SourceFed on gun rights

I don't love SourceFed's coverage of events like the recent shooting.  Like most American media, they tend to be a little too both-sides-no-matter-what for my taste.  But their latest video on the topic, Obama's Plan for Gun Reform, contains one of the most important points that mostly fails to be brought up in this debate:

I'm not quite sure where I stand on guns.  I think a person should be able to protect his or her family.  But I don't think he or she needs a semi-automatic weapon to do so.  I also don't think owning a piece of metal that hurls smaller pieces of metal at high velocity is an inalienable right.  It's a legal right, and I think people tend to get those two things confused.  It was a legal right that was created when our culture was in a much different place.

(emphasis mine.)

The thing about the right being created when our culture was in a different place is usually brought up in these conversations, but it's usually not accompanied by anyone highlighting the point that the idea of 'rights' is a complicated set of philosophical and legal premises, not one individual position.

Guns in the US

There was an ad before a YouTube video I watched earlier today,  unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to save the link -- I think it's safe to assume that they would have already paid for the advertising, that they didn't (a.) throw up the ad after hearing about the shooting this morning, or (b.) have the ability to pull it from airing for a respectful period of time.  My point isn't that the ad was in poor taste.  Just that it exists. It was an ad for a company in California, that sells kits to assemble guns at home.  The ad featured (in fact, entirely consisted of) a man explaining that it's not illegal to buy the parts of a gun, even if you can't buy the gun itself, how to machine those parts to create the gun they're parts of, and in what ways you can avoid registering the gun.  Apparently, registration has to happen at the point where the gun is sold, at least in California, so if you make it yourself, nobody has to know that you own it.

It's not hard to qualify for a gun in the United States.  But apparently, that's not enough -- there are also companies whose business is helping people who don't qualify get around the law with loopholes, so they can have guns without letting anyone know.

I'm angry.

I'm angry because I know how many times in the next few weeks I'm going to hear people say that this couldn't have been prevented.  And because I know I'm going to hear that, even if guns were substantially more controlled, this kid would have gotten them anyway.  Or that he would have done just as much damage if he had some other weapon.

After the Aurora, CO shooting, PolitiFact responded to Facebook claims that the United States has the most gun violence in the world:

According to data collected by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, several other countries had more gun homicides than the U.S., and perhaps 17 countries had a higher rate of gun homicides than the U.S. when population is factored in. However, when comparing the U.S. to its most direct equivalents -- affluent nations in Europe and Asia -- the U.S. has far more gun homicides than they do. We rated this one Half True.

Emphasis mine.

So, we have less violence than countries like Somalia.  We're outdone in gun violence per capita by the nation states who are constantly at war with themselves and each other.

And I'm angry that people will say "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns."  First of all, because it reduces a complex legislative discussion to all-or-nothing, and secondly, because other developed countries clearly illustrate the reality that more gun control means less gun death.

The UK is widely acknowledged to have some of the strictest gun laws in the world.  Wikipedia has a list of world nations by firearm related death rate.  The United States is twelfth, at 9 deaths per 100,000 people annually (data 2008-2010).  The UK is sixty-fifth, at 0.22 deaths per 100,000 people annually (data 2009).  That is, eleventh from the bottom of the list.  That is, about 41 times more gun death in the US than the UK.

And to the point about people just finding other ways to kill people, the US rate of murders per 100,000 people is 4.2; the UK's is 1.2.  As for the discrepancy with the numbers, a lot of gun death in America is by suicide.  The American suicide rate per 100,000 annually is 12.  UK; 6.9.

Now, correlation does not prove causation.  But it offers a fracking big hint.  And this correlation absolutely disproves the premise that more gun laws = more gun violence.

Plenty of people will say that we shouldn't make this political.  That it's a tragedy.  That we have to wait a respectful amount of time before we start the argument about gun violence.  They said that after the Aurora shooting.  And the shooting before that.  And the shootings before that.

We didn't ever get around to changing the rules last time.  We won't, this time, either -- if we pretend that gun control legislation is somehow irreverent.  There may not be a sufficiently respectful amount of time after this shooting, before there's another one.

Since (and including) the Columbine shooting in April of 1999, there have been 31 mass shootings in America.  That's close to two and a half per year.

We're over the average so far in 2012, at 3, but there are less than 20 days left this year.  Is that a respectful amount of time?

Cracked on Gun Control

I may not be very good at it myself, but there are few things I like more than an argument I think is stupid being called stupid.  Not wrong, or questionable, or inaccurate, or fallacious, but stupid. On the one hand, I don't totally like the idea of shaming people out of the debate.  It strikes me as unsavory.  But on the other hand, (a.) everyone's doing it -- no side of any large argument doesn't use mockery as a tactic, and (b.) some people really do need to be shamed out of the mainstream debate.

The thing I linked to there is called the Overton Window, a concept in politics that argues there is a range, that moves based on popular opinion, of positions politicians can have.  For example, on race: reinstituting race-based slavery is well outside the Overton window.  Segregation is also very far out.  Repealing the civil rights act is outside the window, but politicians like Ron Paul have advocated for it, and their popular support drags that window back.

When we start to get towards the other side of the window, through the acceptable range that now predominantly consists of "doing nothing," things like new proactive government efforts to break multi-generational cycles keeping white people up relative to everyone else, and keeping people of color down, have to compete with a political dialogue that challenges the legitimacy of explicitly stating that discriminating on the basis of race is wrong.

On gun control, organizations like the NRA flood the dialogue with insane, fringe, indefensible arguments that, though they hold no real weight logically, hold back the political discussion by forcing politicians to compromise with people who think that giving everyone guns would make the world a better place.

That's all to say that

Cracked has an awesome column on stupid gun control arguments.

The Arrogant Worms: If Everyone Had A Gun

In the wake of all the gun-related news lately, I remembered a song I liked in High School, the Arrogant Worms's Wouldn't It Be Great if Everyone Had A Gun?  This appears to be a more recent filming of it, and points out the absurdity to the argument that more guns = less gun violence.