If not now, when? Nicholas Kristof on guns

October 2, 2017 • 12:45 pm

I don’t know if a lot of us are fans of Nicholas Kristof, but I suspect many of us will agree with his column in today’s New York Times, “Preventing future mass shootings like Las Vegas.” As he implies, the National Rifle Association, which I’ve long seen as Institutional Evil, will say “In this heated climate after a shooting, it’s the wrong time to discuss gun regulation.” But if not now, when? For one thing is certain: the righteous furor about a private citizen getting an assault rifle will die down after a while, only to be roused again when the next shooting takes place. Kristof gives us this horrifying statistic:

Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American history, back to the American Revolution. Every day, some 92 Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries, according to David Hemenway of Harvard.

And that’s just since 1970! Living in Chicago, one becomes acutely aware of this problem. I often see young men, mostly black, pushing themselves about in wheelchairs, and I know that many of them got that way from being shot in the spine. In Chicago this Labor Day weekend, 7 people were killed and 35 injured, all from guns; and 438 people have died this way in 2017.

Do we have to accept this? Kristof (and this is where I partly disagree) says that we’ll never get rid of gun violence in America, and so should adopt proposes some familiar—and mild—restrictions. I agree fully with these restrictions, and with Kristof’s claim that we’ll always have some guns (illegal ones are hard to stop), but why must we simply accept that guns are inevitable and just try to regulate who can get them, and what type can be sold? Why can’t we do what Australia did, and clamp down hard on guns, something they did after a mass shooting in 1996. Strict legislation was passed, including the restriction of firearms to those who have a “valid reason” for owning them.  Here are those “valid reasons”:

  • Sport/target shooting
  • Hunting
  • Primary production
  • Professional hunting
  • Handgun or clay target shooting (including licences held on behalf of juniors)
  • Employment as a security and/or prison guard
  • Official, commercial or prescribed purpose or for a purpose authorised by an Act or Regulation.

After this passed, and after a buyback scheme was implemented, gun deaths in Australia have dropped 50%. (Yes, I know that you can argue against that for other reasons, but why not do the experiment in the U.S.?) Here are Kristof’s suggestions:

  1. Impose universal background checks for anyone buying a gun. Four out of five Americans support this measure, to prevent criminals or terrorists from obtaining guns.
  2. Impose a minimum age limit of 21 on gun purchases. This is already the law for handgun purchases in many states, and it mirrors the law on buying alcohol.
  3. Enforce a ban on possession of guns by anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order. This is a moment when people are upset and prone to violence against their ex-es.
  4. Limit gun purchases by any one person to no more than, say, two a month, and tighten rules on straw purchasers who buy for criminals. Make serial
  5. Adopt microstamping of cartridges so that they can be traced to the gun that fired them, useful for solving gun crimes.
  6. Invest in “smart gun” purchases by police departments or the U.S. military, to promote their use. Such guns require a PIN or can only be fired when near a particular bracelet or other device, so that children cannot misuse them and they are less vulnerable to theft. The gun industry made a childproof gun in the 1800’s but now resists smart guns.
  7. Require safe storage, to reduce theft, suicide and accidents by children.
  8. Invest in research to see what interventions will be more effective in reducing gun deaths. We know, for example, that alcohol and guns don’t mix, but we don’t know precisely what laws would be most effective in reducing the resulting toll. Similar investments in reducing other kinds of accidental deaths have been very effective.

To me this is a Band-Aid (I like the smart gun idea, and not just for cops but for everyone), yet one life saved is a whole world of misery prevented. I much prefer the UK system, which has a very strict system of ownership and storage, and no pistols (except for those with 24-inch barrels or muzzle loaders).  Here are the comparative data:

The death rate in the US is 46 times higher than in the UK, and gun ownership 17 times higher. Some of you will be saying, “Yes, but there are cultural differences between the UK and US”, and my response is “Yes, we have a gun culture, but we can change it.” We also have the Second Amendment which, I think, has been wrongly interpreted by the courts, for the Constitution mandates gun ownership to allow for a “well regulated militia”. By what stretch does that mean that any citizen can have their own gun for any reason? What does that have to do with a “well regulated militia”? (If you disagree with this construal, read Garry Wills’s 1995 article on the Second Amendment).

To me it makes no sense to allow the proliferation of weapons, and other countries have taken far more drastic action than Kristof proposes.

I know I’m bawling down a drainspout here, given the courts’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, the nature of our present Supreme Court, and the power of the National Rifle Association, but what little optimism remains in me says that this issue—and these deaths—are not things we must live with forever.

193 thoughts on “If not now, when? Nicholas Kristof on guns

  1. It is very simple. We do not TRUST you. Once you get the smallest start in controlling guns, you will not stop. That is why you can not get your plan to start. Regards Pat Orlando

      1. Guns will be part of our lives, and there is the legitimate practice of using guns for sport and for protection. So trying to take it that far means sensible gun control will not be allowed to happen in this country, as Patrick implied.

        1. “there is the legitimate practice of using guns for sport and for protection.”

          According to you, I disagree. I know people enjoy killing animals with guns, but I don’t consider it a legitimate sport. And those who think they can protect themselves with guns grew up watching too many cowboy shows.

          1. I have to agree. The whole theory that using guns for protection is why we shouldn’t have better regulation… Nevada has very lax gun laws. You are telling me that there weren’t others at that festival with guns? In the middle of a crisis, especially in a crowd like that, people are going to run. They aren’t going to have time to pull out their gun and load it to shoot back. It’s this theory the NRA concocted to sell more guns.

            1. The places where guns are potentially effective for protection are in the home, against a home invasion, or on the street, against a predator or rapist, not in a mass shooting situation.

              1. I get what you’re saying but in the middle of any crisis you rarely have time to be prepared. Smart gun owners have safes and have them locked up. So you have to get into your safe, make sure it’s loaded, turn off the safety, all while in crisis.

          2. Your opinion. But hunting with guns is a sport. I am not into it either, but who decides what people can and cannot do for recreation or for provisioning for their family? I don’t think we should be the ‘deciders’ on these things. Besides, attempting to do so, to such a degree, guarantees that no progress in this problem will be made.

            1. “who decides what people can and cannot do for recreation”

              That’s easy, laws decide what animals people can kill for recreation, and when they can do it. We are already the ‘deciders’ on these things.

            2. Here in Canada there is a huge hunting culture. People go out killing deer, moose, elk and bear every fall. Gun ownership, especially handguns, is lower in Canada than the US but in terms of long guns I don’t think much lower. And it is higher than the UK and Australia. We don’t have the same level of ownership of semi-automatic weapons as in the US because they are considered restricted and you need a special license.

              We have very strict storage and carrying laws and we have background checks an mandatory gun-safety courses before you can get a permit.

              And our gun-related death rates are FAR lower than the US.

            3. It’s an arbitrary decision that a society collectively makes. Bear-baiting was once considered wholesome entertainment. We ban dog fights and cock fights and in some places, fox hunting. Sport hunting and sport fishing are still accepted.

              1. Bans on fox hunting are not really bans on shooting foxes. They’re bans on chasing foxes down and letting them be ripped apart by trained dogs.

