Tag Archives: gun control

The Irony of the Projectile

The evidence from palaeoanthropology suggests that in the past humans were about the stature they are now, with more sexual dimporphism than now, with similar or larger brains than they have now, and used technology at the same level of sophistication as many later humans. Scientists argue over the degree to which modern day language abilities, symbolic thinking, and artistic capacity was found in these earlier humans.

Where we see physical evidence suggesting morbidity or even mortality among those humans, which included “archaic Homo sapiens” and Neanderthals and their kin, we often see violence. Some have suggested that this violence is from close quarter combat between individuals, while others have suggested it is from a hands-on approach to hunting where animals were wrangled to the ground and dispatched. Among the technologies used by these early humans we see evidence for some hand held weapons but no good evidence for projectiles.

It is possible that projectiles became widespread at some point and that this changed everything. Many scientists have suggested something like this, and each of those ideas is different and relates to a different set of evidence. We know for sure that projectiles didn’t exist then later they did, and we know for sure that high degrees of physical robusticity existed, later replaced by physical gracility. Regardless of the details, there was a time when humans needed to get up close and personal to intimidate, wound, or kill each other placing themselves at risk at the same time, and later, it became possible for a smaller, less robust person to kill pretty much anyone (with skill and luck) without taking that immediate personal risk.

I’m oversimplifying here, but this would mean that the social dynamic involved in interpersonal conflict would be very different under these two different conditions. A thrown spear, or more effectively, a bow and arrow would bring more of this dynamic into the broader social context. One might not be as likely to get killed or seriously injured if one decides to plug an enemy with a well placed arrow, but the slain enemy’s family and friends have the same separation from immediate injury when they come for you later to even things up. One could think of the social dynamic of interpersonal violence as becoming more meta, and the most likely result of this is that day to day interpersonal violence would be significantly reduced. (Larger scale conflict including warfare is a different matter we’ll skip for the present discussion, but intergroup raiding is still pertinent.) Continue reading The Irony of the Projectile

Gun Nuts Stay Home: No Teachers or Staff With Guns in Schools!

The gun nuts did not waste much time after the brutal slaying of 20 six year olds, some teachers, a principal, and some others at a school in Newtown Connecticut to start suggesting that everything would have been fine if only the teachers were armed. And now, after more days have gone by, it seems that the gun nuts are making this suggestion even more frequently.

The evidence suggests that when there are more guns around, especially in the hands of untrained individuals, there is more rather than less danger. Don’t let anyone tell you that an armed population is a safe population. That is a blatant lie. The evidence also suggests that the few times there is an armed citizen in a position to to intervene in a spree killing, they don’t manage it. Arming citizens does not help. These two facts together explain why spree shootings in towns, neighborhoods, places, where people are constantly yammering about their guns and touting their conceal-carry behaviors all the time (like Colorado and Arizona) did not involve response by armed citizens even when they were present.

But none of that is as important as one simple fact. Well, two simple facts, regarding arming teachers in schools. Fact 1: The teachers want no part of it. Fact 1: The parents will not allow this.

There is a very good rational argument to not arm teachers, and there is not rational argument to do so. So we should not. But sometimes we also just need to do what people really want to do, or avoid doing what people just don’t want to do. That counts too, depending on what issue we are talking about. Here we have a situation where the gun nuts would really like to see teachers armed, but they are not teachers and they probably don’t even have kids in schools, and where the teachers themselves are saying they won’t do it. The parents are saying they don’t want it to happen. In this case, then, not only is there a rational argument to not arm teachers, but nobody involved who counts (the gun nuts don’t count) is going to allow it.

Today, a staff member (not a teacher) in a Minneapolis school who has a carry permit brought her pistol to school in response to her own fears raised since the Sandy Hook Massacre. The boneheaded gun nut bragged to her colleagues about it. Someone called the cops, the cops came in and found the gun and took it away, and the school administrators sent her home and have her on leave (charges are being considered). And guess what? The parents are livid.

If you work for a school and you think you know better than everyone else and unilaterally decide to bring your firearm to work, then you you should be fired and jailed.

Sandy Hook: Their Horror, Our Country, Your Guns.

Let me start with this. People talking about Sandy Hook need to stop saying that “20 children between the ages of 5 and 10 were killed.” That is technically true but misses an enormously important point and indicates that you really haven’t thought this through. All of the children who were killed were born between September 2005 and December 2006. They were all in the first grade, all in the same school year, and most of them in the same exact class. Sandy hook had about 100 students in that year. Now, the class is 20% smaller.

