Monday, January 10, 2011


Safety, congressional and otherwise

Eliot Lear comments about this CNN article, which says that members of Congress are looking into increasing their own personal security, after the shooting of Representative Giffords. Eliot’s comment is this:

What about the rest of us?

This guy went in and legally bought a 9mm Glock with ammo, even though his friends and schools knew he was a little nutty. All of the dead people weren’t in Congress. They were collateral damage. What about them?

Indeed. It’s long past time to be looking at reasonable gun control, coming up with reasonable compromises between freedom to own guns and the danger which that freedom poses to society. Even a Republican congressman from Arizona, who probably supports the NRA and is against gun control, recognizes that allowing everyone to have guns is not a good idea. Here’s what Representative Jeff Flake says about threats to legislators:

But the danger is, some of these people you dismiss as crackpots, you know, a crackpot with a gun is dangerous, and that — that is worrisome. And I think what really hit home to all of us on Capitol Hill yesterday was that you’re not only putting yourself in danger if you ignore these kind of threats; you’re putting staff in danger, as well.

And not just your staff, Congressman. Film crews. Bystanders. Everybody.

Only, Mr Flake is, probably unintentionally, putting the blame on the right people for the wrong reason: it is, indeed, members of congress who are putting people in danger. But they’re not doing it by being out in public, by not having enough security, or anything like that.

They’re putting all of us in danger by not enacting legislation to limit the availability and use of guns.

Arizona passed legislation in 1994 that makes legal the carrying of concealed weapons. The shooter this weekend may have been carrying his gun legally. Even if not — if he didn’t have a permit — making it common to have people carrying guns makes it hard to sort out where the threats are and aren’t. The gun-carry proponents tout their ability to stop attacks with their own defensive weapons, but we can see how well that works in practice.

We can — and we will — fight about the Second Amendment and those pesky commas until we’re out of breath, but the reality is that we do restrict access to arms. We don’t allow certain types of weapons. Fully automatic military rifles are prohibited, and we don’t allow people to own, say, nuclear devices and other bombs. Those are arms, too. Some jurisdictions require licenses in order to own guns. Many don’t allow them to be carried around from day to day.

Until we put gun ownership in context and accept that more limitations on it are necessary for a free and safe society, we put everyone at risk.


Ray said...

Sigh... and be sure to scan the comments, too.

HRH said...

We have witness a few high profile tragic incidences, in the past 11 days that set an unduly pessimistic tone for 2011. The year began with death of 20 or more Coptic Christians in Egypt, followed by the murder of a governor in Pakistan, killings of 30 or more south Sudanese independent voters and the Arizona shooting. Lately, I have been wondering if the gun control law, would in fact, render the added safety and the security we except in our lives? Although, I am still a proponent of the gun control; I can’t help to be haunted by a new conundrum that is waning on my belief. At the moment, I live in a country with a tough gun control law; anyone (excluding the security forces) owning a gun, will face death penalty or at least, life in prison. Sadly, the crimes are still being committed, and the crime rate is rather high proportion to the population. The absent of gun, in people’s daily life, didn’t attenuate the crime rate by any means, it seems that knives are widely used by criminals to carrying out the mission. I am looking at the crime section of today’s paper, and three women were killed in separate purse snatching incidents, a woman has killed her husband for having an extra marital affair, a man is scheduled to be hung in public square for killing another man (apparently he stabbed his victim 23 times, in a dispute, over a female co-worker),….and so on. This is very similar to the crimes; I used to read about in NY Daily News, NY Post and the Staten Island advance. The only difference is that guns are the widely used tool in most U.S crimes, and knives are the main tool to commit crimes here.
I am thinking, guns and knives are only tools, so, making gun control, knife control and so on laws, would just pass the problem to the next object that one can use to take care of business. I suppose, if we focus on restraining the reasons that provoke individuals to commit crime, might be a better solution, if not THE solution. For instance, the blasphemous rhetoric provoked the body guard, to kill the governor of Punjab in Pakistan a few days ago. Given the acute political condition in Pakistan, this could have been avoided, if the rhetoric was restrained. I viewed snippets from the rally, held by TEA party in D.C last year, it almost sounded as bad as the Islamic extremist rallies in the Middle East, and it only lacked burning Obama posters at the end. Surely, any provoking rallies with such strong rhetoric can be the impetus for reckless behavior. I am not sure what provoked, the 22 years old Jared Loughner to kill those innocent folks in Arizona and seriously injure the congress woman Giffords? Was he abetted by the angry political rhetoric being echoed in the past two years, by the oppositions to White House? Especially from known individuals like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Shawn Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh ( Fox News and TEA party in general)? If so, then shouldn’t we fix these sorts of things before pursuing the gun control law? I hope this kind of questioning, doesn’t give the impression that I am repudiating the gun control, and ONLY reflects my curiosities.

Ray said...

Was he abetted by the angry political rhetoric being echoed in the past two years...

Perhaps. Perhaps not. However, I think it's fair to say such vitriol doesn't help.

As for gun control, I can certainly understand your arguments. On the other hand, the US is a culture obsessed with violence, and adding the ability to amass your own personal armoury can only, in my opinion, make things worse. I read elsewhere this morning that the ratio of guns per head of population is higher in Canada than it is in the US (which I have to say I find astonishing - I must check it out), but the rate of gun violence is only a tiny fraction of what it is here. Again, it's a cultural thing, and until the culture changes, there is little hope for improvement.

Barry Leiba said...

HRH, it's absolutely true that guns make up just one class of tool, and that putting limitations on guns will not stop crime. I have no illusion about that.

It's a question of limiting the scope, the range, the capability to do damage. One man standing out in the open with a gun can kill six and injure a dozen more before we can stop him, as we saw over the weekend. One man with a gun can kill someone many metres away. Point a gun at a crowd and start shooting, and the casualties pile up quickly. If last weekend's shooter had a knife, the outcome would have been far less severe.

As Ray says, we're both talking about violent societies, here. To my mind, that's all the more reason to limit the destructiveness of the available tools.

Ray said...

This (via the Cuttlefish) makes for sobering reading.

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

According to wikipedia, at least, as of 2007, not only does the US have the highest guns per person rate in the world, it is almost 50% higher than the #2 nation, Yemen.

Canada comes in 9th, with just over a third the number of guns per person as the US.

Older statistics on gun-owning households also show the US well in the lead:

On that page, Canada ranks a pretty distant third.

Culture surely plays a role, but so do raw numbers, I think.