Weapons, Killers, and Culture

I tend not to read Charles Krauthammer’s columns because they typically make me furious. I think his column today, in which he reviews the reasons that no measures that would be effective in reducing incidents like the Sandy Hook horror will recur are likely to be implemented, is very likely correct.

46 comments… add one

  • Drew

    1 and 2 are easy. I continue to struggle with #3. This is a country that used to hang people in the public square, revel in gangland killing newspaper stories during prohibition, burn crosses in the south, hunt in greater numbers than imaginable today and lived two world wars. Not to mention violence in the child medium of the day: comic books. It is no stranger to violence.

    If you want to talk about the coarsening of society I understand Ozzie and Harriet has been replaced by f-bomb laden HBO shows. But I’d look to the implosion of the family unit first.

    Consistent with my rant of a few essays ago, Krauthammer did call out Pres Obama for his cheap and opportunistic hypocricy in going after the NRA while conveniently forgetting the ACLU or Hollywood. The president will be full of shirt Exhibit A until he does so.

  • PD Shaw

    (1) Guns misses the more obvious point. The gun used was not an “assault weapon” and thus was not banned by Connecticut’s existing assault weapon ban, and presumably would not be banned by the expired federal ban.

    (2) Mental Health of the Killer. I still find a large disconnect between complaints about how the homeless are mentally ill and not being treated, and yet I read no accounts of homeless people engaged in mass-killings. The ability to project mass violence requires a fair degree of aptitude in living in society, perhaps its at the point where that aptitude begins to slip away where the real danger lies and obviously that’s a difficult point to identify. Plus Krauthammer skips another obvious point: Connecticut is rated as having some of the best mental health care in the country.

    I have gotten nothing on (3). Drew makes some good points.

  • TastyBits

    In my opinion, the problem of mass murder is the mass not the murder. Killing in small numbers is not a national concern. Gang wars are responsible for killing numerous children, but the numbers are low for a single incident. These also occur in the poorer and darker areas – jus’ sayin’.

    An assault weapons ban will not help them.

  • Drew

    “These also occur in the poorer and darker areas – jus’ sayin’.”

    And yet in Obamas home town, where some 500 will die, not a peep from the Pres

  • steve

    We have too many guns to do much except nibble around the edges on 1. Not sur eit will do much. I find it interesting that those who oppose new laws on liberty and Constitutional grounds, are supporting locking up the mentally ill because they might become violent. Didnt we find the Japanese internments unconstitutional? On 3, I guess I would be more convinced if the countries which play the most video games were also the most violent. While movies have gotten more violent, overall violence has gone down. Maybe they help decrease overall homicide rates. Make more violent movies, accept the occasional mass killing and accept the beter overall outcome.

    Steve

  • steve

    Watched Lapierre. He wants armed guards the caliber of police or military at every school. If we do this fairly cheaply, I think it still costs about 10-15 billion dollars. Are we willing to spend that much to save, optimistically, maybe 100 lives a year (probably more like 25).

    Steve

  • PD Shaw

    I am not in favor of more security guards, and I fear my public schools are about to increase them at the expense of teachers. There may be multiple values to security guards at high schools (controlling violence of students; keeping outsiders coming in to deal drugs, etc.), but as a practical matter you would need multiple security guards because any one can be surprised and killed.

    And steve, interning Japanese was found Constitutional by the SCOTUS.

  • jan

    I am not a gun owner and am uncomfortable around them. But, I do support the 2nd amendment and the right to own them. To me they are nothing more than a tool, which, only becomes a danger to others when in wrong or irresponsible hands.

    As for the laws surrounding the regulation of guns — they are in abundance. But, very much like our immigration laws, implementation is oftentimes the loose canon to making these laws function better.

    Like Steve implied, rounding up the mentally ill and forcibly committing them for treatment is a remedy which can be easily abused and misused. One has to be careful, following an incident, such as this school shooting, to enact something that can turn out to be more injurious to the public than the good that was it’s initial intention.

