Friday, January 18, 2013

The National Conversation on Guns

When a respected journalist like Bob Schieffer can state, in all seriousness that defeating the NRA is the same as defeating the Nazis you know that the public discussion about guns has gone completely off the rails. 

You also know that the NRA and its supporters have lost the debate. Politics involves the ability to communicate with the general public. At that the NRA has failed. As has its Republican supporters. 

The best Republican communicator, Gov. Chris Christie, a member in good standing of the Colin Powell wing of the Republican Party has denounced the NRA as “reprehensible” for daring to mention that President Obama’s daughters go to a school that has armed guards.

As happens in primitive cultures people are banding together to punish a scapegoat.

It should be obvious to everyone that the rush to scapegoat the NRA covers up a more dire reality. That is: who is committing the gun violence in, say, Chicago? Who is responsible for the everyday shootings in New York City?

Those who prey on emotion would have us believe that all gun violence is created equal. They would have us believe that psychotic mass murderers belong in the same category as gang bangers in the inner cities and that they all belong to the NRA.

If they don’t, the NRA is still at fault because it defends the rights of citizens to bear arms.  The simple fact that the weapons used to commit most gun violence have been stolen does not register for too many people.

None of Obama’s 23 executive orders addresses the problem of gang violence and drug wars. Not one addresses the problem of video game violence.

And what about the mayors of the cities that have the most gun violence. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel gun violence has spiked in Chicago. The city is now the murder capital of the nation.

It’s just a little too convenient for Emanuel to blame it all on the NRA and gun show loopholes.

Is the NRA the reason that Mayor Emanuel cannot ensure law and order in his own city?

Still, there’s the problem of psychotic killers, the ones who are most likely to produce the kinds of school massacres that have outraged the nation.

The great national conversation about guns does not distinguish between the psychotic killers and the gang violence that plagues more than a few of our cities.

If you do not distinguish between these, then you are not having a serious discussion.

I have often pointed out that people like James Holmes and Jared Loughner and Adam Lanza are so obviously insane that anyone with minimal  sense can see it.

President Obama paid lip service to mental health services in his 23 executive orders, but the problem, as I and many others have made clear, is that our society has largely lost the right to commit psychotics to treatment facilities against their will.

This morning psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer made the point again:

Monsters shall always be with us, but in earlier days they did not roam free. As a psychiatrist in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I committed people — often right out of the emergency room — as a danger to themselves or to others. I never did so lightly, but I labored under none of the crushing bureaucratic and legal constraints that make involuntary commitment infinitely more difficult today.

Why do you think we have so many homeless? Destitution?  Poverty has declined since the 1950s. The majority of those sleeping on grates are mentally ill. In the name of civil liberties, we let them die with their rights on.

A tiny percentage of the mentally ill become mass killers. Just about everyone around Tucson shooter Jared Loughner sensed he was mentally ill and dangerous. But in effect, he had to kill before he could be put away — and (forcibly) treated.

Random mass killings were three times more common in the 2000s than in the 1980s, when gun laws were actually weaker. Yet a 2011 University of California at Berkeley study found that states with strong civil commitment laws have about a one-third lower homicide rate.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to blame the NRA than to blame the ACLU. Scapegoating the NRA allows politicians to avoid addressing the problem of weak civil commitment laws.

I wrote about it at the time, but it’s worth repeating. Nancy Lanza wanted to have her son Adam committed, but it’s nearly impossible to do so in the state of Connecticut. Months before the Sandy Hook massacre state legislators in Connecticut rejected an effort to make it easier to commit people against their will.

For that the legislators and the ACLU get a pass.

Krauthammer also calls out the president for failing to address the problem of violent video games and violent movies:

We live in an entertainment culture soaked in graphic, often sadistic, violence. Older folks find themselves stunned by what a desensitized youth finds routine, often amusing. It’s not just movies. Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence. And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men go out and enact the overlearned narrative.

If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?

We can certainly improve the public conversation by looking at the facts.  

Among them this, from Krauthammer:

The irony is that over the last 30 years, the U.S. homicide rate has declined by 50 percent. Gun murders as well. We’re living not through an epidemic of gun violence but through a historic decline.

Except for these unfathomable mass murders. But these are infinitely more difficult to prevent. While law deters the rational, it has far less effect on the psychotic. The best we can do is to try to detain them, disarm them and discourage “entertainment” that can intensify already murderous impulses.

It’s not about the guns. It’s not about the NRA. What is supposed to be a great national discussion about guns is really about scoring political points.

The president has skillfully blinded the public to the real causes for gun violence and has successfully absolved those members of his own constituency who might be held responsible.


Sam L. said...

They don't want a conversation; they want a capitulation. Just like Barack's "negotiation".