This means that every year for the next few years there will be a special, demographic, reminder of the killings. This will be the year with one fewer teacher and slightly more crowded classrooms, or the same number of teachers with smaller than typical classes, compared to the year ahead or behind. This will be the year when the number of busses needed for a field trip will sometiems be less than needed for the year before or the year after, as time marches on. In this particular school district, students consolidate into a middle school in the fifth grade, so the demographic shift will be less noticeable. Instead of 20% of the students missing, it will be 5%. But, that is not a small number when counting students, teachers, busses, desks, etc. It will be subtle, but the 7th grade history teacher will wait an extra year to order new textbooks. You see, one of the reasons to order a new volume, besides staying current, is attrition on the numbers of available books. When this class arrives that won’t be an issue for one more year. And so on. Many little things like this will happen, every week, to teachers, students, administrators. The memory, and thus the horror, of the Sandy Hook killings will be manifest in the details and will keep sneaking up on these people when they least expect it.

This is nothing, of course, compared to the horrors of the deaths and the circumstances surrounding them. But there will be times when a teacher will remember her fellow educator slain on that day while grading assignments and feeling the difference in numbers, or a student will notice that her section of the 4th grade concert assembly is smaller because her four best friends were slain while she hid in a cabinet, hearing her teacher trick the gunman into leaving the classroom just before being pumped with bullets. Will she remember the sound of her body falling to the floor or was it masked by the repeated gunfire or did she hear both sounds from her hiding place? You and I don’t know, but she’ll remember. If they make cute little year books for Elementary School graduation, this class will use less space, and it will take less time at the ceremony to hand out the scrolls. This will dawn on someone in the audience who will then be reminded of the horror, and if you are there, you’ll hear the sobbing.

Anyway, stop saying “20 children between the ages of 5 and 10” because that ignores the very important fact that these children were all the same exact age, as ages go.

Now, on to this point: Stop telling me that your guns are important. I don’t care about your guns. I have hobbies too, that don’t happen to involve guns and I don’t ask you to adjust your politics, to take risks of life and limb, to ignore the horrors of daily gunplay among testosterone poisoned men taking lives every few hours somewhere in this country, of the thousands of youth suicides every year facilitated by easy access to unsecured deadly firearms or the occasional horrific massacre. Do don’t do that to me. Don’t make me respect your stupid hobby which has, as a side effect, the horror that happened last week and will happen again in a few months, because these things happen every few months, in case you have not noticed because you are too busy playing with your precious little guns.

And then this. Don’t give me your made up, out of date, or irrelevant statistics. There have been enough studies. Not all fears (about guns) are real, but most of the accolades given to gun ownership are pipe dreams, or really, gunplay fantasies. When a conceal carry law was passed in Minnesota, anti-gun people feared more shootings, pro-gun people said we’d all be safer because when trouble happened, good guys would draw guns and stop it. Guess what. Neither happened. We had a major massacre here, in fact, just recently, a workplace shooting. No good guys drew their guns. So even if the number of shootings did not go up, the “good side” of allowing people to walk around slinging guns like they lived in the wild west did not happen either. But otherwise, the statistics generally show that more guns equals more bad things that happen with guns. If good things happen because of these guns, they are very small in number, very infrequent, occur at a very low rate, if at all.

To depict these relationships I’ve drawn two graphs. I don’t need to base them on data, because even though you will say “You are not a real skeptic if you make a graph with no data” (I dare you, say it in the comments), these two graphs summarize all that we know to be pretty much true. Here they are:

The more guns, the more bad shit that happens because of guns
If there is a positive effect of more guns, it is much less of an effect than the negative effects depicted above. This line, in real life, may in fact be flat.

Then this: The problem is the Second Amendment. With or without the Second Amendment, we could have sensible gun laws.Gun ownership could be legal, but guns could be better secured an less often used. But with the Second Amendment, the pro-gun lobby takes the most extreme stance possible because they argue that any limitations on gun use or ownership will lead to abrogation of all gun rights. I know lots and lots of gun owners who are happy with increased restrictions or increased security, but the NRA bought-and-paid-for elected officials and gun lobbyists don’t represent those reasonable people at all. They refuse to compromise. One of the false statistic you might have wanted to cite above before I told you to shut up is this: There have been lots of gun restrictions passed and they did not good. That is not true in two ways. First, increased restriction leads to fewer deaths, compared across states or across countries. Second, there have not been very restrictive gun laws passed, for the most part. I’ve seen gun nuts cite the assault weapons ban as having done nothing, without noting that it exists for a few years then expired.

