Open Thread - Captain Obvious Edition, Friday, June 17, 2016
“Semi-automatics have only two purposes. One is so owners can take them to the shooting range once in awhile, yell yeehaw, and get all horny at the rapid fire and the burning vapor spurting from the end of the barrel. Their other use – their only other use – is to kill people”
― Stephen King, Guns
All mass shooters have one funkin' thing in common.
Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women
As Jennifer Longdon steered her wheelchair through the Indianapolis airport on April 25, she thought the roughest part of her trip was over. Earlier that day she'd participated in an emotional press conference with the new group Everytown for Gun Safety, against the backdrop of the National Rifle Association's annual meeting. A mom, gun owner, and Second Amendment supporter, Longdon was paralyzed in 2004 after being shot in her car by unknown assailants, and has since been a vocal advocate for comprehensive background checks and other gun reforms.
As Longdon sat waiting for her flight, a screen in the concourse showed footage of the press conference. A tall, thin man standing nearby stared at Longdon, then back at the screen. Then he walked up to Longdon and spat in her face. No one else blinked.
Longdon was shocked and embarrassed, she told me, but she didn't falter. "Wow, aren't you a big man," she said as he turned and walked away. Instead of calling for security, she wheeled herself to a restroom to clean herself off. She was tired—she lives with constant physical pain—and didn’t want to miss her flight.
"Should I have done something more? Quite honestly, in the scheme of things it was a little man and a little moment," she said. "He felt to me like a coward and a bully."
I agree with Jennifer Longdon. The most vociferous gun advocates have become a collection of small scared people. They want so badly to intimidate the rest of us.
When we see pictures on the news, of third world countries, of men toting around assault rifles in public and brandishing them at peace activists and government officials, we automatically think terms like "intimidation," "extremist," "rebel," and "terrorist." Yet, for some reason, when we see nearly the exact same thing in America, somehow a certain subset of people think "freedom" instead. See HERE of a telling comparison I've made.
A couple days ago, four members of the Arlington, Texas, chapter of Moms Demand Action privately met at a restaurant over lunch to talk about their program. Some pro-gun extremists found out, so they decided to intimidate the ladies by showing up with their fellow gun lovers. But they didn't just show up -- they came armed to the hilt with hunting rifles and assault rifles. Look at that image and tell me that isn't intimidation. The picture to the right which was taken by one of the Moms Demand Action members. There were forty pro-gun extremists, and some of them even brought along some small children, I guess to give the impression of a "family event" for their armed ambush.
See below for another image that was posted on the Facebook page of those extremists. As stated on the "Moms Demand Action - TX" Facebook page:
Moms, restaurant employees and patrons were all shocked. One patron commented to one of our organizers," I grew up with guns, but no one would ever do this. This is like Deliverance."
Small arms and global health
The term “small arms and light weapons” is often taken to mean all types of firearms, from handguns to shot guns and assault rifles. More specifically, however, the term refers to “any weapon that can be carried or transported and managed by a single person” and as such also includes hand grenades, land mines and even small surface to air missile launchers.
In the past few years, firearms-related death and injury have been called everything from a “scourge” (1) to an “epidemic” (2), a “disease” (3) and a “preventable global health problem” (4). The biological analogies are not accidental or far-fetched. Among people aged 15–44 years, interpersonal violence and suicide rank third and fourth, respectively among the world’s leading causes of ill-health and premature mortality, while war-related injuries rank sixth (5). A large proportion of these occur through the use of firearms.
A public health response
Violence is not simply a social ill or a social justice problem. It is an important health problem — and one that is largely preventable. Public health approaches have much to contribute to solving it.
Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Public Health Approach
The World Health Organization has identified violence as pandemic. “Weapons are bad for people’s health ... Yet health professionals have been slow to recognize that the effects of weapons are, by design, a health issue, and moreover constitute a global epidemic mostly affecting civilians.” While the specific effects of small arms in the context of conflict and violence are still being investigated, there is no doubt that their global impact
Fact-Based Policy: The Public Health Approach
The public health approach to the problem of small arms provides a useful conceptual framework for developing “fact-based” and effective solutions. It begins with a careful analysis of the problem and an examination of the causal factors that contribute to it. It thus measures the effects of small arms not by counting weapons but by exploring their effect on population health. Approaching the small arms problem in this manner also forces the erosion of some of the barriers that have been artificially constructed by disciplines and by politics to ensure that appropriate solutions are crafted and evaluated. Primary prevention includes social development approaches to crime prevention and strategies aimed at changing the “culture of violence.” In addition, scholars maintain that until there are fundamental structural changes in weapons industries and cultural values, measures to reduce the misuse of (and illicit trade in) small arms will be limited. However, while addressing root causes is undeniably important, public health also focuses on the vector/vehicle of injury. In this case, it focuses on the instrument—the weapon itself.
