Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 702, December 23, 2012

We already had that conversation.
They Demand and Expect Abject Submission.

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Gun Crimes
by Jim Davidson

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

"After a shooting spree they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military."
—William Burroughs

It began earlier this month with a distraught player for the Kansas City Chiefs football team. Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend, drove to the stadium where the team plays, and shot himself. [Note 1]

Sports commentator Bob Costas promptly began criticising society at large for easy access to guns noting, "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today." [Note 2] Perhaps Costas was unaware of the deeply racist roots of gun control laws, but it certainly sounded, to me, like Costas was saying that the plantation system of football should not "allow" players access to weapons. After all, slaves with guns might stop being slaves.

As if to put a very fine point on the Jovan Belcher story, another NFL player killed one of his team mates a few days later by driving drunk. Josh Brent of the Dallas Cowboys is accused of drunk driving early on Saturday 8 December. The car he was driving crashed about 2:21 a.m. and the incident left his team mate, Jerry Brown, Jr., dead at the scene. [Note 3]

Was Bob Costas prompt to comment that Jerry Brown would still be alive if it were not for the fact that Josh Brent had easy access to an automobile or alcohol? If Costas said anything to that effect, I missed it. Yet, quite obviously, a car is a deadly weapon. A determined killer could have used a car, a knife, or any number of other implements to kill Kassandra Perkins and himself. Didn't we have a go at Prohibition in the USA and found it... wanting?

Less than a week after the death of Brown, a series of mass shooting incidents in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Connecticut were planned for Friday 14 December, leading to three wounded and a dead gunman at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama [Note 4]; three killed, a police officer wounded, and another dead gunman in Cleburne County, Alabama [Note 5]; an arrest in Oklahoma [Note 6]; and 28 dead, including the shooter, in Connecticut [Note 7]. On the same day, in China, a man attacked and wounded approximately 22 students with a knife at a school [Note 8].

As if some sort of millenarian angst were at work (perhaps because some people anticipate the end of the world this Friday 21 December) there was yet another shooting at a mall in Newport Beach, California. [Note 9] This incident left no one dead, as the shooter apparently fired into the sky or at the ground—possibly fearing attacks from the air or soil. This particular shooter, Marcos Gurrola, fired about 50 rounds from a handgun, re-loading it several times. It seems likely that the magazines in his semi-auto pistol would have complied with Diane Feinstein's proposed ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

Responses from "Authorities"
Among the proposals being discussed on various news shows today (Sunday 16 December) were an assault weapons ban, a national commission to review violence in video games, and a national "conversation" on multiple shootings in the US. Needless to say, many of the proposed solutions seem likely to be ineffective, or in some cases worse than the crimes they purport to be preventing. Worst of all, the common profile of the shooters seems to be mental illness, alienation, and dysfunction—issues that seem to be ignored in the push for new laws.

Consider, for example, Adam Lanza who apparently shot his mother on Friday the 14th with one of her own guns, then took three guns and, according to recent reports, shot 6 adults and 20 children at an elementary school. The guns were legally purchased by his mother, who seemed to be scrupulous in her landscaping as well as her gun ownership. Like many parents, she had taken her sons to a gun range to show them proper handling of guns, and for practice. So, what change to a gun law would have interdicted her weapons? Given some change to the rifle due to Feinstein's proposed "assault weapons ban," how would the outcome have been different?

I suspect that the major difference would have been that Lanza would have switched ten round magazines for the rifle or for the two handguns, rather than 30 round magazines. The timing would have been slightly different, but given five minutes rather than only about two minutes to complete all these killings, he still would have had time to kill himself as "first responders" closed in. Nor would a total, and magically effective ban on guns been able to prevent him from killing his mother and quite a few adults and children with knives. Given these circumstances, and difficult truths, it seems clear that the parents and loved ones of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary school are being exploited by some in government, who are only pretending to give a shit about them or their loss.

Bill Bennett, who served as secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, and might therefore be presumed to know something about schools in the USA (if his attempts to ban "gangsta rap" in the 1990s clearly shows his lacunae in the area of constitutional law), proposed that at least one armed person be at each school. [Note 10] That idea is in direct conflict with one of the major "solutions" introduced in 1990 under George HW Bush called "gun free zones." I mention this point because Bennett served as drug "czar" under Bush, heading the national office of drug control policy from 1989-1990. As I recall, the concept of federal laws prohibiting the possession of drugs near schools was in vogue during Bennett's time in office. Evidently, drug free zones, like gun free zones, don't work.

