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Gun Violence, Race, and Culture

Do we really want to have an honest debate about race?

Henry Percy exposes this question with Fareed Zakaria in ’Gun Violence in America Is Off the Chart’ in American Thinker, 1/14/13.


Shortly after being sworn in as Attorney General, Eric Holder told an interviewer that the US is “essentially a nation of cowards … we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.” I don’t know if Mr. Holder is an “average American,” but here’s a small contribution to the national dialogue on “things racial” from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

In 2008, the homicide victimization rate for blacks (19.6 homicides per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (3.3 homicides per 100,000) … the offending rate for blacks (24.7 offenders per 100,000) was 7 times higher than the rate for whites (3.4 offenders per 100,000).

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Some would say that reciting this fact is racist.  It would be if I insisted the cause of this higher level of violence is race based, but it is not.  This very uncomfortable fact underlies that the focus on gun violence is urban and cultural in its origins.  High levels of gun ownership in less urban locations have little correlation with violent crime. It is easy to ban something.  It is much harder to change culture.  But it is more effective.

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Whiskey, Drugs, and Guns

Daniel Greenfield writes The Guns of Obamerica in his blog The Sultan Knish, 1/20/2013.


Reformers in the twenties blamed the plight of the slums on the availability of liquor. They rammed through Prohibition for the entire country to fix the cities. The liquor went on flowing and the slums went on being slums. Gun control has been just as successful in healing the slums as whiskey control was. And like the dry reformers, gun control advocates insist on trying to apply their solution on a national level, when the problem is not nationwide.

This country does not need to have a conversation about how many bullets should go in a clip. It does need to have a conversation about how many parents should go in a family. It needs to talk about the ghettos of Obamerica and have a serious conversation about broken families and generational dependency. It needs to have a conversation about funneling new immigrants from broken parts of the world into areas already suffering from high levels of unemployment and street violence.

Not all of Obamerica is broken, but a lot of it is. Obamerica has a big gap between the rich and the poor. Its middle class is always on the run. Its upper class retreats to fortresses. Its lower class is broken and constantly growing as its political machines feed off human misery and exploit social dysfunction to gain votes.

Most of all this country needs to have a conversation about the direction it’s headed in. We need to set aside the same old tired social justice rhetoric that has done nothing except train .001 percent of the young men and women of Obamerica to be community organizers and race card wielders and have a serious conversation about what is wrong with New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago.


Two excellent points. Liquor, drugs or gun control avoids the real problem; social dysfunction enabled by well intended but misguided public policy.  Secondly such problems may be localized but in the nature of sensationalized media seem national.  It is not those who cling to their guns and bibles that cause the social problems; it is those who are protected and insulated from the consequences of their own decisions.

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The Ultimate Freedom

One of the recurring themes in this blog is how some of the best and the brightest can still get it wrong; how even in the face of irrefutable evidence the highly intelligent can still reach the wrong conclusion.  Even the most educated are slaves to their own bias and see what they expect to see, filtering out evidence that contradicts their bias and beliefs.

Henry Percy exposes this problem with Fareed Zakaria in ‘Gun Violence in America Is Off the Chart’ in American Thinker, 1/14/13.


Homicide rates within the US vary tremendously by locality, as data from the US Census Bureau shows. For 2009, the high was 24.2 per 100,000 (District of Columbia) and the low 0.9 (New Hampshire). Moreover, New Hampshire is only half as murderous as Belgium, one of the “rich” or “developed” nations writers like Mr. Zakaria are so fond of comparing us to. In fact, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Utah, and Vermont all have rates lower than Belgium’s.

Mr. Zakaria finds a “blindingly obvious causal connection” between “easier access to guns” and homicide rates. If that is so, why does the nation’s capital, with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, have a homicide rate nearly 27 times higher than that of New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die”), which has some of the most permissive gun laws (open carry without license, concealed carry licenses for $10)? Why does Illinois, likewise boasting extremely restrictive gun laws, have a rate over 9 times higher than New Hampshire’s? If there is a “blindingly obvious causal connection,” could it be that high homicide rates go hand in hand with restrictive gun laws? Or could the problem be with people, human beings, rather than inanimate objects?

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I am a fan of Zakaria and his show, GPS.  But even a PhD from Harvard can miss the obvious.

The private right to own a gun is the ultimate freedom. It is the government saying they have nothing to fear from an armed populace because they are ultimately accountable to them at the ballot box.  It is not about self defense; it is about freedom.  Those who see the government as the Great Oz that can solve all personal shortcomings and problems have to reconcile this power to rule with the individual’s freedom.  The gun controversy looms large because that is the real focus of this debate.

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A Gun Control Reader

The blogosphere is littered with the arguments for and against further action controlling guns.  The most comprehensive review to understanding the world of guns and self defense I have yet seen is this post from Larry Correia at Monster Hunter Nation, An opinion on gun control, 12/20/12.  It is a bit long but thorough.

A few excerpts:

 There were four mass killing attempts this week. Only one made the news because it helped the agreed upon media narrative.

