An Appalling Gun Grab

Thursday, December 20, 2012

As a parent, I am both saddened by the recent mass shootings of school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and appalled at how quickly certain politicians and activists have taken the opportunity to whip up anti-gun hysteria. Over the past week, a couple of good rebuttals to this nonsense have come to my attention. (I also see that both articles have been brought up for discussion on HBL.) The articles look at scientific and historical data regarding whether controls over who can purchase guns actually accomplish reductions in the murder rate and the evidence wanting.

On that score, I particularly appreciate the following demolition of the gun grabbers' favorite talking point by Thomas Sowell:

The few counter-examples [to broader gun ownership being correlated with a lower murder rate] offered by gun control zealots do not stand up under scrutiny. Perhaps their strongest talking point is that Britain has stronger gun control laws than the United States and lower murder rates.

But, if you look back through history, you will find that Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries-- and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Indeed, neither country had stringent gun control for most of that time.

In the middle of the 20th century, you could buy a shotgun in London with no questions asked. New York, which at that time had had the stringent Sullivan Law restricting gun ownership since 1911, still had several times the gun murder rate of London, as well as several times the London murder rate with other weapons. [bold added]
As Sowell adds, "Neither guns nor gun control was the reason for the difference in murder rates. People were the difference." And speaking of people, David Kopel, who makes similar points in the Wall Street Journal, also considers a problem that begs for discussion, but which can easily be drowned out amidst the left's current fear-mongering and the necessity of quelling it:
A second explanation [for the increase in mass shootings] is the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill. A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers found that 47 were mentally ill. In the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law (2008), Jason C. Matejkowski and his co-authors reported that 16% of state prisoners who had perpetrated murders were mentally ill.

In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated. According to a study released in July by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the number of state hospital beds in America per capita has plummeted to 1850 levels, or 14.1 beds per 100,000 people.
Deinstitutionalization of the violently insane is an issue Clayton Cramer raised in the wake of the Tucson shootings in early 2011. While I am not sure how involved the government should be in treating the dangerously mentally ill, I think that it has a proper role in keeping them from threatening others at will. For starters, as I put it then, "[T]here is no right to menace other people."

There is no way to guarantee that such tragedies will never happen again, but two things are clear to me. First, taking guns out of the hands of stable, responsible adults will do nothing to prevent similar things in the future. (Indeed, common sense and hard data suggest that doing so will make mass shootings more likely to occur, and deadlier when they do.) Second, we need to take a serious look at how quickly and easily we are releasing people who pose an objective threat to others. (I understand, based on a brief conversation with a psychiatry professional that it is very easy to differentiate such people from nonviolent mentally ill individuals.)

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

I find this quote from Colin Greenwood regarding the differences between England and America to be "spot on."

These comments about the relationship between firearms control or availability and the use of firearms in crime can be applied to all violent crime. It is true that there are more robberies involving a firearm in the U.S.A. than there are in Britain. There are also more robberies involving knives and more in which the only weapon was the hands or feet of the assailant. If it is suggested that the easier availability of fireamrs is a cause of firearms robberies, is it also suggested that knives are less readily available in England than they are in the U.S.A., or that American criminals have more hands and feet than their British counterpart? What can be shown is that American criminals are more willing to use extreme violence and the causes of this are linked to many ethnic and social factors, but not to the availability of any particular class of weapon.

Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, edited by Don B. Kates, Jr., Pg. 37
from "Firearms Control: A Study of Armed Crime and Firearms Control in England and Wales, Cambridge University, Institute of Criminology, by Colin Greenwood, Superintendent of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972)

c. andrew

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, there's another good post about the shooting here.

Gus Van Horn said...

C. and Snedcat,

Thanks for the quote and the link. I like the former and look forward to the latter.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, For starters, as I put it then, "[T]here is no right to menace other people. You do realize, don't you, that you just discredited the greater part of hip hop music?

Gus Van Horn said...

