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Mass shootings: two good questions

I know people on both sides of the gun control debate with respect to mass shootings.  There are two questions that come up that are asked by one side and seem to be avoided by the other. Having thought it over for awhile, I believe that both questions are worth asking and exploring:

  1. What sets apart the United States from other Western countries? – This question is usually asked by me and other people favoring stronger gun and ammo regulation.
  2. How is today different from 30 years ago (1988)? – This question is asked by people who don’t feel the availability of guns is a major factor in mass shootings. Also by others want desperately want to talk about ANYTHING besides new restrictions on guns or ammo.

What sets apart the United States from other Western countries?

A few months ago, I thought only the first question mattered. I still think it is the most important. Given that we’re the only Western country that has nearly monthly mass shootings, it seems likely something is different about us. One explanation is that we are uniquely violent and bloodthirsty. That no matter the availability of lethal weapons, we’d find some way to kill each other in comparable numbers. I’m not willing to accept that.

The various explanations I’ve heard offered for the prevalence of mass shootings – mental illness, bullied children, bad parenting, video games, turning away from God, etc don’t satisfy me either. You can find these things in all other Western countries. If religion kept people from shooting each other, the United States should have the lowest rate of mass shootings since we have the highest level of church attendance of any Western country. But it’s the opposite.

For me personally, that leaves the easy availability of semiautomatic weapons and large capacity ammo magazines. We can get practically unlimited guns and ammo in this and there are a number of ways to get around background checks. But I’m open to the idea that there are protective factors in other countries that we don’t have. If you know of some, leave a comment.

But, I’ve come to believe that as important as the question “What sets apart the United States from other Western countries?” is the question that my more zealous gun rights friends and relatives ask:

How is today different from 30 years ago (1988)?

It is a fact that the US experiences more mass shootings than other Western countries. But it also seems to be true that we experience more mass shootings (and especially school shootings) today than we did 30 years or even 20 years. The era of school shootings is usually dated to 1999 with the Columbine Colorado shooting. So what’s changed since then?

Because I grew up in an alcoholic family where my father often beat my siblings, I don’t think I have enough objectivity to evaluate some of the answers offered by people such as “Kids had fathers”, “Parents weren’t afraid to smack their disrespectful children”, “Kids in school had to fear the principal’s belt.” I invite others to do so, especially if they can bring research instead of anecdotes. HOWEVER there are plenty of other differences between 1988 and 2018 we might consider. Do you think any of the following might have contributed to the rise of mass shootings (not just school shootings)?:

  • Loss of the American Dream – stagnating wages, widespread disbelief in the idea that people’s children will be better off than they are.
  • Rise of Social Media – 30 years ago frustrated people live in isolation. Now there is a group for every grievance.
    • Young men who can’t get laid reinforce the UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL online and spend lots of time figuring out how to MAKE THE WIMMIN PAY.
    • Older men can get together and reinforce each other on conspiracy theories.
    • Skinheads, militia groups and other neo-nazi, racist types have open recruitment forums.
  • Loss of personal interaction – How many lunchrooms are filled with people staring quietly at their phones? How many people go to work, come home, watch videos, go to sleep and start all over again without seeing another person in the flesh?
  • Fox News – I’m not kidding. It started in 1996 and has been grievance TV and radio ever since, promoting any number of conspiracy theories.
  • Another 30 years of a culture of violence, amplified by TV and internet – Watch almost any movie or TV program, like ever, in this country and you’ll see that nine times out of ten to resolve a problem, you have to shoot someone. Or beat them to a pulp. Listen to politicians talk about being tough, strong and ready to completely overwhelm any potential opponent. This was true in 1988, but we’ve had another 30 years of entertainment and political culture assuring us us that violence is the best way to cure our problems.
  • It was harder to gets guns and large ammo clips back in 1988. You didn’t have WalMart SuperCenters  to get guns from till 1988. You didn’t have internet sales and there were probably fewer gun shows back then (I could be wrong – if you have stats, comment). We probably had less than 260 million guns in 1988.