    Then we have the entertainment industry and it’s capitalization on inane violence, for financial gain. This is where I kind of have a biased eye. Maybe it’s my lack of testosterone, but gratuitously killing/injuring/raping people in video games, or viewing it on film makes me cringe. For anyone with untoward tendencies how could these kinds of fanciful activities not act like triggers encouraging maladaptive behavior from blossoming into reality? IMO, it’s like putting an alcoholic next to a liquor bottle, assuming that it will not promote extra cravings, from the susceptible alcoholic/addict, to get drunk. I have no pat answer for this. However, I do think the entertainment industry should be held as accountable for it’s contributions to society as the NRA has been. This means having a more watchful eye over what it produces, as to the unintended consequences of how it might negatively effect the culture. After all, if we want a decent society, why not be more careful about the mental or entertainment food we feed it.

    There’s an old saying when paraphrased cautions: being careful about your thoughts, because they turn into your words; your words into actions; your actions into habits; your habits into character; and your character into your destiny.

  • jan

    The Corner (NRO) has an interesting perspective on gun ownership in this piece: Gun Rights, Gun Control and Irreconcilable Cultural Differences

    The crux of it is summed up in the final paragraph:

    In other words, the gun-control argument is more about cultural values than it is about charts, graphs, and numbers. And those values are shaped less by public policy (or CNN or MSNBC talk show hosts) than by peers, parents, and personal experience. Welcome back to the culture wars.

  • As I read it the gist of Dr. Krauthammer’s column is that as a society we have made choices and one of the implications of those choices is that every so often a nutcase is going to kill a bunch of people. IIRC steve and to a lesser extent Michael have made that point from time to time in the discussion.

    Can we alter those decisions? Sure. But it’s not as easy as deciding to change our minds. It will require amending the Constitution, changing the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments just as a start.

  • Drew

    “Are we willing to spend that much to save, optimistically, maybe 100 lives a year (probably more like 25).”

    I agree, steve. Its like saying we can eliminate all traffic deaths if we all drove armored and padded vehicles at 5 miles an hour.

  • TastyBits

    I suspect that for many the video game is a release for pent up aggression. Playing most of them takes skill. You need to aim, shoot, change weapons, select the right target, and stay alive. I play Grand Theft Auto – a lot, and I have never had the urge to go sidewalk surfing while driving.

    There are studies that show after playing violent games aggression increases, but the fine print explains that there is no actual aggression. The answers to questions are more aggressive. As @steve noted, violent video games have increased, but actual violence is down.

    Also, the television ads for video games are the cutscenes not actual gameplay.

  • michael reynolds

    There is a clear correlation between murder and private gun ownership. There is absolutely no correlation with media. Canada has the same media we have. So does the UK. So do Australia and New Zealand. What don’t they have? Guns.

    The crazy, like the poor, are always with us. Most countries do not choose to arm them with guns and 30 round clips. Crazy people armed with baseball bats are quite a bit less trouble than crazy people with guns. In fact, I imagine that’s why we don’t arm soldiers with sticks — guns do a much better job of killing people.

    It’s guns.

    Pretending otherwise requires intellectual contortions so bizarre that they in and of themselves could be evidence of mental illness.

    What can we do about it? Isolate it in time. Make it a problem of the older generation – like cigarette smoking or homophobia. We need to teach younger people to reject gun ownership. That requires zero changes to the constitution. It requires education and persistence.

    This approach will be attacked of course. There will be those who say it’s ineffective. And I don’t expect it to be quick, easy, or universally effective. And there will be more who reject it because it implies moral condemnation of gun owners. Too bad. Gun owners should be shamed. Owning a gun inevitably endangers innocent people. It brings a deadly and unnecessary tool into the world where it may be stolen, or used in a fit of depression, or used by a madman. Owning a gun is an anti-social act.

    The gun used to murder 20 children was not purchased by a crazy person. It was purchased by the crazy person’s mother. All very legal. In my opinion she bears much of the blame for what happened. Had she never bought a gun, she and the teachers and those children would all be alive today.

    Had she simply not bought a gun.

  • There is a clear correlation between murder and private gun ownership.

    Is there? Then why is the intentional homicide rate in Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa so much higher than it is here despite their rate of gun ownership being so much lower? Why is the intentional homicide rate so much lower in Serbia or Saudi Arabia despite their having high rates of gun ownership?

    See here for UN Office on Drugs and Crime data.