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that so few can see what Obama is doing. He is attacking the heart of the American periment. He is a thin-skinned, theoretical demagogue from La-La Land. His policies are designed to frustrate those who want to be self-reliant, those who are willing to take risks, with he upside of a fair return. This is all so small-minded. He seeks equality and dependence, so we're all equally miserable. Then what? How man of these programs and policies work? While wanting to be seen as a Lincolnesque figure, he appeals to the worst demons of our nature. It is so frustrating listening to the rationale behind all this nonsense. For a constitutional law professor, he doesn't seem to care much for his subject... it's like he wants us all to be his subjects. Wasn't this country founded to get away from that sort of thing? I don't find his bearing or thinking to be American at all. I wonder sometimes if he really likes this country. He seems o see so many ills, and wants to "transform" America. Well, he's doing it, and our institutions seem to be standing by watching.

Dennis said...

The media driven meme has largely failed. The NRA has gained tremendous support from people. The fact that Obama's 23 EOs, which apply only to the feds and do not have the standing of laws, was just a reiteration of current policy with the expectation of greater cooperation between agencies, which is never going to happen, says a lot about the growing backlash that has developed.
Democrats lost everything the last time they tried to play fast and loose with the 2nd Amendment and I suspect that they do not wish to repeat that mistake. I do wish that these people would actually take the time to understand what an assault weapon is. Many true assault weapons already require the ATF's approval.
Though I have never felt the need to buy a gun I have over the years belonged to the NRA off and on because I believe the 2nd Amendment is the foundation for maintaining the other rights. Without it the other rights can quickly be negated by an oppressive government. I just renewed my membership of 3 years.
If I was trying to find people to blame it would be the ACLU, people who created "gun free zones," which basically says those who would want to do harm will have no one to stop them, mental health professionals who have prescribed drugs that have a reactive factor that creates violent behavior, feminism for the alienation of young boys in schools and creating large areas in this country where there are fatherless children, the government, et al. Blaming inanimate objects is a way to avoid responsibility for taking action on the real problems. People are the problem and they are the solution and we will never address them until we stop blaming things.

Dennis said...

For your edification,
Please excuse me for writing backwards at times. Some times when I spend a lot of time conducting and fronting a big band I get used to reading upside down and backwards because I use the 'lead" Alto part as a cue for the various things that happen in a piece of music and many times I don't have a score. Rehearsal time is valuable.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the link. It's interesting to see the disconnect between the media elites and the rest of the nation. It's also good to see that the effort to scapegoat the NRA is failing.

Sam L. said...

See gun-free-zone signs refused:

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you acknowledge your error in claiming the NRA has already lost the public debate! That might be so in the NE DC-Boston Corridor, but its largely false elsewhere.

Same with Christie as a Repub spokesman. He plays well only in his little corner of the universe and with his MSM friends. West of the Hudson River? Not so much.

Dennis said...

I once had this dream that the capitol of the US would change to a different state every 4 years until it had experienced the lives and ethos of each and every area of this country. Yes, it would be expensive, but no more than what it cost to have everything controlled by, as Anon states, NE DC- Boston corridor.
This corridor has long not represented the rest of the country. It is the prime driver of the hostility foisted upon the rest of the country. That hostility manifests itself in comments like, "fly over, country," dislike of the South, dislike of the West and dislike of anything that is not within that corridor.
The corridor tends be bigoted towards anyone who did not graduate from an Ivy League university. Something I have never understood given that most of the disasters we have faced have been the work of these very same Ivies.
It also has the result of moving power away from the media in these areas. Why does one think that the corridor and its denizens so underestimate the rest of the citizens of this country? Instead of having the corridor's ethos rubbing off on those that represent us, the ethos of each area will rub off or be inculcated into the ethos of those who now disrespect the vast majority of this country.
I can dream can't I??????????

Dennis said...

In my dream no large city like Chicago, San Francisco, et al, would be allowed to host the capitol. In fact it would be placed as far away from these cities as possible.
The "blue model" is the enemy of humanity and as it fails more and more it is at its most dangerous. It will denigrate almost anyone and anything in order to survive a little more.
It should not surprise anyone that it is in these "blue" areas where the Constitution is thought of as an anachronism. It is in these areas where the 2nd Amendment is most disliked because it acts as an impediment to the seeking of power by statists that have gotten used to thinking of themselves as our "betters." NOTE: I do wish people who use the term anti-federalist knew a little more about their own history. Many of the people called that name, by Federalists, were the ones who wanted a Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution.
If one really is interested in history they understand that technology may progress, but people are now no different in their actions than they were a 1000 years ago. The Constitution still addresses the actions of current human beings. It has ways to address any real change, but is made difficult so people cannot be driven by their emotion into giving rights enumerated in that Constitution away easily.
Ah the dream of having a citizenry that actually understood its own history.

Dennis said...