“Good” Guys With Guns

Big hat tip to Kay at Balloon Juice, for “Good guys and bad guys and real life.” She links to an NPR program that points out the fallacy behind “stand your ground” laws.

Hoekstra recently decided to analyze national crime statistics to see what happens in states that pass stand your ground laws. He found the laws are having a measurable effect on the homicide rate.

“Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period,” he says.

As to whether the laws reduce crime — by creating a deterrence for criminals — he says, “we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period.”

Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.

Still, based on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra’s data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.

In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.

That study also tracked the increased homicides by race. In contrast to the narrative established by the Trayvon Martin shooting — many people believe black men are more likely to be the victims of stand your ground laws — this analysis found the additional deaths caused by the laws were largely concentrated among white men.

“The imperfect but growing evidence seems to suggest that the consequences of adopting stand your ground laws are pernicious, in that they may lead to a greater number of homicides — thus going against the notion that they are serving some sort of protective function for society,” he says.

The part about the additional deaths being mostly of white men makes sense, since the redneck yahoos who think a trip to Home Depot requires carrying a concealed weapon mostly stay in the company of other redneck yahoos. Hmmm …

See also “More Guns = More Killing” by Elisabeth Rosenthal:

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

“A society that is relying on guys with guns to stop violence is a sign of a society where institutions have broken down,” said Rebecca Peters, former director of the International Action Network on Small Arms. “It’s shocking to hear anyone in the United States considering a solution that would make it seem more like Colombia.”

As guns proliferate, legally and illegally, innocent people often seem more terrorized than protected.

The gun nuts say they have to have unfettered freedom to carry all kinds of firearms in order to be able to fight against tyranny. Liam Maddon, an Iraq War vet, wrote,

The Second Amendment stopped giving the insurrectionists among us a chance as soon as military technology advanced beyond the rifle. No modern Shays’ Rebellion is viable, militarily speaking, unless the Second Amendment is read to protect an individual’s right to bear surface-to-air missiles, personally owned Abrams tanks and state-sanctioned depleted uranium artillery. Who in their right mind would want to live in a place that gave access to these things to any person, no matter how law abiding or responsible?

Even if you would prefer that much more dangerous world, it doesn’t exist, thankfully. Because no group of armed citizens is on par with U.S. military power, the “guns guard our freedom” argument is hollow and insane. The “guns guard our freedom” perspective is the bedrock of the anti–gun control movement, and until we speak to it with respect and honesty, we will not sway the disenchanted and angry among us who feel the pain of the mothers in Newtown but fear, rightly or wrongly, the Orwellian implications of disarming. Frankly, arguments to anyone else is preaching to the choir.

The terrible irony is that the real power to be feared doesn’t come from guns; it comes from money. Steve M points out that

The gun lobby is part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. The NRA has long been in bed with the pro-plutocrat lobbyists of ALEC. I’m not sure there’s a conscious strategy at work here, but is it really surprising that plutocracy advocates want to hollow out America’s middle class and create a class structure more like those in Latin America (where U.S. corporations have traditionally found cheap, willing workers), while their pro-gun allies want us seeing one another as (literally) mortal enemies, while we lose focus on what the plutocrats are doing to us economically?

Is it unreasonable to see these as two aspects of the Third World-ization of America?

It is not at all unreasonable, I say.