Thoughts on Charleston

by Corey Robin on June 21, 2015

So much excellent stuff has been written on the murders in Charleston, I hesitated to weigh in. But one part of the story that I thought could use some amplification is the politics of safety and security in this country, from the backlash of the GOP through 9/11 and today, and how that intersects with the politics of racism. So I took it up in my column for Salon. I’m not sure I said exactly what needed to be said or what I wanted to say: for some reason, the precision and specificity I was aiming for here proved to be more elusive than usual. So if you find that the article misses its mark, I’ll understand.

Here are some excerpts:

In response to Wednesday’s murder of nine African Americans at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, President Obama said, “Innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

I’ll admit: When I first read that statement, I thought Obama was talking about the police. Unfair of me perhaps, but it’s not as if we haven’t now been through multiple rounds of high-profile killings of African Americans at the hands of the police.

Indeed, until Wednesday’s murders, it seemed as if the national conversation about public safety had dramatically and fruitfully shifted. From a demand for police protection of white citizens against black crime—which dominated political discussion from the 1970s to the 1990s—to a scrutiny of the very instruments of that presumed protection. And how those instruments are harming African American citizens.

It’s tempting to seize on this moment as an opportunity to broaden that discussion beyond the racism of prisons and policing to that of society itself. In a way, that’s what Obama was trying to do by focusing on the threat posed not by the state or its instruments but by private guns in the hands of private killers like Dylann Roof.

But that may not be the wisest move, at least not yet.

So long as the discussion is framed as one of protection, of safety and security, we won’t get beyond the society that produced Dylann Roof. Not only has the discourse of protection contributed to the racist practices and institutions of our overly policed and incarcerated society, but it also prevents us from seeing, much less tackling, the broader, systemic inequalities that might ultimately reduce those practices and institutions.

To assume that the state can provide for the safety and security of the most subjugated classes in America without addressing the fact of their subjugation is to assume away the last half-century of political experience. If anything, the discourse of safety and security has made those classes less secure, less safe: not merely from freelance killers like Dylann Roof or George Zimmerman, who claim to be acting on behalf of their own safety and that of white society, but also from the police. As [David] Cole writes, the proliferation of criminal laws and quality-of-life regulations that are supposed to make poor and black communities safer often serve as a pretext for the most intrusive and coercive modes of policing in those communities.




Far from providing the ground upon which a more expansive vision of social policy can be built, the discourse of safety and security ensures that politics never gets off the ground at all. When we make the safety and security the sine qua non of politics—whether in the form of Nozick’s minimal state or Williams’ “Basic Legitimation Demand”—we start refracting all political problems through that lens….Berkeley Law Professor Jonathan Simon goes further, claiming that our entire society is now organized around the principle “governing through crime.” Social problems are treated as crimes, citizens as victims or criminals, and solutions as punishments.


In 1833, John C. Calhoun, a slaveholder and a racist who had been Andrew Jackson’s Vice President and was now representing South Carolina in the Senate, defended the honor of his state by claiming that “no State has been more profuse of its blood in the cause of the country.” Calhoun was referring to South Carolina’s sacrifices during the American Revolution, but his comments can be usefully read against the grain of this week’s events.

Dylann Roof shed blood for the sake of a racism that, if not quite the cause of the country, is nevertheless not exclusive to South Carolina or the South. To counter that bloodshed, we need to move beyond a politics of safety and security that would seek only to punish or prevent it. For that politics of prevention and protection, of safety and security, has indeed become the cause of the country. A cause that is all too friendly to racial inequality—and all too hostile to a politics that might overcome it.


Read more here.

{ 181 comments }

1

engels 06.21.15 at 2:43 pm

I thought it was good but depressing, especially on how the ‘politics of safety and security’ has spread across the ideological spectrum, prempts genuine politics, and intersects with a criminal approach to social problems. Keep ’em coming!

2

Lynne 06.21.15 at 2:53 pm

Corey, I am surprised that after beginning with Obama’s quote about the availability of guns, you don’t follow up on it. Talking about safety and security in the US seems always to involve talking about guns, right?… I guess I’m just not following your train of thought, maybe because since the shooting I have been struck by two things in addition to the racism: the first was that the killer sat in church for an hour with these people—I wanted to say he worshipped with them, but can he have done? I can’t imagine. The second thing is the ubiquity of guns in the States, and the way this looks to an outside observer. Then Mike Huckabee saying the only thing that would have helped in the church would have been if the other congregants were armed….This is unbelievable. Really it’s absurd, it would sound utterly absurd anywhere but in the States. Obama is right. It’s time for the US to do something about its gun culture.

Until it does, guns will naturally be used in service to racism, and in domestic violence, and there will be fatal shootings by children, too. Guns do kill people. An unarmed racist is much less dangerous than a racist with a gun.

3

Corey Robin 06.21.15 at 3:01 pm

Thanks, Lynne. The reason I didn’t take up the gun problem has something to do with the ambivalence in the piece itself. Cole makes the point that the criminalization of any activity — drugs, gun possession — has worked out, in the racist society we’re in, to provide just one more pretext for the cops to act in a racist fashion. While I’m definitely in favor of gun control, my concern is that in practice, it would just give the cops more opportunities to police and imprison black people. That’s certainly how the drug war has worked out, no? Which gets to the larger question I was hoping to raise in this column: “To assume that the state can provide for the safety and security of the most subjugated classes in America without addressing the fact of their subjugation is to assume away the last half-century of political experience.”

4

Liberal With Attitude 06.21.15 at 3:02 pm

I’ve become fond of the “Liturgy of Abundance” articulated by Walter Bruggeman, which posits that instead of living in a world of scarcity, we live in a world of abundance, and can all live lives of fulfillment and tranquility.

The concept lends itself to a “liturgy of safety” in which we recognize that we are in fact quite safe, and have no need of fear.

Obviously there isn’t a simple platform of policy proposals that I have at the ready, but for my part I think its important that we push back on the constant cries for safety against illusory threats. Gun nuts claiming to need guns in every coffee shop and church, need to be challenged and their madness pointed out; the need for a global footprint needs for us to demand its justification and so on.

5

Watson Ladd 06.21.15 at 4:21 pm

In 2014, 425 people lost their lives to homicide in Chicago. Of those murders, only 31.6% resulted in identification of a suspect, and the conviction rate is far lower. Chicago has nearly 3 million people, but the victims of these crimes aren’t evenly distributed. A city like Camden has it even worse.

No, you aren’t safe if you live on the West Side, where the schools are rotting and the jobs are gone. You have to fear being shot, and your shooter going free. But from the leafy streets of Lincoln Park, it might as well be a thousand miles away.

Murder is a very real deprivation of rights. It’s not poverty that causes it: most poor people never pick up a gun. But the impunity with which murderers strike encourages them. This is not a problem of overpolicing, but policing incapable of enforcing the law fairly and in a way that is respected by those who live in the areas policed.

Ultimately the real conditions of life in Chicago owe less to the operations of racist jokes, then to economic forces and policies enacted to serve capitalism. And unless we understand that root, anti-racist politics will never be able to challenge them successfully. Guns are not the root of the problem here.

6

Layman 06.21.15 at 5:00 pm

Yet consider Napoli, a city the same size and population as Chicago, and with far worse unemployment driving economic inequities. A city embroiled in a decades-long mob war, necessitating the deployment of givernment troops. And some 30-40 murders per year. There’s surely something different about Chicago, no?

7

Omega Centauri 06.21.15 at 5:02 pm

Depressing to be sure. I’m glad you are looking at this as an aspect of our safety and security culture, rather than just guns, and racism. Certainly our national issue with guns is wrapped up with our desire to feel secure, and how our culture media all politics all conspire to exploit well know cognitive weaknesses regarding low probability but high emotional impact risks. It isn’t easy to confront these highly distorted fears, particularly when the listener is under the spell of one or more of them. We’ve become a society where it is now borderline illegal to allow your kid to walk to school, or play in a public playground without the presence of an appropriate helicopter parent.

If you spend any time exposed to our media, and our political discourse you won’t have any trouble finding examples of the exploitation of these fears. Its almost braindead easy to figure out how to take advantage of overblown fears, and that’s what we are all exposed to almost daily. The almost total lack of discipline amongst public opinion makers would seem to be at the root of this. We always ask the question, “will this help my career or the immediate cause we are pushing?”, and almost never ask “what longterm effect on the public discourse am I having?”. The incentives run all the wrong way, those who consider the first question and ignore the second
are rewarded.

8

Lynne 06.21.15 at 5:31 pm

Corey, that last is a wonderful sentence. It sometimes seems that for radical social change, everything needs to be done first. I don’t want to derail your thread from your preferred focus, even if it isn’t the focus I expected from the first sentence. ;)

9

Joshua Holmes 06.21.15 at 6:55 pm

The US has never had a serious white movement to feel conviction about the evils done to blacks, acknowledge it, apologize in a heartfelt way, turn away from it, and make amends to the extent possible. White Americans have never repented. Without repentance, new laws and reforms aren’t likely to accomplish much; they must still be administered.

The US violent crime rate has halved since 1994. Black teen pregnancy has dropped 2/3rds since its peak in 1991. Yet crime rates and teen pregnancy are repeatedly used to ignore oppression of blacks, no matter how blatant, or to blame them outright for it. A number of Republican politicians had to be pressured to admit that the Charleston shooter was a vicious racist. Despite improvements, repentance seems a long way off.

10

Stephen 06.21.15 at 7:53 pm

Layman: homicide in Chicago, in peacetime, 156/million/year.

Homicide in Northern Ireland during a low-level war, 61/million/year.

On the other hand, in a serious war, USSR casualties 35,700/million/year.

Just to keep things in proportion.

11

Stephen 06.21.15 at 8:02 pm

Joshua Holmes: US whites should “make amends to the extent possible” to US blacks.
“Possible” is a wonderfully elastic word. To what extent do you think amends might be possible? To what extent would, say, the Rev Al Sharpton believe them to be possible?

12

Layman 06.21.15 at 8:19 pm

Stephen @ 10

In proportion to what? I’m afraid I miss your point.

13

jonnybutter 06.21.15 at 9:10 pm

While I’m definitely in favor of gun control, my concern is that in practice, it would just give the cops more opportunities to police and imprison black people. That’s certainly how the drug war has worked out, no?

I’m not sure about this. I agree with your overall conclusion, but I would ask: are cops waiting for gun laws, or any other law, so as to have more opportunities to push around and kill black people (and/or other poor people)? I’d say they have a pretty darned free hand as it is. Subjugators gonna subjugate.

Someone on twitter asked Ta-Nehisi Coates what would’ve happened had modern firearms been so generally available as now in the late 19th century and early 20th century. His answer was ‘genocide’. I think that’s right.

14

Rich Puchalsky 06.21.15 at 9:17 pm

CR: “Cole makes the point that the criminalization of any activity — drugs, gun possession — has worked out, in the racist society we’re in, to provide just one more pretext for the cops to act in a racist fashion. While I’m definitely in favor of gun control, my concern is that in practice, it would just give the cops more opportunities to police and imprison black people.”

Cue The Guns of Brixton. Anyways, yes, the problem with safety and security culture is that it quickly becomes a matter of safety for whom, and security from whom. Incidents like West, Texas or Elk River show that when powerful people make things unsafe for not-powerful people, that’s considered acceptible.

Obama’s statement on this was horrible, I thought: “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.” As President of the U.S. it is in fact within his power to do something about it other than “acknowledge” it and go on helplessly. If he’s helpless, how is it “in our power” to do something about it?

His statement does at least acknowledge what I haven’t seen a lot of people acknowledge: that this was an attack on an institution as well as a massacre of 9 people. There’s a reason why the racist gunman shot people at a black church with the history that this church has.

15

Watson Ladd 06.21.15 at 9:19 pm

It’s completely wrong. Blacks took up arms to defend themselves and their families across much of the South. The Navy laws aimed to remove cheap firearms from the hands of freedmen so as to permit their subjugation by terrorism. Banning guns means depending on the police to protect you: they won’t.

16

jonnybutter 06.21.15 at 9:37 pm

I don’t want to derail this thread and make it about guns, because Corey’s main point is a good one and more penetrating than the citation of gun control. I would just note that, a.) phenomena like this can be ‘about’ more than one thing, and b.) the most vociferous crazy gun nuts in the US, as a group, tend to intersect with vociferous crazy fascists/racists as a group. They may not be the exact same people, but there is a large intersection.

17

Layman 06.21.15 at 10:08 pm

‘As President of the U.S. it is in fact within his power to do something about it other than “acknowledge” it and go on helplessly.’

By all means, suggest what he could do. I’m struggling to see it myself. Unless you think he’s just not leadery enough.

‘If he’s helpless, how is it “in our power” to do something about it?’

I imagine, as a starter, stop electing these nuts to office. Doing something about racial oppression and gun violence requires legislation, prosecution of the law, and a bench which will not impede progress.

18

cassander 06.21.15 at 10:08 pm

> If anything, the discourse of safety and security has made those classes less secure, less safe:

ahem. If you stop arresting poor blacks, the people who will suffer most are not rich whites, but other poor blacks. The “discourse of safety and security” that you condemn has unquestionably helped minorities more than it’s hurt them. So can we please base this discussion in fact, not gleeful fantasies of evil racist conservatives?

19

Joshua Holmes 06.21.15 at 10:13 pm

To what extent do you think amends might be possible?

I don’t yet know, but there are clues. For example, Chicago recently paid $5.5m in restitution to arrestees tortured by police. Most of the victims were black. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, though generally a scumbag, said, “Chicago will finally confront its past and come to terms with it and recognizing something wrong was done.” New York could do something similar for those brutalized in Rikers Island prison, many of whom are black. The federal government and banks could do something similar for those who suffered under red-lining policies, who were almost entirely black. And so on.

20

Layman 06.21.15 at 10:14 pm

On the contrary, the gleeful fantasies of evil racist conservatives are the problem here. Or do you think this was not an act inspired by the gleeful fantasie of the evil racist conservative who perpetrated it?

21

Phil 06.21.15 at 10:41 pm

Really it’s absurd, it would sound utterly absurd anywhere but in the States.

I can confirm that it does sound absurd in the UK.

I think there’s a danger of making the best the enemy of the good here. The project of criminalising gun ownership, except under a narrow range of strictly regulated conditions – which is essentially what’s happened in the UK – strictly speaking has nothing to do with the project of reversing two centuries of racist injustice: you could achieve A without doing anything to bring B nearer, and I guess you could achieve B without worrying about A (although I’m really struggling to imagine an armed and just society). But, while guns certainly don’t kill people, they do make it a hell of a lot easier for people to kill people. The kind of society where – as in the UK – people get arrested for owning a single bullet may not be ipso facto a just society, but it is a society where mass shootings just don’t happen – and, by extension, where mass killings don’t happen (people do go crazy with bladed weapons every so often, but there’s only so much you can do with a knife or a sword before you get stopped).

(You guys may not want to live in a society where people get arrested for owning a single bullet; I confess I wasn’t entirely convinced myself when we went down that route. But it does seem to have worked out OK.)

22

Rich Puchalsky 06.21.15 at 11:12 pm

Layman: “By all means, suggest what he could do. I’m struggling to see it myself. Unless you think he’s just not leadery enough.”

He is in fact supposed to be a political leader, you know. I used to amuse myself early in his first term by imagining how he would have handled FDR’s problems.

And in this case, suggesting “what he might do” runs up against the problem that what he might do and what I think should be done are quite dramatically different. But you can look at something like this and imagine how much further each of these kinds of actions could be pushed if he was willing to actually take risks in using the powers he has. Let’s take the problem of nonviolent drug offenders as an example. Nothing the President can do, right? Well in fact he could pardon everybody unilaterally, however many million there are. He controls the Federal agencies — he can dismiss District Attorneys — he nominates candidates for the upper reaches of the law bench — he influences police budgets through such maneuvers as funding Byrne grants out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the press automatically reports on anything he says — but he can’t do anything? He can’t do anything because he has reached the limits of what he is willing to do.

