The Logic of Limiting Violence

"Handgun," Oil on Canvass, Hall Groat II

“Handgun,” Oil on Canvass, Hall Groat II

The issue of gun control is once again in the news, thanks to the mass shooting in Connecticut yesterday. All the putatively-lefty pundits in the main-stream media are trotting out their tired arguments in favor of stricter gun control laws in what ought to be clear to anyone with live brain cells is simply part of the circus (as in “bread and circuses”) that poses as political discourse in the U.S. The problem, is not the easy availability of guns, it’s the increasing numbers of people whose murderous rage has ceased to be metaphorical. That is, the problem, I would argue, is not the supply of guns, but the demand for them.

We experienced the same revival of the public debate on gun control last July, when there was a mass shooting in Colorado. “In our country,” wrote Gail Collins then in The New York Times, “the mass shootings come so frequently that most of them go by virtually unnoticed. Did you catch the one last week in Tuscaloosa? Seventeen people at a bar, hit by a gunman with an assault weapon.

“People from most other parts of the industrialized world find the American proliferation of guns shocking,” Collins goes on to observe. She neglects to mention, however, that the differences between the U.S. and the rest of the economically developed world are far more profound than can be captured in the single issue of gun control. Yes, most other countries in the economically developed world appear to have more restrictive gun control laws, but those laws cannot alone explain the discrepancy in levels of gun-related violence here and there. After all, at least some of these countries have more liberal drug laws than we do, yet drug addiction there is still less of a problem than it is here in the U.S.

The real difference, or the distinction that makes a difference, is that the wealth in the other economically developed countries is less polarized. (see James Gilligan, M.D.’s Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic on the relation between wealth inequality and violence). These countries have extensive social welfare systems that in many instances have eliminated poverty and have provided free higher education and free health care. My point is not that these countries tend to have a better handle on just who is mentally ill and what kind of treatment they need. My point is much broader than that. It’s that these societies are more humane. When you know that no calamity that could possible befall you would cause you to end up destitute on the street, that no illness or educational ambition could bankrupt you or indenture you for the rest of your life and that the reason you don’t have to worry about these things is that your neighbors, your fellow citizens, are deeply committed to the view that no one should have to worry about these things–well, that makes you feel pretty good about humanity, pretty happy to be a part of it.

Norway had a highly publicized mass murder last year, but part of what made it so disturbing to Norwegians was how unprecedented it was. Norwegians, unlike Americans, are not used to mass murders. Life in Norway is pretty good. Life in Scandinavia in general is pretty good. Road rage, for example, is unknown there. I know. I lived there for eight years. Scandinavians take life a pretty leisurely pace and can afford to. They don’t become violent when someone, intentionally or unintentionally, cuts in front of them in a line. They don’t trample one another to death trying to get at a limited supply of deeply-discounted flat screen TVs. No murderous rage seethes just below the surface of society.

I moved to Denmark in 1990 along with my then boyfriend who was what one could call a gun enthusiast. He joined a gun club in Copenhagen and was surprised to learn, from one of the other members, that it was, in fact, possible, despite Denmark’s highly restrictive gun laws, to buy a gun on the black market in Denmark. Yes, he was told, there were a few bars, in what Danes considered the seedier part of Copenhagen, where a gun could be procured after a few discrete enquiries. The thing is, there aren’t many Danes out there making such enquiries.

Danes are pretty happy. Most Europeans, at least Northern Europeans, not to mention Canadians and those in Australia and New Zealand, are pretty happy compared to most Americans, and there are obvious reasons for this. It’s not merely that they don’t live with the fears nearly all Americans live with. It’s more fundamental than that. It’s not the absence of the fears, but the reason for their absence that makes the difference. They have a much more positive view of human nature than we do. They think people are naturally empathetic and sympathetic, that they want to make a positive contribution to the larger social whole, that they are generally kind and decent and ought never to suffer any more that is absolutely unavoidable. It’s a happier thing to be a human being in such a society.

That, if you ask me, is the real reason for the levels of gun violence, and indeed, violence more generally, in American society. The availability of guns doesn’t, after all, explain the levels of violence in the media, in movies and television.  We have a taste for violence in the U.S. that is unknown in the rest of the economically developed world. Why? Because we have been raised to view human beings as contemptible, as having to prove they are “worthy” of help before we will give it to them. We have a taste for violence because we hate one another and hate ourselves for being part of such a contemptible species.

