kottke.org posts about guns
This guy turned recovered Federal HST pistol bullets into a Valentine's Day gift for his girlfriend.
I started out with a box of Federal 9x19mm HST 147gr pistol ammunition. This was a box of 50 rounds purchased at the Gun Bunker in Shrewsbury PA for $35 plus tax. I fired 6 of these cartridges into a 30" tall trash can filled with water. I did this from an elevated firing position, striking the water perfectly perpendicular. I used a Beretta 92FS Inox pistol with a 5" barrel, and a Freedom Armory Machine Works Grenadier 45 suppressor (as to not alarm the neighbors). This caused the hollowpoints to expend nearly perfectly, with nothing to deform them before they were fully decelerated by the water. One of the six did not expand, and was discarded. A firearm with a significantly longer or shorter barrel would have probably affected the expansion. I was about 10 feet above the trash can, but I still managed to get splashed from this.
Do you want to make a lot of espresso really fast? Enter the The Gatlino®, a machine gun that uses Nespresso capsules in place of bullets.
It was during one bleary break-of-dawn that I found myself slouched over the machine making coffee and drifting into visions of the Nespresso hooked up to a belt of ammunition, or a machine gun being fed by a chain of Nespresso capsules. I'm not sure which. Doesn't matter. What's important is that it led me to wonder how long it would take to fire all the Nespresso cartridges ever made. The environmentally-conscious will be appalled.
Gofor imagines a future world where drones are cheap and ubiquitous. What sorts of things would we have personal drones do for us? Follow us home in unsafe neighborhoods? Personal traffic copters? Travel location scouting?
How long before someone uses a personal drone for the same purpose as the US government? Just think how easy and untraceable it would be to outfit a drone with a weapon, shoot someone, and then dump the drone+weapon in a lake or ocean. When it happens, the reaction will be predictable: ban personal drones. Guns don't kill people, drones kill people, right?
The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers.
Any variation on what I did and how my relationship was had to be good, because no outcome could be worse. You can't get any more evil. How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he's my son? A lot.
While they still represent a small overall number, the popularity in the US of naming children after guns (Colt, Remington, Ruger, Gunner, Beretta) is up in recent years.
In 2002, only 194 babies were named Colt, while in 2012 there were 955. Just 185 babies were given the name Remington in 2002, but by 2012 the number had jumped to 666. Perhaps the most surprising of all, however, is a jump in the name Ruger's (America's leading firearm manufacturer) from just 23 in 2002 to 118 in 2012. "This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents' increasing interest in naming children after firearms," Wattenberg writes. "Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar."
The one piece of advice Jason had for me when I started guest editing was don't write about politics. kottke.org is usually a pretty apolitical site and politics coming from a guest editor would be especially weird so that made sense. But I think Jason and kottke.org were at their best and most relevant in December 2012 deep in national politics.
In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, Jason spent the next week adding context and perspective to what was a very untethered national conversation.
His informative, thoughtful posts on gun culture, talking to children about violence, and the media's role in shaping these events were a rallying point for a lot of people looking to make sense of what was going on and have a productive dialogue.
It's been 10 months since Newtown and, nationally, we still haven't stopped the flow of guns in general or even into schools specifically. But maybe the pragmatic empathy kottke.org and others have may be one way of stopping further tragedy.
"I just started talking to him ... and let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK," the clerk, Antoinette Tuff, told Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News during a lengthy sit-down interview. Tuff described Hill as "a young man that was ready to kill anybody that he could."
School staff have regular run-throughs of scenarios like this one and Tuff was one of three staff members who were specifically trained to handle shooters. In fact, "the training is so often and extensive," a district spokesman told reporters, that Tuff "thought it was a drill" at first. "Let me tell you something, babe, I've never been so scared in all the days of my life."
How risky is it to even wade a few inches into the gun rights debate? Just ask Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Today, he announced the company's policy that seeks to keep guns out of its cafes. Sort of.
Under the change, baristas and other store employees will not ask customers who come in with guns in holsters, say, to leave or confront them in any way, Mr. Schultz said. No signs explaining the policy will be posted in Starbucks stores, either.
According to Schultz: "We are going to serve them as we would serve anyone else." In other words, it's still a good idea to think twice before asking for another shot with your Frappuccino.
Sabine Pearlman's photos of bullets split in half reveals there are many ways to make them.
American tragedies don't occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don't occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a 10-year old's birthday party in New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News.
David Dennis asks (and answers) a compelling question: Why isn't the New Orleans Mother's Day parade shooting a national tragedy?
