Friday, September 28, 2012

The Human Cost of Gun Violence

op-ed in the New York Times

Every day 80 Americans die from gunshots and an additional 120 are wounded, according to a 2006 article in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Those 80 Americans left their homes in the morning and went to work, or to school, or to a movie, or for a walk in their own neighborhood, and never returned. Whether they were dead on arrival or died later on in the hospital, 80 people’s normal day ended on a slab in the morgue, and there’s nothing any of us can do to get those people back.

Gun advocates say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The truth, though, is that people with guns kill people, often very efficiently, as we saw so clearly and so often this summer. And while there can be no argument that the right to bear arms is written into the Constitution, we cannot keep pretending that this right is somehow without limit, even as we place reasonable limits on arguably more valuable rights like the freedom of speech and due process.

So I have a request for proponents of unlimited access to guns. Spend some time in a trauma center and see the victims of gun violence — the lucky survivors — as they come in bloody and terrified. Understand that our country’s blind embrace of gun rights made this violent tableau possible, and that it’s playing out each day in hospitals and morgues all over the country.

I know the gun-rights fanatics will immediately point out that among the 80 a day, half are suicides. They always say this as if it makes a difference to our gun availability argument. It doesn't.

This well written article about the cost of gun violence is just the tip of the iceberg. There are the traumatized onlookers, the orphaned children and the bereaved parents.  There's all the lost potential of whatever good these 80 people a day might have done in their lives.  You can't add it all up.

And you know what the gun rights crowd says?  "Don't inconvenience me even a little.  I won't stand for it."

What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment.


  1. It is a horrific event any time a violent criminal attacks a citizen -- whether the citizen survives or dies, whether the attacker uses their fists, a rock, a brick, a club, a knife, a firearm, or whatever.

    It is also a horrific event any time a scumbag denies someone their dignity. Like when a man grabs a 14 year old girl and let's her know in no uncertain terms that he "owns" her. Or when a large man simply overpowers a 110 pound woman and rapes her. Or when three men threaten to kill -- and mean it -- a defenseless man just for sick entertainment. Or ... you get the idea. These examples cause no physical harm whatsoever. And yet they crush the spirit of the victims ... who often never recover.

    Pass all the gun control laws you want and you will not stop any horrific attacks on people's physical bodies and their dignity. Do you really think a criminal is going to say, "Gee, I can't buy a gun at the corner gun store. I guess I should take up gardening." Criminals always find a way.

    And criminals like easy. It is easy to intimidate and attack defenseless people ... especially when the criminals are stronger than or outnumber their victims. Guaranteeing that citizens are not armed makes life even easier for criminals which means more attacks.

    1. Since this comment mentions dignity, let's see what gun control laws do to the dignity of citizens.

      Gun control laws tell citizens:
      (a) they cannot own certain types of property,
      (b) if/where they can possess their property,
      (c) how to store, transport, and possess their property,
      (d) they cannot have the means to defend their property,
      (e) they cannot have the means to defend their lives.

      This list is a monumental insult to human dignity. Anyone who tells me what property I can own, how to possess it, and so on, is disgusting. Anyone who tells my wife to face a rapist unarmed is a monster and an accomplice to the rapist. And anyone who tells my wife that law enforcement officers will use force up to and including lethal force to disarm her -- when she is only armed so she can defend herself from attack -- is a sadistic, sick person. And as for the law enforcement officers who will use force up to and including lethal force to disarm my wife, how are they any better than the criminals who seek to take her spirit, body, or life?

      I wish no harm to anyone. I wish there were no criminals among us. And I wish those criminals never attacked citizens. Unfortunately, there are criminals among us who do attack. Sadly there are victims -- almost all of whom were not armed. Are their lives worth more than my life or my wife's life? How those victims chose to go about their lives was just that, their choice. How my wife or I choose to go about our lives is just that, our choice. I choose to be armed and stand a very good chance of prevailing if someone attacks me. Don't take away my choice on the insane notion that criminals will stop attacking people because of words written on paper. Such words -- laws as we like to call them -- have never stopped criminals throughout the history of mankind.