    Basically, I don’t give a damn one way or the other about guns. I don’t want one and I’m skeptical that they’re particularly useful for self-defense. Like any other form of self-defense guns take dedication to use effectively and most gun owners aren’t willing to put in the time. I’m dangerous without a gun but, then, I’ve put in more time cultivating my skills than most people would consider possible. At a casual estimate I’d say 10 to 20 hours a week over a period of 25 years.

    However, I do care about effective policy and I strongly doubt that even very stringent gun ownership laws here would do much other than to make people who favor such laws feel good about how virtuous they are.

    I agree with you that social stigma would be a more effective approach. How do you convince people that people with guns are idiots when you have an armed constabulary?

  • Just a few more points. First, I strongly suspect that high rates of gun homicide are correlated with high rates of gun ownership. That’s not the same as high rates of intentional homicide.

    Second, most of the gun homicides here are street criminals, frequently killing other street criminals. They aren’t “gun nuts” going out and shooting innocent bystanders.

    Finally, I really think we need to distinguish between mass murder and gun homicides more generally. Mass murder is probably unpreventable and I suspect we’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. Remember, both Sweden and Germany have had mass murders with firearms very recently despite having tough gun control and firearm ownership rates much lower than ours.

  • jan

    Various people seem to have their own answer to violence. Michael asserts it’s guns — period. I think it has to do more with violence introduced and seemingly condoned by media as ok for entertainment consumption. After all, oftentimes nutcakes don’t know where the line is between real and pretend violence, IMO. Meanwhile, TastyBits plays Grand Theft Auto with no ill-natured side effects. Sorry, Tasty, while I think the world of you, I really hate that particular video game.

    So, we’re all different, with different perspectives and conclusions for the same problem. I suspect that the more likely one, is the more neutered one, approached by Dave, Drew & Steve — where there is really no absolute resolution to violent behavior, as you just can’t stop all evil people from doing bad things all of the time.

  • michael reynolds

    I offer Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK as comparisons, and you counter with Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Serbia and Saudi Arabia?

    Come on. Which group most resembles the US? Four countries that are culturally, politically and economically as close to us as it is possible for a foreign nation to get, or a grab bag of wildly disparate cultures with almost no connection to our own?

    It’s easy to kill with guns. You know enough about martial arts to know how hard it is to actually kill someone cleanly with even a good knife, which is probably in second place as a weapon of choice.

    The other day a man killed his six year-old son while putting a handgun away in his glove compartment. My sister-in-law’s best friend’s family murdered in their sleep by a teen-age son. Do you really think that’s as likely to have happened without a gun?

    Guns lower the difficulty drastically. You can kill from two feet away, you can kill from across the room, you can kill from the sixth floor of a book depository or from the top of a campus bell tower. You can kill in a second. You can kill without your victim having the chance to confront you. When you make things easy, you make them more likely. Show me a road rage killing that occurred with anything other than a gun.

    Our murder rate is triple that of Canada. We have more guns, they have fewer, but we all watch the same TV and play the same video games.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    I suspect that the more likely one, is the more neutered one, approached by Dave, Drew & Steve — where there is really no absolute resolution to violent behavior, as you just can’t stop all evil people from doing bad things all of the time.

    Yeah, well, you said it, albeit unintentionally.

    I’ve never said all violence is caused by guns. Violence is caused by madness, rage, accident and evil. But all of those things with a sharp stick do not result in morgues full of dead children. Guns empower madness, rage and evil. Guns magnify the tragic results of accident.

    Obviously. I mean, Jesus H. Christ: obviously. That’s why we fight wars with guns and not sticks. If you could kill as many people with sticks and knives we’d be arming the Marines with them. Right?

    We have a moral obligation as human beings to fight evil. Throwing up your hands and saying, “Well, golly, what can we do?” is the beginning of a great many terrible evils that have been visited on the human race. Passive acceptance of evil is itself evil.

  • jan

    The problem with your remedy to violence — gun control — is that civilized, law-abiding people will be the easiest ones to enforce compliance with a ‘no-gun’ policy. The ones who are most likely to commit violence against others will not only have illegal weapons but a larger populace of unarmed targets to prey up0n. It’s the unintended consequences that throw monkey wrenches into simplistic methods to solve complex societal issues.