Like most human beings, it’s easier for me to think of bad things than good things. But I think some of the factors below might have protected us from mass shootings 30 years back:

  • More, closer friendships
  • Less opportunity for social comparisons
  • Less 24/7 news of all kinds

Feel free to suggest others in comments.

Going back to the two questions – one is focused on guns and ammo, the other is focused on culture and social factors. I believe that we’ll need answers in both areas before we make real progress in breaking our epidemic of mass shootings. That’s why I think the best place to start is to fully fund gun violence research by the CDC. Then we can stop making policy in a vacuum.

If you haven’t commented on Eclectic Alaskan before, review my comments policy before posting. It might save you from writing a long tirade that won’t be published here. If you’re willing to debate the message instead of the messenger, you’ll probably be fine.

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Gun-rights legislators: Walk the Walk!

It’s difficult to go through the news lately without seeing some Member of Congress or state legislator (pick a state, any state) say that the answer to mass shootings is more guns. They say things like “We need to abolish gun-free zones so that honest citizens can blast away at armed intruders!”

I question whether they really believe this or are simply foisting National Rifle Association (NRA) talking points onto their constituents. You see, the US Capitol Complex is a gun-free zone. EVERY. SINGLE. STATEHOUSE. is a gun free zone. EVERY statehouse that forces open carry on localities is a gun free zone.

If legislators really believe that more guns = more safety, then the first gun free zone they should abolish is their own. Seriously, if they can’t live by a law they make for others, they should not be passing it.  The first response to any legislation loosening where people can go armed should be — “Abolish your own gun-free zone, try it for a year and we’ll talk.”

Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones? by John Nichols — YES! Magazine

Automation can and should eliminate drudgery, freeing people to work fewer hours for fairer compensation and to devote themselves to social advancement. To do this, however, citizens must assert themselves by demanding not just political but economic democracy. We must replace fantastical talk about “the future of work” with the honest understanding that there will be less work. We must shape a humane future in which corporate monopoly and inequality give way to a sharing society where technological progress benefits everyone.

via Can Automation Turn Fewer Jobs Into Better Ones? by John Nichols — YES! Magazine

Technological Unemployment has been a major concern of mine for at least a decade.  I think we’re starting to see it come into it’s own with Uber actually rolling out driverless cars in Cleveland. While these cars have human backups, I’m convinced this is just a transitional phase to get people comfortable with the idea of driverless cars.

If were are going to have an economy that works for all, I think we’re going to need the hard conversations that this Yes! article is calling for.

 

Court: Feds Cannot Prosecute Medical Marijuana In States Where Legal | PopularResistance.Org

The unanimous 9th Circuit ruling on Tuesday was issued by a three-judge panel, two of whom are Republican appointees with a history of pro-law enforcement opinions.

The U.S. Department of Justice cannot spend money to prosecute federal marijuana cases if the defendants comply with state guidelines that permit the drug’s sale for medical purposes, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

via Court: Feds Cannot Prosecute Medical Marijuana In States Where Legal | PopularResistance.Org

To me, this is a welcome victory for local control and sensible drug policy.

Working Economy: IMF – Tax Cuts No Way to Grow

In a working economy, the economy would grow and gains would be shared by labor and capital as both have a role in production.

Back in 2015 the International Monetary Fund (IMF), known mostly for its austerity driven policies looked at the effects of tax cuts for the wealthy and raising incomes at both the top and bottom levels of income. They studied 150 countries and came to the following conclusions:

The researchers calculated that when the richest 20% of society increase their income by one percentage point, the annual rate of growth shrinks by nearly 0.1% within five years.

This shows that “the benefits do not trickle down,” the researchers wrote in their report, which analyzed over 150 countries.

By contrast, when the lowest 20% of earners see their income grow by one percentage point, the rate of growth increases by nearly 0.4% over the same period.