    2. A civilized society requires that there be an professional force, entrusted with the protection of the society, from those who wish to commit acts, which the society and those entrusted in maintaining governance, deem to be punishable acts. If those likely to commit violent acts where apprehend by such a professional force of collective defense and where removed from society (through incarceration, or in previous centuries, execution) there would be less incidence of violence in the society (as they say an ounce of prevention -correctional institutions- beats a pound of cure -firearms possessed by civilians-). The availability of weapons (firearm or other) in society, creates a situation in which those inclined to violence are able to cause far more destruction and social harm then they would if they where unarmed. Also, if society allows the mere citizen, with no official training, no ties to a professional state agency entrusted with coercive power, and who conveys no public authority, to be armed as a means of personal defense, the civilian is unlikely to find use of the weapon in the instance in which the civilian is unlawfully attacked, due to the element of surprise.

      Consider the (factual) example of a particular man, who was defended by several heavily armed (with Ingram MAC 10 sub-machineguns, having a cyclic rate of over 1100 rounds a minute and a 30 round magazine) and highly trained state-actors. He was attacked by a criminal with a (single action) .22 revolver (the assailant was able to fire all six rounds before he was apprehended). The victim in question was almost killed (struck a few inches from his heart) by the assailant before the assailant was apprehended alive (he was not fired upon).

      Still think a pistol (or any other personal weapon for that matter) will be of use in an attack?

      Also, considering the social harm caused by the possession and use of small arms by civilians, and the preamble of the current U.S. constitution which states that it is the responsibility of government to "ensure domestic Tranquility" and "provide for the common defense" and "promote the general welfare", that a Fundamental Right to Civilian Disarmament,could be established domestically, and later, internationally. In order for the government to achieve such goals, the government must take reasonable measures to ensure that state actors have a monopoly on the use of small arms, and ensured by the general prohibition of the possession of small arms (as well as other deadly devices) by mere civilians.

    3. E.N. Please explain the 100+ million murder victims in Nazi Germany, Russia, and China as well as the 50+ million victims of violent crime in the U.S. in the last century. You do realize all of those countries had professional police forces.

      Please explain how gun control will stop criminals from smuggling guns, making simple guns with supplies at local hardware stores, and making complex guns at local machine shops.

      Please explain how an unarmed 110 pound woman will stop a large man from raping her.

      If handguns are useless, then explain why all law enforcement officers have them? Then explain the thousands of documented instances of citizens successfully defending themselves with handguns. As for your reference to the assassination attempt on President Reagan it is uninspiring. Whether or not guns exist, there is little anyone can do to stop an assassin who is willing to die in the process of the assassination. Fortunately, most criminals are not interested in dying while committing their crimes. Second, even if a criminal does have the element of surprise and shoots me in the heart, I am still able to return fire for at least 10 seconds before I lose too much blood and fall unconscious. That is plenty of time to insure my family's survival. And if another armed citizen sees the event, they can help defend me as well.

      Please note that armed criminals cause social harm. Armed citizens do NOT harm other citizens. As for the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, you conveniently omitted the objective to "secure the Blessings of Liberty". You also omitted the Declaration of Independence which states the purpose of government: "... all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men," Government's purpose is not to take away rights or disarm the people. Their purpose is to secure rights.

      There can be no domestic tranquility, general welfare, nor common defense if there are no rights. If you want to visit a place of tranquility, welfare, and common defense, just go to a gun range ... there isn't a place on the planet with less violent crime.

    4. E.N., once again, you give us the latest declaration from the Ministry of Truth. What's this nonsense about a fundamental right to civilian disarmament? It does fit right in with the right to be held without trial, the right to have one's home searched without a warrant, the right to worship only at the church of the government's choice, and many other such "rights" that dictatorships give out.

    5. You're wrong, probably because you're a biased gun fanatic who would say anything to protect your precious fetish item.

