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rivanna

America's gun violence

204 posts in this topic

I've been hesitant to post here, as this topic is one I feel strongly about, and thus I don't always trust myself to express myself rationally here. Before I go any further, let me clearly announce my bias - I absolutely HATE guns, and I don't think people should be allowed to have them. I also think it's terrifying that people can legally buy rounds and rounds and rounds of ammo without raising an eyebrow.

 

Ok.

 

This tragedy is absolutely heartbreaking. A few unconnected thoughts:

 

1. I think it's disgusting that media outlets photograph/videotape grieving family members. It's extremely poor taste. These folks have been through enough without having cameras in their faces during the worst moments of their lives. It's totally shameful.

 

2. Those who say that the teachers should have been armed make my blood boil. Teachers in the classrooms with guns? Are you kidding? I have a very hard time believing anything good or helpful would come from that. It's not enough to know how to aim and fire; in a situation like this, you also have to consider response time, ability to focus during panic, not accidentally shooting the children, and being able to compartmentalize the aspects of the situation. Gun training is more than physics. (And would parents really want their little ones in a classroom with a gun? Maybe some would, but I find the idea scary.)

 

3. Mike Huckabee's statement, once again, makes all Christians look like lunatics. The shooting happened because we've kicked God out of the public realm? Bad things happened because we don't force non-Christians to read the Bible during school anymore? Children died because we don't allow nativity scenes in the public square?

 

4. The messages on FB and Twitter about "God calling home" the kids and teachers made me sad as well. It makes me sad that people think God would do something like that. God "needed more angels" so He broke up a bunch of marriages and families in a horribly senseless and tragic way? Not the God I believe in, that's for sure. A human being, with some serious issues, took those people. It's sad, and defies reasonable explanation.

 

5. The time to talk about changes to gun control is NOW. How many more innocent people have to die before TPTB recognize that there is an actual problem with the status quo? How many more deaths will it take? People should not be allowed to just amass all the guns they want, and carry them on their person. They should not be allowed to order massive amounts of ammo without someone looking into it. Will some people cry that it infringes on their rights? Of course. But I would think that other people's right to LIVE trumps their right to their Rambo lifestyles.

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This is not an issue that can be cured by stopping one thing like gun control. Gun control is needed, but also is help for the mentally ill.

 

Also, the media needs to NOT make a celebrity out of the murderer. The only ones who should know the murderer's name and picture is law enforcement and very close relatives. Story after story on TV, showing the murderer's picture and name is incentive to make a big thing out of a suicide. A suicidal motive is often the desire to hurt close relatives or the world. I will not go into the basics of Psychology 101 as most of you already know of this.

 

There will be others, you can count on it.

 

Hal

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What is really beginning to anger me are the number of Christians in my Facebook community who are becoming apologists for the NRA.

 

Gundamentalists.

 

George

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Just who are we if we cannot stand up to an organization that represents a small (7%) of the population?

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It has been pointed out to me that the statistics I posted earlier aren't a reasonable measure of the effectiveness of a gun ban, and they aren't, in isolation.

 

Of course if there are less guns then it stands to reason that there are going to be less firearm suicides and less homicides by firearm, but one would expect people will still find other ways to commit suicide and other ways to kill others, so removing guns perhaps just transfers the means by which people commit these acts.

 

A more reasonable measure would be to see if suicide rates and homicide rates have decreased since our stricter gun laws in Australia came into effect (1996). These were the best stats I could find:

 

 

SUICIDE RATE (%)

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

MALES 19.8 20.3 18.8 17.7 16.8 16.5 13.6 13.9 16 14.9

 

FEMALES 5.2 5.3 5.0 4.7 4.3 4.3 3.8 4.0 4.4 4.4

(Source - Australian Bureau of Statistics)

 

I don't know if suicide rates were decreasing before the new gun laws in 1996, but as this data shows, they have certainly been decreasing since then.

 

(Edit - for the life of me I cannot get this table to align correctly. I hope though you can see that overall the suicide rate has been on the decrease since 2000 at least).

 

 

 

 

Homicides involving firearms as a percentage of total homicides, 1915-2003

 

 

5.2

fig013.png

 

(Source - Australian Institute of Criminology).

 

I think everyone can see that there was a dramatic decline in the homicide rate after about 1987. The gun laws I have been referring to to date, the Howard Gun Laws, were introduced in 1996. However I hadn't highlighted that one of our more popuous states (Victoria) introduced some tighter gun controls in 1988. I say this because that perhaps may influence the commencement of this severe decline in homicide by firearm that we see the graph demonstrating commencing around that time.

Edited by PaulS
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Of course if there are less guns then it stands to reason that there are going to be less firearm suicides and less homicides by firearm, but one would expect people will still find other ways to commit suicide and other ways to kill others, so removing guns perhaps just transfers the means by which people commit these acts.

 

Looking at recent events, though, what weapon other than a gun makes it possible for one person to enter a school and kill 26 without being stopped?

