Friday, April 20, 2007

Stupid White Men and their Daft Gun Laws

Yes, yes, Wild West and all that jazz is great in movies and JT Edson and Louis L'Amour books. But isn't it time those colossal idiots got rid of their phallic gun fixation? People don't need to carry guns any more. The damn things are a death threat to everyone, owners included.
I mean, I'd understand if people in countries where the effects of US foreign policy are most in evidence - like Iraq and Afghanistan, for example - felt the need to carry guns. They are living through bloody anarchy; there's a lot they need to protect themselves from. What does a student at Virginia Tech need guns for?
Really, Stupid White Men, really. All your policies are wrong...and they come back to bite you in the ass. Like your one-time policy of supporting Saddam and Osama, like your dumb gun laws.
Wait until a few islands go under; you'll find that there really is such a thing as environmental catastrophe as well.

Here's a link to an article on small arms that predicted the insurgency in Iraq. Considering that the world's only hyperpower has been whipped by a few guys with guns, you'd think Mr Bush & Co would have learnt to appreciate the power of small arms. But no. They remain resolutely blinkered. And go on and on about 'homeland security' and nonsense. Hello! If any loony with an automatic can shoot you in the street, how secure are you? Where's the friggin 'homeland security' then?


Shubho said...

Completely agree with you there. Caucasian western civilization is based on agression. Eliminate those you dislike and create your own personal utopia. Worked in the dark ages, and works now, especially at the wrong end of cruise missiles and automatic handguns.
Take Ted Nugent for example, a musician I used to actually like (of course, when you're 18 you like anything loud). This maniac typifies the stupid white man you talk about. Just check out his opinion piece on CNN...

My take here.

Saumya said...

With all due respect, I think this is the wrong windmill to tilt at. It's too easy a target, Sir Calumnist; I know you can do better. :-) There are many, many aspects of contemporary American culture worthy of criticism and contempt; I would humbly suggest that gun control is pretty far down that list.

Consider, for example, America's disgraceful stance on climate change. For many Americans, the Good Life is about driving around in their petrol-guzzling SUVs, global warming be damned. Yet, judging by the number of Sumos clogging the streets, this sort of destructive lifestyle seems to me to be something many Indians actually aspire to! Another justifiable target would be the American government's domineering foreign policy, or its moralistic stance linking foreign aid to birth control and abortion, which denies countless women in developing nations access to essential health care (but talking about moralistic over-reaching, I understand the arrest warrant against Richard Gere for that ill-considered peck on the cheek is still outstanding. :-)

I'm no fan of America's gun laws (for what it's worth, I've made my share of contributions to gun-control organizations). But if they were as terrible as the original blog suggests, America's streets should be awash in blood; they're not. In fact, India and the USA aren't that far apart in (per capita murder rates -- USA is 24th, India 26th. In fact, if we consider total murders (rather than per capita figures), India does rather poorly relative to the US. Whence my point: of the many things America could be criticized for, gun laws are perhaps not the most important.

-Saumya Debray

Shubho said...

Saumya: I am slightly confused about your point here. The post was in response to the Virginia Tech massacre. Are you suggesting that the appropriate subject matter should have been a comparative study of carbon emissions by India and the US? The subject of gun control is domestic to the US. Its foreign policy and stand on climate change affect the entire world. The apples and oranges comparison aside, the insinuation that talking about America's gun culture is somehow giving it an exhalted status among the world's problems is, for the lack of a better word, silly. I'm sure you believe in the wisdom of there being a time and place for everything.
Besides, I beg to disagree with your notion of everything being hunky dory with American gun-control laws because you don't see bodies littering the streets.

Your statistics do not tell the full story. From the links you have provided, India had 37,170 murders reported. This figure matches the statistics for India in the 'Total recorded intentional homicide, completed' in the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (1998-2000)' report. Out of this number, the same report also lists 9,294 'Total recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm' for the same period. This works out to a rate per 100,000 inhabitants of 0.93. The figure for USA? 3.37 for 1998 and 2.97 for 1999.