            1. Hunting is used as justification for making guns widely available. In order to restrict guns, killing animals with them is a sacrifice some people will have to make.

    1. With the utmost kindness, paranoia is a treatable mental illness. It might improve your life and your feelings of well being if you looked into this. Why are you so distrustful of your neighbors and others that you would need to amass a personal arsenal?

    2. “It is very simple. We do not TRUST you.”

      So Pat, I’m assuming you’re one of the good guys. Those good guys with a gun who are superior to a bad guy with a gun? Where the hell were you when a 64 year old with a stack of automatic weaponry, and seemingly no hint of obvious mental illness, decided to let loose on a crowd of ordinary people, and was only stopped because he seems to have taken his own life?

      I’d rather disarm everyone and prevent people having access to ludicrous levels of weaponry because, frankly, I don’t trust you!

    3. Huh everyone below seems to have taken the comment as serious. I took it as a devil’s advocate representation of the right; a poe. “We don’t trust you” seems to me more caricature than anything else. Then again, poe’s law tells me I could easily be wrong…

      1. You’re theory that “Orlando” is a nom de massacre, referencing that last mass shooting with an assault weapon?

    4. ” Once you get the smallest start in controlling guns, you will not stop.”

      Yeah, remember when we used to have cars? Then they came up with all those traffic laws and–poof!

    5. But on the other hand you would trust any idiot with a lethal firearm not to use it on you. Good luck with that. It doesn’t seem to be working out for ten people in 100,000 every year.

  2. I think the short answer with why American can’t do as Australia is because it’s America – a place saturated with an unfathomable amount of guns and the constitutional right to bear arms (regardless of how it’s interpreted by some). These things, Australia did not have to contend with. So, full on banning all guns is probably not viable.

    But who is most like Americans? Who? What culture? Could it be Canada? Americans almost never consider Canadian solutions to problems even though we are culturally similar and instead look all over the world instead of a little north (or south depending on where you live in the US). We don’t have a ban on guns in Canada yet our gun crime is low. One of our biggest issues is illegal American guns.

    Canada’s Gun Laws.

    1. Americans don’t consider any country when it comes to this issue. Just ask and the answer will be, we wouldn’t consider it. I did not take the time to read all the laws and restriction in the Canada laws but they have a bunch.

      But anyway, lets just start some place and go from there. First, let us get rid of these assault weapons. Then, let us make illegal any clips with more than 5 bullets. Canada has a law similar to this. My goal would be to also totally eliminate hand guns. Hand guns, just like these assault weapons are used for one thing, killing people. If you were a person who use to go to a nice firing rang to shoot your gun, find something else to do. Read a book.

      1. Defining “assault weapon” is vague and messy and allows obfuscations that make legislation difficult. But limiting magazine size is clear and precise and effective.

        1. We could do like Canada, if it makes you feel better and name each model of these things. I sure do not want to be vague or messy, like it must be in Vegas right now.

          1. The point isn’t to make me feel better, the point is to be able to pass effective legislation. The problem with “vague and messy” is that it makes it easier for the opposition (the NRA) fight the legislation with these kinds of arguments:

            and this is actually a valid argument – those weapons are equally lethal but one legal and the other isn’t.

            I’m proposing (been proposing this for years) to pick the battle that’s winnable and effective, which is to limit magazine size.

              1. The guns you are showing in the picture are shotguns. Not exactly what the issue is here. Also, the one on the bottom is one of those really stupid shotguns that they would make for some gangster or wannabe. A actual hunter would not buy that weapon so why would we want the thing made?

              2. @Randy

                The NRA has a valid point, though they’re cherry-picking their example. Wherever you try to draw a line, there will always be anomalies. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t draw the line somewhere (which is what the NRA is claiming).

                Sticking a pistol grip on it is really irrelevant to the issue.


          2. “We could do like Canada …”

            Eat poutine, drink Molson’s, and do it doggy-style so the wife can watch hockey on tv, too?

            Oh, you mean gun control. Good idea.

        2. A national ban on private ownership of anything firing more than one bullet per per trigger pull isn’t vague or legislatively difficult.

          If gun companies want to make their single shot weapons cosmetically look like an M16, I’m moderately okay with that. Ideally I don’t think it’s a good idea – the police certainly won’t like not being able to tell the difference between a legal fake and a real street-illegal M16 – but if that was the price of passing such a law, I’d take that package deal.

          1. A national ban on private ownership of anything firing more than one bullet per per trigger pull isn’t vague or legislatively difficult.

            Yes, focusing on capability rather than looks is the key. Part of the problem with those fighting for greater gun control is that they focused on appearance. I knew that was bound to fail.

          2. Automatic weapons are already banned in the USA aren’t they?

            Weapons that fire once per trigger pull include semi automatics that load the next round into the chamber.

      2. Hand guns, just like these assault weapons are used for one thing, killing people.

        You paraphrase Skynyrd!

        I tend to agree for the most part, yet my friend in WY has both a .22 rifle and a .45 pistol, and has encouraged me to add the latter in case of bears.

    2. Diana.
      What are the statistics for gun crime in Canada,ie how many deaths per 100,000 of the population?
      The population of Canada is much smaller than the USA and many other countries as is the population density,Canada I believe being the second largest country on the planet.
      It cannot just be cultural surely?
      The population of the UK is almost twice that of Canada.
      There must be more factors at work here?

      1. How about giving us the population of the U.S. back when the second amendment went into law or the death rate by guns at that time. How about this, there is no longer any such thing as a militia so why do we have guns?

      2. Please re-read my post. I never said that Canada had less gun crime based on culture. My point is, Canada allows lots of ownership of guns so an all-out ban is not necessarily required to have significantly less gun crime.

        1. This point is very difficult to get across to gun rights people. They think (not without some justification) that overturning the 2nd will result in a total ban, forgetting that regulation is subject to legislation and that they can vote and or by themselves or through proxies pay for and own their very own politicians.

          In the end I am convinced that those who argue against regulation on the grounds of a slippery slope to outright banning are interested only in keeping the status-quo; they are not interested in a solution, only the unfettered right to keep their weapons.

          So we are at this impasse.

        2. Most 1st world countries have violent crime rates 1/5-1/10th that of the U.S. across the board – not just when it comes to gun violence.

          We can argue chicken and egg about the relationship, but for my part I tend to think that the lower gun violence in places like Canada is a result of the factors that give Canada an overall lower rate of violent crime. In some countries it may be true that gun regulation is a cause of lower violence, but as you say, in Canada, you seem to have achieved the lower rate without massive regulation. Whatever is in your koolaid, it seems to reduce gun violence as a natural consequence of reducing all sorts of violence.

          1. I wish there were a country that could be reasonably compared to the US. We have a much more diverse population than any of the countries that people want to compare us to. Canada certainly has some blighted urban areas, but nothing on the scale of St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and other such places.
            As another poster mentioned, outside of those areas,rates of violent crime are on par with Western Europe or Scandinavia.

        3. That Canada has lots of guns and a lot less violence was a point that Michael Moore made in Bowling for Columbine, although it escaped a lot of people. He pointed the finger at our huge social/racial/political divides.

          1. Yeah but a lot of what he said about Canada in that documentary was bullshit, namely that Canadians never lock their doors.