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Of course if there are less guns then it stands to reason that there are going to be less firearm suicides and less homicides by firearm, but one would expect people will still find other ways to commit suicide and other ways to kill others, so removing guns perhaps just transfers the means by which people commit these acts.

 

Paul,

 

I would not claim to have any expertise, but I have read that often suicide is not a desire to die, but a desire to express one's suffering and/or to get attention. That is why some attempts (like slit wrists, overdoses of pills, etc.) are often not successful. I suspect the success rate for guns is quite high. There is something quite conclusive about a gun to the head.

 

George

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Too true, George. At the end of the day, most people who attempt to commit suicide (I would suggest all) are not in a healthy state of mind and clearly are making a decision they might not otherwise make if their head was in a better place. Access to a firearm ensures the job is done, rarely with any degree of failure. Determined suicidees will still find a way I guess, but the data speaks for itself (IMO) that restricted access to firearms has resulted in a reduced rate of suicide in Australia, as it also has resulted in a dramatic reduction in homicide.

 

My last post left off the other graph I thought I'd put there for some reason (my fault, not the system, of course). Whilst the homicide by firearm rate has of course diminished (less guns, less chance to kill by gun), the actual murder rate as a whole has severely dimished too since the introduction of stricter guns lasw between 1988 and 1996:

 

Homicide incidents in Australia, 1989-90 to 2006-07 (number)

 

homiciderate2.png

Edited by PaulS
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There is something quite conclusive about a gun to the head

-----------------------------

 

Actually not so much. Gun to the head more often fails than gun to the heart. My brother did it this way. There is less chance of failure.

 

Men are said to commit suicide because they can't see a way out of their problems. Certainly that was my brother's case. My brother's mental illness was not committing suicide but the 20 years leading up to it. His suicide was a rational act.

 

I go on about this I guess because we should not jump to easy answers about a suicider's state of mind.

 

No one would have hesitated to sell him a gun. If a gun were not available he would have succeeded another way.

 

I would expect the statistics for suicide to go down with fewer guns available since other methods have a higher failure rate. But I think gun control will not be as successful in America. It will take decades for the one million assault weapons in the country to become useless. Would we ever make possession of aslt guns and large clips illegal (not just the sale or manufacture) we might have chance but there is not the will to do that. We have enthroned individual freedoms to our detriment.

 

We will free safer if more services are provided for those who a mental illness - and I am glad for that - and record of their diagnosis and treatment will be added to the Colo Criminal Info Center database but until access to guns is limited for all people then this is a distraction. The Aurora shooter would not have been tagged.

 

Belcher, of the Kansas Chiefs, texted a friend that he was so frustrated with his wife/girlfriend? That he might kill her. A month later a murder-suicide. What freedom are we willing to give up so that he would have been forcibly referred to therapies until he was neither a danger to himself or to others.

 

I am glad mental health services will improve in Colorado. But I continue to think that there will be fewer homicides and suicides only if there are fewer guns.

 

Dutch

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The mother of the shooter knew her son was mentally disturbed, yet taught him how to use rifles--she was in a survivalist movement, hoarding food, supplies, and a stockpile of heavy weapons. If ever there was an example of household guns failing to protect their owners …This paranoia and climate of fear is the real enemy.

 

A line has been crossed. We can only hope and pray that there will be enough sustained momentum in the US to take a decisive stand against making mass murder so easy.

 

It was encouraging to hear that a few NRA senators have changed their minds and now support more federal restrictions; and some companies are divesting themselves of connections with gun manufacturers.

 

If the focus is on finding common ground, rather than demonizing, I think there's a good chance for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips. It's acknowledged that no single law will prevent random violence - but to do nothing would be the worst.

Edited by rivanna
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It seems to me that the goal should not be zero gun deaths, this is not realistic. But, if by instituting some sensible laws (no assault weapons, no gun-show loop hole, better mental health targeting and treating, etc.) it would make some difference. 31,000 people die in the U.S. every year from gun violence. To reduce this even 25% would save 8,000 lives. I think that would be a valuable acheivement.

 

George

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Mental health services should be provided because those who suffer need support on their own account. What does it say if investment is only made because of the risk of people with mental health problems harming "normal" people? Someone with a major psychiatric diagnosis is many times more likely to harm themselves than anyone else, and far more likely again to have a poor quality of life without harming anyone. They get forgotten.

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To continue to focus on the mentally ill continues the hustoric tradition of using control out of the hands of the lessor people. Blacks, irish,etc.

 

It is a distraction and allows us to think we are doing something that will make us feel safer. Rather than putting our energy into passing a law making POSSESSION of assault rifles illegal and tightening reasons for being able to own a gun. That would keep guns out of the hands of normal people.

A swiss cheese aslt rifle ban - like the last one which would not necessarily have included the gun used at Sandy Hoop - is a sham and will have no discernable effect on murder and suicides thus proving gun rights proponents right.