Or maybe it’s just that we’re butt stupid. It ought to be obvious to anyone that the real problem with gun violence in the U.S. is the social and economic conditions that have created an apparently inexhaustible demand for guns, a demand that would be met no matter what the laws concerning the sale of guns. There’s no logic behind what passes as political discourse in this country. Perhaps we should have more restrictive gun laws. I’m not opposed to that in principle. That’s not the place to start, though. If we are serious about reducing gun violence, we need to figure out what’s driving masses of people to want guns and then begin working to eradicate that.

The painting above is by Hall Groat II. Other paintings by Hall Groat may be viewed on the “Daily Painters” website.

This article is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Counterpunch on July 23, 2012.

 

38 responses

  1. Good Morning Marilyn,

    You bring up the fact that the issue is not the supply or guns themselves that are a problem, but rather that American culture has created a “demand” for guns. Due to proliferation of technology across the internet, we are no longer limited limited to what we can publicly access.from society ( such as what lax Gun Laws allow), we can instead create tasors and explosives (from the knowledge available over the internet). Even if we were to take away guns, the fact that we have enough knowledge that the violence would continue.

  2. There appears to be no end to the American establishment’s nurturing of the culture of violence for its own ends. Some would point out that the right’s demonization of poverty, which began with Ronald Reagan was a catalyst for the growth of the us vs them schism, the sense that “they” were cheating “us” (the white male power structure) out of our entitlement. The statistics on the number of hours of TV violence children are subjected to are mind-boggling. Americans can show the most heinous acts, but god forbid a nipple be exposed. The media conglomerates try to have it both ways: seeing violence won’t induce children to be violent, but seeing the advertiser’s product will induce the public to buy it.
    I’m a native-born American, who’s now a Canadian citizen. I love the greater social conscience, and kinder nature of my adopted country. I have NEVER encountered the lack of civil discourse and the primitive hostility in any circumstance or any discussion, no matter how heated, that I routinely experience in the States. Yes, the Montreal shooting some years ago was a horror, but it was – and one hopes- will remain an aberration.

    • I have to agree that I have noticed this about Canada as well. However you also do not see the growth or innovation in Canadian society that we do in America. There are benefits and negatives to both. I wonder what it is that drives these significant and deep differences. Could it be population size and density? Maybe America’s English roots?

      • I think it’s the “English roots,” or more specifically Calvinism. The Puritans were Calvinists and Calvinists have a very negative view of human nature.

  3. Marilyn, I think you are spot on here. Violence is unfortunately very human. This instinct is mitigated, as you say, in places where there is less wealth disparity and fewer worries about one’s quality of life. I have said this before, but I also think that societies in which one ethnic identity is shared have an easier time governing themselves and staying civil. You see this within sub groups even in our country except in situations of abject poverty. It seems like a combination of factors have contributed to Americans’ propensity for violence. I believe it is cultural and systemic, not merely a product of the tools used to commit this violence. What you don’t hear about every day are the thousands and thousands of cases every year in which law abiding citizens use their legally owned personal weapons to prevent acts of violence against themselves or other people. Any given person cannot assume a cop or another person will be there to protect them. Not only is it foolish, as evidenced by the 15 minute response time of the CT police force (not to berate them, it is only natural as they were off site, as usual), but it has been decided by the supreme court of the united states (I believe in was the Heller decision) that it is not the police force’s top priority to protect life.

    Guns in this country kill a lot of people, but they also save a lot of people. We enjoy a diverse and massive population in this country, but it is also what makes it so hard to maintain civility sometimes. We have a lot of great laws on the books to prevent things like this from happening. Murder is illegal, so is stealing, stealing a gun is even worse. In this situation our laws actually worked. This man Lanza was denied after a background check was done at a CT sporting goods store (I hate to call guns sporting goods). Connecticut has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, but they did no good. There was an incident in Chicago, IL last night (arguably the single most restrictive state and city in the country for guns) that shows criminals will do evil things whether their tools are legal or not. Guns exist, and they are everywhere. We need to fix how people thing about them and violence, not remove life saving tools from law-abiding people’s hands. Laws can only seek to punish actions, they do not prevent actions. If simply making something illegal prevented the action from happening then murders would not occur, gays would not have sex and be in love, rape would be non-existant, and people wouldn’t use drugs. Obviously these things happen, for better or worse, I do not wish to pass judgment here. My point is society will do as it pleases and the government can only try to clean up the mess. Being proactive about violence must be a grassroots effort.