            If you can’t carry a gun anywhere except the gun range (with no stops in between), it’s a PITA to get a restricted weapon, you tend not to have the variety of guns as the US does and you tend not to carry them everywhere you go in public so the likelihood of them being used for violence or accidents or whatever tends to drop.

    3. It seems to me that the main difference between Canadian and American’s attitude to guns is that we don’t have a Constitutional Right to bear them. If there was a Constitutional right to bear swords, then I’m sure we would exercise it. Since we don’t have either of those rights, guns are just an adult toy, or a hunter’s/police/army tool. We also don’t have the same culture of fear, thinking that someone is likely to kick down our door and threaten our families, so the idea of using them for home defence is not as prevalent.

      So how long before they start installing metal detectors in hotels?

      1. So you think the 2nd amendment is why all these people are buying guns. If we had a constitutional amendment that said everyone had a right to cats, would we all be out buying cats. Maybe we have a constitutional right to STD because that is all the rage these days.

      2. Christ, down here in the contiguous 48, some asshole might shoot ya just for spelling “defense” with a “c.”

    4. Yes. In fact I believe gun ownership in Canada is just as, or almost as, high in Canada as in the US, but it doesn’t have the issues because of sensible laws.

      NZ is similar to Canada, though hand guns are all but impossible to get hold of here.

      1. And why do we have fewer guns? Could it be it’s a PITA to get a restriced weapon? Could it be you can’t carry a hand gun outside your property without severe restrictions?

  3. I’m completely with you on this. The weapons industry has warped our nation. The Supreme Court completely screwed up and abandoned “a well regulated militia”.

    We should all be sick of all this violence. But way too many people don’t care beyond offering thought and prayers every time this happens.

          1. Well, she’s Yugoslavian. Probably didn’t do religion much.

            Why is she saying ‘Our Father’ at the rally anyway? Well, she’s surrounded by ‘Blacks for Trump’ banners, and everybody** knows that ni– sorry, people of color are religious freaks.

            **i.e. the Donald


  4. It may be a cliche, but advocates of gun control do have to formulate some cogent response to the fact that Vermont has some of the laxest gun laws in the world, including unregulated, automatic concealed carry, and it has the lowest homicide rate in the US, and in fact a rate that is lower than the UK and almost every country in Europe. New Hampshire is similar.

    There are clearly demographic and cultural factors at work other than simply access to firearms. I am not arguing against common sense gun restrictions, because they probably could have some effect on the rare but deadly mass shooting incidents like Vegas, but I am also not necessarily convinced that they will substantially bring down America’s aggregate murder rate.

    1. Yes, but just because gun control might not have an effect in VT (because gun-related violence is already low), doesn’t mean that it won’t have a substantial effect elsewhere. No one should have easy access to machine guns, or grenade launchers, or nuclear missiles.

    2. A couple things come to mind re: Vermont.

      Would Vermonters be hurt by universal background checks?

      I always tell my friends who are farther to the left than me – when you want to advocate for change, focus narrowly on a point you think has a reasonable chance of persuading your opponents.

      That’s why I always advocate for the simple and incremental step of enforcing universal background check – if only just as a first step.

      Ultimately, rules need to be universal to be effective at all. Like PCC(E) I live in Chicago , a huge illegal gun market. We’re a short drive from Indiana where regulations are lax. I’m sure the inherent problem is obvious?

      Unfortunately, the dramatic instances like what happened in ‘Vegas tend to make this argument more intractable. I tends to focus people on the left towards advocating things like ‘Assault Weapons Bans’ – which has a zero percent chance of going anywhere beyond a local level, when these incidents might present the best chance for incremental changes that everyone already mostly agrees on.

      1. The problem in crime-ridden urban areas is often criminal gangs. If gun laws in Indiana were the problem, there would likely be terrible gun violence there as well.
        And gangs that can import drugs and other contraband can probably manage to import or manufacture guns as well. Gangs in places like Brazil manage to do this with little effort.
        But I am speaking as a very rural person, so my perspective is likely different from yours. We have lots of guns here, but no gun crime that I am aware of.

        Even if we agreed that guns should be eliminated, many of us would be very hesitant to comply with any plan that disarmed law abiding people but not the criminal element. Sitting here in a ranch house far from any police presence, if we were disarmed we would be just like our ancestors would have been had they been disarmed: we would become prey. And I suspect those of you in more populated areas would become the first victims.
        I have lived much of my life in Japan, where there are strict gun laws. I never felt vulnerable there. Not because the gun laws were in place, but because I was living in a population that was overwhelmingly law abiding.
        I think we at least agree it is a complicated issue.

        1. Yes, I live alone in a rural area, too. I don’t have guns–I have dogs–but I’m often glad that my neighbors do.

    3. You are quite right; our culture is the chief problem (overall – obviously Vt and NH are doing something right in this regard). But even sane, modest regulations are not possible here in the U.S..

      So we will be having this largely pointless discussion again and again and again.

      1. First, your estimate is way off. According to WashPo there have been 131 incidents of a person shooting 4+ people in a single incident (a ‘mass shooting’) since 1966. That’s 2-3 per year, not one per day.

        Second, we have 330 million people in our county. People tend to forget or not realize that after China and India, the US is the third biggest country in the world. That size makes it relatively easy for our news agencies to come up with “people behaving badly” stories on a near daily basis. In actuality our violent crime rate is 5-10x that of other developed countries on a per capita basis. Which sounds really bad…until your realize that all developed countries have incredibly lower crime rates than they did 100+ years ago.

        In the context of the history of human civilization, we are an incredibly peaceful society. We just happen to be lagging behind the *really* incredibly peaceful societies that we consider to be our peers.

        1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_shooting#North_America

          “The U.S. has more mass shootings than any other country.”

          “In one study, it has been estimated that 31% of public mass shootings occur in the U.S., although it has only 5% of the world’s population.”

          “In December 2015, The Washington Post reported that there had been 355 mass shootings in the United States so far that year.”

          Obviously it depends to an extent on your definition of mass shooting.