      Proper gun control laws, like we've suggested around here, would lessen the damage and suffering. Anybody could see that if they have an open mind, which you obviously don't.

    6. Mikeb, the most frustrating thing about you is how impervious to reason you are. You claim that your proposals would lessen death and injury, but you can't show me how that's true. Don't mention Britain here, because as I've shown you time and time again, America is not Britain. We have far more guns than they ever had. Even if your proposals were desirable, which they are not, they would fail for practical reasons.

  2. Anonymous makes excellent points. Also consider the dangers of free speech. We've seen the violent protests over a film that criticized the prophet Muhammed. I've seen the film. It's badly done in every aspect. But it's a commentary on religion. If the right to speak one's mind about religion isn't a fundamental part of free speech, I don't know what is included.

    The point here is that all rights come with dangers, but if we sacrifice rights for safety, we end up losing altogether.

  3. Another point is to enquire as to why the author sees free speech as a more valuable right than the right to own and carry firearms. Oh, yes, she works for a newspaper and writes editorials. Hit her where she lives, and watch how she'd squawk.

    1. You can't make you point without resorting to simplistic and false comparisons.

    2. Simplistic and false? The author exercises one right to call for infringements on another. She claims that one right is more valuable than another. She's a hypocrite. I advocate for all rights, including hers. My point was that we could call for infringements on a right that she values. In that case, she'd be among the first to protest. But the truth is that I won't call for taking away free expression any more than I'll call for taking away gun rights. The reason is the same.

  4. Every day 80 Americans die from gunshots and an additional 120 are wounded, according to a 2006 article in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

    It amazes me that a journalist would completely rely on the research of others without so much as a cursory glance at the underlying 'research', then go on to publish a lie like:

    Those 80 Americans left their homes in the morning ... and never returned.

    Never considering that over 60% of those 'gun death' victims may have never left their home because they committed suicide. Then, mikeb goes on to say:

    "I know the gun-rights fanatics will immediately point out that among the 80 a day, half are suicides. They always say this as if it makes a difference to our gun availability argument. It doesn't."

    Then explain to us, mikeb, why is it that the US has nearly three times the number of firearm owners as Canada, but our neighbors to the north have nearly the same suicide rate as the United States?

    mikeb continues with "And you know what the gun rights crowd says? 'Don't inconvenience me even a little. I won't stand for it.'"

    No I won't stand for it. The Brady Act was a compromise, it was a "I'll be inconvenienced a little", but it didn't stop there.

    mikeb, I invite you to look at the homicide rate over the past 50 years, before the Gun Control Act, before the Brady Act, and back when a person could buy a firearm through the mail and have it delivered to their home. You'll notice that in 1962, the homicide rate was 4.6, that is the second lowest rate since about 1903 (the lowest rate was in 1957 at 4.0). Our homicide rate in 2010 was 4.8 and is estimated to be about 1.9% lower for 2011.

    What did the Gun Control Act do for us? Nothing! The homicide rate continued to rise until 1980 when it peaked at 10.2 and then started meandering down, without more gun control.

    What have we seen the past two decades? More states allowing more citizens to carry more guns in more public places and LESS homicide.

    Ah, yes, I hear the cries of empathy, "what about the suicide rate". Let's look at it, in 1990, the suicide rate was 14.53 and 2010, the rate was 12.43. It seems that more guns don't equate to more suicides.

    1. You've got a good point about the way she lumped all the deaths into one category of people leaving their house and never coming home. But you make some mistakes in the rest of your comment.

      The crime rate going down while the gun ownership goes up proves nothing. Couldn't it be going down for various socio-economic and cultural reasons as well as a general positive trend in the population IN SPITE OF THE INCREASE OF GUNS. This theory says that it would have gone down much more if we had also controlled guns better. Isn't that possible, Bill?

    2. Yes, there is a mistake in my comment above. The homicide rate for 1980 was 10.7

      This theory says that it would have gone down much more if we had also controlled guns better. Isn't that possible, Bill?

