May 29, 2014

So tired of mass shootings

And I am so tired of the NRA.  I so wish that responsible gun owners would take that organization back.  They won't, anymore than the responsible conservatives will reclaim the GOP, but it would be nice.

NRA finally meets its match: Why Richard Martinez should have them shaking -

I still say that the gun people are really flirting with disaster.  Every day I read about idiots carrying guns into restaurants just to be asses, or about accidental shootings.  At some point, the public sentiment could change, and if it does, gun owners will be as defensive as the tobacco industry.  Actually, they already are.

And let me add, that I am most tired of the fact that we have these mass shootings and the political culture is just ok with them.  We have idiots like Joe the Plumber attacking those who lost people--predictable, in that we will have that from the NRA in mere days.  But we as a nation just shake our heads and say, "oh well."  I think it is John Oliver who jokes that one failed shoe bomb has us all taking off our shoes going through security, but mass shootings has us loosening gun laws.


Jay said...

While it's a right, it's different. And in a practical sense, that means next to nothing can be done about it. At least that is how I perceive the legal reality. We do not have a "right to drive" or a "right to fly", so changing what is needed to legally drive and fly is comparatively easy. We have a right to bear arms. So any changes must meet a higher standard.

Basically, as steve suggested in another comment, a desire for tighter gun laws (or more to the point, gun laws that are tight enough to affect their availability to people who have not already been declared unfit to bear arms) is essentially the same as saying you favor weakening the constitution. And while public opinion might well shift toward tighter gun laws, is the public ready to support weakening the constitution to do it? I am not convinced that point is ever likely to be reached.

As always, I would be interested in the thoughts of those who know more about the ins and outs of this situation than I do. But from where I sit, it seems that the gun owners (both the responsible and irresponsible ones) are sitting in a position of real and almost unassailable strength here.

Streak said...

I see the problems with reversing anything meaningful. There are just too many guns out there, for one thing. And I am certainly not for taking people's guns away. I do think there is room to make meaningful restrictions on magazine size and there is certainly a big part of me who doesn't understand why it is perfectly ok to stockpile weapons. If there are reasonable restrictions to speech, and there are, then there should be reasonable restrictions to gun ownership.

But what I would really like to see is a concerted effort by gun owners to dial back the gun crazy. I have no problem with the responsible gun owners, but the public voice about guns is the NRA and the people who are ranting about the government taking their guns away. How about gun owners start talking about responsibility and the fact that just because most people can own a gun, doesn't mean they should. I would like to see honest and earnest attempts to talk people out of this bluster. These open carry nutjobs are scaring the crap out of people in public--which is their goal. And the NRA's political wing, is, as I have said before, destructive and sociopathic. Something horribly wrong with a group that openly endorses Sarah Palin and applauds when she endorses torture. Time for the reasonable moral people to either change that group or find another one.

Jay said...

I agree with pretty much everything you say in your second paragraph. I am much more radical with respect to the points in your first paragraph, and what I would like (in the abstract) to happen with respect to legal gun ownership in this country. In a practical sense, I understand that deep changes are unlikely to ever occur.

But I guess my reply had more to do with your issues with the political culture. And I think it will take more than public distaste with the gun culture as you define it (which, I think, is already at a higher level than it has been for quite a while) to promote political change, mostly for the reasons I alluded to above.

Streak said...

I understand where the court is on gun control. I disagree with it. As I have said before, I am amazed that while the 1st amendment has no caveat, the 2nd does. There is supposed to be a purpose behind gun rights--not just to enable paranoid fantasies about the government.

Perhaps nothing will change. But every mass murder in public places, and every killed child is calling into attention the fact that most gun rights people are saying they will absolutely live with those deaths as long as they don't have to have restrictions on how many guns they can buy. Life, evidently, is no longer considered a right, or certainly not one that is on par with the right to bear arms.

