Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Only Thing to Stop A Bad Guy With A Gun..... is more bad guys?

In places where there are more guns, more people die from guns.  Funny thing that.

The NRA has done a good job of trying to tamp down gun violence statistics.  In fact, they have done a pretty good job of keeping America in the dark ages.  They are so paranoid about a "national gun registry" that they have forced the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to keep all their records on paper - and not on computer.  Instant background check?  Let me go get that file for you....

Suppressing gun violence data has been high on their list as well.  Why?  Well, because if people realized their real risk of gun violence wasn't from "a mugger" or "an intruder" but rather from a spouse, a friend, or a child who finds a loaded firearm, they might re-think gun ownership and how they handle their guns.

I noted before a friend of mine blew off part of his head (and brain) by keeping a loaded .357 Magnum (a most impractical weapon, in reality) loaded on his nightstand.  They had a plethora of weapons in the house on the premise that a "home invasion" in white-bread suburban hell was a real possibility.  What was a real possibility was that keeping a hand-cannon loaded on your nightstand is likely to hurt you, rather than imaginary intruders.

The chart above tells an interesting tale.  Most folks would assume, based on what they see on the news (particularly on Fox News) that places like New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles are crime-ridden ghettos where people are gunned down on a daily basis and they just leave the dead bodies lying in the streets.   While it is true that crime rates across America have increased in recent years, they are still far, far lower than the heyday of crime in the 1970's and historically (going back as far as history goes) are among the lowest ever.

But what is interesting is that overall, you are more likely to die from gun violence in a red state than a blue one.  Now this may be due to suicides using guns, or accidental shootings as well.   When there are more guns around, there is a higher incidence of accidental deaths as well as suicides with guns.  Kids find Dad's gun and point it and go bang-bang - it happens every day in America.

Does this mean guns are bad?  Well, not exactly.  What is interesting about gun ownership in America is is that, during my lifetime the number of gun owners has decreased - by nearly 50% from the peak in the late 1970's.  What is interesting is that although there are fewer gun owners, they tend to own more guns - often dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.  These are people with personal arsenals, not merely a hunting rifle or two and a handgun "for protection."  Gun ownership in America has devolved into a fetish.

I noted before that it is a "thing" on the Internet to place your array of firearms on your bed - which is weird - and then take a photo and post it online.  Lookit all ma guns!  These folks would rather spend a few hundred (or thousand) dollars more on another weapon than on a decent lockable gun safe.  And like a friend of mine, they keep their guns unlocked in a closet, leaning up against the wall.  Real safety there!

The gun market has expanded to satiate demand.  And since most of these firearms are never fired more than a few times, a lot of cheap and arguably unsafe weapons are hitting the market, often from overseas.  A recent article online talks about how a gun store owner was fined for throwing away shotguns in a dumpster without sawing them into pieces first.  The accompanying photo of a dumpster full of shotguns had many scratching their heads.  Why throw away working firearms?  Why so many?

Well, it turns out the shotguns were made by a company called "Radikal" (which tells you who the target audience was) and made cheaply (like Ford Transit Vans or concrete buildings) in Turkey.  They were styled as "tactical" shoguns and were probably more style than substance.  Allegedly, they were so defective that they could blow up in the user's hands - potentially killing the user, not the intended target.  They were disposed of as they could not be repaired and sending them back to Turkey was too expensive.

Even the most favorable review online noted that the manufacturer recommended "breaking in" the weapon with at least 100 rounds.  That's a day at the range, for sure.  But it illustrates what I wrote about before about guns and parachute theory - most weapons are purchased and rarely used.  So, why not make something that looks like a gun and barely qualifies as one for this new audience of gun collectors?

I read online all the time from real gun enthusiasts, postings (and videos) of these "weekend warriors" who bought all these tough-looking weapons and then finally bring them to the range to see how they really work.  Often they are asked to leave as they have no idea what they are doing and might injure themselves or others.

For example, in one video, two young men take turns pointing a 9mm at each other, laughing as they make Tick-Tock videos of themselves pointing a loaded weapon at each other's heads.   The range safety officer shut that down really quick and threw them out.  It illustrates how many ding-dongs are buying guns these days.

In another video, a fellow fires off his AR-15 lookalike, but fails to understand why they put a stock on it.  Instead of putting it against his shoulder to take the recoil, he holds it like they do in the movies, with predictable results - the recoil pushes the gun into his face and he gets a black eye.  He got off lucky.

In yet another video, a fellow shoots off a pistol he was unfamiliar with.  The recoil pushes the gun upward and he inadvertently pulls the trigger a second time.  He was lucky not to blow his head off, like that poor fellow who tried to help a little girl fire an Uzi.

Back in the day, the emphasis of the NRA was firearms safety.  Now, the NRA agitates for mentally ill and the blind to own firearms.  I kid you not - they pushed "blind hunting" which I guess could be safe under very controlled circumstances.   Nevertheless, it generated bad visuals (sorry!) for the organization.

The more guns in circulation, the greater the chance of some yahoo doing something stupid.  So the map above makes sense - in States where there are lots of firearms, there aren't neccessarily more yahoos, but the yahoos are more likely to own guns, and hence more shootings - accidental or otherwise.   In States with fewer firearms - and more restrictive gun laws which make it harder - but not impossible - to obtain a firearm, there are fewer shootings.

It is sad, but to get a driver's license, you have to pass a written test and a driving test (as well as passing the eye chart).  For new drivers, some kind of driver training is suggested.  But in many States, as soon as you are as young as 16, you can own a gun - with little or no training or supervision.  Look at the idiots around you - would you trust most of them with a gun?

The irony of "gun control" is that many on the far-right were in favor of laws making it harder (but not impossible) to obtain a firearm.  It was the 1960's and there were riots, protests in colleges, and of course, the Black Panthers. The visage of blacks exercising their second amendment rights scared the crap out rich white folks.  Laws were passed, for example, making it illegal for a convicted felon to own or possess a firearm. The NRA has since lobbied to eliminate such restrictions. And now you know why the NRA is in trouble - they are pissing off the far-right by making it easier to arm blacks.

And we can't have that, can we?

I am not anti-gun, but I think this stupid trend of accumulating masses of cheaply built weapons (and displaying them on your bed - weird!) and not knowing what you are doing with them is not a good thing.  For over a century, the Supreme Court has clearly stated, again and again, that the second amendment is not absolute - there are limits on the kinds of weapons an individual can own, and moreover, there can be standards on who can possess such weapons.  Criminals and the mentally ill should not own firearms - and that was the law for 100 years or more.

Today, it seems like everyone who falls into this gun fetish trap is, by definition, mentally ill.  Someone who collects a dozen tough-looking "tactical" firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, and doesn't hunt or even go to the range, is, by definition, unbalanced.  It is only a matter of when, not if, such people "go off" and start shooting innocents.

This is an instance where "the good old days" were better.  The NRA pushed for gun safety, not gun insanity.  More people owned weapons, but owned fewer of them, and treated them with respect.

Funny thing, people were better drivers back then, too!