Incomprehensible

The meeja inform me that the grand ole US of A has more than one firearm per adult head of population and there is a mass shooting incident with four or more fatalities every 9 or ten days. In Las Vegas someone dies in a firearms incident every day. And Don the One announces that any gubmint debate on the issue would be ‘premature’.

So why do I bother to write about it? Surely we are all so accustomed to these facts that we no longer react – except with an ‘oh, not again’ under our breaths?

Well, I don’t think it can be too late to protest against such madness, such profligacy, such barbarism. But if you ask me what can be done, I haven’t the slightest idea. Do you?

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  1. October 3, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Apparently the gun used was fully automatic — already illegal in the USA. The US has long, porous borders and its black market is terrifically large. A bit like Belgium, really.

  2. October 3, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Yes, I witnessed that Belgian tendency many times – and it struck me as odd that even the Flemish speakers contrast so clearly with the Dutch. They, of course, tell jokes about their southern neighbours – similar to the Brits’ Irish jokes and the Canadians cracks about Newfies.

  3. Boadicea
    October 3, 2017 at 8:47 am

    I started a post on this – but gave up. I’m a bit tired of being told that it isn’t guns that kill people – it’s people that pull the triggers.

    But if guns were not so freely available (and yes I know that this particular weapon is illegal) and people did not have such a deep commitment to owning them – then there would be fewer people with their fingers on the triggers.

    And I’ve heard all the arguments that it would then be only the ‘bad guys’ owning them – and those arguments fall on my deaf ears in the same way that my opinions fall on the deaf ears of those proposing them.

    To be honest, Janus, like you I have no idea what can be done – indeed I really don’t think anything can be done – other than, as you say, shake my head sadly, say ‘oh, not again’ and thank my lucky stars that Australia never acquired such a deep love affair with firearms .

    To change the gun culture of America would be impossible – it is too firmly embedded.

  4. October 3, 2017 at 9:29 am

    The USA has an inherently violent, unstable streak. Example 1 is the police. Most are decent people trying to do a hard, often thankless, job. Yet, there are far too many police who like to stir things and shoot first, think later. More unarmed people are killed by US police each year than have been killed in terror attacks in Europe in the past 5. There are far too many parts of the USA where turning left rather than right is tantamount to committing suicide. Social breakdown is rampant. Parts of the US are decidedly third world and have crime rates to match. I also know that there are so many illegal weapons circulating that even strong gun laws wouldn’t have that great an impact. California and Chicago, for example, have relatively strict laws yet they have higher than average rates of gun crime simply because social breakdown is so advanced.

    For many Americans having guns is the ultimate, seemingly only, liberty that counts. There are people who move house to be in states with looser gun laws. I don’t understand that mentality. I’ve never seen the charm of guns and I’m perfectly happy not to have one. But any serious effort to restrict gun ownership in the US will result in a violent uprising with many state and local governments going against any federal intervention.

  5. October 3, 2017 at 9:38 am

    To quote Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – madness, madness.

  6. October 3, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Or to quote another classic:

  7. cogitationator
    October 3, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Janus: Where shall we look for the “madness, profligacy and barbarism” of which you write? Among those who simply own firearms or among those who use them against other people? I happen to own some firearms myself – WW II military pieces, still fully functional, complete with ammunition, all perfectly legal – but look upon them more as collector’s items than as weapons. The idea of turning them against another living creature does not appeal to me in the slightest. Guano, I haven’t even been out target shooting for longer than I care to remember. Still, if the government were to somehow figure out how to track down and seize all firearms in private hands, I wouldn’t be any too happy about their confiscating my investment and would vote against any legislator who endorsed such a scheme. Furthermore, and purely on principle, I do not want to see this country turned into someplace like the UK, where ownership of anything more formidable than a plastic picnic spoon is forbidden. Does any of that make me part of what some like to call the “gun culture?”

    Unfortunately, there will always be crazies among us. All it takes is one nutter to hasten our decline. That mass shooting in Las Vegas was a tragedy, to be sure. First and most obviously for those who needlessly lost their lives (and, of course, for the loved ones left behind) but also for our society as a whole. Such incidents seem to encourage others to follow in their wake, each shooting usually followed by disruptive outcry from the legions of left-wingers who can’t bear to see any others enjoying themselves as they may see fit. even if that involves peaceful and legal ownership of firearms. That in turn ties up, at least for a time, the government minions and the blessed media, keeping them from doing their *real* jobs.

