Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown School Shooting

For a long time, and until I read Richard North Patterson's novel, Balance of Power; I didn't appreciate the complexity around gun control in the U.S.A.

The latest tragedy but certainly not the last, will be a focus point for discussion and debate among citizens and policy makers in the U.S.

If you want to understand why the U.S. suffers and endures tragedy after tragedy involving senseless shooting of innocent people, it is advisable to read this book. It might be pure fiction but the issues are real and relevant more than ever.

In summary, its premise is that the power of the gun lobby in the U.S. is disproportionate to the number of its members. Yet the political power the gun lobby wields is enough to scare the wits out of any politician who might want to introduce gun control of any sort. Political survival trumps good intentions.

And of course, there are innumerable arguments against gun control. There is no need to rehash those arguments here.

So here is a thought. Maybe gun control will never completely remove the possibility of any future mass shootings.You only have to refer back to events in Sweden and even Australia (which has some of the strictest gun regulations) to see that mass shooting still occur.
Yet, wouldn't gun control at least reduce the number of mass shootings?

There are no correct answers here.
It seems that as a society that considers itself civilized, we protect citizens from harm by banning smoking for example or by constructing public playgrounds that minimize risk of injury to children yet cannot find the right political compromise to restrict gun ownership.


Mattexian said...

Sadly, any schemes to ban or further restrict gun ownership in the US will meet with failure, not because of the gun lobby in DC, but because guns exist, period, and there will always be a demand for them when people realize the police cannot be there to protect them at all times. When the US banned alcohol in the early 20th Century, the criminal gangs used that as a way to increase their wealth and power by providing a banned substance, and even after Prohibition was lifted, the bans shifted to illicit drugs, which have made the gangs a greater threat. Since guns are a simple mechanical device, fully automatic ones even more so than semi-auto, that black market demand for guns would shift to small garages and millwrights, with the ability and knowledge to turn out cheap guns, without *ANY* government oversight.

Even our Abbot at the local Buddhist temple opined on this last night, and I shared my differing opinion with my wife, who then condensed it and shared it with him, that it *is* a terrible tragedy when children are killed, but banned an object won't change people's behavior. Cars are registered, drivers are licensed, alcohol is restricted, the laws are widely known, and yet, drunk driving accidents are on the news every night. Worse are the cases of people intentionally driving their vehicles into a crowd, with the intention of killing as many as possible, but we don't hear cries for more automobile restrictions.

The only viable solution looks to be adopting the Israeli model, of allowing trained teachers and volunteers at the schools to carry sidearms, to protect the children against such terrorists.

Lexcen said...

When I refer to "gun control" I'm not specifically referring to banning of guns. As I say in my post, mass shootings do occur no matter what the restrictions are on guns. The question I think is this. Do we lack the imagination and technology to produce a safer gun? Are we incapable of solving a problem that requires urgent attention? If we can use technology to create more efficient killing machines, why can't we harness technology to make those killing machines less lethal? The discussion of whether to ban guns or not is pointless. I do not wish to participate in such a discussion. As the most technically advanced civilization the world has ever seen, surely we have the capacity to deal with a problem instead of throwing up our arms in desperation and frustration. The Israeli solution might be one solution but is it the only one? Surely there are intelligent minds, more intelligent than mine who can devise alternative solutions.

Mattexian said...

Certainly there *is* the technology to create a "safer" gun, but it isn't widely in use, due to lack of trust in it's effectiveness and reliability. There are varieties of "intelligent" guns that can either "read" the owner's handprint/fingerprint to unlock the safety, or a ring that the user wears to unlock the firearm when gripped. In both cases, the main groups opposed to the proliferation of this technology are the police and the military, because they are the ones who would be relying on a device to work properly at a critical time, when it has so far shown its ineffectiveness. Other types of controls, like electronics that shut down a gun by remote control or over an area (like radar scrambling signals) would still keep the police from using their guns inside of that area, unless they were exempted, which again, they would insist upon, but leaves everyone else vulnerable. Plus, no laws to retrofit new technology into old equipment has been 100% effective, much less fully compatible, so there would be millions of guns that wouldn't have any such electronic controls built in. Besides, there's *always* exemptions if such a law is passed, like the police and military, and antiques usually (like those in museums), which by the ATF is any firearm made before 1898, so my friend's Chilean 1895 Mauser is exempt from being registered at sale, but my Swedish M1896 Mauser, made in 1914, was registered, even tho the technology was the exact same. So, as far as current existing, commonly available technologies go, nothing is out there that can stop these terrible crimes; our best hope is for something in the sci-fi realm of EM shields to deflect bullets, and wait for all the existing guns to run out of ammo and rust away.

There's a good reason why we're not living in the future of George Jetson with flying cars: the old tech is more reliable than ever, since we've gotten all the bugs worked out, over the decades of using it. No laser rifles have replaced the AK-47 for reliability, no flying cars have replaced the old pickups (or as you call, utes) for travelling. Sure, we've made improvements, altho sometimes the additions by government fiat have been sideways (like the military going from 7.62 NATO to 5.56, so the soldiers could carry more ammo for the same weight allowance, but soldiers' complaints of the lighter round's ineffectiveness against enemy troops, or with automobiles, the changes in tech to the weight savings being traded off for additional weight added for more govt-required safety equipment).