Gun Violence: Is There A Solution?
We had out-of-town friends visit us yesterday, and it was embarrassing, and sad, that we had to advise them against following GPS directions in order to avoid certain areas of the city. But, it was a necessary evil due to the number of seemingly random shootings that have occurred there over the past few months. Of course, several of the gang-related killings were accidental shootings—the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. But dead is dead, no matter how the unfortunate person became a murder victim.
Our police chief seems to be doing everything humanly possible to combat the gun violence, including assigning a special task force to work nothing but gang-related crimes. He’s saturated the trouble areas with patrol cars, officers on foot, undercover officers, and more. He’s even asked council to approve the hiring of dozens of new police officers. The same is true for surrounding jurisdictions.
Still, the shootings continue…and continue, and continue.
For example (just this week alone):
– local deputies conducted a traffic stop where the driver jumped out of the van and began firing a revolver at the officers.
– narcotics agents arrested a drug dealer who was carrying a .22 pistol containing a 100 round magazine.
– a man came home for the holidays, and then shot and killed his mother before taking his own life.
– a man walking in a local park was robbed at gunpoint, and after handing over his money, he was shot by the robber. The victim, a convicted felon, then pulled his own weapon and returned fire.
– a man broke into a local residence and forced the homeowner to the floor at gunpoint.
– a man walking down the street on his way to a store was shot and killed.
– a man dressed as Santa Claus robbed a downtown bank at gunpoint.
– a suspect wearing a black hoodie robbed a grocery store at gunpoint.
The good news is that our overall crime is down from 2011. The bad news, though, is that gun-related crime is up—over double the number of the same type of crimes in 2011.
So what’s the answer? After all, the chief of police in our city has already attempted, with no luck, to reduce gun-related crimes by increasing the number of good guys with guns.
Will new, more restrictive gun laws do any good? How about banning large capacity magazines?
If more restrictions/laws are enacted, will the bad guys then suddenly come to their senses and begin obeying the law? Will they stop using high-powered rifles with 100 round magazines, and pistols with 30 round capacities, as their murder-weapons of choice?
Honestly, I don’t see a good, solid solution to the problem. However, I know we have to do something, and we have to start somewhere. But where?
Until my age group (and their grandchildren now) became “parents” you didn’t encounter these mass murders. The difference isn’t gun laws (which seem to be ignored anyway) but (1) lack of parenting & (2) the cutbacks to mental health care that started under Ronald Reagan & his minions.
“Praying” instead of parenting or putting feet to one’s Prayers is just EXACTLY the do-nothingness I’d expect to hear about from my age group.
Also no one has mentioned the need for juveniles to be named & their parents held accountable for their crimes. That would motivate some parenting or at least some reporting to the public what is going on. Don’t forget that in the Newtown killing the so-called “mother” illegally provided him with guns, kept his being dangerous a secret from the students she SUPPOSEDLY loved so much. I thought there were some kind of requirements for teaching, but since she passed muster I’d say not. She had no compassion for those children OR the staff or she’d have warned them about him.
I’m not sure what works in other homogeneous countries will work here. We are a polyglot and with that comes tension, competing social structures in the various communities. What’s different now in America is we don’t assimilate. When assimilation was the big thing there was less inter-cultural, intra-cultural, and cross-cultural violence. Now we are many small competing communities. Once we were a large united nations. Okay, that was gross over simplification, just then. But we worked to being more homogeneous…and America was less violent, as far as I know.
Australia had our last massacre in 1996 and since that time, there has been no more. There were lots of hysterical squeals from our more extremist gun owners at the time, but public opinion prevailed. Our Prime Minister at the time was John Howard, a little 1950s weasel whom I never liked, but with whose stance on gun ownership I agreed. Within days of the horrific event, the government said in efffect: “Enough. We are not going to put up with this.”
Now, police, military, professional shooters, farmers and sporting shooters (members belonging to gun clubs and target shoot) are allowed have weapons – under incredibly strict controls. The police in our little country district in southeast Queensland do a complete check of all licence holders every two years and woe betide the ones who can’t account for their weapons. I do not know what the criteria is for selling a weapon however.
True, criminals can still get their hands on guns but – and this is a cruel statement, I know – they are mostly engaged in shooting at each other, especially in Sydney, New South Wales. Shamefully, a group of customs officers were arrested last week for being involved in smuggling drugs and guns.
