Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gun Fetishists Are Going MAD

A Gun Policy of Mutually Assured Destruction?

The Rambo wannabees pontificate to stall progress
Every one of thirty-one U.S. Senators characterized as “pro-gun” refused an invitation to appear on Sunday’s Meet The Press.

Seeking to get their view on the tragedy in Newtown, CT, the program tendered the invitations. Meet the Press producer Betsey Fischer Martin tweeted:

While these Washington solons are keeping their counsel at this time, others are speaking out.

Appearing on a special Fox News Sunday dedicated to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said that an armed teacher or principal could have taken the killer’s “head off before he can kill those precious kids”:

GOHMERT: Having been a judge and reviewed photographs of these horrific scenes and knowing that children have these defensive wounds, gun shots through their arms and hands as they try to protect themselves, and, hearing the heroic stories of the principal, lunging, trying to protect, Chris, I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids. [...]

The “distinguished” member of Congress is not alone in espousing this point of view. Other gun advocates are responding to the tragedy by demanding more guns, arguing that had school administrators or teachers been allowed to carry guns into Sandy Hook Elementary, the tragedy could have been prevented:

– “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered.” [Larry Pratt, Gun Owners Of America]

– “Had Connecticut not had the no guns in school laws….Had the principal, the maintenance man, a teacher, been allowed to keep a gun in their office, maybe just maybe, this would have come out differently.” [Bob Irwin, The Gun Store]

– “I only wish the kindergarten teacher and principal in Connecticut had been armed.” [Dr. Keith Ablow, Fox News]

– “[S]o looking at this tragedy that happened with K-12, we might have to have an armed employee at the schools, that’s a measure, that’s a measure.” [Michele Fiore, Nevada Assemblywoman]

– “Look at what has happened, all these attacks this year have occurred where guns are banned.” [John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime]
– “Well, I believe those of us who are licensed to carry, are responsible people, shouldn’t be prohibited from carrying in schools or other places.” [Steve Dulan,Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners]

These views are what gave rise to my choice of the word MAD in this post’s title.

While the obvious inference is that it refers to a form of insanity (a conclusion with which I will not disagree), the real purpose was to refer to an historical acronym from the annals of nuclear deterrence.

That MAD was the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.

It was a policy that invoked the concept of a “balance of terror” between the United States and the Soviet Union during the era of the cold war. Any invocation of nuclear warfare was to be met with swift and total retaliation that would, inevitably lead to the total annihilation of both parties.

Over time this form of insanity has given rise to a slow but gradual acceptance of the need for mutual and verifiable disarmament. The consequences of the slightest miscalculation combined with the wasteful and burdensome social costs of the programs involved, led to the adoption of the current prevailing philosophy. One of the primary advocates of this shift that cemented its acceptance on a bipartisan basis was President Ronald Reagan.

The response being advocated by those quoted is nothing less than a form of MAD on a domestic level. What is really needed is a policy encouraging and enforcing civilian disarmament while respecting the legitimate rights of those who seek gun ownership for sporting and competitive purposes as well as justifiable instances of self-protection.

The first step is a return to the assault weapons ban of the 1990’s as well as restricting the availability of high capacity magazines.

It is argued that the end of the assault weapons did not lead to an increase in violent crime.

That is not the point. The first thing to address is the rise in mass killing incidents. As the following chart from Mother Jones illustrates, use of these high capacity weapons has dominated in such incidents.

The next logical step is to expand the requirement for background checks and proper documentation in private sales and gun show sales of firearms. Forty percent of gun sales in the U.S. are done without a background check. We maintain more comprehensive records on vehicles than we do on guns.

Gun rights advocates have an almost theocratic litany of criticisms of such steps – and most of them are false. Among the most widely cited are:
  #1: More guns don’t lead to more murders. A survey by researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health found strong statistical support for the idea that, even if you control for poverty levels, more people die from gun homicides in areas with higher rates of gun ownership. And despite what gun advocates say, countries like Israel and Switzerland don’t disprove the point.
  #2: The Second Amendment prohibits strict gun control. While the Supreme Court ruled in D.C. v. Heller that bans on handgun ownership were unconstitutional, the ruling gives the state and federal governments a great deal of latitude to regulate that gun ownership as they choose. As the U.S. Second Court of Appeals put it in a recent ruling upholding a New York regulation, “The state’s ability to regulate firearms and, for that matter, conduct, is qualitatively different in public than in the home. Heller reinforces this view. In striking D.C.’s handgun ban, the Court stressed that banning usable handguns in the home is a ‘policy choice[]‘ that is ‘off the table,’ but that a variety of other regulatory options remain available, including categorical bans on firearm possession in certain public locations.”
  #3: State-level gun controls haven’t worked. Scholars Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander recently studied state-to-state variation in gun homicide levels. They found that “[f]irearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation.” This is backed up by research on local gun control efforts and cross-border gun violence.
  #4: We only need better enforcement of the laws we have, not new laws. In fact, Congress has passed several laws that cripple the ability for current gun regulations to be enforced the way that they’re supposed to. According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, a series of federal laws referred to as the Tiahrt amendments “limit public access to crime gun trace data, prohibit the use of gun trace data in hearings, pertaining to licensure of gun dealers and litigation against gun dealers, and restrict ATF’s authority to require gun dealers to conduct a physical inventory of their firearms.” Other federal laws “limited the ATF compliance inspections” and grant “broad protections from lawsuits against firearm manufacturers and retail sellers.”
  #5: Sensible gun regulation is prohibitively unpopular. Not necessarily. As the New Republic’s Amy Sullivan reported after the series of mass shootings this summer, a majority of Americans would prefer both to enforce existing law more strictly and pass new regulations on guns when given the option to choose both rather than either/or. Specific gun regulations are also often more popular than the abstract idea.