    What can be done? I very much fear that, like you, at the moment I haven’t the foggiest notion.

    Boadicea: Ah, I knew this day would come. There’s finally something on which we disagree. But permit me, if you will, to add one thought to those you’ve already dismissed:

    Violent crime, causing the death of or serious injury to others, is in no way dependent upon guns. Those motor scooter guys in the UK seem to be doing their thing just fine without guns, no? If one person intends to do another serious harm, he/she will use anything that comes to hand, even bare hands. Kitchen cutlery is ubiquitous, baseball and cricket bats are often lurking about and even the family car can be driven into a crowd. Guns just make such things easier and, generally, more permanent. I can’t help remembering a case brought before a grand jury on which I was empaneled years ago. It involved a man who was brought into the A&E with a carving fork embedded in his skull, where his girlfriend had planted it during an argument.

    Now, then, will you please stand up where I can get a good shot at you?

    CT: I can’t agree that the USA as a whole has “an inherently violent, unstable streak.” (At the very least, any such tendency is more than counterbalanced by the ongoing efforts of the leftist lovie-dovies to sissify us all.) I’m none too sure about the number of police killings here vs. the number of terrorism-related deaths in Europe. (Frankly, I’ve lost count both ways.) I don’t believe that any effort to restrict gun ownership in the USA will result in a “violent” uprising. (It’ll be tied up in political jiggery-pokery for far longer than any uprising is likely to take.)

    I do, however, share your concern over police shootings, which, at least to me, seem to be on the rise. Only slightly less troubling are police cover-ups of shooting-related facts, mealy-mouthed official statements and the apparent reluctance of the legal system to treat unjustified police shootings as crimes. I say “apparent” only because, while some videos and such released to the public have seemed pretty darned convincing, I wasn’t there in person and haven’t seen/heard all the evidence.

    The solution, if indeed there is one, lies not in “more training,” which is universally promised by police departments (with no follow-up ever reported) after such incidents, but might perhaps be found in better screening of police applicants, possibly involving full psychological evaluation of all present and prospective officers. I see two problems with that idea. First, I doubt that any government agency would be able and willing to pay the huge additional expense that would surely be involved. Second, the funds would be going to headshrinkers, of whom I am no great admirer. Worse yet, having all that money might encourage the “shrinks” to breed!

    As for those who move house in order to live somewhere with looser gun laws, I’ve never met one and never hope to do so. The State where I currently live (Washington), which has what I’d consider “loose” gun laws, doesn’t seem to be overflowing with them. True, not far from me there’s a road from which no houses or people are visible, only driveways that seem to go to nowhere and large “no trespassing” signs. If memory serves, one of the better signs said something about trespassers being shot and eaten. But all such places have the earmark of having been as they are for quite some time, not the result of rabid “gun nuts” moving from any of those “sissy” places. I’ll just make it a point to never pull into any of those driveways, not even to change a tire.

  8. cogitationator
    October 3, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    I signed out of WordPress, went straight to a news website and what did I find? Hot off the presses, an Associated Press report that the unfortunate Las Vegas incident has triggered (if you’ll pardon the expression) a rise in prices of gun manufacturers’ stocks. According to them, the price of Ruger shares went up by 3.5% on Monday, Smith & Wesson’s parent company by 3.2%, both still climbing today. The reason they cite: “Some of the purchases were likely by people looking for more protection, but others were due to customers worried that tougher gun laws could be on the way. That pushed them to buy before the window potentially closed. And gun maker stocks rise in anticipation of the higher sales.”

    Oh, well, that settles it, then. I’ll sell my guns and use the proceeds to acquire gunmakers’ stock certificates, which appear to be (what do I know, anyway?) just the thing with which to attack people. So much for social conscience!

  9. October 3, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Cog: The USA isn’t the only country with a problem with violence, although there is a relatively high degree of it for a modern, first world state. The US is a country with an unusually high degree of contradictions simply because it is a vast, heterogeneous state. I maintain there is a violent streak because a relatively large portion of the population is prone to being trigger-happy. That’s based on personal experience and statistics. Most Americans are not violent people in the least — at at least any more than any other group of people. I should, for the sake of clarity, rephrase what I wrote. The USA has a relatively large vein of violence.