 

Paul,

 

Thank you for all the statistics you gathered.

 

Dutch

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Paul, Thank you for all the statistics you gathered.

 

Dutch

 

I second that.

 

George

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To continue to focus on the mentally ill continues the hustoric tradition of using control out of the hands of the lessor people. Blacks, irish,etc.

 

Dutch, with all due respect, I don't agree. It is no coincidence that a number (all?) of the mass killings involved people with mental illness. In fact, I find it hard to believe that any sane, sober person would massacre a large number of innocent and anonymous persons.

 

This doesn't mean, of course, that everyone who suffers mental illness is a danger. How we might distinguish those who are prone to violence from all others is way above my pay grade.

 

There are other correlations as well with mass killings. It seems that often (always?) it is young, white males. Is there some way to be more restrictive with this group without treading on equal rights?

 

George

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Another thought on this issue. As Rivanna has pointed out, the mother owned the weapons and apparently acquired them legally.

 

Maybe we should place serious legal responsibilities on gun owners to keep their guns protected so that children, others in the household or burglars would not have easy access. Trigger locks? Heavy penalites if their gun was used in a crime?

 

George

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I remember it well - I was in central London that day. The thing is, the manufacture and possession of the explosives used were both illegal under UK law. Even collecting the ingredients could have led to prosecution.

 

You made earlier the very good point that banning something doesn't necessarily make it unavailable, and that's particularly true in the case of homemade bombs. We've also seen figures that show that in countries such as Switzerland, Finland and Serbia availability of weapons doesn't lead to increased homicide.

 

When you make a law you obviously have to think about how to enforce it. Nonetheless, in the US situation where you have regular mass killings with legally held guns you don't even get to start considering how to take that second step.

 

ETA: This xkcd cartoon seems apposite - you have to hover over one of the pictures for the punchline.

 

http://xkcd.com/970/

Edited by dusktilldawn
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Joseph, because it is possible to use an alternative weapon, we should allow all weapons, particularly ones that are easy to acquire and easy to use with minimal skill? Should we permit shoulder-fired missiles? Flame throwers? Land mines?

 

How many non-political, mass murders by disturbed young men have occurred in the UK? How many here?

 

George

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George ,

 

Hopefully that was not really a question you expected an answer to from me..... The only point made by the link was in response to dusktildawn comment which i quoted and supplied a link only to point out that for those determined, using common available items, they are not limited in committing atrocities to large number of people by the absence of guns.That was the only point i was making.

 

Joseph.

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Joseph,

 

Sorry if I misunderstood. i thought you were implying that banning assault weapons would not be an effective way to reduce mass killings because alternatives were possible.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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Young white males who are loners. That is not a small enough group. I have heard about building up a risk assessment profile on individuals who come to someone's attention. Although the Sandy Hook shooter was mentally afflicted. other than incarceration what would the best mental health services have done. I do believe that we can be smarter managing the risks but the benefits will be minimal in preventing deaths until there are fewer guns. Our mental health services will improve and that is a very good. Maybe in Aurora services would be provided to someone before they run afoul of the law instead of the current threshold - arrest.

 

Without review here a list of mass killings (4 or more dead I think) since Columbine. Which ones would have been stopped by state of the art mental health services?

 

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/14/1337221/a-timeline-of-mass-shootings-in-the-us-since-columbine/?mobile=nc

 

Dutch

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I think it is relying upon mental health services to identify these potential killers. I could be wrong, but I'm sure I have had a picture in the past that many of these people (Tim McVeigh, The Washington Sniper, and others) seemed quite normal to everyone around them, until they snapped.

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Currently the news is that the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter wanted to increase care for him. It seems unclear whether this meant forced commitment or more visits to the therapist. He lost his temper, grabbed the nearest assault rifle and shot her. If this is an accurate account it is hard for me to imagine a mental health system that would have stopped the shooter. I can imagine a better outcome if people who lived in the same household as a mentally ill person were prohibited from having a gun in the house. AND I can imagine a better outcome if POSSESSION of an assault gun were illegal. The weapon would not be there.

 

Mother Jones says that many shooters showed signs of possible mental illness before their killing. But what laws will be written to make it easier to force someone to be diagnosed and to undergo treatment. Of the 62 shootings MJ looked at 80% of the guns had been purchased legally. In these cases what tips the scale way before any other factor is the availability of guns. If the guns are handy it is the gun that turns a temper tantrum into a mass killing. The Aurora shooter I think had all his weapons before anyone on campus thought about reporting their concerns. We need to focus on making illegal the possession of assault rifles, semiautomatic handguns, and clips holding more that 10

 

If we have to spend money to improve the mental system of our communities that will help but the mentally ill people are not the weak people that need help so we will feel safe. A country that will not ban these weapons is the weak one. We make our world unsafe.

 

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map

 

I think I am finished with this now redundant, serial rant.

 

Dutch

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