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Opening Arguments

It's the guns, stupid

"What you see depends on where you stand" update. Paul Helmke on gun violence: 

Studies generally establish that the more guns there are in a home, city, state, or country, the more gun violence there will be in that home, city, state or country. Guns too often get lost, stolen or misused. People with guns (like all of us) too often get angry, drunk, or make mistakes. Trained law enforcement professionals, who are tested regularly on "shoot/don't shoot" scenarios, undergo psychological reviews, and target practice, still miss their target 80% of the time in active shooter situations, and make other human errors. I am not "anti-gun" but believe that along with "rights" there needs to be serious recognition of the risks and responsibilities that come with gun ownership.

Nick Gillespie on gun violence:

Once you strip away the raw emotionalism of the carnage at Sandy Hook, or the Aurora theater, or Columbine, or Luby's, or whatever, you're left with a series of inconvenient truths for gun-control advocates: Over the past 20 years or so, more guns are in circulation and violent crime is down. So is violent crime that uses guns. Murders are down, too, even as video games and movies and music and everything else are filled with more fantasy violence than ever. For god's sake, even mass shootings are not becoming more common. If ever there was a case to stand pat in terms of public policy, the state of gun control provides it (and that's without even delving into the fact that Supreme Court has recently validated a personal right to own guns in two landmark cases). It's probably always been the case but certainly since the start of 21st century, it seems like we legislate only by crisis-mongering and the results have not been good.

Helmke's work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence does not predispose him to look for evidence that would justify leaving the gun laws alone. Gillespie's association with the libertarian magazine Reason does not make him inclined to justify greater regulation, of guns or anything else.

My own biases edge me to Gillespie's views, but if you try to support either proposition with actual statistics -- an increase in guns leads to an increase/decrease in gun violence -- you can get into murky waters. In his book "More Guns, Less Crime," economist John Lott seems to make a good case for the Gillespie side, but critics have pointed out more than a few flaws in the work, including:

The central problem is that crime moves in waves, yet Lott's analysis does not include variables that can explain these cycles. For example, he uses no variables on gangs, drug consumption, or community policing. As a result, many of Lott's findings make no sense. He finds, for example, that both increasing the rate of unemployment and reducing income reduces the rate of violent crimes and that reducing the number of black women 40 years old or older (who are rarely either perpetrators or victims of murder) substantially reduces murder rates. Indeed, according to Lott's results, getting rid of older black women will lead to a more dramatic reduction in homicide rates than increasing arrest rates or enacting shall-issue laws.


Rebecca Mallory
Tue, 01/15/2013 - 4:14pm

"Quemadmodum gladius nemimem occidit: occidentis telum est"


A sword never kills; it is a tool in a killer's hand.  Guncite.com is  one-stop-shopping  for those interested in the topic.  Lots of info on both sides of the issue.

Andrew J.
Tue, 01/15/2013 - 4:43pm

The more swords you get into the bad guys hands, the more people they kill. A nutjob walks into a theater and the only weapon he was able to steal/buy was a six-shot revolver; worst case scenario, six people killed. Give him a clip of 50 bullets, and the kill ratio increases accordingly. Killing six innocent people is bad; 27 is even worse. Seems common sense to me.


Harl Delos
Wed, 01/16/2013 - 2:53pm

 I wonder how big a clip is equivalent to a microwave oven and some loosened gas lines?  Set it up in an empty stock room, in order to go postal on your boss who fired you because you seemed to have emotional problems and set the timer on the microwave to start at 9:30 Monday when he'll be running the weekly staff meeting right above that empty stock room.

To quote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, "Think you used enough powder there, Butch?"  The folks who were trying to sell their Richmond Hills house to the insurance company before they lost it in foreclosure weren't any good at stoichiometry, and they blew up the entire neighborhood - 32 houses damaged.  Try this on a lower floor of a shyscraper, and you might be able to destroy a neighboring building, like you have dominoes.

When the popcorn machine exploded at the state fair coliseum in 1963, 74 people died and more than 400 were injured.  It appears that at least half the bullets fired by these angry people don't hit anybody, and some people get hit multiple times.   

The  specs that the M249 was designed for was 20 pounds counting a belt of 200 rounds.  That might be suitable for "Texas Tower" Whitman, but most of these incidents involve people walking around.  Hold both arms fully extended in front of you with a gallon jug of milk (8 1/2 pounds each) in each one.  Imagine that you're trying to hold your arms steady on a target that's scrambling a lot.  How hard is it going to be to hit your target?

I don't see any reason why someone would need a clip bigger than 10 rounds.  If you're trying to defend your home from invading hordes, you want a belt-fed gun.  If you're trying to protect your convenience store from being robbed by a motorcycle gang and you can't get them to turn tail and run with ten rounds, you're going to be taken out by their guns before you'd need to change clips.

So I'd be jake with putting clips greater than 10 rounds into the same category as tommy guns - difficult and expensive to own, but not impossible.  On the other hand, we can't delude outselves ito thinking that will solve this problem.  We need to close down all the supermarkets, hardware stores, drug stores, and auto parts stores to make a serious dent.

The Secret Service said in 1963 that if a determined individual wants to trade his own life for that of the President, there's no stopping him.  When you're tring to protect 330 million people, it's just that much harder to do.  Sometimes, the right answer to a question is "It can't be done."