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    • yaypie

      The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world and the highest rate of gun homicides in the world. I think we have to start by acknowledging that.

      For many of my formative years I lived on a ranch in Texas. I grew up with guns. I had my own rifle at age 12. I've fired pistols, rifles, and assault weapons. So when I say that I firmly believe we can't solve this problem without much stricter gun control, know that I'm saying it as someone who fully understands why some Americans love guns and want to have them.

      We have ample evidence that stricter gun laws are effective at decreasing gun homicides.

      But I don't believe a single solution can solve this problem. We need a spectrum of effort. We need to make it harder for people to get their hands on the tools of mass murder, especially people with histories of violence. We need to make it easier for people to get mental healthcare. We need to make it easier for mental health professionals and others to report potentially dangerous people. And we need authorities to listen and act.

      A common concept in engineering is that in a complex system, the best protection against catastrophe is to have many safeguards. If one failed component can lead to a disaster, then you'll have disasters frequently. But when multiple components work together to provide failsafes, a disaster can only occur if many things go wrong at the same time. Disasters can still happen, but they're far less likely.

      We need to take the same approach to preventing mass shootings.

    • flei

      School shootings are just "the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to gun-related deaths in the USA. Of course school shootings cause people to get upset because "innocent children" are the victims, so there seems to be more sympathy and out-cry after such incidents. But it is necessary to remember that the bulk of gun deaths do not involve school children and that the number is very large. In 2016 there were: 14,925 murders, 22,938 suicides, 495 deaths by accidental discharge, and 300 "undetermined" deaths = Total of 38,658 killed by firearms. Few of the murders involved a shooter with an identifiable "mental illness" (possibly many more of the suicides (e.g., "depression", but motives are usually not reported). The solution is simple and obvious: gun control. This should start with banning assault-style rifles, large ammo clips, and any other long-arm or feature (e.g., hollow-points) not necessary for hunting, then move towards banning the sale of all hand guns. In actuality, although semi-automatics used for mass shootings get the publicity, most gun-related deaths are accomplished with a hand gun. Feel-good legislation (like banning bump stocks after the Vegas mass shooting, which was a "bait and switch" tactic by the NRA that preserved easy access to semi-automatics) will do very little to eliminate the problem. I will be extremely surprised if any meaningful action on this will occur during my lifetime.

    • Chris

      My personal opinion is gun control is one of many examples that show the voters don't carry the day, donors do. Polls always show that the majority of the public want stricter gun laws but there is big money in gun sales, which flows to reelection campaigns.

    • coffee

      I was talking to someone about this and they mentioned something that I hadn't considered: Schools are emotional pressure cookers.

      For me, it adds a perspective that is possibly worthwhile to consider further.

    • coffee

      Smart use of the color red. Makes all those things "bad". I don't mean to distract from the content, but that is a psychological trick that should be below journalists and editors.

    • yaypie

      It's true. And I feel like it's much worse now than when I went to school, both because of how technology has become infused in kids' lives and because school shootings are so common now.

      I was in high school when the Columbine shooting happened and I remember the mood being one of shock, but not really fear. We were all surprised and horrified at what had happened, and it definitely felt like an indication that the world was a darker place than we thought it was, but I don't remember actually feeling afraid that it could happen at our school.

      I think if I were in high school now it would feel very different. I think I would be legitimately afraid, because there's a very real chance it could happen at my school. That's terrifying.

      It's also disgusting that I'm sitting here as a 35 year old man talking about a horrific school shooting that happened when I was a kid and realizing that virtually nothing has been done to address this problem during that time.

    • Chris

      When I was a sophomore in high school, my lab partner and good friend was shot and killed with a pistol in a church. I know it shouldn't be this way, but when it happens to someone you know and love, it takes your empathy and sadness to the next level.

    • flei

      Mass shootings make the news and are indeed horrible, but IMO focusing on them (and on preventing them (e.g., better security at schools)) avoids the real nature of gun violence in the USA. While it is truly awful that 17 young people were murdered at their school in Florida this week, the fact is that about 106 people die from guns EVERY DAY in the USA.

    • yaypie

      It's okay to be upset about mass shootings, and it's okay to be upset about individual homicides. Both are huge problems, and both need to be prevented. Talking about one doesn't decrease the importance of the other. Effort expended to solve one will help solve the other.