My point here is, if you took the persons responsible for the 37,170 murders in India and handed each of them an automatic rifle, I'm pretty certain we would be looking at very different numbers.
Sure, gun laws of America are not an important discussion point for the world at large, beseiged as we are with much much more pressing problems, but to dismiss it as an 'easy target' not worthy of discussion, is unfair, in my opinion.

- Subhadeep Paul

Saumya said...

Shubho, I agree with you that, given the context of the original post, my rant about carbon emissions was a non sequitur. Point conceded. :-)

The original article suggested that America's liberal gun laws are to blame for its violent crime ("...If any loony with an automatic can shoot you in the street, how secure are you?"). But if, in fact, there's a causal relationship (oh hell, even a strong correlation) between gun availability and homicides, then we would expect countries with strong gun laws (such as India) to have far fewer homicides. This is the reason I quoted the murder rate statistics: these data show that the hypothesis that "daft gun laws = high violent crime" doesn't hold.

Please note that I'm not defending America's gun laws. I, too, think that allowing ordinary citizens to own assault rifles is irrational to the point of absurdity. I'm simply addressing the narrow question of whether liberal gun laws necessarily lead to increased violent crime. The data indicate that they don't.

You correctly observe that India has far fewer per-capita murder rate with guns than the US. Given the far stricter gun laws in India, this is hardly a surprise. Taken together with the fact that India's per-capita murder rate is nevertheless close to that of the US, what this tells me is that if people want to kill each other, they'll find a way to do it, guns or no guns.

The massacre at Virginia Tech was a tragedy, but the fact is that it's an aberration. It was caused by a deranged individual. If this guy hadn't had access to guns, he'd probably have found a different way to express his rage (a mix of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil can be quite effective in levelling buildings, for example). If people want to kill each other, they'll find ways to do it, guns or no guns. If we want to prevent such tragedies in the future, we'll have to look carefully at a whole bunch of interacting societal factors, not focus reflexively (and exclusively) on gun ownership laws.

Shubho said...

Ah, but you're falling back on the classic NRA defense...'guns don't kill people, people do".
And the contention that strong gun laws have no effect on violent crime is the exact logic used by the Bush Administration when it did not make any effort to renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004.

Statistics make for compelling argument, but sometimes defy common sense.

Take prescription medicines, for example. I don't recall seeing any statistics that relate unregulated sale of prescription drugs and increase in drug addiction among the general population. Please enlighten me if there are indeed such studies available. Going by your logic, if people want to get high, they will find a way. They will grow their own pot, brew their own hooch, or approach the friendly neighbourhood peddler. However, I don't see lawmakers taking the government to task over this. I don't see nice little slogans on car stickers saying "prescription drugs don't create junkies, people do". But common sense dictates that selling such drugs over the counter has the potential to cause harm. Common sense dictates that there is no sense in creating a problem which can be avoided.

Whether Cho Seung-Hui would have blown up Norris Hall with a fertilizer bomb if he didn't have a gun is conjecture. But the fact that the easy availability of automatic hand-guns created an ideal condition for him to act out his macabre fantasy is not. It is the sad truth.

The NRA's argument is an argument of convenience. I understand you're not trying to defend that, but your logic was alarmingly similar to theirs.

- Subhadeep

Saumya said...

In science, when experimental data don't fit the predictions of theory, you adjust the theory; you don't just dismiss the inconvenient data with a blithe "statistics sometimes defy common sense."[*]

What I've been trying to argue is that focusing primarily on the implements of crime, rather than addressing its root causes, is easy but misguided. I neither know nor care whether this resembles the arguments of the NRA, since I don't pay attention to their propaganda and refuse to be party to guilt by association.

Let me try and rephrase my argument. The pro-gun-control argument thus far can be summarized as follows: guns kill people; ergo, guns are bad; ergo, gun ownership must be controlled. Well, fifty years go blacks were being lynched in the US South. The same logic, focusing on the implement of murder, would then argue that ownership of rope should be controlled. And similarly with knives, and axes, and chainsaws, and ...