I understand that is snarky, but I am watching people like Joe the Plumber essentially say that. I am tired of watching the sociopaths in the NRA demean people who have lost children to gun fire, and I am tired of reasonable people who seem willing to tolerate sociopaths as long as they are for gun rights.

steves said...

What has the NRA said to demean people that have lost children? I know that you aren't above name-calling in regards to them, but I guess I haven't seen them do this.

I agree with Jay, in that since we are dealing with a constitutionally recognized right, we should tread carefully. I wouldn't even suggest that all laws that touch on this are unconstitutional, but we should at least be willing to apply the same standards that we do with the rest of the Bill of Rights. At bare minimum, proposed laws must have some compelling state interest and they must do what they are purported to do. Unfortunately, this is where most of them fail. Things like waiting periods, magazine restrictions, safe storage laws, and many others don't seem to have any effect on violent crime or gun accidents. If this is true, then these types of laws should fail.

I don't think anyone, even the NRA, wants mass shootings. That being said, they are still very rare and likely very difficult to research in terms of what is effective. As for Mr. Martinez, I wish that society would not react to tragedy with demands for new legislation. As a result of this kind of thinking, we end up with things like the sex offender registry. Study after study has shown that this does nothing to lower the rate of sexual assault and makes it more difficult for these people to reintegrate into society. On a broader note, look at what has happened since 9/11 with things like the Patriot Act. We need to be careful as to what we give up. Gun rights people aren't saying that we should have to live with mass killings. They are saying that they don't want to have their rights infringed just to make some other people feel more safe (as opposed to actually being more safe).

I can think of two crime fighting measure that would be 100% guaranteed to lower crime:

1. Allow the police to conduct random, warrantless searches of people's homes. I can guarantee that this would result in seizing large amounts of contraband, in addition to picking up parole absconders and people with outstanding warrants.

2. Institute mandatory curfews for all non-essential people. Most crimes that occur in public happen at night. In places with curfews, crime does go way down.

Like most people, I am sure you are saying that these are ridiculous, not to mention an offense to liberty. This is exactly how gun owners feel when pundits (I actually saw this a year or so ago) suggest that every kind of gun be banned except for single shot rifles and shotguns and that ammo be taxed at 400%.

As for the open carry people, I doubt that the goal is to just scare people. That would be either brandishing or assault in every state. I think that a tiny handful are looking for attention, but most probably just want to go about their business. I live in a OC legal state and can county on one hand the number of people I have seen doing this.

Streak said...

"I know that you aren't above name-calling in regards to them." Wow. They invite a torture defender to speak, and I am the name caller. Nice.

Actually, many gun rights people are absolutely saying we should live with mass killings. You aren't paying attention. I am not suggesting that you believe this, or have suggested this. But while you like to take personal shots at me, I am not making this up.

What bothers me about the discussion is that you almost always refer to gun control advocates with their most extreme example (and I understand you believe I do the same--but the NRA is my model here, the most visible voice for gun rights, as you have said yourself). I am not advocating (as I have said numerous times) taking people's guns away. I think we should at least be able to consider limits on stockpiling weapons, and on magazine size. I think we have to tighten how people buy guns and allow us to track those gun stores who fail to be rigorous about selling. As I have said repeatedly, I have no problem with the responsible gun owners, but don't believe that your constitutional right includes the right to buy as many guns as you want with no limitations.

Streak said...

Since you don't respect those of us who fear gun people, perhaps this conversation is not terribly useful. I agree that kneejerk legislation can be harmful, which is all the more reason for the supposed adults in the gun rights movement to actually work with some gun control efforts. They won't. And to be honest, I am losing respect for the gun rights people, if for no other reason than their complete blindness to the idiocy of the NRA. Don't expect me to respect you, for one thing, if you have no respect for my rights in this country and my fear of my neighbors with guns, and don't expect me to respect you if you defend the idiots at the NRA's political wing. Yeah, I guess I do call them names. I think sociopaths deserve it.

steves said...