    Here is an article about police shootings in the USA:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/

    Here is a slightly dated, but still relevant article to the time frame:

    http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-europe-terror-20160715-snap-htmlstory.html

    If the Federal government would attempt to seize a large number of firearms in the US along the lines of Australia and the UK in decades past there would be an uprising. I simply cannot see many Texans, Arizonans or Alabamans giving up their firearms. Efforts to restrict future gun ownership, like you say, would be tied up for years before hardly anything comes out of it.

  10. October 4, 2017 at 6:52 am

    I see that Amber Rudd is looking to ban the sale of corrosive substances to anyone under the age of 18. I am not sure that swimming pool acid features high on the shopping list of most Britons, but it would be an inconvenience if it were banned in this country. So, guns, knives, acid have all been banned. What about gas canisters for camping, or aerosols, or fertiliser or….?

  11. October 4, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Cog, It stretches my comprehension to imagine large numbers of Muricans keeping firearms simply as curios or objets d’arts, even if you do it. Ownership seems to me to have brought with it the Wild West culture – shoot first, etc. Of course you are right that violence doesn’t begin with the gun – but surely you’ll grant that violence is significantly less controllable if every home has one (or two).

  12. Boadicea
    October 4, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Cog:

    I knew, even as I wrote, that you would come back to me! I am sitting here with a smile on my face – because I believe you are one of those with whom I could have very heated discussion – and end up shaking hands and agreeing to differ. There are few such around these days.

    If I might counter your ‘one more thought’ with the fact that no vehicle (other than one loaded with explosives), no kitchen utensil, cricket / baseball bat, or pair of hands could cause the extensive mayhem caused by firearms… and I really can’t envisage any scenario where a carving fork could kill 50+ and injure another 500+. But, as JM so often says, I could be wrong!

    … I note that our news tonight has shown that the sales of whatever it is that enables those weapons to be modified (you can tell I’m totally ignorant of such matters!) has shot through the roof. The particular American shop-owner interviewed claimed that many people believe the modification will be banned and were buying – just in case.

    Dare I ask what is the point of limiting the type of firearms available for sale – and then allowing the sale of items that can change them from ‘legal’ to ‘illegal’…

    I have to agree with you that I don’t think the US has “an inherently violent, unstable streak” – but would argue that there is a greater percentage of people there who feel they have the right to resort to violence (with the bonus of being able to acquire firearms easily) than in other Westernised Societies. Personally, I put it down to the idealisation of the Wild West: – and that is, surely, all down to Hollywood!

    You may, or may not, be aware that after our one and only particularly horrific mass-shooting in 1996 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthur_massacre_(Australia)) the Ozzie government introduced stringent gun controls – and a firearms armistice. Your wretched Charlton Heston tried to poke his nose in and was told exactly where he could go – in very blunt Ozzie style!

    Of course, a firearms armistice in a country with just over 20m people is a lot easier than in one with over 320m people! Especially since our Constitution doesn’t give anyone the right to bear arms. It just wouldn’t work in the US.

    As for your police shootings – I haven’t really followed them. But, I certainly think you are right that it is far better to screen BEFORE enlistment / promotion than provide after-event training. But, you say, who’s going to foot the bill?

    On the other hand, our police have received some pretty dreadful (and I think correct) criticism for failing to shoot dead a terrorist when they had him in their sight.

    In the meantime, back to the original subject of this post.

    If you, there, cannot think of a solution who are we, so many miles away in distance and mind-set, to know?

    Alas! I think there is already some psychopath, somewhere in the US already planning to perpetrate an even worse atrocity. Records are, after all, there to be broken and the means to do it in the US are so easily available.

    And we in Denmark, Australia, and other such places will shake our heads sadly, say ‘oh, not again’…

    … and wait for the next time.

  13. October 4, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Of course it could happen here ( and sort of did with Hungerford ). There isn’t a simple solution. However I would start by registering and licensing all firearms and their owners. Furthermore you would not be able to purchase any firearm without a licence.

  14. cogitationator
    October 4, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Janus: I admit that I’m highly unusual for keeping guns that I haven’t used or even touched for yonks. Others use theirs for hunting, target shooting and yes, sometimes even self-protection. Yes, of course there are some who sit up nights in their camouflage pajamas, endlessly fondling their beloved weapons and hoping for a chance to use them, but I really do think that they’re a small minority. From what I can see, most shootings here in the USA are the work of criminals or crazies. Not many who legally own a gun and have taken the trouble to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon (which does require a full background check) are given to shooting first. Even the USA eventually grows up, and I believe that our “Wild West” days are now behind us.