Funny where one can end up when following an argument to its logical conclusion. :-)

My own philosophy is that in a free society, laws spell out what actions are proscribed, and the role of government is to enforce those laws, and not play Big Brother. Which means that I should be free to own ropes and knives and axes and chainsaws -- and (gasp!) guns -- as long as I don't use them to shoot, hang, or hack people up. This is what a free society means to me. I wouldn't want to live in a society where the government's actions towards me are based on anticipating the actions I might potentially carry out rather than the reality of what I actually do.

Regarding your comment about laws about drugs and prescription medications: experimental data (there we go again! :-) do, indeed, show that if people want to get high, they'll find a way, whether it be by growing their own pot or brewing their own moonshine. Every so often, governments seem to recognize this reality: whence the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution, repealing prohibition, and Holland's tolerant attitude to marijuana use. In both cases, notice that what the government is doing is giving people freedom, and at the same time requiring that this freedom be used responsibly: you're free to drink, but not free to drive while drunk. This is exactly analogous to gun ownership: what the law proscribes are actions (drunk driving, murder) and not the implements that may, or may not, lead to those actions (liquor, guns).
[*] An anecdote: a few years ago, the state of Arizona (where I live) passed a law allowing people to carry concealed handguns. There were predictions that this would lead to general mayhem; I myself was ardently pro-gun-control at the time, and was appalled by this law. But those predictions failed to come to pass, and concealed guns haven't led to a dramatic increase in gun-related crime. And, as a scientist must when faced with data that don't conform to theory, I've changed my theory and am now less anti-gun-ownership than I used to be.


Shubho said...

This is beginning to resemble an argument just for the sake of it!

You have deflected the question about prescription drugs in the US, and changed it to marijuana and its legality in Holland, a country, by the way, where firearm possession is severely restricted, only permitted for citizens who are members of hunting and shooting sports clubs. Conversely, marijuana is illegal in the United States and firearm possession is absolutely legal and barely regulated.
What it goes to show is that different societies have different value systems, different things they hold dear and from the looks of it, different yardsticks by which they measure the dreaded commodity, common sense...:-)
I'm no scientist Mr.Saumya, but given a choice, I'd rather be in a country full of potheads than among a population armed to the teeth with assault weapons.

But that's just rhetoric.

Let's examine your points here more closely.
1. The lynching and rope argument.
Bad example. Rope is a tool used for a thousand different purposes, all overwhelmingly positive in nature. I'm sure you will agree that hanging probably comes close to the bottom of this list. Same is the case with "knives, and axes, and chainsaws, and...". Banning, or controlling their ownership is illogical. If murders are committed with ice-knives, are we going to ban the use of ice? This is stretching the argument to its limits.
I don't, however, know of too many different uses of a gun other than to kill (unless you count hunting, which hardly requires over-the-counter sales of assault rifles and automatic handguns). Maybe you can use the stock to grind ginger or something...?
To take another example, if steel-tipped spears were being sold in supermarkets in the US today, I'm sure there would be an anti-steel-tipped-spear movement too, since I can't think of any other use that a steel-tipped-spear can be put to, other than to kill, presumably humans, since woolly mammoths are no longer around.
In other words, the pro-gun-control argument you so eloquently laid out: "guns kill people; ergo, guns are bad; ergo, gun ownership must be controlled" is absolutely spot on. Nothing could be closer to the truth.

And it is indeed surprising where one can end up when following an argument to its logical conclusion, the operative word, of course, being logical...:-)

2. Free society argument.
This too, I would put under the label of 'argument of convenience'.
The United States consistently tends to overestimate its place at the table of 'free societies' . There are many nations in the world, especially western Europe, where people consider themselves as free and independent, if not more in many respects, than the United States. I have a friend called Mujahid Mohammed Wazir. I would be really interested in watching American free society at work when he goes into a gun-shop to buy an M-16. But, I'm going off on a tangent here...