The national rates of gun violence and homicide in the US have fallen significantly in past 20 years, but most people are unaware. From a recently released Pew Research report:
Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s; the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. The victimization rate for other gun crimes plunged in the 1990s, then declined more slowly from 2000 to 2008. The rate appears to be higher in 2011 compared with 2008, but the increase is not statistically significant. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall also dropped in the 1990s before declining more slowly from 2000 to 2010, then ticked up in 2011.
Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.
The whys behind the drop in gun violence (and in crime in general) are more difficult to come by:
There is consensus that demographics played some role: The outsized post-World War II baby boom, which produced a large number of people in the high-crime ages of 15 to 20 in the 1960s and 1970s, helped drive crime up in those years.
A review by the National Academy of Sciences of factors driving recent crime trends (Blumstein and Rosenfeld, 2008) cited a decline in rates in the early 1980s as the young boomers got older, then a flare-up by mid-decade in conjunction with a rising street market for crack cocaine, especially in big cities. It noted recruitment of a younger cohort of drug seller with greater willingness to use guns. By the early 1990s, crack markets withered in part because of lessened demand, and the vibrant national economy made it easier for even low-skilled young people to find jobs rather than get involved in crime.
At the same time, a rising number of people ages 30 and older were incarcerated, due in part to stricter laws, which helped restrain violence among this age group. It is less clear, researchers say, that innovative policing strategies and police crackdowns on use of guns by younger adults played a significant role in reducing crime.
(via hacker news)
The New Yorker's John Cassidy wonders how we would be thinking about the Boston Marathon bombing if it had been the Boston Marathon shooting instead.
Yes, this is only a counterfactual exercise, which, like all such riffs, shouldn't be taken too literally. But it's hard to think about it for long without coming to the conclusion that there's something askew with the way we think about and react to various types of extreme violence, and the weapons used in such episodes. In a country where each life (and death) is supposed to count equally, surely the victims of gun violence should be accorded the same weight as the victims of bomb violence. And the perpetrators should get equal treatment, too. But, of course, that's not how things work.
I was offline yesterday evening and this morning, so this is a little tardy but what the Senate did in not passing the already woefully wimpy gun control legislation yesterday was embarrassing and shameful. Fuck them.
For 45 senators, the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy. The toll of 270 Americans who are shot every day is not a problem requiring action. The easy access to guns on the Internet, and the inevitability of the next massacre, is not worth preventing.
In a NY Times editorial, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has some sharp words for our elected officials.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I'm furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo -- desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation -- to go on.
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You've lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators' e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I'm asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You've disappointed me, and there will be consequences.
And The Onion once again hits simultaneously below the belt and precisely on target: Next Week's School Shooting Victims Thank Senate For Failing To Pass Gun Bill.
Great job, guys," said 14-year-old Jacob Miller, one of nine junior high school students who will be shot next week by a mentally ill gunman wielding a legally acquired assault rifle that was purchased at a gun show. "My classmates and I are really proud of you for cowering to the NRA and caring more about politics than my friends and I getting shot and killed. It totally makes sense. You're the best."
Vice made a 24-minute documentary film about Cody Wilson, who is designing a semi-automatic weapon that can be printed out on a 3-D printer. You just download the plans, print it out, and there you go.
"Gun control is a fantasy" indeed.
Feeling totally depressed and sad and useless about this: the NRA wins again.
After Sandy Hook, after twenty children were shot and killed at a place where they should have been safe from all harm, there was some optimism among supporters of gun control: perhaps now, finally, both Democrats and Republicans could see the light -- and the suffering-and revive the assault -- weapons ban. It was a futile hope.
Less than a week after Adam Lanza shot up an elementary school, it was already basically clear that an assault-weapons ban could not pass Congress-that it probably couldn't even get through the Democratic-controlled Senate, never mind the House. So it was hardly a surprise when, three months later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the ban would be removed from a larger gun-control package that is making its way through the upper chamber and given a separate vote that it will not survive. The scale of the defeat suffered by the ban's supporters, though, is shocking. This wasn't a close call; it was a body blow.
I haven't forgotten Sandy Hook. We drive by there every time we go to Vermont. I think about those kids almost every day. Sometimes when I think about them, I close my eyes and see my 5-year-old son cowering in the corner of his classroom as a black-clad figure toting a machine gun bears down on him. And then the tears come. I can't stand that this is what America is; that we trade our children's lives for the opportunity to purchase items specifically invented for killing. I can't stand it. It's pathetic and embarrassing and barbaric.
From Dave Gilson at Mother Jones, a fact-checking of ten arguments used by the gun lobby.
Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.