I haven't heard you call them anything but sociopaths, so I do find difficult to believe that you are interested in having a reasoned discussion on them.

Again, they are not saying we should live with mass killings, they are questioning the notion that stricter gun laws will eliminate them, or in a broader sense, reduce violent crime. As for me using the most extreme examples, I haven't. I am trying to pick some of the more moderate ones. I would consider the extreme ones to be the pundits and celebrities that have tweeted things like, "I hope the next mass shooter goes after the families of NRA members," or something similar. I know that there are some reasonable gun control advocates, but the politicians that promote most of policies are not. Check out this publication that discusses how gun control advocates can promote their position. I disagree with much of it.

What makes you think I don't respect people that fear guns? I will admit that I don't completely understand that fear, but I am probably made uncomfortable by things (such as heights) that don't bother other people. That being said, I don't expect society to structure itself around what makes me comfortable. If you want to mandate policies and laws that have an actual effect on public safety, I can see the sense in that, but people do not have the right to not be offended.

This doesn't mean I am a fan of the over the top OC'ers. I don't believe that just because you can do something, it means you should do something. This is one of the reasons that I don't, and probably won't, OC. I also don't think that people should OC rifles, use tactical holsters, or otherwise dress in camo or some other stupid shit that makes them look like wannabe commandos. Unfortunately, I am also reminded of something one of my friends says about allies, "no matter what side of an argument you are on, there are always people on your side whom you wish were not on your side."

Streak said...

In all honesty, Steve, what do you call people who openly endorse racism (Nugent), torture (Palin) and who are welcomed with open arms by the NRA? What do you call people like that? I am not talking about NRA trainers, and I am not talking about the average NRA member. I am talking about people who respond to mass shootings with first silence, and then accusations about politicizing tragedy, and then calls for more guns in more places. I don't understand why you expect me to respect that. And I don't understand why you tolerate it.

As for your respect for me or others, I simply haven't seen it. I have seen pretty much a dismissal when I note that one thing I don't miss about teaching is the fear that some gun person will be in my class--licensed or no. BTW, you can manage your fear of heights. Increasingly, thanks to the NRA, I am losing my ability to even manage whether or not I am around guns in public. I find it rather funny that the NRA is now denouncing the open carry people. Not that they called for explicitly OC, but they have been essentially calling for more guns in more places and bragging about their ability to defeat any gun legislation. Not sure what they expect when they call for more good guys with guns. Are they really so stupid that they think all these idiots don't consider themselves "good guys?"

Jay said...

Steves wrote: "I agree with Jay, in that since we are dealing with a constitutionally recognized right, we should tread carefully." This could be part of the cultural disconnect between steves and myself, but this is really not how I feel. I don't think we should tread carefully on this issue at all. I don't perceive we have any choice but to tread carefully. And it is that lack of choice that I assert is the major political and social impediment to fruitful discourse about what could or should be done, much less actually doing anything.

Streak said...

Are you saying, Jay, that the constitutionality of gun rights is so iron-clad that there is no room for gun control?

Jay said...

I don't feel qualified to make a statement as broad as what you wrote, as I do not believe I have a sufficient grasp of all the legal intricacies.

That said, I think that statement is true for gun control laws that would have any real chance of reducing the rate of mass shootings, gun suicide rates, and stupidity-related gun accidents. I am quite convinced that the only way to affect those rates is to sharply limit public access to guns (Smitty wrote a comment some time ago on this blog that really drove that point home for me). But while gun ownership/access is protected as a right, I think it is simply not possible to do that in one step. And the data does not exist that would support intermediate steps toward that end. Furthermore gun rights advocates, for obvious reasons, fight any effort to take those steps and they will win those fights because the data is not reliable enough to establish that partial bans on X, Y, and/or Z will help anything.

This is the sense in which I feel we are at an impasse when it comes to mass shootings and the other points I noted above.

steves said...

