My parents live in Las Vegas, I have good friends from Las Vegas, and it is a city that I love. I watched the news of the massacre with dread, and as the names of the deceased are released, several friends of friends are among the bereaved.
I was irritated to see the political vultures start swooping before the guns had even cooled, and I’m sorry to say I’m as weak as the next person — having been spared the ashen emptiness of grief, I keep getting sucked into conversations on the gun question. (I am, fortunately, blessed with civilized friends who seek productive dialog, so it’s not the average experience.)
But this is what people are talking about, and people are talking about it because it is important and must be dealt with.
The massacre in Las Vegas is a classic argument for banning civilian access to firearms. If you believe, as many do, that such a ban will be unsuccessful, then the recent church shooting in Tennessee lends itself to arguments in favor of citizens carrying firearms for defensive use.
How serious is America’s gun death problem? The Washington Posts lists all the fatal shootings in the US on Sunday. It’s a long list.
It is therefore understandable that people would like to get rid of guns. It’s an obvious go-to option, especially for those who have no particular use for the things. The question of course is: What will actually help? On that point, DarwinCatholic writes about the importance of using facts if you wish to learn the truth.
Her comments fit with my observations here after glancing at the CDC statistics on gun deaths of minors. It is not that gun laws can’t help. It’s that complex problems — really a set of problems — require complex, varied, time- and labor-intensive solutions.
An aside: Five Thirty Eight reports on the difficulty in classifying (and therefore understanding) the nature of gun deaths. The numbers involved in ambiguous cases are fairly small, though. We end up back at the classic problems of murder, suicide, and accidents.
A difficulty Americans face is that our laws have to take into account the actual way that Americans act. This poem from Joe Long at American Greatness captures the cultural divide between what the mainstream political elite wants people to want, and what they actually want.
In dialog with friends, the importance of mental health care and of keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill both came up as related challenges. Difficulty: There is a portion of Americans who would sooner avoid treatment for mental health problems than risk losing their right to bear arms.
How firmly do Gunlandians cling to the 2nd amendment? As per usual, stock in gun companies went up after the massacre. It’s a painfully predictable series of events: Notorious shooting –> calls for gun control –> rush on gun purchases. It is as reliable as running out for bread and milk before a snowstorm. The stock market knows it. This round, bread-n-milk is ‘bump stocks’, the particular item which Gunlandians fear will be banned.
You can be certain that the stronger the rhetoric in favor of gun control, the stronger the turnout will be for candidates who oppose it. Hence we have Trump. (See how he spoke to his base and didn’t mention guns in his Las Vegas talk? He knows who elected him.) Thanks team.* Sheesh.
You don’t have to think these people are right. You do have to understand that these people live in this nation, they vote, and they already own the guns. Wishing them away will not fix anything. Writing legislation as if these people aren’t there or don’t count will only exacerbate the problem.
How hard is America’s murder-suicide problem to solve? Take a look these articles:
- Heroin deaths surpass gun homicides for the first time, CDC data shows
- The First Count of Fentanyl Deaths in 2016: Up 540% in Three Years
If we wish to understand the homicide-suicide problem, we first need to get a handle on much, much simpler problems.
I wrote last week about the challenges (and some techniques) for preventing accidental deaths. In this area again, I think the polarization of the gun-divide does not help. I have nothing further to say (Review: If you can’t store a weapon properly, you should. not. own. one.), but I do want to share some links on the problem of accidental death in general.
My hardline stance on responsible gun (stove, pool, automobile) ownership is not incompatible with a vivid awareness that accidents can happen even when you do everything right. And thus:
- At The New Yorker: “The Sorrow and Shame of the Accidental Killer.”
- USA Today reports: “Deaths on the rails haunt engineers, conductors.”
One thing the New Yorker article mentions is the dearth of literature dealing with the trauma of manslaughter. Michelle Buckman’s novel Rachel’s Contrition is specifically about the aftermath of an accidental death. I recommend this book. Even if it isn’t your usual genre, the storytelling will suck you in sufficiently. It is by no means a facile treatment of the topic.
On the topic of suicide, here’s the National Review: Pushing Euthanasia for the Depressed.
We will not succeed in ending suicide so long as we are busy encouraging suicide. Forget guns. Let’s outlaw doctors?
In my post-Las Vegas post at the Conspiracy, “The Problem of Evil Revisited”, I wrote this week my usual thing that I write after massacres.
In that Paris post I linked to an article at The Nation, “What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters.”
I maintain that while tactics are necessary in order to mitigate the effects of evil (and hence the gun debates), ultimately what you have to battle with, really truly battle with, is evil itself.
What is the state of affairs concerning evil in the US?
We’ve talked about the heroin problem. I think something many Americans in the voting classes don’t understand is how intensely corrupted life is among the have-nots. Wealthy people manage to cover over these problems and present a good veneer, even though we, too, have addictions and children dying of overdoses. When our kids go astray in other ways, we hold together as fair a face as we can.
But things are bad.
My daughter’s chief complaint about her local public school is the girls (the girls!) who listen to songs about rape. I googled “rape music” and the results were . . . informative. In addition to the fact that this is a genre you can get playlists for, there’s this quote from an article on rape at music festivals:
I was at Secret Garden Party–a four-day Cambridgeshire festival that’s as much about hedonism and dressing in costumes as it is about music–a few weeks back. After wearing a nipple-flashing outfit and voguing on a podium to electro, I staggered back to my tent alone in the dark without considering that I might be in danger. A few days later, I found out that a girl had been allegedly raped at the festival just the night before.
Try parsing that one out. This is where we are.
People think I’m all pie-in-the-sky when I say we need to battle evil.
No. Really. Evil is our problem.
If you want my first step: How about we eliminate rape music? Can we even agree on that?
Artwork: William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
*New readers: My opposition to Trump is longstanding and you can search this blog for more details.
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