training. People are trained in the proper usage of firearms, have a nationwide background check for arms dealers which will also be quick with the customer simply showing his National Guard (or other militia) ID and simply verifying that it isn't fake, are trained to fight properly which evens the playing ground with the professional army at least somewhat for those "armed citizenry to fight against tyranny" arguments (even though I can look at Syria and find it safe to assume that any armed rebellion in the United States would be met with slaughter), and it will most likely help the National Guard numbers.

    To me, gun control is all about trying to lessen the guns that get into the hands of unknowledgeable, violent, or mentally unstable people while if my interpretation was the accepted interpretation then I do not see the problem with people who have gone through the checks and training buying whatever weapons they want. A trained, armed citizenry is a superior alternative to an untrained mob that can buy military grade weapons.

  46. Rasden

    In 95% of American States home armies are to be raised on orders of the Govoner and Any armed male is expected to report . Those armies are dismissed in peacetime

  47. Cicero

    Could we see a reasonably reliable source on that, Rasden?

  48. Guest

    If only those who were approved by government and regular members of organised militia were allowed to own guns back in the day the American Revolution would never have happened.
    Gun ownership is a defence against tyrrany – both at home and abroad.
    If the ruling classes get to limit gun ownership to only their supporters one of its purposes is frustrated.

  49. Etc.

    Gun ownership was a defence against tyranny back in the day, but do you honestly think that a guy at home with a rifle could stand a chance against the military in this day and age? What defence is a gun if the opponent one's facing is a tank, a helicopter, a cruise missile?

  50. Guest

    One could equally say – what chance do some farmers, printers, lawyers, teachers, coopers, smiths, innkeepers etc etc etc stand against the might of the Royal Army…???
    Gun Ownership was guaranteed in the consitution as a defence against tyranny – not to encourage western-style shoot-outs.

  51. Jake_Ackers

    Egypt, Libya, and now Syria. How many more? Vietnam? Plus guns are also meant to defend from invaders. If more people had the right to defend themselves they would be less willing to go to all these little wars we do. Feeling safer at home means you don't need your gov't to go to war. Look at Norway and Switzerland. High gun ownership and they never go to war.

  52. Cicero

    I suspect that there are two problems here:
    1) The National Guard has generally run into size caps because of budget issues. You can only get so many people involved here.
    2) The person willing to give a few weeks over to training for something (or even to get called up for natural disaster relief) is not going to necessarily be the same person willing to risk a call up to Iraq or Afghanistan for six months or a year. Yes, there's a difference, and there's no reason to limit any initiative in this vein to just those willing to risk those call-ups (especially considering how disruptive in the extreme such call-ups can be).

  53. Jake_Ackers

    So a single mother who comes home at 3AM from work has to endure a year of background checks and permits and enlist in the National Guard in order to have a gun to protect herself? So during the entire 6 months to a year she has to risk getting raped, robbed or killed because of some stupid lengthy permit process? Or has to enlist in order to protect herself and her family?

  54. JonasB

    I think that outlier sprees like this, as the article described, are not indicative of needs for gun control (either increased or reduced). I agree with the Canada Post article that's linked above as well. Gun control needs to be assessed in the perspective of annual crime statistics, not in the wake of sprees/massacres that reflect more on an individual's delusions than their ease of weaponry. If Holmes hadn't been able to get a gun, then he probably would've just starting slashing with a machete or one of those big-ass steak cleavers.

  55. zaitcev

    I remember how an old guy killed 18 near my hometown by plowing into a Farmer's Market in his Buick (extremely stereotypical). He was latter seen chatting nonchalantrly with police responders at the scene.

  56. Guest

    Unfortunately, massacres of this nature aren't as recent a development as we might expect… we just hear about them quicker due to the global media. I see guns as simply force multipliers – we've moved from knives to handguns to semi-automatic rifles (and illegally modified automatic weapons are likely to follow). I don't like the increasing power that one individual can wield, but I don't have any solutions that would prevent people with no regard for the law from continuing to obtain such weapons, while providing the law abiding majority with the ability to defend themselves in a timely fashion.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_relahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_rela

  57. Rasden

    Full Auto Weapons are Full Retard Weapons . Blasting through an entire magazine of .223 5.56 or 7.62 in a few seconds is the greatest way to miss

  58. Guest

    I agree with the force multiplier comment – but this is significant.
    Kids playing with sticks at home = lost eye, broken bone, maybe stab wound. Rarely lethal.
    Kids playing with knives at home = stab wounds – higher chance of death
    Kids playing with guns at home – even higher chances of death.
    All the same is true of violence in society. If other mass killers had been limited to sticks or knives the death toll would almost certainly have been less – perhaps substantially so.
    If we accept that society will always have wackos that try this stuff (and this might not be the case) – is it prudent to minimise the likely harm by limiting force projection?

  59. JonasB

    If the goal is to kill as many people as possible, you'd likely see machetes, homemade explosives (molotovs, etc.), or just crashing into buildings with cars, as zaitcev mentioned earlier. The truly determined will find a way.

