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So, Sandy Hook II

By skepticlawyer

A friend who works in the City sent me the picture on the left; it is an advertisement for the Bushmaster .223, the rifle used in Sandy Hook. He’d attached it to a report indicating that Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns much of the Freedom Group–of which Bushmaster is part–was trying to sell the arms manufacturer. ‘It’ll be a bit of a fire sale,’ he added, ‘except for people who like the bloodier end of the SINDEX, of course’.

Brokers and bankers and venture capitalists, post financial crisis, are not the best loved of people, but there is something to cling to in the image of the urbane British investment banker–his copy of the FT or Economist to hand–as he shakes his head from side to side (while somewhere in the Gherkin) at the sort of people who make advertisments like that. I mean, really!

Unlike most of my friends (because I live in Britain, and the British spend much of their time being faintly horrified by Americans and America), I actually think there are arguments in favour of the 2nd Amendment, or at least that the arguments against it are less strong than commonly believed.

I considered those arguments in my first piece on Sandy Hook, but I raise them again now because the NRA–America’s premier organisation (at least in terms of money and membership) representing civilian gun-owners–is not presently making many of those arguments. Indeed, it is making arguments so bad that the US may yet see firearms regulation by default.

The NRA’s full statement is here (you may need to step past the flash animation to get to it in a timely fashion). Read it. It makes one good point (gun free zones do not work; there is considerable empirical evidence to back this up). It then goes on to state the following:

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

And the fact is, that wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country. Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% — to the lowest levels in a decade.

So now, due to a declining willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years! Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.

Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?

Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?

In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18.

And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.

It would appear that in order to protect the 2nd Amendment, the NRA is willing to trash the 1st, the 4th, and the 5th. The 1st, when it comes to video games and media reporting of current events (‘bring back the D-Notice, says the NRA’). And the 4th and 5th when it comes to policing the mentally ill. Hey, who needs any of that silly free speech or probable cause or due process? Especially if you’re mentally ill. That’s old hat.

What I wanted to do

In a comment to my first piece, I said the following:

The main thing I want is a confirmed diagnosis of a recognised mental illness under a nice recent edition of the DSM (there are lots of speculations running around, but nothing certain).

As follow up, I’d also like:

- Confirmation (or denial) of the shooter’s connection with the school.

- Confirmation (or denial) of the persistent rumour floating around the intertubes that the shooter’s mother was in the process of having him sectioned.

- Confirmation (or denial) of his mother’s involvement in the ‘prepper’ movement (once again, there is a lot of speculation, but not much fact, getting around).

But a diagnosis is the biggie. It’s kind of central to know whether we’re dealing with ‘bad’ or ‘mad’ or ‘sad’.

Thus far, I have no answer to my main question; I do have confirmation that the shooter did indeed attend Sandy Hook Elementary School, and at the same time no further information on possible sectioning or maternal involvement with preppers (a type of survivalist). The media has been woeful, as this piece from the BBC (with, for once, only a modicum of handwringing) makes clear. At one point, the local paper–overwhelmed, like the town–issued a statement (right).

In light of the absence of information (including, I might add, no genuine information on video games played by the shooter), I thought of canning my planned post. I’ve long thought that law and writing are close to being opposed professions, much like purple and yellow on an artist’s colour-wheel. One is all about blabbing, the other all about keeping secrets: the two simply do not compute, so I ought to stay silent. However, the NRA’s awful statement changed all that, particularly after I watched US libertarian friends–many of them gun-owners and recreational hunters–screaming at the organisation of which they are members to JUST SHUT THE F*CK UP.

What I am doing instead

There is no evidence–none, nada, zip, zilch, zero, the big goose egg–linking video games to the perpetration of violent crime. In fact, what evidence we do have points in the opposite direction: catharsis–to get all classical–beats mimesis, every time. Anecdotal evidence of the passivity and (often) courtesy of people who watched violent entertainment goes back to antiquity: that good and gentle Greek, Polybius, noticed it among his Roman hosts. Later writers observed the same phenomenon in Tokugawa Japan.

