The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

Choosing Guns Over Children

Eleanor Kilbanoff writes in the Texas Tribune:

Yes, which doesn’t leave us much space in which to compromise. Oh, and as of this morning there have been eleven mass shootings in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend.

The Texas Tribune article is very much worth reading. It tells a story that begins with the Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. One of the survivors, Suzanna Hupp, came away from the experience convinced that if she had been allowed to carry a firearm into the cafeteria she could have saved a lot of lives. So she began a crusade to loosen gun laws, especially to allow concealed carry. Since then active shooter incidents have become a lot more common, not less.

For years, the Right has argued that more guns equals less crime. A lot of these arguments go back to John Lott’s highly discredited 1988 book, More Guns Less Crime. Since 1988 a huge amount of data has been gathered that shows more guns do not equal less crime of any sort, and in fact more guns correlate directly to more gun homicides as well as others kinds of deaths by firearm.

Of course, the NRA talking points always use the word “crime” instead of “deaths,” the idea being that only crimes are a cause of concern and that deaths by accident or suicide don’t count. (Apparently, homicide doesn’t count, either.) “Crime” connotes a “criminal” who is doing something bad to “law-abiding citizens.” NRA rhetoric always separates humanity cleanly into “good guys” and “bad guys,” although in the real world the line of separation often is pretty damn blurry and is easily crossed.

Lott is also the originator of the claim that mass shootings only take place in “gun-free zones,” even though that’s hardly ever been the case in recent years. You can’t even say that Robb Elementary School was a strict gun-free zone. There was supposed to have been an armed security officer there, and Texas has programs that enable public school teachers and other staff to carry guns in the school, although I haven’t heard that any Robb Elementary staff had taken part in that program.

I wrote back in 2016 about a mass shooting in Dallas that took the lives of five police officers. This had been at a demonstration against police shootings, and a number of protesters and counter-protesters showed up armed with AR-15s and wearing gas masks and bullet-proof vests. When the shooting started (by a sniper from a perched position) they all began to run, and police later complained the number of armed suspects at the scene created chaos. But that was hardly a gun-free zone.

I found a 2020 Rand study that said there are “no qualifying studies” showing that “gun free zones” in the U.S. are safer or less safe from gun violence than other zones. Some of the claims about there being more mass shootings in gun-free zones were based on data that cherry picked what qualifies as a “mass shooting” and how “gun free zones” are defined; for example, for some reason, the presence of armed guards or law enforcement may not disqualify a zone as gun free.  .

For that matter, how often has an armed citizen stopped a mass shooter? Hardly ever.

[E]xpansive research out of Stanford University found states that passed right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws saw between a 13 to 15% increase in violent crimes in the 10 years after. The data spanned stats from the 1970s up until 2014.

Yep, that says increase, not decrease.

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” Stanford Law professor John Donohue stated in the paper.

Previous research on this topic came to similar conclusions, though noted not enough data was currently available.

In 2019, KXAN News in Austin worked with the ALERRT Center at Texas State University to compile data on 316 mass shootings in Texas between 2000 and 2019. The data showed that citizens stopped shooters 50 times out of 316 but only 10 of those instances were by using a gun. The other 40 times, the citizen used either their hands or another weapon.

It seems to me that what the data are telling us is that when citizens are more and more armed in public there is more and more shooting in public. The increase in shooting fatalities and injurites overwhelms the tiny number of shootings prevented or stopped by an armed citizen. More often than not, when citizens stop mass shooters they don’t use a gun to do it. The numbers tell us that all this arming of citizens makes us less safe, not more safe. 

Even this week, at the NRA convention in Dallas, Trump and other gun apologists were calling for an end to gun free zones. No one was allowed to be armed in the conventional hall where this was said, I understand.

Let’s look at I’m from Uvalde. I’m not surprised this happened. by Neil Meyer in the Washington Post:

First, you would be challenged to find a more heavily armed place in the United States than Uvalde. It’s a town where the love of guns overwhelms any notion of common-sense regulations, and the minority White ruling class places its right-wing Republican ideology above the safety of its most vulnerable citizens — its impoverished and its children, most of whom are Hispanic.

Note that Ulvade appears to have above-average crime rates in spite of all these guns being carried by the law-abiding citizens. Go figure.