  1. Oregon. NOT a gun free zone. Shooter confronted by permit holder. Shooter commits suicide. Only a few casualties.
  2. Texas. NOT a gun free zone. Shooter killed immediately by off duty cop. Only a few casualties.
  3. Connecticut. GUN FREE ZONE. Shooters kills until the police arrive. Suicide. 26 dead.
  4. China. GUN FREE COUNTRY. A guy with a KNIFE stabs 22 children.

And here is the nail in the coffin for Gun Free Zones. Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed.

The vast majority (last I saw it was over 80%) are on some form of psychotropic drug and has been for many years. They have been on Zoloft or some serotonin inhibitor through their formative years, and their decision making process is often flawed. They are usually disaffected, have been bullied, pushed around, and have a lot of emotional problems. They are delusional. They see themselves as victims, and they are usually striking back at their peer group.

First off, why do gun owners want magazines that hold more rounds? Because sometimes you miss. Because usually—contrary to the movies—you have to hit an opponent multiple times in order to make them stop. Because sometimes you may have multiple assailants. We don’t have more rounds in the magazine so we can shoot more, we have more rounds in the magazine so we are forced to manipulate our gun less if we have to shoot more.

Also, you’re going to miss. It is going to happen. If you can shoot pretty little groups at the range, those groups are going to expand dramatically under the stress and adrenalin. The more you train, the better you will do, but you can still may miss, or the bad guy may end up hiding behind something which your bullets don’t penetrate. Nobody has ever survived a gunfight and then said afterwards, “Darn, I wish I hadn’t brought all that extra ammo.”

So having more rounds in the gun is a good thing for self-defense use.

It doesn’t really make sense to ban guns, because in reality what that means is that you are actually banning effective self-defense. Despite the constant hammering by a news media with an agenda, guns are used in America far more to stop crime than to cause crime.

I’ve seen several different sets of numbers about how many times guns are used in self-defense every year. The problem with keeping track of this stat is that the vast majority of the time when a gun is produced in a legal self-defense situation no shots are fired. The mere presence of the gun is enough to cause the criminal to stop.

Australia had a mass shooting and instituted a massive gun ban and confiscation (a program which would not work here, which I’ll get to, but let’s run with it anyway.). As was pointed out to me on Facebook, they haven’t had any mass shootings since. However, they fail to realize that they didn’t really have any mass shootings before either. You need to keep in mind that mass shooting are horrific headline grabbing statistical anomalies. You are far more likely to get your head caved in by a local thug while he’s trying to steal your wallet, and that probably won’t even make the evening news.

And violent crime is up in Australia. A cursory Google search will show articles about the increase in violent crime and theft, but then other articles pooh-pooing these stats as being insignificant and totally not related to the guns.

So then we’ve got England, where they reacted swiftly after a mass shooting, banned and confiscated guns, and their violent crime has since skyrocketed. Their stats are far worse than Australia, and they are now one of the more dangerous countries to live in the EU. Once again, cursory Google search will show articles with the stats, and other articles saying that those rises like totally have nothing to do with regular folks no longer being able to defend themselves… Sensing a trend yet?

And then we’ve got South Africa, which instituted some really hard core gun bans and some extremely strict controls, and their crime is now so high that it is basically either no longer tracked or simply not countable. But obviously, the totally unbiased news says that has absolutely nothing to do with people no longer being able to legally defend themselves.


There is much more in the article.  Tips to Instapundit for the reference.  While it is tempting to quickly legislate while the emotions are high from the Newtown tragedy, policy requires something better.  Rational analysis is needed to craft legislation that would be productive and actually reduce the chance for another Newtown.

For a history of school massacres: Top Ten School Masssacres.  Only four were in the US, though this was as of 2008, and the Newtown tragedy will change this list.  The worst in US History was in Bath Town Ship in Michigan in 1927, when prayer was still in the schools, and long before our youth were subject to the cultural violence of movies and video games, and the killer did not use a gun.

Fareed Zakaria wrote The Solution to Gun Violence is Clear in The Washington Post.  It isolates the vast cache of weapons in private hands as the only reason we have more violent crimes.  But he crosses the ‘correlation is not causation’ line of fallacious reasoning and ignores the increase in crime where strong gun control measures were enacted.  Fareed cherry picks his comparisons and does not compare similar demographics(see below).  America has a diverse and stressful  culture in many ways different from other nations he seeks to compare us to. ( I believe Fareed also omitted the percent of their youth on psychotropic drugs.)

Joyce Lee Malcolm wrote Two Cautionary Tales of Gun Control in the 12/27/12 Wall Street Journal:

We aren’t alone in facing this problem. Great Britain and Australia, for example, suffered mass shootings in the 1980s and 1990s. Both countries had very stringent gun laws when they occurred. Nevertheless, both decided that even stricter control of guns was the answer. Their experiences can be instructive.

In 1987, Michael Ryan went on a shooting spree in his small town of Hungerford, England, killing 16 people (including his mother) and wounding another 14 before shooting himself. Since the public was unarmed—as were the police—Ryan wandered the streets for eight hours with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun before anyone with a firearm was able to come to the rescue.

Nine years later, in March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, a man known to be mentally unstable, walked into a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane and shot 16 young children and their teacher. He wounded 10 other children and three other teachers before taking his own life.

