Newtown and the deep problem of gun rights (#NaBloPoMo Day 22)

A few days ago, a fellow NaBloPoMo participant urged fellow bloggers to speak up for common sense gun regulations. As a Canadian, an observation I make is that a major part of the problem is that gun advocates think that their position also qualifies as “common sense”.

With the upcoming second anniversary of the horrific shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a report was released on Friday that responded to the question of how and why prior recommendations for mental health treatment were not heeded for someone who proceeded to kill his mother, six educators, and twenty school children. Investigators had previously determined that the motivation for the shootings may never be known. Yet regardless of the motivation, no matter who and how many this person intended to kill, this tragedy continues to raise the question of on what basis should anyone ever be remotely empowered to carry out such a heinous act.

The means by which this devastation was made possible was, of course, by high powered weapons. Ones which there continues to be enough political support in the US to consistently confound efforts to enact gun control legislation.

Gun advocates are entrenched in the idea that the unrestrained possession of weapons is an indispensable right of living in a modern society. This faith extends to the ludicrous notion that such tragedies would not be possible had everyone in the Sandy Hook school had been armed.

What supports this mentality goes beyond the Second Amendment of the US Constitution that cements the right to bear arms. It’s the extent of the interpretation of unalienable right to life, liberty, and happiness written into the American Declaration of Independence.

These two documents were landmarks in the advancement of individual rights that were crucial steps toward the development of the modern democracy, but absent is a clear obligation of individuals of their responsibilities to their fellow citizens in the execution of those rights. When it comes to guns, many advocates feel the only interests they need to answer to are their own.

As I indicated in my recent dichotomy of freedom post, there are dangers to an infatuation with a self-interested basis of liberty. This creates a bias towards perceiving others as potential threats, rather than potential friends. Firearms further reinforces and deepens this perception.

At minimum, this maintains an unproductive level of tension between people, all in order to appease a heightened need for a personal sense of security. At its worst, when combined with weapons and a callous disregard for others in a perverted personal pursuit of happiness, an unconstrained freedom has too often and too tragically manifested itself into a violent fantasy that has claimed too many innocent victims within its onslaught.

A shift away from a self-interested mindset to more public/broader interested thinking can lead to a recognition that the responsible and constrained use of power, not individualist freedom, is the most important legal principle in a fair and balanced society. Similar to what I wrote in the Magna Carta post earlier this month, while this is often cited towards governments and law enforcement, especially by gun advocates, the Connecticut tragedy highlights the need to apply this principle towards individuals as well to counter the growing access to increasingly more powerful weapons.

In addition, going back to the dichotomy of freedom post, the question of firearms needs to be seen through the lens of emancipation. Of whether their widening presence and increasing power further enables ourselves as a society or creates barriers and/or conflict. The continuing deplorable figures from firearm violence statistics, including a recent FBI study on the rise of mass shootings, leave little doubt to the divisive nature of the gun issue.

Regardless of the arguments I or anyone else presents that demonstrate how widespread firearm possession fails to serve the common good, the issue is a deeply cultural one in the US that is made that more challenging by the rights enshrined in those early documents that the nation was built upon. For those of us in Canada, we cannot be complacent against such growing gun rights advocacy in this country.

Our opportunity lies upon the principle of peace, order and good government written into our Constitution through which it should be understood that a respect for the public interest and pursuit of a mutually beneficial society are our nation’s primary objectives. It should never take the horrible shooting deaths of twenty elementary school children to make it clear that firearms should never ever be considered a right.

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Posted in 4D Framework themes, Canada, Justice, Politics, Public Policy
8 comments on “Newtown and the deep problem of gun rights (#NaBloPoMo Day 22)
  1. 3boxesofbs says:

    Hi, I hope I can address some of your points.

    As a Canadian, an observation I make is that a major part of the problem is that gun advocates think that their position also qualifies as “common sense”.

    Yes, we do And we base our opinions and beliefs on solid foundations foundations; legally and statistically. Which is a problem the anti-rights (aka gun control advocates) don’t address. They can not show their proposals actually work. Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, etc — all cities which had/have draconian gun control laws that are what many people advocate, right?

    So why is firearm related homicide GREATER in Chicago than in say Fort Worth Texas?
    If gun control laws worked, then the state and city where there are plenty of gun stores, people easily get licenses to carry, and more ownership of firearms should have more murders, right?

    Yet regardless of the motivation, no matter who and how many this person intended to kill, this tragedy continues to raise the question of on what basis should anyone ever be remotely empowered to carry out such a heinous act.

    First, no one is empowered to commit such an hienous act. They are capable of it but nothing in society, legal or philosophical basis is an authorization to do such a despicable crime.