  • jan

    Michael,

    It’s not that anyone is throwing up their hands, but rather acknowledging that one broad stroke of banning guns is not going to be the end-all-be-all for violence.

    Also, emotionally approaching the problem, by referencing “morgues full of dead children,” pulls at the conscience of anyone with a conscience. But, again, what about all the people ‘saved’ by someone who is armed and there to prevent a death or deaths from happening? I’ve heard statistics, but am unable to pull them out of the hat. However, they are both impressive and infrequently reported by news sources. It’s like how good news is rarely printed, versus the news that bleeds and sells.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    You’re arguing with a straw man. This is what I said:

    What can we do about it? Isolate it in time. Make it a problem of the older generation – like cigarette smoking or homophobia. We need to teach younger people to reject gun ownership. That requires zero changes to the constitution. It requires education and persistence.

    Teach young people not to make the same stupid mistakes their elders did. That’s my answer, not seizing guns. I want to make gun ownership the equivalent of dog fighting: something that decent people reject out of hand. Something that nauseates decent people. And fortunately, I have the ability to reach some of those young people.

  • steve

    The reason I keep a gun in the house for defense is because they work. I could keep an ax or a sword (just bought a new Hisshou knife), but guns really do work better. It is why gun owners have guns for self defense. If the bad guy has a gun, you need a gun to even things up. So, the presence of guns means that homicide, even more so for suicide, is more likely when violence occurs. If you use better tools when trying to hurt someone, you will probably succeed. So if you compare apples with apples, first world countries with other first world countries, we dont look so good.

    Which is all kind of irrelevant. We have decided that we are willing to pay the cost of having guns because we think there are benefits. Among those, the ability to potentially defend against an overbearing govt. Part of me thinks that is BS, but part of me remembers that WWII was only 70 years ago. Guns arent going anywhere.

    Like Dave, I am skeptical we can stop these mass killings. I just think if we are going to try, we should look at the costs and decide if they are worth trying to make the effort. The costs of armed guards seem very high to me. $150 million per maybe child’s life saved is hard to justify. OTOH, the costs of outlawing 30 shot magazines seems low to me, partially because I dont use them. This is where I need input from other gun owners. They need to explain why the cost is too high, or make the pragmatic case, which I suspect is true, that it will not work.

    Steve

  • jan

    Teach young people not to make the same stupid mistakes their elders did. That’s my answer, not seizing guns.

    I have no argument with that, Michael. However, when you have movies and video games going bang-bang all the time, how do you expect boys to not be attracted to guns? When my son was growing up I was very anti-violence in the toys, games etc. that he had. However, all he had to do was go to a friend’s home and their values weren’t the same as mine. A parent can only control so much, and then the rest is done through societal and peer group enticements.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    I let my kids watch whatever they want. Neither wants a gun.

    People don’t want guns because of video games or movies, they want guns for power. The will to power predates all weapons. But our job as parents is to try to convince our children to channel that natural urge in ways that don’t do damage to themselves or others.

    I once gave a speech at a school honor society event and told them I had three rules: Don’t get pregnant, don’t form an addiction, and don’t kill yourself or anyone else. Follow those three rules and your odds of a decent life are pretty good. If you don’t own a gun or drive drunk you have a nearly 100% chance of getting that last one right.

  • I offer Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK as comparisons, and you counter with Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Serbia and Saudi Arabia?

    Sure. Because they prove that culture matters. We’re significantly more diverse from a cultural, economic, and ethnic standpoint than Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. For example, New York City has a larger Hispanic population than any but the ten largest cities in Latin American countries.

    That’s my point. We’re not a Commonwealth country. We’re not a European country.

    Culture is malleable but it’s not insane. We can change how violent a society we are but not while celebrating violence. If we want to be as peaceable as the UK, we’ll need to disarm our police officers. In the past I’ve said I’d be jake with repealing the Second Amendment and having a house-to-house search to remove firearms as long as we disarmed the police while we were at it. Basically, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

  • michael reynolds

    WASHINGTON — The night after Sandy Hook, a gunman pulled behind a car in Kansas City’s east side and opened fire, striking 4-year-old Aydan Perea in the head. The boy had just gotten into his father’s car.

