Gun Laws

April 18, 2007 By: erik Category: Media, Musings, News, Politics, USA 1,237 views

Rate this post:
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...Loading...

HandgunI thought I’d write a little bit about how I experienced the news of the “Virginia Tech Massacre”, as the media likes to call it now. It noticed that the story was topping Google News on Monday evening, and I read a little about it. On Tuesday morning, I got up early and read some of the comments about it on Slashdot.

One of the things that struck me as I was reading the comments was who started the argument about gun laws. It was the pro-gun side of the issue. They immediately preempted with a “If gun laws weren’t so strict, and every student in the classrooms was carrying, they would have brought the shooter down immediately, thus saving many lives” argument. The naí¯veté of this viewpoint would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening. The two best points that destroy this idea are:

  1. If everyone had a gun, then common arguments with heated tempers would result in death. Everyone that’s ever received a bloody nose from a fist would have received a bullet instead. Guns aren’t powerful enough to benefit from the “assured mutual destruction” peace that nuclear weapons provide.
  2. We tried that already. It was called the Wild West, and the chaos and personal security was like that of present-day Baghdad. Heroes were made of those that could instill the slightest bit of order.

A lot of the comments were along the lines of, “How could someone feel so hurt/lonely/desperate as to kill innocent people like that?” I found one response to this plea particularly on target, which I will reproduce here:

There are any number of reasons, and they are all very real.

For example, imagine that suddenly your dear and loving parents split apart violently. Your once placid and happy life is sundered apart. Instead of caring, your friends (if you’re lucky enough have any) shrug it off. They might have gone through divorce and think it’s much ado about nothing or perhaps they simply don’t understand.

Meanwhile life only gets worse. It isn’t just that no one understands, no one wants to. No one makes the effort to connect and communicate, or not enough people do. You only get to watch as everyone around them appears happy and complacent. They’re having fun, playing games, living normal lives and crying about silly things like how their boyfriend dumped them. Boohoo, your soul is only tearing itself apart and no one notices.

The wound festers, and before long you hate everyone and everything. They’re is so happy like sheep, ignorant and uncaring about the injustices that go on around them. They don’t fucking care, so long as they get to have their stupid, superficial relationships and screw each other while others suffer. They’re more than willing to spend $15 a month on some remote child in africa but to actually lift a finger themselves, too hard for the bastards.

Demons all of them. They’re talking about you behind your back. They’re pointing you out, you’re the weirdo. The anti-social ass who chased away all those fuckers who were your “friends”. No one wants anything to do with you, or doesn’t know you’re unclean. You practically don’t even exist in the feeble minds of these bitches. Some socially disfigured leper.

Damn those fuckers to hell. You play nice, you’re a “primadonna” because you had a nervous breakdown when your parents split. You play rough, and you’re a lowlife scumfuck without the sophistication to breed. Fuck’em all and their social games. They’ll see. You’ll wake them up and they’ll see. They’ll see themselves for the compassionless, stupid fucks they are. Yeah, it’ll be sweet.

Is that how this happened? Probably not. However, it’s suprising how quickly good people can go bad when there’s no one willing or able to support them.

And this later comment on how to prevent such social situations:

No, its not “their fault” – they’re nuts. Still, how do we deal with it? Lock up everyone who might be a threat? That will just alienate the already alienated, or make them hide more diligently until that fatal day when they seek revenge for imagined slights.

No. It means being nicer to people.

To friends, family and complete strangers.

Yes… I said complete strangers. We don’t say please and thank you anymore. We don’t hold doors for each other. We cut each other off in traffic and give each other the bird. We lie and cheat to get ahead at the work place. We gossip and ruin people’s lives. We cut in line in grocery store and we try to rip off our waiter at the restaurant. We focus our lives our possessions and money and we don’t give a damn to a man on the street or a kid who has had his world shattered. We say they are “crazy”. We say they are “evil” and that it isn’t our fault.

But it is our fault. Every single one of us have forgotten about all the other humans out there and we always trump “personal responsibility” on others without even thinking that we haven’t even bothered ourselves.

I’m surprised more people don’t go crazy in our society on a daily basis with the way we behave.

Everyone is about “ME! ME! ME!” without ever stopping to think about the fact they are hurting everyone else.

And I’m guilty as everyone else… But sometimes I think to myself “Maybe I shouldn’t cut off that guy in traffic like that, he might go and snap.”