    Second, I understand what you are trying to say but it goes against our historical, legal and philosophical foundation that says people are free until they’ve proven themselves a danger to others. Free to drive a car (despite more people dying in auto related incidents then firearms) free to speak (despite a long history of people committing fraud, making threats, etc) — see we do value that liberty and that drives our society.

    Gun advocates are entrenched in the idea that the unrestrained possession of weapons is an indispensable right of living in a modern society.

    This is a straw man argument. It completely ignores the hundreds of laws, regulations and rules directly addressing possession and ownership of firearms. it also completely ignores the criminal law that governs society. We have laws against murder, rape, robbery, etc — with or without firearms.
    Statements like this try to portray gun owners as extremists, wanting nothing but anarchy. Simply not true.

    At minimum, this maintains an unproductive level of tension between people, all in order to appease a heightened need for a personal sense of security.

    Ask the people in Ferguson Missouri if there ‘heightened need for a personal sense of security” is ‘unproductive”

    Sorry but as the arson, rioting and looting shows — the cops can’t be everywhere. As the millions of violent crimes committed every year in the USA shows, the cops can’t be everywhere. It is a person’s right and responsibility to protect themselves,

    but absent is a clear obligation of individuals of their responsibilities to their fellow citizens in the execution of those rights.

    Sorry bu the data shows this to be untrue. Like many states, Texas tracks the crimes committed by people who have a license to carry concealed. At no point in the history (since 1996) of concealed carry has the conviction of those so licensed ever exceeded 0.50% of all convictions each year. Half a percent — so it is clear that gun owners do take their responsibilities very seriously.

    By the way, those conviction rates are lower then for the Group “Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ — a well known gun control group.

    Bob S.

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    • MillarDKits says:

      Thanks for the very thorough reply. Apologies if at some points that it appeared that I painted all gun advocates with the same brush. Usually qualify that, but as you pointed out, I missed that in the entrenchment point.
      In that way, I certainly don’t dispute that many gun advocates are very responsible owners. In fact, while I imply a preference for gun control, I don’t outright call for it because I know that it would be great if we could all be responsible and trustworthy enough that it wouldn’t matter if you carried a gun or not. My main point though is that guns may help satisfy and protect individual interests, but that doesn’t mean they help make a better society. At least towards achieving its potential through effective interaction and cooperation rather than milling about in personal fortresses.
      I don’t dispute your figures since you’re clearly more versed in the subject more than I am (and I wish I had more time to research mine or why else do you think it took me until 4 in the morning to get back to you). However, mutual assured destruction is hardly an effective way of developing worthwhile and productive relationships. Imbalances swayed one way or another can easily descend into chaos which Ferguson demonstrated. Everybody carrying firearms does not even remotely begin addressing the potentially destabilizing issues that lead to violence no matter what city you are talking about (let’s say, off the top of my head, inequality and poverty in Chicago?).
      I don’t even have to look up the numbers to know more people die or get hurt driving cars since we are talking about highly disproportionate use/possession figures versus firearms. Even then, they do carry with them heavy responsibilities including limits and rules on how they are operated. Most of those injuries and deaths happen when those rules are breached, As it is, cars are worth the risk since they enhance our lives including those with our relations.
      And of course, no one ever sanely condones the Newtown incident, but excessive firepower helped the perpetrator empower himself all too effectively. Just because you don’t condone something and know that it may happen one way or another doesn’t mean you can’t do more to prevent or limit its impact. The level of responsibility expected should rise in proportion with the power involved.
      I don’t doubt that guns fits your interests and many others, I just question as to whether it leads to a better society, and as my blog posts consistently point out, “it works for me” isn’t a good enough answer.
      The US Constitution preamble declares its principle exist “in order to form a more perfect Union”. It continually gets harder to imagine how the right to bear arms contribute toward that objective. You can’t bring people closer together if you keep putting more guns between them.

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      • 3boxesofbs says:

        MillarDKits,

        Apologies if at some points that it appeared that I painted all gun advocates with the same brush.

        Thanks for that. Many people who support gun control don’t realize how offensive they can be in their zeal.

        In that way, I certainly don’t dispute that many gun advocates are very responsible owners.

        This is another area where we really need to quantify the data to truly understand the scope of what we are talking about. Let’s look at a couple of numbers.
        According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports – there are approximately 400,000 firearm related violent crimes each year. This includes armed robbery, forcible rape, murder, etc.
        Estimates vary greatly but there are an estimated 50,000,000 gun owners in the country. So if we assume that each firearm related crime was committed by a different gun owner (completely impossible as we know from arrest records) and do a little math — 400,000 divided by 50,000,000 times 100 to get a percentage = 0.8% Not even a full percentage of gun owners are involved in a firearm related crime each year.

