Thursday, January 07, 2016

What Would You Want to See to Change Gun Laws?

I was listening to the NPR show, The Takeaway, and they had a conversation with former Attorney General, Eric Holder.  It was a somewhat wide-ranging conversation and it included discussion of Sandy Hook.

Holder: And I met with the first responders and the crime scene search officers and they took me around, I looked at the pictures. If the American people had access to those pictures, if the American people had seen those pictures, the calls for reasonable gun safety measures would have been passed.

Host John Hockenberry then had two guests to talk about the impact the photos of that crime scene could have, both for the positive and the negative.

I am old enough to remember watching - night after night on tv news - film and photos of the Vietnam War.  Body bags coming off planes and dead soldiers in the jungle.  But fast forward to today - at least on tv - and you are much less likely to see our soldiers from that viewpoint.

Now is that to protect the truly innocent, i.e. the soldiers and their families, or the government so that the true outcomes of war are not fully seen? 

But these are children that we are talking about and terrible crime scene photos of what Holder called "a massacre."

And yet, here we are, years later, many more mass killings later, and very little has changed.

I clearly recall the day I heard about Sandy Hook.  I was with political blogger, David Goldstein, and when I met him for coffee, I knew there had been a school shooting. When he told me the circumstance and the number, I almost dropped to my knees.  And, in the days, after, I thought, "Well, this will be the time that things WILL change.  I mean, who could see this and not think, 'what's wrong with us as a society?'"  I based that belief on Dunblane.

Because I had also been living in Italy in 1996 when there was the Dunblane, Scotland school massacre where 16 children and a teacher were murdered by one idiot.  

Public debate about the killings centered on gun control laws, including public petitions calling for a ban on private ownership of handguns and an official enquiry, the Cullen Report. In response to this debate, two new firearms Acts were passed, which effectively made private ownership of handguns illegal in Great Britain.

Except for terrorism, Great Britain hasn't had a mass killing since then.

Now I didn't expect to make private ownership of handguns illegal because we have a different constitution but I did expect to see the ability to get a gun to be made to be much more difficult.

Do I think showing those crime scene photos would make a difference?  I do.  But, of course, they could only be shown if ALL those families agreed to it (that would be my stance - all in or no go.) 

So readers, not to send a chill down your spine because it is the worst, worst outcome for any child in a school, but do you think if it were your child and you thought it would move the needle and save other children, would you want photos of your child released to the public?


Eric B said...

IMHO, crime scene photos won't make a difference. Those who don't want to see them will look away. Worse, you'll have plenty of trolls claiming they're fakes. Then the idea that they are fake will refuse to leave the consciousness of those who don't want to know different (see Obama, citizenship).

I honestly don't know what would move the needle when 90+% of Americans want universal background checks and it's still not politically possible except by initiative.

Charlie Mas said...

I watched the most recent debate among the Republican presidential candidates, and I heard them each say that they would insist on a pause in the acceptance of refugees from Syria until they could be 100% certain that not a single one of them was a potential terrorist because keeping people safe was their first duty as a political leader. Governor Christie made it clear. He said that even if 9,999 of them were perfectly safe, he wanted super vigilant vetting to eliminate the possibility that even one of them could be a threat to the community.

Why doesn't that principle apply to people seeking to buy guns? Where is his duty to keep people safe when it comes to vetting gun buyers? Who presents a greater threat to the safety of the community - Syrian refugees (not one of whom has ever been violent) or gun buyers (who have been the culprits in every single mass shooting in this country)? This cognitive dissonance was realized when The Congress would not pass a law prohibiting the purchase of a firearm by a person on the terrorist watchlist.

I don't see why anyone would need (or even want) a handgun unless it was for target shooting. I don't see why anyone would need (or even want) an AR-15. But I am not looking to put any kind of undue restriction on anyone's access to any kind of firearm. I just think that people who own guns should be responsible for them. That means they should be required to handle them safely, store them safely, transfer them safely, and keep them out of the hands of people who should not have them. I don't think that's a lot to ask.

Let's remember that every gun in the hands of a "bad" person with a gun started out as a gun in the hands of a "good" person with a gun. Gun ownership is a grave responsibility and gun owners need to be held responsible.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see nationwide reciprocity for concealed carry permits. Anyone properly licensed to carry a concealed weapon in any state should be allowed to carry in any other state.

Civil Rights Matter

Po3 said...

Limit the amount of ammo a person can buy at one time. (similar to marijuana laws)

Background checks before you can purchase guns or bullets that are only good for 3-5 years and then must be redone to renew your gun permit. (like drivers licenses)

Law stating you need to have your gun permit, which is only good for 3-5 years, with you when you are carrying a gun. (just like you need proof of insurance when driving a car)

Eliminate the sale of assault rifles. (They are not needed to take down a deer, bear, elk or any other hunted game - but are used often to carry out mass murders.)

Outsider said...

Sandy Hook is an odd example, because the shooter got the guns from his mother, who could pass a background check and got them legally. The mother was held responsible for her mistake -- she was executed. More background checks don't logically follow from Sandy Hook, though in contemporary American discourse nothing loigically follows from anything anymore. Must be the fault of the schools.

