Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Guns’ Category

Here’s why Australians will never understand the US obsession with guns

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Well worth a click and a look. I do understand that Australia’s population is just over 7% of the population of the US. In such cases, per capita figures are more relevant: Australia has 1 firearm death per 100,000 each year, and the US has 10.2 firearm deaths per 100,000, an order of magnitude greater.

Figures from this 2008 CBS News article.

Still, the graphic at the link is impressive.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2017 at 10:45 am

Posted in Guns

What the Numbers Actually Say About Gun-Related Deaths and Gun Control

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A very interesting chart from a post at The Simple Serial. The post includes an explanation of how the strength of gun laws was derived.

I feel pretty certain that gun lovers will say correlation is not causation, and I’ll be interested to know what they think is the cause, since I think everyone, gun lover or not, is interested in having a lower rate of gun deaths.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2017 at 7:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Science

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

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Max Fisher and Josh Keller have a very interesting article, with charts, in the NY Times:

When the world looks at the United States, it sees a land of exceptions: a time-tested if noisy democracy, a crusader in foreign policy, an exporter of beloved music and film.

But there is one quirk that consistently puzzles America’s fans and critics alike. Why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.

What Explains Mass Shootings

The top-line numbers suggest a correlation that, on further investigation, grows only clearer.

Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.

Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.

Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.

What Doesn’t: Crime, Race or Mental Health

If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.

A 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of American gun deaths could be attributed to mental health issues. And Mr. Lankford, in an email, said countries with high suicide rates tended to have low rates of mass shootings — the opposite of what you would expect if mental health problems correlated with mass shootings.

Whether a population plays more or fewer video games also appears to have no impact. Americans are no more likely to play video games than people in any other developed country.

Racial diversity or other factors associated with social cohesion also show little correlation with gun deaths. Among European countries, there is little association between immigration or other diversity metrics and the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.

A Violent Country

America’s gun homicide rate was 33 per million people in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries. In Canada and Britain, it was 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively, which also corresponds with differences in gun ownership.

Americans sometimes see this as an expression of deeper problems with crime, a notion ingrained, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s. But the United States is not actually more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California, Berkeley.

Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

They concluded that the discrepancy, like so many other anomalies of American violence, came down to guns.

More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence.

Mass Shootings Happen Everywhere

Skeptics of gun control sometimes point to a 2016 study. From 2000 and 2014, it found, the United States death rate by mass shooting was 1.5 per one million people. The rate was 1.7 in Switzerland and 3.4 in Finland, suggesting American mass shootings were not actually so common.

But the same study found that the United States had 133 mass shootings. Finland had only two, which killed 18 people, and Switzerland had one, which killed 14. In short, isolated incidents. So while mass shootings can happen anywhere, they are only a matter of routine in the United States.

As with any crime, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2017 at 9:53 am

Posted in Guns, Science

White Male Terrorists Are an Issue We Should Discuss

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Lincoln Anthony Blades has a good article in Teen Vogue:

Since September 11, 2001, preventing terrorism in the United States has become one of the main concerns of citizens, policymakers, and law enforcement agencies. Leaders believe that battling “terror” isn’t just done by waging war on jihadists themselves, but also on their ideology. When an attack whose perpetrator is affiliated with Islam occurs on American soil, the nation collectively recoils in horror at the audacious attack, mourns for those we’ve lost, and then subsequently doubles down on rooting out any semblance of pro-extremist thought in our society.

When the assailant is identified, intelligence agencies conduct a thorough investigation into the subject’s known terror ties. These ties are provided to outlets that, in real time, condemn the violent extremism that animated the subject. When bad actors align themselves with extremist Islamic ideology, information about those who propagate this dangerous dogma is eagerly consumed because we deem it essential — not to just know what happened, but everything and every person that may have influenced what happened. Yet when it comes to domestic terrorism carried out by white men, such thorough accounting lacks.

Last week, America found itself in a terrifying and simultaneously familiar place: mourning the loss of life after a mass shooting. On Sunday, April 30, Monique Clark, a 35-year-old mother of three daughters, was killed after a gunman opened fire at guests at a poolside party inside an apartment complex. In addition to Clark, six other people — mostly black and Latinx — were injured in the shooting spree by a 49-year-old white male named Peter Selis. In the wake of the attack, witnesses and victims attested that race was a prominent factor in the shooting. Yet San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said just one day after the shooting that there was “zero information” that race contributed to the attack. (Navy Lt. j.g. Lauren Chapman, one of the attendees of the party, said she felt “heartbreak” at the police’s dismissal of this motive, which witnesses say was a major factor.) The shooting received such little immediate coverage that people took to social media to blast major networks and politicians for their lack of reporting, and terror context. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2017 at 10:44 am

How bad is US gun violence? These charts show the scale of the problem

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I would think that by now everyone would recognize that “thoughts and prayers” have no discernible effect on the problem of gun violence in the US. Mona Chalabi has an article—and some charts—in an article in the Guardian that shows just how bad the US is in terms of gun violence. (I do understand that many believe either (a) nothing can be done about it or (b) the best thing to do is to make sure everyone carries a gun. I’m not convinced: as the number of guns in circulation increases, so does the number of gun deaths, and that has been repeatedly shown to be true.)