Here’s the the thing. If gun ownership is OK, then lets make it ok, using laws. If gun owners really think that what they are doing is OK, then they should be able to do it without hiding behind an amendment that has nothing to do with Boys and their Toys or with Hunting, or even with addressing issues of crime, threats of rape, home invasion, etc. The Second Amendment does not limit restriction on guns so you can defend your home from criminals or go hunting. It is to defend your home from the British. If what you are doing with your guns is really OK, then why do you want to hide behind an atavistic centuries old out of date no longer relevant amendment?

So here’s what we do, OK? First, we get rid of the Second Amendment. Then, we talk. In the mean time, keep your fucking guns away from me and stop complaining. Society has reached a tipping point. We are tired of your bullying, your whining, your childish insistence that you are doing something important with your toys, because for the most part, you are not.

Guns Ownership and Control: Newtown is one more last straw in a series of many

I have been writing about this topic for years. Lately, I have been ignoring it. Last few massacres, I didn’t say or do anything. I think Gabby Gifford’s shooting was a last straw for me; I became too disgusted with our situation and I became too disheartened with the number of people who require that we Americans remain an utterly unique society in that we shoot each other at record rates. Somehow, it seems, that makes us good. Others claim that because there are problems in the world with higher body counts, this problem of guns in the US should not be addressed at all. That is utterly stupid, of course. If a person’s leg was being chewed on by a dog, and that person also happen to have cancer, would we require that the person not complain about the dog? Same logic.

Anyway, I will write something about Newtown. The timing strikes a bit close to home for me, as someone not affected at all, in ways that are true for many others. I’ve got kids in school or going soon enough. My daughter lost a classmate a number of months ago to gun violence, and my wife lost a student this week in the same way; A few years ago, a few blocks away a gun nut killed a teenager in what was essentially an ambush, and a few weeks ago, another gun nut a couple of towns over executed two teenagers in a similar situation. (The former was lauded as a hero, the latter will go on trial for murder.)

But even that amounts to nothing compared to what many people face every day. We are a heavily armed society and we resort to guns too easily.

At this point, I just wanted to point out two sets of prior blog posts on gun ownership and related issues, one here and one on the X Blog:

Scienceblogs posts on firearms

X Blog posts on firearms

My opinion about guns has not changed, but my preferred strategy to deal with the problem has. That’s been coming for a while. Newtown is just one more last straw in a series of many.

Fun with Guns

Richard Venola of "Guns & Ammo" Magazine is accused of putting a large caliber bullet in his friend's chest. It was a fatal wound.

A two year old boy shot his three year old brother in the butt using daddy’s gun, which was left unlocked, with no safety, in the truck while daddy went into the house to get something. For the second time in a few years, a guy shot a bullet through through the walls separating him and his neighbor, didn’t hit anyone but the neighbor was annoyed and the police seem to think it is the shooter’s right to do this. Some guy who got a new gun for his security job was showing off his gun and killed his friend by shooting in her in the face. Another guy who just got a gun shot his brother dead. A mom gave her teenage son a handgun to play with, and he shot her sister with it. A guy at the shooting range shot himself in the gut wiht his assault rifle. He’ll live, maybe. A cop’s daughter shot herself with the officer’s service weapon, which was left loaded and unlocked on his dresser. The 10 year old girl will live, the cop will not be charged.

All these stories and more can be investigated in more detail here.

But the big story has got to be this one.

The editor of a gun magazine was arrested Wednesday in the shooting death of his friend.

Richard Erick Venola, 53, is charged with second-degree murder after authorities said he shot and killed his friend, James Patrick O’Neill, 39…

Venola is listed as a field editor for “Guns & Ammo” magazine and is said to be passionate about firearms.

… O’Neill was shot once in his chest by a large caliber rifle. His body was found outside the home.

Dismissed Student Executes Seven in California Christian College

The former student …

… walked into the single-story building housing Oikos University on Monday morning, took a receptionist hostage and went looking for a particular female administrator, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told CNN’s “Early Start.”

The man walked into a classroom, lined up students against a wall and shot them one by one, Jordan said.

He then left the classroom, reloaded his semi-automatic, found some more stuents and shot them. He then left the scene in a victim’s car. Soon after, One Goh, the shooter, was arrested at an Alameda grocery store.

According to CNN,

The college, which caters to the Korean-American Christian community, offers degrees in theology, music, nursing and Asian medicine, according to its website.

Gun Control: “Know the facts”

Some books get turned into movies, some books get turned into ads they put on side of busses.

Gun control: "Know The Facts" bus advertising campaign against idiocy in gun ownership.
Facts and information from the book, “Private Guns, Public Health” will be used as the basis for a public ad campaign in the state of Washtington run by Washington Ceasefire:

There are estimated to be about 6.5 million guns in Washington State alone — about one per resident — and approximately 40% of homes in this state have guns. Many homeowners acquire guns for what they see as a means of protection against intruders, though the facts show that the risks of home gun ownership far outweigh the benefits. One of the Know the Facts ads educates the public that when there is a gun in the home, there is a 22x greater chance of killing a family member or a friend than an intruder.