Here is the link for the story and the aftermath and gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre:
Since that time, we have had no massacres. I really do believe that Australia is the safest country in the world. There are a lot of very sensible comments on this blog, which is great to read as the nonsense spouted by certain people in the USA is terrifying for the people. When we were in the USA two months ago, we met so many lovely people who were kind and welcoming to us. We were saddened to see “No Guns” signs on supermarket doors and the number of gun shops which littered every state we visited. One in particular struck me – a shed seen from the freeway in Virginia with huge letters splashed on the side:
“Jesus loves you. Get your guns here.” 🙁 I doubt Jesus would have been very impressed somehow…
The only change to the hole in which Americans have fallen, IMO, is that the American people are going to have to have the courage to push long and hard enough to make changes, not only to the laws but in the proliferation of violence in movies and video games with which people can desensitize themselves. The President cannot do it by himself, Congress won’t let him.
Rick and Janis, thank you for your insights.
Guns?…It’s mentally ill people who have caused horrific crimes. In New York this past week….the psycho burned houses and killed firefighters. After killing his grandmother years before he was paroled!! Stupid. He should never have been released…ever!! We have become a nation of sympathetic do-gooders on one hand–letting ‘poor’ criminals out of jail because they weren’t raised properly. And then on the other hand, we let psychotic people roam the streets because we won’t anti up and put them in psychiatric hospitals. It is pathetic to walk the streets of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Portland, Seattle and many other big cities, mostly run by weak government, elected officials who seek votes and have little backbone. We step around the ‘issues’ and let very sick people roam our streets. There are always warnings, ER visits, parental concerns before the tragedy strikes and yet we/they don’t have the guts to commit these people to psychiatric care. Pray your hearts out—it hasn’t and won’t help, get ‘god’ back in the schools–who says they don’t carry their religion in the school with them…it’s a mind thing. The very first step is to get the nuts off the streets, commit these sick young men to a psych ward and keep them for a very long time.
And, yes, an individual owner doesn’t need a mega equipped gun that can spit ten or a hundred shots. Stupid. Just stupid.
Fired up and so upset about these senseless deaths.
Bless the police and firemen…keep them safe
I recommend the link Gun Diva gave us. It is a passage directly into the gun-lovers echo chamber.
What matters isn’t that AR-15’s are easy to get, it is that they are not ‘assault rifles’ (defined as fully automatic military arms). Lee’s latest post on the Thompson makes that distinction terrifyingly clear.
There is no ‘gun show loophole’ because only person-to-person transactions are exempted. The registered dealers are still supposed to run the checks.
The other guy’s entire line of argument is dismissed because you pronounce yourself the winner on a terminological quibble, while simultaneously demonstrating your superior grasp of the technical intricacies. But. The ‘assault rifle ban’ recently in place, since rescinded, again under discussion, has nothing to with full-on automatic weapons. And the person-to-person sale is the loophole.
There’s no there there.
Also, to return to the GPS question, didn’t one of the GPS companies once offer a drive-around warning for dangerous ghettoes? And wasn’t there a huge outcry about it being prejudicial and racist? I guess being politically correct is more important than keeping people safe.
Amazing how criminals/crazies can always get guns with little or no trouble but decent, law-abiding citizens not only have to jump through all kinds of legal hoops to buy one they must also live with the fear that – if the anti-self-defense crazies get their way – their firearms will be confiscated.
It’s true – when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
And, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. (By the way, that is NOT a slam against the police – they are underpaid, understaffed and overworked. It’s just a statement of fact that the police cannot be everywhere they are needed when they are needed.)
There is no problem with guns. The problem is with people. A gun is an inanimate object that just lies there with no will of its own. It can just as easily be used as a paperweight or to hammer in a nail.
It is the person who uses it who causes the problem. Why are crazies – whom others know are crazies – allowed to wander free, endangering the populace? It is they who should be regulated, not inanimate objects.
I have possessed a firearm for over 40 years. My parents possessed one 70 or so years ago. Neither was ever fired except in target practice. I have used mine for a paperweight, though never to hammer a nail. (I’m not that stupid!)
