"Passion governs. And she never governs wisely." Benjamin Franklin
The 14dec12 Newtown elementary school massacre again brings out all of our weaknesses as an ignorant and free people. And the pandering politicians and public media are already at the trough, feeding on and encouraging every imaginable emotion that short circuits reason. I want to take a look at the next collective calamity we are adding to the current pile within the Beltway.
The national debate on the massacre and reawakening of more gun controls is being repeated in an extended comment stream below ‘Ruminations – 14dec12 (updated)’. Predictably, the arguments highlight the main polarities that today define and divide us. The discussion herein will be limited to the reasoning processes that are fueling the forecasts of new public policies promised for the new year.
In the above referenced post a liberal commenter declared that the Newtown evil arose out of an inbred quality of American culture displayed most gruesomely in the 19th century massacres of American Indians during the nation’s westward movement. His reasoning strongly concluded that Newtown’s mass deaths were of a piece with those inflicted on the Indians, and therefore give rise to modern day mass deaths in schools, theaters, malls, and other places where people are tightly packed. His summa is that “a death is a death”, therefore they should all be considered of a feather. Several other liberal commentators were quick to join their support to this deductive delusion.
Categorized Mass Deaths
1. War – transnational (public policy)
2. War – internecine (public policy)
2.1. Civil (Russian 1918-23, Spanish 1935-39)
2.2. Punitive (War between the states – punish South)
2.3. Genocidal (USSR-Kulaks, Germany-Jews, China-intellectuals, Cambodia-?,19th century aboriginal massacres)
3.1. Occupational (mine disaster)
3.2. Recreational (Titanic)
3.3. Medical (‘medical mistakes’)
3.4. Infra-structure failure (bridge, building collapses)
3.5. Technological (rogue versions of AI, nano-bots, genomic accident)
4. Ideological (terror)
4.1. Biological (plague)
4.2. Blast (bombings, 9/11)
4.3. Chemical (poisoning)
5.1. Collateral (pursuant to other criminal objective)
5.2. Murder (purposive targeted killing)
5.3. Insanity (deranged shooter)
6.1. Black Swans - Storms, Floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, ...
What is quickly apparent is that the Newtown shootings of the deranged criminal kind (see 5.3), and the 19th century Indian massacres that resulted from the execution of a deliberate and purposive public policy (see 2.3) are totally different and of a different kind. And perusing the above outlined taxonomy, we see that mass deaths come from many sources, in many forms, and for many purposes – in short, if anything, a death is definitely not a death.
But none of this will provide a detour in the progressive mind’s established progress toward critical thought. More rational thinkers quickly understand that if the objective of any debate today is to devise ways to prevent future mass deaths, then we must examine a wide range of very different public policies that are appropriate for each of the above listed subcategories.
And now we come to deciding what if anything should be done in response to Newtown. Again, reason calls for first attempting to find what the causes of such a massacre were that can be expected to realize again in the future, and what interventions are possible. This is no simple matter, and most certainly not found in the simplistic progressive propositions put forth under my previous post. For a counter to this, I posit that simple causes satisfy simple minds, and that is again bearing fruit nationwide under our pandering political leadership – especially those promoting a greater social agenda.
News pours in by the hour of fresh proposals for more control of guns, especially those designated as “assault weapons”. All of the proposals circumvent any attempt at an objective assessment of what happened, save the obvious evidence that 26 people were shot with a semi-automatic rifle after which the deranged shooter killed himself. And that is all our progressive legislative mavens in Washington need to go forth and add yet another layer of gun control to the pile of unenforced gun laws already on the books. Subsequently, more previously normal and everyday behaviors by law abiding citizens will be criminalized with no promise of solving the undefined problem leading to the Newtown massacre of innocents.