  60. Jake_Ackers

    Do you not know what escalation is? Do you know how we got gun violence? The US ban switch blades when the mafia started coming to the US. The mob simply turned to guns. If you go and ban guns. They will simply turn to homemade explosives. What do you think terrorists do when they can't find guns? Give up?

  61. Guest

    Just because he's wearing body armor doesn't mean an armed citizen couldn't stop him. So the bullet doesn't penetrate the armor, but he still gets the force of the shot which is usually enough to knock someone over and put them in a rather large amount of pain. Even body armor doesn't let you shrug off a bullet to the chest

  62. AddThreeAndFive

    I've never understood why people think toting concealed weapons around makes them feel safer. Guns scare me to no end, and I would never want to own one, much less carry it in public. The kind of power it wields over people's lives is terrifying to think about. If it comes to gun ownership being a requirement for citizenship I wouldn't want to live in America anymore.

    On the other hand, I'm not for banning guns completely. I think the best situation is to have something like driver's licenses, where you have to pass a test and a (thorough) background check before buying a firearm. And there would be different classes of licenses (rifle, pistol, semi) just like for driving. But the problem with that is the NRA and others would say it infringes on our "God-given" right. Driving is not a right, so that's why they do that.

  63. Daniel

    You hold just as much power to kill, maim, and destroy every day when you drive your car to work. The difference being, a gun can save your life in a bad situation. Obviously gun ownership should never be mandatory, but all the background checks in the world won't stop a truly determined would-be-killer.

    When I first saw the news of the shooting, I recalled the Safeway shooting of last year, and I knew it would immediately be disgustingly politicized, and the trauma of the families' exploited to the Nth degree in order to push some partisan bullcrap. So I'm not going to say that "this is an example of why X party needs to push for X legislation", but rather, RIP to the victims of this senseless violence.

  64. AddThreeAndFive

    I know a car is more than capable of causing destruction, but that is not its primary purpose, so I consider that a fair tradeoff. I don't know what other purpose a gun has other than firing life ending projectiles.

    But yes, I do not feel this is the time for people to push their own ideas on guns to others. That wasn't what I was trying to do.

  65. AddThreeAndFive

    Sorry, I just thought of some other stuff just now.

    Another difference between cars and guns is that you have to get inside a car, start it up, and get it to a fast enough speed for it to cause damage. All you have to for a gun is load it and pull the trigger. It is much easier to use a gun than a car.

    If I had a 13 year old kid, and I was away, he'd probably go for the gun than the car, for the above reason. And I wouldn't want to come home to an injured neighbor because my son was shooting a gun and a bullet went through his house.

    Yes, banning or heavily restricting guns does not stop violent crime, but for some, it might cause them to think twice when killing someone isn't so easy. I've said all I wanted to now.

  66. Jake_Ackers

    They have tried that and still do it and it doesn't work. Lot more dangerous things existent than guns. Plus states like NH and Vermont are pretty libertarian on guns and yet have a very low crime rate while major cities have massive restrictions on guns and have high crime rates. So your assumption doesn't match the facts. Look at Europe. The safest countries are all gun totting. While the GB which doesn't even allow cops to own guns has a worst violent crime rate than South Africa. Explain that.

    Simply the facts say that legal gun ownership does not cause higher crime rates, actually it reduces it. I shouldn't be made less safe because you are scared of guns. What if I move to a new city? Now I have to wait 6 months to get a gun because you are scared of them? You should be scared of the thug who mugs people who are coming home from work. So for 6-9 months (that's if I even get it) I have to risk being shot by a criminal because of some lengthy background checks and permits? You can have your permits and background checks but make process a few days not a few months.

  67. Robert

    Its unfortunate that you keep trotting out the GB violent crrime statistic. The origins of violent crime are much more complicated than simple access to guns. GB does in fact have a very high violent crime rate, but this is more due to the "government's comprehensive failure over more than a decade to tackle the deep rooted social problems in our society, and the knock-on effect on crime and anti-social behaviour. " and that's from the telegraph. However, the murder rate in the UK is far lower than in the US, which may be due in part to the fact that people are less likely to bring out guns in a fight seeing as they are illegal there.

  68. A. Apolis

    Never had you down as a Charlie Brooker fan JJ.

  69. Cicero

    Something worth considering: Let's assume for the moment that this guy, with all of his apparent training with explosives and the like, was dead set on an attack. Let's also assume that he couldn't get his hands on any guns. Given these two situations, a number of attack options come to mind, ranging from the aforementioned machete attack (i.e. he goes in swinging with one, perhaps with the benefit of some homemade armor to fend off any fighting back) to a remote bomb attack (a couple of backpack bombs with cell phone/radio triggers in the vein of what we've seen in the Middle East in a crowded pre-movie lobby could easily have doubled the casualty count) to some other insidious options.

    The point is that we see shootings because they're the "easy" option…but to sound a bit too much like an economist, there are imperfect substitutes out there for a would-be madman and some of them could well be worse options.

  70. Steven Hopkins


  71. Steven Hopkins

    As gun violence has became a common phenomenon and Big problem also. Which hamper our general movement of life so I think we should better have a firearm to protect ourself

  72. JEREMY

    As gun assault has became a typical trend and Big issue also. Which slow down our typical activity of lifestyle so I think we should better have a gun to guard ourself