Afternoon read: guns, guns, guns, guns, guns

Detail, front page of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association’s claim.

I was really hoping not to post about this today, but am behooved.

The horrible school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, provoked a nationwide discussion about guns and gun control that many had thought unlikely given the high levels of polarization that surround the issue. In New York state, that discussion quickly resulted in the passage of a new gun law, the NY SAFE Act, that is one of the nation’s toughest.

But of course we know all this — guns, gun control and the constitutional and other issues they call to mind have been all over the news for weeks now. Brian Mann filed an excellent story this very morning about how gun owners and dealers in our area are dealing with the new law (or refusing to engage with it). And that’s far from the only coverage NCPR has done on the issue. Tomorrow, David Sommerstein will file a story on a Potsdam man who bought an AK-47 from a local classified ad to make a statement about assault rifles.

The ongoing guns/gun control story isn’t one I relish — the gun control dialog is frequently one of America’s least functional (it’s right up there with abortion and the national debt), and every new story reminds me of the Newtown shooting and others. But on we must go, because it’s incredibly important.

This in mind, I draw your attention to two stories in the news. First, Your News Now reports that the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association has filed the first legal challenge against the new law, claiming (PDF) it violates the US Constitution’s commerce clause, among other things (this happened yesterday). It also describes the legislation as “impermissibly vague and overboard.” This isn’t a lawsuit, yet, but it may well become one. We’ll see what happens with that.

Also, the Albany Times-Union reports that Gov. Cuomo’s approval rating has dropped 15 points since the new law. It’s still quite high, though — it was at 74 percent, now it’s at 59 percent. That’s according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

274 Comments on “Afternoon read: guns, guns, guns, guns, guns”

  1. Walker says:

    “I would also readily dispute yours and Politifacts numbers. Politifacts are at least 300K low in the military side.”

    Well, OK, which of Politifacts war death numbers are too low? Which wars? Did you look at the sources? They’re given.

    “But you’re counting police shootings, suicides, accidents, contract killings, etc. If you wanted to make a good case for your cause you’d try and find data that is accurate.”

    There’s good data for 1981-1998 at the CDC that you can slice and dice twelve ways from Sunday, though they don’t cover killings by the police separate from other legal killings.

    Everything I can find on police shootings appears to be in the range of 400 to 500 per year or less. The CDC gives the number of “legal interventions” per year as averaging 292 per year. Compare to the 15,000 murders annually, 18,900 suicides and 1500 accidental deaths per year caused by firearms.

  2. Rancid Crabtree says:

    According to the source of the day, Wikipedia, the numbers is at least 1.325 mill. Those are direct deaths, not including wounded who died some time later and another 38K missing and unaccounted for which by now we have to presume are dead. It is also likely you can add another 125K to the Civil war numbers according to recent research. It’s in the footnotes.

    As far as the CDC numbers, without the raw data it’s just another agenda driven set of numbers. Of the 15K “murders” each year, which seems astronomically high, there is no information on their criteria, ie- police, self defense, etc. I do know at one time the FBI stats included police shootings. The FBI lists 9K muders by firearm in 2009. Rifles were used in 348 of those murders. Of those, so called assault rifles accounted for a tiny fraction. Hands and feet were used to murder 801 people, blunt objects 611. But we aren’t working to limit hands, feet and blunt objects, are we? We’re going after rifles, or so we were told. We’re actually going after all types of firearms, but don’t tell anyone!

    A 16 year old just killed himself in a school out west. Got a gun in past the metal detectors, ignoring the gun free zone signs, etc. The bullying was so bad he took his life. That’s tragic. Whats more tragic is that we’ve become a nation where kids commit suicide or shoot people at all. What happened? These things NEVER used to happen. Something changed and it’s not the availability of firearms because it’s far harder to get them now than years back. But as I’ve pointed out before, it’s a lot easier for the politicians to pass some feel good legislation than it is to work on the actual problem- the decay of our society.

  3. Paul says:

    “But it’s the culture that seems to me to be the biggest part of the problem, and I have no idea how you do anything about that. But it looks to me like we have a very sick culture, too materialistic and too individualistic, and pop culture seems to push all our worst tendencies. And it’s hard to see what would push us back toward sanity.”

    I think we are in agreement there.

    Personally I think that law makers see guns as the low hanging fruit. They see it as an easy way to deal with a small part of the problem.

