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?

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- full disclosure, I never read the book. I own it, because I remember a lot of people in high school telling me how great it was and how important it was to them.  But I didn't get through the first 20 pages.  I don't think I hated it, I think I just picked a bad time to start reading a serious book. Anyway, I enjoyed the movie.  It was hard to watch -- very "Real-life," in the way that means "Sad."  I don't normally like that kind of movie, but they did a good job.  Even though I never read the book, I was glad to see that the original author also wrote the screenplay and directed.

There was a lot of stuff where I wonder if it was in the book or not, but since the writer wrote both, I don't think it matters much.  There's a recurring point, not really a plot point, but events, where an english teacher gives the main characters classic books, the kinds of books that make huge impacts on nerdy kids' lives.  I wonder if Stephen Chbosky was trying to write a book like that on purpose.

Spoilery reviewing below the fold.

I said before that this movie was sad, and that I don't normally like that.  I mean it was the kind of painful sad, where one of the major themes of the movie is "Sometimes, for some people, life just really sucks."  It's all about high school, and that's an easy setting for incredibly dark, painful stories.  It's a lot more believable (and, in consequence, more painful) that kids will screw things up the way they do in these kinds of movies than adults, like when Charlie kisses Sam in front of Mary Elizabeth.  That hurt a lot to watch.

I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I remember figuring out when I was in high school that, statistically, the fact that bad things happen to everyone sometimes means bad things happen to some people all the time.  And it's not that they bought it on themselves, or they're bad people, or they're doing something wrong.  It's just that every time you try to pick yourself up, there's a chance it will go horribly wrong.  So it's almost necessarily true that for some people, whenever they try to make their lives better, it will go horribly wrong.

But this isn't that kind of movie.  The message of this movie wasn't "Everything sucks," it was more like "It gets better."  Which is a super-important message.