    4. Well, a cursory check of the stats shows that you’re wrong on both counts. The latest available data show the following homicide rates per 100,000:
      Vermont – 1.6
      New Hampshire – 1.1
      UK – 0.92
      Not only are the rates higher than the UK in both states but the like for like comparison is not valid. I’m from the UK but have spent a lot of time in Vermont so I know what it is like. It’s a beautiful place because it is almost entirely rural, quite reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales in many places. New Hampshire is very similar – Manchester is the biggest City has a population of 110,000, equivalent to a small, provincial English town. The stats for the UK cover many densely populated and large urban conurbations (London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham) all with the usual ’urban’ problems of drugs, gangs etc. Even so the murder rate is just over half that in sleepy, rural and sparsely populated Vermont.
      I do concede you are correct on the other points though – American society is very different to the UK’s. It is no wonder there is more violence generally when there’s a very limited social safety net, huge wealth inequality, massive levels of incarceration (where inmates are generally treated like crap with rehabilitation the last thing that is considered). Worst of all many people don’t have access to health care or risk going bankrupt if they, or their child, or their wife breaks a leg or develops cancer. These healthcare worries aren’t eased by the fact that health insurance is routinely dependent on keeping your job, when employees have very little in the way of workers’ protection rights. I can’t imagine living under such insecurity and uncertainty, it’s no wonder that violence is so ubiquitous.
      The ‘me first’ society might keep taxes low for many but those tax payers still have to share the country with the people who are insecure, frightened of being sacked, angry from being made bankrupt because they got cancer, never received a decent education….
      The UK isn’t perfect by any means but there is generally an acceptance that living in a society has a cost – and that is taxes. Taxes fund a decent(ish) welfare state, an NHS, there’s good employee protection etc.
      For practical reasons alone there is a need to look after those less fortunate because you and your loved ones have to live alongside them. It’s my opinion that the individualistic ‘look out for yourself’ attitude that has made US a huge success and in many ways is very admirable, is also a core reason behind the high rates of violence. Please don’t take this as a criticism of the US as it isn’t – it’s just an observation. And by the way I don’t like paying tax myself, and realise it may go to people that can’t be bothered to go to work, are lazy etc. This thought annoys me greatly, it’s just that I think the alternative of a divided and unequal society is worse for all of us.
      While introducing gun control wouldn’t make the violence disappear overnight it would be a monumental step forward. It’s ridiculous that it is still up for discussion in my opinion.

      1. Rare compared to regular shootings, or really, the point I was trying to make, only responsible for a small portion of the murders.

  5. In your 8 bullet points (no pun) I think you
    missed one of the most effective and (relatively) feasible actions: limiting magazine size.

    Limiting magazine size won’t “solve the problem”, but it will reduce the body count, and that’s all that’s we can hope do in this environment.

    There’s no constitutional guarantee with regards to magazine size.

    1. This is true and imminently sensible.

      I have listened to (or watched online exchanges) with hard-over 2nd Amendment types. They completely refuse to acknowledge any sort of restrictions: You name it:

      Magazine size
      Full-automatic weapons
      Assault-style rifles
      Caliber/shell size (they want to own and use 50-caliber weapons, these can blow clean through buildings and vehicles, pierce auto engine blocks, etc.)

      See #1 in this thread.

      Interlocutors on FB refuse to back off on magazine size (Calling it a “red herring”) despite the fact that the usual opportunity to disarm the assailant is when reloading (As in the Gabby Giffords shooting). Nope, I want my rapid fire jollies at the range. If that means an extra 20 people die at a mall shooting, oh well! Magazine size has nothing to do with it. Drives me nuts.

      1. I’ve even (years ago) debated online otherwise intelligent and successful people who claimed the 2nd Amendment makes it legal for a private citizen to own a nuclear weapon.

    2. There is really no constitutional guarantee with regards to ownership of guns. It is simply in the imagination of some justices who have a hard time reading. The rest is money and the lobby and the ownership of our congress. There is no reason you cannot remove guns from the city limits. There is no reason you cannot remove specific types of guns that we know are used only to kill people and give some idiots a thrill down at the rod and gun club. Let us try to use our imaginations and also define where the problem really is.

      1. Reducing the magazine sizes seems modestly promising, but only modestly. It takes a few minutes of practicing to learn how to change a magzine in a few seconds. Even if you banned magazines, forcing people to load the gun itself, people could just carry more guns; spree shooters seem to show up, as Lanza did, with more guns and ammunition than they actually need. In this specific case, it might well not have helped at all.

  6. Re: repealing the 2nd Amendment, would it help if I can say it’s almost 100% certain that the UK will not be invading the US soon?

    If the KJV is the best book written by committee, the 2nd Amendment is obviously the worst sentence. It looks as if it’s designed to be incoherent.

    1. Actually the construction with “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” was done with a purpose. One of the ideas that anti-federalist did not like was a standing army. They were afraid the big bad federal govt. would have a standing army. Therefore, this phrase made them feel good. They would have the good old militia or citizen soldier instead. There was no one back in these days who was worried about the government coming after their guns. The only worry is – when you called up the militia, about half of them would have no guns. And by the way, depending on the militia for defense is a bad idea. That’s why we no longer have one.

        1. But if you were not concentrating on the wording or poor sentence structure and simply look at my comments above, you should learn why it says what it says. The history will explain it for you, not the English teacher.

          Aside from all the efforts on the amendment, think about any other law that is roughly 230 years old and is worth a damn today. How about that 3rd amendment – totally worthless, but there it is. As antiquated as the 2nd.

          1. Randy, I hadn’t intended to be Michel Palin walking into the Argument Clinic with John Cleese.

            Yes, they could have written clearly what they meant and yes, the thing is a millstone and should be got rid of somehow. The problem with these Amendments is the sanctity ascribed to them, although it is useful in the case of the first, and was largely ignored for a century in the case of the 13th, 14th and 15th.

            What is odd about this shooting is the shooter’s motives. I don’t know about US media but British broadcast media actually haven’t mentioned the unusually semi-literate triple claim of responsibility by IS. This looks odd on the face of it, but not impossible at this stage. It was further unusual in that the FBI very early on declared that the killer had no links with international terrorist networks: that looked exceedingly premature.

            It’s almost inconceivable that this guy could secrete so much weaponry and expertise from those who knew him best. Many questions to be answered.

      1. You bring up a good point – the founders were wrong in a lot of ways. That’s why they made the constitution alterable. It’s just a shame that in the US, taking away beer is/was easier than taking away firearms.

  7. There is no reason to do nothing in American and any who think doing nothing is a way to go need look no further than the statistics that are in this posting. Even if you are a gun nut and love guns, you cannot be for this. I must also say, if you, like the NRA thinks packing a weapon around is going to save your ass, just look at this Los Vegas example. There is nothing you could be packing that would save you or allow you to do anything in this case. You are fish in a barrel. Why are we so ignorant that we ignore the rest of the world on this or on health care and many other things. Are we really this stupid?

      1. I have recently been watching some YouTube videos showing Jay Leno (and others) asking random Americans in the street basic questions about matters such as the American Constitution (which even I, a non-USAian, could easily answer), or asking them to point to North Korea on a map: guesses included Australia and Canada (sorry, those here from those fine countries, I hope the Pentagon’s targeting is more accurate!).

        I sincerely hope that these videos are highly selective and that they are simply not showing all the people who could answer the questions correctly!

  8. Another mass shooting shocks the world again. I watch in apathy.

    Surprise answer: Nothing will happen. America is too in love with guns for anything even remotely sensible to occur. I think Americans worship guns more than god; you might as well try convincing a Creationist to start worshiping Satan before trying to get sensible conversations about gun laws.

    If the senseless murder of dozens of innocent children in Sandy Hook wasn’t enough of a wakeup call, I don’t see how any other mass shooting will magically shake Americans of their gun obsession. Americans love their guns more than their children.

    The simplest solution would probably be the regulation of ammunition, since ammo is a finite, expendable item. You can have all the guns you want, but they’re worthless if you can’t fire anything. That might lead to a black market of ammunition, but it will probably have fewer safety standards and will make firing even less efficient than it is now (M-16s were always jamming on me when I was in the military. Imagine if we were using poorly made ammo).

    But whatever. This is just useless philosophizing. Guns will continue to terrorize Americans; it’s our legacy. Even moreso in the age of social media.

