What might it look like to ‘take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this’?

school shootingPresident Obama said yesterday in the wake of the Connecticut school mass shooting: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

About to start his second term, he’s now in a more realistic position to take the lead on doing something.  The country is more polarized than ever, however. The rhetoric we use (“gun control,” “gun rights,” “gun violence” and “Second Amendment”) reflects this, according to Nate Silver.

The change in rhetoric may reflect the increasing polarization in the debate over gun policy. “Gun control,” a relatively neutral term, has been used less and less often. But more politically charged phrases, like “gun violence” and “gun rights,” have become more common. Those who advocate greater restrictions on gun ownership may have determined that their most persuasive argument is to talk about the consequences of increased access to guns — as opposed to the weedy debate about what rights the Second Amendment may or may not convey to gun owners. For opponents of stricter gun laws, the debate has increasingly become one about Constitutional protections.

Some possibilities on what could be done (gleaned from this NY Times article):

  • reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004
  • ban high-capacity magazines
  • require criminal background checks on gun buyers at gun shows
  • improve instant background checks to more thoroughly catch people with histories of mental illness.
  • ban the import of assault rifles like AK gun
  • focus on people with mental illness who use firearms
  • toughen background checks, which are not currently required for guns bought from unlicensed, private sellers


  1. Phil Poyner said:

    This topic with either produce a flurry of comments or none at all! It attracts extremes.

    December 15, 2012
  2. Kathie Galotti said:

    How bout we start with a federal ban on assault weapons, and a more stringent system of background checks?

    December 15, 2012
  3. john george said:

    Two directions of response that come to my mind are controling weapons or controling people. We have a deranged person here who could aparently function at a certain level in society, and something put him over the edge. His choice of destruction happened to be two common law enforcement handguns and an asault rifle. What if he had chosen an automobile at bus loading time? Would the results have been any less tragic? In this particular case, is there something to be looked at about how we try to integrate these types of individuals into our society? Are we exercising appropriate safeguards to protect these individuals from themselves, or do we have our collective heads in the sand?

    The other direction is the weapons of destruction the person used here. Are these weapons too readily available? Did this person actually have the permit to posess these weapons, or did his mother? Did his mother use proper discretion in storing these weapons? And, ultimately, if these types of weapons were outlawed, would they still exist in peoples’ homes, but just clandestinely? To me, gun control laws are similar to the laws prohibiting alcohol in the late 20’s. They have all the appearance of providing good for society, but are they really enforceable? I think we need to take a serious look at the root causes of these tragedies and respond accordingly rather than having just a knee-jerk reaction.

    December 15, 2012
  4. Joy Amunrud said:

    I feel frustrated that the immediate response has been just about gun control. What about meaningful action to increase access to quality mental health services or changing how the media sensationalizes such tragedies? Gun control is important to discuss, but the issues at hand are so much bigger.

    December 16, 2012
  5. David Henson said:

    To stop it one would have too look hard and where the shooters pain came from and what structure did his life have to mitigate that pain. But that would mean really looking at ourselves as a society and our personal choices … So it won’t happen and we will blame guns.

    December 16, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    A separate but related thread is captured by this HuffPo column: Dealing With Grief: Five Things NOT to Say and Five Things to Say In a Trauma Involving Children.

    5. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am here to support you in whatever way feels best.

    Even if you have faced a similar loss, remember that each loss is different. Saying “I know how you’re feeling” is often untrue. Instead, ask how the grieving person is feeling. And then ask what you can do to help. Then, do it and respect the boundaries around what they don’t want help with at this point. You will be putting some control back into the hands of the grieving person, who often feels like they have lost so much of it.

    December 16, 2012
  7. Kathie Galotti said:

    Way back with Columbine, I was willing to go along with the “let’s not overreact” philosophy. But lately it seems we have someone mowing down folks with guns on a regular basis. True, many of the gunmen have had serious mental health issues. And yes, of course, we as a society need to deal more substantively with mental health issues.

    In the meantime, though, let’s get rid of assault weapons. They serve no bona fide purpose in a civilian population.

    The analogy I would draw is to preschoolers and matches. Eventually, sure, they are going to need to learn how to light matches–but until they reach “the age of reason” or some minimal level of maturity/competence, let’s keep matches (lighters, blow torches, etc.) out of their reach. Let’s not rely on sensitive parental educational efforts alone to keep them safe–let’s remove the potential instruments of destruction from their reach.

    There comes a point where people’s second amendment rights bump up against six- and seven-year-olds’ rights not to be gunned down in school. I think we reached this point, clearly by Friday but probably several years before….

    December 16, 2012
  8. Sean Stevens said:

    Very well put John:

    This is a terrible tragedy, and my prayers go out to all of the parents, children and family members who were affected by this lunatic.

    It is becoming a reality that we may need to post a plain clothed police officer in every school. Or maybe train a few teachers in each school to be able to respond to such a situation, or maybe both, but ban firearms……are you serious?

    For the record, it is not the “Guns Fault” Put the blame where it belongs, on the person who committed the crime, not an inanimate object. Do not jump to a ill-informed solution that will only cause MORE problems…… If you want statistics, look up the violent crime statistics from places that have banned firearms all together. If criminals know that law abiding citizens will not be armed, what is to keep them from breaking into your home, or robbing you on the street? ……Nothing……
    Banning firearms would take away the ability to protect your family from these monsters. Don’t think that for a minute that because something is illegal, that criminals care.

    Once again I feel for all of the people who are affected by this and all other tragedy’s that have taken place recently. I am also wondering how many times this is going to happen before we come up with some REAL solutions to protect our children while they are at school.