    I go back to the Switzerland comparison. They are pretty individualistic and very materialistic so the difference could be cultural. Here is one of my personal biases. In Europe they focus on sports that are good for the body and the mind. Ones that you can’t just play until you finish high school but are part of your whole lifestyle. Here we push kids to play things like football till they can’t any more, usually around the age of 18 or so. Then they sit around with nothing better to do (usually getting fat and costing us a fortune in health care). That is when you start to see even sane people do stupid things. They described how in Switzerland these shooting clubs are a family affair. If I lived in Switzerland I would focus on skiing but maybe these things are healthy as well?

  4. Paul says:

    If you think the right is in a tizzy over gun control options just wait till they try and do something about things like insanely violent video games. The opposition from the left (not to mention just about all the 14-25 year olds in the US no matter their political lean) will make this latest opposition we have been seeing on the right look like a picnic.

  5. Walker says:

    “These things NEVER used to happen.”

    I don’t think that’s true. I recently came across a story in the Enterprise about a boy who killed his grandmother when she bought his sister a doll but didn’t buy him anything. Saranac Lake in the fifties.

    “…assault rifles accounted for a tiny fraction…”

    Doubtless true, but if your kid was the twentieth one killed, you’d be interested in any measure that might possibly slow such killers down. The problem is, most murders are targeted at particular people the killer wants to take out. But these mass killings are people who are angry at the world, and want to take out as many people as possible.

    Look at it this way. If dynamite were as easy to get your hands on as firearms, some of these killers would be blowing up schools and movie theaters. But because it’s illegal, it’s hardly ever used to murder people.

  6. Walker says:

    The soccer cure, eh? Worth a try. But soccer is becoming a major school sport here. Is there any sign that adult amateur soccer clubs are becoming more common in the U.S.?

  7. Paul says:

    “But because it’s illegal, it’s hardly ever used to murder people.”

    Again, I thought that the idea was background checks?

    “But soccer is becoming a major school sport here. Is there any sign that adult amateur soccer clubs are becoming more common in the U.S.?”

    Perhaps in time. Soccer is not a bad one. I like to see things like skiing and biking myself. Wildly popular sports in Europe. (don’t give me the Armstrong doping stuff!!!) They are ones that are pretty easy to continue into adulthood since you don’t need to drum up a team. Point is people in a country like Switzerland have assault weapons pretty handy and things look different than here. I don’t know what the real difference is like I said that was just my personal idea. No basis in fact whatsoever.

  8. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Okay Walker, I’ll qualify it as, “…in relative terms these things never used to happen.” But then lets further qualify things and note that guns and ammo used to be available through the mail with no ID required at all, that kids used to take guns and knives to school, that handguns didn’t used to require a permit at all and we STILL didn’t have these problems in the numbers we do today, even on a per capitia basis. It’s the PEOPLE that are the problem. I don’t see much movement on people control at all!

    Can anyone think of a more relaxing sport scene than a guy and his dog walking through the fall woods looking for a bird? Or gramps and the boy in the duck blind? Lots of good fresh air and no traumatic brain injuries involved there.

  9. Paul says:

    Never is not the right word sure, but indications are that the mass shooting stuff is on the rise.

    But here is the story on some of the other kind of violence:

    “In 2010, the most recent data available, strangers committed 1.8 million non-fatal, violent crimes nationwide — a 77 percent drop from the 7.9 million committed in 1993, the earliest data available. That mirrors an overall drop in firearm-related crime nationwide during that period — from about 6 victims per 1,000 residents to 1.4 victims per 1,000 residents.”

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2013/02/04/2617925/statistics-sometimes-lost-in-emotional.html#storylink=cpy

    With the exception of the spike in mass shootings we have seen lately we are generally trending in the right direction. You wouldn’t think that if you looked at the news these days but those are the facts. Let’s hope it continues. The surge of guns off the shelves created by the debate probably hasn’t helped. The gun manufacturers can stop paying the NRA and start paying MSNBC!

  10. Walker says:

    “With the exception of the spike in mass shootings we have seen lately we are generally trending in the right direction.”

    I’ve seen one analysis that the peak violence of the 80s/early 90s occurred exactly 20 years after the peak in leaded gasoline use. It was a pretty convincing piece. If it’s right, though, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the head to hard about the current trend– we’re just coming off of an artificial crest. I mean it’s a good thing, but it’s not a sign that we’re doing anything right except banning leaded gasoline.

  11. Walker says:

    “I don’t see much movement on people control at all!”

    Right, but what do you have in mind in the way of “people control”?

    “Can anyone think of a more relaxing sport scene than a guy and his dog walking through the fall woods looking for a bird? Or gramps and the boy in the duck blind?”