Eric Holder is a political hack without much interesting to say. It's more informative to read something like Malcolm Gladwell's piece, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/thresholds-of-violence
(which might be available to subscribers only by now)

Eric Harris is a hero to many, no kidding. Mass shootings are a cultural phenomenon. They will continue to happen if the society is saturated with guns, no matter how many background checks are done, or whether the gun owner is punished for what the nutball son did. 2nd Amendment fans don't care; they want their guns anyway. They argue plausibly that more background checks are mostly a nuisance with little effect. The only change that actually would make a difference is physically removing most of the guns from society.

Po3 said...

Outsider -
Lanza used exclusively used a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S semi-automatic rifle during the massacre at the school, which was over in about 10 minutes. In that short time period, Lanza killed 20 first-grade students and six adults.

Lanza was also carrying a 12-gauge semi-automatic Saiga, which he could have easily used to murder even more children and staff. Instead, he took his life with one of two handguns also in his possession.

So I would have to disagree that Sandy Hook is an odd example, but rather a perfect example of why semi-automatic guns should be completely banned as they are designed to take out the maximum number of lives in the least amount of time. A situation that is never needed when hunting.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, you cannot take guns away from people at this point (unless they got them illegally and the police find out.)

We may not even be able to force registration of all those guns.

BUT we can put a high price on two things.

One, bullets. Those guns don't operate without them.

Two, responsibility. Have a gun, sure, but we write laws that make people financially responsible for what happens to their guns? People will change their behavior.

Anonymous said...

I guess you do not know people can create their own bullets. Hell, they can and do build their own guns. Guns alone do not kill people and lately it's Muslims that have been killing people with guns. Worst it's foreign born Muslims.

So, start at the top and work your way through the problem,

1. Control who is allowed to immigrate to the U.S.
2 Expel foreign born radical Muslims.
3. Prohibit known radicals from owning guns.
4. Require home owners to declare guns to their insurance companies or have their insurance canceled. (see pit bull clause)
5. Pay gun owners $250.00 for each gun they register.
6. Pay gun owners $500.00 for completing gun safety training class.
7. Pay gun owners $150.00 over market value for turning in unwanted guns.
8. Harshly deal with inner city crimes.
9. Profile ! Profile! Profile!

Tyranny free

Anonymous said...

U.S. - In 2015 around 13,000 people died as a result of being shot. Of those 4,362 deaths were caused by police officers. 1,943 were accidental shootings. There were 330 incidents where 2 or more people were shot (mass shootings)

U.S. - 2015 40,000 people died as a result of an automobile accident. 10,076 deaths were a result of drunk driving(DDD). 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver (mostly cell phone use)

The high side estimate for the total amounts of guns in the U.S. is 360 million.
There are estimated to be 255.8 million registered passenger vehicles in the U.S.

I'm going to discount the deaths by police and place the total number of deaths by guns at 8638.

The total number of deaths per gun is 0.00000239
The total number of deaths per car is 0.0000156
The total number of DDD per car is 0.00000393

You're 7 times more likely to be killed by a car than a gun.
You're 3 times more likely to be killed by an alcohol related car accident.

In 2012 there were reported around 12,932 homicides in the U.S and 3,500 of those were committed using something other than a gun.

In 2014 38,329 people died from pharmaceuticals and 29,000 from Alcohol-Induced causes.

So where should our priorities be?

The facts

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Ban most guns, worked for Australia and the UK. Whilst you're on 'priorities' I would add making health care a result rather than profit orientated endevour and fully funding education. The country will will profit greatly from a healthy and educated generation rather than all the scared gun hugging no tax/responsibility wing nuts we suffer from.

Charlie Mas said...

@The facts
Car owners and drivers are required to pass a test be licensed and have insurance for the car. How far do you want to carry this comparison?

Anonymous said...

I cannot realistically answer your question at the bottom without being in those shoes. Knock wood that none of us moms (or dads) is given that POV.

But as to the question in the title,

--Separate "gun control" topic from "spree shooter" topic. NObody wants spree shootings to continue,... Even the NRA cannot get behind spree shooters. We can have actual traction if we reframe this way.

-- Gun control in terms of gun reduction isn't possible: too many guns already to even think that a buyback or making certain classes illegal would significantly change spree shootings. Besides, the bill of rights is generally a good document - I'd rather keep it intact, warts and all.

- I support Ammo taxation and registration (not necessarily limitation): to those who say "but you can make your own ammo"; yes, true, but find me ONE spree shooter of those 330 in 2015 who used homemade ammo. Heck, find me one spree shooter EVER who used homemade ammo. Those who have the patience & skills to make their own ammo tend to have high respect for firearms capabilities and their dangers. Spree killers tend to lack both.