Doubtless the favorite genre of a significant plurality, of not the majority, of gun-grabbers.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, here are two more links on the issue of guns well worth bringing to the notice of as wide an audience as possible.

First, this blog post by Larry Correia correcting many serious misconceptions about gun control and shooting violence has been making the rounds, and it's quite good.

Second, I had looked for the next link for a while but only found it yesterday. It's a 1994 article from the Tennessee Law Review on the basic reasons for the difference between criminologists' findings on gun ownership and violence and the findings of health professionals and sociologists. In short, the latter group considers guns per se "a social ill" and thus sees it as appropriate to use its findings for political ends--and while sometimes this leads to cases of probable data-cooking or fraud, for the most part it simply means that the latter group will have a definite set of (often unstated) assumptions and questions for study that automatically skew any such study in a leftward direction.

And thus, ultimately, it's simply part of the wider goal of the state to treat society as a patient and any behavior contrary to the interests of the state as a matter of public or mental health when it can't be easily criminalized--which of course suits the soft conformist tyranny of the administrative elite just fine and fits the longer-term goals of the lefties well enough too. The article's long but it should be basic reading for anyone interested in protecting gun rights--if you do so, you can expect to have your mental health called into question, often by insinuation, whenever a lefty pseudo-intellectual responds on the Internet, and this article is one good source for the conscious examination of the preconceptions and claims that are common currency among gun foes that you'll need to keep your equilibrium in such cases.

Yes, it's easy to trot out examples of forebrain-dead emotionalists who say profoundly silly things about guns that clearly tie in with the pronounced tendency to magical thinking among the pseudo-literati that they project onto their opponents by insinuating nonsense about magical totems or inanimate phalli (they inordinately fear guns and assume anyone who doesn't must worship them). However, the roots of their position in our culture are older, deeper, and much more insidious--the pretensions of the state to control behavior in the name of public health and fighting "social ills," and the movement by its client intellectuals to use this same gambit to attack gun ownership. But then reading the article should go hand in hand with regularly reading Spiked magazine, and especially Frank Furedi's constant analysis of "therapy culture.")

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for bringing these to our attention, Snedcat.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, a little late here, but it will show up in the feed of new comments at least. I wrote, "But then reading the article should go hand in hand with regularly reading Spiked magazine..." And Spiked has recently run a number of reallt good articles on Sandy Hook. My first impulse was to say they knock it out of the ballpark, but it's more apt to say it's one bulls-eye after another.

First, an article by Sean Collins, "Both liberals and the right responded to the dreadful Sandy Hook massacre by denigrating liberty."

Second, Kevin Yuill takes on opponents of the Second Amendment forthrightly: "It is this tyranny – of seizure of weapons by any government, whether federal or state – that the Second Amendment had in mind. This is why ‘the people’ and not states are given the right to bear arms. The prospect of such a tyranny has not faded with time. It is one reason why the Second Amendment remains relevant."

And third, Brendan O'Neill makes some excellent comments about the common liberal catch-phrase "gun culture" that sums up their apotheosis of guns into the supposed idols worshipped by gun owners and feared by the "right"-thinking:

The post-Connecticut commentary gives the impression that America is in thrall to The Gun. A writer for the New York Review of Books summed up the rather elitist East Coast view of the problem when he described the gun as ‘our Moloch’ - a modern-day version of the pagan god to whom children are sacrificed. Strikingly, he depicts the gun almost as a sentient force, godlike indeed. ‘Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned’, he says. Here, the shooter’s moral agency, or the broader cultural influences he may have been subjected to, are downplayed in favour of depicting the gun itself as the determiner of events and judge over life and death. In a desperate effort to get around the inconvenient fact that guns are mere tools, no more responsible for evil in our societies than knives are, the writer goes into denial. ‘The gun is not a mere tool [or] bit of technology’, he insists. ‘It is an object of reverence.’

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for supplying a very interesting set of links, Snedcat.