Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Notes About Guns


Although vastly more people are murdered, and murdered with guns, in the United States than in other equivalently wealthy countries, the murder rate is vastly outpaced by other ways to die. This doesn't mean we can't do anything about murder. We probably can. But what we can do might be counter-intuitive and we won't know until we can do more studies.

  • So-called "assault weapons" kill relatively few people in the United States. A reduction of legal magazine sizes might reduce the number of casualties in mass killings but will not affect the murder rate overall.

  • That being said, a handgun ban would be both constitutional and effective. 
  • Alternatively, or in addition to, a restriction on males under the age of 25 possessing a handgun, would also be effective.

It's my contention though that the Executive Order mandating that the CDC be able to do actual research into gun violence is the single most important thing we need.

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the CDC conducted original, peer-reviewed research into gun violence, including questions such as whether people who had guns in their homes gained protection from the weapons. (The answer, researchers found, was no. Homes with guns had a nearly three times greater risk of homicide and a nearly five times greater risk of suicide than those without, according to a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.)
But in 1996, the NRA, with the help of Congressional leaders, moved to suppress such information and to block future federal research into gun violence, [Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health and director of the CDC's Center for Injury Prevention and Control from 1994 to 1999] said.

I can't say why the NRA is against research. I can guess, but I can't say for sure. I ain't got a lot of truck with those who are against research. I'm a big fan of research.

Ways to die.

Heart disease is the #1 killer in America. By an order of magnitude. Half a million people rather than about 30,000 from firearms (including suicides). Also more dangerous than firearms is cancer and automobiles.
The problem is with the way that people judge risk. We feel we're safer when we drive because we have some amount of control over driving. We feel either that we're less safe because of some crazed shooter, than by being killed in our automobile.
Or, conversely, we feel we're safer because we own a gun. That feels like we have some degree of control and we might fend off an attack. Statistically that's dead wrong, of course (see above).
We saw the same think occur after 9/11. More people were killed on roads due to the increased numbers of people driving, than died in terrorist attacks in the US. Still they felt they'd be safer driving. They weren't.

Do we need guns to protect ourselves from our own government?
It's an article of faith among the gunerencia that guns are the only thing standing between us and a tyrannical government. Now much of that is Turner Diaries racist fantasy. But let's take a look to see if there's any merit. And wish us luck because the data sets are so squirrely.
The first thing we can say is that we don't need firearms to affect a revolution in and of itself. There are plenty of examples of revolutions without civilian-owned firearms.
Tunisia has one of the lowest civilian ownership ratios of firearms in the world and they just threw out a dictator, sparking the Arab Spring.
The Velvet Revolution was bloodless.
And civilian ownership of assault rifles wouldn't have helped the Prague Spring as Brezhnev's tanks were ¡mostly¡ bullet-proof.
I'd go so far as to suggest that really to have a revolution 'gainst a tyrannous foe you're going to need the army on your side. If you've got a Seven Days in May situation you're really going to have to rely on the fact that the officer corps are simply not going to go along with it. Because if they do, I'm not so sure what a 30-round magazine of .223 ammo is going to accomplish.
All presently-legal firearms will have no effect against the combined might of the United States armed forces. I'm just going to go ahead and say that. You're going to need drones and stealth bombers. Or, like in actual revolutions you'll take to the street and the army will go along with you because your demands are just.