Friday, June 17, 2016

Regarding the current push for more gun control...

(The following was written in response to an article by a self-proclaimed gun rights advocate who was, nevertheless, calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines after the horrible mass shooting which recently took dozens of innocent lives in Orlando.)   

This is an interesting opinion, but I'm not convinced. That is to say, I don't think the proposed measure of limiting magazine size would do much to curb most gun violence. Yes, it may have had an effect on limiting the number of deaths in Orlando, but mass shootings are only part of the problem in regard to gun violence. Without having the data in front of me, it's most probable that shooting incidents usually involve only one victim. I'd bet there are far more incidents where 2 people are killed rather than three. This trend undoubtedly continues up to the point where we reach statistically rare events like the shooting in Orlando. And, overall, I'd expect the tally of deaths from single-victim shootings to be higher than the combined tally from shootings with multiple victims. So... I'm not convinced that restricting magazine capacity would dramatically reduce the number of shooting victims or the number of shooting events which take place in the USA. It's also likely that mass shootings would still take place where the perpetrator carries multiple firearms and kills more than a few people.

But don't misunderstand... this doesn't at all mean that I'm in favor of more aggressive gun control measures. That's because I see the real problem as being America's general culture of violence rather than violence specifically related to guns.

It doesn't seem irrelevant that the Tsarnaev brothers used pressure cookers to attack the Boston Marathon. Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer and a moving van to kill hundreds in Oklahoma City. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters and jetliners to kill several hundred people. And dozens were once killed at a gay club in New Orleans by an arsonist who barricaded the door. Other times, people have mowed over crowds in their cars. We're obviously not going to expect a widespread call to ban the tools used in those attacks. At the same time, those attacks are significant enough, deadly enough, that's it's not illogical to suggest that people who kill with guns could still find ways to kill even if guns were somehow magically wiped off the face of the Earth.

I'll anticipate the counter-argument that a limit on access to guns (or high-capacity magazines) would inconvenience some would-be killers, thus dissuading them from carrying through with their violent plans. And I believe there is some data from other nations which suggests that this is somewhat true to a degree. HOWEVER... the U.S. would sill have a higher rate of murder than most other modern Western nations -- even if guns were banned in the United States and allowed in those nations. Which brings us back to the real root of the problem as I see it -- America's general culture of violence.

Most other modern western nations don't have the unique combination of problems which drive violence in America. Due partly to massive and growing income inequality, the drug war, the prison-industrial complex, religious fundamentalism, and lingering issues of racial animosity... Americans are psychologically a mess. Until problems such as these are addressed in a meaningful and comprehensive way... America's culture of violence will continue.

It's also not insignificant that the Orlando Shooter worked for a state-contracted security firm. He was specially licensed to carry firearms and likely would have still had access to guns (perhaps even high-capacity clips) even if they had been banned already.

It's also not insignificant that he dreamt of becoming an NYPD officer and regularly wore an NYPD t-shirt. This is where the second Amendment starts to become relevant.  Constitutionally, in the Bill of Rights, there is a reason it's the second thing listed after freedom of speech. And it's worth noting that the Orlando shooter's proxy employment by the government is something he shared with other killers like the D.C. Sniper, the Fort Hood shooter, Timothy McVeigh, and other killers who were all at one point paid by the U.S. government to carry weapons.

But more to the point regarding the second amendment and the right to bear arms... the founding fathers of the United States, despite all their faults, knew that governments were capable of orchestrating major atrocities. The U.S. government has already been responsible for two historic acts of genocide (domestically) with the middle passage/slavery and its treatment of Native Americans. And, now, the United States has a populist demagogue running for the presidency who wants to register all members of a particular religion (while barring further entry) and who also wants to deport MILLIONS of undocumented immigrants. And these are merely the things which he feels are reasonable enough to say in public. Perhaps he won't be elected, but someone worse could take office somewhere down the line in 4,8, or 20 years. In such an event, would a disarmed populace really be the best thing? Or what if the other presidential candidate currently running doubles the prison population again (as her husband did) in an effort to bring profits to her major campaign contributors? Hell, maybe the prison population will even be tripled! Would there be any point during such a process that members of the general public might reasonably be expected to stop acting like livestock?

Now don't misunderstand, I'm not a gun nut, don't own a gun, and generally frown upon gun violence as much as the next person. Despite my comments here... I certainly won't be leading the resistance or taking personal initiative should the state institute more gun control. How ironic that such disclaimers are required in the modern surveillance state which steadily promotes increased gun control measures. Such is the life of an anti-authoritarian leftist. The state looms over everything, perpetuates violence across society in a myriad of ways, trains and employs people who have committed some of the worst historic atrocities, and this is the government which people would trust to disarm the general public with sweeping gun control legislation.

But I've digressed and the issue at hand is whether a ban on guns (or simply more gun control) would really make make society safer. I contend that it would not. Even if the initial effects of such gun control reduced the amount of gun violence in America, and even if other forms of deadly violence didn't consequently rise in the aftermath, the stage could still be set for much more tragedy down the line. Perhaps you trust the current government, but it clearly has room to become more corrupt at some point in the future. And a cursory look at history will reveal that corrupted states have been responsible for countless tragedies.

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