I saw this In Focus feature on the weapons of the Syrian rebels last week, and I can't stop thinking about it. Some of these photos show primitive slingshots or catapults, and then there's a machine gun controlled by what looks like a Playstation controller. On the one hand it's so cool what they've created on a maker level with limited resources, and on the other, way more important hand, they've created these devices to try to kill people who are trying to kill them. These are weapons intended to destroy humans, and it doesn't feel good to be fascinated by them when thinking about that.
Here are some of the rules students live by at Harper High School in Chicago: Know your geography (whether you join a gang or not, you're in one). Never walk by yourself. Never walk with someone else. If someone shoots, don't run. These are just a few of the exhausting complexities that face the kids at Harper High, where 29 current and former students were shot last year. The reality on the streets leads the kids to one final rule: never go outside. This American Life spent five months at Harper High School. Part one of their report is a must-listen. Within a few minutes of the piece, you'll understand what one of the adults who was interviewed means when he says, "it ain't a fairy tale."
At a press conference today, Vice President Biden and President Obama introduced their plan to reduce the nation's gun violence. Here are main points:
Require criminal background checks for all gun sales.
Take four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system.
Reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban.
Restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
Protect police by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets.
Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
End the freeze on gun violence research.
Make our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans.
Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
Here's the press conference in its entirety:
The NY Times has an overview of their remarks.
Keith Ratliff posted dozens of videos showcasing high-powered guns on his popular YouTube channel, FPSRussia. Last week, he was found dead with a single shot to the head, surrounded by several guns...but not the gun that killed him.
The news, coming amid a national debate about gun control, rippled across the blogs and social networking sites where his videos were popular. Tributes on Facebook and Twitter came from fans stunned that such a well-armed expert had not been able to defend himself.
"For him not to pull out that gun and try to defend himself, he had to feel comfortable around somebody," his wife, Amanda, told a television channel in Lexington, Ky., where he used to live. "Either that or he was ambushed."
Here's a FPSRussia video showing off a fully automatic shotgun that can shoot 300 rounds per minute even after being submerged in water:
And this drone with a machine gun on it is terrifying:
(via the atlantic)
Update: Just to clarify because I'm getting a bunch of mail about it, Ratliff was a gun nut and the owner of that YouTube channel, but he was not the person in all those videos...he was more like the producer/camera operator.
Also, that quadricopter machine gun thing is CGI and a commercial for a video game. Soon enough though.
Chris Ware designed the Newtown-themed cover for the New Yorker last week and describes the process that went into it.
On December 14th, I helped chaperone my daughter's second-grade-class field trip to a local production of "The Nutcracker," where I spent most of my time not watching the ballet but marvelling at the calm efforts of the teacher to keep the yelling, excited class quieted down. Teaching was not, I concluded at one point, a profession in which I could survive for even one day. Our buses came back to the school at midafternoon, and I and the other volunteer parents left our children for another hour of wind-down time (for us, not them) before returning for the regular 3-P.M. pickup. I came home, however, not to any wind-down but to the unfolding coverage of the Newtown shooting. Shaken to the core, I returned to the school, where a grim quiet bound myself and the other parents together, the literally unspeakable news sealing our smiles while, at a lower strata, our happy, screaming children ran out of the building into our arms still frothed up by sparkling visions of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Unsurprisingly, people are continuing to die from guns in the US. Adam Lanza killed 28 people on December 14th, 2012 and since then, 393 more people have died.
In an op-ed piece for the NY Times, Dr. David Newman bears witness to the effects of gun violence he sees at his hospital.
I have sworn an oath to heal and to protect humans. Guns, invented to maim and destroy, are my natural enemy.
In 2007, Kyle Cassidy published a book called Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes. He asked his subjects a simple question: Why do you own a gun?
Cassidy traveled over 20,000 miles, crisscrossing the country to meet with gun owners in their homes. Cassidy's photo essays create a powerful, thought provoking and sometimes startling view of gun ownership in the U.S. These "everyman" portraits, and the accompanying views of gun owners, fashion a riveting and provocative hardcover book.
From book's web site, a sampling of images and answers:
Paul: My family had guns the whole time I was a kid. then i went off and joined the army and went away and come back. I have guns now largely for the same reason I have fire extinguishers in the house and spare tires in the car. I'm a self reliant kind of guy. and there could come a time when I need to protect my family and i'm a self reliant kind of guy.
Beth: I have one for self protection. I was raised to never rely on anyone else to protect me or watch my back. It took me a year to pick out one that I liked.