A clever creature is the snake,

Who spends his winter not awake;

He snuggles in his long thin bed

And brews up venom in his head.

The human is a different sort;

He spends the winter watching sport;

He yells abuse in concrete stands

And empties out his poison glands.

[The above is routinely attributed to cartoonist Michael Leunig, but the bulk of it is pinched from Martial's de Spectaculis--special souvenir edition produced for the opening of the Flavian Amphitheatre--and constituted much of Martial's justification for being a gladiatorial show fan-boy.]

Moving swiftly on…

Furthermore, people who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crime, not perpetrators. That is not to pretend that the number of violent crimes committed by mentally ill people have not increased in recent times. They have. However, this (small) increase is in the context of plummeting crime rates overall, as I pointed out in my previous post. And that piece in the WSJ goes on–once again as though the 4th and 5th Amendments do not exist–to advocate the reinstitutionalisation of the mentally ill.

I am not in the habit of providing free history lessons unless I absolutely have to (they take time). So, here is Mr Hogarth to do it for me (left). And before you suggest, ‘but asylums got better in the 20th century’, may I remind you that the (apparent) wonderful peace and quiet was often brought about thanks to widespread misuse of this procedure. For those uninterested in Wiki-history, the BBC at its sober and understated best provides the relevant background.

Locking up the mentally ill? Registering them all in a national database? I support the 2nd Amendment, but I’m afraid I’ll be doing that to your guns before I go anywhere near any people.

The take home?

1. I’m assuming the NRA was a centipede in a past life, because sticking that many feet in one’s mouth all at the same time takes some doing (making jokes about blowing off one’s own feet at this point is probably a little too obvious…)

2. Bad books and bad films and bad games do not bad people make. They didn’t even make the Romans bad (and their bad entertainment was kind of the ultimate bad entertainment beta test).

3. The mentally ill. More likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. Also, people. That means enjoying the protection of both the 4th and the 5th Amendments.

4. The media. Yes, irresponsible. But also, speech. That means enjoying the protection of the 1st Amendment. The one above the one you like so much, dear NRA.

5. I should not have to say these things. They fall in the realm of ‘statements of the bleeding obvious’.

[I indeed had to reassure a friend earlier that I did not write that NRA statement as a Poe to take the piss out of the organisation. They did it to themselves!]

41 Comments

  1. Posted December 23, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    …gun free zones do not work…

    Indeed!
    There is a reason mass shooters make a conscious choice to open fire in a school, instead of at a Roded or Nascar rally.

  2. Posted December 23, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    #*&%^*(-ing sticky keyboard!

    …. Rodeo efven

  3. Adrien
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them.

    That is, the truth is that there just plain demons in our midst and trying to work out things like ‘why’ is just a waste of time. Go out walkin’ with yer Bible n’ yer gun.

    The NRA don’t care about the constitution few people in the States seem to. Some care about this amendment, others about that. And many factions have actively sought to violate and even remove the bits they don’t like. Gitmo has bipartisan support in the US government for how long now?

    But this keeps happening. Action of some sort will be expected and the reaction and unforeseen consequences could be bad.

  4. Adrien
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    catharsis, to get all classical, beats mimesis

    Not sure about that, GTA is cathartic, Doom is mimetic in my experience.

    That ad is proof that sub-standard males need to be culled. :)

  5. Posted December 23, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    On the mad/sad/bad thing – inclusion in the DSM does not help differentiate between mad and bad. It is a statistical guide to behaviour clusters that can be given a label – not an aetiology that mitigates. Some of the DSM labels boil down to “intelligent manipulative selfish arsehole” or “spoilt little shit who would do what they were told if raised in a boarding school between the wars when disobedience had consequences”.

    Remember that same-sex-attraction was in the DSM not so long ago.

    Remember the “get out of the psych ward free card” if you label your psychotic voices “angels” or link them to judeochristian sky fairies.

    It depends on the specific DSM item (and the edition), and which particular shrinkage school you talk to, what a DSM entry implies – and consider the sane or insane issues in the Breivik case.