  9. As I noted in a comment on an earlier post, the United States failed to implement any kind of meaningful gun control following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which 20 children and six of their teachers were slain. When a country cannot be moved to act by the slaughter of children, nothing will move it to act.

    1. Unfortunately, I agree with you. After Sandy Hook, I gave up hope that the US will do anything about the problem. I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not.

    2. I have come across web sites which prove that Sandy Hook was staged! The lengths nuts will go to keep their guns.

      I live in N Ontario where there must be thousands of hunting rifles and shot guns, yet we have a very low homicide rate. Go figure.

    3. I do NOT advocate any violence. But my cynical side says that the murder-by-gun of a bunch of very wealthy GOP donors would cause gun control legislation to pass infinitely faster than the murder-by-gun of even a huge number of ‘somebody else’s’ children.

      The bad thing about US democracy is that most of our legislators are selfish, myopic, and self-serving. The good thing about US democracy is that figurative self-preservation is sometimes a strong motivator for them to do the right thing.

  10. Jerry, I am a gun owner and user. I hunt, I practice, I carry for self defense, I enjoy the culture and history of the gun.
    In our present culture I will not relinquish my guns. BUT….., I would gladly surrender my weapons if the Nation decided to get serious about gun control, and by that I mean a total ban on civilian possessed firearms and the permanent disabling of all guns kept as collector pieces.
    This ban must include substantial prison terms and financially crippling fines for anyone possessing a firearm after the passage of the law.
    It would mean an enforced change in our culture and an obvious lean to a more controlled (fascist?) form of government, but I can’t see a way out of this truly disastrous plight of runaway firearm violence without a concomitant truly serious attitude change as well.

    1. Rob Aron wrote:
      “I am a gun owner and user”

      Then you are part of the problem.

      “I would gladly surrender my weapons if the Nation decided to get serious about gun control, and by that I mean a total ban on civilian possessed firearms”

      Easy to say, since everyone knows that will never happen.

    2. Why? Why in the world would laws have to get that draconian for people like you to agree that smaller -saner- steps on gun control might be helpful? We DON’T have to make owning firearms illegal. Just remove gun ownership as a right. This opens it up to regulation. There is a middle ground which might make a difference between an outright banning and a sacred right.

      ahhhh nevermind. There is no need to answer my question. The goal in this debate isn’t to provide solutions to this problem, rather because it is a sacred right, it is to ensure one is never achieved.

      1. Not true. Make laws against my guns and I’ll give them up.

        If you want to stop mass murders, the laws will have to be draconian. I’m in favor of stopping mass murders far more than I support laws that remove some guns but allow guns to be used for mass murders.

    3. You actually carry a lethal weapon around with you for self-defence? Really? And you can honestly see nothing wrong with that?

      I have never in my life carried a lethal weapon around with me (unless you count a dis-assembled archery bow, going to/from a club), and I have never once, in my fifty-eight years, encountered a situation where I might need such a weapon. In fact, if I were to carry such a weapon, I would quickly (and rightly) find myself in prison.

      WTF is wrong with your country if you actually *need* to carry a gun around with you?

  11. Prediction.

    Almost nothing of any substance will come of of this recent horror. If the murders of 21 first graders wasn’t enough to make us do something, anything at all, to stem the madness- absolutely nothing will. At most, we’ll see a few weeks of angry teeth gnashing and snarling from all sides, driving deeper the social division and hatred that is our society today, then something shiny will distract us and the news cycle will move on. Ultimately nothing at all will get done except perhaps a loosening of gun regulations, which was our collective response to the murders of all those first graders.

    Rest easy gun owners – your toys are safe. We will all keep paying the price, slaughter after slaughter, for your right to own one.

    1. I understand the desire to do something in the wake of such tragedies, but it should be something useful that would likely prevent further similar attacks.

      What generally happens is that legislation is written by cynical, agenda-driven politicians that would not have prevented the last attack, and will not prevent the next one.

      As a rancher in the western US, I have learned to be skeptical of gun control legislation proposed in the wake of some urban tragedy that primarily seems aimed at disarming us out here, where there is little or no violent crime. I am not contributing to the gun violence problem, and disarming my neighbors or myself will not solve the problem of gun violence.

      1. There has never, ever, been a snowball’s chance in hell of any legislation being passed in the US that would disarm ranchers. Never, not once, not even close. That is ridiculous. Unless you’re talking about Ma Deuces or howitzers or something equally over the top, which would of course be fucking nuts because there is absolutely no legitimate reason for ranchers or any other private citizens to arm themselves with weapons like that. Except for pleasure of course.

        1. Any national legislation would necessarily impact rural Americans.
          That is part of the problem.
          And howitzers and .50s are already heavily regulated or prohibited. We are not really talking about NFA weapons like that.

          We are having a discussion about the recent horrors in Las Vegas, and measures that would have prevented that attack, had they been in place before the attack.
          The answer, sadly, is that a person with the money and intentions that Mr. Paddock apparently had will never be prevented from committing such acts. Even fully automatic guns are not like fusion reactors. They can be fairly easily manufactured using basic tools. A person with decent machine tools could manufacture pretty much any gun they chose to make. The same goes for ammunition. If every gun in the world disappeared today, there would still be gang shootings by the end of the week.

          If you want to try to address the Las Vegas shooting, we could ban Bump-fire stocks. That does not take a law, it just needs the ATF to withdraw their approval letter for them. I have always thought that they should be prohibited. Anyone using a bump-fire stock looses all ability to accurately control the weapon. That poses a danger to everyone involved. When I have seen them used, most of the rounds end up going above the target, and come down who knows where. I suppose Las Vegas shows that they can be used to indiscriminately spray bullets at a crowd, but nobody needs to do that. Not the police, not even the military.

    1. Yes, quite the incident, quite unfortunate. Never a good time to talk about gun control is there. Maybe some time after a few more incidents.

  12. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    I am sharing this very well written post because I believe in all that was written, and I can not do a better job of expressing the subject. I have said before on this subject we can learn from the actions taken by other developed modern countries. Thank you. Hugs

  13. I thought of Sandy Hook this morning, but I also remembered when President Reagan was shot and his Press Secretary, Jim Brady, was severely wounded. Brady’s wife spent the rest of her life campaigning for gun control. Only a few laws were enacted (and some of them were later revoked). The same people who adored Reagan could not bring themselves to enact effective gun control legislation then, and they seem even less inclined to do it now. I can’t help but wonder how much the NRA is paying our legislators. By the way, many of the deaths in the U.S. (especially those of children) are accidental. A one-year-old girl was killed in my relatively small college town a couple of weeks ago (an accident), and three people were killed downtown last Saturday night, about the time the bars are closing and the college kids are heading home (these shooting were not accidental). The number of gun deaths has increased quite a bit this year.

    1. Reagan was seriously injured too. He would have died had his staff not ignored his desire to head for the White House instead of directly to the hospital. It was a close run thing in.

  14. I expect we’ll hear crickets from the Donald about these types of weapons. Not that he gives two shits about the Second Amendment (or anything else resembling policy), but he knows it’s a BFD with his base. Maybe he’ll go out on Fifth Ave., shoot a couple tourists to celebrate, way he’s been talkin’ about doin’ ever since his campaign.

