Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Murder Rates Rising


The rise was covered last month by USA Today, and recent reporting by the New York Times revealed more data behind the trend. The Times analyzed homicide figures for various large cities that have seen more murders so far this year than at the same point in 2014.

Milwaukee has seen murders jump 76%, from 59 at this point last year to 104 today. Other cities also saw big increases over the same period: 60% in St. Louis; 56% in Baltimore.
What explains the reversal? Criminologists and police departments are not quite sure.
One explanation is that people are starting to trust police less. That has led them to settle disputes themselves—often violently—and also led police to back off on aggressive tactics like New York’s stop-and-frisk, which the city’s new mayor has been toning down.
Another explanation is the proliferation of guns. Milwaukee’s police chief, speaking to USA Today, partially blamed his city’s murders on “absurdly weak” gun laws.

MythBusters Test ‘The Gun’ from the Breaking Bad Series Finale

Hawaii police to destroy $575,000 in surplus guns to keep them ‘off the streets’

Guns dot com

After buying new sidearms for its officers, the Honolulu Police Department is moving to destroy its surplus pistols, some new, over the protests of gun rights groups.

HPD recently entered into a deal to purchase 2,000 new Glock 17s for $818,000 to phase out their existing inventory of Smith and Wesson and Sig Sauer pistols.

Valued at over a half million dollars if resold, the surplus guns will instead be destroyed at the decision of city officials.

“Mayor Caldwell and the Honolulu Police Department agreed that they would not allow the guns to be sold to the general public and end up on the streets of Honolulu,” says the department in a statement. “The same goes for selling individual gun parts that could have been used to assemble a gun.”

The 2,300 surplus guns in question are mostly S&W Model 5906 9mm semi-autos, including some 200 unissued guns still new in their boxes, as reported by Hawaii News Now. The guns, acquired in the 1990s, could have been sold for $250 each or as parts for a lower amount.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This is the best paragraph I've ever read on gun control and mass shootings


Maybe something will change; maybe this time we will manage to act. But it's difficult to be anything but pessimistic, and when I think about why that is, my mind goes back again to Virginia Tech and 2007, when the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik wrote what is, to me, the single most powerful paragraph I have read on the subject.
The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why. As the police cleared the bodies from the Virginia Tech engineering building, the cell phones rang, in the eccentric varieties of ring tones, as parents kept trying to see if their children were OK. To imagine the feelings of the police as they carried the bodies and heard the ringing is heartrending; to imagine the feelings of the parents who were calling — dread, desperate hope for a sudden answer and the bliss of reassurance, dawning grief — is unbearable. But the parents, and the rest of us, were told that it was not the right moment to ask how the shooting had happened — specifically, why an obviously disturbed student, with a history of mental illness, was able to buy guns whose essential purpose is to kill people — and why it happens over and over again in America. At a press conference, Virginia's governor, Tim Kaine, said, "People who want to ... make it their political hobby horse to ride, I've got nothing but loathing for them. ... At this point, what it's about is comforting family members ... and helping this community heal. And so to those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere."
Many things have been written and will continue to be written on America's gun ownership rate (the highest in the world), its gun violence (the worst in the developed world), and the political and social forces that keep this from changing.

What Gopnik captured was not just the horrific costs of gun violence or the frustrating politics of gun control, but the special sort of anguish that we inflict on ourselves in the United States by forbidding any meaningful conversation around the tragedies that unfold over and over again.

There is an unwritten American rule that the aftermath of a mass shooting is the wrong time to talk about gun control. Even Obama's comments on the subject in June, while urgent and even angry, carefully avoided mentioning gun control directly. As Gopnik wrote, this logic would be recognized as absurd if applied to anything else: "the aftermath of a terrorist attack is the wrong time to talk about security, the aftermath of a death from lung cancer is the wrong time to talk about smoking and the tobacco industry, and the aftermath of a car crash is the wrong time to talk about seat belts."

Gopnik ended his piece with a call to ban handguns — a political nonstarter in 2007 and, in 2015, something that would be unimaginable to even discuss. That fact itself, that his concluding line has become more politically unthinkable rather than less, seems to drive home his point: that mass shootings will continue in America, and that Americans will refuse to seriously debate whether our culture of gun ownership is worth the costs. 

"There is no reason that any private citizen in a democracy should own a handgun," he wrote. "At some point, that simple truth will register. Until it does, phones will ring for dead children, and parents will be told not to ask why."