    Self-protection needn’t involve ever firing a shot. The mere knowledge that an individual or household is armed often serves as a deterrent. An eminently respectable and responsible friend, a retired Air Force officer, never goes into town without carrying (legally) major firepower (a .44 Magnum). He once told me of being in a parking structure at night, walking to his car, when he saw two disreputable types heading straight toward him. Turning to face them, he simply pulled back his jacket to reveal his holstered gun – that’s all, he never even touched it – whereupon the two presumed bad guys executed a U-turn and walked in the opposite direction. We’ll never know their real intention but their reaction provides a pretty good clue. Some years ago, a town (in Florida, I think) passed a law making ownership of firearms mandatory. Although crime rates fell, for some reason (a defect in its wording, I think) the law was later withdrawn and never reinstated. At present, there are several smaller cities in the USA that require residents to own guns but, in the limited time I have available, I haven’t looked for crime statistics for those places. Expand that concept of self-protection to national protection and we have Switzerland, where membership in the “standby” Army is compulsory and each member is required to keep a gun at home. When was Switzerland last invaded and what crime do they have worse than adulteration of chocolate?

    Boadicea: I agree that carving forks, baseball/cricket bats, etc., are essentially single-use weapons. Vehicle limitations can be overcome by getting a faster head start before driving into a crowd, by using a larger vehicle or, as you point out, by loading said vehicle with explosives.

    Bombs, yeah, now there’s the thing! Like Disney’s Little Tailor, kill seven (at least) with one blow! It’s interesting, however, to note that, of the three best-known American bombings, two cases (the “Mad Bomber” and the “Unabomber”) involved serial rather than mass-target bombers whose devices injured relatively few and killed even fewer (only three for the “Unabomber,” I believe). The third, the Oklahoma City bombing, is in a class by itself. Oh, and how about Sarin gas, as used on the Tokyo underground? That’ll do.

    Firearms, except for those illegally obtained or modified post purchase for fully automatic capability, enabling the user to spray a crowd with bullets, are not as efficient as might be thought. One must still take aim and squeeze the trigger for each target, a time-consuming process and, if the target is not shooting back, potentially even a boring one. Even our own beloved government can be wrong (shock, horror!) and I am surprised to find that, while some jurisdictions have uselessly (in my own opinion) limited the capacity of magazines, nothing has been done about the “bump-stock” modification of which you speak.

    Even such regulations as are in place may be ineffective. A farm store with which I trade is required to separately record each sale of fertilizer or certain agricultural chemicals that could be used for bomb-making or whatever but, to the best of my knowledge and belief, nothing is ever done with that information.

    For the record, I am a decent, law-abiding and non-violent individual, merely amusing myself by considering the possibilities. Come to think of it, if more people considered the possibilities, we might be better prepared.

    But most people, even in this benighted land, do not like to consider such things and I fear that you are correct in thinking that somebody, somewhere, is already plotting the next horrific incident.

    CT: I’m just wondering how many times you were shot at, stabbed or beaten to a pulp while you were here. (“Doctor, I’ve been shot in three places.” “Well, the thing for you to do is to stay out of those places.”) If none, then perhaps you should have been carrying a weapon yourself and brandishing it to invite trouble.

    Of the first ten cases (that’s as far as I cared to go) cited in that Washington Post article about police shootings, only three did not make clear whether the victim was armed. If a suspect points a gun at a police officer, then of course said officer will fire. He’s (probably) human and would like to get home to be with his family. I know I would.

    You’re no doubt aware of the National Rifle Association’s bumper sticker slogan: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” In spite of such outrageous-sounding lines (no doubt calculated to increase membership), I still can’t agree that any mass uprising is likely here. Europeans are far more used to uprisings. Aren’t lamp posts over there designed to support the weight of hangings? I rather think that we in the USA got all that sort of thing out of our system with our Civil War.

  15. October 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

    I am constantly baffled by the lack of imagination by some people when it comes to finding methods of mass destruction. Following the 11th of September attacks on the WTC, pundits were saying, ‘who could possibly have imagined that anyone would fly a plane into those buildings?” Really? I stood on top of one of the towers in 1980 and the idea of a plane crashing into it certainly crossed my mind. In fact I seem to remember a program called the Krypton Factor in which contestants used a flight simulator to land a plane at JFK and were told to avoid hitting any sky scrapers. There are many ways to kill a sack full of cats and they do not all involve automatic weapons.