    Stay safe everyone, and keep your loved ones close.

  4. Marilyn, I think you are spot on here. Violence is unfortunately very human. This instinct is mitigated, as you say, in places where there is less wealth disparity and fewer worries about one’s quality of life. I have said this before, but I also think that societies in which one ethnic identity is shared have an easier time governing themselves and staying civil. You see this within sub groups even in our country except in situations of abject poverty. It seems like a combination of factors have contributed to Americans’ propensity for violence. I believe it is cultural and systemic, not merely a product of the tools used to commit this violence. What you don’t hear about every day are the thousands and thousands of cases every year in which law abiding citizens use their legally owned personal weapons to prevent acts of violence against themselves or other people. Any given person cannot assume a cop or another person will be there to protect them. Not only is it foolish, as evidenced by the 15 minute response time of the CT police force (not to berate them, it is only natural as they were off site, as usual), but it has been decided by the supreme court of the united states (I believe in was the Heller decision) that it is not the police force’s top priority to protect life.

    Guns in this country kill a lot of people, but they also save a lot of people. We enjoy a diverse and massive population in this country, but it is also what makes it so hard to maintain civility sometimes. We have a lot of great laws on the books to prevent things like this from happening. Murder is illegal, so is stealing, stealing a gun is even worse. In this situation our laws actually worked. This man Lanza was denied after a background check was done at a CT sporting goods store (I hate to call guns sporting goods). Connecticut has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, but they did no good. There was an incident in Chicago, IL last night (arguably the single most restrictive state and city in the country for guns) that shows criminals will do evil things whether their tools are legal or not. Guns exist, and they are everywhere. We need to fix how people thing about them and violence, not remove life saving tools from law-abiding people’s hands. Laws can only seek to punish actions, they do not prevent actions. If simply making something illegal prevented the action from happening then murders would not occur, gays would not have sex and be in love, rape would be non-existant, and people wouldn’t use drugs. Obviously these things happen, for better or worse, I do not wish to pass judgment here. My point is society will do as it pleases and the government can only try to clean up the mess. Being proactive about violence must be a grassroots effort.

    Stay safe everyone, and keep your loved ones close.

    • You are so right. I went to grad school in Montreal, so I have some experience of Canadian culture. It is both more reasonable/rational and humane. It makes me wonder whether there is a relation between those to things.

      • Marilyn – Your experience was with Montreal culture – a vastly different thing from non-Quebec culture – in fact the argument could be made that the Quebec French have the only actual “culture” in Canada. Alberta offers the diametrical opposite – a negative value on the culture scale, as evidenced by our Prime Minister and government policies worldwide.

    • Andrew, thanks for this well thought out comment. I think your point about “societies in which one ethnic identity is shared have an easier time governing themselves and staying civil” is a very good one. Unfortunately, that isn’t ever going to be the case with the U.S., so the question is, how do reduce gun violence from where we are here and now. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that. You write so well. You should have a blog of your own (if you do have one, send me a link to it).

      • America is not only large and diverse in population, but also in geography. The United States is comparable to the entirety of Europe in many ways. When the country was being structured the federal government’s power was significantly and specifically limited, allowing all other power to be vested in the states. Each state was designed to function as an autonomous entity akin to nations. This allowed each individual state to better serve their citizens. The original design of the country recognized that different areas and different peoples had different needs, priorities, values, etc. What separated new America from Europe was the connection the federal government afforded these individual states in the interest of their security and prosperity.

