Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gun violence and American society

Steven D at Booman Tribune [via jason at Delawareliberal] asks an important question about the recent Binghamton massacre and our society.

Here's the gist:

It doesn't matter to me why a "crazed" or "evil" (take your pick) individual walked into an immigration services center in Binghamton, New York and shot and killed 14 people seemingly at random. Just like it doesn't matter to me why the kids at Columbine wanted to kill their whole school, or the Virginia Tech shooter wanted to to shoot as many of his fellow students and faculty members as he could before dying, or why the man in Alabama who killed 11 people thought it was a good idea to go on a revenge rampage. Or why anyone decides to take a gun and shoot a spouse, girlfriend or themselves. Discerning the motivations or reasons why people kill each other with firearms is, in the end, a fruitless endeavor. For this is the society we've chosen.

We've chosen to live in a society where firearms, both the legal and illegal varieties, are ubiquitous. We've chosen to allow a single issue special interest group to promote laws (and heavily fund the campaigns of politicians who support their agenda) that make it easier than ever for anyone to buy, carry and use firearms of all kinds, from small caliber concealable pistols to large caliber machine guns....

We've chosen to live in a society where murderous gangs of foreign and domestic drug dealers can obtain almost any weapon made in America by using straw purchasers to go to unregulated gun shows to buy these weapons and the ammunition needed to equip their private armies....

We've chosen to live in a society which has turned a blind eye to the fact that our nation leads the developed world in homicides, suicides and other deaths caused by firearms, as well as non-fatal gun injuries, by a large margin. Even nations racked by poverty and criminal gangs such as Brazil and Mexico have a lower per capita rate of deaths caused by firearms than our nation....

This is the society we've chosen. Don't ask why this wave of mass killings by firearms continues in our country. Don't ask why people can acquire a gun and kill you, your family or themselves with it easier than they can obtain a driver's license. It doesn't really matter why. There will always be people in any society whose hatred or anger or sociopathic personality traits or just the evil which lurks in everyone's soul will lead them to commit violence against others and themselves. So don't ask why they do it.

What you should be asking is why we have chosen to live in a society which makes it so easy for these people to acquire deadly firearms with which to commit violence, mayhem and murder? Because, that is the only question that really matters.


There are several problems with this post, which I'll deal with in a footnote below, but it is a legitimate question:

What kind of society have we chosen for ourselves?

We've chosen a society in which the largest exporter of guns, tanks, combat aircraft, and all other forms of weapons used in virtually every major conflict across the planet is not the manufacturers of the firearms that private citizens can purchase, but defense contractors whose products are subsidized, approved, and even underwritten by the United States government....

We've chosen a society in which--even after the failed experiment with alcohol prohibition--we have allowed personal conduct with respect to drugs to become criminalized and which therefore drives an underground international black market whose profits rival those of the largest multi-national corporations and therefore give rise to massive violence and failed states....

We've chosen a society in which our media--from television to music and film--glorifies indiscriminate violence, and whose purveyors (the artists, producers, and distributors) use massive amounts of money for political campaign contributions to lobby for various causes while cashing on on scenes of simulated slaughter....

We've chosen a society in which police violence in the so-called war on drugs and government surveillance in violation of the US Constitution as a by-product of the so-called war on terror have both reached such endemic proportions that they contribute to making millions of people fearful that their own elected government and its all-powerful bureaucracy are--at the same time--incapable of protecting them while it violates their rights.

We've chosen a society in which it is more important to discuss the sexual histories, marriages, and adoptions of entertainment figures than it is to engage in civil debate of critical national and international policy issues to the point where meaningless slogans substitute for public discourse....

We've chosen a society in which people get to select single issues out of a myriad of complex, inter-related factors for self-righteous rants that appeal chiefly to those who already share their views....

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The footnote:

The devil is always in the details, which in this case is within the links. Steven D, for example, says,

Even nations racked by poverty and criminal gangs such as Brazil and Mexico have a lower per capita rate of deaths caused by firearms than our nation.


But click through the link and you'll find he's citing a study not of Mexico's current drug-war killing fields, but of Mexico (and selected other countries) vs the US from 1900-1995. I love data that's fifteen years old, don't you?

Or how about the un-sourced 2004 presentation on the supposed life-span costs of gun violence in the US, which makes a ludicrous mono-causal statistic argument that the only factor necessary to explain differences between our life-span and that of other industrialized nations is gun violence. Not obesity, not heart disease, not differences in recording infant mortality, not our health care system, but simply gun violence....

It always pay to click through at least some of the links...

1 comment:

D.M. McGowan said...

It may be that the US has the largest number of firearms related deaths ... the accumulation and publication of international statistics is misleading. However, the number of homicides and suicides is far exceeded in several countries. The number of homicides and suicides as a percentage of population is exceeded in the vast majority of nations.
Dave
www.dmmcgowan.blogspot.com