    December 17, 2012
  9. Robert Palmquist said:

    Here is a link to my thoughts.

    December 17, 2012
  10. john george said:

    Kathie- I’m sorry, but I don’t think the preschooler analogy fits this episode. Besides, since preschoolers often have access to multiple homes, does that mean that no home should have a match? Also, a preschooler can usually be taught the proper use of a match. In cases like this, we are dealing with someone whose age would suppose that they would place value on life. In fear of great retribution, I will throw in this analogy. We are devastated (and rightfully so) by the loss of 20 children who were loved and cherished by their parents, but it is only in certain groups that I hear the same grief expressed for the 8,000 or so preborn children that are eliminated every day because they are not loved and cherished by someone. And, they didn’t even get a chance! To me, it is little wonder we have these types of things happen in our country. We have become callous to the reprehensible. I believe there will come a time when we have to answer for how we have defended those who cannot defend themselves.

    December 17, 2012
  11. john george said:

    Robert- That is really good! I agree!

    December 17, 2012
  12. Orick Peterson said:

    Yes, we need more and better help for people with mental illness, and for parents who are struggling with their children’s mental illness.
    Yes, we need to re-ban assault weapons and limit the size of magazines.
    We can all work together to come up with a lot of partial solutions that all together can make a big difference.
    How about laws requiring safe storage, and inspections of home storage facilities? People who can’t manage a safe home storage site could keep their weapons at a firing range or at the police station.

    December 17, 2012
  13. Phil Poyner said:

    And if anybody plans to trot out the argument that crime went up after the ban, please read this first…

    December 18, 2012
  14. Sean Stevens said:

    There are always two side to EVERY story,depending on the person telling it. http://dailycaller.com/2011/01/19/america-dont-repeat-australias-gun-control-mistake/

    Switzerland does not have a problem, wonder why?
    I can post a bunch of links as to why, but the end reason is that they give every citizen a firearm, and train them on how to use it.

    We can all post links to articles to our hearts content.
    There will be two opposing views that can skew the facts to whichever side they lean towards.

    Lets not get into the “here is the link that is the end all proof” I could rebut almost everything in that video, as in done in the link above, but the fact of the matter is we need to protect our children when they are at school. and taking away firearms from law abiding citizens is NOT a REAL solution.

    December 18, 2012
  15. Phil Poyner said:

    Sean, I must have missed the part where you proposed a REAL solution. Are you suggesting every gun-owner become a Reservist? I’m pretty sure that’s how Switzerland got their results. My suggestion isn’t that we ban all guns, but rather that gun safes become mandatory. After all, if criminals can’t buy guns they must be stealing them, right? Gun safes might prevent any more legal firearms from falling into the hands of criminals.

    December 18, 2012
  16. Sean Stevens said:


    My suggestions for possible REAL solutions are in my original post above. I am not saying that they are the end all answer, but maybe a start in the right direction. The link you posted suggested the banning of all firearms, similar to Australia. If that was not the intent of why you posted the link, I mis-understood. That is why it is nice to see a comment next to a link when it is being posted, so you have an idea of the intent of the person posting the link.

    I think that storing your firearms in a safe is a no brainer, Forcing people to do so, may be a tougher endeavor.

    Unfortunately there are people out there who do not care about other people’s well being, laws, etc. You will never be able to make something illegal, and have it go away. We need to figure out a way to keep kids safe at school. As a parent, that is one of the only place where I can not protect them.

    Here is another article on what the legislature in another state just proposed, maybe this is part of their solution? http://mobile.mlive.com/advannarbor/pm_115751/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=bOisEVCF

    December 18, 2012
  17. Phil Poyner said:

    Sean, unfortunately I believe the Michigan proposal makes a major assumption that I don’t agree with. That assumption is the average armed citizen, if carrying, will be able to take out an assailant without causing undue harm to bystanders. I remember watching a video of a shoot-out between two LEOs and a pair of drug suspects. It happened at close range; over the top of an SUV! Over 40 rounds total were fired…and nobody was hit. What that suggests is that even a well trained marksman, when in a high adrenaline environment and against a target that shoots back, might have a hard time hitting what they intend to hit. That leads me to believe armed personnel within schools would probably make things worse, and that’s without even considering issues like accidental discharges.

    December 18, 2012
  18. john george said:

    I think one thing we need to assess is our quest to find the answer to this type of disaster. The first response is to remove the means of distruction- ban private gun ownership. I personally don’t think there is one answer. This is an interesting perspective published in today’s Strib:
    I think there are a number of factors about our society that have some influence on people who commit these attrocities. Each factor has some influence in each incident, but they differ in importance in each case. Because our society is so complex, not one of them can be singled out as the answer, as much as we Americans crave that type of simple solution

    December 18, 2012
  19. Sean Stevens said:


    I am well aware of the qualifications that a police officer must take annually to qualify with their sidearm.
    With that said: It is quite a bit less then what Michigan is proposing, especially for those who take the extra training and have to shoot the extra rounds needed to qualify for the less stringent permit.

    As for accidental discharges: Look up the number of concealed carry permits issued here in MN (Over 112,000)
    Over 600,000 in Georgia. I think those who are already permitted to carry a concealed weapon, and are doing so, are taking that responsibility very seriously.