Okay, here come some of my own thoughts on this issue. I’m far from convinced of my position and am just thinking aloud here. I’m assuming that the goal of our discussion is to try to assess what aspects contributed to such an event occurring and to attempt to alter the world in a way that will prevent future occurrences. First, let’s take a step back from finger pointing and look at things scientifically. How would a scientist assess causality here? The truth is that causality is near impossible to determine in social matters with so many variables. We’re going to have to accept correlation as the best we can get, and then discard correlated factors that we are pretty sure do not have a causal effect. One way to examine the situation would be to compare aspects of the society in which the violence occurred with those of similar societies. How about western Europe? England, Denmark, Spain, France, etc. Let’s compare possible related social aspects between the US and these countries…

  • Violent video games? Present in both. Discarded.
  • Lonely people who feel rage towards other apparently normal happy people? Present in both. Discarded.
  • Bullies who torment unpopular kids to the point where they could snap? Present in both. Discarded.
  • Large vehicles and relatively cheap gas prices? Only in US. This could be it.
  • Banned gay marriage? Only in US. This could definitely be it.
  • Laws allowing private citizens to purchase and carry handguns? Only in US. Can’t be discarded.
  • A large percentage of the population that believes that a man was born to a virgin 2000 years ago, died, came back to life, flew into the sky, and can hear everyone’s most private thoughts? To a greater extent in the US, but not absent in other similar societies. Should be looked at.

This is the kind of thinking that we should be doing with each new suggestion of the “why” behind such a tragedy. Then, each one of the items that is not exactly the same in other societies should be examined further to see if they have any might possibly have any relevance to the situation. Like here, SUVs, gay marriage, and religion can almost certainly be discarded as, although correlated to the rate of single-incident mass gun murder of innocents, not related causally.

It was actually the coverage of the NBC Nightly News (podcasted) that got me thinking along these lines. They mentioned similar incidents over 10 years ago in the UK and Australia which were followed immediately by legislation outlawing handguns. They even pointed out how the cops in the UK don’t carry guns. On a side note, it was kind of shocking to me to see officers with holsters in Spain after living in the UK for so many years. If it wasn’t certainly the top question he would have prepared to dodge, I would have thought Bush’s response to Brian Williams’ “So what are we going to do about all these guns?” question (damn that liberal media!), I would have thought he was a clever politician. His response was, “There will be time for political debate about policies later. Right now I want to concentrate on showing support for the victims’ loved ones”. Brilliant! And scripted.

And all this was before I found out that the shooter purchased his weapons completely legally.

I’m not claiming to have drawn a conclusion that lax gun laws are definitely responsible for what happened on Monday. I’m just suggesting a way to think about it rationally, and to point out that most reasons that you will hear bandied about can be discarded through rational thought, and that gun legislation is a topic that cannot directly be discarded and needs further investigation.

 
  • Uncle Steve

    When I was planning to apply for a conceal permit, just as the new conceal law took place in Utah, I was against it – yes, but doing it anyway myself. My need was to merely put a gun in a backpack while up the mountain, which was against the law without a conceal permit.

    So while tusseling with the incongruity of applying for a permit that I didn’t think should be issued, I researched the state that had most recently (then) passed a conceal law: Florida. Turns out that right after they passed their conceal law, violent gun crimes took a nose dive.

    So I don’t abide by your Wild West argument. Arming people in general makes people in general more polite, because you don’t know who around you is armed.

    Alaska/here is one of the very few states that anyone can carry a concealed weapon without permit; a law I don’t agree with. When I got my conceal permit they taught me things that everyone that carries a gun absolutely needs to know; and despite my owning many guns for many years, I didn’t know those things until that class.

    I was surprised last week as I drove into the McDonalds parking lot; a guy was getting out of his car with a cross-the-back (attaches to the belt on both the right and left side) holster with what looked to be a .45 auto in it. He removed his holster with the gun in it, threw it into the car, shut the door, and walked into the restaurant. The times that I carry I have never once allowed my gun to be seen, so his actions surprised me.

    That’s my two cents.

  • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ erik

    Arming people in general makes people in general more polite, because you donÂ’t know who around you is armed.

    It’s a truly sad day when politeness is motivated by fear of death. I really hope that you’re wrong about that.

    Have you really ever altered your behavior because you were aware of the concealed gun laws in the state you were in?

