Handgun vantage point

There are about 8 kids killed by guns each day in the US.   They don’t make headlines unless they are killed in groups like they were today.  After what ever feelings of grief and anger recede, the normal response is to think about what can be done.

Many reasonable sounding suggestions are foolish.  Some people are calling for more security in school, while it turns out that schools are some of the safest places for kids, increasing security means ignoring reality and wasting money.  And group school (k-12) killings were at a 2 decade low last year at 33.  If we are concerned about children’s’ safety, we should have them at school all day long.  There is an important form of “news illusion” happening here, where we believe that lots of coverage of a tragic event means that it is something that is trending upwards, it is not.

Conservatives will dismiss calls for stronger gun control claiming that the problem is god has been removed from schools.   While i find this logic weak, these “change nothing” arguments will likely prevail.  It is unlikely any new gun control legislation will pass, despite Obama’s tearful pledge for “meaningful action.”  American’s are split on gun control both supporting the NRA and greater gun control.  The NRA has stopped any meaningful gun legislation from passing in the US for 18 years.

second amendment is not functioning as designed

second amendment is not functioning as designed

There are about 33 people killed each day by guns in the US, about 12,000 per year.  [This excludes many more suicide deaths with handguns, which are a very different problem – thanks Michael and Susan for pointing out this mistake.]  This number and problem however does not get a lot of press.  Many believe that this is because almost half of the victims are black while blacks are 13% of the overall population.

Mass killings are more “newsworthy” because they happen fairly irregularly.  With “only” 32 mass killing incidents in the US since 1999 it works out to less than 3 per year.  Put another way it is less than one crazy person acting out in this terrible lethal way per 100 million US Americans each year.

While these are awful events, without becoming a police state, there are no short term fixes to this problem in the US.  Many are suggesting increased mental health benefits, but this is another needle in the haystack approach.  Expanding mental health care options would likely have many positive affects and should certainly be considered for those reasons, but using this to try to stop these rare group killings is virtually doomed to failure.


I did find this collection of gun statistics from the Washington Post useful and interesting.

I also have to confess this post is disappointing to me.  i dont like pushing a “we cant fix this” attitude.  i would love it if readers had some clever ideas that they had seen or developed that i could advance – which are culturally consistent with where the US actually is today.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

10 responses to “Handgun vantage point”

  1. Michael Hobson says :

    The “gun deaths” statistics are frequently abused, as they are tossed in to the middle of discussions about homicide. Of the 30,000 gun deaths, approximately 12,000 were homicides. Only 60% of homicides in the U.S. involve a gun. There may be a gun problem, but more so we have a violence problem. Clearly, we are quite capable of finding other ways to kill each other.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Michael:

      Thanks for your comment. While we maybe able to kill each other without guns, guns provide both and efficiency and volume other accessible methods do not. No other country comes close to the number of non-combatant deaths from guns and especially handguns. We are clearly doing something extraordinary, and i think deeply wrong.

      And i appreciate your corrections.

      Paxus in PRague 6
      15 Postcards 2012

      • Tony Tupelo says :

        one problem with comparing countries with lots of gun control to the US (and seeing huge disparities between numbers of homicides) is that you are looking at statistics of a country who’s population, generally speaking, wants more gun control–a different population than in America. We don’t need to reduce gun ownership nearly as much as we need to reduce the violence we live with. We are a warrior nation. I have heard (but have not looked up the stats) that there is a strong correlation between a given nation’s military budget as a proportion to it’s GDP and that nation’s murder rate. There are lots of other aspects of being an american that will make us more likely to kill, but that’s a big one.

        Americans love quick fixes. When our meat became infested with ebola, we didn’t change the way we raise cattle, which we should. Instead, we figured out that by soaking the meat in ammonia, we can kill the virus. Of course, this bleaches the meat, so “pink slime” is added to give it it’s color. I view strict gun control much the same as I view the ammonia and green slime.

        I think that responding to this event by enacting gun control might well be worse than doing nothing, because it would divert attention from where the problem really is–a systemic “virus” that has infected America. Perhaps a Ross Perot style presentation with bar graphs and pie charts, followed by a discussion. Not a discussion between law enforcement and politicians, but instead by anthropologists and psychologists. Maybe a hard listen from experts from other countries who visit the US and undoubtedly feel personally the aura of anger so many Americans exude, and have an honest debate about why we are so ill as a society. I’d love for someone from the american political left to say, “My fellow Americans, this problem is not about gun ownership, it’s about an unfortunate reality we created ourselves.” And after he gets voted out of office, hopefully he will start a foundation to address this problem. I think we need that kind of a wake-up call, and it would certainly change our collective consciousness infinitely more than the usual call for some sort of ban.

      • Michael Hobson says :

        I do agree that guns provide both an efficiency and volume that other weapons do not, with the exception perhaps of explosives as in Oklahoma City. We are indeed doing something deeply wrong, the question is what?Again, often tossed around “facts” like the United States being unique or even the world leader in this problem, don’t stand up to a little research. Unfortunately, some nations are far worse and many are right there with us. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

  2. David Goldstein says :

    When events such as these happen in the U.S. I often feel very much the outsider: I hear on the airwaves and media outlets intense discussion and sadness and shock and calls for action. And, of course, it is sad and angering and shocking. But what has me feeling like an outsider is that listening to the discourse (which will likely die down in a few days), I am thinking, “WTF, people, thousands are killed every year by handguns and assault weapons. In my hometown alone (Philly) over 400 are killed a year- not a few innocent child bystanders.” I feel sheepish admitting this, but one of my reactions when I hear people pontificating that ‘something needs to be done’ and ‘I feel so sad and devastated’ is anger and sadness in myself. Are we so numbed as a people that only the ‘highly horrific’ events penetrate? One more layer- I am a climate change activist and, of course, scientists are screaming as loud as scientists can (not very!) that we are on course for many millions of children to die a generation or two from now due to climate change- but we do nothing. We are a miraculous species in many ways…we also have some fairly severe wired-in limitations.

    • paxus says :

      @Michael: It is true that there are lots of facts. As i have been reading it is interesting to see all the different ways the data is presented. There is the list of the 20 deadliest mass murder events in the last 50 years (i think it was) the US had 11 or them, the only other country to have more than 1 was Finland with 2.

      And i have to tell you the wikipedia chart is deeply suspect to me. Look at the edit history. Over 80% of the entries on this chart are from non-named accounts or from named accounts which have subsequently been deleted. This is what you do when you are cooking the books. Perhaps the data is right, perhaps armed conflict is being rolled in. Perhaps one of the many highly funded gun lobbies finds it handy to pay interns to cook wikipedia and keep it cooked, but do so in a way that cannot be traced back to them.

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