    December 18, 2012
  20. Phil Poyner said:

    John, interesting article. It does suffer from the “one answer” issue that you mentioned though. The writer, being a counselor, sees it as being an empathy issue…something a counselor would be most familiar with! A sociologist might look at the same issue and say the lack of a “sense of community” is the result of the mobile nature of our society (which takes us away from familial bonds). A pastor will undoubtedly identify a different “core issue” as well. So…where does that leave us? Perhaps we should identify the answers; plural rather than singular.

    December 18, 2012
  21. Bright Spencer said:

    I wonder why it is not yet understood that when you say it is okay to destroy the life inside your body, the little helpless ‘thing’, and why kids think that having a baby is just a terrible inconvenience, instead of something you do with honor when you can be responsible, why would someone infer in this culture, that it’s okay to kill a child at school or anyplace else, expecially if that person is in need of thinking he is good enough to live, too.

    December 18, 2012
  22. Nathan Ryan said:


    The second amendment was created so we as citizen can protect ourselves from the government. An Assault weapon is NOT a machine gun that fires thousands of rounds per minute. An Assault weapon is a weapon that has certain characteristics about it, it’s a semi auto with a folding stock, has a heat shield around the barrel, the assault rifle can have all of these features or only a few. They look scary and get a lot of press. So it makes the under educated about guns blame them. And this shooter left the Assault rifle in the car, he used handguns.

    This crime and many like it before the shooter had Mental Health issues. This is a serious problem. And I would also say that more children die EVERY year from Drunk Drivers than from school shootings. But we are not banning cars or our beloved booze. Maybe if Drunk Drivers killed 20 kids at a time then we would ban cars. But because it’s only one at a time and gets almost zero national news coverage, we don’t do anything about it. And we have many laws and regulations about drinking and driving.

    Furthermore, we have gun regulations in place now and the shooter walked right through them and pumped 1st graders full of bullet holes. I’m not saying more regulations would be bad, just not effective. WE ARE TO BLAME for this tragedy, WE as humans, WE as Americans. We don’t have measure in place for getting people help with Mental Illness and that’s a fact. Also we glorify gangsters and frankly shooters just like this, then we blame guns and wonder why this continues to happen. Our culture is to blame, when parents spend more time watching football than playing with their kids and working long hours to keep up with the Jones. It’s time we all make a choice to us what matters most, things or people. When we all choose people, things like this will become sad pages of our history. Wake up its all of our faults this happened, blame Assault Rifles if you want to.

    December 18, 2012
  23. Phil Poyner said:

    A Michigan concealed carry permit is valid for between 4 and 5 years, and the shooting requirement looks to be a one-time deal. 192 rounds every 4 years doesn’t strike me as near enough.

    December 18, 2012
  24. john george said:

    Phil- Yes, that is my exact point. I do think there are certain types of firearms that are unnecessary for “personal protection.” Of course, I also incline to agree with the admonishment Jesus made to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane,”…Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” But, just removing firearms from the populace does not address the other causes. Relying on this action alone will, I believe, lead us to a false sense of security, just as trusting in the TSA. I think the “plural” approach you propose is wise.

    December 18, 2012
  25. norman butler said:

    From before Columbine and until Newtown one could cut and paste almost all comments & opinions on the subject and come up with nothing new to say or hear. Yet the phrase ‘meaningful action’ calls for thinking the unthinkable here in the USA. Australia bit the bullet and banned the casual possession of guns large & small with the resulting dramatic decrease in gun deaths by suicide and murder as well as zero massacres. The successful Australian experience can translate to an American experiment – ‘meaningful action’ – on a state-by-state basis.

    December 18, 2012
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for that, John. I’ve edited the URL in your comment so that it links directly to the blog post, not just the blog.

    December 18, 2012
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s another one, pointed out to me by my wife, Robbie… in part a response to Mike Huckabee’s response to the shooting.

    God can’t be kept out by Christian author/blogger Rachel Held Evans

    God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn’t “systematically remove” God if we tried.

    If the incarnation teaches us anything, it’s that God can be found everywhere: in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God’s name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai. God cannot be kept out.

    December 18, 2012
  28. norman butler said:

    What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Stick to the imperative, folks -‘meaningful action’.

    December 18, 2012
  29. norman butler said:

    US President Barack Obama calls for “concrete proposals” on gun control by the end of January, saying “words need to lead to action”….any suggestions? Shall I tell him about Australia?

    December 19, 2012
  30. David Henson said:

    My estimate would be the parental divorce, the fathers absence from the home, the fathers recent remarriage to step-mother, too much time parked in front of first person shooter games, no adults in the neighborhood during the day time, potentially the Mom having unrelated men in the house, potentially parental alcohol use, etc etc left this kid dead to the world (and likely many others who are not shooters but equally sad). If the baby boomers could grow up then the problem might be fixed but that is too hard – let’s pass a law.

    December 19, 2012
  31. David Henson said:

    Norman, banning alcohol would save far more lives. Meaningful action.

    December 19, 2012
  32. norman butler said:

    Done that, David. Prohibition. Al Capone etc.

    December 19, 2012
  33. David Henson said:

    •Number of alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides: 24,518 (annually)

    Al Capone was a light weight – alcohol kills like an annual Vietnam war. But let’s focus our attention on a gun ban!

    December 19, 2012
  34. Barry Cipra said:

    David, the number 24,518 comes from a CDC report — http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf — summarizing mortality statistics for 2009. The same report includes a corresponding number for deaths due to firearms: 31,347.

    So what exactly is your point?

    December 19, 2012
  35. The problem is, alcohol kills, but banning it doesn’t make it stop killing; in fact, it dramatically increases the death toll. The “problem” drinkers still drink, because it’s really easy to make alcohol, but we lose all the social controls, and we attract a very lucrative black market which also kills a lot of people, because suddenly there’s enough money on offer to make that seem economically sound.