Chalabi writes:

Gun violence in the US isn’t just bad, it’s uniquely bad in terms of the number of lives that are affected by it and how rare such violence is in a wealthy country. The charts below illustrate the scale of the problem.

1. The outlier

Other wealthy countries don’t have as many guns as the US. They don’t have as many gun deaths as the US, either. . .

Continue reading. And look at those charts.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2017 at 9:51 am

Posted in Guns

How Chicago Gets Its Guns

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Mick Dumke reports in ProPublica:

John Thomas set up the deal the way he had arranged nearly two dozen others. A friend said he wanted to buy as many guns as he could, so Thomas got in touch with someone he knew who had guns to sell.

The three of them met in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in south suburban Lansing at noon on Aug. 6, 2014. Larry McIntosh, whom Thomas had met in his South Shore neighborhood, took two semi-automatic rifles and a shotgun from his car and put them in the buyer’s car. He handed over a plastic shopping bag with four handguns.

None of the weapons had been acquired legally — two, in fact, had been reported stolen — and none of the men was a licensed firearms dealer.

Thomas’ friend, Yousef, paid McIntosh $7,200 for the seven guns. He always paid well.

Thomas did little but watch the exchange, but he got his usual broker’s fee of $100 per gun, $700 total. It was “the most money I’ve seen or made,” he recalled — his biggest deal yet.

It was also his last.

Amid Chicago’s ongoing epidemic of gun violence — with nearly 500 people killed in shootings and more than 2,800 wounded this year through September — the availability of guns has been blamed as a root cause and become a defining political and public safety issue.

City police have seized nearly 7,000 illegal firearms so far in 2017 and federal authorities have stepped up efforts to take down dealers.

Still, it’s by no means clear that targeting those like John Thomas makes a real difference.

Most of the guns police seize come from Indiana and other states where firearms laws are more lax, police and researchers have found. After they were purchased legally, most were sold or loaned or stolen. Typically, individuals or small groups are involved in the dealing, not organized trafficking rings, experts say.

Unlike the drug trade — often dominated by powerful cartels or gangs — illegal gun markets operate more like the way teenagers get beer, “where every adult is potentially a source,” said Philip Cook, a researcher at the University of Chicago Crime Lab who’s also a Duke University professor.

Under pressure to respond to the violence, law enforcement has focused on making examples of people caught selling, buying or possessing guns. But authorities acknowledge that these cases do little to stem the flow of guns into the city.

“You are a single salmon swimming upstream at Niagara Falls,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. “If your policing strategy is to decrease the number of guns in your city, good luck, because there are too many guns out there. It’s better to go after the person with the gun.”

An in-depth examination of Thomas’ case — based on police reports, court records and interviews, including a series of conversations with Thomas — shows how authorities target mostly street-level offenders, sometimes enticing them with outsized payoffs. In this and other cases, critics say their techniques raise questions of whether they are dismantling gun networks or effectively helping to set them up.

“You have this specter of whether it’s creating crime, which is troubling to a lot of people,” said Katharine Tinto, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law who has studied the investigative tactics of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “It’s not as if you’re trying to get someone you know is a violent gun offender. You’re going after someone and purposely trying to entice them into doing a felony.”

A Natural Salesman

At 33, John Thomas has a charming smile that sometimes displays his chipped front tooth. His mother’s name, Val, is tattooed on his left forearm — a tribute to her for bringing him into the world, though he said he could never count on her. His daughter’s name, Jataviyona, is tattooed on his right shoulder.

Even as a kid, Thomas was a natural salesman, quick with a hustle.

“That’s my gift, I guess — to sell,” he said.

He grew up in the part of South Shore known as “Terror Town.” A short walk from a popular Lake Michigan beach, it’s long been a mix of middle-class homeowners and lower-income renters, with bungalows, condominiums and multi-unit apartment buildings on tree-lined streets.