“I imagine, as a starter, stop electing these nuts to office.”

Racists elect people who carry out racist policies. How are we going to stop them? If there wasn’t a solid base for racism in this country, they wouldn’t elect legislators who support that base. But if there wasn’t a solid base for racism, we also wouldn’t have our current level of racist violence in the first place. It’s supposed to be the job of a political leader to break through this kind of logjam.

23

Watson Ladd 06.21.15 at 11:45 pm

Layman, Dylann Roof is the exceptional racist, as is the LAPD, etc. But Dylan Roof didn’t put a gun in the hand of the boys who shot down 25 people in Chicago this weekend. Dylann Roof didn’t contribute to welfare reform, or the demise of unions, or disparities in school funding. We can talk all we want about Dylann Roof and the confederate flag, and go vote for politicians who condemn racism, while leaving the intolerable conditions in place.

You don’t need to imagine diehard racists running the show to understand why these conditions exist. Just politicians who listen to the voices of their wealthier donors more than those who don’t organize politically, a job market that has become increasingly polarized, increasing collateral consequences of conviction leading to lifetime exclusion from work. Our search for racists undermines the political organizing that could cut against these policies and their effect.

24

Anarcissie 06.21.15 at 11:45 pm

Rich Puchalsky 06.21.15 at 11:12 pm @ 22 —

Do you think a ‘political leader’ can stop people from being racists?

25

joanblondelle 06.21.15 at 11:46 pm

I think it might be advantageous to further articulate how contemporary ideas about (national ) “security” intersect with race, gender, and gun culture to elevate gun violence in the warped minds of some young men and how such belief systems benefit the military industrial complex in supplying it with indoctrinated customers.

26

Rich Puchalsky 06.21.15 at 11:52 pm

“Do you think a ‘political leader’ can stop people from being racists?”

If no progress was possible despite people being racists, no progress would ever have been possible. You can further imagine people saying “What can LBJ do, be ‘leadery’? We’d lose the South for a generation” etc.

27

bianca steele 06.22.15 at 12:04 am

LBJ benefited from years’ worth of smart, informed people with the elites’ ear thinking about the exact same problems he set out to solve. The problem is, one, we don’t have this now. Worse, two, the backlash against LBJ’s programs began immediately and has been so successful, and pointed out so many real blind spots in the ideas behind them (without suggesting anything to take their place), that it’s not clear how many of the people who might come up with new programs think those were worth doing even at the time. The President can’t just declare a new synthesis without input from educated commoners.

The thing where Obama says, “You elected me and now I’m going to tell you what to do yourselves,” is admittedly one of his most annoying rhetorical tics. It probably actually is what he thinks it means to be “leadery.”

28

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 12:16 am

Rich Puchalsky 06.21.15 at 11:52 pm @ 26 —

I’m referring only to ‘political leaders’, for example LBJ since you mention him. Being a political leader seems to me to be a highly disadvantageous position from which to try to do anything such as dissuade people from racist beliefs and practices, since to achieve ‘political leadership’ one must first ingratiate oneself with the state and culture as they are.

29

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 12:37 am

“Being a political leader seems to me to be a highly disadvantageous position from which to try to do anything”

LBJ got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. That may or may not have “dissuaded people from racist beliefs”, but it sure did a whole lot about racist practices. It’s still the framework that we use for everything now (including Title IX etc.). Sure, political leaders have to ingratiate themselves with the state and culture as they are, and then if they are actual leaders — and if they are in any way “on the left” — they have to use the power they’ve gained to influence that culture, not to be limited by it.

Huge numbers of other people did everything they could to prepare the way for LBJ to push the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through. Some of them got shot for it. But all of that would have come to very little if, at the end, a political leader hadn’t been willing to risk their credit within the system.

30

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 12:55 am

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 12:37 am @ 29 —

By 1964, indeed, long before, the American ruling class had obviously decided that legal, institutionalized racism was a really bad thing. Primary among the complex of reasons for this development was the extensive trouble made by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements over many years. (Part of it was the competition with international Communism. No doubt there were other motives. But I think the trouble at home was the biggest deal.) Yes, at some point the cautious official leadership decided they could make their move. Note also Richard Nixon’s interest in ‘Black Capitalism’ and Affirmative Action, the second of which actually did a lot to delegitimate racism by bringing a lot of middle-class White people into contact with African-Americans who, they discovered, were not beasts or monsters but competent working people like themselves. Was Mr. Nixon the kind of leader you are talking about, or was he responding to the ruling-class consensus? I have my doubts about Mr. Nixon’s personal virtues in this area.

31

Layman 06.22.15 at 1:30 am

“LBJ got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.”

This is certainly true; but it seems extraordinarily unlikely to me that he could get it passed again today, with this Congress. I’m sure Obama could move measures to improve economic conditions, fight racism, and control guns through the Congress that LBJ faced, but such things aren’t in the cards.

“Well in fact he could pardon everybody unilaterally, however many million there are.”

I like this idea, but have two things to say about it. First, it seems quite hard to execute as a practical matter. Second, although it is undoubtedly the humanitarian thing to do, and I’m entirely in favor of it, I don’t think for one minute it will improve race relations; rather the opposite, I’d guess.

“…he nominates candidates for the upper reaches of the law bench…”

Indeed, he does, but he cannot ratify their appointment. Instead, he must suffer the Senate to do that, which takes us back to the problem if Congress.

“Racists elect people who carry out racist policies. “

Indeed, they do. But that comes back to Obama’s point, that it is to some extent up to the people to fix this problem.

Really, I hate to be cast as his advocate here. I’d impeach him over some of his security policies, and I’m tremendously disappointed by how he’s handled things he can control (HAMP comes to mind). But it is nonsense to think he could employ leadership to end institutional racism and gun violence in the face of a legislature and judiciary who are determined to oppose him.

32

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 1:49 am

I could propose counters for each of these objections — “he could have party staff, or even NGOs, research the millions of names for him to pardon”, “he could keep proposing far-left judge candidates and dare the GOP to reject all of them for two Presidential terms as the justice system started to grind to a halt” etc — but that would lead this increasingly off topic. The basic point is that every President or other political leader who has tried to do anything remotely “on the left” in America has faced tough, determined opposition. Those who succeeded in doing something did more than the ordinary — LBJ *created* the Congress he had, in large part, he didn’t merely face it as a pre-existing entity: FDR talked about packing the Supreme Court when he didn’t get his way and made them back off. Every one of them has had powerful elements of our system determined to oppose him.

To return to the massacre in Charleston, what Obama asks us to do is nonsense. “We” can’t fix the problem by electing different people, because the people who elect those people also actively or tacitly approve of massacres like this. They are getting what they want. We can’t force them to want something else.

33

Layman 06.22.15 at 2:04 am

“LBJ *created* the Congress he had, in large part, he didn’t merely face it as a pre-existing entity”

You’ll have to say more about this. Johnson inherited a Democratic majority in both houses, and actually lost ground to Republicans in the South after the Act was passed.

I’m still waiting for a clear prescription of how any President in these particular circumstances solves the problem. I’m as frustrated as you are, but this ‘more leadership’ nonsense is punditry dreck.

34

Layman 06.22.15 at 2:21 am

Watson Ladd @ 23, I don’t disagree with much you have to say here. I do disagree with your notion that guns aren’t part of the problem, which is why I offer the comparative example of Napoli. And, I’m afraid you drastically underestimate the breadth and depth of racism and the extent to which it creates the problems you decry. Racism is the very reason we have economic inequity on a scale not found in any other social democracy.

35

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 2:40 am

Layman 06.22.15 at 2:21 am @ 34:
‘… Racism is the very reason we have economic inequity on a scale not found in any other social democracy.’

I think it’s the other way around. First you have a class-based social order; this situation naturally leads to individual and group competition for advantage and preference, which tends to result in the formation of teams: tribes, gangs, races, ethnea, genders and so forth — any distinction can be used to gain advantage, any means can be used to pursue it. Those on top will not be slow to notice the development and cultivate it. I believe the picture I draw here follows the historical development of institutional racism in the United States. (This is not to say that the success of the racial divide as a mechanism of class oppression hasn’t been tremendously successful; only that I don’t think it’s fundamental.)

36

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 06.22.15 at 6:33 am

To hell with Obama.

He’s busy trying to get his sellout “trade” deal passed, which is all he’s really working on.

He doesn’t give a shit about much else anymore.
~

37

ZM 06.22.15 at 7:15 am

bianca steele,

“The President can’t just declare a new synthesis without input from educated commoners.
The thing where Obama says, “You elected me and now I’m going to tell you what to do yourselves,” is admittedly one of his most annoying rhetorical tics. It probably actually is what he thinks it means to be “leadery.””

I have mentioned before the historic Redfern speech by Prime Minister Keating here in Australia which was about the negative impacts of European settlement on Indigenous people.
https://antar.org.au/sites/default/files/paul_keating_speech_transcript.pdf

That was an important political speech, but there is also a public reconciliation movement which is driven as much or even more by the community as by government.

There is an NGO Reconciliation Australia ( https://www.reconciliation.org.au/about/ )
which has reconciliation as its mission, and it was reconciliation week recently, and just in my shire there were a number of events and similar things would have happened throughout the country.

There is still a long way to go, but there has been progress. It there anything similar in the USA for reconciliation with African Americans and Indigenous Americans?

The annual number of homicides in Chicago is terrible – it is around about the same number as for the annual number of homicides in the whole of Australia.

38

David 06.22.15 at 10:55 am

I think it’s depressingly true that in virtually every society there is a disproportionate fear of crime and violence, and a disproportionate desire for “tough” measures to combat it. Any criminologist will happily talk for hours about how public perceptions of the threat from crime are wildly at variance with reality, and are often stoked by an irresponsible media and political system. But arguing by statistics is not going to convince anyone who is frightened of an existential threat.
In most societies, these demands lead to more prisons, harsher laws, greater powers for the police etc, and their failure to control crime (indeed they can exacerbate it) leads to yet further demands. But in the US, for reasons none of the rest of us can understand, it also leads to the fetishization of personal gun ownership and the automatic recourse to armed violence as the first solution to any problem. The two have to be seen together, because there’s a lot of evidence that in most societies absolute numbers of guns, by themselves, don’t lead to any particular level of violence.
But if guns circulate very widely in a society with a cult of violence, then statistically some of these guns are going to wind up in the hands of those who want to use them for large-scale killings. They may be mentally ill or delusional, they may have a political motive of some kind, but in any event it doesn’t really matter because you can’t do the same amount of damage with a knife as you can with a gun, whatever your motives.
Barring some overnight transformation in the American psyche, then, gun control is the only alternative to a never-ending succession of ghastly atrocities such as this one. There are many examples of successful gun control legislation in the world, and many examples of disarmament regimes in post-conflict states. Obviously there would be resistance, and some of it might be violent. But you are comparing a hypothetical situation with one where guns are associated with something like 50,000 deaths a year from all causes, including suicides and accidents. Indeed, I’ve even heard it argued (semi-seriously) that a vigorous programme of gun confiscation would simply provoke the crazies to go out in a blaze of glory, conveniently solving several problems at the same time. Whatever the short-term cost might be, it is argued, the number of lives saved in the medium to long term would be enormously greater.

39

Salem 06.22.15 at 11:20 am

But Layman, there are more non-gun murders per year in Chicago than total murders in Naples. And this is true generally in the USA. To use my favourite comparison, even if adopting British-style gun laws prevented every single homicide with a gun*, the US murder rate would still be almost double that of the UK.

The US is just an extraordinarily violent country.

*Which it wouldn’t. Some people would kill using illegal guns, and some of those murders would be displaced onto non-gun weapons.

40

jonnybutter 06.22.15 at 12:17 pm

#39

Napoli is about a third the size of Chicago (its metro area less than half the size of Chicago), so absolute numbers are not very illuminating, are they? I’d like to see the stats you are not citing.

It is simply idiotic to pretend that absurdly easy access to guns, which are push-button, at-a-distance conveniences for killing people, has nothing fundamental to do with the amount of homicide in the US. It is also idiotic to say that the US is, in some abstract sense ‘just an extraordinarily violent country’. There is no abstract sense. As was noted upthread, another frontier/settler country (Australia) had an extraordinarily large amount of gun violence until they did something about easy access to guns.

41

engels 06.22.15 at 12:21 pm

I’m in favour of gun control in US but it seems to me making this discussion about that, as a lot of commenters here seem to want to, feeds into the kind of anti-political security agenda which the post accurately critiques.

42

Layman 06.22.15 at 12:33 pm

I chose Napoli because it is comparable in size to Chicago. The Metropolitan City of Naples has a population of some 3.1 million people – it’s the 9th largest city in the EU. And because it is generally regarded as one of the more dangerous cities in Europe.

But you can pick another city if you like. The idea that guns are irrelevant to the level of violence in the US is simply wrong. There are certainly other factors, but I doubt that human nature has somehow evolved differently in the U.S. than elsewhere. We teach gun violence, and make guns easily available, and other societies don’t.

43

Layman 06.22.15 at 12:41 pm

Engels @ 41, fair enough. I don’t want to make this about gun control, if for no other reason than the practical one: There is no prospect of meaningful gun control in the immediate future anyway.

With respect to the OP, I’m also deeply alarmed that all public policy seems to revolve around protection and security. It strikes me that racism is a big component of it, and that we won’t make inroads there without a concerted effort to confront racism where it masquerades as other things, like Tradition and History and Southern Pride.

44

jonnybutter 06.22.15 at 12:48 pm

I chose Napoli because it is comparable in size to Chicago.

I agree about not turning this into a gun control thread, but get facts right please. You are comparing apples and tuna.

Chicago: city – 3 million
total metro – 10 million

Napoli: city – 1 million
total metro – 3 million.

45

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 12:51 pm

Layman: “You’ll have to say more about this. Johnson inherited a Democratic majority in both houses, and actually lost ground to Republicans in the South after the Act was passed.”

Of course he lost ground after the Civil Rights Act was passed. That’s what “we have lost the South for a generation” was about. But he didn’t simply inherit a Democratic majority: LBJ was supposed to have been the most effective Senate majority leader in history (before he became Vice President) building up the ability to convince other legislators to do his bidding. When the Civil Rights Act was being voted on, Republicans used the same obstructive tactics that they use now. He used his knowledge of the process to overcome various blocks, then finally (quoting from his wiki page):

In the Senate, since the tax bill had passed three days earlier, the anti-civil-rights senators were left with the filibuster as their only remaining tool. Overcoming the filibuster required the support of over twenty Republicans, who were growing less supportive due to the fact that their party was about to nominate for president a candidate who opposed the bill. According to Caro, it was ultimately Johnson’s ability to convince Republican leader Everett Dirksen to support the bill that amassed the necessary Republican votes to overcome the filibuster

So some pundits might have said that LBJ needed to be more “leadery”, and some might have said that passing the bill was impossible, and both were wrong. LBJ had developed, over his career, specific ways of employing his power as a politician, and in the crisis about something that he actually cared about passing (for whatever reason) he was able to use them effectively. That’s one of the things that being a successful Presidential level politician is about.

When pundits talk about how a President should get things done, they tend to rely on mechanical repetition of a few things that fit their worldview: “why doesn’t Obama just talk to the GOP leaders like LBJ talked to Dirksen”? Clearly that’s not going to work. But what if Obama, rather than tossing out his best-at-the-time ground game voting software once it was of no direct use to him, had used it to intervene in primaries all over the country in favor of less radical GOPers and further-left Democrats, piling up favors from people he’d gotten into office that he could call on (and fear of what might happen in next election)? The U.S. Presidency allows a huge range of actions and the President is generally pretty much the head of the party as well, so they’re only helpless if they want to be or if they’re incompetent.