    Sure I can– gramps and the boy on a hike or paddling a river. The guns just add a small but not entirely negligible possibility of violent injury or death to the picture. But don’t get me wrong– gramps and the boy armed with shotguns or deer rifles is fine, no problem.

    And yes, your right, things certainly seem to be getting worse, and it’s mighty murky as to why. You’d think someone would have tried to analyze the mass shootings in terms of whether many of the shooters would have likely been in the nut house before the deinstitutionalization movement. If I had to guess, I would think that not many of today’s shooters would have been locked up thirty years ago, but who knows?

  12. Walker says:

    “(don’t give me the Armstrong doping stuff!!!)”

    Well, that’s an interesting one, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of steroid use being implicated in a mass shooting, but I think it’s figured in a number of wife/girlfriend shootings.

    “Again, I thought that the idea was background checks?”

    Right, because, unlike firearms, there is no sport utilizing dynamite. So the background checks are a way to allow most people to continue to enjoy sport shooting while making it illegal for the unbalanced or feloniously inclined to pursue the sport of shooting their fellow man. But for this approach to have any hope of succeeding, we need to have background checks for all sales, and we need data on the nutcases and felons to be in place. Without those conditions, we’ve got a very leaky sieve!

  13. Paul says:

    Walker I just mean that knowing some of this crowd and their tendency to look on the dark side of everything they would see cycling as a bad idea rather than what it really is.

    Why not just make it illegal? Takes care of the sieve no? Haven’t you ever heard of fishing with dynamite?

    Of course this works well also:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8JOSc2lkzU

    “And yes, your right, things certainly seem to be getting worse, and it’s mighty murky as to why. You’d think someone would have tried to analyze the mass shootings in terms of whether many of the shooters would have likely been in the nut house before the deinstitutionalization movement.”

    Yes, for mass shootings it could be getting worse. For gun violence in general it appears to be getting better, significantly. And that is happening with what may be an unprecedented number of guns in circulation. Not saying we don’t want to keep seeing the numbers drop but those appear to be the facts.

    I say “could” above on mass shootings since it is tricky to study a thing that is basically (albeit tragic) an anomaly statistically speaking. Walker there are just not too many shooters to study. But they should learn what they can from the few we can look at.

  14. Walker says:

    There’s a fairly persuasive case to be made for the idea that leaded gasoline was the cause of the peak in violent crime in the early ’90s: America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead, Criminal Element. If that’s right, then we shouldn’t expect the drop in gun deaths to continue– lead must be pretty much out of the environment by now.

    If we ever legalize pot nationwide, we might see a considerable drop in gun deaths. That could make the mass murders stand out all the more.

  15. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Walker, so if they go paddling they could drown. Go for a hike and gramps could have a heart attack and the kid could get stung by a bee and die. Could you deal with reality here for once instead on making up scenarios that fit your agenda? The whole family down at the sandpit with their AR’s and pistols popping targets with complete safety, teaching the kids responsibility and that guns aren’t to be played, or feared! That’s another scenario that’s just as plausible as your fearful scenarios.

    People control- start by taking all the nut cases we released int he past 25-30 years and see what their status is. Start keeping records on all the druggies that are toasting their minds with drugs, the drunks too. Review the Mental Health Laws and policies on what justifies a professional evaluation of their mental balance. You also need to establish a policy that CLEARS those people who are found to be okay. It’s a travesty that some of our returning military people are automatically labeled as nuts due to PSTD. There is no way for them to get that off their record either. Start there. If we find people unable or unwilling to care for themselves and keep o their meds- institutionalize them. Sorry, but I don’t see any good coming from the policy of letting the insane walk the streets, live in alleys, commit crimes, spread disease, etc.

    We need a way to put these people in secure care, treat them and return them to society in better shape if possible. We also need a way to clear their records if it turns out they are okay.

    The larger problem requires somethings that will no doubt make some people insanely angry. We need to remake our society and culture. We need to stop driving divisive wedges between groups. That means things like Black History Month either need a corresponding White History Month, the wrong idea, or to be discontinued. We need to stop creating special allowances for certain groups and not others. No special treatment for whites or blacks or Jews or atheists or males or females or transgender multiracial agnostics. We need to steer our society towards becoming Americans, not Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Catholic Americans, Gay Americans or whatever you can come up with. We need to create a vibrant economy with opportunity for everyone. We need to stop carrying some groups and stepping on others. We need to embrace ideas that hold life as sacred and valued. That can be our churches or our non-religious based entities, I don’t care. But we need to stop making war on faith, and that includes having faith in our nation and our fellow men and women.

