Thursday, December 06, 2007

thank you, NRA . . .

[Image: AP Photo/Yearbook photo via KETV-TV and Philly.com]

. . . for making sure Robert Hawkins had access to an AK-47-style semi-automatic weapon with which to spread Christmas cheer at a mall in Omaha.

Mr. Hawkins fired about 30 shots from an AK-47-style semi-automatic weapon that the police said he stole from his stepfather. He had two magazines with 30 rounds each, the chief said, that “had the capacity to fire multiple rounds in a short period of time.”

. . .

Meanwhile, some customers and employees used cell phones to call their families and the authorities. The chief said the first call to 911 came at 1:43 p.m. local time, and the first officer arrived at the scene six minutes later. By the time the police descended on the mall in full force, the shooter had ended his rampage.

“It doesn’t appear there was an opportunity for mall security nor police officers to interrupt this incident,” he said.

If only each of the “retired ‘well-educated’ older women who worked at the well-appointed [Von Maur] store ‘for the discount’” had had an AK-47 of her own strapped inside her garter, one of them could have stopped this madman in his tracks.

More guns are exactly what we need to prevent further outbursts of senseless violence. It makes perfect sense. And how can we defend ourselves against the bad guys if we aren’t armed ourselves?

Thankfully, we’ve finally reached national consensus on this once contentious issue.

16 comments:

Sebastian said...

The rifle in question was an SKS and not an AK-47. Considering I got my semi-automatic AK-47 patterned rifle during the assault weapons ban, through completely legal channels, me thinks you have little idea exactly what it the federal assault weapons ban actually accomplished.

The mall shooter was a convicted felon. He is not legally able to purchase or possess a firearm. Federal laws were broken when he took possession of that rifle both by him and the person who gave it to him. The NRA supports the federal laws that bar felons from purchasing and possessing arms, and the background check system that prevents them from buying them legally.

Of course, that doesn't stop them from obtaining the guns illegally, but that's an enforcement problem, not a problem with the existing law.

yave said...

The federal assault weapons ban was a symbolic bandaid, as you've demonstrated.

I'm sure all Hawkins' victims were comforted by the fact that he wasn't legally permitted to possess the gun he used to kill them. The point is, the NRA supports easier access to firearms, to the point where Mexican police are struggling to stem the influx of weapons coming across the border from the U.S. to arm drug gangs.

The U.S. is an outlier in two respects compared to most other rich countries: we have lax gun laws and high homicide rates. The NRA argues there is absolutely no connection between the two phenomena. I have a hard time believing that's the truth.

Sebastian said...

I wouldn't argue they should be comforted. I doubt the folks in Europe who have had these kinds of tragedies happen, and there have been several of them, were much comforted that their much stricter gun laws failed them also.

What exactly do you mean by easier access? The NRA supports the constitutional right of people who are not criminals to keep and bear arms. What would tighter access accomplish? We have tight access or outright prohibition on drugs in our country, and we're not stopping people who want to buy them from getting them. Would it work any better with guns?

The reason we say there's little correlation between gun laws and crime is because there are a number of counterexamples. You can look at countries like Switzerland and Norway, which have high rates of gun ownership also, and very little violent crime. Even in the US, states like Vermont, Montna, and New Hampshire, which have virtually no gun laws, have non-existent violent crime rates. That's not to say there aren't demographic factors at work, but we're just talking gun laws here. Then you have countries like Russia, which have strong prohibitions on firearms, and have astronomical violent crime rates. Mexico also completely prohibits firearms, and the recent accusation of smuggling from the US are interesting, considering the Mexican government is claiming fully automatic AK-47s, (which are illegal in the US, only semi-automatics are legal) are coming from the US.

It's always hard for me to understand why folks think that we'd be any more successful in stopping the illegal market in guns as we are stopping the illegal market in drugs. I support the laws that prevent criminals from buying on the legal market, but prohibition is only going to be effective at disarming me. The criminals will still have the black market.

yave said...

We have tight access or outright prohibition on drugs in our country, and we're not stopping people who want to buy them from getting them. Would it work any better with guns?

Yes, and here's why:

Here are per-capita murder rates in other developed nations presented as a percentage of the U.S. rate, calculated from this site:

South Korea: 46%
France: 40%
Australia: 35%
Canada: 35%
UK: 33%
Italy: 30%
Germany: 27%
Spain: 27%
Japan: 12%

Fewer guns = fewer gun deaths. More guns = more gun deaths. While there are other factors involved, it’s hard not to see the pattern here.