To put this into an even more focused perspective, every decision professional and the extensive multi-discipline literature counsel that ‘Fire!, Ready, Aim’ is not the rational approach to a decision, and following that path almost always leads to later disaster and collateral damage. Such counsel is given to patients, clients, corporations, and legislatures by psychiatrists, psychologists, family counselors, lawyers, corporate consultants, and purveyors/practitioners of the more technical decision sciences (full disclosure – I was employed in and contributed to the latter two fields).
As examples, consider the ‘ban assault guns’ and enforcement of existing gun laws issues. Assault gun is an emotional label fostered by the ignorant, the agenda driven ideologues, and the sensationalist media. An assault gun is a weapon currently employed by the world’s militaries in the business of war. ‘Currently employed’ is the operational phrase here. Back during the American Revolution a smoothbore flintlock musket was an assault weapon, but quickly lost that qualification when percussion caps and mass-produced rifling were introduced.
We can continue that analysis with every new introduction of firearms technology over the last 200 years that made the individually carried weapon lighter, more deadly, more reliable, higher rate of fire, and more capacious so as to increase the combat load of ammunition a soldier could carry farther. A case in point is that today no weapon can qualify as an assault gun that is also not fully automatic with a rapidly interchangeable, large capacity magazine (not clip). The sale of assault weapons has been illegal in the US for more than 75 years. Semi-automatic weapons simply no longer qualify as military assault guns, except in the proposals of emotion reliant demagogues.
And that brings us to the relatively recent revision of how we understand the Second Amendment. The progressive, who sees a sane society as one that is essentially a toothless ward of the state, dependent on it for every benefit of life, will insist that only government should possess guns. The road to that enlightened state is through the continual injection into the public forum of thoughts like recently uttered by President Obama, that “no one needs an assault gun to go deer hunting”, thereby including two shibboleths in one tidy little homily. Three generations today have not been taught what our Founders believed about the maintenance of liberty under governments that by their nature have the tendency to become tyrannical. (My expanded thoughts on this are expounded under the introduced notion of Par Force.)
Finally we come to the enforcement of existing gun laws which fill reams in federal and state legal codes. The conclusion, as recently reviewed by Robert Leider at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, is that government’s record of enforcement is one of extensive delinquency, especially the important ones to prevent massacres like Newtown. As examples, Leider points out that the states’ lack of reporting required of known mentally unfit persons led to two such multiple killings. And the same delinquency very likely contributed to Newtown shooter Adam Lanza’s not being identified and logged as a “mental defective”, thereby bringing in other legal requirements for the possession and storage of guns at his residence.
However, what government does do well in this arena is to make difficult for legally competent citizens, and limit the acquisition and use of firearms which it considers can be used against its overreach of our freedoms. A government that trusts its citizens would maximize the availability and prudent use of firearms in the land (e.g. Switzerland); a fearful government banishes legal broad-based ownership of weapons that can approach par force with the local constabulary.
So in this environment of sustained quasi-hysteria, the nation goes forth to draft new laws supposed to prevent mass killings, whose causes are unknown, through politically propitious strictures whose only effects are to salve the irrational and temporary components of our media-fostered national grief.
[18dec12 update] Expanding on reasonable responses to the killings, David Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, wrote in the 18dec12 WSJ 'Guns, Mental Illness and Newtown'. In it he notes that "Today, Americans are safer from violent crime, including gun homicide, than they have been at any time since the mid-1960s.", and relates these statistics to what laws were on the books when. At the same time he notes the increase in mass shootings over the years, and it is these mass shootings that give rise to the stoked public hysteria we are witnessing today.
Nowhere are school children in greater danger from such mass killings than in Israel. That country long ago adopted a sane policy of school security that includes firearms available to staff. Marc Kahlberg gives an overview of that country's approach in 'Why there are no school shootings in Israel'.
