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?

[Trigger warning] Texas possible murder case

(via SourceFed, CNN) There was an event a few days ago in Shiner, Texas, in which a man allegedly found a man molesting his five year old daughter.  The father beat that man into submission, and, it turned out, to death.

The question that both the CNN article and SourceFed raised was, should the man be charged?

I didn't know what to think about that -- and that bothered me.  It seemed like a pretty big deal, and the issues surrounding it make me feel like it demands a forceful response.  Certainly, a lot of people have the very strong reaction that the man should absolutely not be punished.

I'm pretty good at being dispassionate, but my gut definitely pulls me towards agreement -- I find it hard to justify thinking that the father should go to jail for this.  But I also feel uncomfortable with the idea of letting that line be drawn anywhere between acceptable and unacceptable killing between civilians.  Further, if there's any time when temporary insanity makes sense as a reason someone shouldn't go to jail for a murder, it's this.

But I think I've figured out how I feel about this, and what I think should happen.  My conclusions are below the fold.

First.  There should be due process regarding determining whether the accused deceased was actually molesting the five year old girl.  This could be difficult, and might ultimately be inconclusive.  But if the state comes to a conclusion, that should inform what happens next.

If the deceased is found guilty, then the father should be tried, but I would consider it a gross injustice if he wasn't found innocent by way of temporary insanity.  The circumstances of his crime are in that case so extraordinary that it's reasonable to expect he's not a continued threat to society.  (And I have no sympathy for anyone who might recreate those circumstances.)

If the deceased is found innocent, the father should be tried, and the severity of his punishment should reflect both what he believed was happening, and how reasonable his mistake was -- he might not be safe to go free if he flies into that sort of rage any time someone's in the same room as his daughter, but if by some extraordinary series of coincidences it can be shown that the deceased was definitely innocent, but that the father was definitely justified in believing he wasn't, that's probably roughly equivalent to the deceased having been guilty, in terms of justified sentencing.

If it can't be determined whether the deceased was guilty, the trial should proceed, and I would expect the father to be found innocent, and at worst suffer a very light sentence.