The results have not been what proponents of the act wanted. Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time. Moreover, another massacre occurred in June 2010. Derrick Bird, a taxi driver in Cumbria, shot his brother and a colleague then drove off through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself.

On a realistic but somber note,  Jeff Jacoby wrote in Good Laws Will Never Abolish All Evil:

None of the nostrums prescribed after this year’s shooting rampages in Connecticut and Colorado would guarantee that nothing like them will ever recur. Stringent gun laws haven’t prevented frightful massacres of students in Norway, Germany, and the United Kingdom. There were mass killings in America long before there were video games – and long before the Supreme Court ruled prayer in public school unconstitutional.

Nightmares like the one in Newtown are rare. A free society cannot make them absolutely impossible and still remain free. Good laws can do a lot, but they will never abolish all human evil. For that, there is ultimately only one answer: the cultivation of human goodness.

It is also worth expanding the discussion to the political values in the gun control debate.  Note The Perfect Prison by Daniel Greenfield in Sultan Knish:


“How much firepower does a law-abiding gun owner need?” is the leading talking point of the gun controllers. But it could just as well be, “How much cold medicine does a law-abiding sneezer need?” Cold medicine has been regulated to the extent that you need a photo ID if your nose is stuffed up under a bill sponsored by a community organizer from Chicago who stayed briefly in the Senate on his way to bigger and worse things. And people have been arrested for buying too much cold medicine.

If you believe that people are basically good, then they can be trusted with an AR-15. If you believe that people are basically bad, then they can’t even be trusted with cold medicine.

Randall Hoven at American Thinker writes Murder by Numbers, 12/21/12


 Today’s murder rate is essentially at a low point of the past century. The murder rate in 2011 was lower than it was in 1911.

And the trend is downward. Whatever we’ve been doing over the last 20-30 years seems to be working, more or less. The murder rate has been cut by more than half since 1980: from 10.7 to 4.7.

We can only speculate on what might be behind this trend, but I will point out a few interesting facts.

• From 1980 to 2000 our prison population more than quadrupled.

• From the 1980s to 2000, the number of prisoner executions more than quadrupled.

• From 1986 to 2006, the number of states adopting “shall issue” Concealed Carry permits nearly quadrupled.

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Read Hoven’s analysis completely. He notes that when you compare most of our individual states we have among the lowest murder rates.  When you delete our distinct cultural differences and use comparable demographics we are among the lowest murder rates.  If you do not cherry pick comparisons as the media is inclined to do, you will note that other heavily armed nations are also among the lowest murder rates.

PS   David Frum on Guns 2/18/13



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The Paradox of Government

Stanley Greenfield writes in Sultan Knish, The Perfect Prison


Bloomberg is a living model of the glass half-full theory of human behavior. This is after all a man who banned large sodas, and if you can’t trust people to have large sodas, then you can’t trust them to have cold medicines, let alone guns. Where does it end? It ends the same place it ends in a prison. Nowhere. If you believe that people are basically bad, then every problem you identify is met with another control measure until you control absolutely everything.

With a big city politician in the White House, for the first time in a long time, the progressive impulse to extend that total net of control over everything and everyone seems to have come together. The old urban muckrakers became sociologists and community activists and then community organizers all over again in the great circle of rich kid busybodying. They are still looking for the worst possible examples of human behavior to justify total crackdowns on everything and everyone.

Fix the social problems by fixing the people. Fix the people by controlling their environment. Total control for total social morality. The social missionaries became social activists. The social activists have become social despots. Their single ability resides in documenting a condition, generalizing it and then crowding the cameras and newspapers and demanding immediate action. And they have gotten it over and over again. And we are much worse for it.

The cities are chock full of laws but not law abiding. There are three classes of people in this perfect prison. The working lower, middle and upper, classes who care about the law. The welfare classes who care nothing for the law. And the upper upper classes who buy their way out of the law.

Laws apply to law abiding people, who are a self-selecting group. They don’t apply to people who shoot up schools, fast food joints or pension funds. The people who are the most controlled are also the people in the least need of being controlled. The people who are least controlled are in the most need of being controlled. This is an old paradox of government that governments never deal with.

The magic bullets are all about bigger scale crackdowns. Bigger laws and bigger prisons. Don’t bust meth dealers, outlaw cold medicines. Don’t bust gangbangers, bust the gun industry. It’s the type of thinking that exemplifies college smarts over real world smarts. Real world smarts says you have to get dirty to fix a problem and then you have to go on fixing it day after day while accepting that it will never really be fixed. College smarts says that a problem that has to be fixed over and over again is bad design and has to be put under a microscope so that it can be fixed once and for all.

Under the microscope everyone is bad. In the big picture, everyone is the problem. We’re all to blame because we’re all one social organism. Why bother building prisons for individuals who are only the victims of society, the victims of us all, when a prison can be built for all of us instead? Free the criminals and the mental patients, and put everyone under the same regime as them. Turn every city into a prison and then turn the country into a prison. That’s big picture thinking. That’s college smarts.


Our most oppressive laws are often those inflicted on us for our own good.  My dad used to warn that the government makes criminals of us all.