46

Layman 06.22.15 at 1:37 pm

“But what if Obama, rather than tossing out his best-at-the-time ground game voting software once it was of no direct use to him, had used it to intervene in primaries all over the country in favor of less radical GOPers and further-left Democrats, piling up favors from people he’d gotten into office that he could call on (and fear of what might happen in next election)? “

I’ll bite: What if? Is there any reason at all to believe that approach would overcome the structural barriers, which more-or-less ensure a Republican majority in the House? Didn’t the Democrats who won in reliably Republican districts on Obama’s coat tails in 2008 promptly get defeated again in 2010? And how do you get loyalty from a legislator who you unsuccessfully primaried in the last election.

It’s a different world. If this were a less-polarized electorate, with more common ground, and a comparative absence of soft money – so that party money was IT – you can see the opportunity for someone like Johnson to use campaign coffers to broker deals. Those days are gone. Those tactics won’t work now, nor will the variants your suggesting here.

47

Layman 06.22.15 at 1:38 pm

johnnybutter @ 44, fair enough.

48

Trader Joe 06.22.15 at 1:47 pm

I’m with Rich on this – the President has done a poor job of even attempting to build consensus. 14 times in his Presidency Mr. Obama has addressed the nation about a mass shooting and on none of these occassions has he proposed any legislation (Sandy Hook produced a few house and senate led proposals but that’s it).

The “what if” game that should be played is what would have happened if the President was willing to trade some Republican priorities to win passage of things he views as priorities. Its an answer we can’t know since its not really been attempted – both sides are polarized because there has been little effort to broker deals that are anything other than win-lose, zero-sum. Both the House and Senate, both Dems and Reps are guilty and the President has shown no leadership in not just letting the legislative branch savage one another.

What should be clear is the President hasn’t made the slightest effort to address the “problem” of mass killings, whatever their source from which we can conclude he either doesn’t know what the solution is (quite likely), sees other agenda items as more valuable (also quite likely) and isn’t willing to expend the slightest bit of political capital on even a hand-waving-do-nothing-bill that would at least force the racists or gun control hyenas to a vote.

49

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 1:54 pm

Look, that’s nonsense. There’s no way that we have a less polarized electorate than in 1964, and while I’ve tossed out some ideas here just to show that ideas are possible, it’s not my responsibility as an Internet commenter to come up with a workable game plan for the President. I don’t even know what you could mean by structural barriers that more-or-less ensure a Republican majority in the House, given that in his first term, Obama had a Democratic majority in the House. I think that you’re basically making excuses, and given that Obama is a lame duck, it’s not even that important any more.

Obama isn’t going to do anything, and there are limits to how much mass movements can accomplish without politicians at the top being willing to support them. I predict that the lasting effect of this massacre is going to be, sadly, nonexistent. There will just be another massacre a few months later and people will repeat all the same rhetoric. That rhetoric includes both everything that the GOP is saying *as well as* the kinds of things that Layman above is saying: all the justifications for why nothing can be done by anyone with actual power and it’s up to us.

50

bianca steele 06.22.15 at 2:07 pm

ZM,

I’ve mostly heard of reconciliation in the context of South Africa and similar regime changes. Maybe it’s an appropriate model for Australia (and the US) but I don’t know. I know almost nothing about the situation in Australia, unfortunately. Do you have organizations like the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund and the similar organizations for Native Americans? This doesn’t seem like an appropriate place to list the differences though no country is starting from zero on these issues.

51

Lynne 06.22.15 at 2:29 pm

“14 times in his Presidency Mr. Obama has addressed the nation about a mass shooting”

Whoa.

52

temp 06.22.15 at 2:38 pm

I don’t even know what you could mean by structural barriers that more-or-less ensure a Republican majority in the House, given that in his first term, Obama had a Democratic majority in the House

1. Democrats vote less in midterms.
2. Republicans made big gains in 2010 (census year) in state houses, which they used to entrench their power through gerrymandering. So the structural advantage to the Republicans has increased since Obama was elected.

Note that in the 2012 elections, more Americans voted for Democratic congressional candidates (48.8%) than Republicans (47.6%) but Republicans took the house 234-201.

The US is not a presidential dictatorship. That FDR and LBJ had congresses which were much more friendly to their agenda is a tremendous difference from the situation Obama has faced.

53

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 2:44 pm

I’m aware of that, temp, but something is lacking in the phrase “more-or-less ensure” when the situation that is supposed to be more-or-less ensured against happened in the last few years.

Back when I was a liberal, I used to think that really one of the major things that ordinary members of the electorate could do was hold their elected leaders responsible for their performance. Now it appears that everyone is an expert and that expertise consists of explaining why we can’t expect anything.

54

Layman 06.22.15 at 2:46 pm

“Note that in the 2012 elections, more Americans voted for Democratic congressional candidates (48.8%) than Republicans (47.6%) but Republicans took the house 234-201.”

Precisely.

Rich Puchalsky, let us assume for argument’s sake that the President could secure all of the Democratic caucus votes for gun legislation – an absurdity, I know. Name the 17 Republican members he can effectively bribe or threaten in order to pass a bill. And don’t say “that’s not my job”, since you’re the one insisting it can be done.

55

Layman 06.22.15 at 2:50 pm

“I’m with Rich on this – the President has done a poor job of even attempting to build consensus. 14 times in his Presidency Mr. Obama has addressed the nation about a mass shooting and on none of these occassions has he proposed any legislation (Sandy Hook produced a few house and senate led proposals but that’s it).”

This is simply false.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/01/16/us/obama-gun-control-proposal.html?_r=0

56

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 2:52 pm

David 06.22.15 at 10:55 am @ 38:
‘… But in the US, for reasons none of the rest of us can understand, it also leads to the fetishization of personal gun ownership and the automatic recourse to armed violence as the first solution to any problem. …’

It’s not hard to understand. The US was originally populated by the ‘worst’ people of Europe and Africa, especially Great Britain: gentlemen adventurers, slavers, slaves, fugitives, prisoners, religious fanatics, thieves, confidence men, bankrupts, skips, remittance men, prostitutes, and so on. The religious fanatics in particular carried with them an ideology of radical egalitarianism — the ‘priesthood of all believers’ that I’ve mentioned before, in which every man could interpret the Scriptures for himself. That idea, which is still with us in attenuated form, is not only a source of the liberal rights and democracy, it also gives ordinary people the right to doubt the high authorities about such matters as climate change, fiscal policy, and race, and to carry weapons (because the authorities and their servants carry weapons, and use them extensively).

Armed violence is also highly appreciated aesthetically here, but the appreciation is hardly confined to the United States or the modern era.

57

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 2:54 pm

Again, that’s nonsense. “Name the 17 Republican members he can effectively bribe or threaten” means that you’re taking a snapshot of politics and insisting that a solution be found with no preparation. Obama has had two terms to work towards credible bribes or threats. If he hasn’t dome that work — including the time when, once again, the Democrats had control of both the Senate and the House — then you can’t come in at the last minute and say “Turn this around.” When LBJ talked to Dirksen, he relied on levers of power he’d spent more than a decade building.

58

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.15 at 3:05 pm

Lynne #51: “Whoa.”

Not only is it disgusting, it is going to get worse. They had been happening about once every 2 years, but the frequency continues to accelerate.

59

Salem 06.22.15 at 3:12 pm

Guns are a very high priority for the 2nd Amendment crowd, and a very low priority for the Gun Control crowd. That includes the people here. Trader Joe @48 is right: if you want to get something, you have to give something up. You aren’t going to get your way on every issue across the board. The Democrats most associated with gun control – the likes of Bloomberg and Cuomo – are anathema around here, and you won’t vote for pro-gun-control Republicans. Because you prioritise other issues. Meanwhile the 2nd Amendment crowd really will vote and donate in light of a candidate’s positions on guns, so although they aren’t the majority, they get their way. It kinda looks like the system “working,” in the sense of preference-intensity.

I think Obama is right. Yes, maybe something along Rich Puchalsky’s notion is possible, but why should Obama try when the pro-gun-control voters will provide no reward for taking their side, and no punishment for not doing so? Particularly when their opponents will do so. And if he did try, why should any other politician go along with him in those circumstances? But if people who support gun control make it the #1 or #2 issue when they cast their votes, then politicians will take note, and some political entrepreneur may well come along. Now, I’m not saying that it should necessarily be the most important issue. If you care more about healthcare, and policing, and the economy, and foreign policy, and unionisation, and the TPP, and reproductive rights, and whatever else, then I’m not saying you’re wrong. But you can’t then be surprised when political leaders aren’t willing to go out on a limb for what you yourself view as the 732nd most important issue.

60

Layman 06.22.15 at 3:23 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 57

Very well, name the 218 votes from any party that you believe could be had for a gun control measure in any Congress Obama has faced. Include the Congress elected in 2008, if you like. If you can’t say how it could be done, you’re in a poor position to insist that it could be done.

61

Trader Joe 06.22.15 at 3:29 pm

@55 Layman
I recant…that was the post Sandy Hook legislation (which was December 2012 – your post references January 2013 so right near start of post-Christmas session) I referred to in my comment which I attributed to House and Senate efforts, not the White House. I however stand by my comment that he did nothing to broker passage of that legislation despite having an incredibly powerful moment available with which to force a vote.

I would also note that prior to Sandy Hook, there had been 15 previous multi-death shootings in 2012 alone (Aurora theater most prominent, but 14 more as listed here:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/171774/fifteen-us-mass-shootings-happened-2012-84-dead#

He also failed to propose legislation after DEMOCRAT representative Gabby Giffords was nearly killed and 6 others were killed in 2011.

The point being, yes, I misrembered who initiated the 2013 gun control bill, but there is no way you can begin to suggest the President has been on top of this despite, unfortunately and tragically, multiple opportunities to take anything resembling strong action.

62

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 3:43 pm

It is the Gun Nuts’ country now. The rest of you are just sheltering in place in it.

/Stolen from elsewhere. No idea where though.

63

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 3:48 pm

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.15 at 3:05 pm @ 58 —
The rate of firearms homicide has been going down since 1993, when it was 7.0 per 100,000. In 2013 the figure was 3.5; appears to be declining slowly. It seems unlikely to increase soon, anyway. However, you may be referring to the number of massacres, currently an exciting but loosely defined category of event. While they set off the most commentary, they are statistically a not very significant form of firearms homicide and it seems hard to predict whether they will increase or decline in the immediate future.

64

Layman 06.22.15 at 3:48 pm

“I however stand by my comment that he did nothing to broker passage of that legislation despite having an incredibly powerful moment available with which to force a vote.”

Well, now it’s on you: What Republican priorities could Obama accommodate in order to pass gun control legislation – or even bring it to a vote – and which Republicans would support it?

I’m surprised to hear that the problem is Obama’s unwillingness to meet the other side halfway. For my part, I’d say the hallmark of his Presidency is that he’s been too willing to give them what they want, and to naive to grasp that they won’t ever reciprocate.

65

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 3:50 pm

“which Republicans would support it?”

None.

66

Shamash 06.22.15 at 3:56 pm

Lynne, I see where you are coming from in your first comment, but an argument in the form “we as a culture are fine with murder as long as the murderer has to break a sweat” is a non-starter with me. You did not say it that way of course, but looking for a solution through the method is not going to solve the problem. An unarmed hater may be less dangerous, but Rwandans managed to express their hatred disastrously well back in 1994 without ubiquitous gun ownership. Similarly, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1964 required no guns and people didn’t blame it on access to dynamite. It was seen as a racial attack, and the response was to deal with the racism. The legislation demanded and gotten as a result of that mass murder was civil rights legislation, not explosives control legislation. And I think that was the correct choice and correct approach.

The problem is not the ease of the killing, it is the willingness to kill in the first place. Solutions that address the hatred automatically deal with the violence. The reverse cannot be said.

67

William Timberman 06.22.15 at 3:58 pm

Corey is right, I think, to frame the context for these atrocities as he has here. See also Paul Krugman’s op-ed today in the NYT. Although far too anodyne in tone for my tastes, Krugman’s analysis, like Corey’s, does help make what we’d prefer to remain silent about an unavoidable part of the conversation, namely that the Civil War never really ended.

A majority of white people in the North may have seen slavery as an abomination, but they were never comfortable with the idea that black people were people like themselves, and therefore entitled to live unmolested where and how they chose. This white ambivalence, exploited as it has been by the Republican Party in recent decades, remains the mother of all wedge issues, just it was in the 1850s.

By any means necessary was never my favorite slogan, largely because I believed that it underestimated the savagery that it invited from white people, but I’ve never doubted that it was the most succinct expression possible of what justice actually demands of us.

68

Trader Joe 06.22.15 at 4:05 pm

Lets see. In the context of early 2013 there were quite a few legislative priorities in play:

#1 was the sequester which was going to directly impact defense spending among other traditionally republican priorities
#2 at the time, was tax code reform I believe a certain representative from the great state of Wisconsin had a particular proposal that enjoyed resounding House support but which never could see the light of day in Harry Reid’s senate

No doubt there were others, but those were topical at the time and might have made the basis of some horse trading.

I do respect your point that the NRA has been quite effective in co-opting both the D & R vote over the years and quite possibly it would have been impossible to broker anything resembling a trade. Maybe it was tried and still failed but I recollect no such reporting at the time. How I remember it (admittedly my memory shouldn’t be trusted) is that there was a certain amount of “we must do something” hand waving post Sandy Hook and once the media buzz died down doing something that needed to be done gave way to bickering over how to slice $1 billion here or a $1 billion there from a multi-Trillion budget….in other words, ineffectually doing something petty rather than doing something that maybe, just plausibly could have made a difference.

To be fair, I spare no blame, Obama is at fault, the Dems are at fault, the Republicans definitely at fault, House, Senate all of them. If there’s any praise available its only for the republicans sticking to their morals, such as they are.

69

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 4:05 pm

“The problem is not the ease of the killing, it is the willingness to kill in the first place. “

It is at the least PART of the problem. This maniac would not have been able to kill 9 people with a knife or a club.

70

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 4:09 pm

1982 – 2011, a mass shooting occurred an average of every 200 days; since 2011, mass shootings happen an average of every 64 days.

Saw this stat floating around but can’t find the source.

71

Shamash 06.22.15 at 4:37 pm

MPAVictoria 69
Your statement has an interesting subtext that nine lives taken through hatred one at a time through non-gun means are somehow less of a concern or are less of a tragedy than nine taken all at once with a gun. If you would care to elaborate on that?

The Lin hammer murders in 2009 (5 dead) or the Cairns stabbings in 2014 (8 dead) would be a counterpoint about crazy people with knives or clubs. It merely changed the victim selection and preparation by the murderer, not the act itself.

Both of the above paragraphs return to the “it’s acceptable if they have to break a sweat” approach some people seem to prefer for dealing with the problem. It strikes me much the same as magazine limits, which are “screw the first ten people, we just want to give the eleventh a head start.” Insert whatever arbitrary non-zero value your state or country has and it still sounds equally callous.

72

Layman 06.22.15 at 4:45 pm

Shamash @ 71, I think you’re presenting a false choice. It need not be only 1 of either ‘do something about racism’ or ‘do something about guns’. A simple review of the relative statistics suggests you can bring the body count way down by limiting access to guns, so that’s a viable approach which doesn’t make it impossible to pursue others.

73

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 4:49 pm

Layman: “Very well, name the 218 votes from any party that you believe could be had for a gun control measure in any Congress Obama has faced. Include the Congress elected in 2008, if you like.”

The 110th Congress had a Democratic majority of between 231-236 votes during the course of the Congress. Out of those, Obama could not say “OK I want a party line vote” and get 218 of them? Ridiculous. Learned helplessness is a sad thing.