Yet, in spite of all the data, the “more guns” people are in control and write the laws. Republican state legislatures push harder and harder to eliminate any barriers to owning and carrying whatever firearm one wants. Every time there’s another attention-grabbing mass shooting they trip all over themselves to prove their loyalty to guns by loosening the gun laws even more.

Why are we all so helpless to stop this? A big one is the anti-democratic Senate, which not only overrepresents rural voters but also keeps the filibuster rule that allows those rural voters veto power over what the majority of Americans want. See The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Gun Control by Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic.

And the other reason is that our gun laws were not built rationally; our gun laws were built on fantasy and terror, says Paul Waldman.

[T]o imagine something different, we have to understand the ideology that created our current legal regime. It was constructed on a foundation of fantasy and terror, one that elevates imaginary threats and decrees that our response to those threats can only be confronted by each of us alone, never through the institutions we create or the government that represents us.

No, only the isolated, heavily armed, perpetually terrified individual can hope to keep his family safe — so don’t even think about changing the laws, unless it’s to put more guns in more people’s hands.

Keeping them afraid is also very good at getting them to turn out to vote for Republicans.

What kind of fantasies are we talking about? The most important is that the U.S. government — the one designed by those sainted Framers whose genius conservatives praise so often — is always moments away from devolving into totalitarian oppression, and all that keeps it from happening is its fear of an armed populace ready to start killing soldiers and cops.

So after the killings in Uvalde, Tex., a Florida state representative tweetedan explicit threat to kill the president of the United States: “I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our President — try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place.”

Of course, being perpetually ready to overthrow the government has nothing whatsoever to do with why the Second Amendment was written in the first place. That’s a fantasy.

This idea of a world of chaotic violence saturates conservative media (where antifa and Black Lives Matter are forever burning down cities and coming to destroy your community) and the rhetoric of gun groups and gun enthusiasts. It’s absolutely central to that message that no collective or governmental response will protect you and your family. The cops won’t get there fast enough, laws don’t stop “the bad guys,” and in the end you are atomized and alone, left to either kill or be killed.

So people keep guns in their homes for “protection,” which makes them more and not less likely to die by firearm. But you can’t tell the fearful people that.

There’s a lot of untruths about gun laws in circulation, like the Chicago Myth that says Chicago has the nation’s toughest gun laws and the highest firearm homide rates. Neither assertion is true. Today I ran into a guy ranting that “Democrat cities” like St. Louis are the cause of all the firearm deaths. St. Louis may be the firearm homicide capital of the nation right now. It may have a Democratic mayor, but its gun laws are just about identical to those of Texas, courtesy of the righter-then-right Republican state legislature. And the state legislature won’t allow the city to pass stricter laws.

On top of that, I believe that all the fear-mongering, all the rhetoric that pits us against them, also pushes people toward more violence. To keep power, Republicans are causing the violence they want voters to fear. And it keeps escalating.

Next: Getting smarter about gun violence.

12 thoughts on “Choosing Guns Over Children

  1. To keep power, Republicans are causing the violence they want voters to fear.

    Absolutely, in more ways than just guns. Violence against women for example.

    And it keeps escalating.

    As their relative power increases.


  2. Paraphrasing the 21st time THE ONION has presented this headline:

    "No way of preventing this, says only nation where it happens."

  3. I've run across this study several times and it seems to be authentic and relevant to the suggestion that the average "good guy with a gun" can prevail with a 9mm handgun against a combat rifle.

    " In studies of combat units during World War II, S. L. A. Marshall found that nearly four fifths of combat soldiers never fired their weapons during battle."

    Got that? Among trained troops with military weapons in the theater of war, 80% will freeze in combat. Trained soldiers against equivalent firepower -most freeze. but in the myth of the "good guy with a gun", he's gonna be Rambo. 

    Consider that relative to 19 cops cowering in the hallway while children are massacred inside. The situation of an armed shooter won't be solved by rapid intervention by citizens or cops. It will be prevented by not allowing access to guns that are so lethal. And  the proof is in the death rate per capita to guns in the US to any other country. Period.

    To pass legislation on the basis of reality, legislators are telling good guys that reality differs from video games and CGI movies. Legislators who would vote for sane gun laws voters are saying to voters that armed bystanders, in all probability, in an emergency WON'T rush in and shoot the bad guy. 

    The GOP mindset is BIUILT around a fantasy – that they are the Alphas – that they are superior to liberals because they will act -they have instincts and principles far superior to non-Alphas. I enjoy a superhero movie as much as the next guy but I don't think I am one. They DO! And no GOP candidate will win in a red state who doesn't play to the fantasy.