In my opinion – and speaking only for myself and no one else – I think ‘gun-free’ zones are nothing but potential protected kill zones for crazies. I also believe the blood of those innocents in Sandy Hook is smeared all over the hands of the anti-self-protection crazies. One person with one gun could have saved those babies’ lives.
Remember, that nutter who shot them didn’t stop because he wanted to, or because he ran out of bullets – he stopped because someone pointed a gun at him!
I am an unabashed believer in the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, the necessity for self-protection and the right of decent people to personal freedom. Lock up the crazies – not the guns.
I don’t know the answer to gun violence in America and I work at combatting gun crime every day.
Over time I come to think that comparing America’s increase of gun crime violence to other countries just doesn’t work. People point to England or Australia with gun bans, yet they have no answer for some European countries where not only do citizens own firearms, but actual machineguns and their gun violence is lower. Or people claim Mexico’s strict gun laws and their rise in gun violence is linked to gun availbility in the United States, yet they fail to account for or explain that for decades that same country had the same gun laws and the same American neighbor and gun availability and yet Mexico didn’t have the awful gun violence (and overall murder rate) that they have now.
Also, if you examine violence (especially gun violence) you have to look at the offender and their motivations—let’s call them “Career offenders” vs “others.” Career offenders are those who are motivated to commit crimes general for financial gain or ‘advancement.’ In this I would put robbers and thieves and even gang members who commit violence to ‘protect’ ‘turf.’ To an extent laws and law enforcement can target their behaviors. They might acquire and use a gun in crime through criminal means but they weigh their crimes against the chance of getting caught and the rewards (ie-a robber doesn’t commit a bank robber with a dozen cop cars out front). What you see is that when criminals start “stacking time” enahncements for using gun crimes, those crminals and criminals in that area really weigh committing crimes. An antecedotal example of this is that a fellow cop I know did an operation in a small town that was rife with crack dealing and dealers carrying guns (and shooting, namely each other and customers). At the end of the case, a lot of the local thugs went away for drug crimes, and several got hit with mandatory federal gun enhancements. Not surpringly, sometime after the operation was completed, a new group of criminals set up shop dealing crack cocaine, but you couldn’t find a dope dealer who would carry or use a gun for awhile. The same investigator tried to do another dope & gun and operation and couldn’t find a single crook who would go near a gun in that criminal community. So the crooks thought that having a gun while they dealt drugs was not worth the chance of an extra 5-25 years in prison. The profit to risk wasn’t worth it. Targetted enforcement worked at reducing gun crime and also altered criminal behavior.
In short, laws and enforcement can alter or affect some segments of criminals.
Other motivated criminals—the ones that go into schools or malls to shoot people. The fear of getting caught or prison enhancement does not play into their decision. What motivates these people is hard to say. At the same time, changing gun laws to limit or eliminate say “assault weapons” means those would not be used—but the people will plot to use the other guns available or whatever weapons are available. Laws are not going to change their behavior.
When considering what to do about these mass killers, we as a nation do need to look at gun laws and consider what to do in that arena. Something that is not being talked about as much is the mental health issues. We need to examine how we as a country treat mental illness issues and people. And on a baser level, in relation to guns, how do we deal with the health privacy laws of HIPPA and society’s right to keep mentally ill people from acquiring firearms? Because there is a disconnect between the National Instant Checks (NICS) system that checks purchasers at licensed gun dealers and the whole mental health system.
As far as schools, we need to think as society about what to do in places like schools. Law enforcement has changed in the past decade in how we deal with people who take over a group of people at a school. Pre-Columbine, cops surrounded (thinking the criminals were motivated like normal crooks and could be talked out) and wait for SWAT and hostage negotiations. Since Columbine, cops have realized that there is no to time to wait for SWAT and cops practice regular about active shooters. And as politically incorrect as it is—cops are taught to go hunt down the shooter and capture or take them out. We need to think about and demand our politicians look at hardening schools. Every minute, a school can keep an armed person from breaking in, that is a minute more of a response time for cops. The days of schools with glass doors or open doors to the public should be long gone. Yet, in communities near me, administrators have spent money on new football complexes for the public schools and none on things like secured doors or CCTV monitoring.