74

Witt 06.22.15 at 4:52 pm

Anarcissie, I’m sure that you didn’t mean to imply this, but the implication of your comment: The US was originally populated by the ‘worst’ people of Europe and Africa, especially Great Britain: gentlemen adventurers, slavers, slaves, fugitives, prisoners, religious fanatics, thieves, confidence men, bankrupts, skips, remittance men, prostitutes, and so on..

is that being the ‘worst’ is defined by a person’s actual behavior — unless they are an enslaved person. Intentional or not, it’s a vivid illustration in this thread about racial terrorism that the very beings of black people have often been defined in the US as just as threatening as the actions of others.

75

Layman 06.22.15 at 4:58 pm

‘The 110th Congress had a Democratic majority of between 231-236 votes during the course of the Congress. Out of those, Obama could not say “OK I want a party line vote” and get 218 of them? Ridiculous. Learned helplessness is a sad thing.’

Your insistence that it is so doesn’t make it so, and your reluctance to name the votes makes it seem likely to me that you don’t have any idea whether this is possible or not. The best I can make of this argument is something like this:

1) Gun violence happens
2) Obama leads, using Real Leadership
3) ?
4) Gun control!

I’m asking about (3).

76

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 5:04 pm

Shamash I would rather not engage with your straw man. Thanks anyway.

/i bet the families of those murdered by a racist bastard wish he only had a club….

77

Plume 06.22.15 at 5:11 pm

Gun violence needs to be seen in total, not as the NRA would have us view it. It means roughly 33,000 deaths a year, now. Most of them preventable. It includes suicides and accidents. The NRA doesn’t want us to think of either.

They also don’t want us to know that owning guns radically increases the chance of homicide, accident or suicide in the home, and that when carried on the street, they also increase the likelihood of a violent end for the carrier.

My own preference would be to radically limit firepower, which wouldn’t go against the 2nd amendment in the slightest. Limit guns to internal chambers only, to guns that must be hand-loaded, with a max of six bullets, total. No detachable ammo containers of any kind. No automatic loading mechanisms. Six bullets max, which need your fingers to put them in the chambers.

To me, this would eliminate most mass shootings. It, of course, wouldn’t stop them all. But the idea the NRA depends upon the most as that it is supposedly useless to have any gun restrictions if they don’t solve all gun violence. The idea they push, endlessly, is if a particular law isn’t absolutely successful in stopping all killings, it shouldn’t be considered.

This is deeply pernicious as a concept, but one that our elected officials seem to have bought into as well. In reality, if even one life is saved, it’s worth it. And every American should be able to see that it is. How can anyone legitimately justify this stance, for instance:

“Well, my ability to have the widest possible consumer selection outweighs saving anyone’s life.”

It’s like saying “I refuse to give up my access to a hundred different colors for my Iphone, even though this trade off would save a life.”

78

Plume 06.22.15 at 5:16 pm

I’d also add licensing and registration of all guns, requirement of training before hand — treating it like we do with cars, etc.

National gun-buyback programs.

Removal of all liability shields for gunmakers.

An end to all suppression of governmental gun violence studies. Let the CDC and NIH, for example, get back to these studies and consumer reporting, etc.

Establishment of federal laws that supersede state gun laws, including those that try to make it a felony to even bring up gun safety legislation.

In short, a return to sanity.

79

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 5:18 pm

Who thought that having a majority of the legislature of the same party as the President is what’s needed to get anything done? “Getting a legislative majority”: that’s an Underpants Gnome plan right there. Clearly we haven’t done the job that only we can do unless we provide a super-duper-majority. And no, I am not going to name 218 names from 2008 for you.

To get back to the thread: as CR writes, I’m skeptical that gun control is even what’s primarily needed here. If you look at the agenda of Black Lives Matter, it’s not about gun control. It’s about, among other things, “a decrease in law-enforcement spending at the local, state and federal levels and a reinvestment of that budgeted money into the black communities most devastated by poverty in order to create jobs, housing and schools.”

80

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 5:25 pm

Witt 06.22.15 at 4:52 pm @ 74 —
‘Worst’ refers not to my judgement or yours, but to the judgement of the times. (Hence the scare quotes.) Slaves were held to be inferior beings by respectable people back in the day. For instance, in ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ we read,

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The ‘slaves’ would have to be those Negro slaves who joined the British on the promise that as a reward for their service they would receive freedom. Notice that even their footsteps pollute.

81

James Wimberley 06.22.15 at 5:28 pm

Perhaps the next loony killer will have a Barrett M82 0.5″ sniper rifle, which can be legally acquired in all but three US states. The bullet goes through a house at a range of a mile. Its mass presumably makes the aim much less susceptible to wind.

Against this gun in the hands of a skilled rifleman, there is essentially no defence: you cannot guard a 1,000-yard perimeter. And perhaps the targets will be politicians, or the aircraft and helicopters they travel in. They should be worried. During the retreat to Corunna in 1809, Rifleman Plunkett of the 95th killed the French General Colbert at a range of 600 yards, using an ancestor of the Barrett, the 0.6″ muzzle-loading flintlock Baker rifle. He then shot Colbert’s aide-de-camp when he came to the rescue.

There are no comprehensive US federal regulations on ammunition, so a gunman would not be greatly inhibited on that score. There is a federal ban on the sale or possession of armour-piercing ammunition like the the Norwegian Raufoss round, designed to destroy lightly armoured vehicles, equipments, and aircraft. (Terrible wimps those Norwegians.) Many gun nuts are skilled enough to make their own ammunition, so it would be imprudent to assume that a gunman would be deprived of any armour-piercing or incendiary capability.

A gun can be a weapon of terrorists. Rich terrorists: this one costs $12,000. So that’s all right then.

82

Layman 06.22.15 at 5:34 pm

“Who thought that having a majority of the legislature of the same party as the President is what’s needed to get anything done? “Getting a legislative majority”: that’s an Underpants Gnome plan right there. Clearly we haven’t done the job that only we can do unless we provide a super-duper-majority. And no, I am not going to name 218 names from 2008 for you.”

Ok, but to be clear, you should be talking about 2009 and the 111th Congress. And, in that Congress, 34 Democrats voted against the final version of the Affordable Care Act. Apparently majorities are not what they’re cracked up to be.

83

jonnybutter 06.22.15 at 5:49 pm

massacres..[are].. exciting but loosely defined category of event. While they set off the most commentary, they are statistically a not very significant form of firearms homicide and it seems hard to predict whether they will increase or decline in the immediate future.

That they set off the most ‘commentary’ is kind of the point. That they are statistically meaningless is beside that point. I don’t know if their frequency will increase or not, but it has increased recently even as overall gun related crime rates have gone down. Modern terrorism is usually not about *statistical* import.

84

Shamash 06.22.15 at 6:13 pm

MPAVictoria 76:
You made certain statements on the necessity to stop mass killings and those statements make it clear that dealing with the method is more important than dealing with the root causes. So, it is not a straw man to assign to you a position of “dealing with the method is more important than dealing with the root causes”. As I said and which you chose not to address, dealing with the hate addresses the violence. Dealing with the violence does not address the hate. One can do both at the same time, but you have made your priorities clear and I have made clear my disagreement with them and why. That is all that needs to be said on that aspect of things, end of story.

Your statement about mass killings not being possible with simple melee weapons was simply lazy assumption making, since I found the two results listed with a Google search on “Australia” and “mass killings”.

Layman 72:
I don’t see it as a false choice nor am I opposed to restricting who can own a gun. As I said above, it is possible to address both sides of the problem at the same time. It is, however, important to me to use the same set of values and principles in each direction. I can’t imagine it would go over well if someone said “Let’s address racial hatreds in this country, but in the meantime lets also lock up all the black people to prevent future incidents of this type.” Hyperbole? Depends on what you think about the internment of Japanese-Americans by FDR…

Similarly, one can address gun violence through social progress and legal progress that does not assume everyone who currently owns a gun is some sort of Minority Report-like pre-criminal. If you put on an environment suit and wade through US liberal blogs, that seems to be a popular opinion. It may be in poor taste, but “lynch mob” does accurately describe the virulence and hatred of some of the anti-gun sentiment right now. Which seems counter-productive since something like thirty percent of Democrats are gun owners and I can’t imagine how the other seventy percent think this attitude will help them win the White House in 2016.

You can look at the Czech Republic and Switzerland as more-or-less gun friendly nations with firearm murder rates a fraction of that in the United States, and neither rabid pro- nor anti-gun partisans gumming up the political works with absolutist demands that no sane political party will ever accept.

In other words, they have approached and dealt with the 500-year-old concept of firearms and society in a sane manner regarding the rights, privileges and responsibilities of the individual, society and government. They probably have a better approach than “guns for everyone” America or “own a bullet, go to jail” England.

But, that is a diversion and I’m letting myself get diverted. Charleston was clearly a racial crime and no one is going to reduce that motivation to do harm with a ban or restrictions on inanimate objects. Not in a country where people still sling nooses over tree limbs to send messages to people. And as others have pointed out, right now is the exact wrong time in the United States to try to get a majority in Congress for said restrictions and pushing loudly for it is likely to alienate a good chunk of the Democratic Party in the run-up to a Presidential election. On the other hand, tackling it from the racial end puts the Republican Party on the spot, and their prospective 2016 candidates have not been comporting themselves well with their comments on the shooting.

85

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 6:15 pm

“Your statement about mass killings not being possible with simple melee weapons was simply lazy assumption making, since I found the two results listed with a Google search on “Australia” and “mass killings”.”

Or maybe you are just being stupid?

86

Layman 06.22.15 at 6:23 pm

“Similarly, one can address gun violence through social progress and legal progress that does not assume everyone who currently owns a gun is some sort of Minority Report-like pre-criminal. If you put on an environment suit and wade through US liberal blogs, that seems to be a popular opinion. It may be in poor taste, but “lynch mob” does accurately describe the virulence and hatred of some of the anti-gun sentiment right now.”

This is an amazing sentiment, given who is doing the shooting and who the dying. Good grief!

87

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 6:33 pm

I recognize Shamash’s type. They insert themselves into any conversation about guns and play the devils advocate until their opponents are exhausted. Wait for arguments involving backyard pools and cars next.

88

Plume 06.22.15 at 6:44 pm

Yes, restricting who can get guns and the firepower per gun will, absolutely, reduce deaths, maimings, etc. etc. due to guns.

To say otherwise is like saying it’s meaningless for a family to “child proof” their kitchens for toddlers. The toddlers will kill themselves regardless?

Again, even if we save one single life, those new gun restrictions are worth it. It only takes one. Hell, it only takes stopping one maiming to make it worth it.

It’s always been absurd to think of it as a baseline “right” to have access to every kind of gun imaginable. The 2nd amendment was never about consumer choice. It was always about making sure state militias were fully staffed and capable of putting down insurrections and rebellions. We have national guards for that now. Ironically, the chief target in early America was slave revolts. The 2nd amendment was primarily a way to make sure the state could crush slave rebellions.

“To keep and bear arms” has never meant “to keep and bear any arms I choose, regardless of their lethality, regardless of the ginormous cost to society.”

Common sense tells us that if we reduce availability and firepower of the very object used to kill, we reduce the killing.

89

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 6:45 pm

After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/16/gun_control_after_connecticut_shooting_could_australia_s_laws_provide_a.html

No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-to-prevent-this-says-only-nation-where-this-36131

90

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.15 at 6:52 pm

Anarcissie #63: “However, you may be referring to the number of massacres, currently an exciting but loosely defined category of event. While they set off the most commentary, they are statistically a not very significant form of firearms homicide and it seems hard to predict whether they will increase or decline in the immediate future.”

Since 1982 in the US there has been an increase in frequency of “attacks that took place in public, in which the shooter and the victims generally were unrelated and unknown to each other, and in which the shooter murdered four or more people.”

Moreover, the rate of those mass killings has tripled since 2011. Here’s that news article article, with a totally scary graph that plots the incidents in sequential order on the X-axis and gives the days BETWEEN them on the Y-axis, all the way back to 1982. The trend is unmistakable:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/mass-shootings-increasing-harvard-research

91

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 7:07 pm

Layman: “Ok, but to be clear, you should be talking about 2009 and the 111th Congress. And, in that Congress, 34 Democrats voted against the final version of the Affordable Care Act. Apparently majorities are not what they’re cracked up to be.”

All right, I looked up the 11th Congress. The Democratic majority varied from 253-258. Even chopping ~30 Democrats off of that you still get 218. And please stop with the passive phrasing like “majorities are not what they’re cracked up to be.” One of the functions of party leaders is to make sure that party members vote along with the party on important votes. If they can’t do this, it isn’t “majorities are not what they’re cracked up to be”, it’s “we’re got a weak political leader”. Or more to the point, we’ve got a political leader who really doesn’t care about this agenda: who is currently devoting what’s left of his political power to getting a trade deal passed.

If “let’s get a 250+ majority in the House and the Presidency and the Senate” is classed as Underpants Gnome planning … then why should anyone participate in this system? It’s clearly fixed, and the outcomes that we want are unattainable within it. *Or* you could say what’s obvious: that we have a weak President who doesn’t care about anything resembling a left agenda in any case. But people don’t want to say that because …. ?

92

Stephen 06.22.15 at 7:16 pm

I put this forward with great diffidence, not being a US citizen myself.

But I would ask: is it even approximately accurate to say that there are three attitudes in the US:

1) from people from the ex-Confederacy, in fact or in spirit. We hate and despise Blacks, on account of we have injured them in the past, and they would only have deserved to be injured if they were hateful and despicable. Also, we fear them, on account of, given what we have done to them, how can they not hate us?

2) from people arriving in the US after, sometimes long after the Civil War: we despise Blacks, on account of the places we come from (not at all exclusively European) are places where Blacks are thought of as primitive savages. Also, our encounters with some actual urban Black Americans have been far from encouraging.

3) Black Americans have been abominably treated, and something (but what?) has to be done about this. People holding to belief (1) are beyond civilised reasoning.

Do I have to point out that my own sympathies, in as far as I can consider them to be firmly based, are with option (3)?

93

Plume 06.22.15 at 7:18 pm

Brett,

Who’s after any amendment in this case?

See, that’s yet another part of the Big Lie conservatives cling to and propagate.

It is fully within the bounds of the 2nd amendment as it is written to severely restrict the type of weapon and its usage. It wasn’t until Heller that the Supreme Court even viewed it as an individual, versus a collective right, and even in Heller, Scalia, a rabid gun nut, said restrictions on lethality were perfectly reasonable under the law.

Gun nuts have invented and radically inflated the extent of this “right,” far beyond the written page, common sense or any connection with reality. It doesn’t pre-exist in nature and has always been subject to governmental boundaries and interventions. And, as written, it doesn’t say a thing about any protections regarding actually firing the damned things, and bullets aren’t mentioned at all.

All it says is that Americans have the right to “keep and bear.” Which, literally means you have the right to own and carry them in your person. There are no restrictions, implied or stated, on limiting the type of weapon, their numbers, their lethality or their usage. None.

94

Sebastian H 06.22.15 at 7:24 pm

“Again, even if we save one single life, those new gun restrictions are worth it.”. Ridiculous. Corey deals with this in the OP. How much more miserable will black lives be made on a daily basis over your new War on Guns? This is essentially the pants wetting security argument from the left. (See TSA).

95

Sebastian H 06.22.15 at 7:27 pm

Plume your next argument is terrible. Apply that reasoning to other amendments and we’d lose the first amendment entirely “it doesn’t say anything about typing or ink or voice recordings” and how about those abortion protections. Could you quote that section for me so we can analyze it?

96

Plume 06.22.15 at 7:27 pm

Sebatian H,

How would it make them “miserable”? Please elaborate. Because they’d have to license and register their guns, and take a training class before hand, as they do with cars?

Because they wouldn’t be able to purchase automatic or semi-automatic weapons anymore, and would have their consumer choice reduced a bit?

How would any of that make blacks or anyone else “miserable”?

