Tag Archives: gun ownership

The number of children killed by guns in America makes us exceptional, not better.

Summary:  We take pride in our exceptionalism, the ways we’re unique among the developed nations. We tend to assume that these represent advantages, as if different means superior. Our far higher rate of gun deaths, many of whom are children, show the falsity of that belief — and point to ways we can learn from our peers.  This is post #1 of 2 today.

Kelbie Ray Nelson

Kelbie Ray Nelson

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Kelbie Ray Nelson, 13, died the day after Christmas in Blackfoot, Idaho, playing with a gun at his grandmother’s house.

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Introductions

For your viewing pleasure on Pinterest: 33 Accidentally shot at WalMart, photos of 109 Children under 14 killed in 2013, 90 photos of Children under 15 killed in 2014, and the growing roster of photos of Children under 15 killed in 2015. You also might enjoy the generic category of GunFails in 2014 and GunFails in 2015.

For something different peruse a list of 69 mass killing events during the past 3 decades (mostly home-grown Americans, not jihadists — so it’s OK).

 Two articles from the endless stream

America gets hysterical from SARS in 2003 (774 deaths) and a few cases of Ebola in 2014. A few terrorist attacks prompt massive pants wetting, and a surrender of our rights. But we accept the annual carnage from deliberate and accidental gun use as a sign of our exceptionalism. And so it is; we’re exceptionally mad about guns — as these articles remind us.

(1) Are Gun Accidents ‘Very Rare’?“, David Frum, Daily Beast, 20 February 2013

In 2007, the United States suffered some 15,000-19,000 accidental shootings. More than 600 of these shootings proved fatal. … The total number of Americans killed and wounded by gun accidents exceeds the total number killed or injured in fires. The number killed in gun accidents is 20% higher than the total number killed in all U.S. civil aviation accidents.

In 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to ban drop-side baby cribs because these cribs have been blamed for “dozens” of infant deaths over the entire previous decade. The 600+ accidental gun deaths in any single year amount to 50 dozen.

… The Centers for Disease Control reserve the term “very rare” for accidental deaths from vaccines, the number of which is zero, or close to it. If more than 600 people a year were dying from vaccines, we’d have a national uproar, if not a revolution.

(2)  As usual, the little ones get to pay for our folly: “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll“, New York Times, 28 September 2013 — The Times gives heart-rending tales of children’s deaths, amidst horrific data about the totals and terrifying news about the NRA’s work to obstruct efforts to keep us ignorant about the cost of guns in America. Excerpt:

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Why do we believe an armed society is a polite society?

Summary: Led by the 1%, we’re building a New America. Oddly and unlike our forebearers, it rests largely on an intellectual foundation of fantasy. Today we look at one pillar of nonsense that millions of Americans take seriously. (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”
— From Robert Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon (1942).

33 murders with guns per year in America

Contents

  1. Robert Heinlein’s most powerful insight.
  2. The logic of carrying guns in civil society.
  3. What about life on the frontier?
  4. Research tells the tale.
  5. Another insight from Beyond This Horizon.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Robert Heinlein’s most powerful insight.

Robert Heinlein’s stories played a formative role in the rise of the libertarian movement, perhaps even more so than the novels of Ayn Rand (Heinlein’s were more widely read, and even more often read to the end), perhaps the first political movement almost entirely grounded in fiction and false predictions rather than history and research. In books such as The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1965), he sketched out appealing yet ludicrously improbable worlds.

Perhaps Heinlein’s greatest impact came from his deeply held belief, shown in both stories and letters, that “an armed society is a polite society.” He explicitly stated this in his 1942 novel Beyond This Horizon, where full citizens must carry guns. In his 1949 novel Red Planet children come of age in their early teens when they pass the tests to earn a license for open carry of a gun. (Heinlein, as usual, was ahead of his time; both boys and girls carried guns). These are fun stories. The concept is quite mad.

Heinlein’s myths valorize individual autonomy and power. This contradicts history; he could as realistically described people with wings. In the absence of a functioning State, organization and structure comes from gangs (like States, a form of collective action) — not bold free individualists. No matter what the level of weaponry they have.

We see this in prisons (the State doesn’t care to regulate). and ungoverned states like Somalia, or parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, to a lesser extent, in the worst of America’s inner cities (too much effort for the State to regulate). And in the horror show of our wild west (more on this below).

Low levels of government authority are often insufficient to maintain order in well-armed societies. In the Three Musketeers, based on the memoirs of d’Artagnan, Capitaine-Lieutenant des Mousquetaires, we see early 17thC Paris stained with the blood of frequent and senseless duels. One of the greatest of the Founders, Alexander Hamilton, died in a senseless duel.

“A few anecdotes and a good just-so story outweigh a hundred historical counter-examples.”
— David Brin discussing Karl Marx, science fiction editor John Campbell, and Robert Heinlein in his review of Beyond This Horizon, Tor/Forge Blog, 12 July 2010.