Wouldn't it be nice to only have a small arms crisis in the USA?
Can We Do Anything About Murderous Assault Weapons?
The murderer in Orlando on Sunday used a Sig Sauer version of the AR-15 assault weapon. The story is so awfully familiar.
The mass murderers in San Bernardino who killed 14 and wounded 21 used AR-15 assault rifles. In Aurora, Colorado, a man with an AR-15 killed 12 and wounded 58 in a movie theater. It was an AR-15 that slaughtered 20 children and 6 faculty members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A database compiled by Mother Jones magazine shows that assault weapons were used in seven of the eight high-profile mass shootings since July 2015.
An assault weapon is a gun that incorporates the features of a modern military rifle or submachine gun, enabling the shooter to fire numerous bullets very rapidly, and yet keep control of the gun. Because it’s a semiautomatic copy of the U.S. military’s M-16 rifle, the AR-15 is designed with a pistol grip so it can be fired rapidly from the shoulder or hip; it is designed with a barrel shroud so the non-trigger hand can keep the gun stable during rapid fire; it is designed to accept very large capacity magazines so there is little pause to reload.
The parts or features of an assault weapon are not there to look scary (as the NRA suggests); they are there to make it possible for the shooter to do scary things. With these features, any deranged person can empty a 30-round magazine as fast as he or she can pull the trigger while maintaining control of the gun—and then quickly insert another fully-loaded magazine. Which is exactly what happened in Orlando.
It is obvious that AR-15s and other assault weapons should and can be banned. They are banned or substantially restricted in seven states, and President Clinton signed a law that banned assault weapons in 1994. But that law was limited to 10 years and the conservative Congress of 2004 let it lapse.
Since the 2nd Amendment says we can't require gun owners handle their guns responsibly, let's allow the marketplace make it in their interest to do so.
In 1996, Barry Loukaitis shot and killed a teacher and two students at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, Washington. At the time, he quoted a line from a Stephen King novel Rage:
"This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?"
A year later, Michael Carneal, from Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, killed three girls in a pre-class prayer circle. A copy of King's Rage was found in his locker.
It hit Stephen King hard.
“That was enough for me," wrote King in an op-ed for The Guardian. “I asked my publishers to pull the novel. I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment, and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do."
King made set an excellent example. If the Constitution prohibits the government from regulating guns, we need to find a way to motivate gun owners to want to do it themselves. Let the marketplace work like King's pangs of conscience did. How do we start? Require all guns to be insured.
Gun insurance would work very much like car insurance. You would need it to buy a gun, and the policy would have to include liabilty coverage in case that gun injures someone. If a gun owner has no accidents, his premiums go down. Someone who wants to "open carry" his weapon would pay more than someone who keeps it locked at home. Assualt weapons would be more expensive to insure than hunting rifles because they they have a greater capacity to do harm. But it wouldn't be government making these decisions, which would be unconstitutional - it would be insurance companies, competing with one another to keep premiums reasonable.
Small arms are estimated to be responsible for between 200,000 - 400,000 deaths around the world each year. Approximately 20,000 – 100,000 of these firearm deaths occur in conflict settings (Small Arms Survey 2005, Kopel, Gallant and Eisen 2004, and Lacina and Gleditsch 2005). As economic commodities, firearms are subject to the forces of demand and supply and are actively traded on legal and illicit markets. The small arms market may be viewed as a function of the incentives and constraints faced by buyers, suppliers and regulators. This paper introduces cross-country, time-series data on assault rifle prices thus making it possible to quantitatively examine the nature of the small arms market.
Small arms are attractive tools of violence for several reasons. They are widely available, low in cost, extremely lethal, simple to use, durable, highly portable, easily concealed, and possess legitimate military, police, and civilian uses. As a result they are present in virtually every society.