  15. It is irrational to give such importance to individual events like this (although I admit they are tragic) The bulk of shootings happen in places like Chicago all the time and receive little media attention. I don’t even think we have a “gun” problem in the US, we have a violence problem. Sure, stricter gun control is part of the solution, but I have a hard time believing that the Dutch would be one-tenth as violent as we are if given the same easy access to weapons that Americans have. I also think Americans will find other ways to keep those murder stats high without using guns. I think the fact that we are a violent nation makes us more reluctant to give up our weapons, that is just another way of viewing the causal relationship between gun-rights and gun-violence.

    1. How you separate a violence problem from the gun problem is a real trick. The logic just escapes anything reasonable. Guns = Violence. Take away all the guns and then see just how much violence you have. Just give it a try for a month.

    2. 33,000 gun deaths in the USA in 2013.

      Around a third are murders. Almost all the rest are suicides. Small number of accidentals.

      That’s (the equivalent of) an event of this size (count of deaths) every other day in the USA!

      (90 total deaths per day, 30 murders per day.)

    3. I think it is the sick and obscene gun culture that exists in the US that is the major problem. The first book store I entered in the US was the Yale Coop in New Haven, and when I looked at the magazine section I saw a row, about two dozen, gun magazines. It took me a few seconds to understand what they were, you never see gun magazines in Europe. They probably exist here, just like hard porn and sadism magazines exist, but gun magazines in a store for students, this was new to me. In my time we were all required to serve one year in military service, and what we brought away from this was a profound aversion to guns and other killing machines. BTW, the Swiss had or have to keep their guns after military service, but that country has no higher murder rate than the other countries. Guns simply aren’t cool, no more than electric chairs, guillotines or crosses.

          1. I heard this a while ago on a TV documentary about a US gun shop. It seems I may have misremembered it as “shops” rather than “dealers”.

            A quick search brings up

            “Hundreds of thousands of Americans – including an untold number of criminals – illegitimately possess Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs) issued by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) according to a new 138-page study, More Gun Dealers Than Gas Stations, released today by the Violence Policy Center. The study was released at an 11:30 A.M. press conference on Friday, December 11 held at the offices of the Violence Policy Center, located at 1300 N Street, NW in Washington, D.C.”

            That was in 1992, so it may be different now.

            The Business Insider website says:

            “There are ~14,869 more gun stores in America than grocery stores. Specifically, there are 51,438 gun retailers and 36,536 grocery stores.

            There are almost as many gun dealers in America as gas stations. There are a total of 129,817 gun dealers in the country, which include retail stores (51,438), “collectors” (61,562), pawn shops (7,356), and importers and manufacturers. Meanwhile, there are 143,849 gas stations.

            There are more than twice as many gun stores in America as McDonalds restaurants. There are only 14,098 McDonalds.”

            But even if I correct my claim to “The US has more gun shops than it has McDonalds” it is still not a very encouraging state of affairs (even if you regard a Big Mac as a dangerous weapon where your health is concerned).

            1. I agree, it isn’t encouraging at all.

              I just couldn’t reconcile that many “shops” vs. gas stations. Personal experience shows different. But I have no problem once you include all of the private transactions taking place at gun shows around the country.

              There are way too many guns in any case.

    4. Check with the Dutch, see if they wanna take all our guns for a year, do a controlled study to see if violent crime rises in the Netherlands.

      Let us know when they get back to ya on that one.

  16. There’s a lot of defeatism in these comments. And it’s true, a congress that is so cowardly that it continues to back an unfit corrupt conflicted inept unpopular disaster of a president is not capable of standing up to the NRA.

    But that doesn’t mean Kristof and Coyne and every other American who believes in simple sanity should stay quiet. Quite the contrary.

  17. Jerry,

    Consider reading Sam Harris’s “Riddle of the Gun” (or listen to him read it on his podcast). I think he makes more sense than anyone on this issue, and seems very well informed.

    (Additionally, in my opinion, you and he are the two sanest voices talking about issues I truly care about these days. Your appearance on his podcast was fantastic.)

  18. One of the ultimate proofs that the NRA is just phuqing krazy is their opposition to smart guns. I mean,…..

    Saying a minor cannot buy a gun without parental consent would alone have prevented Columbine.

    (I think Michael Moore actually set the liberal cause back a bit with his documentary “Bowling for Columbine” which I found ham-handed and its treatment of Charlton Heston gratuitously offensive.)

  19. Does anyone know if the gun used in Las Vegas was legal? Did Paddock obtain it legally?

    In other words: I see a lot of conclusion jumping here.

    1. Plural guns.

      More than 19 rifles were found in the hotel room of the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting, a law enforcement official confirmed, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

      Among the weapons authorities discovered were two rifles with scopes on tripods positioned in front of the two windows that had been broken out, a law enforcement official said.

      Christopher Sullivan, general manager of Guns & Guitars, a gun shop in Mesquite, Nev., said he was awakened at 4 a.m. Monday by a telephone call from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which was tracing Mr. Paddock’s guns.

      Mr. Sullivan confirmed that Mr. Paddock had bought three guns at his shop — a handgun and two rifles — within the last year. All the purchases were legal and cleared routine federal screening, Mr. Sullivan said.

      “The man does not have a criminal history,” Mr. Sullivan said of Mr. Paddock.

      Mr. Sullivan, who said he had also been contacted by the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, would not provide detailed descriptions of the guns. “We have cooperated with local and federal authorities,” he said.

      (All from NYT, just now)

      1. Yes, from most accounts it sounds as if Paddock was financially secure and fairly intelligent. One interesting tidbit I’ve read is that his father was not only a criminal but also a psychopath.

    2. Why in the world does the legality of the guns matter? Conclusion jumping? As far as I can tell most of the discussions here are not about whether the shooter in LV obtained his guns legally but just what those laws should be.

      1. If the discussion is, should we ban guns to prevent such tragedies then the question whether the gun was already banned is pertinent isn’t it? If the gun was illegal the problem cannot be that the gun was not illegal. That seems like simple logic to me.
        The post, and many of the reactions, simply assume that this incident makes the case for gun control. Maybe, maybe not, until we know more about the guns actually used.

        What is wrong pray tell with wanting facts before the conclusion?

        1. How could the guns have been illegal, given that Nevada has virtually no restrictions on gun ownership.
          A quick review of Nevada gun laws shows, among other things:

          You don’t need a permit to buy a gun, nor are you required to get a license or register a firearm.
          There’s no limit on the number of guns a person can buy at one time.
          It’s legal to own assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for ammunition.
          There is no mandated waiting period before buying a gun.
          You can bring a gun to a polling place, to a casino and to a bar.

        2. The conversations on this thread generally are NOT about the specifics of this case. Both the original WEIT post and almost all of the conversations here have been about gun laws in the U.S.

          I think you’re trying to muddy the discussion by getting bogged down in disputes about the legality of the guns in this instance when people in this thread are trying to discuss what can be done about gun violence in general.

          I’ve seen this diversionary tactic in play many times on this issue. Pretending that because a shooters gun(s) were legally obtained that any discussions about gun laws in the U.S. are (somehow) invalid is a common derailing technique.