    Furthermore, while it’s certainly true that alcohol kills, it is not obvious that it has no benefits. Many people seem to think that a small amount of alcohol reduces their stress levels. Stress kills, too. So it may be that alcohol is less bad for us than its absence, even apart from the issue that its absence doesn’t seem to be on the table, regardless of what laws we do or don’t pass.

    December 19, 2012
  36. I don’t think the assumption is that such an outcome is *necessarily* going to happen, but that it is perhaps more likely if the bystanders are at the very least much better informed, and possibly armed. Which may be true. It also might serve as a nominal deterrent, although in practice I see no evidence that the people doing these things are in a state subject to deterrence or analysis.

    December 19, 2012
  37. David Henson said:

    Barry, 20,000 of those deaths are suicide and are not logical arguments against guns since many more liberal countries (like Sweden, New Zealand) have higher suicide rates (just not using guns). Of the remaining 10,000 one could guestimate 7000 directly involve alcohol and 2000 indirectly involve alcohol. My point is that our law based big government society is a failure and we should reverse course back to a family/church based society as fast as possible. Banning assault rifles misses the point that kids are in pain (heroin ODs here, shooter rampages there) and that pain stems from the breakdown of the traditional family structure as the core of society.

    December 19, 2012
  38. norman butler said:

    The Australian Government bought back 750,000 guns at a cost to their Medicare system of $300 million, $400 per gun. Translated to the USA’s 40 million guns this comes to $16 billion. Doable (think of the bailouts and defense budget).

    Notice also that the stocks of Smith & Wesson etc have taken a steep dive recently. And consider also that if anyone can do it at this point in time, Obama can.

    Its time to go beyond the usual hair-shirt causes and remedies of prayer and the whereabouts of god, alcohol and the broken family (don’t ya think!?).

    On average there are 800,000 guns per state. Retiring them one state at a time will cost about $320 million. Doable? Let the states ask the people via a referendum on the matter.

    Look at it another way. Only recently could we imagine that we could turn away from the big fat gas guzzling SUV and that Detroit could contemplate smaller more efficient vehicles. But it’s happening. And it is good. As with cars, so with guns.

    December 19, 2012
  39. norman butler said:

    Also if scrapping 750,000 guns in Australia saves 200 lives per year, then doing the same to 40 million guns here will save 10,667 lives per year. What more is there to say?

    December 19, 2012
  40. David Henson said:

    Norman, the Cow is not representative of America, Americans are not going to sell their guns to the government even for $4000 each. And oddly gun stores are selling out now because people are buying ahead of potential legislation.

    December 19, 2012
  41. Ray Cox said:

    Unfortunately, America generally takes the easy route when confronting difficult issues like this. Americans have a right to firearms….period, end of story. If people feel good about banning assault style semi-auto firearms, and 20-30 clip magazines, then I would happily encourage them to do so. But once again we are dealing with an inanimate object when dealing with a societal issue. The gun is not necessarily the issue in these circumstances. At Sandy Hook the killer could just as well have used a pump action shotgun with OO buckshot and done as much or more damage.

    In a simlar manner, many cities feel good when they tear down an apartment building that has had too many police calls for drug use. Again, it isn’t the inanimate apartment building that is selling/using drugs….it is the society that is living in the buildings that are causing the problems.

    Finally, many American’s are rightly very upset at the senseless deaths at Sandy Hook. But I would ask where the outrage is about the massive numbers of people that are killed on our highways every year due to drunk drivers. Babies, toddlers, primary students, middle and high school students….they are all mowed down by drunk drivers. But we do very little to stop the carnage.

    December 20, 2012
  42. john george said:

    Are you sure you can make that direct of a cause and effect correlation? Just as there are more factors to global climate change than just weather patterns, I think there are more factors to the destructive use of guns than just the guns themselves. See my discussion with Phil Poyner in 10.1 and 10.1.1.

    December 20, 2012
  43. Sean Stevens said:

    Peter Seebach says:
    December 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t think the assumption is that such an outcome is *necessarily* going to happen, but that it is perhaps more likely if the bystanders are at the very least much better informed, and possibly armed. Which may be true. It also might serve as a nominal deterrent, although in practice I see no evidence that the people doing these things are in a state subject to deterrence or analysis.

    On the recent mall shooting in Oregon. I appears that the mainstream media has left out a pretty sizable piece of the story. (weird) It appears that legally armed citizens may very well be a deterrent, even taking into account the mental state these people are in………..


    December 21, 2012
  44. norman butler said:

    Perhaps we are using the wrong language for this phenomenon i.e. reasoning, rationality, causality.

    Maybe that of addiction would be more useful e.g. user, supplier, dependency, co-dependency, highs, lows, triggers, increased tolerance, relapse, benefits & risks, withdrawal, overdose, treatment, 12 step program, (spirituality too), and especially denial. Not sure how exactly, but it might prove a way forward.

    Yet, case study and cross cultural comparisons will still get in the way. And all the above mentioned variables exist everywhere in the known universe… except 89 guns per 100 citizens (including 6-7 year olds).

    December 21, 2012
  45. You have a point about the traditional family structure. The modern-era American shift to “nuclear families” has been massively destructive of the social relations between extended families that we used to take for granted.

    This is one of the reasons it is so vital to oppose the efforts to redefine marriage from “the creation of life-long family bonds” into “a breeding pair”. The family bonds, not just between the people being married but between their families and friends, are a significant part of how human societies hold together. The breeding pair aspect is a distraction from this, and the millions of dollars that have been spent telling people that marriage means nothing but the ability of two people to breed has done immense damage to our society’s resillience.