97

Plume 06.22.15 at 7:36 pm

Sebastian H @95,

Please come up with a more original objection. It’s nonsense to compare this with the First Amendment. That is an amendment regarding, among other things, free expression. It’s not a protection when it comes to possessing an external, inanimate object. The thing being protected is you, your voice, etc. etc. Not the ownership of a deadly piece of metal. Which is why it’s easily the most absurd of all the amendments, completely unnecessary and radically out of place when compared with the rest of the BOR.

Advancements in communication technologies aren’t in the same universe as advancements in the lethality of deadly pieces of metal. Unless you want to say that the purpose of the 2nd is to ensure a permanent accord with ever increasing ability to kill greater and greater numbers of people, I would think this would be obvious, even to a conservative.

98

Plume 06.22.15 at 7:41 pm

Brett,

Please explain those 33,000 gun deaths a year, then, and the hundreds of thousands seriously injured by guns yearly. Is this the “copycat effect” too?

The obvious common denominator in gun violence is guns.

99

LWA 06.22.15 at 8:03 pm

I’ll take the bait, and assert sincerely that I don’t accept the moral “right” to own a gun in a modern civilized society.

Not that they shouldn’t exist period, but should IMO be highly regulated privilege and restricted to those who demonstrate both a reasonable need and maturity and level of responsibility to handle one.

Of course this isn’t going to happen soon, but I think there are massive political benefits to simply having the discussion, with forcing the gun nuts to defend their position.

100

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 8:06 pm

Just going to point out the irony of Brett, a man who has long argued the moral imperative of respecting property rights, posting on a PRIVATE blog after he was asked not to. Apparently property really is theft.

101

LWA 06.22.15 at 8:10 pm

A lot of the comments about Obama are just so much Green Lanternism.

The mood of fear and paranoia about crime in America is the end product of literally decades of propaganda, starting with very real rise in crime in the late 60’s and 70’s, to the cynical purveyors of fear in the media (if it bleeds it leads) to those profiting handsomely from it.

This is why I referenced the “liturgy of security” above- it was us who terrified ourselves into this state- the urban legends that circulate endlessly about the horrors lurking in every playground, the savage violence of the urban wasteland, the way TheseKidsToday are waist deep in filth and depravity.

I never let these go unchallenged- I work in downtown Los Angeles and walk the streets daily at lunchtime, and have never once felt fear. I constantly challenge people I know about open carry- who needs a gun, and why?

Its the national conversation, the surrounding meme that needs to be changed, from one rooted in the 1970’s era Scorsese vision of the urban landscape to something more resembling reality.

102

Plume 06.22.15 at 8:10 pm

Brett,

Deaths due to guns overall aren’t going down. Homicides may be. But accidents and suicides aren’t, and serious maimings are on the increase.

We know for a fact that guns in the home increase the likelihood of gun violence, especially against women, and that a person who carries a gun is more likely to die than one who doesn’t.

The two things are not mutually exclusive. As in, while gun homicides may be going down, ownership of guns and carrying those guns increases the likelihood of death or maiming.

A relevant analogy might be: Overall, fewer people are dying from X drug. But the percentage who die when they take X drug hasn’t changed. It’s still high.

103

Layman 06.22.15 at 8:13 pm

‘And please stop with the passive phrasing like “majorities are not what they’re cracked up to be.”’

It’s entirely to my point. You think a Democratic majority should be sufficient for any President to get whatever legislation he or she wants; while I think that’s unlikely. On my side, I can point to dissenting votes from Democrats on what are certainly less controversial measures. On your side, you can point to your magnificently gruff exterior, but not to the Democrats who would cast a vote for stricter gun laws. Pfui.

104

MPAVictoria 06.22.15 at 8:21 pm

“On your side, you can point to your magnificently gruff exterior, but not to the Democrats who would cast a vote for stricter gun laws. “

I think that Layman is correct. US political parties, and the democrats especially, are notoriously weak. Look at how long Joe Lieberman thumbed his nose at the party leadership. Obama can speak, he can cajole but he cannot dictate.

/I will say that Rich does have a magnificently gruff exterior. It is really very intimidating.

105

Plume 06.22.15 at 8:59 pm

LWA,

Good points. It also makes it harder for gun nuts to make their case. On the one hand, they’re telling us gun homicides are going down. On the other, they’re telling us they need unlimited access to unlimited numbers of guns with no restrictions on lethality.

If there is less to fear from guns, why do they feel the need to buy more and more of them, and more and more powerful guns?

In America, the overall percentage of gun ownership is declining. But existing ownership buys more weaponry than ever before. It would seem their own propaganda is at odds with itself. Their own call for the rest of us to relax seems to be matched with greater levels of their own paranoia.

106

Rich Puchalsky 06.22.15 at 9:10 pm

This is increasingly off topic, but the point is that successful political leaders didn’t start with a list of people who you could point at who would vote a particular way. They created that list. The ordinary processes of legislative whipping and so on are not Green Lanternism, although many people have adopted that as a ready-made excuse. The trope of Green Lanternism is a joke — it says that Bush believed that all you needed was will to make something happen, and that why he recklessly acted (and made things happen), while for the Democrats it’s a cautionary tale that means that they can never make anything happen and that no one should ever expect them to.

But all right, let’s take your view as given, for the sake of argument. A legislative majority is useless: no one can expect anything to happen with control of the Presidency, Senate, and House. In that case I can only suggest that you join me in anarchism. No one is ever going to get the legislative supermajority that is apparently needed, not with the U.S. electoral rules as they exist — and of course those rules themselves can’t be changed without the supermajority that you can’t get. Rather than doom yourself to a life of futility, stop supporting the system entirely. It may still be futile, but it’s futile in an entirely different way!

107

Plume 06.22.15 at 9:30 pm

Republicans tend to create their own reality. They make their own Overton Window, and move it in their direction despite the faint complaints from liberals.

Democrats, OTOH, sit in fear of their own shadows, and claim that they don’t have the votes before they’ve even tried to win those votes.

This includes their liberal supporters outside DC. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard them say that they couldn’t do Single Payer because they didn’t have the votes. But they didn’t get the votes because they didn’t even bother trying to win them from the undecided or the fearful. And, beyond that, as long as they’re stuck in the mode of needing a sure thing before they ever act, they’ll never act, because there aren’t sure things in politics. Well, except that if you don’t act, you guarantee the status quo or worse.

Movement conservatives learned long ago to take the long view. Suffer loss after loss while still passionately pushing for what they want, wrong-headed as it always is. They kept pushing and eventually they started winning. Eventually, the Dems starting seeing the Republican line as the starting point. But none of that happens if the Republicans had taken the Democrats’ view of things. We’re still in another entirely different “Washington Consensus” if the Republicans had acted like present-day Democrats back in the 1960s and 1970s.

In short, even if there was no chance to get gun control, or single payer, etc. etc. the Dems needed to push for it vigorously, ferociously, passionately and relentlessly, if for no other reason than to set the table for an eventual win.

Doing nothing guarantees endless losses.

108

Layman 06.22.15 at 9:54 pm

“But all right, let’s take your view as given, for the sake of argument. A legislative majority is useless: no one can expect anything to happen with control of the Presidency, Senate, and House. “

Thanks, but I’ll characterize my own view, which is that a legislative majority is useful for many, but not all, things; and, for the moment, it is not useful for meaningful gun legislation, not even if God himself were the President.

109

Plume 06.22.15 at 10:07 pm

Layman,

As far as actually passing a bill, tragically you are right. But as far as making your case, in a very loud, passionate and relentless way, majority or no majority, the Dems should do so.

That’s the only way to get progressive legislation passed at some point down the line.

The Civil Rights Act, for example, didn’t come ready made. They didn’t have the votes for that, either. They had to bust their butts to get them, and it took decades. As long as the Dems decide not to fight at all, they don’t even create the ground for the long path toward that legislation. There isn’t even a starting point for the long march, etc. etc. It never starts.

110

LWA 06.22.15 at 10:24 pm

@Plume-
Being neither a political scientist or philosopher I am more interested in the social memes, the stories that we tell ourselves about what our reality is.

For instance, I notice a favorite meme among conservatives is that TheseKidsToday are coddled pansies, who aren’t allowed to play outside without bubble wrapped pads.
Notice the way they met liberals in the cases of Free Range Kids for example. They assure us that conservatives are fearless and don’t need shoulder pads or seatbelts by God.

But then, sometimes in the same rant, they will veer into how they must, absolutely must, carry a gun with them- to work, to bars, to restaurants and even to church, because, well, there are criminals everywhere, the urban landscape is a savage jungle and only my trusty Red Ryder 2oo shot carbine action rifle stands between my wimminfolk and certain death.

Despite all their brave talk about liberty, the central theme in almost all conservative ideas is fear, and its offspring rage.

That’s why I don’t even cede the base assumptions. Arguing about gun control while sharing the assumption that we live in a Walking Dead sort of world is starting with an absurd and irrational premise.

111

Val 06.22.15 at 10:24 pm

Someone suggested up thread (perhaps unintentionally) that Australia may have had similar rates of gun related violence to the USA before our gun control legislation in the 1990s. I don’t think that’s correct. Quality statistics are hard to come by but from what I’ve seen it looks as though the USA has for a long time (at least 50 years and probably longer) had higher rates of gun violence than most comparable countries.

The effect of our (Australian) legislation has been hard to measure but certainly there seems to have been a real decline in public massacres of the sort we are discussing here (as the Slate article linked above discusses). It’s hard to prove causation but there are some factors that seem to support it, particularly that perpetrators of mass killings seem to be often young disaffected men, often loners and/or with psychological problems or mental illness. It seems likely that gun control would restrict their access to guns (as compared to say criminal gangs and networks).

From an observer’s point of view I think some things to think about in the USA are:
Cultural belief in violence, especially guns, as the solution to problems
Ready access to guns
Very high rates of inequality
Belief in Americans as some sort of special people, god’s elect
Racism, history of slavery, history of white supremacy movement

I also think that patriarchy plays a large part in all this, but that’s a more general observation, rather than US specific, perhaps. I will repeat it though, it needs to be said.

Several of those issues are linked to your founding documents so I guess they require real national soul searching.

Rich’s attempts to turn this into an ‘how bad is President Obama’ discussion are unbelievable. I think even he is beginning to recognise that.

112

Layman 06.22.15 at 10:35 pm

“But as far as making your case, in a very loud, passionate and relentless way, majority or no majority, the Dems should do so.”

Yes. If only there were some prominent Democrat who was speaking out passionately against the culture of guns, calling for more sensible gun laws, and proposing new gun control legislation. Preferably one from Krypton.

113

Plume 06.22.15 at 10:41 pm

Layman,

There’s strength in numbers. Not asking for a savior. Not asking for a “leader.” I’m saying every Dem who actually thinks we should have gun safety legislation needs to stand up, stop being a coward, and speak out. Together. At the same time. From the rooftops without stopping. Shame the people who block this legislation. Shame them. All they have to do is present reality. Unlike the people opposed to this, they don’t have to make shit up.

The truth is on their side, as is a majority of this country. They just need backbone.

114

Anarcissie 06.22.15 at 11:19 pm

Val 06.22.15 at 10:24 pm @ 115:
‘From an observer’s point of view I think some things to think about in the USA are:
Cultural belief in violence, especially guns, as the solution to problems
Ready access to guns
Very high rates of inequality
Belief in Americans as some sort of special people, god’s elect
Racism, history of slavery, history of white supremacy movement’

Once again, the priesthood of all believers. If you can have a gun, or the cops can have a gun, I can have a gun too.

115

Sebastian H 06.23.15 at 12:20 am

“Advancements in communication technologies aren’t in the same universe as advancements in the lethality of deadly pieces of metal. “

You might want to talk to the internet overlords of China about that. But by all means, if you want Democrats to have a serious chance of losing the White House, push to try to seriously curtail gun ownership.

116

Plume 06.23.15 at 12:58 am

Sebastian H @119,

I think you vastly overestimate the political consequences of proposing gun safety legislation. This was made apparent in the last couple of cycles when NRA-backed candidates fared poorly in contested races, and Bloomberg-backed, pro-gun control candidates won.

A great deal of the overall effectiveness of the Gun Nut Lobby is its mythic reputation to actually decide races. And it’s only mythic. In case after case, it’s never the deciding factor in reality. People who vote Republican normally will vote Republican. They’re not going to change their minds due to gun safety issues. Same with Dems. And pretty much 100% of gun fetishists already vote Republican, so they can’t threaten to change their vote from Democratic to Republican. Where it helps the Dems is in voter turnout. Dems tend to stay home if a candidate doesn’t excite them much. This happens pretty much every off-year election, and it’s almost always due to the lack of forcefully progressive candidates taking actual stands.

The way to drive those sleeping, disaffected voters to the polls? Take strong stances on things like gun safety legislation, equal rights, human rights, economic populism, etc. etc. In effect, bold, aggressive left-populism will get them to wake up and vote. Fearing the NRA, fearing strong stances on left-populist grounds will make them stay home.

Some Dem officials are catching on to this, but not nearly fast enough.

117

js. 06.23.15 at 1:02 am

Thanks for the reminder of how hopelessly annoying talking about Obama on the internet is. (For what it’s worth, not much I know, I think Rich Puchalsky’s right, in the main. I don’t quite get the resistance from otherwise reasonable commenters.)

118

Witt 06.23.15 at 1:55 am

Thanks for the reply, Anarcissie.

119

Rich Puchalsky 06.23.15 at 2:43 am

js: “I don’t quite get the resistance from otherwise reasonable commenters.”

I do. Let’s review what we apparently all agree on:

1. There will in fact be no effective political response to this massacre.
2. Since 2011, according to the link provided by Lee Arnold above, the U.S. has averaged a massacre every 64 days. So there will probably be another one in a couple of months.
3. Everyone pretty much knows the major factors underlying why these massacres occur. No one is particularly doing anything about those factors.
4. There is every reason to believe that our system is locked against doing anything, so there will be no response to the next massacre, and the one after that, etc.

Eventually something in the system will change. Who knows what? Everyone “knows” that political leadership is impossible, so we’re left with external factors. Cultural changes? Environmental changes? As with all of neoliberalism, it can’t possibly be anything under human control: if it’s not the market, then it’s just something with have to live with (or die with) until it changes by itself.

120

Val 06.23.15 at 2:56 am

Rich @123 js. @ 121
So if you admit there are systemic factors Rich, I don’t see what personalising it all around Obama achieves. Not to say there shouldn’t be pressure on him, I definitely think there should and would expect to see US CT commenters involved in that. But you seemed very close to an ‘it’s all hopeless and it’s all Obama’s fault’ position which seems absolutely counter-productive, and wrong in all sorts of ways.

121

Val 06.23.15 at 2:58 am

@ 123
And if you’re trying to suggest that I’m criticising your position because I’m a neo-liberal, I’d suggest you’ve lost the plot.

122

phenomenal cat 06.23.15 at 5:44 am

“I put this forward with great diffidence, not being a US citizen myself.

But I would ask: is it even approximately accurate to say that there are three attitudes in the US:

1) from people from the ex-Confederacy, in fact or in spirit. We hate and despise Blacks, on account of we have injured them in the past, and they would only have deserved to be injured if they were hateful and despicable. Also, we fear them, on account of, given what we have done to them, how can they not hate us?

2) from people arriving in the US after, sometimes long after the Civil War: we despise Blacks, on account of the places we come from (not at all exclusively European) are places where Blacks are thought of as primitive savages. Also, our encounters with some actual urban Black Americans have been far from encouraging.

3) Black Americans have been abominably treated, and something (but what?) has to be done about this. People holding to belief (1) are beyond civilised reasoning.” Stephen@ 93

Since no one else has responded I’ll give it a shot. Your three theses hold very little empirical weight, imho. Maybe the first sentence of # 3 has some general validity, but as to what % of non-black people in the States evince this attitude…who knows?

