21 December 2012

What the NRA gets right -- and wrong

The NRA press conference today proposed that American schools could be made safer by equipping them with armed and trained security guards.  They're right, as far as this goes.

Israel does this.  School security is a serious concern in Israel, given the constant threat of Islamic fanatics who would like nothing better than to carry out a mass slaughter of Jewish children, and who are often better armed, trained, and motivated than the mental cases who periodically attack schools in the US.  Armed guards seem to work.

They also seem to work where we in the US use them, at places we're actually serious about protecting, such as banks and some government buildings.  They don't create an armed-camp atmosphere or an increased level of danger.  And notice that almost all mass shootings in the US happen in places that are designated gun-free zones, not in places that do have armed guards.  Even mental cases know they can kill far more people in places where there will be no effective resistance until the police can arrive from some distance away.

Opponents of armed self-defense in Newtown-like scenarios seem to imagine that it would result in some sort of random crossfire which would kill even more people.  This would certainly not be the case with properly-trained guards.  Adam Lanza killed 26 people at the school, shooting most of them multiple times.  There is no plausible scenario in which a trained guard shooting Lanza as soon as he started his attack would not have resulted in a much lower death toll.  Even a poorly-trained civilian shooting back at Lanza -- yes, even if that civilian accidentally hit one or two innocent people -- would probably have resulted in a much lower net number of deaths.  Perhaps more to the point, Lanza would have been unlikely to attempt his attack in a venue where he knew he himself would be shot as soon as he began.

There is, of course, another side to security in Israel.  From the link above:

In Israel, no one carries a weapon without the Israel Ministry of Defense knowing about it. The person carrying the gun or assault weapon has gone through a security background check, trained in the use of gun safety and is registered with either the Israel Defense Forces or the police that he bears a weapon.

I've always been dubious about gun control.  It was easy to get alcohol during prohibition and it is easy to get marijuana now, and that's in the face of a total ban, not merely laws to restrict access.  No gun control law would have kept Lanza from getting hold of the weapons he used; they were owned by his mother whom he also murdered.  We probably should implement stricter background checks and broaden the categories of people who cannot legally carry guns, but we shouldn't expect this to have much actual effect.  In the US, a person who is determined to get a gun and doesn't mind breaking the law will always be able to get one.

Finally, the NRA's LaPierre is not only wrong but despicable in blaming violent movies and music videos for the problem.  Tens of millions of people enjoy such entertainment without becoming violent.  If violence portrayed in entertainment led to violence in society, Japan would be the most crime-saturated country in the world; it's actually close to being the most crime-free.  Hunter-gatherer societies suffer staggering rates of murder and other violence without violent entertainment (or guns).

There are other countries where gun ownership is widespread, yet gun violence is rare.  The reasons seem to be a matter of culture rather than law.  Changing culture is, unfortunately, much more difficult than changing laws, but a more compassionate and supportive culture would have benefits far beyond a reduction in violence.  We really ought to give it a try.

17 Comments:

Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

I dislike the argument that because of the 300,000,000 firearms pumped into our society by Gun Manufacturers we can't do anything about it.

Israel is a bad analogy because they have 7 million people total, or less than Cook and the collar counties in Illinois.

The NRA "plan" is ridiculous on it's face because of funding, insurance and personnel. The NRA states it wants volunteers, Armed Watchdog Dads to patrol the school hallways. Probably for 10 hours a day minimum 5 days a week.

The problem is the EASY ability to get guns. Criminals aren't buying them from dealers they are getting them because Gun Makers don't care and have no liability when their weapons of mass murder get stolen, lost or sold without an checks.

Fortunately, for Gun Makers, George W. Bush made them exempt from liability because he and they love money more than Americans.

The way to stem the violence is to start suing Glock, Sig Sauer, and whomever is involved in the process of each gun making it's way into the hands of killers.

If we can't police guns because of the Holy Second Amendment then sue companies into oblivion until they police themselves.