        This is backed up by other statistics. Texas, like many states, tracks convictions of of crimes committed by those licensed to carry concealed. Last year those with a licensed were 0.2% of all convictions. So it is not “many gun advocates who are responsible” but the overwhelming vast majority.

        . My main point though is that guns may help satisfy and protect individual interests, but that doesn’t mean they help make a better society. At least towards achieving its potential through effective interaction and cooperation rather than milling about in personal fortresses.

        This is another common misconception about those who carry and own firearms. We don’t hunker down in our fortresses abandoning society to the wolves. We are a part of society, We carry firearms because we want to be safe no matter where we go. And because of that fact, other people enjoy the benefit without having to carry or even own a firearm. Criminals fear running into armed victims more then they fear cops or prison.

        Research conducted by Professors James Wright and Peter Rossi,6 for a landmark study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, points to the armed citizen as possibly the most effective deterrent to crime in the nation. Wright and Rossi questioned over 1,800 felons serving time in prisons across the nation and found:

        81% agreed the “smart criminal” will try to find out if a potential victim is armed.
        74% felt that burglars avoided occupied dwellings for fear of being shot.
        80% of “handgun predators” had encountered armed citizens.
        40% did not commit a specific crime for fear that the victim was armed.
        34% of “handgun predators” were scared off or shot at by armed victims.
        57% felt that the typical criminal feared being shot by citizens more than he feared being shot by police.

        In addition, Kleck and Gertz found that there are up to 2,500,000 Defensive Gun Uses (DGU) per year — where the presence or threat of a firearm prevented or stopped a crime. Clearly there is great social utility to firearms in the country without even addressing the recreational activities of shooting, which is a very popular sport. And how about hunting and the programs where hunters donate their game to homeless shelters?

        However, mutual assured destruction is hardly an effective way of developing worthwhile and productive relationships

        I will direct you to a great essay that addresses one of the issues at heart here. Marko Kloos

        Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it.

        In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some..

        https://munchkinwrangler.wordpress.com/2007/03/23/why-the-gun-is-civilization/

        Please read the whole thing. It is contradictory but true to say that firearms actually reduce the level of violence. It isn’t mutually assured destruction because the force is one sided. If I never kill a human being despite carrying and owning firearms I will be eternally grateful. I don’t even want to have to draw it. But the alternative is that I either don’t come home to my family or I loose resources my family can ill afford to loose.

        Everybody carrying firearms does not even remotely begin addressing the potentially destabilizing issues that lead to violence no matter what city you are talking about (let’s say, off the top of my head, inequality and poverty in Chicago?).

        If more people carrying firearms was a destabilizing effect then cities and states with more firearms, more people carrying would be more violent, right?
        So why is Fort Worth with its easy access to firearms, licenses to carry are shall issue and common, ownership of firearms prevalent less homicidal than Chicago Chicago is about 10 homicides per 100K people and Fort Worth 6 per 100K.

        Even then, they do carry with them heavy responsibilities including limits and rules on how they are operated. Most of those injuries and deaths happen when those rules are breached,

        And how are deaths and injuries related to firearms different?
        Let’s look at drinking and driving — a clear violation of not only the law but social norms. Aren’t suicides ( the most common firearm related fatality by the way) aren’t homicides the same?

        And of course, no one ever sanely condones the Newtown incident, but excessive firepower helped the perpetrator empower himself all too effectively.

        This is bunk. Sorry but a clear lack of knowledge and experience with firearms is indicated here. The Virginia Tech shooter used legally mandated 10 round magazines for his legally mandated and purchased one pistol a month over 2 months. So two pistols, one of them a .22lr caliber — and 32 people died. In almost every case the killers shoot until they encounter armed resistance.

        http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/10-potential-mass-shootings-that-were-stopped-by-someone-wit

        9 times — and there are more just usually not publicized — that a person with a firearm stopped potential mass murders – again isn’t that a strong case for the social utility of firearms?

        Oh…and to put the numbers in perspective and give a glimpse of what could happen, let me mention two incidents, one recent and one historical.

        Again — I don’t mention killers names because that is part of why they do it, so please understand why I refer to the location. The Oklahoma Murrah Federal Building – the killer used fertilizer and diesel fuel to kill 168 people including 19 children in the day care.

        In 1927, The Bath Township School Massacre — the killer used dynamite to kill 36 children and 2 adults at the school.

        Those who want to kill will.