Bashir: I just think it's a good thing to have
Joe: The first time I was introduced to guns was when I was 5 years old; hunting with my dad, grandfather and uncle. I remember my dad shooting a ringneck pheasant and a rabbit. I carried those two animals until I thought my arms were going to fall off. As a little guy, that made a great impression on me. I've hunted all of my life; in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Colorado and Maine. I have a tremendous respect for life, especially wildlife. It never ceases to amaze me how much satisfaction I get from just simply being in the Great Outdoors, whether I make a kill or not.
(via virtual memories)
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been one the most powerful voices calling for increased gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings...see here and here. But earlier this year, NYC sold spent shell casings to an ammunition dealer.
In June, the City of New York sold 28,000 pounds of spent shell casings to a an ammunition dealer in Georgia, where they were to be reloaded with bullets. Anyone with $15 can buy a bag of 50, no questions asked, under Georgia law. As The New York Times reported, the city has previously sold shell casings -- which are collected at the police target shooting range -- to scrap metal dealers, but in this case the highest bidder was the ammunition store.
The city destroys guns but sells spent casing to be recycled. When challenged on this point, Bloomberg got testy:
Then one of the most experienced and professional of New York television reporters, Mary Murphy of WPIX, asked Mr. Bloomberg if the city was going to change its policy and not sell shell casings to ammunition dealers. Mr. Bloomberg set forth into a minisermon about how it was an act of integrity.
"This is the public's money that we are stewards of, and deliberately deciding to sell things at lower prices than the marketplace commands makes no sense at all, and if you think about it, would create chaos and corruption like you've never seen," he said.
Ms. Murphy pressed on: "Does it send the wrong message though?"
The mayor scolded her as if she were an errant schoolgirl.
"Miss, Miss," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Either you want to ask a question and I give you an answer, or please come to the next press conference and stand in the back."
In an editorial for the NY Times in 1993 called Guns Don't Kill People. Bullets Do., US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a bill he introduced in the Senate which would have levied a 10,000% tax on hollow-point bullets.
"So far this year, 342 New Yorkers have been killed by stray bullets. And in the past few days, two young women were shot in their pregnant bellies." A. M. Rosenthal wrote that on this page last Tuesday, the day of the Long Island shooting. By Thursday there were 11 more homicides. If we are to stop it, or come anywhere close, we have to get hold of the ammunition.
On Nov. 3, I introduced a bill that would levy a 10,000 percent tax on Winchester hollow-tipped "Black Talon" bullets, specifically designed to rip flesh. (Colin Ferguson, the suspect in the Long Island shootings, had some 40 of them.)
The tax would effectively raise the price of Black Talons from $20 a box to $2,000. On Nov. 22, 19 days after my bill was introduced, Winchester announced that it would cease sale of Black Talons to the public. Which suggests that the munitions manufacturers are more responsive than the automobile companies were a generation ago. It is also important to note that in 1986 Congress banned the Teflon-coated "cop killer" bullet, which penetrates police body armor. The Swedes are now making a new kind of armor-piercing round. We got that banned in the Senate version of this year's crime bill without a murmur.
The Long Island shootings Moynihan refers to resulted in the deaths of six people and the injury of nineteen more. (via @Rebeccamead_NYC)
James Fallows suggests talking about "gun safety" and not "gun control".
I will henceforth and only talk about "gun safety" as a goal for America, as opposed to "gun control." I have no abstract interest in "controlling" someone else's ability to own a gun. I have a very powerful, direct, and legitimate interest in the consequences of others' gun ownership -- namely that we change America's outlier status as site of most of the world's mass shootings. No reasonable gun-owner can disagree with steps to make gun use safer and more responsible. This also shifts the discussion to the realm of the incremental, the feasible, and the effective.
Ezra Klein asked Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional scholar, about the Second Amendment. Amar responded with two artworks that illustrate how the meaning of the Second Amendment has shifted over the years.
In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase 'Bill of Rights,' comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights. We read everything through the prism of the 14th amendment -- including the right to bear and keep arms.
The Fourteenth Amendment has a lot of parts, among them the definition of citizenship, Civil War debt, due process, and equal protection. Amar wrote more about the interplay between the 2nd and 14th Amendments for Slate in 2008.
But the 14th Amendment did not specifically enumerate these sacred privileges and immunities. Instead, like the Ninth, the 14th invited interpreters to pay close attention to fundamental rights that Americans had affirmed through their lived experience-in state bills of rights and in other canonical texts such as the Declaration of Independence and landmark civil rights legislation. And when it came to guns, a companion statute to the 14th Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1866, declared that "laws ... concerning personal liberty [and] personal security ... including the constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the citizens." Here, in sharp contrast to founding-era legal texts, the "bear arms" phrase was decisively severed from the military context. Women as well as men could claim a "personal" right to protect their "personal liberty" and "personal security" in their homes. The Reconstruction-era Congress clearly understood that Southern blacks might need guns in their homes to protect themselves from private violence in places where they could not rely on local constables to keep their neighborhoods safe. When guns were outlawed, only outlaw Klansmen would have guns, to paraphrase a modern NRA slogan. In this critical chapter in the history of American liberty, we find additional evidence of an individual right to have a gun in one's home, regardless of the original meaning of the Second Amendment.