    • Chris

      I once commissioned an essay about gun control from the editor of the New York Post, Pete Hamill. One reason I did it was Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were gunned down when I was in high school. Also, president Kennedy had been a boyhood hero of mine. 

      The essay got millions of views on the web and prompted a counter-essay from the then president of the NRA, Charlton Heston, which also got millions of views. This was when mass shootings were just beginning. The response was so huge to Pete's essay, gun owners threatened to come after me and my family. I can't imagine what Pete went through.

      Here it is.

    • yaypie

      Wow. The whole essay is fantastic, but this passage in particular felt like a description of the Trump campaign and administration:

      Hitler and his murderous associates made a high art of propaganda, placing print, radio, movies and staged demonstrations at the service of the Big Lie, and then used their power to commit the most savage collective crime in the history of the world: the Holocaust. They all came to power by persuading many people that [the] road to the future must begin in the lost Eden.

      I don’t mean here to compare the American gun zealots to fascists, Nazis or communists; that would be absurd. But if we are to take away anything valuable from the horrors of the twentieth century, it should be a permanent wariness about the merger of sentimentality with power.

      The American version of this nationalist sentimentality goes something like this: Once upon a time, there was an American Eden. It was populated by brave and rugged individuals who had brought civilization to the wilderness. Every man had a gun. With his gun and the sanction of a Christian God, the white man had tamed the Indians and thus carved out his own piece of the green and verdant earthly paradise. There, on the farm and later in the town, every man was free. Women knew their place. Children were industrious and respectful of their elders.

      The church was a vital presence in the community. Black people were properly invisible. The Federal government was off in distant Washington. There was, of course, no income tax. A man had complete title to his earnings and spent his free time fishing or hunting. The residents of that American Eden avoided foreign entanglements if possible but if there were an unavoidable war, by God, we would win it.

      That Eden never existed, of course, but there are still many Americans who think it did.

    • In each of these cases, there have been very clear indications of trouble ahead yet nothing is done to prevent them. This time, 17 people are dead because a kid who publicly said he wanted to be a professional school shooter was ignored when someone saw something and said something.

      In my lifetime, I have been on the wrong end of a gun twice and during high school, one of my friends was shot and killed-his murder has not been solved. During the same period, two classmates committed suicide. I also enjoy shooting clays and other guns but have not done much of that for a long time.

      My point is that if you want to discuss gun control, then you must admit there are other factors that should also be discussed and acted upon as well. Including the possible failure of existing gun laws to stop this.

    • gorudy

      I remember seeing pictures on reddit of the before and after of the Bataclan shooting in Paris, that really affected me. My cousin was in one of the restaurants one hour before the coordinated attacks, she was lucky.

      Being from New England the Boston Marathon attacks hit really close to home. They used a pressure cooker. In Santa Barbara it was knives. All horrifying acts.

      I know this isn't a popular opinion here but I'm still not a believer that more gun control will result in less violent crimes... although i'm open to the debate. I'm less convinced legislation will be passed any time soon.

      Let's assume that stricter gun control isn't likely to pass anytime soon, what else can be done? More funding for background checks? We need a drivers license to drive a car, perhaps we should be required to take courses and have a license to own a firearm? What else?

    • yaypie

      Let's assume that stricter gun control isn't likely to pass anytime soon, what else can be done? More funding for background checks? We need a drivers license to drive a car, perhaps we should be required to take courses and have a license to own a firearm? What else?

      More effective background checks and firearm licensing requirements are stricter gun control.

      I'm curious what you mean by "gun control isn't likely to pass anytime soon" if your use of the term doesn't include those things. What does gun control mean to you?

    • gorudy

      Fair enough, by definition i'm in favor of more controls and proper funding for background checks. If we could live in a world with no guns i'd also be in favor of it. That's not going to happen. I also don't think in the end it would result in reducing violent crimes to a place we'd be as a civilized society would accept. There's still other tools of destruction like pressure cookers and trucks.

      I don't think we will see any meaningful changes to gun laws especially when it comes to legislation like removing AR15s from the market. It didn't get done when President Obama was in office post Sandy Hook and I doubt the next president after Trump will want to use political capital on it. Statistically almost all gun owners are law abiding citizens, it's nearly impossible to convince them that new gun laws aren't intended to eventually take their guns from them. Death by a thousand cuts is how they view it. If you're in favor of a women's right to choose you can understand the position the NRA takes of never compromising or allowing the line to move. I certainly support that strategy when it comes to women's rights.