21 December, 2012 12:53  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

Also in Israel there is a lifetime limit on the number of bullets you can purchase

21 December, 2012 16:02  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GeG: With all due respect, I don't think this is realistic. Gun manufacturers didn't force 300 million guns on an unwilling society any more than beer brewers or marijuana growers do -- these things sell because millions of people want them. It would be absurd to make gun manufacturers liable for what the buyers do with their products, especially when they were obtained illegally, just as it would be silly to file a suit against Coors every time a drunk driver kills somebody. Individuals are responsible for their own actions.

The NRA "plan" is ridiculous on it's face because of funding, insurance and personnel.

Yet institutions like banks which employ armed guards manage to do so despite those issues. Israel does so (yes, they're a much smaller population, but also a much smaller economy -- if they can fund armed guards at schools, our much larger economy can do the same with our much larger population and school system). I've seen an estimate of $5.5 billion a year to provide armed guards for all public schools in the country. If we want to do it, we'll figure out how to pay for it.

LA: Interesting -- I didn't know that. I'm not sure it would contribute much to safety, though.

21 December, 2012 16:27  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

whoops I was wrong -- it's 50 rounds of ammunition per year, not lifetime.

22 December, 2012 00:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you so soon forget that the shooter was wearing body armor?

The ONLY way this shooter might have been killed by a random person, would be with a lucky shot, and chances are good he/she would be dead after the first shot, since they don't have body armor. The same goes with guards at the school. They are there primarily for show, unless they also come to work every day in full body armor. Nothing less with offer the chance to fight back.


"Ultimately, a firearm is a mere tool – an inanimate piece of metal incapable of action without human intervention."

Other inanimate objects don't have the potential to kill, if they are unknowingly bumped, mishandled, or falls over in a closet, and shoots through the wall into another apartment. These happen every day, with supposedly responsible gun owners. Until manufacturers can make a gun idiot proof, we will never be truly safe.

22 December, 2012 06:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem #1 with American culture: The Republican Tea Party has spent the past several years telling us that the teachers are to blame for bankrupting the states/country, teachers make too much money, teachers have too much bargaining power, teachers don't pay enough for their benefits and retirement, public education should be converted to a private for-profit entity with little to no oversight, etc...

Fast forward to today: Now the Republican want to take their dream teacher workforce (under 40 with little job or life experience, working for very low wages with little to no bargaining power) and force them to take on the awesome responsibility of providing armed protection as well as teaching lessons.

If you go the other way and hire professionals not currently employed by the schools you have to ask yourself this: If we aren't willing to pay teachers a fair wage while blaming them for the financial bankrupting of the country what makes us think we will be able to hire and retain professionals with the proper maturity, experience, and responsibility to make the program work? And the first time the schools face money trouble guess who gets the shaft?

PS...Columbine had an armed guard...

22 December, 2012 07:18  
Blogger Tommykey said...

GeG: With all due respect, I don't think this is realistic. Gun manufacturers didn't force 300 million guns on an unwilling society any more than beer brewers or marijuana growers do -- these things sell because millions of people want them.

Yeah, but why do they want them? Violent crime has declined for years. Here in NYC, the number of murders is down to what it was when Kennedy was president.

From what I've read thus far, Lanza's mom seems to have bought into the 'doomsday prepper' mentality. In other words, she purchased weapons solely designed to kill people based on an irrational fear.

Another element to it is that the NRA and other groups have had success in conflating gun ownership with being a patriotic American. Thus, anyone who raises any gun control measures, no matter how modest, is portrayed as being anti-American.

22 December, 2012 08:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an armed guard at Columbine. 'nuff said.

22 December, 2012 08:25  
Blogger Cthulhu said...

Infidel, it can be argued that yes, gun manufacturers DID force those guns on the citizens, by force of their advertising (Bushmasters ad campaign for the same rifle used to slaughter their children was: "Consider your man card re-issued". Really?) and by their advertising/fear camapign network of Fox news and the NRA telling everyone to be afraid, theres a Ni**er in the White House. Fear sells guns, and they've been pumping out fear in metric tons.

22 December, 2012 08:26  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Did you so soon forget that the shooter was wearing body armor?