    Luckily, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as more and more parts of our country recognize the creation of family bonds as more important than the animal husbandry aspect. Once attacking families stops being a good get-out-the-vote tactic for the right-wing fringe, we’ll likely see a great deal of improvement in our social stability.

    December 21, 2012
  46. Bright Spencer said:

    David, I have also heard that banning the private ownership of cars could save quite a few lives, as well.

    December 22, 2012
  47. Bright Spencer said:

    Guns insure that we are not taken over by anyone on earth very easily. I don’t like them, but I don’t like being taken over even less.

    December 22, 2012
  48. David Henson said:

    Bright, the government has taken over the airports so freedom to travel by that conveyance is gone. Cars could be next … fear of car bombers will be the obvious reason.

    December 23, 2012
  49. kiffi summa said:

    After hearing the NRA press conference, it is clear to me that nothing will change that attitude of ‘protection’ unless it comes from within the NRA Membership group.

    Many news articles and news analysis shows have stated the statistics that 74% of the NRA membership does not favor the use of assault rifles or high capacity magazines.

    If that is true, then the membership needs to tell the NRA policy makers, administrators, and lobbyists that they are not representing their membership accurately, and that that membership will no longer fund, with their dues, the activities, speeches, and lobbying with which that membership disagrees.

    The activities of the NRA which perpetuate violence , if they then continue, will be questioned as to how they are funded.
    The leadership to correct these lobbying pressures must come from within the organization’s membership, and now.

    December 23, 2012
  50. So far as I can tell, “assault rifles” is pretty much a pure red herring — it’s a term which exists to have emotional impact, but which doesn’t appear to have real relevance. Which is to say:

    1. The definition varies a fair amount.
    2. It is not obvious that the definition is functionally relevant; there are guns which are particularly dangerous and are not “assault rifles”, there are “assault rifles” which are not particularly dangerous.
    3. It’s not obvious that changing which guns are on the market would have much impact on stuff like this.

    Interestingly, there was a shooting at a mall recently which didn’t qualify as a mass shooting, because the shooter committed suicide very early on. At least one report claims that this is because someone in the crowd who had a gun permit had drawn a gun and was aiming it at him; he saw this and gave up.

    Which is to say:

    This is an actually complicated issue, and one where simple answers are unlikely to solve things. There is a very strong tendency to try to use statistics without first going through what they actually mean, and how those meanings are being derived.

    Honestly, I think there are a lot of things that would be more likely to reduce the number of people dying by violence in our country than changing the availability of guns. Most noticably, I think technology has us beat here. Look at 3D printing. Look at how fast it’s improving. Then tell me how we’re going to limit access to guns in the future. I really don’t think we can; I think it will be too easy for people to manufacture anything they want.

    So we might as well treat it as a social problem, and work on that. I suspect we’ll have humans with biological brains longer than we’ll be able to control what tools they have.

    December 25, 2012
  51. john george said:

    Very well said, Peter! It is this type of “dialogue” that this country needs to have.

    Speaking of “dangerous guns,” I remember a friend and neighbor of mine back home who, along with his father, decided to test fire a .38 snub-nose revolver his father had gotten at an auction. They decided to do this by their farm driveway, which had an embankment behind it to stop the bullet. The cylinder on the gun somehow didn’t completely align with the barrel, so when thy fired it, the slug went at abour a 90 degree angle to the gun and effectively split a hard maple sappling they had just planted that spring. Needless to say, the gun was never fired again!

    December 25, 2012
  52. Phil Poyner said:

    Peter, I think the term you’re looking for is “assault weapon”. That term can be very vague and inconsistent. An assault rifle, on the other hand, has certain characteristics that most people can agree on (a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine). Much easier to define.

    December 25, 2012
  53. john george said:

    Phil- I think Peter is using the correct term. What many people term as an “assault rifle” is actually a “carbine” rifle. Carbines have shorter barrels than a long rifle, and are usually semi-automatic, not fully automatic like an assault rifle. They can only be fired as fast as the shooter can squeeze his trigger finger. Some gun manufactures mimic the “looks” of an assault rifle, which is unfortunate. Removeable “clip” magazines have been around since WW II with the old 30.06 bolt-action rifles. I saw a friend put two holes through a piece of 3/8″ angle iron with one of those, so, IMO, they are about as lethal as any “assault” rifle. A person just can’t shoot one very fast.

    December 25, 2012
  54. Phil Poyner said:

    John, over the course of time rifles have been generally been decreasing in length. A Civil War era Springfield Model 1861 Rifle had a 40 inch barrel; by WWI the M1903 Springfield had a 24 inch barrel. The assault rifle has never been considered a “carbine rifle” simply because it had a shorter barrel than it’s predecessors. What made the assault rifle different from previous standard rifles was the use of an intermediate cartridge as opposed to a full power rifle cartridge. That also made the assault rifle different from “automatic rifles” that preceded it, like the BAR, or “battle rifles” that were developed later. So, the M14, FN FAL, and H&K G3 are battle rifles, while the M16, the AK-47, and the StG 44 are assault rifles.

    A carbine is generally a shortened-barrel version of a rifle, so as new rifles were developed with ever shorter barrels, carbines also became shorter. Today an M16A2, with its 20 inch barrel, would be considered an assault rifle; the M4 and GAU-5, with 14.5″ barrels, are considered carbines. In this case the carbine has nearly all the same characteristics as the assault rifle: the M4 uses the same magazines, selective fire combination, and type of cartridge as the M-16A2. In fact, they are 80% interchangeable. The GAU-5 and M4A1 can even be fired full automatic…carbines don’t have to be semi-automatic to be considered carbines.