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Interesting news about big stories followed on the FM website

Summary: The FM website provides two kinds of services: forecasts and news.  The forecasting record is quite good. See the hits listed here, and the misses here. With the news, we try to highlight emerging stories before the major media. Updates on these themes get posted on twitter (to follow see the top of the right side menu bar).  Today we review recent news about some big stories.

News

Contents

  1. Breaking & rebuilding of America’s social fabric
  2. Privatization of violence
  3. DoD shows its indifference to the welfare of America’s soldiers
  4. About the shameful US health care system

(1)  Breaking & rebuilding of America’s social fabric

A post developing this theme:  An Independence Day special report: I have seen the New America!, 5 July 2013

The first light shown on this decay: “The Strange Disappearance of Civic America“, Robert D. Putnam (Prof Public Policy, Harvard), The American Prospect, Winter 1996

An  update, showing that it grows and deepens: “The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America” by Peter Turchin (Prof in Ecology and Mathematics, U CT; see Wikipedia) — Part One and Part Two — Excerpt:

Putnam’s thesis has been quite controversial. But during the two decades since he first proposed it various measures of social capital continued to decline, strengthening his case. In some cases there were substantial up and down fluctuations, as with trust in government (the graph above). Yet note how each trough is lower than the preceding one, and peaks reach nowhere near the level of confidence last observed during the 1960s.

While Putnam’s focus was primarily on the associational life of ordinary Americans, the changes that he documented about unraveling social cooperation have affected American social life at all levels, including state and federal governance and relations between economic classes (e.g., employers and employees). … What we have then, is a ‘strange disappearance’ of cooperation at all levels within the American society: from the neighborhood bowling leagues to the national-level economic and political institutes.

… In our search of explanations (which is the first and necessary step before proposing remedies) we need to look for fundamental factors that affect social cooperation. … Social cooperation waxes and wanes in most complex societies, following a long cycle. This is a generic pattern in not only our own society but also in ancient and medieval empires. Where there recurrent empirical patterns, there must be general explanations. This means that things are not hopeless – we can figure out why cooperation is declining, and how to fix this problem.

(2)  Privatization of violence

The most recent post in this series:  Watch as plutocrats mold us into a New America, a nation more pleasing to their sight, 18 July 2013

Powerful, detailed analysis:  “On the Decriminalization of Private Violence“, Andrew Kydd (Assoc Prof U WI-Madison), 18 July 2013 — Excerpt:

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Watch as plutocrats mold us into a New America, a nation more pleasing to their sight

Summary: Increasing wealth creates positive feedback, much like a hurricane moving over warm water. A more powerful 1% allows them to command the political and economic high ground of America, so that they can gain further wealth — and shape a New America more to their liking. This process has run for several generations; now the results are plain to see — for all that wish to look. Today we have first of three tales of New America.

1st Rule of Plutocracy

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A three-part series: tales of New America

  1. Today – mad ideology: gunplay on our streets
  2. Mad ideology: billionaires play with our businesses
  3. Billionaires mold our schools to produce better help

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Mad ideology: gunplay on our streets

“Well in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization.”
— From Beyond this Horizon, a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein (1942).

Despite few precedents for widespread public carrying of guns in developed nations — and no good historical precedents (compare Somalia & Japan) — our plutocrat leaders have funded a movement to overturn a century-old legal regime. They know this will work well, a faith-based public policy.

We will see the results in coming years. Will the streets run with blood, a rising tide which so far worries neither them nor our apathetic citizens? Will we see more article like this: “Pair of men with concealed-carry permits engage in shootout“, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12 July 2013 — Excerpt:

Two Milwaukee men — each with a state permit to carry a concealed weapon — traded dozens of shots in a rolling shootout through two sides of town and down a freeway, the kind of scenario concealed-carry opponents feared would turn road rage incidents deadly. … the gunfight is bound to spark more debate over concealed carry.

… “I can assure you, he was definitely the aggressor,” said Eric Adamany, 27. … Adamany said he had just left the Taco Bell … and had pulled over to send a text message when a gold Dodge Magnum pulled up. A passenger said, “What are you looking at, white boy?” showed a chrome handgun and fired at Adamany’s car, hit the driver’s side mirror and then sped off. Adamany {said} he reached for his gun immediately but the safety was on. He said he called 911 and began following the Dodge as it headed for the freeway and said that someone in the Dodge fired a few more shots at him. He said the two cars were swerving around other traffic before the Dodge left the freeway briefly at McKinley Avenue, then re-entered, still heading north.