Here are some more facts from the Brady Campaign ( pdf):

In 2004, 29,569 people in the United States died from firearm-related deaths – 11,624
(39%) of those were murdered; 16,750 (57%) were suicides; 649 (2.2%) were accidents;
and in 235 (.8%) the intent was unknown. [5] In comparison, 33,651 Americans were
killed in the Korean War and 58,193 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War.[6]

For every firearm fatality in the United States in 2005, there were estimated to be more
than two non-fatal firearm injuries.[7]

In 2004, firearms were used to murder 56 people in Australia, 184 people in Canada, 73
people in England and Wales, 5 people in New Zealand, and 37 people in Sweden.[8] In
comparison, firearms were used tomurder 11,344 people in the United States.[9]

In 2005, there were only 143 justifiable homicides by private citizens using handguns in
the United States.[10]

You can look at countries like Switzerland and Norway, which have high rates of gun ownership also, and very little violent crime.

Switzerland's gun ownership is part of its unique military tradition. The country is an outlier in many respects--for instance, its almost nonexistent crime rate. There is also some pressure there to restrict gun ownership there due to gun deaths in suicides and domestic violence.

Likewise, Norway has a very low overall crime rate and gun ownership, while widespread, is tightly regulated. Most guns in Norway are used for hunting, not self defense.

Comparing policies between US states is of limited use since guns and people can easily travel across state lines--hence, NYC's efforts to go after negligent gun dealers in other states.

I don't think bringing up Russia or Mexico supports your argument--developing nations often have high rates of crime and widespread availability of guns. Gun laws in Russia or Brazil or Mexico have less impact since rule of law in general is weaker.

It's always hard for me to understand why folks think that we'd be any more successful in stopping the illegal market in guns as we are stopping the illegal market in drugs.

For one thing, guns are manufactured goods and U.S. companies make and sell a whole lot of them. It's hard to grow a gun in your basement. Other countries--i.e. all the other industrialized countries save Switzerland and Norway--have managed to do it. Why couldn't we?

Sebastian said...

For one thing, guns are manufactured goods and U.S. companies make and sell a whole lot of them. It's hard to grow a gun in your basement. Other countries--i.e. all the other industrialized countries save Switzerland and Norway--have managed to do it. Why couldn't we?

Actually, it's not that hard. It just takes a few machine tools and you can make something that'll shoot. You can manufacture a firearm in your basement, and it's a durable good, unlike drugs.

And why does it matter that "those guns are bought for hunting"? Can a hunting gun not be used to murder someone if it's possessed by someone intent on murder? I won't deny there aren't cultural factors involved, but that's exactly my point; it's the cultural factors that account for variations in crime, not the number of guns in society.

Robb Allen said...

Actually, it's quite easy to make a gun.

In fact, here is a video of dirt poor Pakistanis making guns with their hands - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXrNoqAbSP8

If what you said was true and that more guns = higher crime, then we all have defective guns. There are 270,000,000 guns in the US under private control. If we take a 30,000 gun death number (grossly inflated, btw) then you're talking a problem of .000374% of all guns. That's statistical noise, not an epidemic.

The problem you're facing is that somehow, you're managing to separate gun crime from all others, as if the tool used in the crime mitigates other factors. England's crime rate is astronomical. They've repeatedly been caught "fudging the numbers" and not reporting so that things look better than they are.

And, I'd like actual links to bills that the NRA has pushed for that, as you say "the NRA supports easier access to firearms". It's demonstrably false that they want everyone to have a firearm. Only non-criminals.

Unless you have actual links, I don't see how you can say this.

Anonymous said...

"Fewer guns = fewer gun deaths. More guns = more gun deaths. While there are other factors involved, it’s hard not to see the pattern here."

Yave, you need a stats course me thinks. Correlation does not a causation make.

What's more is that places like Australia, England have seen rocketing violent crime rates since they passed gun bans. Causation or correlation? America does have some pretty unique causal properties. Even the CDC has released information showing that gun control doesn't reduce/impact crime. And yet you're yelling louder for more gun control.

So far you've used bad statistics to generate a goal of public policy. Are you ok with that? Are you ok with using poor science for generating legislative goals?

I'm that rarest thing, a liberal gun owner. That kind of logic is the same thing that has the Bush Administration pushing this foolish "abstinence only" education. It doesn't work, it's been proven not to work, but we're going to push it anyway because it a) looks like we're doing something and b) it's for the children.

I hope you aren't really ok with promoting policy on poor math and science.

yave said...

The problem you're facing is that somehow, you're managing to separate gun crime from all others, as if the tool used in the crime mitigates other factors. England's crime rate is astronomical.

