Mass shootings are not America's main gun problem

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by James R, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    A lot of the focus of the latest round of the gun control debate in the US has been on the desire to prevent mass shootings. However, mass shootings make up only a tiny fraction (considerably less than 1%) of the yearly death toll due to guns in America.

    Close to two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides and almost one-third are homicides that are not mass shootings. About 4% of gun deaths each year are accidental ('unintentional') or due to 'other causes'.

    These statistics, repeated below, are taken from the following article in The Guardian, 21 June 2016.
    • The firearm death rate in the USA has remained approximately constant since 1999, at about 10.4 per 100,000 people per year.
    • About 33,500 lives are lost each year. That's roughly one every 15 minutes – about the same number of people as are killed on America's roads.
    • About 4% of deaths are categorised by the CDC as being 'unintentional', the result of 'legal intervention' (i.e. police acting in the line of duty), or of undetermined causes.
    • Almost two-thirds of gun deaths - about 20,000 people per year - are suicides.
    • The rest – about 11,000 a year – are homicides.
    • Of the homicides, approximately half of the victims are black, despite African Americans making up only 13% of the population.
    • Mass shootings, defined as 'seemingly indiscriminate rampages in public places' in which three or more victims were killed, account for the tiny proportion of overall deaths - of the order of 100 deaths per year out of the 33,500 total gun deaths.
    • In addition to gun deaths, there are also about 70,000 gun-related injuries each year, some very serious.
    A common argument put forward by opponents of gun control is that 'criminals' will find ways to get guns even if controls are strengthened. They also point out that mass shooters often purchase their guns legally. These arguments miss the point. Expanding background checks on private sales of guns would help to decrease the market for illicit firearms used not in mass shootings but in everyday gun violence - particularly the homicides and suicides that make up the vast majority of gun deaths every year.

    Americans who buy guns often say they own then for 'protection'. However, those Americans are far more likely to die as a result of suicide using their guns, or to be killed or seriously injured by a gun, than they are to successfully 'protect' themselves against somebody else.

    Gun violence is a national trajedy for the United States.

    So what have other countries done about gun control? If you're interested in a brief overview, read this:

    Today, about 90 people will die in the United States by a bullet from a gun. The American homicide rate is about 25 times higher than that of comparable high-income nations.

    How long will The United States continue to do nothing about guns?
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    My guess? As long as so many and such public gun control proponents continue to threaten confiscation and intrusive governmental regulations in violation of currently existing civil rights and liberties, the matter will be politically deadlocked between them and the gun nuts - neither group trusted by the general populace.

    Setting out to prevent a large proportion of suicides by gun through gun control measures in the US is a direct threat of that kind, for example. There is no reasonable way to do that - you would have to confiscate the guns involved, usually handguns, and handguns seem to be viewed differently in the US than anywhere else on the planet (maybe because they were essentially, in their modern form, invented in the US) - there's a psychological disorder involved, probably, but it's set deep.

    But if the day ever comes when gun control is promoted and argued for in less threatening ways, reliably, it could happen pretty quickly. There's a broad political consensus on a few things (such as universal background checks at purchase) that need to be done on common sense grounds, which would be reasonably effective additions to the current and ongoing decline in gun violence.
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    As long as the leaders of Congress continue to accept the NRA's (National Rifle Assholes) enormous "campaign contributions."
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  7. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    Ice, you always allude to this - can you provide citations? Anything not from a right wingnut spin organization? I just don't seem to hear many arguments for "confiscation" in the bubble I inhabit.

    proposals would make some weapons illegal which can be twisted to lend credence to the confiscation conspiracy. I don't recall any mainstream proponents directly advocating for confiscation though, can you help me out?
  8. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    Assault weapons should not be sold period.
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Interesting. The homicide statistics are certainly scandalous.

    I'd have thought for a country such as the US, a system like that in Australia might the one to go for. That would help preserve the frontier spirit and allow the rural communities to have appropriate types of gun for legitimate purposes. It seems to do the job, without being as draconian as what we have in Britain, which I'd be ready to admit I think is excessively restrictive, being due to kneejerk legislation after one-off events.
  10. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    I had always thought that Britain's and Australia's regulations and restrictions were somewhat similar--how are Britain's laws more restrictive?