That’s when Adamany began emptying the magazine of his gun, shooting out the window with his left hand while driving and using the phone with his right hand, he told police. “My radiator was hit, and the car was starting to overheat, so I aimed low to shoot out the tires,”

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Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution

Summary:  An oddity of the New America is how we stumble when dealing with problems solved not just by our peers in other developed nations, but in our past.  Gun control is but one example. Other nations, our peers in the developed world, have accomplished what we’re told is impossible for Americans: reducing gun ownership.  In our past we were able to regulate guns without cries that we shredded the Constitution (the subject of today’s post).   In brief, we see ignorance and amnesia — what conservative leaders consider ideal qualities for citizens.

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Sign on Front Street of Dodge City, 1878: “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Forbidden”

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Dodge City, 1879

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As shown in Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West, the untamed late 19th century West was relatively peaceful — except for institutional violence (eg, against Indians, small farmers and ranchers, unions). Laws regulating gun possession helped make it so. The people who opened the frontier were not dumb, and didn’t want their streets running with blood. Nor were the citizens of Americans during the following century, in which many areas had strict gun controls.

This history has been erased from the minds of millions through the power of propaganda on a willing audience.  It’s become lost history, joining so much of our 19th century in the amnesic clouds of the American mass mind.

But the truth is out there, as in these two excerpts, if only we have the will to grasp it.

(1) Did the Wild West Have More Gun Control Than We Do Today?“, Adam Winkler (Prof Law, UCLA; author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America), Huffington Post, 9 September 2011 — Excerpt:

While people were allowed to have guns at home for self-protection, frontier towns usually barred anyone but law enforcement from carrying guns in public.

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Do guns make us more safe, or less? Let’s look at the research.

Summary:  The incidence of apparent murders justified under the “stand your ground” laws raises questions about the vast number of claimed “self-defense” gun use.  How many of these were justifications of improper use, not legitimate (and socially prestigious) self-defense? Fortunately there is research on the issue.  Here we look at samples of this research, most of which ruins the narrative created by the NRA.

20130123-nra

Contents

  1. What stories about guns reveal about us
  2. Do guns in the home make you safer?
  3. How are guns used?
  4. How are guns used by California teenagers?
  5. About studies showing massive rates of self-defense gun use?
  6. Other posts about guns in America

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(1)  The big picture:  What stories about guns reveal about us

This essence of The New America, what divides us from the America-That-Once-Was, is our willingness to believe what we’re told — no matter what the evidence — if it suits our prejudices. There’s no longer a reality-based community in this mad superpower.  We’ve examined this in a hundred posts on the FM website, looking at both Left and Right.  Recently we’ve examined inconvenient material about guns and climate, things partisans refuse to see least it ruin their beloved narratives.

When we open our eyes, returning to the skepticism and iconoclasm of our forefathers, then reform will again become possible in America.  How to make that happens might be the greatest challenge of our age for America.  Until then we remain pawns of our leaders, easily manipulated by our fears.

(2) Do guns in the home make you safer?

Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home“, David Hemenway, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, November/December 2011 — Abstract:

This article summarizes the scientific literature on the health risks and benefits of having a gun in the home for the gun owner and his/her family. For most contemporary Americans, scientific studies indicate that the health risk of a gun in the home is greater than the benefit.

The evidence is overwhelming for the fact that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes.

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Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America)

Summary:  People with superpowers are running a multi-generational project to reshape America. They have the greatest of superpowers: money, which they’ve used to enlist experts to produce a large volume of research supporting their interests — overwhelming experts with different (ie, mainstream) viewpoints.  Here we see two examples of their success.

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(1) Investing in America’s youth

What Do Campus Conservatives Reveal About the Modern-Day GOP?“, Elbert Ventura, The New Republic, 16 January 2013

As Binder and Wood detail, a well-established professional network nurtures these upstart advocates. Funded by tens of millions of dollars from familiar names — Koch, Bradley, Olin — organizations such as the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the Leadership Institute, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute nurse the new guard with resources and an intensity that have no equal on the left.

One student at Western told the authors that the Leadership Institute called him to offer unsolicited financial support for his conservative newspaper. … The organizations also offer a wide array of activities, from training sessions and speaking programs to conferences and funding, to further bolster the young conservatives.

(2)  Then there are larger projects under way

In previous chapters in this series about guns, we saw the array of falsehoods defending the conservatives’ views.  False data, false quotations, false history. This article discusses another dimension: false scholarship:  “To Keep and Bear Arms“, Garry Wills (Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern), New York Review of Books, 21 September 1995 — Excerpt:

Over the last decade, an industrious band of lawyers, historians, and criminologists has created a vast outpouring of articles justifying individual gun ownership on the basis of the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This body of commentary, much of it published in refereed law journals, has changed attitudes toward the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association’s lobbyists distribute it to legislators. Journalists like Michael Kinsley and George Will disseminate this school’s views. Members of it now claim, on the basis of their work’s quantity and what they believe is its quality, that scholarship on this subject is now all theirs—so that even to hold an opposing view is enough to “discredit its supporters,” according to the historian Joyce Lee Malcolm (source).

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