Emily Badger highlights some trends in gun ownership, gun violence, and public opinion related to gun control over the past several decades.
A handful of charts paint a remarkable picture of some key shifts over the past 30 or 40 years. During that time, gun violence nationally has declined significantly even as aberrant mass shootings have grown less so; public sentiment for regulating the weapons has fallen steeply, too. Mother Jones has estimated that we're approaching a demographic reality where our population of firearms will outpace our population of people. But hard data on the total number of civilian-owned guns in America is hard to come by, and so much of what we know on the topic is based upon what gun owners themselves say in surveys.
In a clip from an old stand-up routine, Chris Rock advocates for bullet control.
I think all bullets should cost $5,000.
Philip Bump for The Atlantic:
But there are two things that are needed for a gun to work: the gun and the ammunition. Limiting guns may be hopeless. So why don't we focus on the bullets?
People have made their own guns for a long time. A ZIP gun, a crude device used in prisons and by street gangs, can be cobbled together with only a little more effort than Defense Distributed's plastic offering. A gun can be made from any number of common household objects. But making bullets is much, much trickier. A bullet needs much more specific consideration of materials and weight and requires something that is much harder to come by: a propellant. You can make your own gunpowder, of course, but refining the process to create effective munitions is as tricky as building a simple bomb. Doable, but dangerous.
Eliot Spitzer has a pair of suggestions related to gun control: pressure the owners of gun companies and regulate the sale of bullets.
There may be too many guns to rid the streets of guns, but there are not that many bullets, especially in the calibers needed for the types of weapons used in these shootings. Let's create a regime that makes sale of bullets to anybody not licensed to carry a gun illegal, makes resale illegal, micro-stamps bullets so they can be traced. No Second Amendment issues here.
There is some movement on the first issue already. Cerberus, a private equity firm that owns a large gun company, is selling the company because of pressure from their investors.
The private equity firm said it had made the investments in gun manufacturers on behalf of its clients, which include pension funds and other institutional investors. Cerberus added that it was the role of legislators to shape the country's gun policy.
"We believe that this decision allows us to meet our obligations to the investors whose interests we are entrusted to protect without being drawn into the national debate that is more properly pursued by those with the formal charter and public responsibility to do so," Cerberus said.
This is where the phrase "passing the buck" comes from.
Today NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg urged the President and Congress to take action on gun violence. Here are three of his six specific suggestions:
Pass the legislation of Fix Gun Checks Act that would require a criminal background check for all gun sales including all private sales and online sales
Ban deadly, military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which were previously banned under the now expired Federal assault weapons ban
Pass legislation to make gun trafficking a felony
From Devin Coldewey at Techcrunch, a look at how technology might disrupt the arms industry. Is a plan for a 3-D printable gun a gun? And if so, how do you control the movement of those pre-guns?
If we as a country, and indeed we as a global community, are going to seriously address the question of gun control, we need to address the issue of fabricated weapons and weapon plans, or else the discussion will be moot. This is because the proliferation of 3D printed weaponry changes both the definition of "gun" and of what it means to "control" it.
This morning at 11am, Ken Layne collected a number of incidents of gun violence that have occurred in the US since the Newtown shootings on Friday. They include:
In Mississippi, one man is dead and two are injured (including the dead man's father) "after an argument over a man 'doing donuts' -- or spinning his truck in circles -- in a field."
Two police officers were shot dead in Kansas on Sunday morning. They were investigating a "suspicious vehicle."
A 42-year-old destitute maniac fired 50 rounds at the Fashion Island luxury mall in Newport Beach, California, on Saturday evening. No one was injured.
Layne also noted "this is not a comprehensive list of the U.S. gun violence over the past 48 hours".
From Stone, the NY Times' blog of philosophers writing about current events, a post by Firmin DeBrabander about what sort of society (polite? uncivil? safe?) an armed society is.
Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name -- that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.
This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.'s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly -- not make any sudden, unexpected moves -- and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.
A 2006 paper that appeared in Injury Prevention analyzed the possible results of the 1996 gun law reforms in Australia. The most striking result: in the 18 years before tougher laws were passed, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia...and none in the 10.5 years afterwards.