    “He was innocent and he was just lifeless,” said the first bystander to reach Aydan. “All my life I’ve never seen nothing so devastating. I’m unable to eat, I’m unable to sleep because I see this baby in my head.”

    It was not the pre-schooler’s first brush with gun violence. A year earlier, a gunman fired a shotgun at the house where Aydan had been staying. No one was injured, but bullets shattered a front window and riddled a parked car. This week, days after the drive-by shooting, doctors declared the boy brain dead.

    Aydan’s mother said her world has “stopped.”

    Someone please explain how that happens absent a gun.

  • michael reynolds

    Here’s a thought experiment. Take 20 six year-olds. Any culture you like. Any race. Any religion. Any composition. Doesn’t matter.

    20 kids in Room #1 are given no guns.

    20 kids in Room #2 are given a single gun and careful instructions not to touch it.

    20 kids in Room #3 are each given a gun and careful instructions not to touch it.

    Now bet $10,000 of your own money on which room still has 20 living children an hour later, and which is second, and which is third.

  • Here’s what the United Kingdom looks like:

    white (of which English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%) 92.1%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6%

    Here’s the U. S.:

    white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61%

    The same entry goes on to mention that the U. S. is about 15% Hispanic.

    Australia:

    English 78.5%, Chinese 2.5%, Italian 1.6%, Greek 1.3%, Arabic 1.2%, Vietnamese 1%, other 8.2%, unspecified 5.7%

    Note that I am only saying that we are different. As I said earlier I think we’re more like a big, rich Third World country than we are like Australia.

  • My answer to your question is that it depends. If the country is Japan, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It might be the same in any Confucian culture but I’m not as confident about that.

  • michael reynolds

    The demographics of London: 60% white, 20% Asian, 16% black. (Note that Brits define Asians a bit differently than we do.) That’s a pretty diverse population. Total number of murders in London? Average of 171 per year over the last decade. 171 against a population of 8 million, give or take.

    Demographics of New York City? 45% white, 25% black, 27% Hispanic, 11% Asian. Number of murders? 536 against a population of 8 million, give or take.

    Two very diverse, very large cities, with essentially identical media. One saturated with guns, (despite the purely local laws) one with very few guns, and the murder rate in New York is three times as high, 6.56% in 2010 versus 1.9% in London.

    It’s not race, it’s not culture, it’s guns.

  • Then it’s hopeless because the guns are going to stay. From a practical policy standpoint we might be able to ban the sales of high capacity magazines. It wouldn’t do much but I suspect the law could be passed.

    There are 200-250 million guns in the U. S. I don’t see the house-to-house search I mentioned above. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    I like your idea of social stigma but you can’t have a mixed message and be successful with it. As long as Tom Selleck is the Marlboro Man and the apex of romance is Paul Henreid lighting two cigarettes and handing one to Bette Davis, the stigma won’t stick.

    That means that the media does have a role to play, just as they did in changing social attitudes towards cigarettes.

  • As an aside I have taught judo classes to six year olds. There really are cultural differences even at that early age. My experience is that Japanese kids (from Japan) will, essentially, do whatever you tell them to do. I thought that black kids were cleaner than their white counterparts. They also spoke louder and didn’t look at you when you spoke to them (they’d been taught it was impolite).

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    I am guessing you are going by what you have heard. If somebody is going on a murderous rampage because he played GTA or listened to AC/DC, there is a bigger problem. Prohibition was enacted using similar reasoning.

    If you want to understand why males like guns, look at the animals. Humans are animals. Other animals have big teeth. Humans have big guns and knives. Animals are prone to random violence, but these are mostly captive animals. Wild animals get to kill things naturally.

  • TastyBits

    @steve

    The problem is not magazine capacity. It is magazines. A magazine fed weapon is easier to reload. A revolver or tube fed rifle take longer to reload. With a little practice, you can still reload fast. Carrying more weapons would allow less reloading, but there will be a weight problem at some point. Homemade pipe bombs or chemical weapons could replace bullets.