        You can’t bring people closer together if you keep putting more guns between them

        With the firearm I get to decide which people I want to be closer to — I get to set the limits on the interaction. Without the firearm the stronger, the more numerous, those willing to use predatory violence control the interaction.

        Is that what you want for society?

        Bob S.

        Great discussion and Happy Thanksgiving.

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      • MillarDKits says:

        Hi again Bob S and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you (and good luck on Black Friday?).
        First of all, when talking about violence and deaths, the standard of tolerance against any incident goes way up. If you accepted those kind of statistics as a business, you’d be shut down pretty quickly. Toyota accepted a $1.2 billion fine in the US this year over the sticky pedal controversy that the NHTSA attributed to at least 37 deaths so far. Given that Toyota sold over 28 million cars between 2000 and 2013, that’s a death rate of 0.00013%.
        This also highlights how the risk tolerance is much tougher for anything carrying potential catastrophic consequences if anything goes wrong. That’s why maintenance and regulation standards are much higher for airplanes over autos with much better safety records being the result. That standard also applies to whether what’s allowed fits the need. Your attempt to downplay the amount of weaponry involved in the Newtown incident actually highlighted the question of whether the legal limit is too high given how many deaths still happened.
        Finally, like I said before, I don’t dispute that freer firearm possession may be acceptable if we lived in a responsible and trustworthy society, but the latter has to come first. The US is still way down the list as far as gun-related homicides per capita among modern democracies at 4.7 per 100,000. Canada has 0.51 while Japan and South Korea has 0, the latter two with strict gun laws. At the same time noted that Sweden had a 0.19 and Switzerland a 0.52 homicide rate with fairly high firearm possession rates (still less than half the US), but those still speak to strict regulations in the former case and a firm culture in the latter. Don’t have time to dig further, but did note that the per capita of gun related murder in Texas (3.2) was higher than Illinois (2.8).
        As for your last point, nobody disputes that everyone has the right to determine the limit of their interactions with others, but the need to depend on a firearm is, excuse the expression, overkill.
        Yes, this was a very interesting discussion and wish I had more time to go further, but been too busy (hence my falling of the NaBloPoMo goals). Gotta go.

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  2. Thanks for this well written post. I particularly like the mention of Dichotomy : “This creates a bias towards perceiving others as potential threats, rather than potential friends. Firearms further reinforces and deepens this perception.”
    This seem to be at the heart of their thinking that firearms is an essential part of their lives. Not only in the USA but when making foreign policy.

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    • MillarDKits says:

      Thanks Lucile. Hope you had a good flight home (saw the photo from your plane window on your blog, Nice!). Honored that after a long flight, that you took the time to read, approve and comment on this post!

      Like

      • Gilsr says:

        MillarDKits,

        If I can offer some advice when speaking of gun safety. I have noticed that if you are not specific about which of the multitude of dangers of guns, the gun spokesman will use the generalities to smother you with unrelated arguments. Remember that there are multiple situations that guns create or make worse.

        The following list is not complete. I don’t provide the data or references since I am providing multiple points. But individual points can be researched very easily.

        1) First is the higher incidence of suicide when a gun is available.
        2) The very efficient destroying of multiple persons, usually with accompanying suicide.
        3) Accidental shooting of very young people. (Not rare as some will respond)
        4) High gun death in certain areas of inner cities.
        5) Accidental shooting of a family member or neighbor other than child.

        So gun registration will not solve any of these problems directly. Gun use training will not solve all of these but may help with #3 and #5. Smarter guns will not solve all problems but might solve #3. Stopping straw purchases will not stop #1 but will help with #4(in my opinion).

        And talk of IED”s in the hands of terrorists has nothing to do with guns.

        In my opinion, we need as much information as possible about these public health issues. And a gun proponent that is sure about his arguments should welcome studies that support them.

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      • MillarDKits says:

        Thanks Gilsr for your feedback and advice! The exchange I had with 3boxesofbs on this comment board at least partly confirms the smothering tactic one gun supporter took in responding to this post.
        As an analyst, I certainly appreciate the need for background research and material to support my arguments, especially on contentious subjects like firearms. I just wasn’t prepared to do so for this post mostly due to time constraints, particularly since this was part of a November daily post challenge (National Blog Posting Month of NaBloPoMo) that I used to force myself to introduce and outline the public interest model that underlies the perspective I am writing from.
        In that way, I was less concerned about finding numbers and studies to back my statements as I was in trying to use themes consistent in this blog to provide a different point of view to the gun debate. I’m not prepared yet to commit the time needed to be more thorough on posts like these, but will keep working to improve them with the help of readers like you. Happy Holidays!

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