--I like that car deadliness analogy: we should have Ammo linked to owner: serial # / lic# each bullet. Laser etch, whatever- it ain't that hard. Tax bullets to cover costs of program, if you must.
But tie each bullet to the purchaser: and just like a car owner is partly responsible for traffic tickets, make gun owners liable for crimes committed with their ammo. This will encourage, without legally requiring, gun safes and trigger locks that ACTUALLY secure ammo and guns. Do NOT allow insurance to cover the liability: jail time should be the consequence, not dollars. Yes, some black marketing could sidestep this, but with the high number of accidents, crimes of passion, rage, etc that add up to total gun deaths, it's unlikely that the percentage would be high.
Besides: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It's a good solution, and it leaves the right to own / bear ARMS entirely intact.

--Arming teachers, public, expanding concealed carry, etc is a bogus answer / non-solution: there have been several armed / concealed carry people at spree shootings recently. And they didn't pull their piece. These gun owners found that in the actual crisis moment, more danger/ more death was too distasteful, or too much, and/or too dangerous of a choice to take. One even said "I couldn't risk going after the shooter, because them I'm a 'shooter' onsite, and the cops would have targeted ME" - Also a good point.

--Likewise, profiling, immigration changes, "inner city" (whatever that's supposed to mean) crimes, etc are not factors that have anything to do with spree shooters.

--HOWEVER the single biggest key to reducing spree shootings is reducing the ability of shooters to become infamous: i.e. we need a consequence like Identity Erase:
the Roseburg sheriff had it right: don't release the shooters' names. Take away all chance at infamy.
I'd even say, make a law that effectively makes spree shooters erased from all records; assign them a new identity where we only refer to them by a SSA type number (if they survive to go to court). "Unexist" these idiots - is the only fair sentence.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Tyranny free - your comments are distasteful to say the least. One shooting by foreign-born people does not make a trend.

Anonymous said...


Your comparison of gun ownership and driving does not make sense. Driving a car on roads owned by the public is a privilege. Gun ownership is a civil right.

Comparing gun ownership with religion or free speech is a more appropriate question. Do you also believe that the government should require licenses and insurance to practice specific religions? Should people using this blog also be required to obtain the appropriate government license?

Maybe in your world, but not in mine.

Civil Rights Matter

Anonymous said...

Melissa and Juliette F,

Do you really believe that taxing ammunition will have any effect on crime? Is a mugger really going to say "Wow, I can't afford the extra $1.50 cost (assuming $0.25/round x 6 rounds)of loading my revolver because of this new ammunition tax. I better give up crime and get a real job instead." Seriously?

Ammunition taxes have a lot more to do with demonizing a civil right and making it more expensive for law abiding citizens to exercising their rights.

Ammunition taxes disproportionately effect poor and minority communities, making it difficult for them to exercise their civil rights. From this standpoint, ammunition taxes are very analogous to poll taxes.

Civil Rights Matter

Melissa Westbrook said...

Civil Rights, you are aiming way too low. I'd put the cost of a bullet at $20-50 each. (And your first paragraph is almost verbatim what Chris Rock said in a routine about gun violence.)

One man's demonizing is another man's security. Given how much violence happens in poorer neighborhoods, it might make a difference.

My point is doing nothing will change nothing.

Anonymous said...

A couple of responses,

1. It was more than a single shooting, it was a mass murder planed and orchestrated by members of a religion that have an estimated 15 million of its followers that believe that violence in defense of Islam is justified. 14 dead 17 wounded!

25% of Muslims in America believe that violence in defense of Islam is justified.

The recent shooting in CA is NOT the only attack. If you want to play semantics, then perhaps. 911, Fort dent ...well here is a list you can read it yourself.


2. If you start placing serial numbers and other restrictions on ammunition, that's when reloading will become mainstream. There are an estimated 12 billion rounds of ammunition in civilian hands, 5% is military surplus. Are you going to make that ammo illegal? 35 million rounds are re-loaded each year.

BTW if you think mass shootings are unique to the US, then you're wrong.

Tyranny free

Anonymous said...


A tax of $20-50 per round of ammunition? That would effectively prevent most poor and minority communities from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. That's blatantly racist.

Read up on the history of poll taxes, where white, Southern bigots tried to prevent blacks from voting by taxing voter registrations. Your proposal is exactly the same thing.

Civil Rights Matter

Lynn said...

How does making ammunition expensive limit the right of the poor to bear arms? To make weapons purchased for self-defense usable, allow the purchase of a limited amount of ammunition without tax when a weapon is acquired. Allow ammunition to be purchased at shooting ranges tax-free as long as it's used there and not taken off site. It should be really difficult and expensive to get more ammunition than that.

I would support anything that limits the number of guns in this country including the repeal of the second amendment. I have family members who own guns - some for hunting and some for self defense. One of them "remembered" he had a loaded handgun in his nightstand in the middle of a family dinner at his home while my toddlers were playing out of my sight. I think my brother losing his ability to hunt with a shotgun is a small price to pay to get handguns out of the hands of (licensed) idiots like my cousin.

Here's an article on the results of Australia's ban on semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/08/02/did-gun-control-work-in-australia/

Anonymous said...

And I would repeal Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and only allow property owners to vote on raising property taxes. Do we have a deal?

Liberal delusions