    Politically I think the single best thing we could do is to take our Senators and Representatives out of Washington. Limit the time they can spend there and force them to stay in their home states and Districts at least 85% of the time. They can teleconfrence in real time these days. There are things called telephones they can use and they can actually talk to their constituents too. Get them outside the Beltway and back into fly over country. Get them away from the lobbyists and royal treatment. Put them back where they belong and maybe some of them will remember that they aren’t there to build fortunes, they’re there to SERVE the people.

    Those are just my ideas for a start. None of it will happen, I know. That’s why I get so frustrated and angry at things, because no one will ever work for one single second to make anything better. They’ll just keep pushing the bus over the edge of the cliff.

  16. Paul says:

    “There’s a fairly persuasive case to be made for the idea that leaded gasoline was the cause of the peak in violent crime in the early ’90s: America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead, Criminal Element. If that’s right, then we shouldn’t expect the drop in gun deaths to continue– lead must be pretty much out of the environment by now.”

    You can’t be serious? So now the decrease we have seen in gun violence that many people here can’t even acknowledge as a fact and seem to claim the opposite is true was maybe caused by getting lead out of gasoline? I give up.

  17. Paul says:

    On this blog it is like I am caught between two alternative realities.

    This one:

    ” If we find people unable or unwilling to care for themselves and keep o their meds- institutionalize them. Sorry, but I don’t see any good coming from the policy of letting the insane walk the streets, live in alleys, commit crimes, spread disease, etc.

    and this one:

    “If that’s right, then we shouldn’t expect the drop in gun deaths to continue– lead must be pretty much out of the environment by now.

    Good grief!

  18. mervel says:

    The studies I have seen would indicate that the number of people under the age of 20 combined with a crack epidemic caused the spike in violent crime, not leaded gas. Leaded gas makes no sense in that violence was not evenly distributed in the US, it was focused on specific communities.

  19. Paul says:

    ” I have been forced to support the establishments I have mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than they’re worth. Those who are badly off must go there. ”

    E. Scrooge.

  20. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Well Paul in your reality, what do you do with the insane and those unable and unwilling to care for themselves?

  21. Walker says:

    “You can’t be serious? So now the decrease we have seen in gun violence that many people here can’t even acknowledge as a fact and seem to claim the opposite is true was maybe caused by getting lead out of gasoline? I give up.”

    Did you read the article, Paul?

  22. Walker says:

    RC, I actually agree with many of your ideas, though I disagree strongly with some: Black History Month is an attempt to give some balance to White History Century– what part of American history as traditionally taught isn’t “White History”? And I don’t see how we could accomplish most of these ideas.

    And “start by taking all the nut cases we released int he past 25-30 years and see what their status is. Start keeping records on all the druggies that are toasting their minds with drugs, the drunks too.” Do you have any idea how many people you’re talking about here? Depending on how you define “druggies” and “drunks,” you could be dealing with a very large chunk of the adult population. Between the costs of your proposal and the legal rationale for intruding into millions of private lives, you’re presenting an astonishing notion, given that you’re a keep-government-off-our-backs kind of guy.

    As for “single best thing we could do” about our Senators and Representatives, what about some serious limitations on corporate campaign contributions? If all you do is get them out of Washington, the lobbyists will simply follow them out to their home districts, slightly grumpy about having to go to Oshkosh, but go they will, where their corporate masters dictate.

    I share your frustration and anger that so much of what needs to be done will never happen. If we could only get enough people on the same page at the same time, we might have a chance. But that seems unlikely to happen in our lifetime.

  23. Walker says:

    “Leaded gas makes no sense in that violence was not evenly distributed in the US, it was focused on specific communities.”

    Read the article, Mervel– it deals with the specific communities issue– in fact that’s one of the more persuasive aspects of the data.

  24. Paul says:

    Yes, I read the article it is an interesting hypothesis. The undeniable fact is that violent crime and gun violence here in the US is not on the rise as some seem to portray it for this debate. We can debate the cause of that decline (and maybe leaded gas has something to do with it and there is no sign of any plateau in the graphs they show in that article). Like I said it is good to do what we can to tip that line even steeper towards the decline but we should also understand that it is falling. Just an important fact to keep in mind.

    Note: I was going to add above that gun violence has been declining as rates of gun ownership in the US has been rising (that was the impression I was getting from the press lately). Then I realized that I better make sure that this is true. Doesn’t look like it is. The percentage of households that have guns over the last three decades has been pretty much steady at about 50% give or take a few percentage points.

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