        Since the conception of the United States we have moved decidedly away from the model of limited federal power towards consolidation at the federal level. Europe has also moved toward this so-called modern, I say progressive, model to questionable and highly arguable ends. If the United States wishes to preserve its integrity, unity, and civility it must be able to better serve its subgroups of people as individuals. The solution is in our own history. The states best know what their citizens want, need, and desire. This would allow people to move about the country to the state (imagine 50+ options!) that best fit their personalities and lives. This means not just legislative power being restored to the states in conjunction with a reduction in federal size and power, but also to get people to focus on the issues closer to home. People have become more focused on the drama that has become Washington that they forgot what is going on in their own back yards. This seems to be consistent with people’s outlets for entertainment as well.

        With the federal government having the size and scope that it does it is impossible for the states to be dynamic enough to support their citizens.

      • I could not agree more. My experience living in Denmark suggested to me that smaller more local governments are more responsive to the needs and desires of the citizenry than are behemoths like our federal government. It is easier for people to identify with political leaders and issues on more local level and easier and more satisfying for them to get involved in the political process. Corruption is also more easily identified at the local level. Our federal government has grown completely out of control and it is doing very little for most Americans.

        I also have to agree with you about the European Union. I think the idea of a European Union is a good one, but I don’t like how the EU operates in practice. It impinges too much upon the autonomy of the member states. It is a sad thing to see Europe going in the direction of the U.S., when the lesson we present to the world is very obviously that larger federal-style governments are profoundly problematic.

        Again, I’m not opposed to the idea of a federal government. There are some things for which a federal government is probably necessary, but I believe that as much autonomy of member states (whether those “states” are themselves countries as is the case with the EU, or whether they are smaller political units within a larger state, as is the case with the U.S.) as is possible ought to be preserved.

    • “If simply making something illegal prevented the action from happening then murders would not occur, gays would not have sex and be in love, rape would be non-existant, and people wouldn’t use drugs.”

      Let’s see: murder, gay love/sex, rape, drug use. In the context of violence against others, a very strange list in my eyes. Perhaps I’ve underestimated the humaneness of Canada – while we have people who if they could would outlaw love in forms they don’t approve of, fortunately we do have laws protecting those who love in those ways. And again, in the context of a world largely run by hate, I think we should welcome love in whatever form it takes.

      • I used some of those examples simply because they were out of context and unrelated. I meant simply to highlight that laws, of any kind, do not keep actions out of society, for better or worse. I did not mean to pass judgement on any of those things in any way.

  5. Hi Marilyn. I thought of your CounterPunch article when I read about the Connecticut shootings.

    While I agree with your overall premise that the demand for rather than supply of weapons is the real concern, I do want to comment on that “Happiness Index” that you reference, because I live in Canada and can tell you that we have been so Americanized over the past 10 years that, despite having supposedly “universal” health care and much tighter gun laws, we have the same social conditions here that result in the same overall level of hatred of the poor, of immigrants, and of the victims of our NATO troops in the Middle East as in the US (same applies to the UK). I mention this only to say that our society as a whole does not “think people are naturally empathetic and sympathetic, that they want to make a positive contribution to the larger social whole, that they are generally kind and decent and ought never to suffer any more that is absolutely unavoidable”. In 1999, perhaps, but not now. Very sad.

    My other thought regarding the “Happiness Index” is that the validity of any findings based on pre-2008 surveys is questionable. Thinking about austerity in Ireland, who would expect to see Ireland at #10 in the listings now? I took a quick look through the report and one thing I couldn’t immediately find was the year(s) of surveys of specific countries. I think that would be enlightening, since they took place as early as 2005.

    Other than that, I think you’ve identified the societal malaise behind the killings. As social conditions continue to deteriorate, in tandem with the maturing of new generations of socio/psychopaths, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of these headlines. 2012 seemed pretty busy in this regard.

    • That is sad to hear about Canada. Canada was never so humane, I think as the Scandinavian countries, but still, it was better than the U.S. Your point about the “Happiness Index” is a good one. Happiness is very difficult to measure. I have to say though that people in both Canada and Denmark seemed happier when I lived in those places than did people in the U.S. Maybe that isn’t true with Canada anymore, I don’t know, but I believe it is still true of Denmark (despite their purportedly high suicide rate).

      • Sorry Marilyn, must be the flu making me prickly :). I’m sure the happy Canadians would completely disagree with me, so don’t take my opinion as gospel. Anyhow, it’s great to see your blog posts and the discussion they’re generating – please keep the posts coming as frequently as you can!