    I think your proposal sounds reasonable, although potentially problematic in implementation: in Britain, there seems to be a much clearer divide--and consensus--as to what constitutes "rural" and "urban"; in the U.S. it's very convoluted and there's a lot of overlap and crossover. What would the criteria for designations be based upon? Zoning laws? Population densities? etc.


    Also, in the U.S. we have something unique that is not really found in much of Europe, the UK, or Australia--namely, massive tracts of a sort of "no-man's land," i.e., BLM land and many hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest. BLM land is particularly fascinating. You're probably familiar with matters of grazing rights and such on these lands, but they also allow for a limited sort of homesteading, albeit subject to time constraints.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

    The problem is defining what that means. Scary looking weapons? Weapons with large clips? Weapons that have bayonet lugs? Weapons that can fire automatically? Semiautomatically? Weapons without discrete safeties? Weapons with long barrels, or specific grips, or specific model numbers? There are easy ways around all of those things.
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    The two systems are described in the article that James linked to. But maybe you are right, now that I have looked more closely.

    In the UK it seems the focus has been on handguns, which are now totally banned, as are all semi-automatic or pump action guns. Shotgun owners have to comply with a registration system. Re Australia the article does not make clear what the policy is on handguns. It says though that all gun owners have to comply with a registration scheme that requires a legitimate reason for ownership, such as being a farmer, recreational hunting, or for sport. So I suppose both system may end up at a similar result, with shotguns and rifles being allowed for rural pursuits and sport.

    I once had a girlfriend who shot with a .22 rifle for sport. She told me she had, by law, to keep it disassembled in 2 separate, locked, boxes, screwed down, in the attic of her house. And the police could come round at any time and demand to inspect them to see she was complying. The idea being, presumably that you would be unlikely, in a fit of rage, to get the ladder, go up in the attic, unlock both boxes, assemble the weapon, and come downstairs again to shoot someone. Sounded very reasonable (and mildly reassuring) to me.

    (She was quite a girl: the first time I went round to her house she was under the car, in a pair of torn jeans, changing the clutch, single-handed. Memories......)
  13. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Whoops. Sorry about that, I should have reviewed that beforehand.

    Wow. That is rather extreme. I can't even imagine how they could have the funds to allocate for such measures, lest in practice it is done very infrequently.

    By the way, do you think you might be able to persuade your ex-girlfriend to visit the U.S.? I've got an '82 diesel Westphalia, with a 1.9 liter Jetta engine (a very slight improvement over the original 1.6 liter engine). The present gearing only allows for a maximum of 62 mph in 4th (seriously), and I've contemplated improving upon this, both for speed and fuel economy. But I'm not quite prepared for the undertaking. I couldn't pay her much, but it might be fun. (JK, of course)
  14. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    Well I'd let the military classify what an assault rifle is.
  15. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    As long as the moon shall rise as long as the rivers flow
    As long as the sun will shine as long as the grass shall grow
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    As in a couple of the previous times I have answered that question, including directly responding to you in the past, the threat of confiscation is in the post I was quoting and responding to. It's right there. That you guys can't see it, even when specifically aimed at it with repetition, has also been part of my point - part of the threat: I have also pointed that out several times, including directly to you. How many times do you expect me to respond to that as if it were an honest question?

    When gun control advocates deny the threats they are making, the threats do not evaporate - they remain perfectly visible to bystanders as well as those threatened, and they get more rather than less serious, instead. Those unaware of the consequences of what they are advocating are more, not less, threatening.

    Once again, and as always speaking as a gun control advocate (I firmly believe the current gun situation in the US is insane, and several obvious improvements via well-considered law, of which I have posted several lists in the past, are not only readily available but overwhelmingly popular and supported):

    1) When you recommend the gun control measures of places like Australia (for example) without qualification, as James does in that post and has before, you are threatening confiscation of guns from private citizens. That's an important part of what Australia (for example) did.

    2) When you advocate gun control measures adequate for preventing by force some large fraction of gun suicides in the US, you are threatening confiscation of guns from private citizens - there isn't any other realistic way to involuntarily separate a potential suicide from their gun, in the US.

    3) When you advocate gun control measures to deal with the great majority of gun deaths in the US, using numbers such as 30k per year or more than are killed by cars or a 1% chance of the average citizen falling victim, you are advocating gun control measures designed and enforced to prevent gun suicide - the large majority of these gun deaths of which you are specifically advocating reduction via governmental control of the guns involved. See 2) above.