Results: In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, and none in the 10.5 years afterwards. Declines in firearm-related deaths before the law reforms accelerated after the reforms for total firearm deaths (p = 0.04), firearm suicides (p = 0.007) and firearm homicides (p = 0.15), but not for the smallest category of unintentional firearm deaths, which increased. No evidence of substitution effect for suicides or homicides was observed. The rates per 100 000 of total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides all at least doubled their existing rates of decline after the revised gun laws.
Conclusions: Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.
Jon Lee Anderson asks, in reference to mass shootings, "What does it take for a society to be sickened by its own behavior and to change its attitudes?"
When will we Americans realize that our society is an unacceptably violent one, that this is how the rest of the world sees us, and that much of that violence is associated with guns? Will it be the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Where is our threshold for self-awareness?
Paul Waldman from The American Prospect outlines ten arguments that gun advocates typically make and why they are wrong.
6. The Constitution says I have a right to own guns.
Yes it does, but for some reason gun advocates think that the right to bear arms is the only constitutional right that is virtually without limit. You have the right to practice your religion, but not if your religion involves human sacrifice. You have the right to free speech, but you can still be prosecuted for incitement or conspiracy, and you can be sued for libel. Every right is subject to limitation when it begins to threaten others, and the Supreme Court has affirmed that even though there is an individual right to gun ownership, the government can put reasonable restrictions on that right.
And we all know that if this shooter turns out to have a Muslim name, plenty of Americans, including plenty of gun owners, will be more than happy to give up all kinds of rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Have the government read my email? Have my cell phone company turn over my call records? Check which books I'm taking out of the library? Make me take my shoes off before getting on a plane, just because some idiot tried to blow up his sneakers? Sure, do what you've got to do. But don't make it harder to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, because if we couldn't do that we'd no longer be free.
When God said in the Bible "you shall have no other gods before me", one of the gods he was referring to was Moloch, an Ammonite god worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites who was associated with the sacrifice of children by his followers. In a short essay for The New York Review of Books, Gary Wills singles out the gun as America's Moloch.
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains-"besmeared with blood" and "parents' tears." They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily-sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children's lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
What will it take for the US government to enact tougher gun control laws? Even with the Newtown shootings as impetus, it will be a politically difficult row to hoe.
What does it take? If a congresswoman in a coma isn't sufficient grounds to reevaluate the role that firearms play in our national life, is a schoolhouse full of dead children? I desperately want to believe that it is, and yet I'm not sure that I do. By this time next week, most of the people who are, today, signing petitions and demanding gun control will have moved on to other things. If you want to understand why the gun debate can occasionally feel rigged, this is the answer: the issue is characterized by a conspicuous asymmetry of fervor. The N.R.A. has only four million members -- a number that is probably dwarfed by the segment of the U.S. population that feels uneasy about the unbridled proliferation of firearms. But the pro-gun constituency is ardent and organized, while the gun control crowd is diffuse and easily distracted. In the 2012 election cycle, N.R.A. spending on lobbying outranked spending by gun control groups by a factor of ten to one.
What that means in practice is that in the aftermath of contemporary gun tragedies, we don't see new gun legislation. What we do see is a spike in gun sales. After the shooting last summer in Aurora, Colorado, gun sales went up. After the Giffords shooting, there was a surge in purchases of the very Glock semiautomatic that wounded her. Certainly, the firearm industry and lobby will confront some bad P.R. in the coming weeks, but they can likely find succor in an uptick in business. Following the Newtown shooting, Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners for America, suggested that these massacres might be avoided in the future, if only more teachers were armed.
From the August 2010 issue of Harper's, Dan Baum writes about his experience as a gun owner and concealed weapon carrier. This article is excellent.
I got hooked on guns forty-nine years ago as a fat kid at summer camp -- the one thing I could do was lie on my belly and shoot a .22 rifle -- and I've collected, shot, and hunted with guns my entire adult life. But I also grew up into a fairly typical liberal Democrat, with a circle of friends politely appalled at my fixation on firearms. For as long as I've been voting, I've reflexively supported waiting periods, background checks, the assault-rifle ban, and other gun-control measures. None interfered with my enjoyment of firearms, and none seemed to me the first step toward tyranny. As the concealed-carry laws changed across the land, I naturally sided with those who argued that arming the populace would turn fender benders into gunfights. The prospect of millions more gun-carrying Americans left me reliably horrified.