  6. All you say about our US society seems true to me … but I give more ‘credit’ as well to the example of conflict resolution set by our government(s). I didn’t watched Barack the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate slash Assassin in Chief dab at a tear on TV … but that struck me as …shameful … http://www.robinlea.com/wordpress/2012/12/16/he-has-no-sense-of-decency/

    BOb’s idea, and not his alone of course but ‘our’ US government’s, on conflict resolution is slaughter the suspects … kill all the people who might be responsible ,,, who look like they might be responsible … for your suffering, or maybe just for daring to resist your domination. Barack …choke, choke … Obama is personally responsible for the murder of Syed Wali Shah, aged 7, himself. Did he brush back a tear after the hit? And Syed is just one of his victims. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he’s personally ordered many more murders of babes than the twenty killed by this demented person in Sandy Hook. And Barack Obams is not demented, he’s cold-blooded, stone-cold sober.

    The mafia say the fish rots from the head. And that looks like a description of what’s happened in our good ole USA, at least to me.

    And in the present, since there are so many psychopathic Americans, make ‘em register their automatic weapons, just like the rest of us register our automobiles.

  7. Thanks for the link. I’m not so much interested in the predictable ‘management’ of … anything, tragedy or otherwise, by the corporate spin machine.

    I’m interested in all of us somehow getting over expecting anything other than the most predictably debased behavior coming out of any power center in our USA, and instead taking steps on our own to change things, to create what MG imagines to have existed in Northern Europe or Canada, whether in fact it exists there or not.

    Here in Northern Thailand the people do seem to me to operate on a more humane basis day-to-day, communities still do seem to exist, the population does seem not to be atomized as in our USA … although the central government in Bangkok seems as brutal as any on earth.

    But regardless such communites actually exist or not, we can bring them into existence, and we are the only ones who can do so. So we must. Or it will be more of the same …

  8. Very happy to discover your blog via the NYTimes comment page. I am a priori in favour of very strong gun control laws but definitely agree with you that we need to eliminate the root causes of violence in the US–economic inequality. However, I don’t think it’s an either/or. Yes, America is in bad shape but while waiting for the revolution couldn’t we at least make it a bit harder to kill people? Think of the school stabbing in China recently. A knife is certainly less potentially lethal.

    • Thanks! You are absolutely right, of course, it is NOT an either/or. I grew up though listening to this interminable debate about gun control it has been going nowhere my entire life. Even if we did start to institute stronger gun control laws I fear they would do very little to reduce gun violence (just as laws against drugs have done little to reduce drug use). I’ve gotten to the point where I believe that addressing the issues of why so many people want guns and why there is so much rage (not to mention serious mental illness) in our society is actually more urgent than is the issue of gun control. I’d like to see American society become like Danish society–i.e., a society in which people can certainly get a gun if they really want one, but where pretty much nobody wants one. That’s a tall order, I know, but I feel that we have to start aiming for that because we are literally self destructing.

  9. Why is it that no one seems to comment on the terrible violence in the entire history of the USA? Armed rebellion against legitimate authority; genocide of virtually all native people to conquer the continent; slavery maintained by the most brutal means; murderous civil war . Seems that murder was born in the bones of this society. Continue…Hiroshima, Vietnam, Iraq, world wide Drone strikes…more to look forward to.Gee, why are young folks so violent???

    • That’s a really good question. I think many Americans, if they reflect on it at all (which I fear most don’t), just assume that is the status quo, that human beings are really violent. No one stops to think that there are many other places on the globe (probably mother other places, in fact) that are not so violent as is the U.S. One of our biggest challenges, I believe, as a culture is to realize that Americans are not un-retouched examples of homo sapiens, that human beings are, to a really profound degree, expressions of the cultures into which they are born and grow to maturity. And you’re right, ours is a particularly brutal, violent culture.

  10. Hi Marilyn,

    As Americans we are, on the whole, remarkably unaware of how violent our culture is compared to others in the world. Although I have never been to Denmark, I am interested in many things Danish, as you know. A book I have that has a lot of discussion about, and insights into, the modern Danish character is Steven M. Borish’s The Land of the Living: The Danish Folk High Schools and Denmark’s Non-Violent Path to Modernization. It has a lot of interesting (or it was to me anyway) information about the Danish Land Reforms of the late 18th century, and about N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872). The influence of Grundtvig, though by no means the only such influence, and though by now probably very diffuse and perhaps even largely forgotten, appears to live on in the overall happiness and optimism of the people of Denmark. Americans could learn a lot, about living, from the Danes.