The point seems worth emphasising, and I very happily turn to my nemesis from the National Space Society's legislation committee, Glenn Reynolds, to review the facts. The fact is, gun free zones don't work. (If only Reynolds had realised that anti-dumping laws being used to attack China for lowering the price of access to orbit wouldn't work in 1990, he and I might be on good terms.)

Reynolds writes, "There are a lot of problems with this approach, but one of the most significant is this one: It doesn't work. One of the interesting characteristics of mass shootings is that they generally occur in places where firearms are banned: malls, schools, etc. That was the finding of a famous 1999 study by John Lott of the University of Maryland and William Landes of the University of Chicago, and it appears to have been borne out by experience since then as well." [Note 11]

Ideas that Might Help
Laws might be passed by local governments, by county governments, or by state governments to offer training and encourage concealed carry licenses amongst teachers and administrators of public schools. Had even one of the teachers, principals, or other adults at the school in Connecticut been armed, the shooter might have been deterred, or killed, before his rampage got under way. It is obvious that shooters, though deranged, pick places where their targets are helpless for the simple reason that they don't want to be shot at. In the case of Lanza, his desire to avoid being shot at was so great, he killed himself rather than face a shoot out with police.

Some years back, a psychiatrist and officer in the military went on a shooting rampage at a military base in San Antonio. [Note 12] Evidently the psychiatric profession is not so advanced, today, that doctors of psychiatry are themselves free of psychiatric disorders, as evidenced by thirteen deaths at the hands of major Nidal Malik Hasan. Of some interest is the fact that military bases are also zones where access to guns is often severely restricted. Presumably officers in the army figure that if every private had a gun on his hip, he might not be willing to follow incredibly stupid, or humiliating, orders.

Again and again, we come back to the fact that the mental health system in the United States, and, indeed, worldwide, really sucks. Mental health is regarded as a "weird" issue, and persons with mental disorders as "creepy." For a species that evidently uses its brain tissue only intermittently and in many instances reluctantly, we seem to be uncomfortable around evidence that some particular person has a different way of thinking, or an inability to do so. People with extraordinary thinking abilities, such as were evident in Adam Lanza—widely reputed to be very smart—are often afflicted with emotional problems. We know very little about where emotional problems start, though work with autism and Asperger's syndrome suggests it may have a genetic component that would precede conditioning by ostracising or alienating within schools and family. We also see reasons to suppose that environmental conditions, including pharmaceuticals, drive some people "crazy." What we do not have are good methods of identifying, diagnosing, and treating people with mental, emotional, or neurological conditions. We don't even have a good way of establishing whether one of these conditions is an injury or a disease.

Evidently, violent criminals don't care about laws. Even though statistics indicate that only about 1.8% of the population ever commits an actual violent crime (as opposed to posturing about violence or pretending to be violent), quite a lot of damage and death can be dealt by just one violent person. Since the distribution of that 1.8% of the population is fairly close to random, you don't have easy answers. You have a distributed threat in the case of crime. You have a distributed threat in the case of terrorism, in the case of invasion (along many thousands of miles of border or coast), or in the case of insanity.

Answers must come in the form of a distributed defensive strategy. You cannot rely upon central authority to implement a distributed defence. Rather, you have to be prepared to defend yourself, your family, your children, your neighbourhood. Similarly, you cannot send your children like lambs to the slaughterhouse to a "gun free, drug free" school zone, and expect anything like good results.

Given these facts, now presented in the proper order, and under the light of reason, it is now possible for you to draw your own conclusions about the intentions behind the re-proposed re-ban of assault weapons, and authors of anti-gun hysteria who would actually really want me to mention them by name. When evaluating such proposals, always ask, "who benefits?" Clearly, not you.


Note 1: "Kansas City football star Jovan Belcher, 25, shoots his girlfriend dead before killing himself in front of coaches at Chiefs stadium" [link]

Note 2: [link]

Note 3: [link]

Note 4: [link]

Note 5: [link]

Mote 6: [link]

Note 7: [link]

Note 8: [link]

Note 9: [link]

Note 10: [link]

Note 11: [link]

Note 12: [link]

Jim Davidson is an anti-war activist, entrepreneur, and author. He lives in Kansas with his loving wife Mylisa. His books The Atlantis Papers, Being Sovereign, and Being Libertarian, include important essays on freedom, longevity research, new countries, individual sovereignty, and space technology. [see]

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