          1. The issue concerning most of the rifles this guy had, and he had lots, should be about access period. He had a whole bunch of these same weapons back in the house where he lived. If these guns were outlawed as they should be in the U.S. then the manufacturers who make them would have to stop. And, you can get on line and buy all the conversion kits you want to change these guns to full auto. They are nothing but military grade weapons and have no business in civilian hands. And by the way, this has nothing to do with the second amendment, just in case someone wants to throw in another silly comment.

        3. Well even if the guns weren’t legal that doesn’t in any way suggest gun control wouldn’t help. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get hold of illegal guns when they are ubiquitous in society. Virtually none of the people (I can’t remember any) that have committed these horrible mass murders over the last few years have been career organised criminals. But in the UK where gun control is very strict, this is exactly who you would need to be to get hold of a gun, especially a semi-auto rifle. In Britain such guns would cost tens of thousands of dollars and only be available to career criminals and their associates. How many organised criminals want to murder many people? None that I know of – they just want to make money from their commercial activities. The perpetrators of these mass shootings are usually awkward loners, and usually teenagers or young people. You try going round to a gang den in the UK where nobody knows you, to buy a gun. As a teenage loner you wouldn’t have the money, but let’s assume you have $20,000 in your pocket. Do you really think they will sell a highly illegal, traceable weapon to someone they don’t know, who will probably leave evidence all over and sing like a canary when they are interviewed by the cops? Making these dangerous guns illegal means they are kept out of the hands off all but the most hardened criminals. These criminals don’t want to commit mass shootings, they want to make money and occasionally shoot their rivals.

          1. Pertinent points, Jeff, pertinent points.
            One could add that a criminal -such as say, a burglar- with a gun, would be less inclined to use it at the slightest if the probability of being confronted with a gun is very small.

  20. I see a hyperpartisan country where opinions change with generational turnover, at best. There will not be a compromise on guns anytime soon. The two party situation, and the tactic to extremely push the Overton Window to one side (especially the right side) has made the US ungovernable.

    The rulers are corporations and lobbies, that make the facts as they please. And the biggest and most influential are military, guns and oil — which explains US politics inside and outside more than anything else.

    I’ve seen several such sprees in the recent years reported on this site, and no doubt, there will be more. I wish I could be more optimistic.

    1. The rulers are corporations and lobbies, that make the facts as they please. And the biggest and most influential are military, guns and oil — which explains US politics inside and outside more than anything else.

      You’re close. The most fundamental problem with U.S. politics is how money is allowed influence it. This allows corporations to have undue influence on government at the expense of citizens. Currently guns and oil are enjoying their purchase of government, but in the future it could be other industries. As long as government is for sale to this extent the citizens will be of secondary importance and suffer for it.

  21. In the Australian example it took political will and a co operative public empathising or at the very lest conceding something had to be done after a national tragedy.
    The US does not seem to have any resemblance of a tipping point, it seems you would have to have one a day for a week? month? a year? before a national outrage would give it impetus. If that assumption is in the ball park that is a very sorry state to be in.

    1. The fact that this incident took place at a country music festival, at which a majority of attendants (and many of the performers) are on the political right, might mean this incident will shake up the conservative side far more than, say, the murder of a bunch of gays in Florida…

      1. I believe a lawyer just got fired for expressing that point (not a quote)… most of the audience were republican so look no further if you need to find blame, she did say she had “little sympathy” for them, that probably did it.
        But being on the right also means strong conservative family values and as commenters above have noted, the killing of Sandy Hook went nowhere. If the death of children and teachers can’t move you… why is this?
        So forgive me if I am not confident any change will come.
        On Radio NZ National this morning was an interview with the Australian politician who co ordinated their gun change laws, by backs and amnesty and he has been having conversations with the Americans. Interestingly he has gone past being nice about it and now (in his words) he wants to make them squirm.

        1. Good, I hope he makes a dent!

          So-called family values, Republican style, mostly means anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights, and pro-church. Not my idea of family values…

          1. “So-called family values, Republican style, mostly means anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights, and pro-church.”
            Surely not all (Rep) are angst and anti? and if so, that’s what you have to work with. They are quite within their rights to hold these views but thats all.
            Shooting people is something else and conservatism does not mean you want to kill.

            1. “Surely not all (Rep) are angst and anti?”

              No, of course not, just as most of the common generalities batted around here about Southerners, USians, etc., are never universal. But you comment, “…being on the right also means strong conservative family values…” falls into the same category. Not only are not all R’s besotted by family values, a good many are only using those tropes to keep their base in line while they concentrate on their real goals, which are fiscal. As a matter of fact, gun control is just another subject of the same sort of pandering.

              1. Well then, not much can come from any of this but I was trying to find some common ground where both sides can meet, such as family values, an appeal to the better half of their nature? but obvious to you but not me this is bad reasoning…. the lines are well and truly drawn.

  22. The study I’d want to see is one that attempts to document how many of the deaths since 1970 would have been prevented by the proposed policies? Nothing on the list above would have prevented what happened in Las Vegas, or Orlando, or Sandy Hook, or…

    I don’t know. It’s a horrible situation, but enacting policies that wouldn’t have prevented past tragedies doesn’t seem to be the right response to preventing future tragedies.

  23. Caleb Keeter, a guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, which performed at the festival on Sunday, tweeted:

    I’ve been a proponent off the 2nd amendment my entire life.

    Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We … had legal firearms … They were useless. We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think that we part of the massacre and shoot us … We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.

    1. Oh, I posted that above, before I saw your comment. Yes, I thought that was encouraging, although I’m always a bit annoyed by those who can ONLY recognize a serious problem when it happens to them.

  24. My theory is that organizations such as the NRA have fetishized the Second Amendment to mean more symbolically than the mere owning of guns. It has come to mean freedom and manhood to a politically significant segment of the male gun owning population. For them, even regulating guns is akin to cutting off their genitals and denying them the right to be prepared to repel imaginary invaders. Think of the men you see carrying rifles at rallies, pathetic souls dressed in their pretend army khakis or those in the militia movement. This group may be far from a majority of gun owners, but they are the activists egged on by the NRA. And for this reason, any meaningful gun regulation is highly unlikely, thereby allowing lunatic killers easy access to weapons.

    1. Agree with that, but they are a minority. (Thankfully!) If only the bulk of the country would bestir themselves to pay just a tiny bit of attention to what’s going on in DC and their statehouses…oh, and bother to vote, of course.

  25. This shooter, from all I can tell, eerily fits the profile of Charles Whitman, an otherwise unremarkable and unsuspected person, who was the Texas Tower shooter. Upon autopsy, Whitman was found to have had a brain tumor, probably affecting the amygdala. A commission admitted the possibility that the tumor was the proximate cause of his actions. I await the autopsy of this shooter.

    The policy question is whether we can continue to tolerate the strict interpretation of the 2nd amendment we now live under.

    1. Made me think of Whitman, too. This one is the Texas Tower shooter on steroids (or on “full auto,” as the case may be). Awful that things have gotten only worse in the intervening 50 years.

      1. There may e a copy-cat aspect to this. I wouldn’t be surprised if the shooter knew about Whitman and planned to do him one better. The copy-cat mass shooter meme is evolving.