    - Mike

    • I’ve heard of The Land of the Living, but I haven’t read it. Thanks for reminding me about it. I really do need to read it. Speaking of interesting insights into the Danish character, have you seen the movie “A Royal Affair”? It’s about the Danish King Christian VII and his personal physician the German Johann Friedrich Struensee. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s not just entertaining, it’s appears to stick very closely to historical fact and gives a compelling picture of a very important period in Danish history, a period that influenced not just Kierkegaard, but pretty much all later Danish society.

  11. EXCELLENT paper, Marilyn! Your husband should read it. I agree with virtually everything you said, and virtually zero with what your husband says. C’est la vie.

    One thing, I believe, should be emphasized in comparing the U.S. with other countries. We have lost our “we’re-in-this-together”, big family concept. Instead of us all being Americans, we are divided by races, ethicity, religions, cultures, languages, wealth, political alignment and more. Wow– talk about “divide and conquer”– who/what is dividing us so? I don’t think there is a simple answer– it is multi-faceted. Consider, immigration and being the “melting pot” brought us great strength, but when immigration levels jumped to 10x of the past, immigrants banded together into enclaves instead of integrating into society. Multi-lingual ballots, signs, and other attempts to help non-English speaking immigrants may further this division. But, the point I want to make is that we do NOT have that “one-large-family” feeling, but far more an “us vs. them” attitude. Everyone is an enemy of the other. Throw in our penchant for violence in video games, television, and movies and our solutions to settling aggression with guns is not suprising. In fact, one might consider it surprising that there is not more.

    Each camp spins the data to suit their purpose. The best, unbiased source of gun statistics we have is in the FBI Database on crime. One can learn much by simply studying it for a few minutes. If I recall correctly, 70% of our shootings are a result of failed drug policies, and are among rival drug gangs. There are something like 150,000 gang members in Los Angeles alone. The left will lump these into the overall statistics and cite guns as being causal. As you so correctly point out, criminals can get whatever they want on the black market. Banning guns just disarms those that are not the problem, while doing little if anything to the criminal. In fact, the resulting defenselessness might even be perceived as an encouragement to commit crimes, since there will be less threat to the criminals.

    If our desire is to reduce violent crime in our society, then more people should take heed in your writing. If our desire is to disarm law-abiding citizens, then keep calling sporting rifles “assault weapons” and demonizing guns. The U.K. did this decades ago and now has the highest violent crime rates in the civilized world, which indicates clearly that the underlying problem has not been solved– only the weapons changed. The U.S. was created with guns and they are deep in our culture, so any attempts at bans (“reaonable” restrictions [by WHOSE definition?] are doomed to failure. Your approach to identifying and eliminating the underlying violence and bringing a better sense of unity is spot on and will take more time, but will ultimately be far more successful. All crime went down in Portugal when all drugs were decriminalized. If we had the wisdom to follow suit, I think 70% of our gun crime would disappear almost overnight.

    Kudos to you for writing an excellent, thoughtful, paper, especially in light of the emotional hysteria on the topic, of late.

  12. Thanks for this. You are absolutely right that we don’t have a “we’re-in-this together mentality.” I don’t think we’ve ever had that sort of mentality though to the extent that the older an more homogeneous societies of Europe have it though and it is not, I would argue, simply because we are less homogeneous. I think its Calvinism. Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was a real eye opener there. The protestant (and particularly the Calvinist) view of human nature is very negative. From the beginning Americans have been suspicious of one another. The diversity of the population has helped to encourage such suspicion, but other countries (e.g., France) have been able to tolerate diversity in their populations without degenerating into the “us vs. them” mentality that I would argue lies behind the levels of gun-related violence we see in the U.S. How do they do it? Is it that their more extensive social welfare programs reduce the kinds of fears and insecurities that tend to pit people against one another? Or is it the more fundamentally positive view of human nature that tends to characterize these cultures and that, I would argue, is itself the foundation for their social welfare programs? Or is is both? Or maybe something else entirely? These are the questions to which we in the U.S. urgently need answers. Until we have those answers we are not going to see a reduction in the levels of gun violence in this country. Mark my words.