Not all shooters in these situations do. And a properly-trained guard would have a good chance of getting a head shot. Even with a random civilian, there would be a better chance of getting a head shot than with no armed defense at all.

the Republican want to take their dream teacher workforce.....and force them to take on the awesome responsibility of providing armed protection

I'm not a Republican and can't speak for them. I'm arguing in favor of specialist guards, not arming teachers.

As for the cost, if we as a society decide we want armed guards for schools, we can find a way to pay for them. The lack of adequate funding for schools, and for many other programs, is a broader problem affecting more than just security.

There was an armed guard at Columbine.

No defense is effective in 100% of cases, and the fact that it fails in one case does not prove that it will be useless in all cases. Some banks get robbed even though they have guards, but no one argues that they would therefore be better off without guards. I see no plausible argument that the Columbine situation would have turned out better if there had been no armed guard.

TK: Yeah, but why do they want them?

Why do people want marijuana or liquor or porn or designer handbags? In some parts of the country guns are part of the culture. Some people feel they need guns for home defense even if the crime rate is lower than in the past.

Lanza's mom seems to have bought into the 'doomsday prepper' mentality.

True, but gun control would have made no difference there. I've seen no proposal for banning gun sales to people who are not crazy but merely believe silly things. Even beyond that, I've seen no plausible argument that any gun control law could keep guns out of the hands of any person who was determined to get them and willing to break the law.

Cthulhu: Infidel, it can be argued that yes, gun manufacturers DID force those guns on the citizens, by force of their advertising

So everybody who makes choices about what to buy which are different from those you would make, is being forced to do so my manipulative advertising? Sorry, no. Different people genuinely do want different things.

22 December, 2012 09:39  
Anonymous timr said...

Where I live, San Antonio, Texas every school district in the city has its own police force. They also keep armed police in each middle and HS.
Hell, my local VA clinic has armed police roaming the building.
And off duty cops get to wear their uniformsd while working security at various businesses.
We damn near had a theater shootout last weekend when a man shooting up a strip mall ran into a theater. He managed to wound 1 person in the theater lobby, but was cornered in a mens room by the off duty cop and shot several times before he managed to get to an audience.
Sometimes, armed security does work. I have a CCR permit but have not carried a gun since I retired back in 1998.

22 December, 2012 09:51  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Why do people want marijuana or liquor or porn or designer handbags?

Yeah, but you can't point a marijuana joint or a Louis Vuitton at a room full of people and kill them.

In some parts of the country guns are part of the culture. Some people feel they need guns for home defense even if the crime rate is lower than in the past.

And in some cultures it is considered acceptable to force women to wear burqas or be killed if they are deemed to have caused "dishonor" to their families. Culture doesn't get to be an excuse.

Don't get me wrong, I support the right of people to have a gun for self defense or hunting and such, but multiple weapons and large quantities of ammunition should be unacceptable.

And then there's the "guvmint' tyranny" crowd who've seen Red Dawn too many times. Sorry, but unless you have tanks, RPGs, helicopter gun ships etc. you're not going to stop the government. Just look at the Branch Davidian cult, probably the best armed group of American citizens to stand off against the US government in my lifetime and look how that turned out.

Wolverines!

22 December, 2012 10:30  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

The same people who have demanded cuts to Teachers pensions, and school funding. Now want every teacher armed and a full-time police officer at Every school.

This is Impossible. It's not just the Funding. It's the destruction to the Collective Unconscious of America.

The SRO program was not developed to have SWAT officers stalking school hallways.

Children shouldn't wonder what type of gun their PE teacher is packing!

And why wouldn't it be okay for every student to bring a gun to school?

I don't see any age limit in the Holy 2nd Amendment.

The NRA does not represent Americans. It represents Gun Makers. And Gun Makers want the US Taxpayer to funnel Billions of Dollars into their coffers.

And Infidel753 Bars and Liquor Stores ARE Responsible under the law if they sell to someone without doing due dilligence!

22 December, 2012 13:57  
Anonymous BugMeNot said...

Comparing gun control to drug/alcohol prohibition is *not* legitimate. Drugs and booze can be manufactured by anyone in their closets and basements. Guns can not.