In short, when we consider people who are committing mass murders and how to address them, we need to realize that guns bans and gun laws are not the only things (nor probably the most important) to consider. In the realm of people who are not career criminals, fear of prison/getting caught/punished is not even on their radars. We need to attempt to identify these people before (whether its the mentally ill or the bullied) a triggering event. We need to encourage people to come forward if they are suspicious of someone planning these things (in the schools it seems to be working with the number of so called ‘plots’ stopped by police). We also need to consider what to do to stop these people or limit their damage if they try.
Legislation isn’t going to do anything. I’m one of the people saying assault rifles or other military weapons should be banned, but the idea’s a joke.
The only way to change the gun problem in the US is for a major mind set change among Americans. Having been on a few boards lately since the Newtown shooting, I’ve seen how rabid some gun owners are (anti-gun people are too, but they don’t threaten violence). There’s a lot of rage out there and from the comments I’ve read I see no interest in changing. Even suggesting some small measure of control over one particular weapon brings out screams about the government taking their guns away.
I also hear the argument that the bad guys ignore the laws so it will only be bad guys with gun, so don’t try to make new laws. With that attitude you might as well say since we can’t stop murder, even with the death penalty, why bother with any laws because people break them?
I hate to say it, I have a lot of American friends I love, but I fear the country is steeped in violence and nothing short of an act of God will change that.
No magic bullet. Bucket of carrots, bucket of sticks. Choke off the supply: illegal to make or sell ARs, mega-magazines, armor-piercing ammo (etc.) to civilians. Cut stockpiles: illegal to own ARs, mega-mags, certain classes of ammo, more than some amount of ammo, body armor. All such become subject to confiscation, plus heavy fines, tempered by extended no-question amnesties and generous buy-backs. Work up the tree, beginning with the low-hanging fruit. Of course national database, serial number registry, end of shall-issue, end of gunshow loop-hole, national standards. Undo legislatively the gone crazy carry laws (churches, bars, schools, parks, courts). Mental health services (like gun buy-backs) are not costs but investments that return many times on the dollar. There are hundreds of rational effective small steps, and half-a-dozen big ones, that could reduce gun violence in a major way. Things get markedly better every year for a decade, there’s a new landscape. It was little steps tricked us down this dark alley; little steps can help us walk out. The bad guys are scary enough. LaPierre’s ‘good guys’ are (I know, not in all cases) delusional paranoids. Let’s pay, respect, regularly review, and trust our cops.
Here’s an article that addresses a lot of concerns regarding the myths of firearms:
Steven – there are no “gun show loopholes”. Every person who wants to purchase a gun at a gun show must fill out and pass the same background check they would if they bought their gun at a shop.
I’m in agreement with Bob M – we protect our money better than we protect our kids. I’m not going to scream that we need to arm teachers, but if they volunteer and go through extensive training, I’m for it. I’m much more for putting more police officers in the schools. The problem with that is that we need more tax money to support the hiring and training of enough officers to pull that off and I’m not seeing that happen either.
After Virginia Tech, many said “arm the students.” Strangely, they’re not saying that after Sandy Hook…
Crazies will be crazies. But in this country it is very easy for them to be crazies with military style weapons, unlimited ammunition and magazines that make it easy to kill many. Why have 30 round mags for civilian use? Start there. It’s a small thing, but I am positive ten round mags would have saved lives in Sandy Hook. And those lives were worth saving.
And anyone who says the size of the magazine means nothing should try telling that to police departments across the nation. Ask if they’d be willing to go to a smaller magazine size…
And yes, work on the mental health of things – we have children who think getting a gun is the right answer to way too many questions. I grew up in one of the worst neighborhoods in the history of bad neighborhoods. Never fired a gun.
And close the gun show loopholes.
Notice I don’t say – ban all guns, or ban a particular type of gun. But if high-capacity magazines are making it easier for loons to stare down the police or shoot up schools and neighborhoods, arming guards in grade schools is NOT the answer. The responsible police officer faced with a Columbine situation should probably (Lee will correct me if I’m wrong) call for backup and wait rather than confront superior numbers and firepower alone. In fact, wasn’t there an armed officer in the Columbine school?
Bob, I didn’t mention a state-sanctioned religion. God is too big for one religion. However, tell the kids that pray that God is allowed in schools. Agree with you on your other counts.
God is allowed in schools. There’s no law that could prevent Him from being there. There’s no state-sanctioned religion, and that’s as it should be.
