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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Another Mass Shooting

And Also: Rachel Maddow last night teased an Obama Administration plan to by executive action expand those covered by background checks.  A possible hint is suggested by this recent letter, signed by Adam Winkler (who wrote a major book on gun regulation) et. al.  A footnote cites this further list of proposals. My suggestion here would be easy to access summaries that connect proposals to the possible numbers such as this proposal to address a leading cause of gun deaths -- suicide.  Ultimately, I still think cultural factors and so many guns will limit the success here but the numbers are high enough that even limited gains matter. 

The aftermath to the murderous attack of a Planned Parenthood center was still raw as a much more heinous attack at a holiday party of some sort at a place that provides services for those with developmental disabilities. At this point, fourteen people were murdered, the husband/wife involved killed, thus making it harder to determine what motives and the like.

Knowing all the information involved is important. Again, the last mass shooting was still in the process of being processed, but then there are so many that they do run into each other. The idea we should only talk solutions after some time passes does lead one to think the net will be inaction. Over 350 multiple shooting incidents in a year seems rather a lot, even if looking at the big picture here can be complicated.  Breaking down the numbers would be important to when figuring out a proper strategy as a matter of public policy, leading some progressives to think "gun control is a losing game" (that guy is someone disagree with repeatedly).

[The links above provide some context to gun violence in this country including as compared to other nations.  One analyst on a talking head show last night noted the low number of deaths in mass shootings of this sort.  There is some perspective warranted, as noted, especially in comparison to other types of preventable gun violence.  But, when something happens over 300 times a year, a few times in horrific fashion in places like schools and now this, the death toll alone is not enough. The net death toll in Paris, e.g., is on some level trivial in a harsh honest way compared to let's say total preventable deaths. There is a certain level of horror and continue unease here though.]

Simply put, I have no simple answers myself.  Some were upset that the response seemed simply to be "let us pray" as if nothing could be done, like Jesus noting at one point poverty will always be with us. Of course, Jesus and his followers also did various things to help the poor, especially when they determined the end of the world wasn't coming anytime soon.  This led to the concern for "prayer shaming," bringing to light another case of lacking perspective. The feelings of many were not some liberal anti-prayer brigade but again the idea that pray annoy isn't enough. A few of the usual suspects used this to belittle prayer, a sort of overkill and disrespect for a basic way humans use to deal, but we can point to such sorts each time.  As I noted:
A modest act of asking for help, recognizing the dignity of others & connecting to such higher power or principle like God can be part of how you fix a problem.
There is also the usual responses that belittle gun regulations and speak of "liberals" (or specific ones like "Obama" or "Clinton") spewing platitudes without anything real to add.  But, specific regulatory policies are raised, including by victims of gun violence.  For instance, more strict controls on those on the terror watch list, which results in the one case perhaps where Republicans are strictly concerned with their civil liberties.  Over the last few years, a few states have passed various regulations, and members of Congress and Obama has cited various possibilities, a background check bill getting the most attention (sponsored by two conservatives, it received a couple too few votes to obtain cloture). There is some common ground, but very little on a national level to get the supermajority necessary.

Guns is a chance for various sorts to come out and "clue in" the misguided sorts who they believe are not truly knowledgeable about things. The level of patronizing is as high as the ideological temperature.  Some of this on both sides, both appealing to the apparently crystal clear text of the Second Amendment.  Both at times seem to not quite take into consideration that even D.C. v. Heller leaves open various types of regulations though the failure of a follow-up (except for a state version) makes the limits here somewhat unclear.  What that is likely to pass, except in a few states, the opinion will block is unclear to me at any rate.  There are some issues along the edges, but something like a background check should be constitutional under current doctrine.

I have read various articles and books here that discuss various policies but again facts are quite important here.  I'm loathe really to try to debate some of the people online about specific policies, except to (this is important though) get some broad sense of what is involved.  Likewise, one person said most purchases already are subject to a background check. The specific details here is beyond me, but as a blanket statement that sounds to be rather wrong.  The usual approach of both saying things don't do anything and are too broad, however, is not only applied here.

Warily I will add some policy thoughts. Some things that I have seen that appear to me sensible would be to take off limits to gun research [a ridiculous thing], improve in some fashion existing background check systems, address the illegal interstate commerce of guns, some form of more comprehensive background checks with fewer loopholes and some sort of safety mechanism or safe storage law. Dealing with specific guns can be tricky and perhaps more cosmetic than real, but won't just assume that is just stupid.  As noted, some experts suggest there are ways to reduce gun related suicides and help mental health in general.  And, yes, there are existing laws and things executive officials can do without more legislation.  Promotion of gun safety and actual citizen militia, overseen by the government as was originally the case, also seem potentially useful.  The 2A, including the federalism angle where state specific policies are advanced, can be a positive thing to "common sense" gun regulation (a word tied to the amendment, over the more scary "control"). 

Personally, it does seem useful to agree to some compromise set of regulations here such as a national background check that is more comprehensive while recognizing there is a right to have firearms and some basic protections are appropriate. As a cultural matter, guns are very important to people, including as a matter of distrust when regulations are involved, especially when certain people do the regulating.  I think a basic assurance of a floor here -- e.g., Heller -- helps as can statements in preambles (ha) of legislation and so forth. The same applies to those concerned about guns in the other direction.

Events lead for concern for solutions -- see the Syrian refugee bill after the Paris attacks.  The concern here is that we will just have symbolic and at worse unduly burdensome legislation in response to these attacks. Such people tend to care about this depending on what ox is being gored, but so be it -- that is usual for whatever is at stake.  Yes, "doing something" isn't enough.  Nonetheless, guns are a major policy matter, and like any other major area of policy, there can be reasoned responses of various types. And, they are not all going to address the specific case.  A building fire might result in examining building integrity issues in general.

Again, I simply don't have easy answers. One overall thing that I referenced after another shooting was that there is likely going to have to be a cultural shift.  There might be a way to address, e.g., the Newtown situation where the mother left open her large number of guns to a son who she knew or should have knew was a potential danger.  One person raised the possibility of some sort of civil liability.  But, more importantly, there needs to be a societal judgment something like this is simply not done. Consider incest. It might be criminal; that is not really the true deterrent.

Finally, when people appeal to U.K., Australia or some other place where gun violence is so much smaller or to appeal to solutions, let's be honest. Australia, e.g., involved a gigantic taking of guns out of circulation, something that would be akin to addressing slavery in antebellum Virginia or something.  That is, even if there was a constitutional way to go about it, it would be very hard to get the class involved to voluntarily go along with it.   Comparing the U.S. to the U.K. too -- the police there are not anyway as armed as loads of ordinary people here.  The number of guns in this country is only one problem. Our violent culture is another. Like gun related suicides, something some argue can be seriously addressed in the realm of the possible, "ordinary" criminal shootings arise from a range of cultural problems.  Dealing with the drug war would be another thing.

Perhaps, this is why prayer alone is seen as realistic. But, like other societal big picture problems (like GLBTQ discrimination), the long haul requires an ongoing battle. And, small victories and means to lesser the problems. Meanwhile, the horror continues.

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