  13. P.S. FBI statistics on gun violence are generally considered to be less reliable than public health statistics. Experts in the field appear to agree that FBI statistics tend to under-represent levels of gun violence.

  14. Interesting that you say that. What are the procedures for police and sheriff departments when they are involved in gun assaults and homicides? To whom do they report? Surely they do not report to multiple agencies and I was under the impression that the FBI was the sole repository of such information. Where does the Public Health Dept come in? Are the data reported to them, and they disseminate it to the FBI? That doesn’t sound right. If you know, please tell me. I will research it too.

    About inequality and income disparity, take a look at the data at the end of this report: http://www.businessinsider.com/elisabeth-fossliens-gun-charts-2013-1?op=1
    It indeed mentions that. But, I also wonder– with 70% of gun crime being among drug gangs, and most drug gangs operate in ghetto areas, how does one separate the causality from the correlation? Not arguing with you in the least about this, but just curious as to which is the causal factor. It could very well be that inequality is what induces people to sell drugs for quick income, and that may be the underlying factor for many crimes. Interesting!

  15. I am not expert on the issue of gun violence, so I’m uncertain why the experts think the public health data on gun violence is better than the FBI date. I can guess though. My guess is that police departments are under political pressure to keep those kinds of statistics down and hence don’t report all violent crimes or crimes involving handguns. I remember my father saying that when he was a reporter, he was surprised to learn that official police reports of crimes and hospital accounts of injuries, etc. did not always agree. E.g., the police report may not make any reference to a gun, while the hospital report refers to a “gun-shot wound.” And that’s in instances when police reports of violent crimes are actually filed. My guess, again, is that they are not always filed.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

  16. And in regard to your comment about Calvinism, etc, you are probably right. Everything seems unduly competitive– schools, sports, business– it is all about winning, no matter the cost. Corporations will knowingly pollute or sell toxic substances, factoring in litigation in their business model. Lawyers will conceal or fabricate evidence to win their case, regardless of whether their client is truly innocent or guilty. Little by little, each side casts the other as an “enemy”, which may take its toll after a lifetime of us vs them, which may be less emphasized in European cultures. But, I have noticed more of a sense of unity, of being a large “family” in some countries, and decades ago I sensed that here, but our society has become so polarized in the past couple of decades that most things are adversarial and combative, rather than cooperative, politics especially. Is this just an extension of how we are raised? How we are educated? The cutthroat business world? I don’t know, but I think you are close to nailing it. Clearly, prohibition of inanimate objects is doomed to failure if the underlying cause is not addressed.

  17. Interesting comments about FBI data vs hospital data. But, hospitals are only involved in serious shooting injuries, while a LOT of gun-related crimes occur without any injuries. Maybe we’re are getting confusing information because of this. It would be interesting to compare HOMICIDES cause by guns in the FBI data base vs homicides in the Health Department’s database– an interesting exercise for me, since it has been quite a while since I’ve examined either.

    Thank you for this interesting exchange!

  18. I think you are onto something. Just a few moments ago, I saw a boy about 8 or 9 years old, using a folding “scooter” (I am not sure what they’re called– kids stand on the flat part and push with the other foot, steering with a T-bar.) like a club and threatening another kid about the same age. Wow! Had he done so, it would have caused SERIOUS injury to the other boy. Fortunately, the kid stopped before I could stop and yell at him, but such actions never even occurred to me at that age, though we did play with toy guns. Still, we understood that the guns were fake and would not injure anyone, but this incident actually seemed MORE violent than kids playing cops and robbers.

    When I was in high school, if a boy accidentally bumped into a bully, he might get punched. Nowadays, the bully will keep beating the kid who accidentally bumped him and kick him in the head. This actually happened to a nephew who is retarded as a result– brain damage. What’s up with this violence???? It definitely transcends guns. Most small caliber guns like hand guns and these so-called “assault weapons” can certainly kill, but usually the victim survives, With these head-beating/kicking/clubbing response to a simple accident cause lasting brain damage! My God, what have we done to younger generations????

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