Friday, December 14, 2012

Mass Murder: Again and Again, And Again

By Tom Kando

Less than five months ago, I posted a piece titled “Learning from Colorado Mass Murderer James Holmes?” The occasion was another  recent mass murder. James Holmes  “only” killed 14 people. Today in Newtown, Conn., the count is 27, mostly children!

One of the first commentaries  heard  today, from the White House no less,   is that “now  is not the time to get into a gun control debate.” Wow! If not now, then when? (To his credit, President Obama did emphasize later the imperative need to address the issue).

I suppose I could go over the arguments again, tediously and futilely. Mass murders such as Aurora and Newtown briefly wake us up to the insanity of our situation, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Murder goes on unabated every day. As I open the morning newspaper, I see that nearly every day our region experiences homicide (90% through guns). We are a mid-sized city, but we have more murders annually than the average mid-sized European COUNTRY, and almost as many as Japan!

Not a day goes by when I do NOT read about one or more homicides in the greater Sacramento region.  One can hardly keep count  of the number of  murders, suicides-by-cop, occasional unjustified killings of suspects  by callous peace officers,  and other forms of criminal homicides.

At the same time, not only are Second Amendment rights vigorously protected  but they are gaining! Gun ownership is rising. We are becoming like the Wild West again.  It is becoming easier to own guns and to carry them, concealed or not. In the State of Illinois, the US Court of Appeals has just outlawed one of the last laws left in this country which banned carrying concealed weapons. In all other states, such a ban was already in effect. Now it's unanimous (Associated Press, December 12).
What the heck, I’ll just re-post what I wrote less than 5 months ago:

(By the way, I taught criminology at the university for 30 years. I went to international conferences and published on this subject many times (see for example http://www.tomkando.com/professional_publications.shtml). I covered gun control issues for decades. I was also a teacher at the California State Prison in Vacaville, with several dozen inmate-students. I spent many hours riding along with police patrol, and I did fieldwork at a variety of juvenile and adult penal facilities.)

The gun control arguments have been made ad nauseam, but nothing ever changes.

On July 22, Sacramento Bee   journalist Marcos Breton  said excellent things. He reminded us of  well-known NRA-sponsored  clich├ęs like  - “guns don’t kill people, people kill people;” “we don’t ban spoons and forks because people are obese,” etc.

I can add to this idiotic list: “more people are killed by cars than by guns, so how about banning  cars?” “If we ban guns, people will easily  kill you with knives and other things...”

And the “guns don’t kill people” proponents always bring up places like Switzerland, Israel, Washington D.C., New York, Florida: The Swiss and the Israelis are heavily armed, but their murder rates are very low. New York and D.C. have some of the toughest gun control laws, yet also some of the highest rates of homicide. When Florida’s gun laws  became more permissive, gun deaths were said  to have declined. And so on and on, the abuse of selective statistics, spurious correlations  and absurd arguments...

Breton pointed out the obvious: it’s not “guns or no guns?” but “what TYPE of guns?” and “used by WHOM?” James Holmes bought 6,000 rounds of ammo and  no alarm bell went off?  Assault weapons in every garage?  All these things have been said a million times, but don’t hold your breath waiting for  significant change.  The stranglehold which the NRA and a certain mind set have over politics and public opinion will never slacken. What’s the point of mentioning the obvious again?

          US: 16,000 murders per year, of which 13,000 are  by guns.
          UK: 600 murders per year, of which are 60 by guns.

But the US is five times larger than the UK, so we are entitled to five times more murders. That would be  3,000! Not the 16,000 which we DO have!

“But if we ban guns, people will use knives, etc.  instead...” See previous paragraphs. It’s a lot harder to kill with a knife or with your fists.

A fellow named Marc has a brilliant blog  essay “ Jimmy Homes, Superhero?”
http://www.3sigma.com/james-holmes-superhero/  A lot of sarcasm, but  his conclusion should not be misunderstood. He is on the same page as I am: GUNS  DO KILL PEOPLE!

You can substitute dozens of other countries for “UK” in the above comparison. The discrepancy remains  equally appalling - if not worse.  For instance, Japan had 300 murders last year, that’s half Britain’s number  and 53 times  (!) fewer than in the US. (Japan’s population is twice that  of Britain and a little less than half ours). Of Japan’s 300 annual murders, 10 (!) were by gun!

Like Breton, I’ll put in a disclaimer to show you that I am not a zealot: I own a rifle. It’s tucked  away safely, and it’s not leaving my house, ever.  I don’t advocate dogma, just common sense.  Someone very dear to me just said it: “Gun control is a duh thing.” The NRA is wrong. Case closed. leave comment here