  • steve

    @TB- Sure. But under pressure, unless you have a fairly calm, experienced shooter, the time it takes to reload, even with a new magazine, can leave them vulnerable. The more times they need to do this, the more periods of vulnerability. (I have a speed loader for my Ruger, but they are kind of bulky and not as fast as changing a magazine, at least for me.)

    Steve

  • PD Shaw

    There are a number of indications that violent crime in the UK is increasing substantially over the last ten years by some measures the UK is more violent than the US (per capita).

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/5712573/UK-is-violent-crime-capital-of-Europe.html

    The most likely reasons are immigration, but I’ve also seen suggestions that the per capita rate of homicides might be highest in areas of Northern England and Scotland, i.e. the areas from which the Scots-Irish originated. If true, what does that say about culture?

  • PD Shaw

    steve, I agree that magazine size restrictions at least make some sense. It operates somewhat on a similar theory as having more concealed carry holders — it provides a theoretical opportunity to stop a mass shooting. I think the question is, however, whether larger magazines might make sense for self-defense purposes in a place like Holcomb, Kansas, but not in Brooklyn.

  • TastyBits

    @steve

    Banning magazine fed weapons would be more effective than banning large capacity magazines. I am not advocating any bans. I want freedom, but as you noted, that freedom has costs.

    Turning and fighting into an ambush is unnatural, and without training, few people are going to rush a gunman.

    Contrary to popular belief, these incidents are rare, but they get the usual suspects to call for bans. When a black drug dealer kills innocent black children during a gang war, it is a non-event, and these bans will not help them. The difference is that the crazy white boy could live next door.

  • jan

    TastyBits,

    I hear what you’re saying about violent video games. And, as I said above, “anyone with untoward tendancies” towards violence are the ones who I think are more susceptible to acting out the mayham they see in movies or play on video games, without any real life consequences. There is probably a gender gap too, in the adrenaline rush and/or enjoyment of games like GTA. I, for one, get no thrill out of it — give me Mario or Tetris, or better yet a good book.

    And, while I do wish the entertainment industry would use more discretion and personal restrain on what they produce, like guns, I don’t want to go that extra step and ban either one because of the lack of impulse control of a few.

    IMO, there’s a fragile alliance between safety and personal freedom. If a country goes too far in the direction of insuring safety for everyone, then freedom suffers. The same goes for having too little restraint to maintain at least a civil society. The bottom line is that people have to be careful what they wish for or want, at any given time, especially after an emotionally tragic incident such as the school shooting. This is when common sense is oftentimes overruled by the immediate hurt and fears of raw wounds. Sometimes it’s better to let a little time pass before any corrective action is taken.

  • michael reynolds

    I like your idea of social stigma but you can’t have a mixed message and be successful with it.

    I think that’s true. To expand on the cigarette analogy, you almost never see a cigarette being smoked on TV and rarely in movies. That message has been very effectively delivered. And 20-30 years from now we’ll see a big drop in respiratory cancers and emphysema. They played the long game, and that’s what we need with guns.

    I have never objected to violence in movies, per se. Or on TV. I don’t think it’s about violence, but about violence separated from consequence. I think the first time I started getting nervous about this was with the old spaghetti westerns. They promulgated an image of the emotionless hero/killer. (I don’t accuse them of being first, just of being the first to cause me to think about it.)

    John Wayne didn’t enjoy killing, or see it as amusing, or portray it as entirely without emotional repercussions. The Duke was typically a representative of civilization (however rough) and used violence for mostly admirable ends. But that changed in the Eastwood, Bronson era, I think. (I’m not blaming the actors.) We started to see violence as ballet, violence as comedy, violence as therapy. The ends were narcissistic, personal, impetuous, often emotionless, rather than violence to defend the weak or to defend abstract principles of civilization.

    I write a fair bit of violence myself, some of it quite graphic. But I never separate it from morality or from consequence. That’s not because I’m on my moral high horse (though that plays a part) but because violence as entertainment in and of itself alone, is boring to me and bad writing.

  • And 20-30 years from now we’ll see a big drop in respiratory cancers and emphysema.

    We can only hope. Unfortunately, I suspect not. Recent surveys suggest that the number of pack-a-day smokers is about what it was 70 years ago. It’s the number of multiple pack-a-day smokers that has declined. I guess it depends on whether it’s volume or just the fact of smoking that leads to health problems.