[19dec12 update] Dr E. Fuller Torrey and Doris A. Fuller of the Treatment Advocacy Center present a cogent case - 'The Potential Killers We Let Loose' - for reducing the likelihood of mass killings of the type that occurred in Newtown. Their analysis reveals the role that observable yet untreated mental illness continues to play in such massacres. Moreover, the roadblocks that our light thinking civil libertarians have placed in having such people treated has definitely been a contributing factor to these tragedies. And it turns out that Connecticut happens to be "among the worst states" to permit early and effective treatment of the mentally ill.
[20dec12 update] This morning President Obama called for rapid action – within the next 30 days – on new gun laws, citing the need for speed while public passions about the Newtown killings are still high. Meanwhile his light thinking legions are telling everyone that the current legislative panic is based on reason – one local worthy even went so far as to declare “There is no emotional response here...no passion driven public policy...this is just another example in a long string of examples of why we need a new approach to gun regulation and public health.” It seems that some progressive pikers are not listening very carefully to their thought leader.
What has yet to enter the national debate is a reasoned discussion of the 2nd Amendment’s purpose. As all, save the statist progressives, know, our Founders were not silly enough enshrine the citizen’s ability to hunt deer in the Constitution. History had already shown them the efficacy of an armed population in denying tyranny a foothold in the form of a crushing central government. For that they established states’ rights as distinct “laboratories of freedom”, and made sure that guns would not be taken from the people, whether they belonged to the encouraged state militias or not.
This factor has seen little coverage in the growing debate. But it is the prime factor for defending the maintenance of par force (q.v.) in the land, or as close to that as can reasonably be expected. In the absence of such discussion we have seemingly reasonable people looking to stop Newtown like killings while agreeing that banning semi autos, magazine restrictions, and ammo permits seem like a reasonable step forward. The question is ‘reasonable step forward to what?’
That this aspect of gun ownership seems to garner less and less coverage when gun control discussions come up – focusing instead on deer hunting, personal protection, and target shooting as the reason for having guns – is of more than passing interest. For example, even a more conservative news outlet like Fox News still considers it prudent to be silent on the matter. To me that appears like the progressives’ generations-long comprehensive embrace of government has won the day in the public media. Moreover, the topic is also becoming a difficult one to raise on many blogs and the social media (e.g. consider its almost total absence in the comment threads that populate the comment stream of this posting). It’s as if the Founders’ concerns are now far behind us.
[21dec12 update] The NRA completed its deliberations on the Newtown killings and issued its considered recommendations (here).
The main being to have schools manned by armed guards as are other facilities – stadiums, airports, malls, … - where high densities of people congregate. This is a half way step to the Israeli solution which has had an exemplary record of success in a much more dangerous environment. NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre also recommended that governments at all levels begin enforcing existing laws and establish a long sought “robust National Instant Check System, used to perform background checks on would-be buyers at federally registered firearms dealers.”
These are policy responses which RR and many of its readers have backed over the years.
And as is typical with the growth of the nation’s lunatic leftwing, demonstrators were again in place attempting to disrupt the NRA’s presentation of its recommendations. Against such useful idiots the nation remains defenseless.
[more] We are constantly reminded of the stratospheric hypocrisy of the rabidly liberal media. 446 school aged children have been shot so far this year in Chicago, to the sounds of crickets from the lamestream. (more here, and H/T to reader) They have been predominantly black and other minorities, but no one gives a shit – not their neighborhoods, not their community leaders, not the city’s leadership, not the state of Illinois, not the federal government, …, no one. There is no outrage, no outcry, no demonstrations, no progressives lamenting the murder of innocents.
The sleazebag politicians don’t want to highlight this marathon of murder because they have no solutions and don’t want to draw attention to the desperate environments that government programs have created in the city. And most certainly they don’t want to shine a light on the obvious truth that Chicago and Illinois have the most draconian and restrictive gun laws in the nation. Instead, the progressives’ policy is to just let them quietly die year after year, and then make a big noise when white kids are killed in a rare event that suddenly needs all kinds of displayed hysteria to show proper concern, and remove more freedoms from the entire population.