    •  80% will freeze in combat.

      That's such a common experience; none of us can know how we'll respond to a really intense, life-threatening situation until we've faced one. Only fools believe they will be the ones to keep their heads and be heroic. Unfortunately, we've got a hefty percentage of fools in the U.S. population. 

      • The US Army got psychologists involved in the infantry training process after WWII and Korea.  I have seen studies that indicate than less than half fired their weapons during their very first combat in Nam but it went up after that to 90-95%.


    • Consider that relative to 19 cops cowering in the hallway while children are massacred inside.

      I don't think that's a fair assement to say the 19 cops were cowering. From what I hear they were held back by a command decision. They breeched the classroom when they were given the command to do so while the gunman was still alive and posessed the ability to deliver firepower at them. I could be wrong but I believe the failure to act promptly falls on whoever had command responsiblity. I think the arrow has already been pointed on the person responsible for the failure,

      • I used the word 'cowering' because it's strong and offensive. I'm sure the cops actually kept their most macho faces but from the reports, the shooter was firing in the classroom during the hour the cops did nothing. It's no giant leap to conclude he's shooting children and each shot might represent another child corpse.

        The kids were phoning 911 and the information WAS relayed to the police – repeatedly. (Yes, the feds are doing an investigation and eventually, a reliable timeline will emerge with how far into the rank-and-file the information filtered and when.)

        Yes, they were not 'allowed' to storm the classroom. If I'm ordered not to intervene in a situation where children are being slaughtered, I'm gonna disobey orders. The cops wanted the shooter neutralized but none of them wanted to be the one(s) to take a risk. I find it incredible and unbelievable that cops who would have risked a firefight against a shooter with an AR-15 would not defy orders when children are/were being shot. Not storming the classroom fit in well with their plans to go home to dinner that night. 

        Eventually, it was an off-duty border patrol cop who made the move. Whether he was acting against the standing order of the city cop in charge isn't yet clear. It's my guess that the cops who did not want to take the risk were happy to stand aside for someone who was willing to take the risk. 

  4. I've been fighting this particular war for going on 30 years. It has been a discouraging, dispiriting slog.

    Until Heller, the federal courts were virtually unanimous in their understanding of the purpose and meaning of Second Amendment, which must be understood in the context of the militia clauses in Article I of the Constitution. (And no, the amendment was not primarily the product of racism. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.) Probably the best understanding was articulated in To Keep and Bear Arms, a piece Garry Wills wrote for the New York Review of Books in 1995. If you want to understand the amendment, read Wills. If you want to have no persuasive power, call it racism. 

    I very much doubt I will live long enough to see a Supreme Court that returns to its role as an honest interpreter of the Constitution. It is there that Trump did the most damage to the future of the country. For the first time in my life, I do not think this country will survive in its present composition. The split is coming. And there will be blood. Oh, will there be blood.

    • Historically, the 2nd Amendment was written to protect the right of states to maintain militias.  That really should not be that surprising as that is how it is worded.  From the adoption of the Constitution and first 10 amendments until 2008, the Supreme Court interpreted the 2nd Amendment as such and that individual rights to own and possess weapons were subject to federal and state laws.

      John Roberts ascended to his heavenly loft as the Chief Justice in 2005.  In 2008, his court has removed "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" from the 2nd Amendment.  

      In the next few days/weeks, we are going to get another 'gun rights' ruling that narrows if/how much states can regulate 'concealed carry' of weapons.  Then the red states will go on a rampage to see which can be first to allow 'concealed carry' without licensing or training required.

      In 1935 Justice Jackson wrote in a ruling that "The Constitution is not a suicide pact".  The Roberts Court is about to overturn that reasoning.

    • Don't wish for what the GOP wants. The GOP wants buckets of blood and bodies piled like cord-wood.

      Their religion teaches that Jesus would be a gun-nut. So, as Milton F once said "show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome".

      • I think the GOP thinks they can create the circumstances for a revolution (with guns) AND that they will ride the whirlwind into power. History teaches that you MAY be able to precipitate the revolution but your odds of riding into power are slim.

        Two examples: the French Revolution which produced Napoleon and the Russian Revolution which produced Stalin. 

  5. Even nineteen good guys with guns can't save anybody.

    I think it's more like republicans choosing money over people.

    The horror!

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