      There are no studies that identify gun control as a contributing factor to lower violent crime or homicide rates, in fact, after the Gun Control Act of 1968, the homicide rate continued to climb to the point that new records were set, exceeding those records that were set during the time of prohibition.

      Another example of failed gun control was the Assault Weapons Ban, studies show that there was no measurable effect on the violent crime or homicide rates.

      The Brady Act was another waste of taxpayer money. The homicide rate was already declining years prior to the Act. Although the antis claim that the Brady Act has denied gun sales to 100s of thousand of prohibited persons, there is no proof to that, especially with there only being hundreds of prosecutions resulting from the denied sales and not hundreds of thousands.

    3. Mikeb, the fact that the rates of violent crime are falling while gun ownership is rising shows that guns aren't a problem. Guns aren't the One Ring or some other kind of evil object that cause disaster just by existing. With more and more gun owners in this country, we don't see a rise in violence or death. That shows how the gun control argument is based on fallacy.

    4. " the fact that the rates of violent crime are falling while gun ownership is rising shows that guns aren't a problem. "

      Wrong, unless you confuse correlation with causation.

    5. Mikeb, pay attention. I didn't say that gun ownership is the cause of the drop in crime rates. My point is that if guns are the fundamental evil that your side claims them to be, we should see a rise in violence with a rise in ownership. But we actually see the opposite.

    6. That's exactly what you do by inference. When called on it, you deny. You have no scruples because you think you're in a holy war and lying is permitted.

    7. Bullshit. I've said all along that correlation does not equal causation. I realize that some on my side make that error, but I do not. What I've always said is that we have increased gun ownership while violence is going down. That shows that guns, by themselves, don't cause violence.

      I have never lied here. Democommie kept accusing me of having done so, but whenever I challenged him to prove it, he failed. I challenge you to prove that I've lied.

  5. "left their homes in the morning and went to work, or to school, or to a movie..." or to a drug deal, or to a gang turf war, or to avenge being "dissed"...

    Criminals killing criminals doesn't make killing right, but instead of having gun owners spend time with the dead bodies, how about kids in gangs?

    1. Yeah, that's one of the pro-gun fanatic's favorite lies. All, or nearly all the gun violence is done by druggies and gang members.

      Read the news, Tom. It's a lot more than that.

    2. Or, instead of relying on the news, get your information directly from the source.

      National Gang Intelligence Center:
      Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others, according to NGIC analysis. Major cities and suburban areas experience the most gang-related violence. Local neighborhood-based gangs and drug crews continue to pose the most significant criminal threat in most communities. Aggressive recruitment of juveniles and immigrants, alliances and conflict between gangs, the release of incarcerated gang members from prison, advancements in technology and communication, and Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization (MDTO) involvement in drug distribution have resulted in gang expansion and violence in a number of jurisdictions.

      These are the very people that are not affected by gun control.

    3. Careful, Bill! Information like that could puncture mike's logic!

      But mike, I did not say that all "gun violence" is done by "druggies" (sounds like your stuck in a '50s time warp) or gang members. In big cities, though, it tends to be. Read the Chicago Tribune. Gun homicides are not sprinkled evenly across demographics.

  6. Mikeb, you so often call your proposals a little inconvenience, but what you want is far from little. You want direct government control over who gets to own a gun. You want monitoring of gun owners. You want law after law after law. It makes me curious to know what you'd consider an actual violation.

  7. you can make all the guns laws you want and no matter what two things will happen...

    1. Good law abiding Citizens will be unarmed and helpless

    2. Criminals will still continue to not obey laws and laugh at idiots such as yourself who want to disarm citizens just makes their job easier.

    I have served in the military for over 20 yrs and I'm a law abiding citizen, but be advised myself and fellow gun owners will not obey unjust laws.

    1. Under my plan NO "good law abiding citizens" would be unarmed unless they wanted to be.

      And fewer criminals would have access to guns simply because the guns would be better controlled.