Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Can we talk?

We don't talk much about "going postal" any more.  The preferred venue for demented folk who want to die in a blaze of glory and/or be the talk of the town for a week or so as payback for having been ignored or misunderstood or reviled is no longer the United States Post Office.  Schools are now the place, or at least a popular place. Shock value is about as high as it gets and apparently killing kids is as easy as taking candy from them.

But it's certainly not exclusive to the US or the direct consequence of the 2nd amendment or the NRA. Norway, Great Britain and even Switzerland have recently been host to wild and often suicidal shooting sprees by demented individuals not connected to terrorist groups and as far as I know, none of those countries have guarantees of any right to keep and bear arms.  Does the alleged "ease" of obtaining firearms or the right to obtain them play a part in the frequency of such insane actions?  Has it more to do with the rates of fire of available firearms, the type of ammunition, the appearance of a gun, the materials it's made of?  A great number of words have been spoken, shouted, screamed and written down about such questions and some of those words and related opinions have been false or deliberately misleading and the result of organized groups using public outrage as a political tool.

The Sandy Hook school shooting had, as it seems, something to do with some miserable tortured soul wanting to emulate Anders Breivik, the Norwegian nut who used explosives and firearms to kill 77 hapless young people and perhaps other similar killers. Perhaps Adam Lanza, had he not killed himself as well, would have been interested in today's workplace shooting near Luzern, Switzerland leaving, at last count, three dead and seven wounded. At least it would have been easier to top. Lanza never came close to Breivik's "score."  I use the word score by the way, not because I'm cold and without feeling, but because I believe such monsters are that way and see all this as part of a gruesome game.  It's game and a game played on TV screens as much as those ever popular "first person shooter" games played on X-boxes and computers.

Run Amok shootings are much more rare in Switzerland, a country with its own gun culture and high level of recreational shooters and low crime rates -- but still they happen and some obviously happen as some sort of grotesque competition, some sort of rage to go out as a part of some sort of bloody horror that I can't understand, nor do I have any qualifications as or the vocabulary of a psychologist.  I think I can however, talk about the differences in the ways other countries react. Switzerland's liberal voters recently rejected tighter gun controls while American Liberals, for the most part have been so eager for more of any type that the inconsistencies and inaccuracies and falsehoods used to argue for them go unnoticed. Their political opposites are in a similar state of panic. Any legislation is the end of all freedom.

Great Britain banned handgun ownership in 1997 along with other firearms with short barrels -- and even some BB guns -- after only two rampage killings since WWII. Yet there was another in 2010 with thirteen dead and eleven injured.   Firearms fatalities continued to increase until 2008 after which they began to decline as they have in the US. Anti-gun sentiment there exists to the degree that few police officers are permitted to carry guns.  Yes, they have a lower gun homicide rate but then it always was lower and it seems hard to prove at this point that all that restrictive legislation has achieved more than to force the Olympic pistol shooting team to practice abroad.  It remains a very popular sport in Switzerland.

Attributing different rates of  gun crime to cultural and social conditions or to availability of  mental health services in different countries isn't a popular or well tolerated subject in the Liberal community, at least in my  experience. Far too much energy goes into the inflation of fear and we have for too many arguments for gun control that depend on calling Grandpa's Remington 700 deer rifle a "sniper rifle," a Ruger Mini 14 Ranch Rifle an "assault rifle" if you put a plastic stock on it -- full metal jacket bullets are "armor piercing" if they will penetrate body armor and hollow points for hunting become "cop killer ammunition."  For years, the line of Glock pistols used by most police departments were described by anti-gun writers as plastic guns designed to be smuggled onto airplanes and those aren't the only lies and distortions that drove me away from their side. 

Are we all at a higher risk of mad, rampaging lunatics mostly because we allow certain 100 year old technology or because we allow lunatics the same freedom as the sane and responsible?  Would movie theaters, post offices and schools still be scenes of slaughter if we banned 10 round magazines, autoloading rifles, etc? Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US history says even full auto weapons, already banned, aren't the weapon of choice if you want to kill a lot of people.  It's hard, unfortunately,  to question the dogmas of either side in our emotional climate and with wildly polarized propagandists shouting down discussion -- while blaming the other side for stifling discussion..

Is it really ever more dangerous to live in America?  It's hard to substantiate the assertion that it is, as heinous as some spectacular crimes may be and as relentlessly as they are exploited by our ravenous for ratings day and night media.  Mass killings by religious leaders, like David Koresh and Reverend Jones don't seem to generate talk of banning anything and many seek to explain them as the result of religious persecution by the government, yet anything pertaining to guns seems to bring out stock rhetoric that often seems canned and unrelated to facts. That sort of thing seems as American as a love of weapons. As American as sweeping problems under a legislative rug. As American as witch hunts, cover ups and made up minds.  Can we talk?  Sorry, this is America.


Green Eagle said...

"Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US history says even full auto weapons, already banned, aren't the weapon of choice"

Don't you mean "Chris Kyle SAID," seeing as how Chris Kyle was recently shot dead at a firing range, by someone he had brought there to teach sniping? So much for supposed experts explaining these issues to us.

Capt. Fogg said...

Ok, like it would make everything different if I had written Chris Kyle says in his book or said in his book, or his book said. You still don't get to say "so much for" without a voice from above calling non sequitur

It's widely said by experts and has been demonstrated that it's damn hard to hit anything in full auto mode. Snipers tend to prefer bolt action rifles. Accuracy suffers greatly and one is trained to shoot in two or three round bursts. Now of course automatic weapons are very tightly controlled so your comment is doubly irrelevant and this constant conflation of civilian weapons with machine guns is curious in someone suggesting that I'm not being honest or objective.

You doubt that he was an expert? Seriously? a highly trained weapons expert and highly trained and successful killer with more kills than he could count? And your qualifications are?

Look, the history of gun control in the US is the history of a patchwork of laws passed in an emotional funk by people whose information is controlled and provided by people with an agenda. Sure, that's almost the history of US law in general, but concentrating on one event which is hardly typical of our overall violence problem, concentrating on one weapon or one mechanism while deliberately avoiding an overall picture is a continuation of the process that's made a mess of things. And of course there's the question of actualizing a ban or expecting a significant level of compliance or a possibility of enforcement that isn't ex post facto. Snark is cheap.

Your ad lapidem quip has no bearing on this or on anything I've said and I remain interested in reducing all forms of murder and not obsessing about one crime which is hardly unique to our country. It's going to take more than a futile ban on one type of mechanism to make a significant change, human beings being as inventive as they are.

And we wait for your pragmatic suggestions, and wait.