The people of the ex-Confederacy, as you delicately phrased it, would mostly find # 1 flat-footed and “ignorant.” This doesn’t, of course, invalidate #1, but it is still not psychologically compelling (keep in mind at all times that racism is not and has never been confined to below the Mason-Dixon line). But Southern racism and racists tend to categorically and instinctively reject the historico-structural rationale that is implicit in #1.

The retort might be something like, “I never had any slaves, never had a damn thing to do with it. Slavery ended 150 years ago, but you got these liberals and the NAACP talking as if it was just yesterday. Why should I pay for something that happened well before I was born? Why should black people get special treatment and government hand-outs? If they want a better life they should by-god go out and work for it. I know I do. I shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for people who sit on their asses all day and do nothing but have babies they can’t support. Hell, I don’t hate black people. Quite the contrary, I get on well with the ones I know. And by the way, Mr. Know-it-All, if I do “despise” some black people it ain’t because “we” injured them in the past and neither “we” nor “they” can get over (even if some of them and these liberal do-gooders won’t ever let anyone get over it and move on); it’s because I live with them now, in the present, in my community, and I know how they are. Sure, there are some good ones, but where do you think the majority of the crime happens? Did you see what they did in Ferguson or Baltim0re? Or how about L.A. in 1991? I mean, who loots and destroys their own community out of a sense of “injustice”? Injustice? Please. Any ivory-tower egghead can tell you that blacks are mostly victimized by other blacks, not whites. And certainly not by me. Anyway, who are you? Where did you say you were from? Where do you get off judging me, calling me racist from 3000 miles away…”

The “attitude” of lite to moderate contemporary racism ignores and is ignorant of structured and enduring historical dynamics such as the continuing effects of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, red-lining, de-industrialization, the drug war, predatory policing and so on. None of these things have to do with one another, so the thinking goes, if it is thought at all. It’s just “excuses” for “individuals” who don’t want to work or try to better themselves. Of course, the rationales involved here are very convenient, but the rub is, in my experience anyway, confronting lite to moderate racists with the evolving, historical structures and practices of American racism is psychologically a non-starter most of the time. I’m not claiming it shouldn’t be done, but it mostly generates denial, resentment, and a lot of “what about…”

Not to be too William Faulkner about this, but for many white southerners, even today, the history of the south and slavery is a grotesque and incomprehensible burden. A gigantic familial-cultural skeleton in the closet; everybody knows the polite thing to do is not to inquire about people’s skeletons, especially the truly terrible ones.

But in short, I think the psychological basis of much present-day American racism is a defensive, “hey, it ain’t me. I didn’t do anything to them. They do it to themselves.” And the problem is they are right insofar as the vast majority of lite to moderate racists haven’t actively “done” anything to black Americans. Then who “does” it to black Americans? Well, that’s thing with institutional racism; everybody and nobody does it. Plausible denial for everyone, but continuing guilt, shame, and resentment too.

Now contrast that with the general sentiments regarding American Indians (outside of active racism in some communities that border reservations) which evokes a kind of wistful, romantic regret on the order of “gee, what happened to them really was a bum deal; kind of too bad when you stop and think about it.” If you use the term “colonialism” in that context some people might get a little suspicious, politically speaking.

But the main difference? If black Americans had been reduced to a percentage point or two of the total population through disease, famine, and aggression I’m pretty sure a lot of Americans would be wistful and a little sad about that too (“They did leave us some pretty cool music after all.”) But, you know, black Americans didn’t have the decency to disappear in the same relative numbers that American Indians did…

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Omega Centauri 06.23.15 at 5:47 am

Part of the reason for Democratic reluctance to be seen as a leader, is fear of true political retaliation. There is always a special effort by certain national conservative organizations to select and target a small number of highly visible enemies. So funding spigots targeting a few select local races will be opened up, and the attack adds will flow. The fear of being put onto this list is what gives D politicians pause. Obviously they can’t target all Democrats in this way, just a select handful, so the response needs to be coordinated so that the odds of any individual politician being on the special enemies list is small. As long as there is no coordination, then narrow minded local political considerations will dominate.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.15 at 11:27 am

Omega Centauri #127 “…a small number…they can’t target all…”

What brings you to this observation?

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Layman 06.23.15 at 1:02 pm

“Eventually something in the system will change. Who knows what?”

We’ll get changes in gun laws and their legal viability when public opinion on the matter demands it. Talking about it is a way to shift opinion, though as methods go it is painfully slow. It does, however, have the virtue of working. There’s a reason the courts opened the door to gay marriage – the Constitution hasn’t changed, but attitudes have, and sufficiently so as to shame justices to abandon fear or prejudice. It seems to me that took a generation or more of effort. Every single substantial change has happened more or less the same way.

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Layman 06.23.15 at 1:06 pm

j.s. @ 120 “Thanks for the reminder of how hopelessly annoying talking about Obama on the internet is. (For what it’s worth, not much I know, I think Rich Puchalsky’s right, in the main. I don’t quite get the resistance from otherwise reasonable commenters.)”

In fact there are many topics on which I’d say Rich Puchalsky’s critique of Obama is right. I just don’t think gun control is one of them. And sign me up for the million man pardon. The President should do that today.

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Layman 06.23.15 at 1:16 pm

“Why should black people get special treatment and government hand-outs? If they want a better life they should by-god go out and work for it.”

There is certainly a prevailing myth about the ‘extra special welfare’ which is only given to black people. As Krugman noted in his column yesterday, citing Alesina & Co, the desire to deny any social safety benefits to minorities seems to be the driver behind the very poor US social safety net. Conservatives see this racism, which aligns with their own goals for a diminished state, and so they make common cause, as they have for some 4 decades or more now. Thus Reagan’s overtly racist language about ‘young bucks’ and ‘welfare queens’ buying t-bones with food stamps.

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Anarcissie 06.23.15 at 1:18 pm

Rich Puchalsky 06.23.15 at 2:43 am @ 123 —
‘… 3. Everyone pretty much knows the major factors underlying why these massacres occur. No one is particularly doing anything about those factors. …’

Actually, different explanations are given for different massacres, none of which are very satisfactory. In some of the school massacres, it was bullying, but there is plenty of bullying, but the overwhelming majority of students don’t shoot up their schools. In the present case it is racism, but there are a lot of racists and the o.m. of racists do not commit massacres, not even the police. Availability of guns is of course mentioned, but the o.m. of those who possess guns do not commit massacres. There are also non-gun massacres; not long ago here in New York someone deliberately drove an SUV into a crowd of people, for instance. But the o.m. of motorists do not deliberately commit massacres. Religions are sometimes mentioned as motivating factors, but we are quite often reminded, very correctly, that the o.m. of religious people don’t do massacres. So I think it’s questionable whether we know why massacres occur.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.23.15 at 1:40 pm

“So I think it’s questionable whether we know why massacres occur.”

I think that this article is pretty convincing: Clues to Mass Rampage Killers: Deep Backstage, Hidden Arsenal, Clandestine Excitement.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 2:06 pm

Layman @129

We’ll get changes in gun laws and their legal viability when public opinion on the matter demands it.

Actually, the public has demanded changes to those laws, consistently, for decades. Recently, for instance, a change that roughly 90% of the country supports — background checks on all gun purchases — failed to get passed. Well over 51% of the nation has long been for tighter controls on things like assault weapons, yet our craven, cowardly representatives won’t bring those bills to the floor. And it’s safe to say that the vast, vast majority of the nation would be in favor of lifting the ban on government studies of gun violence — which most Americans don’t even know exist.

This is similar to progressive taxation. Huge majorities say they want higher taxes for the rich, for corporations, on large estates. Our congress critters ignore those majorities and often go in the opposite direction, cutting taxes for the rich when there is only tiny, fractional, insignificant minority support for these. To me, it just doesn’t make sense to say we need to wait for overwhelming majorities, especially when they’re actually already there in some cases, when Congress and many a president pass legislation that only a few percentage points of the country actually support.

We have things truly upside down in America.

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Layman 06.23.15 at 2:18 pm

Actually, there is not now, and has not been since ~2008, a consistent majority for tougher gun laws.

There was such a majority in the past and, in fact, we got tougher gun laws as a result. The Brady bill comes to mind, as does the 90s era assault weapons ban.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx

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Anarcissie 06.23.15 at 2:24 pm

Rich Puchalsky 06.23.15 at 1:40 pm @ 133 —
That’s an interesting article, but the phenomena described look like correlatives, not causes, to me. A ‘deep backstage’ does not cause someone to become a mass killer; he (they’re always male, it seems) creates a deep backstage as part of the process of becoming a mass killer. Anyway, I suspect the o.m. of those with deep backstages do not become mass killers, but without as-yet unavailable (to me, anyway) totalitarian surveillance, we are not going to know who has a deep backstage or a hidden arsenal and so do not have the evidence needed to assign a cause.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 2:47 pm

Layman @135,

From your link, with its very general questions:

Skimming the part on gun sales, it looks like the “more strict” tops “less strict” by a wide margin in every instance, and usually tops the “keep the same” columns.

Further down, the “dissatisfied, more strict” column exceeds the “dissatisfied, less strict” column, consistently.

When asked about the reasons for massacres, “easy access to guns” is considered to be a “great deal” of the problem by a plurality. The only thing that tops it is the “mental health” category.

Random background checks gets 83% and 91% approval.

Reinstating the ban on assault weapons gets 56% and 60%

Limiting the number of rounds to 10 gets a majority. Another related question, worded as an actual ban, gets 62%.

Etc. etc.

The majorities are there, Layman. And given that they fluctuate, and people are generally open to persuasion with new facts on the table, those majorities can be strengthened, and pluralities turned into majorities.

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Layman 06.23.15 at 3:02 pm

‘Further down, the “dissatisfied, more strict” column exceeds the “dissatisfied, less strict” column, consistently.’

You’re doing it wrong. If you want more strict laws, you need public opinion in favor of more strict laws to exceed the numbers for both ‘less strict’ and ‘satisfied’.

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bianca steele 06.23.15 at 3:04 pm

Plume,

Those are interesting numbers, because it’s the background checks that will affect most people, in reality, when they or someone they know can’t get a hunting license or buy a gun as a Christmas present because of the background check and other administrative rules, and maybe a past conviction for a minor offense. Either people are seeing “background check” and thinking vaguely “keep bad guys from getting guns,” thinking no one would ever assume they’re the bad guy, or some other reason is making lots of people reject the assault weapon ban. Or hunters and recreational shooters are a smaller group than I thought.

I don’t hunt myself but I’m not quite prepared to ban it, and we do rely on it for wildlife control at present.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 3:24 pm

Bianca @139,

I can see that, and I don’t want to stop hunters, either. Or people doing target practice. My own bias is against high capacity weapons, which simply aren’t necessary for hunting or target shooting, or protecting oneself. Banning all of them wouldn’t inconvenience the hunter or the target shooter, unless their thing is to be able to take down armies of deer in seconds, or they really have a severe animus for red and white targets and want to make sure they’re ripped to shreds.

I also don’t see why anyone would object to licensing and registering their guns, after a training course, as we do with cars. This could even be a way to facilitate future purchases. Show the license. Checks are that much easier to make. Guns meet new owner, quickly.

IMO, all too many Americans misunderstand the 2nd amendment, and constantly bring it up when it’s not at all relevant. They’ve confused absolute and endless freedom of consumer choice with an amendment that has nothing whatsoever to do with that. They’ve conflated the American dream of all you can eat restaurants with all you can get firepower. The amendment just never had anything to do with removing all conditions and restrictions on purchase. It was always about state militias and making sure they had the resources to defend the state.

The American right especially gets that part upside down. They try to tell us the amendment was to make sure private citizens could always go toe to toe with the government. They’re forgetting Shays and the Whiskey Rebellion, and our first “mandates” regarding the forced purchasing of weaponry for service in those state militias.

Right or wrong, it’s never been about enabling rebellion. It was all about the state crushing them. To think that any new government would purposely try to set up the conditions for its violent end is ludicrous.

Anyway . . . I think there are all kinds of common sense changes we can make that easily fit within the parameters of the 2nd amendment, and would save a lot of lives and reduce injuries significantly.

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bianca steele 06.23.15 at 3:32 pm

The wish to resist a tyrannical government, supposed to be on the horizon imminently, is certainly a thing, but I think it’s a minority. I had in mind Supreme Court decisions, to be honest, as being more likely.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 3:33 pm

Quick addition:

Another thing people forget. Many criminals get their guns via B & E jobs. The percentages seem to vary with the sourcing, but it’s at least in the 33% range. This tells us that the insistence on the right to purchase any and every weapon conceivable is not without consequences. All of the screaming about them being “law abiding citizens” doesn’t shield them from helping those criminals along with their own gun collections. The more guns people buy, the more guns become available for criminals.

And that’s not to mention how dramatically the chances go up for domestic violence when they are in the home. In almost every case, the person who kills his spouse was formerly one of those “law abiding citizens.” They snapped. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do as much as we can to reduce the firepower available, so when someone does snap, the result isn’t always death. Suicides and accidents are in the same category. Why do so many Americans push back against obvious cause and effect, and radically increased probability of violence due to guns?

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Plume 06.23.15 at 3:35 pm

bianca,

Fair enough. I agree your point is more relevant.

But the Supremes have been dominated by far right ideologues for some time now. I don’t think it’s impossible that a different court would arrive at nearly diametrically opposite rulings. And I hope that is the case. Soon.

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Bruce Wilder 06.23.15 at 3:45 pm

Anarcissie @ 136: . . . the phenomena described look like correlatives, not causes

Actually, the phenomena look like a power law applies, and you are making the mistake of presuming that a different set of explanators is needed for the tail. It would be like saying we understand why towns form, but not why a New York City or London, or we understand basically how some people get rich, but not why a Bill Gates or Sam Walton succeeds.

In fact, the U.S. has both a much higher overall rate of gun violence and a much higher rate of gun massacres. Are those different phenomena or aspects of the same phenomena?

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Sebastian H 06.23.15 at 4:11 pm

Plume, your methodology is interesting. I’m not sure I fully understand it though. Maybe you could explain it to me by applying it to abortion. You seem to use a very aggressive textual analysis to prove that the Constitution protects the right to bear ‘arms’ but not to have bullets. Does a similar concept apply to the textual basis for abortion rights in the US such that there might be a right to ‘abortion’ (I’m not sure which Amendment that is in, so I may need help finding it) but no right to have outside doctors perform them? Or no right to have surgical instruments used?

Your polling analysis on gun control is also interesting. According to the Gallup summary of the last 20 years of abortion polling here we learn that well over 60% of people think that abortion should generally be illegal in the second three months of pregnancy. And that has been steady for 20 years. We learn that well over 80% of people think that abortion should generally be illegal in the last three months of pregnancy over the same time period.

About 70% of people approve of a law requiring a 24 waiting period for abortions–fewer than people who believe we should have a 24 hour waiting period for guns.

87% of people approve of a law requiring doctors to inform patients about possible risks of abortion before performing the procedure.

86%+ approve of a law requiring doctors to inform patients about alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure.

60%+ believe that abortions should be illegal if the reason for it is that the woman or family cannot afford to raise the child.

Nearly all of these are well above the opinions you cite on gun control. Does your methodological analysis apply to abortion as a Constitutional right?

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Bruce Wilder 06.23.15 at 4:15 pm

Plume @ 142: Why do so many Americans push back against obvious cause and effect, and radically increased probability of violence due to guns?

I thought you were doing an excellent job of establishing that solid majorities do not push back against obvious cause and effect, and do favor reasonable policy steps.

What needs an explanation is: why do crazy, irrational resentments nevertheless assume such a dominant place in the discourse, and paralyze actual policy formation?

