Whenever a gun tragedy happens (like Sandy Hook Elementary school, the shootings in a mental hospital yesterday in Alabama, or the Gabby Giffords shootings), we can depend on the gun lobby to spout several dependable talking points within hours after the news hits the 'Net:
1. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
2. "We need better mental health care in order to prevent these tragedies. The guns aren't the problem."
3. "It's not appropriate to talk about gun control reforms right now; have some respect for the dead!"
[EDIT] 4. "If the teachers had had guns, this wouldn't have happened!"
I'm sure there are others, but these are the -three- four that keep getting thrown at me by various gun nuts on my Facebook page and in other venues. I think the third one is the one that makes me the most angry - it's a version of "Close your eyes and ignore it; put your fingers in your ears and sing La La La."
Forget that shit.
Please to follow me past the fleur-de-Kos for some discussion.
With respect to point 1:
- Yes, people kill people, and they find all kinds of ways to do it. But let's be honest: a person with a gun can kill far more people in a far shorter period of time than a person with a machete, or a rope, or a broken bottle, or any other form of weaponry short of poison gas. Reducing guns may not stop the problem, but it will definitely reduce the problem.
With respect to point 2:
- Yes, we need better mental health care. Yes, we need to find and treat people with illnesses that make them more likely to become violent (although research shows that most people who are mentally ill are victims of violence, not perpetrators of it). Yes, we need to stop stigmatizing those who are mentally ill and make sure they get help instead of condemnation. But in the meantime, we also need to control the supply of guns and make them less available and harder to get, because until we can address the mental health problem, we need to use whatever stopgaps are available to control the gun problem.
Finally, with respect to point 3:
I posted this yesterday night in the Open Thread about the shootings in Sandy Hook. I'm just going to reprise the idea here.
So far, the meme that is making me the most enraged is the one that says "This is not the time to talk about gun control; have some respect for the children." And I'm hearing a speech in my head in response. It's Matthew Modine's speech from And The Band Played On, when he's told by the FDA that it's not cost-effective (i.e. not appropriate) to try to find a test for HIV.
How many hemophiliacs have to die before it'll be cost effective for you people to do something about it? A hundred? A thousand? Give us a number so we won't annoy you until the amount of money you start losing on LAWSUITS makes it more PROFITABLE for you to save people than to kill them!Here's my question, along the same lines:
How many children have to die before it'll be appropriate for us to talk about it? A hundred? A thousand? Give me a number so we won't annoy you until the number of people that are murdered by guns every year becomes important enough that you can start focusing on people's right to LIVE, instead of people's right to own machinery that has, AS ITS SOLE PURPOSE, the REMOVAL of that right from other human beings!
(I mean, for god's sake, if your biggest worry on hearing this news was that someone might take away your guns, your priorities are a) evil and b) really fucked up.)
Now, of course, people will say "Well, how are we supposed to fix this problem? Guns are a right!"
Gun homicide rates in countries that have licensing laws are uniformly microscopic compared to the United States' rates:
Gun Homicide Deaths Per 100,000 Population
Great Britain: 0.14
United States: 9.15
This means that the US has a gun homicide death rate that is enormously higher than the rate of any of these other countries. That's obscene.
(Edit: My bad on the original numbers; it helps not to divide by percentages when everything else is proportions. I was simply trying to get to a point where the numbers were entire human beings, as rates don't seem to mean much to many people. But the disproportion between the US rate and every other nation's rate is still striking.)
So the solution is simple: let's require gun licensing. Gun owners should have to take an exam to get a gun license. Second, they should have to purchase liability insurance on every gun they own. Third, every gun should have to be registered with an annual fee.
If we require it for cars, which are not expressly designed for the sole purpose of killing human beings, we damn well ought to require it for guns, which are.
Not registering a gun, using an unregistered gun, using a gun when you have no license, or using a gun when you have no insurance should carry stiff penalties - two to five years in jail, I'm thinking, or large fines.
And frankly, I'm ready to shame anyone who objects to this by saying "So, you're willing to enable murderers?" I'm that angry about it, because that's really what they're doing.
Those kids could have been my kids, or my students. I could have been one of those teachers. This shit has to stop.
With respect to point 4, I can't do better than to quote the fantastic rebuttal from rlk's diary "It's time to have this discussion."
So now we get into the controversy of "self-defense". Really, I don't object to someone using deadly force to defend his or her home, if your life is under real threat. If someone violently invades your home, and gets scragged in the process, that's OK. But hopefully those flying bullets won't fly out the window, or through the walls or floor or ceiling into some neighbor's home. Or the "burglar" actually is someone with ill intent, and not a meter reader, a salesman, or a friend whom you don't happen to recognize, or someone whose car broke down and is simply looking for assistance. Hopefully you're well-trained and practiced in your tactics, and you're fully awake and alert, or you might find yourself looking down the barrel of your own gun for the final seconds of your life. I'm far from convinced that many of the people who say that they need a gun for self-defense really could defend themselves with it and not put innocent bystanders at risk. All of the gun safety classes and all the tactics you can learn won't help you if you don't have everything so well ingrained that you can recognize the situation and react appropriately. Even the military, with its extensive command, control, and communication infrastructure, loses a lot of people to "friendly" fire. If there are multiple guns on the scene, are you sure you could instantly recognize which ones are friendly and which aren't? Or that another friendly gun-wielder would recognize that you're a good guy and not a bad one?Thoughts, comments?