In one of the largest studies on the topic covering three cities — Galveston, Memphis and Seattle — there were only 13 legally justified acts of self-defense out of a total of 626 fatal and non-fatal shootings in residences. The survey was taken in 1994, and several subsequent studies validate the findings. According to ‘Private Guns, Public Health,” there has never been a study demonstrating that a gun in the home can meaningfully deter or thwart burglaries or home invasion.

The real impact of gun laws, and what that means

A few years ago, Minnesota passed a concealed carry law that was strongly supported by the pro-gun lobby and strongly opposed by the anti-gun lobby. As an aside, I’ll note that this was a stupid law, as in, a law engineered stupidly by people who did not know what they were doing, and here I refer to a newly elected crop of right wing legislators who did not know how to be legislators. The original bill was added to some other bill that needed to be passed, as a “rider.” I’m sure you know what a “rider” is but you may not know unless you are from the Northstar State that we can’t have riders here. They are illegal. A bill must not establish statute related to more than one thing in the State of Minnesota. So, a provision that says “it is illegal to crush baby kittens” and a provision that says “you can carry a concealed weapon if you fill out a certain form” can not be part of the same bill. Since the concealed carry bill was a rider, it was tossed out a few weeks after it passed as a matter of routine by the state courts.

That is a bit of a digression and a bit of a distraction, but it is fun to point out because it links ignorance and failure to think things through with the pro-gun lobby and a pro-gun bill. Shortly after the ill fated and illegal bill was chucked by the court system, the legislature consulted the rule books and re-passed the bill. Thereafter we’ve had a concealed carry law. Continue reading The real impact of gun laws, and what that means

US Justice Department Will Investigate Murder of Trayvon Martin

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened an official investigation into the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by a vigilante “Neighborhood Watch” member George Zimmerman. Zimmerman pursued, confronted, then shot to death Trayvon Martin who was on his way home from the convenience store having picked up a bag of Skittles. Local police, apparently caught like deer in the headlights of an idiotic recently enacted Florida Law stating, according to some, that you can kill anyone you want as long as you can later say that they made you feel icky, have refuses to even bring Zimmerman in for questioning.

There have been protests, a lot of noise from the Liberal Blogosphere, and even a write in campaign using the Sanford Police’s own web site (click here to get in on that!), and limited criticism from the press.

(The 911 calls related to this case are very damning of Zimmerman, and you can listen to them here.)

Stand Your Ground, Racism, and the Second Amendment

I want you to do a little thought experiment. Don’t worry, if you have had a long day and your brain is tired, it won’t be too hard. If you’re a Teabagger and are not very smart, it won’t be too hard. If you’re a middle class white person with concerns about brown people moving into your sleepy suburb and all your wealth and privilege came to you more or less by accident and your morality, such as it is, comes to you mainly by default, it won’t be … well actually, for you this might be hard but I’m sure you can do it. Continue reading Stand Your Ground, Racism, and the Second Amendment

Minnesota Governor Vetoes Castle Doctrine Bill

In recent months, several states have seen the introduction, or at least discussion, of bills that would change the typical “Castle Doctrine” to have a broader scope, overturning the legal expectations of law abiding citizens on the street and elsewhere. In most jurisdictions, if someone forces their way into your house, points a gun at you, and is impolite about it, it is OK to blow them away with your cherished firearm. If, however, someone makes threatening and obnoxious motions out in public and they are not right in your face you are not allowed to pull out your piece and shoot them. You must retreat to safety and call the authorities. There is a line between an armed and aggressive intruder and a threatening person in a public space; on one side of this line you may shoot to kill, on the other side you must not. The various recently considered bills would move that line towards the public square and the less threatening situation. For instance, in most jurisdictions you can’t pull out your gun and shoot someone who threatens you in your car, but the new bills would allow that sort of thing.

In Minnesota we managed, much to our chagrin, to acquire a lot of teabagging Republicans during the last few years, which are now slowly going away as they either melt down, mellow out, or hopefully over the next two years, get unelected. But at the moment we have a mainly right wing legislature. Governor Mark Dayton, in contrast, is a classic Liberal. So, when the legislature passed a Castle Doctrine bill that would allow people to shoot each other from within their cars (among other things), Governor Dayton summarily vetoed it.

From the Star Tribune: Continue reading Minnesota Governor Vetoes Castle Doctrine Bill