To get back to the topic at hand, take speeding on a highway, for example. Shouldn't you be allowed to drive at whatever speed you want? You may be a wizard at the wheel for all I know. Don't you think cops will stop you for breaking a law that makes it illegal to drive above a certain speed because of what could "potentially" happen? Shouldn't you be booked on the basis of the "reality of what you actually do"?
No really, it's not as silly as it sounds. I'm just trying to draw parallels to your arguments.

Certain freedoms are restricted, even in free societies, for the greater good. And a free society also has the freedom to collectively decide what that greater good is, and to put limits on its own freedoms for the safety of all. Countries like India believe that the greater good is the safety of their populace, and that if it were not for gun control, the crime rate you see today would have jumped off the chart. The Dutch and most European countries belive in restrictive gun laws for pretty much the same reasons. The Swiss, with one of the largest concentration of gun owners in Europe, believe their unique history and tradition of no standing army, makes it almost necessary for them to store military-issued automatic firearms at home. They believe they have the maturity to handle this, and that this is their culture, their heritage. And they also believe that the absence of a 'frontier mentality' like that in the United States, makes them more pacifist and less prone to violence, leading Switzerland to have one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world. But even they opted for stricter gun laws in 1999.

The more you think about it, the more subjective this debate looks. There is no absolute truth or final solution.
It is a cultural thing. Very little logic can be applied to it, especially the free society one.

And, your anecdote fits in with your overall reasoning, which can be summed up as:
"Guns are pieces of moulded metal; pieces of moulded metal by themselves never killed anyone; hence, everybody should be allowed to carry one". I, for one, think that is for the loonies.

Saumya said...

Peace. Have a wonderful weekend. :-)

Shubho said...


I think that's enough abuse of The Claumnist's comment space!

Calumnist said...

Phew! The comments were more incisive than the original post :)

the saint said...

i feel like a jock after reading all this - publish the commentary

Anonymous said...

Wow Calumnist, pull your head out from between your legs, and stop sniffing your own farts. You think your brilliant because you are against guns. And your brilliant plan is to outlaw guns. Hmmm.... If only it was illegal to carry guns on school property.... Oh Wait!! It IS!!!! But if only it was against the law to mass murder... Oh Wait!! IT IS!! God your a moron. When your cooking and the food is to salty, do say... "Ewww, this food is much to salty... I think I should add some more salt."? Cause that is what you plan for solving gun crime is equivilant to. Stupid people like you are ruining this country. All your opinions are based on feeling, you've obviously never thought anything through in your life.... Idiot!

Anonymous said...

Anyone who is pro-gun is a complete and utter retard.

We in the UK laugh at you idiots who mostly dont even know how to fire and end up killing innocent people.

Until you fools can learn how to shoot a gun (and more importantly WHERE to shoot a gun) or if you eventually learn that guns dont SOLVE any problems and only create more problems, you are going to be shootng yourselves for the next couple of decades.

Evolution at work.

Bounce said...

anonymous, you need to grow a pair.

You want to talk about evolution?

Let's see how many of you euro-trash Bloke pansies are left to breed after the terrorists start to take you out.

You can always call the Bobbies and they can bring their whistles, I guess.

Good luck.

No wonder we kicked your asses in the Revolutionary War.

By the way, I think your Royal Family is a laughable embarrassment. You can have the whole lot.

Rashid Ahmed said...

Just a few thoughts - pro civilian ownership of firearms..
I'd read a book a while back with a fact that stated - Japan did not invade the U.S. in WWII because they knew 2/3 of American households had firearms... (dug up a link to support that here )
Another one - "Switzerland was (and still is) defended by a universal militia. Every man was trained in war, had his rifle at home, was encouraged to practice frequently, and could be mobilized almost instantly." - Target Switzerland by Stephen P. Halbrook (ex: )

The thing is - enough arms about is an effective deterrent to any form of aggression - both external as well as internal. The issue as I see it is not about the nonavailability of arms (even a kitchen knife is a weapon) - it is society's willingness and 'will' to educate itself about 'responsibility'. This starts young - and many large countries, lack a system wither at home or at school to teach/impart responsibility to the citizenry.

Just a thought.