    By the way, magazines using the 30-06 cartridge have been around since the end of WWI; the BAR used them. And a clip and a magazine are different things. A standard WWII M1 Rifle was a clip fed rifle; you loaded it by inserting an 8-round en-bloc clip into the fixed magazine. When the last round was fired the clip was ejected (with a ringing sound), the bolt locked back, and the weapon was ready to be reloaded. A partially fired clip could be ejected. Today M4 ammunition is provided on a stripper clip; the clip is used to load the removable magazine and not inserted into the weapon at all.

    Now, regarding lethality… I’m not going to get into a discussion about the lethality of different rounds, not even a friendly one. There is no doubt that the 30-06 cartridge you mentioned is more powerful than the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge used in a typical assault rifle, and more accurate at range. But 30-06 ammo is heavy, with a bandolier of 60 rounds weighing in at 1.8 kg. That’s about what 6 20-round M-16 magazines weigh, with a total of 120 rounds. So, the “advantages” of the assault rifle (over a M1903 bolt-action 30-06 rifle, for example) are that a single person can carry more ammo, and the ammo (not having the “kick” of a full power rifle round) allows the weapon to be more easily controlled. The argument can be made (and again, I’m not making it here!) that the mere ability to carry more ammo and accurately aim the weapon through the firing of multiple rounds increases its “lethality”.

    Back to why I thought “assault weapon” was the ambiguous term rather than “assault rifle”. As I’ve now exhaustively explained, the term “assault rifle” does actually mean something. “Assault weapon”, on the other hand, can mean a number of things, especially when you are talking about an “assault weapon ban”. In some peoples minds an assault weapon is an assault rifle, to others it includes certain carbines (those derived from assault rifles), to others it includes sub-machine guns and machine pistols like the Uzi, to others it includes any weapon with a list of certain features (some cosmetic), etc, etc. “Assault Weapon” has no consistent or specific definition, and is thus more apt to be used to solicit an emotional response rather than to describe a particular weapon. And it seems to me that that’s what Peter was talking about. Now, have the press mistakenly referred to the weapon used at Newtown as an assault rifle when it was properly a carbine? Yes, but it’s not because the term assault rifle is poorly defined.

    Well, I’m thinking this whole comment will probably “weird out” some readers! I’m by no means a “firearms expert”, but I do know a little about military firearms. There may be some actual no-kidding experts reading, and I apologize for any incorrect data I may have presented.

    December 26, 2012
  55. john george said:

    Phil- Thanks so much for the in-depth deposition on various rifles. I have no problem with your definitions and discriptions, but then, I am certainly no firearm expert, either. You expounded on one of the main points that I was trying to get across in my short discription, and that is the fully automatic feature of an “assault rifle.” I have read reports of infantrymen having to aim a M16 low because the recoil always raised the barrel. Also, I have read about some hunters trying to convert these to hunting rifles and having difficulty with the weight of the slug and the muzzle velocity. It travels so crazy fast that if it even hits a weed between the shooter and his prey, it shatters and is ineffective. Supposedly, the weapon of choice now for military snipers is a new .50 cal rifle. Now, that is a weapon!

    If we consider the attack that happened in Japan a couple weeks ago, the “assault weapon” in that incident was a knife. It is probably as much a matter of semantics as anything, but I think Peter’s assertion about “assault rifle” being used for emotional impact is correct. “Assault air-rifle” or “assault B-B gun” doesn’t have quite the effect.

    December 27, 2012
  56. kiffi summa said:

    Always appreciate Fareed Zakaria’s POV, but in this case he leaves out the remedy for what is his correct, IMO, assumption of too lax gun laws allowing too many guns, and of the wrong sort, in private hands.

    That’s why I continue to think the most effective ‘revolt’ should come from within the NRA; let the hunters and sport shooters revolt against the inappropriate ownership of high powered guns that use high capacity magazines.

    Somehow, those weapons have to be gotten out of the private market…
    How is that to be accomplished ???

    December 28, 2012
  57. john george said:

    Kiffi- I think you are coreect in trying to get certain weapons out of the market, and your question of how to do it is poignantly correct. I think we are dealing with something my grandfather used to state this way: “The hiorse is already out of the barn, so it is a little late to close the barndoor.” Of course, a person could get the horse back into the barn, but it took a little work. My concern about some of the questionable firearms out in society is that banning them will push them underground and untraceable rather than eliminating them.

    December 30, 2012
  58. kiffi summa said:

    Look at the story in Patch today on the number of gun permits issued in Rice County ; how the applications jumped the days immediately following Newtown … it is simply not an understandable reaction.

    What are people thinking?

    January 4, 2013
  59. Sean Stevens said:

    They are thinking that there is no way to stop a criminal from getting a weapon such as a firearm and using it, the same with goes a knife, hammer, baseball bat, etc. Having a firearm is to have the ability to protect themselves and their family as law abiding citizen in unfortunate case they happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” it really is that simple. This is not a one part solution, and disarming the over whelming majority of law abiding citizens who own firearms is not the answer.

    January 4, 2013
  60. john george said:

    Kiffi- Your guess is as good as mine on what they are thinking. I would speculate that some people took advantage of our relatively easy process for obtaining a gun legally on the hedge that if tighter restrictions are placed upon them in the near future, they will 1) at least have a gun or 2) that their legal ownership under the current laws will be grandfathered in to new, tighter regulations. It is only my guess, but I think it might be credible.