  26. I do wonder if this is not an expression of growing existential malaise. The attitude might be “I’m going out – and I’ll take as many along for the ride as I can” .. I suspect we are going to see lots more of this .. a modern take on the “Beserkers”.

  27. Is this a tipping point on gun control? I don’t think so. If Sandy Point wasn’t, this isn’t.

    1. Just wishful thinking I am afraid. The gun manufacturers, the NRA and our own congress thinks otherwise. It makes not a damn what a bunch of citizens think. We have even had a couple of congress persons shot and almost die and it changes nothing.

  28. American have already responded to Kristoff. This pretty much sums it up;

    “WASHINGTON—Expressing a sense of guarded optimism that the latest incident of gun violence that left 58 dead and 500 injured in Las Vegas would be a turning point for the nation, Americans across the country confirmed Monday they were hopeful this would be the last mass shooting before all such occurrences stopped on their own for no reason at all. “After something as horrific as what happened in Las Vegas, we’re all just hoping that now these terrible shootings will stop once and for all without circumstances changing in any way or any of us taking even the slightest amount of action in response,” said Harrisburg, PA resident David Snyder, echoing the sentiments of tens of millions of citizens from coast to coast who told reporters they were confident that, after living through the most deadly mass shooting in modern American history and taking no material steps to change gun laws, reevaluate safety standards, increase access to mental health care, or even have a national conversation about how mass shootings could be avoided in the future, tragedies of this kind would at long last come to an end. “Having seen acts of violence like this happen over and over again for years now, I’m really holding out hope that, despite every single factor that allowed them to occur remaining exactly the same, we won’t have to live through another day like today. I know everyone’s praying this will finally be the time this issue just disappears forever entirely by itself without anyone doing anything.” At press time, Americans nationwide agreed that years of taking no measures whatsoever to prevent mass shootings may finally be paying off.”

    -The Onion

  29. There was an interview tonight on the UK’s Channel 4 TV news. The conversation went as follows:

    Newsreader: Well, joining me now from Washington DC is Neal McCabe from Armed American radio. Neal, we’ve spoken a depressingly often number of times after these sorts of mass shootings, and I know you will never change your view on your inalienable right to hold a weapon, but let’s try and focus this a bit, because this was clearly automatic gunfire, it was a machine-gun. Now, let’s say we accept your right to bear arms, why do you need the right to have a machine-gun?

    McCabe: Well, I just don’t understand why you are connecting the machine-gun to the crime. Obviously, it’s already against the law to shoot at people and to murder people, so if he had tossed grenades, or if he had used a bomb, it would have been equally as lethal. My own sister was ten miles, excuse me ten minutes, from the finish line at the Boston Marathon, when over two hundred people were injured by bombs, so I don’t know why you are focusing on the machine-gun.

    NR: Because of the number of people killed. If he had a semi-automatic, or if he had a six-shooting pistol, or an old-fashioned weapon, the kind which he might have had when the Constitution was drafted, there’s no way he could have injured five hundred and fifteen people and killed at least fifty-eight. It’s the numbers involved, and that’s why you used to have an assault weapons ban that expired.

    McCabe: I see that, sir. So your contention is that if it was against the law it would not have happened.

    NR: No, I’m saying that it would just be harder, if you had an assault weapons ban, for a sixty-four year old retired accountant to get hold of a load of assault weapons.

    McCabe: Right.

    NR: It’s obvious.

    McCabe: Well, it’s not obvious to me. During the assault weapons ban we had the Columbine high school shooting, which was also a horrific event, and there were certainly laws against that. I mean, you have to understand, that guns save lives, guns prevent crimes, and you are asking Americans to, what, disarm themselves because of an incident in Las Vegas?

    NR: Well, you know that the argument you usually throw back at us during these conversations is that you are better off with a weapon if you come under attack. That is not an argument that you can use in this case, because they were being shot at from the thirty-second floor with a high-velocity long-range weapon, and there’s no way they could have defended themselves.

    McCabe: I, I agree with you. There was no way you could have defended against this. This is, this is a brutal, horrible, criminal act.

    NR: So you don’t want to do anything? You just think this is one of those things you accept, as the price of freedom?

    McCabe: Well, it’s a problem, right. This is the problem living in a free country, is that there’s going to be risks involved. And, you know, those countries that we refer to as dictatorships, or tyrannies, are countries where they sort of pre-punish the crimes, they, you just had a clip, Captain Mark Kelly, the husband of Gaby Giffords, he testified before Congress that the AR-15 should be banned, and I wrote an article that two weeks later he tried to buy an AR-15 for himself, and so what are you going to do with guys like this? I mean, they say one thing and then when it comes to their own personal safety, Mark Kelly wanted an AR-15 for himself.

    NR: Well, it’s always useful to talk to you at these times, Neal McCabe, because it gives us an insight into the mindset. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.


    An insight into the mindset of the bat-shit crazy, the newsreader refrained from saying.

    McCabe can’t understand why the machine-gun is being connected to the crime. WTF? Really???

  30. To me this is a Band-Aid (I like the smart gun idea, and not just for cops but for everyone)

    None of Kristof’s measures would have prevented this shooting. Nor (to anticipate the NRA’s argument) would have the crowd being armed. So in one respect, yes, his measures are a bandaid. But OTOH I think this is very much an instance where we do not want to make perfect the enemy of good. Any measures that reduce gun violence are worth considering. Even if they don’t stop it. Let’s not let “it won’t stop it all” be a reason for rejecting an otherwise reasonable gun control measure.

    Ironically given your comment, the smart gun measure may be the weakest of all of them. Evidently the technology can be defeated with $15 worth of magnets. (But nevertheless, going back to my first point, I’d still support the technology’s implementation).

  31. Fifty-nine dead, 527 (one of the latest counts) injured…it’s almost incomprehensible to learn that one man could accomplish this single-handedly. The earth would be a better place without humans.

  32. What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?

    Julian Santaella-Tenorio, Magdalena Cerdá, Andrés Villaveces & Sandro Galea

    From the Abstract:

    Firearms account for a substantial proportion of external causes of death, injury, and disability across the world. Legislation to regulate firearms has often been passed with the intent of reducing problems related to their use. However, lack of clarity around which interventions are effective remains a major challenge for policy development. Aiming to meet this challenge, we systematically reviewed studies exploring the associations between firearm-related laws and firearm homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries/deaths. We restricted our search to studies published from 1950 to 2014. Evidence from 130 studies in 10 countries suggests that in certain nations the simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths. Laws restricting the purchase of (e.g., background checks) and access to (e.g., safer storage) firearms are also associated with lower rates of intimate partner homicides and firearm unintentional deaths in children, respectively.


  33. Well, there clearly is a correlation between the availability of firearms -which is not always (c.f. e.g. central America) the same as legality of owning firearms- and fire arm death rates.
    So much of the discussion is about the technicalities of fire-arms, semi-automatic, automatic, handguns etc. fact is that fire arms, basically regardless of the type, cause terrible injuries, injuries that are not so easily inflicted by, say, a knife. Blessed is the hospital in an area where people attack eachother with knives, knopkiries (clubs) or broken bottles, instead of guns.

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