    4) When you emphasize the prevalence of guns among people who want to keep them, their mere presence in the vicinity of people who want them to be present, as a significant causal factor in gun violence and a target of your gun control measures, you are threatening confiscation of guns from private citizens - there is no other realistic way to "control" (meaning: involuntarily reduce) gun prevalence via governmental action.

    5) When you argue for some kind of illiterate reinterpretation of the plain language of the 2nd Amendment, so that (say) only actively called up and enrolled militia members while in the field are guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms rather than "the people" specifically designated, or maybe so that "well regulated" no longer means what it meant when written but instead means rigorously restricted and curbed by governmental law, you are threatening confiscation of guns from private citizens.

    And so forth. It's a long, long list. It happens right here, including in this thread, frequently and invariably. No frigging "citation" is necessary - the very denial of it, the demand for citations to source what is written in front of everyone reading these threads on this forum, reinforces the point: the US has a political deadlock, an actual "extremists on both sides" problem (possibly the only one), and it isn't going anywhere in the near term.

    Which should be the contribution of the gun owners, military guys, and so forth. They know what sensible and responsible firearm handling looks like - are none of them capable of drafting legislation, writing solid English prose? Instead, they complain that the people writing the gun control laws don't know what they're doing.

    Whiners. Gun control is necessary, and it is coming. This is a democracy. If all the gun owners do is bitch about the incompetence of gun control advocates, they are going to be stuck with the consequences - there's a hell of a lot of room under the 2nd Amendment for laws they won't like, and no sympathy from the audience.
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Those are the last people I'd want to define what an assault weapon means, because they'd do it to their own standards. For example, they might not consider a GE minigun (surely the perfect example of what sort of gun should NOT be wielded by the general public) to be an assault weapon because it is typically not used by troops during direct assaults.
    Perhaps. And cops, doctors and security organizations, since they are the ones who have to deal with the effects of such a decision.
  18. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    It was an honest question but I see your point now. The problem lies, as usual, in semantics and definitions. If your stance is that confiscation is necessarily a part of any gun regulation then you are absolutely correct. I suspect that such confiscation is already in place if:

    • You are found to be in possession of fully automatic weapons without a permit - they are confiscated.
    • You are a convicted felon that has not had his or her rights restored and you have a firearm - it is confiscated.
    • You meet whatever requirements may be in place defining mentally incompetent yet carry a gun - your gun will be confiscated.
    • You are caught carrying a concealed weapon without a permit - that weapon is confiscated.
    • You possess a handgun in New York City without a New York City handgun license - your pistol is confiscated.
    • Etcetera.

    However, most people (myself included) conjure up images of jack-booted thugs going door to door to seize all weapons whenever someone mentions confiscating guns - hence the proverbial "the gubmint is comin' fer yer guns" sentiment. If you are equating straight enforcement with the public's perception of "confiscation" I think you are neglecting the impact of connotation.

    Naturally, if a mandatory buy back is enacted and people decide not to comply with such then their weapons are subject to confiscation. Similarly, if someone did not comply with future licensing and permit regulations then they wouldn't be allowed to carry or possess a gun. If we manage to pass gun control regulating "assault rifles" (whatever those might be) then you wouldn't be able to own an assault rifle.

    What to do if someone breaks the law anyway? They would be subject to the criminal justice system - of course. Would such action include confiscation of their guns? Probably, which is as it should be - subject to due process.

    If that sort of confiscation is what you have in mind then I totally agree with you. Any and all gun regulation would necessarily lead to confiscation - if the regulations are to be enforced.

    My apologies, the misunderstanding is on me - you are simply making a true statement if read literally. So let me rephrase: "I just don't seem to hear many arguments for "confiscation" of all guns in the bubble I inhabit." Do you hear such where you are?

    Now that I understand what you mean by confiscation I have just one more question. So what?
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That's not my stance. Nothing in my posting resembles that. As usual with the gun control crowd.
    So "most people" should quit being willfully and obstructively stupid, and pay attention to what people's concerns actually are.

    Because that basic situation - minus the comical jackboots and door to door and so forth ( the police would be normally dressed no doubt, and one's delivery of their newly illegal firearms to a central location requested) - is pretty much what you and the rest of the deadlockers are threatening, when you set out to prevent a significant fraction of suicides by gun via government enforced reduction in gun prevalence. For example. That's #2 in the list above. It's what was done in Australia, as James posted - #1 in the list above.