Despite being a key component in conflict, small arms have only recently begun to receive academic attention. So far research has been almost exclusively case-study driven making it difficult to draw general empirical lessons. Book length treatments of small arms which follow this trend include Boutwell and Klare (1999) and Lumpe (2002). Brauer (2007) surveys the small arms literature in the forthcoming Handbook of Defense Economics and concludes that the small arms market has not been well examined theoretically, or empirically. The first tentative steps
towards generalizable models of the small arms market are currently underway. Brauer and Muggah (2006) develop a conceptual theory of small arms demand as a function of means and motivation, an adaptation of the standard determinants (income, prices and preferences) of neoclassical consumer demand theory.
Free market capitalism, funk yeah!
They are all white, all middle-aged, and all men. A few live openly lavish lifestyles, but the majority fly under the radar. Rarely is there news about them in the mainstream media or even the trade press. Their obscurity would seem unremarkable if we were talking about the biggest manufacturers of auto accessories or heating systems. But these are America's top gunmakers—leaders of the nation's most controversial industry. They have kept their heads down and their fingerprints off regulations designed to protect their businesses—foremost a law that shields gun companies from liability for crimes committed with their products.
With this investigation, Mother Jones set out to break through the opacity surrounding the $8 billion firearms industry and the men who control it. While the three largest companies disclose some financials, the rest are privately held. Some are further shrouded by private-equity funds or shell corporations based in overseas tax havens. We mined manufacturing data and import statistics from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). We also examined obscure press clippings, court documents, private industry reports, and tax records from the Treasury Department. Together, the 10 companies we investigated produce more than 8 million firearms per year for buyers in the United States, accounting for more than two-thirds of the total market. (None of the companies responded to our requests for further information.)
Many of these companies' top executives have donned the jacket bestowed to members of the Golden Ring of Freedom, an exclusive club for $1 million-plus donors to the National Rifle Association. Several have been the focus of criminal investigations and lawsuits over everything from arms trafficking and fraud to armed robbery and racketeering.
As the debate over gun laws has grown louder, sales have soared. In the year following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the three largest gunmakers—Sturm Ruger, Remington Outdoor, and Smith & Wesson—netted more than $390 million in profits on record sales. Shares in publicly traded Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson jumped more than 70 percent that year, benefiting institutional investors such as Vanguard, Blackrock, and Fidelity. The hedge fund that owns Remington Outdoor—maker of the assault rifle used in Newtown—saw the annual return on its investment grow tenfold.
The misuse of small arms and light weapons has severe implications for development—and particularly for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Armed violence can trigger forced displacement, erode social capital, and destroy infrastructure. It can impede investment in reconstruction and reconciliation. Armed violence can undermine public institutions, facilitate corruption, and be conducive to a climate of impunity. Armed violence contributes to and is sustained by transnational crime, including the trafficking of persons, drugs, and arms. When associated with interpersonal and gender-based violence, it unravels the fabric of families and communities and leaves lasting psychological and physical scars on survivors.
Armed violence is not only a cause of underdevelopment, but also a consequence of it. Risk factors associated with armed violence and underdevelopment include:
- weak institutions.
- systemic economic and horizontal inequalities.
- exclusion of minority groups.
- unequal gender relations.
- limited education opportunities.
- persistent unemployment.
- organized crime.
- availability of illicit firearms and drugs.
The annual global economic costs of armed violence run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. There are many ways to calculate the financial, fixed, and human capital costs, whose true extent is ultimately shaped by the duration, severity, and spatial distribution of armed violence.
If the consequences of armed conflict are taken into consideration, the overall costs of armed violence escalate higher still. Violent civil conflict decreases the GDP growth of an average economy by at least two per cent per year.
Contingent valuation approaches yield a global cost of ‘insecurity’ generated by conflict of up to USD 70 per person, or a global annual burden of USD 400 billion.
The economic cost of non-conflict armed violence in just 90 countries, measured in terms of lost productivity, is USD 95 billion and may reach as high as USD 163.3 billion, or 0.14 per cent of the annual global GDP.
Compare These Gun Death Rates: The U.S. Is in a Different World
The mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday was appalling in scale: 49 killed in a single attack. But it’s not unusual for dozens of Americans to be killed by guns in a single day.
Gun homicides are a common cause of death in the United States, killing about as many people as car crashes (not counting van, truck, motorcycle or bus accidents). Some cases command our attention more than others, of course. Counting mass shootings that make headlines and the thousands of Americans murdered one or a few at a time, gunshot homicides totaled 8,124 in 2014, according to the F.B.I.