  • Paul

    I applaud your looking at variables that might have combined to produce this behavior, despite the small liklihood that anything discovered by us could have a large scale impact. It is important simply to further one’s understanding of human behavior. Variables I will nominate include:

    A past history of pleasure playing Doom-like first person shoot-em games. The view from the protagonist’s eyes prevalent in these games offer an almost realistic training experience, including the viewing of blood and body carnage. Enter a new room and pull the trigger almost as fast as you can point. It seems that ALL high school shootings are post-Doom, however the record Hokie Cho broke belonged to the Texas clock-tower shooter, who was pre-Doom.

    A society which does not know how to deal with mental health problems. Hokie Cho was referred for mental health services by an English teacher due to his creative writing. In 2005, he was approached by officers because of complaints from two women who said they were annoyed by his calls and instant messages. In 2005 his roommate reported that he had discussed suicide, and he was taken to a Psych hospital. He was evaluated, but refused to admit himself.

    Availabiilty of easy-to-use weapons. Who knows how hard it would be to procur a handgun if handguns could not legally be sold in this country? One would think ‘not too hard’ since our starting point would be in the millions, but I suspect that the change could be made in a year or so, and that after the change it would not actually be that easy to buy a gun except in the south side of Chicago and maybe East St. Louis. From my knowledge of England’s gun ban, all of which was acquired by reading Dick Francis novels, after the change from guns allowed to no guns allowed, it is now quite difficult to buy a firearm in England. And if you did, your transaction would probably be caught by a couple dozen of their closed circuit cameras.

    Kids can be cruel. The slashdot comment about being nicer to people seems important. Who knows how mean some of Hokie Cho’s fellow students were to him after he first started down his loner path? If the University gave good funds to a social club aimed at seriously recruiting and pleasuring outcasts, could that have made a difference?

    As for concealed weapon laws, I’m afraid Cho supported Steve’s position. I doubt if Cho would have done anything different were he in Alaska, but he might have been cut down in the first classroom by a crossfire.

  • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ erik

    A past history of pleasure playing Doom-like first person shoot-em games. The view from the protagonistÂ’s eyes prevalent in these games offer an almost realistic training experience, including the viewing of blood and body carnage. Enter a new room and pull the trigger almost as fast as you can point. It seems that ALL high school shootings are post-Doom, however the record Hokie Cho broke belonged to the Texas clock-tower shooter, who was pre-Doom.

    I can understand how someone from your generation might consider FPS games to be a major contributing factor to such incidents. However, as one of the 99.9999% (that’s the actual precision) of the hundreds of thousands that have played many hours of FPS games and have not committed mass homicide, I have to doubt your conclusion. I strongly suspect that the violent stress relieved by these games have probably prevented more incidents than they have caused. Plus, they aren’t going to go away, so it’s futile to talk about how much blame they deserve.

    Rather remarkably, my high school actually approved a project proposal of mine to make a level of Doom that modeled my school and contained professors and school administrators that you had to shoot and kill. There’s no way such a project would be approved today. And yet, it resulted in harmless fun and stress relief when I did it.

    If the University gave good funds to a social club aimed at seriously recruiting and pleasuring outcasts, could that have made a difference?

    This is probably a good idea, but it reminds me of something Richard Dawkins said about how getting atheists organized into groups is like herding cats. It could be, though, that these loners are really desperate to feel a sense of belonging and membership to a club. A true loner, though, would probably think that membership in a club would make him as socially superficial as all the people he hates.

    As for concealed weapon laws, IÂ’m afraid Cho supported SteveÂ’s position. I doubt if Cho would have done anything different were he in Alaska, but he might have been cut down in the first classroom by a crossfire.

    I agree. More weapons in the hands of the public could prevent mass shootings like this. But, in my opinion, the cost of such a plan severely outweighs the benefits. That was my point.

  • Uncle Steve

    One last factoid about gun availability: I can buy a gun here with less paperwork than if I were to buy something that is really controlled, like one package of Alleve, a cold medicine.

    Serious.

  • http://www.erik-rasmussen.com/ erik

    I can buy a gun here with less paperwork than if I were to buy something that is really controlled, like one package of Alleve, a cold medicine.

    Reminds me of the bank that gives you a free gun when you open an account in Bowling for Columbine.

    Alaska is the new Texas.