  16. October 5, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Cog, I have to say I find your rationale for universal gun ownership surreal. It would work equally well or badly for universal ownership of nuclear weapons. The deterrent theory is notoriously flawed in any context.

  17. Boadicea
    October 5, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Ah! Cog, as a historian I can certainly sympathise with anyone hanging onto old artefacts – I have a few myself – although none are as potentially lethal as a firearm.

    Might I suggest that Switzerland is unlikely ever to be invaded – and not just because its citizenry is armed. Who, indeed, would ever want to steal the recipe for their chocolate? And what else, we might ask, do they have they to offer but lots of mountains, snow, and… cuckoo clocks? But, we do tend to forget Switzerland’s most valuable asset – its banking system. Very few of the richest and, thus, the most influential people in this world, those who really pull the strings, would be happy to allow any foreign power access to their most closely guarded accounts in that country. That’s not a ‘conspiracy theory’ – it’s just plain common sense.

    As for your comments re the accuracy of the firearms. Why would this crazy bother to take the time to aim and fire? There were some 22,000 potential victims. All he had to do was point his gun in the direction of that crowd and pull the trigger. Did he really care who he hit? No all he cared about was hitting a lot of people.

    Re the registration of people who buy fertilizers, etc. I am reminded of a friend who studied the East German Stasi in some depth. He reckoned that they had a major problem in that they had so much information that they couldn’t process it – and, therefore, couldn’t act on it. I suspect that the only use that registering the people who buy these items is to determine that a suspected or actual terrorist has bought the necessary items capable of making bombs.

    For the record, I am sure that you are indeed ‘a decent, law-abiding and non-violent individual, merely amusing myself by considering the possibilities‘. And like you, I wish a few more people considered the future with a little more thought…

  18. cogitationator
    October 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Sipu: What is the load carrying capacity of a “hobby” drone? Just wondering…

    Janus: Well, I’m a surreal kind of guy. I don’t in any case advocate “universal” gun ownership. They should be legally available only to them what wants ’em. Nukes? Nobody but the Delirious Leader would want to pay what they cost nowadays. As for the deterrent theory, have a look at this:

    Boadicea: “Hanging onto old artifacts?” Oh, so that’s why she keeps me around. I myself don’t care much for the newest weapons. They’re just metal and plastic, all function and no soul. Give me old-fashioned wood parts every time. There is, or at lest should be, an artisanal element involved. My late ex-father-in-law knew that and kept a walnut log in his workshop for some years, periodically looking at it and saying, “I know there’s a gun stock in there somewhere,” until he was sure of how to carry the project out.

    Crazies are, well, crazy. There’s often no accounting for how they pick their targets. The only one I’m aware of who showed method in his madness was George Metesky (the “Mad Bomber”), but then he had a personal issue with the power utility in NYC.

    Spot on about Switzerland. So many “influential” types have so much money stashed there that none would ever dream of upsetting the banking system. I like Belgian chocolate better anyway!

    Too bad the Stasi had such a problem, but computers have become so much better since their day! Even so, I darkly suspect that registration info on buyers of, erm, “certain items” is never used proactively, only after the fact when building the prosecution’s case.

    Thanks for the compliment!

  19. October 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Cog, my perhaps tangential idea was that the deterrent principle might encourage mad Western gubmints to proliferate the nooks – to be available to all states they approved of!

  20. sheona
    October 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    During the Second World War Switzerland was very fearful of being invaded by Germany, Boadicea, given the mentality of Hitler. Of course most of his closest henchmen wanted Switzerland and its banks and secure deposit boxes left alone so they had somewhere to keep all the property they had stolen. They must have managed to persuade the madman to leave Switzerland untouched, but there was real fear among the Swiss population.

  21. October 5, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Sheona: One of the worst places for a German soldier to be stationed during the Second World War was Norway. Norwegians were relatively well-armed and they were very, very familiar with the terrain. They made sure to do most of the resistance fighting in the centre and north of the country — especially over winter — in order to break the spirits and minds of their German enemies.

  22. October 5, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I remember that when I visited Norway in 1958 as a 15-year-old member of a school group, our leader (our geog teacher and a former marine commando) warned us not to buy local maps because they had probably been produced during the war to mislead the Nazis.

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