      I'm not an expert on politics or guns but my current opinion (and i'm very open to arguments from those more educated then me) is given the amount of political resources it would take for new gun legislation to pass I think we as a society would be better off trying to make cigarettes illegal (480,000 deaths per year in the US), or tackling heart disease (610,000 deaths per year in the US), banning the use of high fructose corn syrup etc.

      6 million people globally die from cigarettes every year, 3x as many people die from Alcohol related causes compared to guns in the US, why don't I see my Facebook feed or social sites in outrage, asking to ban or modify existing laws around cigarettes and alcohol?

      Where should our legislators focus?

      FWIW - I'm mostly playing devil's advocate here. I hate the inaction the comes after our outrage and sadness. It makes me ask questions like the ones above. Where should we focus given limited resources.

    • Chris

      As the son of a mentally ill mom, I cringe when I hear the angry, racially-charged talk of politicians like Trump. The mentally ill believe the outrageous claims they hear and they show up at places like a pizza parlor in D.C. and fire a weapon because they heard Hillary was running a child sex ring in the non-existent basement.

      The shooter in Florida was fond of his MAGA hat and and racially-charged statements.

    • flei

      Most murderers are not mentally ill and most mentally ill are not murderers.

      As a mental health professional with 30+ years experience working with people with mental illness (and as a gun owner), and having read extensively on this issue, I know that mental illness is clearly NOT the most important place to focus when talking about strategies to reduce gun violence. It's an old NRA trick to deflect reasonable talk about violence and gun control by focusing on mental health and insinuating that homicides are comitted primarily by the mentally ill (of course their other tactic is to maintain the laughable assertion that such crimes are committed only "by criminals", which is of course correct since after the commission of a murder, the killer becomes a criminal, conveniently avoiding that before the murder they were just a law abiding gun owner). The mentally ill are so badly stigmatized they make an excellent decoy.

      In looking at the relationship between mental illness and homicide one might ask why 89.5% of all murders are committed by men, while women make up a substantially larger proportion of those with mental ilness ((21.7% females to 14.5% males (NIMH 2016)).

      While most of us might agree that anyone who would be so anti-social so as to murder another human must have something wrong with their mental health, only very few murderers (including mass shooters) might be identified or diagnosed with mental illness before they acted, thus having little impact on the overall rate of homicide. Further, there is no technology that yet exists that would allow us to accurately identify a potential murderer ahead of time and take their guns or otherwise prevent them from committing a crime (and one might ask what the consequences of such technology might be (e.g., "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick)). Current law (which varies by state) already requires "mandated reporters" (e.g., doctor, psychologist, social worker, EMT, etc.) to report to the police anyone who appears to be a danger to themself or another; and they then are involuntarily hospitalized and evaluated.

      Finally, despite all the blame mis-placed on the mentally ill for this carnage, our country has consistently horribly under-funded mental health care; during my lengthy career I have seen this only worsen over the years. The current "safety net" is almost non-existent.

      I think making it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns would have very little impact on overall gun homicides (though it could potentially reduce suicides). Funding better mental health care would go further to reduce this, but given my experience I do not expect that to happen. The focus should be on laws that would have the most impact on reducing gun violence, and those laws should limit which types of firearms can be purchased by anyone. Eliminating the sale of assault rifles would be a start. Eliminating the sale of hand guns would have the most positive impact.

      Here is a good article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/untangling-gun-violence-from-mental-illness/485906/

    • Chris

      Fascinating! Thank you. From The Atlantic article:

      “We’re a pretty violent society here in America and the conversation really ought to focus on what can be done to make America a less violent society,” Honberg says. “But because that discussion is so fraught with emotion and divisiveness and political disagreements, it almost seems like the conversation has devolved to a relatively small subset of people who engage in violence, namely people with mental illness.

      Katy Tur covered the Trump campaign from the beginning and wrote a book about it. Some things she said in interviews about it stuck in my mind:

      I mean, there were times where he'd say things like, "Bowe Bergdahl should be executed for abandoning his platoon or his troops." And I remember thinking, this is a presidential candidate who's advocating for a service member to be executed. I mean, I can't believe that I'm hearing this. This is not something that I thought I would see in 2015, 2016. And have an entire crowd of people cheer this idea of somebody getting killed. But they did. And he kept going with it.

      How much do you think rhetoric like that contributes to violence? I'm asking because I don't know.

    You've been invited!