    Yes – a DSM label would be useful in this case, but if it is one of those that translates into “shitty because they choose to be” – then it may not be useful.

  6. The Feral Abacus
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    This is one of the more thoughtful posts I’ve seen.

  7. Yobbo
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “The media. Yes, irresponsible. But also, speech. That means enjoying the protection of the 1st Amendment. The one above the one you like so much, dear NRA.”

    The media do self-regulate when it comes to reporting suicides in the hope that less people will copycat. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to ask them to do the same for these kinds of crime. It is obvious that the perps do it for the attention. Starve them of the attention and the crimes stop.

  8. Posted December 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Yobbo, I think that’d fly in Australia or Britain, but in the US I suspect even a voluntary code would finish up in the SCOTUS so fast it’d make all our heads spin.

    One of the points I’ve been trying to emphasise (both in this post and the earlier one) is that when dealing with the US, one does not get what one wants, but must instead work with what one has.

    This means the ‘ban guns’ crowd need to take a hike, because the 2nd Amendment isn’t going anywhere. Similarly, the 1st Amendment (along with the 5th, with its due process requirements) isn’t going anywhere. The media will spout off (including non traditional bodies like blogs, Facebook etc) and there will never be a national mental health register (which, one assumes, the NRA’s lawyers must realise…)

    FA@6: the link you give loads no more than the headline for me, unless, of course, it is meant to be blank.

  9. Douglas
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    A possible approach is to consider the time when the US Constitution was drafted there were only muzzle loading firearms. Allow people to have as many muzzle loaders as they please but restrict modern high capacity weapons. It would be great to see a gun show with racks of muzzle loaders not assault rifles.
    I like the present Australian gun laws. Though a common mis-conception is that self-loading rifles and automatics are banned. I know a civilian who has a powerful self loading rifle for his work. They are not banned, it just is very very hard to get a licence for them.
    A common refrain from the gun lobby is, “If you take away our guns only the crims will have guns.” I find the corollary is quite interesting to consider. “If you have an unlicensed firearm you are a crim.”
    Another aspect not well known of licensing is that in the event of an AVO guns can be removed from them. This has probably saved lives.

  10. The Feral Abacus
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    SL @8: works fine at my end, but perhaps the .au is the problem (it is a US site). Give http://gladlylernegladlyteche.blogspot.com/ a go.

  11. Posted December 23, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    A pretty vapid viewpoint of the Australian gun laws Douglas.

    If you have an unlicensed firearm you are a crim

    Who is the victim of this crime?

    Declaring something illegal, just for the purpose of making otherwise law abiding people into criminals, is possibly the stupidest thing I have heard.

    There is no sane reason to ban (or make near impossible to own) self-loaders.

    How are those really excellent Australian gun laws working in western Sydney right now?

    A common refrain from the anti-gun nazis is “even if it saves only one life, it has been worthwhile”.

    Garbage.

    Australia’s gun laws have turned me into a tin duck in a shooting gallery.

    All Australian citizens should have guns, not just the criminals.

  12. Posted December 24, 2012 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    LE: The NRA executive seems to be suffering from collective hydrophobia or something.
    How else to explain it?

  13. Posted December 24, 2012 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    SATP,

    How are those really excellent Australian gun laws working in western Sydney right now?

    Are you trying to make the point that most of the gun violence seems to be going on between people who own guns? Or the point that the fact the other person probably has a gun is obviously not a deterrent? Or that what those situations need is more stray cross fire from third party neighbours?

    A common refrain from the anti-gun nazis is “even if it saves only one life, it has been worthwhile”.

    So how much bloodshed is the right to own a gun worth?

  14. Posted December 24, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    At the time of the Howard gun laws, I (and several family members) were law abiding gun-owners. The ease with which we were stigmatised made me livid. Still does. When Howard fronted up wearing a bullet-proof vest to address a protest over those laws, I thought the relationship between country and city Australia had reached its nadir.

