Gun Control and Mass Shootings in the U.S.

There is of course no “one law” that would prevent all gun massacres, any more than there is “one law” that would eliminate all house fires, all fatal car crashes, or all smoking deaths. Yet American society has made amazing progress at enhancing citizen safety against fires, car crashes, and smoking.

via Gun Control and Mass Shootings in the U.S. – The Atlantic.

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More guns, more guns, more guns.

image of assualt riflesThere’s no room for disagreement in the gun debate these days, no dissent is tolerated. It somehow makes you unpatriotic to worry about public safety or even express concern about the trend to eliminate virtually every regulation of firearms.

Read more about how North Carolina law makers would further loosen gun restrictions:

via More guns, more guns, more guns. | NC Policy Watch.

Dehumanization and Violence

Who is considered a valued part of the community, and who is considered expendable? Answering these questions requires examining the hate frame.

Hate violence is symbolic: It declares the superiority of one group of people over another. Those targeted are symbolically presented as psychically or physically disposable; the violence is a ritual of degradation.

Hate violence is society’s visible eruption of long-standing practices of injustice that are expressed in a multitude of ordinary ways. Transformative change can only occur by first understanding how hate violence is inextricably bound to broader social and political systems.

via Imagining Social Justice as a Communal Process.

America, we have a problem

Too many times the criminal justice system tells black people their lives do not matter. That’s why Ferguson was not alone in its demonstrations Monday night. We’ve seen the not so subtle, dehumanizing reminders play out so many times this year alone — reminders that the rules don’t apply to people of color and whites in quite the same way.

Back in August, for example, KDVR-TV reported 18-year-old Steve Lohner walked the streets of Aurora, Colorado — the scene of the horrific 2012 movie theater shootings — with a loaded shotgun around his shoulder. Though Colorado is an open carry state, the 911 calls poured in. Police arrived and calmly asked the teen for his ID. He refused, saying he was carrying the gun “for the defense of myself and those around me.”

On the video the teen captured during the confrontation, an officer speaks to him with his hands down, tucked in his belt — and not on his gun. Do you honestly believe a black teenager would have the same experience? Especially when you consider that same month, in Ohio — also an open carry state — a 911 call was made about a man with a gun in Walmart. Store surveillance video shows John Crawford III picking up a pellet gun in the toy department before stopping by the pet supplies aisle. He was on the phone with the mother of his two children. Within seconds of police entering the store he was shot, according to news reports.

We still have a race problem in this country. And too many of us work harder at denying race has anything to do with the world we live in today than listening and empathizing with those who are hurting. But tell me, at what point will the kinds of killings that we are seeing time after time after time across this country be described as what they are?

Racism.

via On Ferguson: America, we have a problem Opinion – CNN.com.

Confusing Mental-Health Intervention and Violence Prevention

After recent mass shootings, there have been calls to ease the strict standards guiding involuntary mental health treatment to give authorities greater ability to detain and compel the treatment of mentally ill people they fear could become a risk to the community, even if they aren’t imminently one at the time of their interaction with the person.

The question of using the civil mental health system to involuntarily detain someone who hasn’t committed a crime, but who we fear may commit one at some point in the future is fundamentally one of human rights. It risks making it easier to commit the terrible injustice of unnecessarily taking away the freedom of mentally ill people who pose no real risk to public safety. There are many ways to prevent mass murder that we should be discussing, including the quality of mental health treatment we provide, but calling for more involuntary mental health commitments isn’t one of them.

Of course, mental illness shouldn’t be ignored. But it is often discussed in a way that is dishonest and inaccurate in the context of mass shootings. And it reinforces an effort to redirect the conversation away from guns and their effect on our culture.

Too often in American politics, corporate interests such as the gun industry are able to displace their costs onto people unrepresented by lobbyists and super PACs — people like the mentally ill. If we continue to scapegoat them with the convenient myth of the “psycho killer,” we are precluded from recognizing which factors do contribute to homicides in the United States.

via Confusing Mental-Health Intervention and Violence Prevention – Jeff Deeney – The Atlantic.
and Elliot Rodger and the NRA myth: How the gun lobby scapegoats mental illness – Salon.com.

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Pistol-Whipped

. . . A common refrain from gun proponents after a deadly mass shooting is that if only somebody at the scene had been armed, lives would have been saved. This idea, which underpins most gun marketing efforts, overlooks two important points: that guns in the home are more likely to be used against their owners than against invaders; and that without sufficient training and practice, citizens should not expect to be able to defend themselves with a gun.

In many states, the requirements for a concealed carry permit do not go far enough to establish whether the applicant knows how to operate a firearm in a high-pressure situation. Combined with gun-industry-backed statutes like “stand your ground” laws, it’s a recipe for more gun violence.

The battle over guns should not be between gun owners and nonowners; it should be between a gun industry that wants to promote gun sales at all costs, and an American public that acknowledges that there are legitimate, public-health reasons to regulate the purchase and use of firearms.

A balance can be struck between protecting the individual right to bear arms and the individual need to be safe. Part of that work involves determining what policies are in the public interest, rather than in the gun industry’s interest.

via Diana Wueger for Democracy Journal: Pistol-Whipped.

A Gun Would Make Me Feel Safe, as Long as I Never Need to Use It

If I told a kid we used to practice protecting ourselves in school from a nuclear blast, he might react: Are you kidding? That’s bizarre! Were you really worried about a nuclear attack? Really?

I have a similar reaction, today, knowing that school children have drills to practice protecting themselves from terrorist attacks or mass murderers. It’s beyond bizarre; it’s just unthinkable.

image of an UziI work in a school, now, and recently we had a drill that eerily reminded me of those air raid drills from my childhood. As I hid in the bathroom with co-workers and students behind a locked door, I had a thought; I wouldn’t want to die in here without putting up a fight. I said, out loud, “I want a gun in here”.

Yes, having access to a gun would have made me feel safer and more secure. My thoughts of being defenseless against an armed attacker were disturbing.

Upon reflection, though, I’m not sure having a gun available in case of an emergency, like a fire extinguisher, is the best idea. A fire extinguisher, for example, is only useful when a fire is small, before it gets out of control. Only a fool would try to use a fire extinguisher on an out-of-control fire. And by the time a situation becomes a mass shooting, it is already out of control. Would it be wise for teachers, who likely have no military or law enforcement training, to open fire in the middle of such chaos? Even professional law enforcement officers have been known to get confused when bullets start flying (see this two part video from ABC News: http://ow.ly/gpyuv and http://ow.ly/gpyJA).

Or what if a student gets hold of a school gun and thinks it is a toy? Innocent people get shot accidentally that way.

On the other hand, guns could be kept securely in schools, so that only authorized people would have access to them. But what about me and the others hiding behind those locked doors in our potential death traps? I’m sorry, but by the time the proper authorities decide when and how and who is going to use a gun, we could all be dead.

Nevertheless, if I am ever trapped in that bathroom, facing a life-or-death confrontation with an armed and violent attacker then, yes, I would prefer to have a gun available to defend myself. I would be a fool, though, to think that a gun will prevent insane or violent behavior and will shield me from all harm.