In addition, there are a number of sensible steps that are supported, not only by the gun-owning  public, but by members of the National Rifle Association. Among these are:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 87 percent of non-NRA gun-owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.
2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.
3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.
4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.
5.Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.

Once these reasonable steps have been taken, a next step toward reducing the number of guns in circulation would be gun buyback programs. Many of these around the country have proven very successful.

Worcester MA
Since the program's inception in 2002, the Goods for Guns Program have collected 2,200 guns in exchange for gift certificates.
Haverhill MA
Police say residents turned in 24 handguns, 15 rifles and shotguns, 15 non-working guns, about 200 rounds of ammunition, including some armor-piercing bullets, as well as the Vietnam War-era grenade.
Boston MA
From July 12–14, 2006, the Boston Police Department offered US$200 Target gift cards in exchange for a handgun, with or without ammunition. Rifles and shotguns were accepted, but had no reward.
Los Angeles CA
There has been a gun buyback program in Los Angeles that offered prepaid cards (Visa or Ralphs) in exchange.
San Fransisco CA
On December 15, 2012 an anonymous donor funded a gun buyback event, where 425 guns were purchased by authorities. This followed the mass shooting in Connecticut.
 Detroit MI
A Detroit church hosted a gun buyback event as part of the city police department's ongoing efforts to remove dangerous weapons from the streets. Guns must be unloaded. Up to $50 is to be paid for an operational weapon, up to $100 for two or more operational weapons and up to $100 for assault weapons.
Dallas TX
The Stewpot gun buy back program has collected and destroyed over 400 pistols, rifles, shotguns and semi-automatic assault weapons since its inception. After the guns are collected, they are ground down and the metal is recycled.
Tuscaloosa AL
In less than an hour Saturday morning, the Tuscaloosa Police Department pulled more guns off area streets than it usually does in an entire month…. At least 20 rifles and shotguns were turned in, along with 14 handguns.
Schenectady County NY
The Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office has successfully completed our first Gun Buyback Program in Schenectady County…. During our first event we have collected 16 hand guns and 12 rifles and shotguns.
Gary IN
Gun Buyback program hosted Aug. 18 by the Gary Police Department is being called an “overwhelming success.” According to Police Chief Wade Ingram, 129 guns were turned in in exchange for Wal-Mart gift cards. Local churches partnered with police to serve as the turn-in locations.

These are only a small sample of such programs all across the United States (UPDATE). The fact is, we can limit the consequences of gun violence and we can make progress on disarmament. We can end this headlong rush toward Mutually Assured Destruction.

What is needed is a willingness and courage on the part of our lawmakers to “Stop The MADness.” 

Contact them and let them know that they have your support to stand up to the firearms lobby.


  1. Nicholas Kristof writes in today’s New York Times Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?, ”Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries...
    So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage. ...
    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has five pages of regulations about ladders, while federal authorities shrug at serious curbs on firearms. Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000.”

  2. Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says [ Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin],( More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?) "given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances." A chaotic scene in August at the Empire State Building put this starkly into perspective when New York City police officers confronting a gunman wounded nine innocent bystanders. (After Bullets Hit Bystanders, Protocol Questions)

  3. As another example of what can happen with the “we need more armed civilians” solution, see Friendly Firearms.
    It tells the story of Joe Zamudio. He was armed and intervened in the incident that resulted in the shooting of Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords. “Zamudio had released his safety and was poised to fire when he saw what he thought was the killer still holding his weapon. Zamudio had a split second to decide whether to shoot. He was sufficiently convinced of the killer's identity to shove the man into a wall. But Zamudio didn't use his gun. That's how close he came to killing an innocent man. He was, as he acknowledges, ‘very lucky.’"

  4. This post is so right on it's almost funny. That renowned genius Jose Canseco is now writing a column for the blog Vice. In it he says " I guarantee that if four or five or six people had guns on them in that theater, either that kid would never have gone in there, or he would have gotten blown away.
    The endpoint of what I’m saying is that our country has nukes and other countries have nukes, and we don’t have these things because we want to or will use them, really. We have them to deter other countries from using them. On a large scale it works, so why not on a smaller scale? Mutually assured destruction."

  5. Make all the laws you want...criminals don't give a crap.

    1. If that was the way we operated then there would be no society at all. Anarchy is all you're advocating, which marks you clearly as a shallow, uninvolved citizen.

    2. Guilty as Charged!

  6. A radical gun law reform occurred in Australia after a gun massacre (35 dead and 18 seriously injured) in April 1996. Semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles were banned; a tax-funded firearm buyback and amnesties saw over 700 000 guns surrendered from an adult population of about 12 million.

    The total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides had been falling in the 18 years preceding the new gun laws. In all, 13 mass shootings were noticed in the 18 years preceding the new gun laws.

    In the 10.5 years after the gun law reforms, there have been no mass shootings, but accelerated declines in annual total gun deaths and firearm suicides and a non-significant accelerated decline in firearm homicides. No substitution effects occurred for suicides or homicides.


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