    However, I also recognise that Australia’s gun laws before Port Arthur were considerably stricter than those in the US, and that the liberality of the US’s gun laws is that nation’s latest ‘peculiar institution’ for many of those who do not live there. Now, while the last ‘peculiar institution’ was only wiped away with the blood of a million Americans, I think this one can be left alone, or at least left to Americans. As in, how Americans manage the relationship between their enumerated rights is a matter for Americans, and just as we (and other nations) resent America intromitting in our affairs, I think Americans have a right to solve their own legal problems.

    We may not like their solutions, but we are not them: and if we reasonably expect Americans to STFU about the way we manage speech rights, or religion in public life, or education, then it behooves us to extend them the same courtesy when it comes to guns. Our elected representatives have made different decisions.

    The NRA has been very stupid in this statement, so much so that it may have fatally undermined its own case. Some people in Australia or Britain may cheer at that, but my concern is a wider one: a large community organisation and lobby group has no understanding of the most elementary social science research on the causes of violence and seeks to stigmatise the mentally ill. The latter two failings are also evinced in Britain and Australia, hence my commentary.

  15. Posted December 24, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Desipis, please list the number of people who are at risk if I own guns, you know, those who will be part of the “bloodshed” that my right to own a gun would be worth.

  16. Posted December 24, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    And this is where absurd ‘rights talk’ lands people: research into firearm deaths and injuries either hampered or outlawed because it could provide ammunition to both sides of the gun control debate (yes, the NRA were so determined to hobble the other side they hobbled themselves in the process):

    http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1487470

    All because it’s a ‘right’ to keep and bear arms, so not open to empirical analysis. Oh how I hate rights talk; one day I hope we positivists win this argument and the idea of universal, unvarying rights is removed from our jurisprudence once and for all.

  17. Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Skepti: Our USA brethren have the constitutional “right” to bear arms. Some of the more zealotic of them (citizens of usa) will develop a glazed expression when banging on about their right to this or that – guns, free speech, etc)
    My favourite is the one time I had a conversation with a uni lecturer he made regular references to the “right” to a free education.
    I don’t think he’d ever before encountered someone who thoroughly disagreed & had enough ammo to keep making points all the way from Singapore to Brisbane.

    There ain’t no such thing as a “right”, of any sort.

    One of the girls in my class at school, (who must have been living under a rock until that moment) had never heard of Adolf Hitler & the Nazi regime.
    Upon learning (this was history class) of the sort of things Adolf got up to, she ejaculated indignantly: “Who gave him the right to do that?

    The teacher responded: “Nobody

    She was unable to process that answer & didn’t say a word for the rest of the lesson.
    For the rest of the class, it most starkly put “rights” into perspective.

  18. Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    omg, did I leave the italics tag open?

  19. Douglas
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    SATB asked of my statement – If you have an unlicensed firearm you are a crim.”
    “Who is the victim of this crime?”
    There does not have to be a victim.
    Declaring something illegal, just for the purpose of making otherwise law abiding people into criminals, is possibly the stupidest thing I have heard.”
    If they have an illegal firearm they are not law abiding. Trying to put them into the law abiding camp is disingenuous.

    “There is no sane reason to ban (or make near impossible to own) self-loaders.”
    Self loaders are a favoured weapon of mass killers. Since 1996 there has not been a mass killing so the laws have been a success. The laws do not stop gun deaths but have slightly reduced the rate of gun deaths and so far have stopped mass killings.

    Even if I lived in Western Sydney I would be especially worried. Crims are targeting each other and would be careful not to injure anyone else. The wrath of the public would vastly increase police activity on them.

    “Australia’s gun laws have turned me into a tin duck in a shooting gallery.”
    Australia’s gun laws make me feel safer.

    I recounted to someone that two good friends of mine were shot and killed. His reply was, “They had to die sometime.”
    We had to part company before I could ask if he minded if I killed him there and then.

  20. Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    SATP,

    Desipis, please list the number of people who are at risk if I own guns, you know, those who will be part of the “bloodshed” that my right to own a gun would be worth.