FWIW, I don't think the data exists that shows an outright ban, by itself, would lead to appreciable decrease in violent crime. We have had this for decades in some places. Mass killings, in the US, peaked in the 1920's. Japan has a suicide rate that is twice that of the US and they have a total ban on civilian gun ownership. Are you suggesting that people that kill themselves with guns wouldn't have found some other means to do so if they couldn't get a gun? Gun accidents, despite an increase in the number of people that own guns, have been decreasing for the past three decades.

Jay, I think you place too much faith that the various legislatures are motivated by logic and evidence when crafting legislation. I have no doubt that most gun control measures are driven by emotion and the illusion of safety. As for a discourse, if you look at the history, it is gun owners that have compromised time after time. We went from very little gun laws, with most of them being state, to mostly federal laws and the creation of a huge regulatory mechanism to oversee them. In the 1920's, a child could order a belt fed machine gun from a catalog. I am not suggesting we go back to that, but I don't think most people understand how far society has gone in this regard.

Streak said...

I certainly didn't call for an outright ban. Not sure why we are even talking about that. I understand people who want to kill themselves have a lot of options, but I have read that those who try other methods have a higher rate of failure and of changing their minds. Putting a gun to your head tends to be pretty effective. As I have also read, those states with looser gun laws have higher suicide rates. I understand that is correlative, but think that it is at least worth thinking about.

I think we went from fewer gun laws to more, probably because of organized crime to begin with. But it is worth remembering that our current "we have to fight the government" is a created paranoia by the right wing. That is the part of this that is incredibly hard to respect. You want a gun to protect yourself? Fine. I am not sure the stats show that to be true either, but you get that right. You want to stockpile guns because your government is your enemy? Don't expect me to be on your side.

Jay said...

steve: I agree the data doesn't exist that would establish whether or not a gun ban would decrease violent crime. But I am not talking about violent crime in general here. I am talking about deaths due to guns. I think there is strong or reasonably strong evidence that a gun ban would substantially decrease the frequency of mass murder, would decrease the suicide rate (perhaps substantially), and would substantially decrease the frequency of accidental shootings (either due to stupidity, poor decision-making, or bad luck).

And that, in a nutshell, is why I feel a total gun ban (outside of highly controlled and regulated environments) would be a good idea (I introduced it into the discussion, Streak...sorry about that). I know that my viewpoint is radical compared to the mainstream. And I also know it is not possible to institute a ban here for a host of political/social/financial/constitutional reasons. But I think it is the only way to substantially decrease the frequency of these events, and for me that would be enough. In this sense, I agree with Streak's original statement: I would be willing to infringe on the rights of millions who have done nothing illegal or wrong to substantially reduce the frequency of these events. I am okay with that when it comes to the right to bear arms because I feel it shouldn't be protected as a right in the first place. I don't expect you or anyone else to agree with my viewpoint, of course. I'm a radical after all. :)

(aside: this is one of the reasons I tend to try to stay out of these sorts of discussions - talking with a radical is seldom fruitful or informative, in my experience, whether you agree with him/her or not.)

But to try to return to your comments about the original point I raised: I agree that legislation is often crafted for emotional and illusory reasons, not logical reasons. But my point is that gun control legislation, regardless of why it was crafted, is for the most part straightforward to argue against because the data does not exist that would support the effectiveness of the measures. Since guns access is protected as a right, a higher standard of evidence is needed to limit that right. And I am not convinced that standard is reachable because the data is simply not good enough.

Oh, and my comment about discourse was more aimed at people talking past each other because there is not a mutual understanding that rights have a special legal status. Anyone who mentions automobile laws and gun laws in the same context is likely to be guilty of this in my experience (unless they are trying to be funny, I guess, like John Oliver). I agree that the gun owners have compromised over time, and I appreciate their willingness to do so. I would like the restrictions to go further or course (radical), but at the same time I am rational enough to admit that we as individuals are less likely to be shot today than we were in the 1920s due in large part to these compromises.