  • michael reynolds

    Well if you believe Wikipedia — and who among us can think of even a single reason why we shouldn’t — for cigars there is a definite correlation with frequency, dosage and duration and health effects. Information I just happen to know. Like I happen to know that among those who don’t inhale there is essentially no health effect from 1-2 cigars a day.

  • who among us can think of even a single reason why we shouldn’t

    Well, as you know, you can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    There are few outlets for boys to learn about aggression and violence. In the US, almost everything violent and unsafe has been outlawed or stigmatized. Fighting, playing cops and robbers, climbing trees, shooting BB guns, etc. are no longer allowed except among the unsophisticated. Video games are one of the few remaining outlets.

    When puppies and cubs play, They are learning valuable social and hunting skills. They practice the techniques they will eventually use for hunting, but they also learn how to interact with others. They also learn their place on the social ladder. Much of what they do would be bullying.

    Many of these shootings are stylized based upon movies. Turning a pistol sideways is an invention of Hollywood. There is no reason to do it. Assault weapons are used because of Hollywood. The movies are not the catalyst, but Hollywood provides the visuals for the script in the killers head.

    Instituting bans on movies would affect these incidents – but only the style employed. The mental illness will manifest itself in some other outlet. Many artists have had mental illnesses, but they have created great works instead of carnage.

    Any assault weapon ban should include restrictions on their use in movies. Only approved war movies should be allowed to have any military or military-like weapons. In addition, all violence in movies should be strictly regulated. Hollywood can have the assault weapons they advocate, but they will need to give up a little. It’s for the children.

  • Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence.

    Uhhhmm, no. Just no. No, no ‘just no’…just fucking no.

    Its a game. They aren’t people. They are pixels. For fuck sake, they are pixels. The level of false equivalence here is staggering. It is like saying my kicking the chair in the kitchen is tantamount to genocide.

    My guess is somebody who writes the above has never ever been involved in anyway some sort of violent or potentially violent confrontation. To try and draw an equivalence between the real thing and a video game is the sign of not just a moron, but a fucking moron.

    What is even more sickening is that the people who have it in for video games almost seem to get some sort of perverse thrill when there is a shooting. It is like they’ve been waiting to jump on television and use the victims of the latest shooting to push their personal agenda.

    And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men go out and enact the overlearned narrative.

    There are millions, probably tens of millions who play video games. So what is the probability that from that subset of the population you’ll get mass murders? This kind of reasoning is post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Michael,

    There is a clear correlation between murder and private gun ownership.

    I agree with Dave. I don’t think it is so simple as saying:

    Gun ownership => murders.

    Look at Switzerland. They have a huge militia–i.e. most men between the ages of 20 and 30 not only have military style weapons available to them, they have been trained to use them (and not via a video game). Yet their murder rate is very low.

    Guns clearly play are role, but it is highly likely there is also a cultural element as well. I think you realize this at some level, but just haven’t completely figured it out, see what you wrote here:

    I offer Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK as comparisons, and you counter with Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Serbia and Saudi Arabia?

    Come on. Which group most resembles the US? Four countries that are culturally, politically and economically as close to us as it is possible for a foreign nation to get, or a grab bag of wildly disparate cultures with almost no connection to our own?

    You are implicitly saying culture plays a role here.

    But that changed in the Eastwood, Bronson era, I think. (I’m not blaming the actors.)

    Check your cultural references a bit better, IMO. At least for Eastwoods first Spaghetti wester, A Fistful of Dollars, it was a total rip off of Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa. Yet again, the murder rate in Japan is what? I don’t think it would sky rocket if guns suddenly became more ubiquitous.

    Here is an idea, what is the rates for murder in the U.S. and the U.K. where a fire arm was NOT involved? If the former is higher than the latter, that suggests the U.S. has a cultural problem with violence, not necessarily a gun problem (just by itself, a cultural problem with violence and easy access to guns is indeed most problematic).

  • BTW, I think something that is missing here from the debate is relative risk or probabilities. A parent should be far, far more worried that their spouse will kill their child/children than an armed assailant attacking their school.

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