    You owning a gun increases the risk of being shot for everyone who comes within range of you.

  21. Posted December 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Despispis, you’ll have to actually put a, you know, reasoned argument, not a pub talking point.

    You are making sheet up.

    You have no argument.

  22. Posted December 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Douglas, it is not about vapid feelings it is about actually being safer.
    Gun control makes law abiding people less safe. Confiscating guns from law abiding citizens has not made you safer, it is naive to think it has.

    In addition to self-loaders being the weapon of choice in mass shootings, there are many other consistencies. The shooters are male, the shooting is carried out in a place where concealed carry is illegal, and the shootings are carried out in locations where the targets are likely to be mostly female, and any males present will be likely beta males.

    There is a reason mass shootings do not happen in gun carry zones, nor in an alpha-male rich environment.

    You bang on vapidly about how people who have unlicenced firearms are criminals, yet condone the actions of criminals who are shooting up western sydney.

    This is morally bankrupt.

    The “Douglas Paradox” it could be called in psych studies.

    Quick statistic: Average number of persons killed in a mass shooting:
    Where the police stop the shooter: 14
    Where armed citizens stop it: 2.5

    When seconds count, the police are only a half day away (or minutes away if you live in a built-up area).

  23. Posted December 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t aware your hair is a bird, my bad.

  24. Posted December 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    You’ll have to do better Desipis.

    Your “argument” is essentially: “If you go driving, other motorists & pedestrians are at risk”
    Would you care to think first, then post something?

    I’ve carried & owned plenty of firearms, my entire life (from when I was old enough to hold an air rifle when prone) and nobody has ever been at risk.

    You are either covering for your inner totalitarian, or you just can’t stand the thought that if you shut your eyes, someone somewhere is doing as they please, without having to ask the govt. for permission.

    If you just plain have a groundless predjudice against me having a gun, say so. Don’t try to suggest there is any risk to anybody.

    You’d say smoking was a risk, on the basis if I spilled some tobacco someone may slip on it & fall.

    Get a grip & come up with a less unhinged argument.

  25. Nick Ferrett
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Now that I’m on holidays, I’ve been re-watching the first season of the West Wing. There’s an episode called “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc”. Some of you should watch it.

    Also “zealotic” is not a word.

  26. Nick Ferrett
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t mean you, SL

  27. kvd
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Steve@25, get with the vibe. This discussion is not about any ‘reality’; more yet another “wouldn’t it be great if the world was organized our way in the best interests of the stupid”, and maybe everyone also had a puppy.

    Mind you, I’d be quite interested to hear about the varying practical responses to be made to such an event – based upon his ‘mad bad or sad’ status which has now twice been stated, so I’m thinking must be somehow really significant?

  28. Posted December 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    kvd, the world is already organised in the best interests of the stupid. That’s why the NRA is so powerful.

  29. Holden Caulfield
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    As far as all the Australian and English (and other foreigners) waving their bossy fingers go, they really need to read this and learn by rote:

    As in, how Americans manage the relationship between their enumerated rights is a matter for Americans, and just as we (and other nations) resent America intromitting in our affairs, I think Americans have a right to solve their own legal problems.

    We may not like their solutions, but we are not them: and if we reasonably expect Americans to STFU about the way we manage speech rights, or religion in public life, or education, then it behooves us to extend them the same courtesy when it comes to guns. Our elected representatives have made different decisions.

  30. Holden Caulfield
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    But, I agree that when it comes to the NRA, all bets are off. Such collective stupidity deserves no defence. How stupid are these people?

  31. Posted December 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    @kvd, hehe silly me!
    Now that I’ve carefully re-read everything SL has written about massacre porn & vicarious mourning, etc. I see where I have deviated from the groupthink.

    I have to do something anything *screech*howl* thus in the best tradition of the Wild West, I’ll vote for lynching a few fellers right now (whilst simultaneously the actual culprit gets away!)