But England's murder rate is 1/3 ours. That indicates that the tool used to commit the crime does make a difference. If generic crime rates are similar, but murder rates are considerably higher, that might tell you that there's some other factor at work. In this case, that factor is easy availability of guns in the U.S. vis-a-vis England.

It's common knowledge that the NRA lobbies against more restrictive gun laws. If you are saying that is different in some significant way from saying they support easier access to firearms in places like D.C. or New York, I would ask you to explain how.

So far you've used bad statistics to generate a goal of public policy. Are you ok with that? Are you ok with using poor science for generating legislative goals?

You seem remarkably willing to wave away 30,000 annual gun deaths. To me, they are more than just "statistical noise."

Robb Allen said...

First, crime: We have a piss poor society when it comes to raising our young. TV violence, violent video games, a thuggish rap culture. All this leads to humans who don't care as much about human life nor the societal rules that hold us together.

Having a gun has nothing to do with it.

Do you honestly believe that simply owning a gun makes otherwise good kids turn into criminals? That the plastic and metal emit mental control waves that force them into a life of crime?

If so, I have some "healing crystals" to sell you.

And no, arguing that law abiding citizens be allowed to purchase whatever they want is not the same as saying "easier access to guns for all".

More people will die *today* from alcohol related deaths than this week from firearms.

More children die each year from swimming pools and buckets of water than they do from guns.

There is no compelling reason to ban alcohol sales or the building of personal swimming pools, because even though each loss is sad, overall it is not significant enough to burden the rest of society.

In fact, balancing out the 30,000 deaths (and that is an exaggerated number BTW) are the 2.5 million times a year lives are saved by the simple brandishing of a firearm.

I'm one of those people alive today because of it.

Anonymous said...

"You seem remarkably willing to wave away 30,000 annual gun deaths. To me, they are more than just "statistical noise."

That is an incredibly deflective and disingenuous argument, with no probative value. If the CDC studied the issue, and came to the conclusion that gun control laws don't affect gun crime, then how does that 30,000 number change? All you did was propose heartstring policy AGAIN. Show me, with reasoned discourse or actual data how crime rates change. Otherwise, we'll have spent a lot of time and money on public policy that ends up with the same number of deaths. And you still have yet to tie any causative affect of guns to crime rates, just correlative.

Sebastian-PGP said...

Arguing that the UK and other Western European countries were made safe by gun control is sophistry at its worst; the plain reality is that the UK had a very low murder rate BEFORE they passed gun control laws (in fact, lower than it is today). It's not like they they had a high murder rate and then it went down post gun control. Quite the opposite.

Sailorcurt said...

But England's murder rate is 1/3 ours.

Ah, but that's exactly the point. The US' NON-GUN homicide rate is higher than the UK's TOTAL homicide rate.

Even if we could wave a magic wand and make all firearms disappear...and assume that all people who today commit homicide with firearms, won't just find another tool to use tomorrow, our homicide rate would STILL be higher than that in the UK.

Not to mention the already pointed out fact that gun violence has INCREASED in the UK since the advent of stringent gun control.

The propensity to violence and murder is a cultural issue and has little to do with the legal availability of any particular tool. It is notable that, in this country, that culture primarily exists in the inner cities...where gun control tends to be the most stringently enforced.

You seem to base your arguments on cherry picked statistics and assumptions. Not a good basis for accurate conclusions.

Hemlock said...

Yave says:

Here are per-capita murder rates in other developed nations presented as a percentage of the U.S. rate, calculated from this site:

South Korea: 46%
France: 40%
Australia: 35%
Canada: 35%
UK: 33%
Italy: 30%
Germany: 27%
Spain: 27%
Japan: 12%


Population USA 303 million

Population UK 50 million

The UK is 1/6th the size of the US,
but have 1/3rd the murder rate(your own words) of the US. That means each criminal in the UK kills twice as much as a US criminal.....per-capita!

Wow! Either UK criminals are twice as proficient even without guns, or
the armed citizens of the US deter criminals, like the CCW holder did in Colorado a couple of days ago.

I'll go with deterred.

HEMLOCK

yave said...

The murder rates I cited are per-capita, hence already adjusted for population size.

Anonymous said...

i would like to know where yave is getting his statistics

and i would like to add that to this argument the fact that america was founded on the premise that every man has the right to bear arms whether ththat be a knife pistol or an assualt rifle.

yave said...

Follow the links to find my sources; that's what they're there for.

Any argument about America's beginnings that includes as blatant an anachronism as an assault rifle masquerading as a foundational right is a dubious one from the start. Why not include ground to air shoulder-fired missiles? A suicide belt? How about a truck full of fertilizer? Why stop with something as puny as an assault rifle? If you're going to dream, dream big.