By the time Thomas was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the neighborhood was struggling. Many white homeowners and merchants had fled after African-Americans moved in. Thousands of people in South Shore and surrounding communities lost their jobs when the nearby steel mills closed. When the crack epidemic hit in the early 1990s, gang violence soared.

Thomas’ father wasn’t around, and his mother struggled with addiction, according to Thomas and a younger sister, Sade Thomas-Adams. With five other siblings, Thomas was raised by an aunt and uncle he considered his parents.

Thomas’ uncle was a pastor, and the family spent a lot of time at church, giving him a lifelong faith. During the week, the kids were told to focus on their studies and come home right after school to avoid the dangers of gangs and drugs. Thomas and some of his siblings chafed at those rules, though, escaping from the house to hang out with friends, drink and smoke marijuana.

“They had their foot in both worlds — the church and the street,” said Thomas-Adams.

Thomas developed his first hustle while in grammar school, he said. He and his friends would offer to help shoppers with their bags and carts outside an Aldi supermarket. He learned he could talk to people and earn tips.

Thomas graduated to other ways of making money. First, he said, he sold baggies of fake marijuana. Eventually, neighborhood dealers set him up with real drugs. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 October 2017 at 6:37 pm

Repeal the Second Amendment

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Bret Stephens, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, is a conservative columnist at the NY Times. Today he writes:

I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.

From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

From a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety. The F.B.I. counted a total of 268 “justifiable homicides” by private citizens involving firearms in 2015; that is, felons killed in the course of committing a felony. Yet that same year, there were 489 “unintentional firearms deaths” in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Between 77 and 141 of those killed were children.

From a national-security standpoint, the Amendment’s suggestion that a “well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” is quaint. The Minutemen that will deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are based in missile silos in Minot, N.D., not farmhouses in Lexington, Mass.

From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?

And now we have the relatively new and now ubiquitous “active shooter” phenomenon, something that remains extremely rare in the rest of the world. Conservatives often say that the right response to these horrors is to do more on the mental-health front. Yet by all accounts Stephen Paddock would not have raised an eyebrow with a mental-health professional before he murdered 58 people in Las Vegas last week.

What might have raised a red flag? I’m not the first pundit to point out that if a “Mohammad Paddock” had purchased dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition and then checked himself into a suite at the Mandalay Bay with direct views to a nearby music festival, somebody at the local F.B.I. field office would have noticed.

Given all of this, why do liberals keep losing the gun control debate?

Maybe it’s because they argue their case badly and — let’s face it — in bad faith. Democratic politicians routinely profess their fidelity to the Second Amendment — or rather, “a nuanced reading” of it — with all the conviction of Barack Obama’s support for traditional marriage, circa 2008. People recognize lip service for what it is.

Then there are the endless liberal errors of fact. There is no “gun-show loophole” per se; it’s a private-sale loophole, in other words the right to sell your own stuff. The civilian AR-15 is not a true “assault rifle,” and banning such rifles would have little effect on the overall murder rate, since most homicides are committed with handguns. It’s not true that 40 percent of gun owners buy without a background check; the real number is closer to one-fifth.

The National Rifle Association does not have Republican “balls in a money clip,” as Jimmy Kimmel put it the other night. The N.R.A. has donated a paltry $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to The Washington Post, equivalent to about three months of Kimmel’s salary. The N.R.A. doesn’t need to buy influence: It’s powerful because it’s popular.

Nor will it do to follow the “Australian model” of a gun buyback program, which has shown poor results in the United States and makes little sense in a country awash with hundreds of millions of weapons. Keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill people is a sensible goal, but due process is still owed to the potentially insane. Background checks for private gun sales are another fine idea, though its effects on homicides will be negligible: guns recovered by police are rarely in the hands of their legal owners, a 2016 study found.

In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.

There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.

Repealing the Amendment may seem like political Mission Impossible today, but in the era of same-sex marriage it’s worth recalling that most great causes begin as improbable ones. Gun ownership should never be outlawed, just as it isn’t outlawed in Britain or Australia. But it doesn’t need a blanket Constitutional protection, either. The 46,445 murder victims killed by gunfire in the United States between 2012 and 2016 didn’t need to perish so that gun enthusiasts can go on fantasizing that “Red Dawn” is the fate that soon awaits us.

Donald Trump will likely get one more Supreme Court nomination, or two or three, before he leaves office, guaranteeing a pro-gun court for another generation. Expansive interpretations of the right to bear arms will be the law of the land — until the “right” itself ceases to be.

Some conservatives will insist that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2017 at 11:23 am

Posted in Government, Guns, Law