    Guns = bad. Gun owners = evil incarnate. NRA = Nazi Party without the nice bits. Pro-gun advocate = unhinged harpy! :-)

  32. kvd
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nick. Wishes for you and loved ones. But if you really believed that or worse it was really true – isn’t this just another intellectual parlor game? Whry not address what is; and work with the stupid stubborn reality?

    HC asks how stupid are these people. I think they’ve already succeeded and nothing much will change – so maybe call them ‘successful but stupid’ to be fair ?

  33. kvd
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Well! In mod for a perfectly moderate comment. Apologies for typos. No landline or Internet access except for dumb iPhone which autocorrects stupid as NRA

    Steve, now you’re getting in the groove!

  34. Posted December 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    SATP,

    If you go driving, other motorists & pedestrians are at risk

    Yes, this is also true.

  35. Posted December 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    @ Desipis: Thus there is no actual risk if I have a pile of firearms, other than someone may trip over them & bark their shin! ;-)

  36. Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    kvd, I’m always on the side of working with what you’ve got rather than maintaining purity of ideology or thought.

    Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the world is organised in the way most easily sold to the stupid. It is difficult for it to be otherwise because the stupid are the ones that bay the loudest and fight compromise with the most ardour. Those of us who want a quiet life bend to that pressure. If we want to do anything other than fight all the time, we have to achieve a compromise to which the stupid will subscribe because the more intelligent can be persuaded to accept that compromise, whereas the stupid will not be persuaded.

    This discussion is an intellectual parlour game. We’re not Americans. All we can do is comment on what they will do and how they will interpret the second amendment. We can’t tell them what to do, and in the end, it is an internal matter. Past emotional pain, it is difficult to see what immediate effect their gun violence has on the outside world.

    Could I just say, I don’t think all gun owners are stupid. I like guns. I think that shooting is a lot of fun, although shooting animals is not really for me. I don’t own guns, but that is not out of some ideological or moral stance. Shooting is just not high on my list of things to do when I have time to do them.

    What I do think is that the NRA sells a message which appeals to the stupid. There is no nuance in their public messages. Wayne LaPierre says that there should not be any restriction on gun ownership. He dismisses the possibility that the world would be a safer place without the continued manufacture and retail of assault weapons (that is to say, semi-automatic weapons with the capacity to reel off a very large number of rounds without reloading).

    He has two motives in doing that. First, he has a constituency of gun manufacturers who make a lot of money out of selling those sorts of weapons. Secondly, he knows that stance is easily digestible to that part of his more general constituency who see policy only in black and white.

    A more nuanced stance – say, a willingness genuinely to consider evidence at odds with his position with the possibility that the NRA’s stance would change – is at odds with the interests of his commercial constituency and beyond the ken of his stupid constituency.

    The NRA’s positions cater to the stupid as a means of maintaining a militant, almost psychotic base. The NRA’s power comes from its capacity to maintain that base and the militancy of it.

  37. Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh and happy Christmas to you kvd. Your kindly expressed good wishes are gratefully received.

  38. kvd
    Posted December 25, 2012 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    Nick allow me to correct one misapprehension. I spoke of the ‘parlour game’ in terms of the guns debate generally – not just in reference to this blog. I agree with SL’s comments and analysis – which simply leads me to think nothing much will change. Where we may differ is that I’d go further and add “or should”.

  39. TerjeP
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Since 1996 there has not been a mass killing so the laws have been a success.

    Not that your “A” implies “B” statement carried any weight to begin with but “A” is actually false.

    June 2000 – town of Childers in Queensland – 15 murdered in mass killing.

  40. TerjeP
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    In the mind of the control advocate the only way the 1996 laws can be declared a failure is if we have a string of gun related mass killings. And they will then declare that the reforms in 1996 were a failure because they did not go far enough. In policy argument terms they play heads I win, tails you lose.

One Trackback

  1. By Skepticlawyer » The year in review on December 30, 2012 at 1:02 am

    [...] out of much of the commentary by providing accurate statistical information. In the second, I discuss how the NRA’s blaming of video game violence and Hollywood for shooting deaths grossly weakens its case for the 2nd [...]

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