    January 4, 2013
  61. john george said:

    Here is a You Tube link for a little different perspective on the Second Ammendment and banning guns.

    January 6, 2013
  62. kiffi summa said:

    This is the one that will break your heart… AND make you think twice: http://www.v=rltmCsfsF_8youtube.com/watchv=rltmCsfsF_8

    I’m sure I didn’t use the ‘make a link’ correctly; anyway, it’s Tom Paxton singing”johnny got a gun”…

    January 6, 2013
  63. kiffi summa said:

    Just my opinion, but this video is so full of incorrect historical assumptions (1) and false logic that it is detrimental to a good discussion.
    For instance: (1) the assertion that the second amendment was in any way to keep slaves from having guns. It is historic fact that there were many black soldiers, some former slaves , in the Revolutionary War, and they were armed.

    It is , IMO, inflammatory to suggest that African-Americans now might need to arm themselves for protection against possible future enslavement, which is what is implied.

    It would take too long to dissect this piece in its entirety, but I did not find it in any way helpful… just the opposite.

    January 6, 2013
  64. john george said:

    Kiffi- I didn’t mean to post this as historically accurate. It is not. I just think it is an interesting example of how people on both sides of gun ownership will present things that are just half-truths to support their positions.

    January 6, 2013
  65. john george said:

    Seethe link in my post #27 for a perspective that is, IMO, more accurate.

    January 6, 2013
  66. David Henson said:

    I think the Declaration of Independence is more meaningful than the second amendment “….. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    How exactly do the citizens exercise this right and duty if unarmed?

    January 6, 2013
  67. William Siemers said:

    Citizens could exercise this right and duty through nonviolent action. It’s probably the only way, unless the right to bear arms is expanded to include tanks, drones and nuclear weapons.

    January 7, 2013
  68. Norman Butler said:

    The Bible and The Constitution (or any other “sacred text” for that matter) would both benefit from updating for they are both man-made and of their time. Gladly, the latter has “Amendments” which attempt to consider context and to bring it up to date.

    The Revolutionary War can be understood to be the first of two civil wars insofar as during the war years from 1774 until 1783 the greatest threat to one’s life (and liberty) was not from the British, French, Canadians, Native Americans – all of whom were involved – but from one’s neighbor. It was a war of Patriots against Loyalists, Whigs against Tories.

    Those days are gone and with it the need to tool up against one’s neighbor; because the best guarantee of mutual safety is for neither to have guns. And if you think that an armory of AK47s etc will protect you against government, be it local or federal, then you are naive to say the least.

    January 7, 2013
  69. john george said:

    Norm- My brother is a red-neck conspiratist, and his comment, when I pressed him on it, was that he might not be able to get them all, but he would slow them down a little. With that kind of thinking out there, I would question whether there is any reasoning with that segment of the population.

    It seems our country has become more and more polarized. What used to be considered an “Americn people” has been divied up into more and more ethnic groups, all demanding the own ethnic equality. Ethnicism has begun to triumph over nationalism so people are _____________ (fill in the blank) first and Americans second. That’s why I’m not sure your comment here is completely true.

    It was a war of Patriots against Loyalists, Whigs against Tories… Those days are gone and with it the need to tool up against one’s neighbor…

    January 7, 2013
  70. David Henson said:

    William and Norm the British had every technological advantage and vastly more artillery yet lost the revolutionary war. Small arms and Will is more than enough to defeat any government. However I agree than nonviolent methods and Will are also effective also. My estimate is most Americans will think keeping both options available is the best insurance.

    January 7, 2013
  71. William Siemers said:

    John…Yesterday I had my eyes checked. I gave my insurance card to the office worker and she said she had a few questions she was required to ask. One was, “What race would you consider yourself to be?” I asked why that was important to an eye exam. She replied that it was required. I said that the question was inappropriate. She said it was required. I said, ‘Mixed’, and she said that was not on the list. Then, with some exasperation, she proceeded to read the list, none of which was ‘refuses to answer’. So, to relieve her consternation, I answered ‘Hawaiian’ since that sounded pretty good in mid january. Moving on, the next question was ‘do you consider yourself to be Hispanic or Latino?’. I’m confused. Can I be Hawaiian and Latino, but not be Mixed? So I said, ‘No, I’m Hawaiian, like Obama’. She said ‘Obamacare was not responsible for the questions’.

    January 8, 2013
  72. kiffi summa said:

    WM. : this is so appalling! I wonder what the office worker would have said if you had said that ‘race is an outmoded political/social construct which has been proven by DNA to be just that, an outmoded concept’.

    I also wonder if the office worker had told her employer she absolutely refused to query a patient in that manner, what would happen?
    AND…. WHO is “requiring” that series of questions???

    Absolutely absurd !!!

    January 8, 2013
  73. I don’t know that it would make much of a difference to try to get those guns out of the market. 3D printing can already make usable guns (though not very impressive ones), and can certainly handle the task of modifying other guns to be able to use higher capacity magazines, and so on.

    In short, I think the window for a technological solution to this social problem is rapidly closing, and I think we’d get more mileage from our effort if we put the effort into social solutions.

    There are lots of ways to kill people; it seems to me we’d get more benefit from trying to reduce the frequency with which people want to do this than we would from trying to limit one specific way they can do it.

    January 8, 2013
  74. john george said:

    William- What is that old addage about fighting City Hall? I’m sure the group “They” had something to do with it!