At the same time, though, I was a little jealous of those getting permits. Taking my guns from the safe was a rare treat; the sensual pleasure of handling guns is a big part of the habit. Elegantly designed and exquisitely manufactured, they are deeply satisfying to manipulate, even without shooting. I normally got to play with mine only a few times a year, during hunting season and on one or two trips to the range. The people with carry permits, though, were handling their guns all the time. They were developing an enviable competence and familiarity with them. They were living the gun life. Finally, last year, under the guise of "wanting to learn what this is all about," but really wanting to live the gun life myself, I began the process of getting a carry permit. All that was required was a background check, fingerprints, and certification that I'd passed an approved handgun class.
Despite promises leading up to the 2008 Presidential election of strengthening the nation's gun control laws, President Obama has done nothing but offer condolences to those affected by mass shootings.
There has been no shortage of sorrow-filled words from Barack Obama following each of the tragic mass killings that have afflicted his presidency.
Obama described the wounding of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and deaths of six other people, including a young girl, in Tucson, Arizona, last year as a "tragedy for our entire country" and called for a "national dialogue" on how Americans treat each other.
He struck much the same theme in July following the killing of 12 people at a Colorado cinema. A month later, Obama called for "soul searching" on how to reduce violence after a white supremacist murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The searing awfulness of Newtown on Friday saw the president in tears, declaring: "We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.
"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said.
Although Obama didn't mention gun control, that is what he was widely assumed to be talking about.
But critics say that the president, for all his sorrowful words after each mass killing, has not only visibly failed to address gun control, he has quietly acquiesced in a slew of national, state and local laws in recent years that have generally made it easier to buy and carry weapons.
From Pro Publica back in July, the best reporting on guns in America.
In the wake of last week's shooting in Aurora, Colo., we've taken a step back and laid out the best pieces we could find about guns. They're roughly organized by articles on rights, trafficking and regulation.
The New Yorker's editor in chief David Remnick strongly urges President Obama to take decisive action on gun control.
Barack Obama has been in our field of vision for a long time now, and, more than any major politician of recent memory, he hides in plain sight. He is who he is. He may strike the unsympathetic as curiously remote or arrogant or removed; he certainly strikes his admirers as a man of real intelligence and dignity. But he is who he is. He is no phony. And so there is absolutely no reason to believe that his deep, raw emotion today following the horrific slaughter in Connecticut-his tears, the prolonged catch in his voice-was anything but genuine. But this was a slaughter-a slaughter like so many before it-and emotion is hardly all that is needed. What is needed is gun control-strict, comprehensive gun control that places the values of public safety and security before the values of deer hunting and a perverse ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment. Obama told the nation that he reacted to the shootings in Newtown "as a parent," and that is understandable, but what we need most is for him to act as a President, liberated at last from the constraints of elections and their dirty compromises-a President who dares to change the national debate and the legislative agenda on guns.
A statement from NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg on today's events:
With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership -- not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.
From his review of Gus Van Sant's Elephant, a fictionalized account of a Columbine-like school shooting, here's Roger Ebert on the media's behavior while reporting these kinds of events.
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about 'Basketball Diaries'?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
Back in 2007, Gary Younge wrote an article for the Guardian about nine children who were killed with guns in one day in the US.
In many respects, then, Gerardo's death set the scene for just another day in America. Over the following 24 hours, on this day picked at random, another eight children would lose their lives. Gerardo was the eldest; the youngest was two. Eight were black and one was Hispanic. They died in housing estates, suburbs and malls, at parties and on porches, in areas of average income and of above-average poverty. They were shot by a relative, friend, unknown assassin, a pizza delivery man, an off-duty police officer and by accident. It was Thanksgiving, the biggest travelling weekend of the year, when people are returning home after joining their families for the holiday. By the time the day was over, nine families were one member short.
And it's not because they have guns. They've got money and political influence.
While the NRA wins court fights, laws allowing more guns in more public places continue to spread, often for reasons that defy logic. For example, take the reasoning offered by Alabama state Sen. Roger Bedford, a Democrat, when explaining to Bloomberg earlier this week why he introduced a bill that would allow people to keep their guns in their cars in the workplace parking lot. "This provides safety and protection for workers who oftentimes travel 20 to 50 miles to their jobs," Bedford said. What does this mean? If there's a workplace shooting, people need to be able to have their guns in the parking lot to turn the place into a true shootout? Or does he just mean that maybe people need to be able to shoot to kill while driving down the highway on the way to work?
More facts about guns in America from Ezra Klein, beginning with the sad fact that "shooting sprees are not rare in the United States".
If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation's security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.
Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that's unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn't "too soon." It's much too late.
This past Black Friday was reportedly "the largest gun sales day in recorded history".
Josh Marshall at TPM asks: how do we fix this?
