The Newtown wound is still very raw -- the first funerals were held yesterday. Nevertheless, I think we should keep the conversation going about how to stop these killers. And before we all get too depressed, we should also keep things in perspective.
|Some 8,800 of those U. S. handgun fatalities were murders; almost 2,000 were accidents|
First of all, remember that violent crimes in America have gone way down since they peaked in the early 1990s. Murders have declined from over 24,000 per year to less than 15,000 per year, even though we have a larger population. The violent crime rate has dropped from over 700 per 10,000 residents to less than 400 per 100,000 residents.
And we also have to remember that mass killings have a long tradition in this country. Don't you remember Charles Whitman picking off students from the observation deck of the main building at the University of Texas in 1966? He killed over a dozen people -- and was killed at the scene by a police officer.
But of course the fact that mass shootings almost rate as an American tradition is cold comfort to the latest victims. Indeed, if anything, what it says to me is this: It's about time we finally do something about them.
In 1994 the U. S. Congress passed a law banning automatic assault weapons. But the law sunsetted after ten years, in 2004, when Congress did nothing to extend or renew it. So presumably it was perfectly legal for Mrs. Lanza to have all those weapons in her house -- the ones her disturbed son took and used to kill her and the young students at the school.
|I saw this table on the Internet. It is wrong. CDC figures for 2009 do say 11,493 firearm homicides, but the 16,799 number is for TOTAL homicides -- meaning only 5,306 were non-firearm homicides|
I have seen a few articles making essentially the same argument for guns that my brother-in-law makes -- that if more people were armed, then potential mass murderers might think twice before they initiated their attacks. See this article by John Fund at National Review if you want to follow the reasoning.
|John Oliver from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart|
In 1966, a civilian joined the police officers who attacked Charles Whitman on the observation deck. But the civilian's rifle went off prematurely by mistake. It was the cops who actually took down the killer.
Furthermore, I don't see any justification for allowing normal citizens to carry automatic weapons. There's nothing in the 2nd Amendment about automatic weapons. We banned them once before; we should do it again. Here's a report on what some U. S. Senators are beginning to propose.
I understand that Americans want to be able to hunt, and go take target practice, and the 2nd Amendment clearly gives them the right to do that. But I don't see why the ownership of guns can't be regulated on the basis of public safety, just like we do with drugs or automobiles. After all, it's not hard to get a driver's license, or buy a car. Nobody is trying to "take away" our cars by requiring us to have a license and register our cars with the state. But if a car is used in a crime, or a driver hurts someone in a hit-and-run, we at least know how to track them down. And the fact that people know this likely has some deterrent effect against reckless driving and criminal behavior.
Obviously, regulating guns more effectively is not the whole answer to the Newtown type of crime. But instituting some reasonable safety regulations is absolutely part of the solution. Certainly, we can also work to improve our schools and our mental health facilities. But that's a long and uncertain road.
Some people have fingered violent video games and violence in the media as contributing factors to violence in the real world. I'm sure there's some truth to that. But I doubt we're ready to start down the road to censorship, so we have to rely on the media to police itself, which you know is not going to be very effective.
You might have seen the following message on the Internet, supposedly from Morgan Freeman. I read it and thought it made some sense. Then I found out the message is a hoax. It did not come from Morgan Freeman. But whoever posted it ... maybe they weren't so very wrong.
|The apocryphal message from Morgan Freeman|
I hope we keep the conversation going. I hope those Senators are successful in banning assault weapons. And I hope the U. S. continues the trend of less gun violence, and less violence in general, as the months and years go on. Because I don't want to be the next victim. And I sure don't want my kids to be the next victims.