It seems to me that the explanation is that the majority — the great commons — has little or no social or political organization to sustain a commitment to reason, while narrow and sociopathic business interests are able to focus resources and bring professional propagandists and operatives into play. The powerful National Rifle Association, which was once a genuine mass-membership organization, dominated by hunters with an interest in gun safety, is now merely a lobbying front for gun manufacturers, whose business model is scaring a small minority of gun “enthusiasts” into buying crap guns at a fantastic rate. People, who already own a couple of dozen guns for no purpose other than to own a lot of guns, are fed crazy-making propaganda that prompts crazy panics over Kenya-born Obama instituting martial law and, not incidentally, sustain a high rate of purchases of new guns. The guns they buy are semi-automatic weapons, where the “semi” has become nearly meaningless, and characteristics like large magazines are turned by the marketing into desirable features of the product, in ways that feed into the cultural sociopathy around guns.

One the one side, we do not have the minimal social affiliation and organization to sustain an interest in what would be good for the larger society. People do not belong to mass-movement organizations that might reliably punish or reward politicians for policy views and accomplishments. And, on the other, we have a narrow business interest actively nurturing a sociopathic gun culture as a marketing strategy and operating a very well-organized business lobby financing and threatening politicians, every damn day.

Our actual politics is much as Omega Centauri @ 127 described, a balance between diffuse and superficial and ephemeral mass attention on the one hand, and a sharp, focused relentless sometimes ruthless campaign familiar to “insiders” but obscured from popular understanding.

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Bruce Wilder 06.23.15 at 4:24 pm

Sebastian H @ 145

One difference with abortion is that there actually are mass-membership organizations contesting the issue, as well as creating and disseminating propaganda campaigns, alongside legislative and judicial strategies. The anti-abortion side is smaller, but arguably more organized. There’s no business lobby that I am aware of, and anti-abortion groups actively and ruthlessly campaign to prevent one from forming.

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Anarcissie 06.23.15 at 4:25 pm

Bruce Wilder 06.23.15 at 3:45 pm @ 144 —
Yes, I think different explanations might be needed. Also, the category of mass murderers includes people who use, or try to use, prepared bombs, airplanes, automobiles, and poison gas. And swords — some time ago someone killed four people on the Staten Island ferry with a sword. Excepting the police and other professional gunmen, I believe most gun killings and other crimes are ad-hoc and involve only a few victims well known to the perpetrator.

The article mentioned that one of the things that seemed to stop some of the mass killers was eye contact. I wonder, then, if amateur mass killings do not more relate to and resemble the normal, impersonal work of government, especially the work of our war-criminal politicians and the people who vote for them, than the average gun homicide. Note that Mr. Roof was reported to have expressed a desire for ‘race war’, a broad political concept, not some animus toward the individuals he actually murdered.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 4:33 pm

Bruce @146,

Well said, and I agree with you 100%.

When I said “so many Americans,” I was not suggesting a majority. But that’s a minor quibble, etc.

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Bruce Wilder 06.23.15 at 5:28 pm

Anarcissie @ 148

Yes, our understanding and ability to intervene with an effective policy might benefit from having better categories. Is there a useful distinction between serial killers and mass murderers? Can men, who kill their families as part of a suicide strategy, be usefully distinguished from policemen or soldiers, who fail to comply with fire control rules of engagement? And, can we distinguish between a schizophrenic picking up and amplifying cultural paranoia and racism from media, and lawyers, politicians and administrators, who modify, say, the rules surrounding justifiable self-defense to encompass “stand your ground” or Obama murdering people with drones?

And, as with all behavioral explanations, there may be a tendency to overlook “causes” that fall outside an artificial model of control — does lead poisoning explain the crime rate better than economic incentives, sentencing guidelines or policing strategies?

I brought up the power law problem because you were making “overwhelming majority” do a lot more work, in drawing category lines than it should be expected to accomplish.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 6:05 pm

Sebastian H @145,

Not sure why you want to make abortion some kind of comparative here. But it is very common whenever conservatives discuss gun safety issues. They also tend to bring in car accidents, which is puzzling as well. But that’s another story.

You’ll note that there are clear majorities of Americans who believe abortion should be legal. The percentages you cite are for some restrictions regarding time frames. This would track well with my view that there is no absolute freedom from any restrictions whatsoever when it comes to guns, which is typically the position I run into when I discuss the issue with NRA folks and followers. That any restriction goes against the 2nd amendment, and this is clearly a terrible misreading of that amendment and not at all a sane vision for society.

My own view about abortion is that it’s a woman’s choice, but the fact there are majorities who believe some restrictions to this apply really doesn’t make your case. It makes mine.

Absolute license to do anything you want is the general position of the gun nut crowd. They state, over and over again, that it goes against their “rights” to have any restrictions imposed on them, of any kind, and more than a few of them issue death threats to politicians and media personnel who suggest even minor changes. This can cause several different reactions.

One might be to equal their absolutism with talk of total bans — which no one in DC is calling for.
Another is to embarrass them with common sense, reasonable and quite legal changes to our laws.

The second choice is my own. But I find that this too is met with more absolutism on behalf of gun nuts, who claim something that is 100% false yet again. That these common sense changes go against their “rights.” They don’t. Their complaint rests on a truly insane vision of their “rights.”

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Sebastian H 06.23.15 at 6:53 pm

Since NARAL doesn’t want any restrictions on abortion, since the Democratic Party doesn’t like any of the restrictions I outlined above, they are essentially (so far as public opinion goes) the NRA and Republican Party of the abortion issue, right?

My point on the abortion issue isn’t that you need to change your mind just because the majority of the populace disagrees with you.

My point is that if you really expect a groundswell on guns based on the polling you cite, you should expect an even greater groundswell on abortion (in a pro-life direction). But any changes or even hints of changes in a pro-life direction are routinely looked at with shock around here, along with dark pronouncements about a tiny minority of people trying to rule women’s lives. So either you shouldn’t expect a big pro-restriction move on guns, or you should expect an even bigger pro-restriction move on abortion.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.23.15 at 7:05 pm

BW: “It seems to me that the explanation is that the majority — the great commons — has little or no social or political organization to sustain a commitment to reason, while narrow and sociopathic business interests are able to focus resources and bring professional propagandists and operatives into play.”

In part, yes. But in part, what I was writing above is that “realism” is how neoliberalism colonizes left-liberalism.

Consider how, traditionally, the representative bargain was supposed to work in the U.S. People who you elected weren’t supposed to simply “represent”. They were supposed to be political entrepreneurs of sorts — prominent legislators and executives were supposed to actively work out solutions in their party’s interest, not merely vote Yes or No or mechanically carry out policy that someone else set. When you only voted for someone rather than taking action on your own behalf, you were supposed to be passing on the ability for action, your negligible individual power multiplied by all of those votes. The prominent politician’s responsibility was to do something, or if they couldn’t, to admit that to the people and step aside.

Now consider that active, involved members of the public with a wide interest in the public good are reduced to retailing explanations of why no action is possible. There should immediately be a similarity detectable here between this and economics, shouldn’t there? No action is possible. The market has settled on some kind of solution, and there are *structural* limits that explain why we can’t really do anything else. It would be a bad idea to even try, because the market solution is at least a solution — it is the Lesser Evil — and who knows what we’d get if we demanded something more and tried to interfere.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 7:13 pm

Sebastian H @152,

As I male, I just don’t feel it’s my place to decide anything regarding abortion, though I support measures to make sure it’s absolutely safe and remains legal. To me, placing restrictions on it means a greater chance of more women suffering. I think restrictions, and especially bans, place women in existential danger.

At the same time, I think unrestricted gun access places all of us in existential danger, but especially women via domestic violence. Restrictions on the number and kind of weapon isn’t a burden to anyone — except gun manufacturers — places no one in existential danger, and will save countless lives and reduce injuries massively.

In other words, the kinds of restrictions being suggested simply don’t have commensurate effects. On the abortion side, they make it more likely that women will suffer. On the gun side, no one suffers, except the bottom lines of the merchants of death . . . . and frankly, I couldn’t possibly care less about that. They, like cigarette companies, knowingly make money on death and destruction, lie to the populace about the effects of their products, and control or once controlled our politicians to keep this going.

As to your last sentence. I honestly don’t see either thing happening. When it comes to gun legislation, as mentioned above, even when we have 91% of the country asking for X to be done, Congress finds a way to block X on behalf of the gun lobby. Changes to abortion laws in Republican-controlled states will continue to accelerate, but without any “groundswell” pushing them on. They’ll happen entirely because the GOP tends to be very aggressive, with or without popular support, and they rarely do have that support, on anything.

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David 06.23.15 at 7:29 pm

Isn’t there something in all this about a society based – to a much greater extent than other advanced nations – on the precepts of liberalism and the defence of property? It was, after all, Adam Smith who saw the fundamental role of the state as being to enable a property owner “to sleep a single night in security” surrounded by “unknown enemies, whom, though he never provoked, he can never appease”. The natural longer-term consequence of this is a political system which views the whole of life in terms of possessions, including rights, privileges, status, history and culture; and politics itself as a struggle between groups to maximize their holdings of such possessions at the expense of others. It logically follows, in this zero-sum world, that you must always be on guard against those trying to take your “possessions” away, and be ready to respond with violence. Societies with a more collectivist ethic are thus in general less violent.

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Sebastian H 06.23.15 at 7:31 pm

“To me, placing restrictions on it means a greater chance of more women suffering. “

“On the abortion side, they make it more likely that women will suffer. On the gun side, no one suffers, except the bottom lines of the merchants of death . . . . and frankly, I couldn’t possibly care less about that. “

Which brings us full circle to my original comment to you (#95). You are heavily discounting the effect of starting a new war on possession crime. Possession crimes mean you have to have permissive search practices, sting operations, and other intrusive police enforcement mechanisms. These will fall most strongly on black people and poor minorities.

Your last paragraph doesn’t internalize the facts of the abortion debate and the gun control debate. You say “When it comes to gun legislation, as mentioned above, even when we have 91% of the country asking for X to be done, Congress finds a way to block X on behalf of the gun lobby.” But you really mean something like a cap at 55%-60% support. You then say “Changes to abortion laws in Republican-controlled states will continue to accelerate, but without any “groundswell” pushing them on. They’ll happen entirely because the GOP tends to be very aggressive, with or without popular support, and they rarely do have that support, on anything.” But now you are talking about things that have 60%-70% support.

So your formulation appears to be that legislation you like that has some popular support is getting blocked by scary special interests, but legislation you don’t like that has more popular support is being pushed by “very aggressive” politicians.

Abortion legislation keeps getting ‘pushed’ because the state of the law is strongly influenced by the NRA-like extremist organizations, and far more permissive than the US public is ok with. If you REALLY see a big groundswell for gun control (which frankly I don’t see) than you shouldn’t be surprised at how often abortion controls come up–as they are much more popularly supported than gun controls.

But really you’ve de-railed the point of the post. Gun control laws are very likely to screw over black people because of the way enforcement works for status crimes. If that is to be avoided, it won’t be by people like you who think that “On the gun side, no one suffers, except the bottom lines of the merchants of death”.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 7:49 pm

Sebastian H @156,

The 91% support was for background checks. They still failed to get that passed.

There is no case of 60% to 70% support for GOP-led restrictions and impositions, such as forced ___ probes, forcing women to see ultra-sound images of the fetus prior to decision-making, radically increasing the governmental rules and regulations on clinics to make them all but impossible to remain open, etc. There is no majority support for any of that, nor is there majority support for GOP-led attempts at “personhood” laws (a la Mississippi) . . . or seeking to ban abortions even in cases of incest and rape.

I’ll try to find a link to a summary of all of this insanity from the right, and will post it later. Suffice it to say, you’re confusing support for some restrictions on when an abortion can happen with the draconian laws the GOP has either successfully imposed, or is trying to impose. And, ironically, they’re all Big Gubmint interventions.

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Plume 06.23.15 at 7:50 pm

Sebastian,

My response is now in mod. Not sure why. Will check back later tonight or tomorrow.

155

Anarcissie 06.23.15 at 8:07 pm

David 06.23.15 at 7:29 pm @ 155 —
Some Latin American and African countries have a much higher rate of firearms homicide than the US. I don’t know where to find objective measures of their degree of collectivism. My informal impression is that Latin Americans at least are more community- and group-minded, more ‘collectivistic’ in that sense, than (US) Americans, but that’s just casual observation.
(http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list)

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David 06.23.15 at 8:22 pm

@Anarcissie, yes I did specifically compare the US to other advanced countries (say, roughly the OECD). Causes and types of violence in other types of societies are very different. In Africa, for example, there are still millions of weapons sloshing around from the Cold War, and there are African countries where the level of firearms violence is very high. But the kind of incident this thread is discussing happens rarely: most of the violence (if you exclude straight conflict) is related to organised crime. And interestingly, violence of all kinds is much higher in the cities in Africa, where traditional social control structures have largely been destroyed, than it is in the rural areas, which slightly reinforces my point.

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Trader Joe 06.23.15 at 8:27 pm

Plume @154 and elsewhere

I don’t disagree with your proposal about restricting gun magazines and the various other details you’ve suggested. That said, a significant operational challenge is collecting the couple-hundred million or so weapons that would fail your requirements (wherever they were exactly set).

No doubt a government buyback program would collect some portion of these, likely at great cost – but probably worth it. The balance of them would become black market and actually increase in value and also likely increasing the chance they would wind up in the hands of people who want them for criminal purposes rather than simply to collect them or for some perverse definition of safety.

Certainly making the effort is better than not and I wouldn’t rate it as a reason not to try to achieve some of the reform you suggest, that said, I think has at least a bit of merit in the genre of “if having a gun is criminal only criminals will have guns” and is a view likely to be harbored by a fence sitter who legitimately might want a hunting rifle or a simple personal protection weapon.

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Jeff R. 06.23.15 at 8:35 pm

My own suspicion is that even if it were possible to magically create a US without guns, the sorts of people who are now doing mass shootings would make bombs instead. And possibly do more damage.

(And also that technology is trending in directions that are going to make effective anti-gun regimes impossible without making the entire country in question a panopticon.)

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Bruce Wilder 06.23.15 at 9:03 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 153: “realism” is how neoliberalism colonizes left-liberalism
. . . active, involved members of the public with a wide interest in the public good are reduced to retailing explanations of why no action is possible. There should immediately be a similarity detectable here between this and economics, shouldn’t there? No action is possible. The market has settled on some kind of solution, and there are *structural* limits that explain why we can’t really do anything else. It would be a bad idea to even try, because the market solution is at least a solution — it is the Lesser Evil — and who knows what we’d get if we demanded something more and tried to interfere.

You know the safety label: objects in the mirror are closer than they appear?

Many of the pundits we encounter in salient media — on op-ed pages and on teevee — function as mirrors. They provide opinion in the form of a political pose, which consumers are encouraged to mimic, without themselves building up a relevant epistemic foundation, in philosophy or political science or economics or sociology. The pundit himself probably does not know much about that upon which he opinionates — it’s more of a creative writing and acting task, to create an attractive (to some target audience) persona and craft arguments that prevail in soundbite form as a manner of a drama performed for an audience.

My point, regarding the absence of mass-membership organization, is that these “mirrors” (provided courtesy of networks of corporate media financed by corporate advertising) are not predominantly engaged as political entrepreneurs forming a mass-movement in a bid for accomplishment or power. Such entrepreneurial leaders have appeared in history, and they struggle to get right with their membership in a reflexive political process of engagement and learning. They can produce fairly sophisticated arguments and understandings, even when they are wrong, as Temperance did in its critique of alcohol’s role in society, or the Populists did in fighting contractionary monetary policy. Mono-maniacs, like Henry George, and difficult philosophers like Marx, can have profound impacts, when their ideas are mediated and propounded within well-organized social movements, where followers are led to think them through a bit. An Emma Goldman can be an effective conscience, freeing the minds of many otherwise complacent people.