    Kiffi- I suppose an employee can refuse to do something the employee considers inappropriate, but they had better have their reasons grounded in law to avoid removal.

    January 8, 2013
  75. A lot of those questions exist due to studies of medical demographics. And while the superficial notion of “race” is mostly useless, there are real reasons for medical folks to at least try to get that information — because it can be really useful to know when someone is in a group with 50% higher risk of a given outcome than the general population, for instance. The boundaries are fuzzy, and the lists of definitions are often also heavily influenced by political issues; there will be funding based on reaching particular targets, for instance, or attempts to determine whether a given “demographic” needs better medical care.

    But there can be legitimate reasons for doctors to want to know, because biology continues to be real no matter what we think. The amount of vitamin D you make will vary with both sunlight and skin color…

    January 8, 2013
  76. William Siemers said:

    Pete…If the information is valuable to medical research, then the questions (along with an explanation of why the information is important) should be asked by a medical professional in private, not at the front desk of the waiting room. “Refuses to answer” should be an option. Or, if the patient agrees to answer and considers himself to be of mixed race, then that should be the answer the professional accepts.

    January 9, 2013
  77. I never said I thought they were doing it well; I just wanted to point out that there is at least one not-totally-stupid reason for medical folks to care.

    Mostly, though, it’s just demographics and done because we have so many laws that mandate attempts to categorize things. It’s stupid, but it’s not exactly a new stupid.

    January 10, 2013
  78. Stephanie Henriksen said:


    I got a frantic call today, unidentified source, saying our guns are about to be taken away and to push a certain number to allow my name on a petition to Congress, or push a different number to be taken off the list. Anyone else get this call? Very offensive.

    January 10, 2013
  79. Norman Butler said:

    How about approaching this problem from a different, though familiar, direction? Taxes are used to discourage certain behaviors; e.g smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are hit hard; why not the same disincentive for guns and ammo e.g 25% rising to 100% over time.

    January 25, 2013
  80. Sean Stevens said:

    How about we make a fee/tax for all publications, radio stations, news outlets, so those parties can pay more to exercise their 1st amendments rights?

    For the record, there was NO rifle used at Sandy Hook, absolutely amazing to me that this took so long to come to light.


    January 25, 2013
  81. Norman Butler said:

    You are absolutely right, Sean. Hand guns, rifles, tanks are equally deadly especially in everyday hands; also handguns account for about 85%(?) of gun deaths in the USA.

    As for 1st Amendments rights you make an important though hardly a comparative one. Its just a pity that the media in general do not exercise these precious rights in a more meaningful (critical, aggressive, profound..) way.

    January 25, 2013
  82. kiffi summa said:

    OK… if LG is going to ‘die’ … it should die in step with a deplorable part of American culture, and go out with a ‘BANG’… (don’t get all upset; that is just a metaphor, and contains no threat of actual violence)

    Last night the Colorado Director of Corrections was shot and killed when he answered his front doorbell, and opened the door of his home to a shooter.

    I did not know Tom Clements; I never heard of him before… and I cannot tell you how angry and sad it makes me to hear of anyone being shot as a result of answering the front door of their home.

    I am crying now; I will always cry if I am so angry I am finding it hard to deal with. The absurdity of people on the radio, and in the media, defending the number of guns circulating around this country as an American “way of life”, is so reprehensible… it’s just difficult to find acceptable words to use.

    ‘Cultural’ hunting? OK, I couldn’t do it, but I get it.

    It’s a long road from there to owning guns to defend yourself in your home.
    It should not be necessary, and is , IMO, often an excuse for gun ownership.

    Guns in the hands of criminals? Increase the penalty for each crime committed with a gun and develop a system which makes that person unable to ever own a gun again. Put a stiff penalty on whoever sells a gun to anyone who has committed a crime with a gun, however minor their incarceration was or how rehabilitated they are supposed to be.

    Amnesty/reward collections by LGUs for working guns turned in.

    There is no way to solve this problem without a myriad of strategies to reduce the numbers of weapons out there.
    The whole question revolves around the will to accomplish a meaningful change; shame on legislators who think they might lessen their chances of re-election if they come out strongly for gun control measures … then they don’t deserve re-election, IMO.

    Think about it, folks, just think about it… think about it in terms of your family… if you were shot when you opened your front door, by a person who thought they had a reason, and also had a gun.

    March 20, 2013
  83. David Henson said:

    Kiffi, funny how we always see these stories differently. The USA has over 1 million people enslaved in our prison system. The criminal justice system is a sham. Corrections is big big business (some great stocks if you have the stomach for it). Obviously one feels bad when anyone is shot but it is hard to see bow that sort of outcome is not going to happen in the face of a grotesque and out of control system. As a culture we have no morality or leadership at all when we leave ugly systems undebated and focus our energy on fanciful subjects like the redefinitions of marriage.

    March 20, 2013
  84. kiffi summa said:

    Maybe I’m just too saddened by this story now, david… but I don’t think so…
    I have long thought that a total overhaul of our correctional system , with its many abuses, needs to be done… but that does not make me see this story any differently.

    Tom Clements was not responsible for the entire structure of the correctional system. Period.

    March 20, 2013
  85. kiffi summa said:

    another tragedy: in a middle school outside Detroit, amidst 800 students,a popular, non-bullied 14year old shoots himself in the head, fatally, with a 40 caliber Glock pistol….

    School had no metal detectors; staff said he was not considered an ‘at-risk’ student…

    Why did he have access to this gun?
    How did no one seem to notice him being close to a destructive moment?

    March 21, 2013

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