    Just one example, of several one could post - again. Immediately after posting them in yet another thread, to exactly the same clueless respondents as last time and the time before. You know, what you claimed to need a citation for, because it wasn't part of your world?

    And you guys treat it as a joke. You appear to be oblivious, to have no idea what you are advocating. And then you blame the evil NRA or whatever, for your lack of political progress and the puzzling refusal of so many people - most of whom agree that we need gun control - to hand you political power over them.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
  20. Bells Staff Member

    You do realise that in Australia, it was a voluntary gun buy back scheme, yes?

    And those who wished to keep their guns, had to obtain a license to do so, which meant mental health checks and criminal history checks and also checks to make sure they were not dangerous or committed crimes like domestic violence.

    To wit, it did not involve police checking every household for guns to confiscate them, which is what so many people seem to believe happened when they allude to the 'gun confiscation' of 1996 and 2003.

    Most importantly, the general public in all States and Territories demanded that something be done, because we had had several mass shootings and many of those members of the public were gun owners. The situation had become bad enough that action needed to be taken and the existing gun laws that were in place were not enough. To wit, the Government acted because the people demanded they act.

    There are still some 200,000 or so 'grey' guns in circulation - by which I mean guns that are not registered and their owners refused to turn them in for cash during the buyback and keep in mind that our population is over 20 million. They crop up here and there, usually when a crime is committed. But aside from those, guns can still be acquired here legally. In fact, shooting is a popular sport here, be it sports shooting or hunting. Just not guns that can kill multiple people as quickly as the person can pull the trigger. And to obtain a firearm requires police checks, by which they extensively check your criminal history, medical history and question the people you work with and live with, to make sure you are not a criminal or have a criminal record and also to make sure that you are mentally stable and not violent.

    The Government in Australia did not advocate for gun control measures and did not implement the gun buyback scheme to prevent or reduce suicide - ie I never heard John Howard promote the gun buyback scheme to reduce suicide rates. The reduction in suicide numbers was noticed after around one million guns were removed from circulation with the gun buyback scheme. Studies were then conducted and a connection was then made.

    So no, not only did James not say that, but the Australian Government did not say that at the time back in the lead up to the 1996 gun buyback scheme. In other words, it is not what was done in Australia, as James posted in - #1 in your list above. At all. Perhaps you should read what he said again and understand the history and context of your argument.

    Or perhaps it is advocating for less suicide and less murders.

    And your #2 was inherently wrong to begin with when one takes your second statement about #2 into consideration (see above).

    And interestingly, death rates by guns cannot really be studied in the US. I wonder why that is? To wit, no one will ever know the true impact guns have on murder rates and suicide rates, because scientists are denied the right to study it properly. I need to ask, do you agree with preventing scientists from studying this? Because I cannot understand the stance of refusing funding to actually study something that is so intrinsically important in American society.

    Let me ask you this. Do you think someone with a history of domestic violence, should be allowed to own a gun? How about someone with a history of mental illness? Do you think checks should be made when acquiring a firearm?

    Because that is actually what those dreaded "gun control" advocates want. To make sure that domestic violence abusers and people with mental illness or who have a history of mental illness, not to mention a violent criminal history, should not be allowed to purchase or own a firearm. Do you think this is unreasonable? Yes or no?

    The reason for these questions is simple. Domestic violence and having a gun in the house does increase the risk or chance of the victim of the abuse being killed with the gun, even if he or she purchased it for their own protection against their abusers. Mental illness is really a no-brainer. The majority of mass shootings were committed by people who were legally able to purchase firearms despite a history of violent mental illness episodes which a few quick questions or look in their history would have shown. So now go further.. If someone who lives in the house has a propensity for violence or is mentally ill, should firearms be kept in the house or easily accessible to those individuals? Look at Adam Lanza as a prime example. He was severely mentally disturbed and mentally ill, he was unable to adapt to society. Yet guns were freely available to him. Should there be a requirement that guns be kept under lock and key, in such situations, for example?

    In Australia, if you own a firearm, it is required that it be kept secure, with the ammunition kept separately and also secure. Do you think this is an unreasonable expectation or wish? Do you think mental, criminal background checks and checks to see if one is prone to violent outburst, is bad if one wishes to own a gun?

    See, no one outside of the States can really understand this one because we do look at the plain language of the Constitution instead of the many loopholes people have found to increase the types of guns they can own.