I don't want to hear about these tragedies being rooted in evil or the human heart. We know the human heart is a substandard product. The brain frequently malfunctions. It's offensive to put this forward as part of a discussion about policy as opposed to theodicy and meditation. We know that the vast, vast proportion of gun owners use them legally and safely. We also know that gun deaths are rare in many other countries quite similar to the USA for the simple reason they don't have so many friggin' guns all over the place. This is obvious. And guns just make it easy to kill a lot of people really quickly. Freely available body armor helps too.
From the New Yorker back in April, Jill Lepore wrote about the history of guns in America.
There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane's parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather's barn.
The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.
Writing for the New Yorker, Alex Koppelman says that today is the right day to talk about guns.
Carney's response was a predictable one. This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.-we acknowledge them; we are briefly shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them. At some point, we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It's not either. It's cowardice.
It is cowardice, too, the way that Carney and President Obama and their fellow-Democrats talk about gun control, when they finally decide the time is right. They avoid the issue as much as possible, then mouth platitudes, or promise to pass only the most popular of measures, like the assault-weapons ban. And then they do nothing to follow through.
Max Fisher on firearm ownership in Japan.
But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.
Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.
In the aftermath of the Aurora, CO shootings, Ezra Klein wrote six facts about guns, violence, and gun control.
1. America is an unusually violent country. But we're not as violent as we used to be.
5. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.
The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has reviewed the literature and the results are clear: more guns = more homicide.
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.
A company called TrackingPoint is developing guns equipped with digital scopes that enable automated precision firing. Here's how it works: you "tag" a target with the digital scope and then only when the gun is aimed directly at the target, it fires. Essentially, it lets you practice pulling the trigger any number of times before the gun actually shoots the target perfectly for you.
I'm alternating between being really impressed by this and really freaked out by the implications. That's technology, I guess. (via @jomc)
There are so many really fantastic things about this video and its subject, Bob Munden. To start: look at how fast he can shoot his gun and re-holster it! I've seen it 20 times and I still can't believe it.
The only thing that rivals Munden's quickness with a gun is his confidence.
BM: Fast-draw is the fastest thing a human being does. Nodody does anything faster than what I do with guns.
Q: Can you give a comparison with something that would come close but is not as fast?
BM: Speed of light. Which is far beyond it. There is nothing next to it.
Shades of Ali. (Or as Munden might put it, in Ali, we can see shades of Munden.) To date, he has not shot himself in the crotch, which seems to me to be a minor miracle. (thx, dan)
Because that's how they did it in Menace II Society.
Journalists and gun experts point to the 1993 Hughes brothers film Menace II Society, which depicts the side grip in its opening scene, as the movie that popularized the style. Although the directors claim to have witnessed a side grip robbery in Detroit in 1987, there are few reports of street gangs using the technique until after the movie came out.
But the side grip can also be practical:
During the first half of the 20th century, soldiers used the side grip for the express purpose of endangering throngs of people. Some automatic weapons from this era --like the Mauser C96 or the grease gun -- fired so quickly or with such dramatic recoil that soldiers found it impossible to aim anything but the first shot. Soldiers began tilting the weapons, so that the recoil sent the gun reeling in a horizontal rather than vertical arc, enabling them to spray bullets into an onrushing enemy battalion instead of over their heads.
But mostly it just looks cool.
Update: TV Tropes has an entire page dedicated to the Gangsta Style shooting technique. (thx, grant)
1. Forget about knives, bats and fists. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring four times the ammunition you think you could ever need.
10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet if necessary, because they may want to kill you.
27. Regardless of whether justified of not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.
See all 28 rules here.
Video of a bunch of people (including what looks like a 8-yo girl) shooting the shit out of cars and stuff with fully automatic machine guns...the footage is from the Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot & Trade Show.
KILL THE CAR is on of the favorite events we have here at OFASTS. In this event, there will be a car, loaded with explosives located on the far side of the shooting range. Anyone who wants, can participate, and try and "KILL THE CAR". Which basically means, try and blow it up first. It's a real BLAST!!
(via delicious ghost)
Cynical-C is keeping track of what the media is blaming for the Virginia Tech murders. So far, the list runs to more than 30 items, including South Korea, Bill Gates, the second amendment, violent video games, and cowardly students.
Armed America: Portraits of Americans and their Guns. "I got a gun here because we live in kind of a rough neighborhood and I take the subway home from work. I figured that since the bad-guys had guns, I should have one too."
There's nothing good about the shooting of airline passenger Rigoberto Alpizar by air marshals. Guns on airplanes -- I don't care who's wielding them under what authority -- is a bad idea; some alternative thinking is needed.