Furthermore, gun control has been shown to work. The UK and Australia both demonstrate that, with the extremely restrictive gun control they put in place in the 1990s. The gun supply dried up, shootings plummeted, and contrary to the mutterings of the NRA and other pro-gun fear mongers, other forms of violent crime did not go up to fill the void.

Also, let's keep in mind that pretty much all guns used in crime and these mass-shootings are obtained *legally*. Guns can be bought at gun shows, web sites, and your local Wal-Mart, often with no background checks of any kind. Cut off that supply, and that will be the end of that.

22 December, 2012 20:08  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TimR: Thanks for the examples. Again, in the theater case, it's impossible to argue that the outcome would have been better without the armed cop being there.

TK: you can't point a marijuana joint or a Louis Vuitton at a room full of people and kill them.

That's a separate question. You were asking why people want them. In most cases it's for perfectly legitimate reasons, as with anything else people buy.

Culture doesn't get to be an excuse.

There's no need for an "excuse". I have the same right to own a gun for self-defense as I do to own a car for getting around. Mandatory dress codes and honor killings violate the rights of other people. Owning guns doesn't, unless you use the same kind of ridiculous logic favored by the kind of people who want to ban porn and gay marriage.

And then there's the "guvmint' tyranny" crowd.....you're not going to stop the government.

Of course not, and those people are idiots, but that has nothing to do with the issue under discussion, which is stopping isolated would-be mass murderers.

GeG: I wasn't arguing for arming teachers. Banks don't arm every teller either. They have guards with specialized training in using guns.

And why wouldn't it be okay for every student to bring a gun to school?

Because they don't have proper training. We don't give children driver's licenses either. Lots of Constitutional rights don't apply to minors in practice.

The NRA does not represent Americans. It represents Gun Makers.

The NRA has 4.3 million members, making it one of the largest membership organizations in the country. It presumably represents them.

Bars and Liquor Stores ARE Responsible under the law if they sell to someone without doing due dilligence!

If they sell alcohol to a minor without checking ID, yes (and the same with a gun store that sells a gun to a person not legally entitled to own one). If a store sells me a twelve-pack and I later kill somebody while driving drunk, the store isn't liable. Holding gun manufacturers liable for what the buyers do with their products would be equally absurd.

BMN: Drugs and booze can be manufactured by anyone in their closets and basements. Guns can not.

That makes no practical difference. There are already hundreds of millions of guns in private hands. There's no practical way to stop a person who really wants one from getting one.

gun control has been shown to work. The UK and Australia both demonstrate that

Neither of those places had anything like the pervasive gun ownership we do. If they had started out with more guns than people, as we have, it wouldn't have worked. There are also substantial cultural differences; Americans are a lot less deferential to authority they perceive as unreasonable.

pretty much all guns used in crime and these mass-shootings are obtained *legally*.

Almost all alcohol consumed nowadays is bought legally. When we cut off the legal supply during prohibition, alcohol didn't disappear; an illegal supply system sprang up. The same thing would happen if guns were banned.

As I said in the post, I'm not against some measures like stricter background checks, so long as they don't interfere with law-abiding people having access to guns. I just don't think those measures would be effective in stopping the bad guys from getting guns. Not even an across-the-board ban would do so.

23 December, 2012 08:13  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

Here is the Illinois Law which allows lawsuits against those who serve or provide alcohol:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=023500050K6-21

Every person who is injured within this State, in person or property, by any intoxicated person has a right of action in his or her own name severally or jointly, against any person, licensed under the laws of this State or of any other state to sell alcoholic liquor, who by selling or giving alcoholic liquor within or without the territorial limits of this State, causes the intoxication of such person

The same laws and regulations should apply to Arms Dealers.

23 December, 2012 10:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GeG: If that law does really have that effect, it's an Orwellian absurdity holding merchants legally liable for actions of their customers over which they have no control. One might as well hold GM liable every time someone gets run over by a car they built. It should be repealed, not expanded to other categories of businesses.

And with that, enough is enough. This is a blog, not a debating forum.

25 December, 2012 08:39  

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