    But the fear of "confiscation".. When no one has even mentioned that, makes no sense. I think what most gun control advocates want is better background checks and perhaps restricting certain types of weapons for those who believe that a semi-automatic that can shoot 30 rounds, for example, is necessary for personal protection.

    I think your best bet is to go with curbing the magazines and their capacity for public consumption.

    And better background checks. And I suspect, that is what gun control advocates really want in the US. They are not calling for or advocating confiscation.

    But hey, it's better to obsess about "confiscation", because that really helps, even when it isn't even on the table. It reeks of paranoia and yes, does point to the belief that the government is after your guns, when it clearly is not.
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    How very voluntary that all sounds - especially extended to the warily defended arsenals of the US.

    Get a clue, will you please? Coercion of that kind is exactly what is feared. It's a threat. The people advocating gun control in the US are making threats, when they point to Australia.
    Nobody said James said "that", whatever you somehow read into my post. Your response is bizarre, and unmotivated by anything I posted.
    There are no loopholes in the 2nd Amendment, and there has been no such legal "increase" in the types of guns Americans can own. You are failing to read with comprehension, a quite simple sentence in English, because it does not say what you want it to say.
    When dozens of posters (like you) recommend policies and advance agendas that would require a general confiscation of private firearms in the US, their obliviousness does not reduce the threat - nor does it increase the confidence that the laws they do enact will be reasonable. Hence the votes of no confidence, and the political deadlock.
    Instead of suspecting what they are thinking, read what they write. Yes, they are. Whether they realize it or not. It's inherent in their arguments and justifications, as well as their explicit proposals. And their obliviousness - if sincere - increases rather than decreases the threat they represent.
    Let me ask you this: how many times do I have to post one of my various lists of gun control measures I favor, and most Americans favor, which included every single one of those,

    how many times do I have to point out that nothing in my posting conflicts with the imposition of badly needed gun control in the US, such as I favor and most Americans favor,

    before you cranks learn to read other people's posts with comprehension?

    What in all that is holy is the problem with the gun control deadlockers that they cannot read simple English prose? They can't read the 2nd Amendment, they can't read anything I post, they can't even read their own damn posts and realize what they just said. It's striking.
    That isn't true. Scientists have been denied government funding to study gun injury as a public health matter, under the auspices of the Federal public health agencies and grants from said sources, in the US, only - which is of course bad enough, and symptomatic, and crazy, but still anyone who wants to study the impact of guns on murder and suicide rates under other auspices or via other sources of funding (such as Homeland Security, say) is perfectly free to do so. And such studies have been done, are being done. Most of the ones I have seen have been very poorly conceived - a waste of money, really, doing things like aggregating their stats by State - but not all, and there is no reason better could not be performed.

    If you want to know why there was an irrational flinch reaction against bringing gun control research under Federal public health agency control, consider the powers of the Health Department, or OSHA, or any of those subagencies in charge of protecting us all from our own behavior, as experienced by the typical gun owner: the lifejacket regulations in his duckboat floating in three feet of water, the seat belt laws and air bag hassles, the intrusive creep of drug and alcohol laws, the piss testing and helmet requirements and safety matches that won't light, the fees and licenses and standing in lines for poor service and arbitrary abuse. He's the guy who was forced to pay thousands of dollars to swap his butcherblock meatcutting tables for metal ones that dull his knives and actually increase the odds of bacterial contamination (the Health Department requirement was based on bad data). He's the guy who watched his teenage daughter get behind the wheel of a car equipped with an air bag that added no safety to the seat belt she always wears and could kill her - because she's short - and could not be disconnected or removed, by law. The Health Department is not an agency you want in your house regulating your behavior any more than is unavoidable.
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    This was over 30 years ago. I think she got married and lives in California now.....

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  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yet almost all of us want it to regulate everyone else's behavior.

    The anti-vaccination movement is a perfect example. The vast majority of Americans are happy to live in a country where vaccines are routinely available, for free--and most are mandatory except for the tiny percentage of American children whose physiology reacts poorly to the vaccine.

    The anti-vaxers are a small population who (in most cases encouraged by the bullshit of the whacked-out fundamentalist Christian denominations who make modern America look like pre-Enlightenment Europe) want to take advantage of "herd immunity"--enjoying the extremely low incidence of these diseases in populations with very high vaccination rates. The probability of a deliberately unvaccinated American coming in contact with an American with polio (or any of the other scourges of the past) is very low.

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