This level of violence makes the United States an extreme outlier when measured against the experience of other advanced countries.
Around the world, those countries have substantially lower rates of deaths from gun homicide. In Germany, being murdered with a gun is as uncommon as being killed by a falling object in the United States. About two people out of every million are killed in a gun homicide. Gun homicides are just as rare in several other European countries, including the Netherlands and Austria. In the United States, two per million is roughly the death rate for hypothermia or plane crashes.
In Poland and England, only about one out of every million people die in gun homicides each year — about as often as an American dies in an agricultural accident or falling from a ladder. In Japan, where gun homicides are even rarer, the likelihood of dying this way is about the same as an American’s chance of being killed by lightning — roughly one in 10 million.
In the United States, the death rate from gun homicides is about 31 per million people — the equivalent of 27 people shot dead every day of the year. The homicides include losses from mass shootings, like Sunday’s Orlando attack, or the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting last December. And of course, they also include the country’s vastly more common single-victim killings.
To give you a sense of how unusual America’s gun violence problem is, consider the daily death toll compared with other Western democracies.
Let’s stop pretending like gun advocates care about the Constitution
When Edward Snowden leaked that the NSA was indiscriminately spying on all Americans by monitoring their emails and phone calls, there was very little blow-back toward the Obama Administration. The media quickly chose their preferred narrative that implied Snowden was a traitor instead of honing in on the fact that the government was clearly violating the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
Aaaargh. The blood had barely dried on the Pulse bathroom walls when upstanding husband, father, Christian, "unapologetic conservative" gun-lover and Tennessee GOP Rep. Andy Holt had defiantly announced he'll give away not just one as previously planned, but TWO AR-15s - the assault rifle used in all our favorite mass killings - as a door prize for his upcoming Hog Fest and Turkey Shoot fundraiser, where people are encouraged to bring their own rifles and ammo and oh boy yes there will be shooting! Holt, who thought the Oregon takeover by the Bundy crew was just the ticket and has sponsored several gun bills to allow weapons on college campuses because what could possibly go wrong, continues to echo the NRA blather that events like the massacre in Orlando have absolutely nothing to do with the ease with which any deranged confused hateful soul can acquire a high-capacity semi-automatic military weapon to mow down scores of innocent people. "It's not about the gun," he says. "It has everything to do with the position and condition of that person’s heart that’s behind the gun pulling the trigger."
When asked, he admitted he's not clear on just how to determine that aforementioned position and condition, but by God he's working on it. Tossing a tantalizing pinch of racism into his stew of bluster and idiocy, he added, "The only thing wrong with the AR-15 is that it’s black and it looks real scary," and next thing you know we'll be banning the same model of airplane used on 9/11. Wait....He says he's received death threats from "the left wing" and he's "sick and tired of the media and liberal politicians attacking our right to keep and bear arms," which is why now he's urging everyone who doesn't have a gun to go out and get one, and if they have one, to get another, because, yeah, GUNS! On the other side of the planet, in the wake of Orlando and all the rest, Samantha Bee is likewise sick and tired of bellicose asshats like him. On her show last night, she said it's all well and good to talk of love after such atrocities, but more to the point we have to love each other enough to be willing to "solve our fucking problems." Her meltdown is glorious to behold. Bonus: Here are the 50 senators whose votes allowed the Orlando shooter to do what he did.
It’s An Honor To Continue Being Valued Over Countless Human Lives
Look, I’m not the type who needs constant validation, and I have never sought preferential treatment from anyone. I just try to focus on doing what I do and not get too caught up in what people think or say about me. But I have to admit, it’s been hard to ignore all the support and appreciation I’ve been receiving lately, particularly over the past several years. That’s why I want to take this opportunity to let all of you know what an absolute honor it is that you continue to value me over countless human lives.
I don’t want to get too sentimental or anything, but it really means the world to me how often you as Americans, through your words and your actions, make it known that I am more important to you than the lives of your fellow citizens.
Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
You see, I’m just a humble lightweight, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle; I never expected this kind of outpouring of affection. But time and time again, you’ve shown me how much I matter to you. To see so many people—people who could be working to protect and care for human lives—actively devoting their time and energy to making sure I’m the one who’s protected and cared for instead—it’s beyond touching.
That's what I'm funkin' sayin'.
The thread is open.
Stick 'em up for C99!
Have a great weekend!