Murder has existed since Cain killed Abel. It’s a sad fact of life. Evil people will always find a way to kill innocents. They’ll use TNT packed in the basement of a school, or ANFO in a rented truck, or airplanes.
Why are we as a society fine with armed guards in hospitals, convenience stores and grocery stores, but terrified of the idea of armed guards in schools?
Why is fighting back such a bad concept? It’s worth noting that of the airplanes hijacked on 9/11 the only one that didn’t complete its mission was the one were the passengers fought back.
Lee, I believe in a person’s right to defend themselves. I also believe that the NRA has carried that extreme to the farthest point. I am in full agreement coming from Colorado and Aurora, and now Connecticut that mental illness must be addressed. I also know that pure evil exists, hence Harris and Klebold.
But I’ll take my comment a step further. We need God back in our lives. Without Him, our society is falling apart. I read an interesting post that asked about the recent school killings, “God, how could you have allowed this to happen? His response, “I’m not allowed in schools.”
We have turned into a Godless society, and our concept of right and wrong is fading. Hell is overflowing with evil and Satan is winning.
Canadians have the same media and games we do, and nothing like the amount of violence. Addressing mental health is a start. As a former mental health worker, I’ve seen many patients who were diagnosed as a danger to themselves or others and still living un medicated among us because they lacked insurance, and state supported facilities are not available. Many shooters have no identifiable mental illness. There were numerous armed good guys nearby when some shootings occurred, but when multiple rounds can be fired into a crowd in seconds, the damage is done by the time the good guys can react. One of our more controversial Georgia governors once remarked, ‘to improve the prisons, we need a better class of prisoners.’ As long as we have bad people in the world, they will do bad things. We can’t eliminate all the bad people, but I for one would like to find a way to take away their ability to kill large numbers of people in seconds. I don’t like it that our conversation includes toddlers in body armor and armed kindergarten teachers. It sounds too much like a war zone.
The bad guys are not going to come to their senses and stop using guns. But if there are fewer guns available to them, they won’t have them to use.
There are millions of guns out there, yes. There are millions of lethal bacteria out there, too, but we don’t stop taking antibiotics. If we stop making guns easily available–at the very least, stop making magazines that hold multiple rounds easily available–and destroy the ones we confiscate, eventually, there will be fewer guns.
I cannot help but think that some of the folks who insist on having arsenals are doing so because they think that at some point the gummint is gonna get’em. (And often these are the ones who proclaim their heritage as “true Americans.”) Generally, this attitude annoys the collectors no end.
I have friends who collect guns, who enjoy them, and disable them. I also know people who are very proud of the fact that they are never, at any location in their home, more than ten feet away from a gun. Guess who makes me feel more secure?
In just one week ?? Yikes.
Start with Hollywood and video games is a start. I like games, however with magic and ghouls, not guns and people.
That said, what are those Brits doing ? Something right, they do not have the magnitude of violent deaths and gun tragedy that we do.
Sadly, Lee, I don’t think there *is* any sort of “silver bullet” fix for this problem. With something like 18 million guns sold last year, some small percentage are going to end up in the hands of the unstable.
About the only thing I am sure of is that, like you said, outlawing certain classes of firearm or their accessories isn’t really going to stop the people who do actively want to use them. After all… shouldn’t Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. historically have the lowest rates of gun violence, given their strong restrictions? It just doesn’t seem to hold true there. And even nationwide restrictions, such as in England, only seem to spur an increase in other sorts of violence (witness the rise of knife crime in… well… England).
I’m afraid that the fix is going to have to be much more “root cause” than most people want to work with. It’s going to take a societal shift, rather than a shift in the available technology for killing, to really make it come to an end. Unfortunately, that’s the hardest type of fix to implement.
That should read self-made pedestal …
I think America needs to learn some humility and study what other countries have done to deal with the problem of gun violence. If people are essentially the same everywhere, then why is it that other nations don’t have the same problem that is currently robbing thousands of Americans of their lives? The answer can be found in the legislation of other countries. Instead of thinking this is THE greatest country on the planet and that our answers are the only ones, let’s take a step down from our self-pedestal and determine other options.
Selfishness causes people to think their rights to own whatever weapon they want are more important than the rights of other citizens to lead a safe life. No, the currently existing bad guys won’t suddenly come to their senses. But let’s make it more difficult for wannabes to join them.