 

Sources:

The ‘trickle down theory’ is dead wrong by Alanna Petroff (CNN Money)
June 15, 2015: 12:35 PM ET (http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/15/news/economy/trickle-down-theory-wrong-imf/)

Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality : A Global Perspective    (https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=42986.0)

 

Clinton Understands Complexity

While I’m not going to blog in earnest about the presidential election till after Labor Day, I was very touched by the e-mail below from the Clinton campaign. You have to understand that while I am voting for Hilary Clinton over Donald Trump, I usually delete her campaign e-mails after reading a paragraph – if I open them at all. But this one was different. She really seems to be grappling with a number of major issues that have hit us over the past few days. Unlike some, she understands that we can mourn both the police officers who were cut down in Dallas AND the two black men shot by police in the last week seemingly without reason.

Without further ado, here is her message that I read in full and want to share with you now:

=========Message from Secretary Clinton=====================

Like so many people across America, I have been following the news of the past few days with horror and grief.

On Tuesday, Alton Sterling, father of five, was killed in Baton Rouge — approached by the police for selling CDs outside a convenience store. On Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32 years old, was killed outside Minneapolis — pulled over by the police for a broken tail light.

And last night in Dallas, during a peaceful protest related to those killings, a sniper targeted police officers — five have died: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. Their names, too, will be written on our hearts.

What can one say about events like these? It’s hard to know where to start. For now, let’s focus on what we already know, deep in our hearts: There is something wrong in our country.

There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be. No one has all the answers. We have to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them.

Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other.

White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about seen and unseen barriers faced daily. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes. To imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past, or if every time our children went to play in the park, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer: “Please God, don’t let anything happen to my baby.”

Let’s also put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous job we need them to do. Remember what those officers in Dallas were doing when they died: They were protecting a peaceful march. When gunfire broke out and everyone ran to safety, the police officers ran the other way — into the gunfire. That’s the kind of courage our police and first responders show all across America.

We need to ask ourselves every single day: What can I do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters — that we have a stake in another’s safety and well-being?

Elie Wiesel once said that “the opposite of love is not hate — it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death — it’s indifference.”

None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other — not now, not ever. We have a lot of work to do, and we don’t have a moment to lose. People are crying out for criminal justice reform. People are also crying out for relief from gun violence. The families of the lost are trying to tell us. We need to listen. We need to act.

I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people.

I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks, limits on assault weapons and the size of ammunition clips gets you demonized.

But all these things can be true at once.

We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated as equal in rights and dignity.

We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.

We do need to reduce gun violence.

We may disagree about how, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.

I’ve been thinking today about a passage from Scripture that means a great deal to me — maybe you know it, too:

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

There is good work for us to do, to find a path ahead for all God’s children. There are lost lives to redeem and bright futures to claim. We must not lose heart.

May the memory of those we’ve lost light our way toward the future our children deserve.

Thank you,

Hillary

***

Learn more about Hillary’s plans to tackle criminal justice reform:https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/criminal-justice-reform/

Learn more about Hillary’s plans to prevent gun violence: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/gun-violence-prevention/

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Marco Rubio: Gives in to fear, paranoia

“In fact, if ISIS were to visit us or our communities at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability I have to protect my family from them or from a criminal or anyone else that seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way.”

via Marco Rubio Says He Bought A Gun On Christmas As ‘Last Line Of Defense’ Against ISIS | Crooks and Liars.

While I don’t agree with guns for home defense, I understand and respect the right of people to have guns for home defense.

But when you’re buying a gun specifically to fend off ISIS/Daesh, you’ve descended into paranoia. Also seem to lack understanding of ISIS tactics, which outside of their territory relies heavily on bombs or groups of people ambushing soft targets like hotels or malls with massed rifle fire. A gun in the home won’t stop either of those.

Also, as a would be President, Senator Rubio appears to have abandoned faith in our military, police services and intelligence services.

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