Our mirrors, our retailers of opinion, are engaged in opinion as sleight of hand, in which, like a convex mirror, they present their audience of mimics with what seems to be the gain of a wider field of view, but at the cost of a pervasive, subliminal distortion.

No sophisticated argument is likely to emerge, if sophistication in measured, say, by standards of social science efficacy. If the argument is sophisticated, it might be psychologically sophisticated in the manner of Freudian hypnosis — a focus-group tested bumpersticker meant to sway the masses in 30 seconds or less. Nor is there a mass-movement with the discipline to punish a politician for deviation. The tightly run business lobby groups can do that. The public interest groups cannot.

Those neoliberal mirrors are often far more conservative than they appear. This is my perennial complaint about Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong or Scott Lemieux — they present themselves as relatively liberal, but after the cards are shuffled a few times, they pull out reactionary cards legitimating the establishment and its latest conservative horror show. There’s lots of concern trolling in their repertory, to keep the pretence, but the conclusions are rarely consistent with their purported concerns or coherent, and there’s lots anger and condescension when their hypocrisies are challenged from leftish conviction. Pundits with a different target audience, like the conservative Robert Samuelson or the soi disant moderate David Brooks provide a similar service in a similar intellectual sleight of hand, but with different cards in their deck.

You can see the difference between legitimating sentiment and poor reasoning as consistent with expert assessment (Krugman’s modus operandi) and the genuine thinking presented by a monomaniac like Bill Black, an expert on control fraud. The latter’s recent retrospective critique of Tony Blair’s rhetoric and political policy on financial regulation was genuinely informative. Krugman’s endorsements of Bernanke and Yellen have obscured far more than they reveal.

I don’t follow the politics and rhetoric of race or crime the way I follow economics. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the only writer on racial politics that I read semi-regularly, who makes much sense to me, and I could not place him in any kind of spectrum or say what his role is, in any larger context. I have no contact with what is going on with the under-30s on college campuses. So, it’s hard for me to keep this comment subtopic from going rogue, relative to the topic of the OP. So, I will just stop.

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Collin Street 06.23.15 at 9:16 pm

> a simple personal protection weapon.

It’s my hypothesis and position that poor risk-assessment in your desire to own a firearm is also likely to be reflected in poor risk-assessment in your use of said firearm: for the vast majority of people, not all of them but the vast majority, the desire to own a firearm for “personal protection” is indicative of their unsuitability for same.

Not to diminish people’s genuine fear, but mental-health treatment presents less problems for others.

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Anarcissie 06.23.15 at 10:27 pm

Collin Street 06.23.15 at 9:16 pm @ 163:
‘…Not to diminish people’s genuine fear, but mental-health treatment presents less problems for others.’

Surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment would have to be total and compulsory to fully suppress gun violence, especially of the sort Mr. Roof carried out — the Panopticon. You don’t see any problems with that?

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Sebastian H 06.23.15 at 11:16 pm

“It’s my hypothesis and position that poor risk-assessment in your desire to own a firearm is also likely to be reflected in poor risk-assessment in your use of said firearm: for the vast majority of [middle class white] people,”

The sentence makes more sense with that addition.

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Layman 06.23.15 at 11:55 pm

“The balance of them would become black market and actually increase in value and also likely increasing the chance they would wind up in the hands of people who want them for criminal purposes rather than simply to collect them or for some perverse definition of safety.”

One hears this sort of thing all the time, and it certainly seems right. On the other hand, these mass murders are invariably carried out using weapons bought legally, and it is not entirely clear to me that these same people would commit these same acts in the absence of legal and easy access to weapons. Will teenage white suburban boys find illegal guns? I don’t know.

“My own suspicion is that even if it were possible to magically create a US without guns, the sorts of people who are now doing mass shootings would make bombs instead. “

Perhaps. Bomb-making may seem easy, but it is infinitely harder than ponying up a few hundred dollars for a legal handgun; or than loading that gun, pointing, and squeezing the trigger.

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Plume 06.24.15 at 1:14 am

Sebastian,

Still waiting for my response to move out of mod. I have a feeling they won’t let us continue our previous convo. It’s too of-topic, perhaps? And that’s a shame, because my response was pure genius!!

;>)

Anyway, quick thought then I’m gone again.

Those who are saying that gun control measures might just give the police that much more ability to hassle and oppress minorities . . . . Why can’t we do gun control for them as well? At the same time. It’s going to be next to impossible for the general public. We might as well push for a pincer attack while we’re at it.

As in, full demilitarization of the police. Mandated body cameras, which no officer can turn off, delete data, etc. etc. All that data is fed in real time to at least two centers: police HQ and a civilian oversight board. Copies made for further dissemination if needed.

Ramp down police firepower. Ramp down the population’s firepower. Both/and. Demilitarize the entire society, from the top down, and make “rules of engagement” majorly clear. An officer simply can never play judge, jury and executioner. If he or she feels that their life is threatened in any confrontation, and they can’t control the situation without shooting someone, they need to leave the scene. Period. If they can’t deescalate, leave. Radios are perfect for zeroing in on suspects, and they can get him/her later. It’s just not their job to kill unarmed civilians or provoke a confrontation that leaves the police officer, in their own mind, no other choice but to kill. It’s their job to serve and protect even criminals, to arrest them and bring them in unharmed, or wait for backup if they can’t do that alone.

Of course, an armed suspect who is shooting others changes the dynamic entirely.

Anyway, again, there is no reason to think that gun safety measures should be applied solely to the populace, or burden them unnecessarily. It’s time to tamp it all waaaay down in America, from the top down.

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Collin Street 06.24.15 at 1:45 am

Surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment would have to be total and compulsory to fully suppress gun violence, especially of the sort Mr. Roof carried out — the Panopticon. You don’t see any problems with that?

Where do you see me advocating that this would fully suppress gun violence? In general reasonable measures fail from time to time, because pushing stuff to the limit to prevent problem X entirely usually exacerbates problem Y.

Two points:
+ people don’t state the entirety of their position, only the parts where it differs from what other people are saying: one of the consequences of this is that there’s an implicit “within reasonable limits” hedge hanging over everything people say, that’s never stated because it’s never a point of disagreement.
+ people usually intend to say reasonably reasonable things; if there’s a variety of possible interpretations some of which would mean that the statement is stupid and others would mean that it isn’t, it’s very likely that the intended interpretation is one of the latter.

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Anarcissie 06.24.15 at 2:26 am

Collin Street 06.24.15 at 1:45 am @ 168 —
The mass killers I have read about in the media seem to me like the last people who would show up voluntarily at a Mental Health clinic or in front of a shrink. If my perception is correct, then, to the extent that one wanted to treat such people, one would have to surveille, diagnose, bring them in, confine, and treat them against their will — because one thought they were likely to do something. Mental Health seems highly problematical in this area, does it not?

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Collin Street 06.24.15 at 4:41 am

Anarcisse:

I wrote, quoted in its entirety.

It’s my hypothesis and position that poor risk-assessment in your desire to own a firearm is also likely to be reflected in poor risk-assessment in your use of said firearm: for the vast majority of people, not all of them but the vast majority, the desire to own a firearm for “personal protection” is indicative of their unsuitability for same.

Not to diminish people’s genuine fear, but mental-health treatment presents less problems for others.

Can you set out what in what I wrote lead you to conclude that I was talking about mass killers rather than gun-owners generally? The italicised passage I thought made my meaning reasonably clear.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.24.15 at 4:47 am

Once again: I think that gun control is the wrong tack. If we’re going to honor this church, let’s at least honor Black Lives Matter, which they seem to have been involved with in some way and which is the closest thing to a mass movement that the U.S. has right now. Black Lives Matter, as I previously mentioned, isn’t a gun control organization. It’s a police control organization. De-legitimizing the targeting of black people as presumptive criminals seems as likely to help as anything to do with guns directly.

If you wanted to track people likely to commit rampage killings, no Panopticon is necessary. Just announce that anyone with a collection of three of more guns is eligible to join the Elite Militia and that they can send out for a free camo outfit, mirror shades, and a black GPS tracker belt so that authorities can know where they are to send them into action to stop troublemakers at any time.

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Alan White 06.24.15 at 5:28 am

Aren’t the continuously manufactured hundreds of millions of guns in the US somewhat like a growing non-replicating epidemic deadly virus that must be dealt with once it is recognized as the potential threat it is?

Problem one: the NRA and most conservative politicians refuse to recognize the existence of the virus and actively campaign against the perception there is an epidemic even if the virus does exist and occasionally kills here and there. If there is no disease or a significant public threat even if there are sporadic outbreaks in the case that it does exist, then no cure is needed. Indeed, the virus may be seen as itself a vaccine against a larger threat: totalitarianism. This is our major problem in the US.

Problem two: what if a public awareness of the virus and the epidemic becomes a troubling policy concern after a Sandy Hook or Charleston? What cures at the epidemiological level are available? Destruction of the non-replicating viruses individually? Nope, too many. Preventing transmission of the virus from non-threat (store sales to target shooters) to threat vectors (gifts, sales to Roof, Holmes, et al) by lawful inoculation? (Universal background checks including gun shows perhaps.) Well, see problem one for political justification of that, especially given the overwrought perception of the virus itself as freedom-vaccine. And even if there is public outcry for some lawful inoculation, the various transmission vector-paths are far too rich for any one or several such inoculations to have real effect–the treatment will be too weak to prevent the sheer number of individual viruses from passing through paths untreated by the inoculations (private gifts, stolen guns, inherited weapons, drug trades, etc.) . And of course, such inoculations are perceived to defeat the patriotic role of the virus as itself a freedom-vaccine.

I own a S&W bull-barrel target pistol, though I refuse to join the NRA or even shoot at an NRA-affiliated range (and I am a very good shot BTW, though I will not hunt with any weapon).

I have a virus that no one can take from me, and though I can destroy or surrender it to render its potential deadliness moot, I won’t because I think it won’t become deadly.

I have millions of companions in the US who think likewise, and I’ll be damned if I know how they will be convinced otherwise.

We gun-owners are complacent about the viruses we individually have. They haven’t killed us (unless they have–in which case we are silent unless stats speak for those-us). Why should we worry?

But there’s one thing we forget–we are mortal. This virus outlives us whether it kills us or something else does. It does not die with us–but someone else can certainly be killed by it long after we are dead.

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Collin Street 06.24.15 at 5:33 am

> Once again: I think that gun control is the wrong tack.

Think like an insurgent: it’s cheaper to attack the current US gun-rights framework/culture than it is to defend it, so even if you don’t win on that ground you still get a strategic advantage you can play somewhere else.

Absolutely it’s the right time to talk about gun control. It always is, pretty much.

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Trader Joe 06.24.15 at 12:27 pm

Some interesting data on FiveThirtyEight today about Southern racial attitudes and how they have evolved over the last 30-ish years. The data tracks a clear path of improvement, but obviously one which is much slower than many would wish for. The article also at least suggests that a lot of the improvement in attitude has come from a shift in views among the middle – the followers if you will, and that the racism that remains may be rather more entrenched.

Report is here:
http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/attitudes-toward-racism-and-inequality-are-shifting/

Best charts are about half way down the page.

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Anarcissie 06.24.15 at 12:39 pm

Collin Street 06.24.15 at 4:41 am @ 171 —
I am curious, then, as to how you would apply Mental Health to gun owners generally — 42% of the population, by last report, plus whoever has one and didn’t feel like talking to strangers about it.

173

Corey Robin 06.24.15 at 1:57 pm

Alex Gourevitch has some bracing words on the subject of gun control in Salon today (sorry that I can’t indent this as a block quote; years into my blogging here, and I still can’t figure it out):

“Of course, a reasonable gun control regime is logically possible. We can imagine one in our heads. But it is not politically possible in the United States right now. And it is a great error to think that gun control is the path to racial justice. More likely, it is the other way around. Racial justice is a precondition for any reasonable gun control regime.”

He’s also got some interesting things to say about how stop and frisk is rooted not only in the war on drugs but in gun control efforts.

http://www.salon.com/2015/06/24/gun_controls_racist_reality_the_liberal_argument_against_giving_police_more_power/

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engels 06.24.15 at 2:04 pm

sorry that I can’t indent this as a block quote; years into my blogging here, and I still can’t figure it out

‘Blockquote’ tags work for me, but you have to place them around every paragraph (or always used to).

175

Map Maker 06.24.15 at 2:57 pm

Hey, I agree with Corey on something! Stop-and-frisk is about guns. One of the frustrating things about Alice Goffman’s On the Run was the lack of discussion that guns are available, but rare in a lot of these communities. The stop-and-frisk hits 10-20x the number of law abiding citizens. Even most people who carry illegally do so rarely.

Good community policing is a topic that comes around every 20 years, and since Mayor Giuliani isn’t running for President, that discussion may be ready again. Good police-community relationships are a necessary prequisite for racial justice and it is up to the police to change that, with support from politicians, schools, infrastructure, etc.

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PaulB 06.24.15 at 11:51 pm

Sitting safely in England, I suggest that this is a problem to be addressed in the USA by tort law, not criminal law.

Make gun manufacturers liable in any shooting where the shot was fired accidentally or hit an unintended person – they should have made the gun harder to fire accidentally or to aim inaccurately. And make them liable in any shooting with a stolen gun – they should have made guns usable only by the legitimate owner.

Make gun owners liable in any shooting using a gun stolen from them – they should have kept the gun more securely.

No infringement (that I can see) of Second Amendment rights. No new laws for the police to enforce. Just putting the financial cost of shootings where it belongs. And discouraging manufacturers and owners from producing and buying the sorts of guns most likely to kill people, without burdening legislators with the task of working out which guns they might be.

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js. 06.26.15 at 1:32 am

@177, 178:

Yes,

and

(without the spaces, obviously). And it works across paragraphs, tho for a long time it didn’t.

Look:

See?

178

js. 06.26.15 at 1:34 am

Oh for fucks sake! It ignored the whitespace and interpreted the tags. Anyway, just a standard HTML “blockquote” tag.

179

dax 06.26.15 at 11:15 am

I look at the Charleston shootings through another prism: the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Many differences obviously, but in any case I think illuminating. In the Charlie Hebdo instance, the French basically rose up en masse and associated themselves with the victims. This hasn’t happened in the U.S. It’s as if the white-black gulf is so wide in the U.S., white people can’t even think of saying something like, “We are Charleston”. (I have seen that slogan a bit, but a really small bit. If you Google in English, there are 10000 hits for “We are Chareston” compared to 100000 for the “We are Charlie,” and that’s in *English*.) I find that mildly depressing. The argument has devolved into, “It’s the racists” or “It’s the guns”. The attack on blacks is not being seen (except again in a few instances) as an attack on everyone. Again, I find this mildly depressing, and indeed part of the problem itself.

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Anarcissie 06.26.15 at 2:23 pm

dax 06.26.15 at 11:15 am @ 183 —
What about the banishment of the Confederate flag?

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Plume 06.26.15 at 2:38 pm

Dax @183,

That’s a very good point. Didn’t think of it that way before. In America, it’s still the case that “black lives don’t matter,” and I think that’s one of the huge reasons why we haven’t put the confederate issue to bed already. I don’t think it’s a stretch to compare the confederate past with the Nazis in Germany. They’ve certainly, as a nation, done a great deal to openly confront Nazism and denounce, en masse, anyone who defends it. America, especially in the South, still celebrates the confederacy.

In another sense, however, our confederate past is even worse. To be on the same footing, Germany would have had a civil war in which the Nazis lost, but Germany kept holding endless rallies in parts of that nation, celebrating key figures from the Nazi past, keeping Nazi symbols flying in certain provinces and townships, etc. etc. If you think about it, it’s absolutely despicable that America hasn’t done a Germany and shouted down any confederate celebrations long ago.

This Georgetown law professor, IMO, has the right idea, and the image is spot on:

From Business Insider

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