Saturday, February 9, 2013

Guns, Government, and the Clash of Cultures



Second Amendment supporters who attempt to “educate” gun control advocates by citing the Constitution or providing facts about the mechanical differences between a semi-automatic and a select-fire assault rifle are destined to fail. That’s because the post Sandy Hook gun control fight isn’t about guns. It is about existential values, the beliefs around which people organize and live their lives.

Two completely distinct and incompatible political cultures have developed in the United States. The gun control fight marks an irreconcilable fracture, a fault line between traditionalists who value individual liberty and personal responsibility (including an absolute right to defend self, family, and home) and establishment-led collectivists who believe that the individual must be made subordinate to the collective and that the collective's agent, government, must have an absolute monopoly on the use of force.

Many in the collectivist camp have been so thoroughly conditioned that the very thought of self-defense is alien, repugnant, and perhaps impossible. How could it be otherwise? By now generations have been taught that to physically resist an attack by a school yard bully is to earn a suspension.  “No tolerance” policies make no distinction between aggressor and victim. Self-defense requires the use of force and that is not to be allowed. Toy guns—even pictures of guns—are forbidden by imbecilic administrators and school boards across the country. “Dodge ball” is banned because it encourages aggressive behavior. Collectivists genuinely do not understand that their calls for public disarmament are seen by the millions of Americans who own firearms and are proficient in their use as deliberate efforts to place their families in harm’s way. The Welfare State’s schools have done their job well.

The division between these two cultures is so deep and so wide that the two literally cannot understand each other, a condition that bodes ill for the future. When political opponents agree upon ends, it is possible to successfully negotiate disagreements about the means to achieve those ends. When the disagreement is about existential ends, there is no common middle ground. As an example, if you and I both want to go to Chicago, we can probably resolve a disagreement about whether we should drive or fly to get to our destination. However, if we have only one vehicle and you believe we must go to Chicago and I believe we must go to Los Angeles, compromise is impossible. That is exactly where America's two opposing cultures stand today.

The establishment's primary weapon against traditionalist opponents is orchestrated propaganda, relentlessly employed by establishment-controlled news and entertainment media outlets. The extent to which journalism's historic principles have been compromised can be seen by contrasting the behavior of establishment news media in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy against the words contained in the preamble to the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics which reads as follows:
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.
Given this commendable commitment to do journalism's duty by "providing a fair an comprehensive account of events and issues", why, in the wake of Sandy Hook, did the establishment news media apparatus devote its entire effort to demonizing firearms (and firearms owners)? Why did it fail to ask the elementary "who", "what", "when", "where" and "why" questions that are a standard component of every reporter's professional routine? For example:

  • Did the Sandy Hook Elementary School's security system have security cameras? 
  • If so, where is the video footage of Lanza shooting his way into the school? 
  • If not, where are the still police photographs of the school entrance?
  • Who was Adam Lanza's physician? 
  • What prescription medications, if any, was Adam Lanza taking?
  • How did Lanza get from his home to Sandy Hook Elementary School?
  • What kind of long gun was removed from a car trunk on camera on Sandy Hook's school grounds?
  • Who owns that car and how did Lanza gain access to it?
  • Did Adam Lanza have an e-mail account? 
  • If so, what do his e-mails say about his interests, his state of mind, and his possible motives?

These questions still require answers today. Instead Obama, his posse, and the establishment news media launched a coordinated blizzard of misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies to exploit the shock and horror generated by Sandy Hook slaughter ("never let a good tragedy go to waste") in an effort to ram through national gun control legislation. That non-stop 24/7 effort just may be the greatest public relations miscalculation in political history. The American people's riposte was a stunning act of immediate and unremitting defiance. They queued up for hours to buy virtually every firearm of any type that could be found available for sale in the United States (plus all available ammunition stocks) and placed additional firearms and ammunition orders amounting to a year's worth of manufacturing output!

The people's massive and negative reaction sent a wave of shock through establishment ranks. Unfortunately, this does not mean that an increasingly frightened and desperate political establishment will end its current effort to impose gun control. That the news media has not yet learned its lesson is demonstrated by (1) its continued focus on "gun violence" instead of overall violence; (2) its insistance that semi-automatic rifles are "assault weapons;  (3) its continued claim that the U.S. has an unusually high murder rate; and (4) its repeated assertion that the widespread private ownership of firearms is responsible for the murder rate. The facts are readily available to anyone who cares to look for them and they still are not being accurately reported by the establishment media.
  • The U.S. homicide rate per 100,000 population has been dropping since 1993 and is now at its lowest level since 1968! Exceptions are cities which have the tightest restrictions on the private ownership of firearms such as Obama's Chicago.  (See FBI-Uniform Crime Reports.) 
  • The U.S. homicide rate (murders per 100,000 population) ranks 108th of the 207 countries for which data are reported according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s most recent report (see http://www.unodc.org/). All countries reporting higher murder rates than the U.S. require firearm registration and have very restrictive (virtually prohibitive) licensing requirements. Bear in mind that these data are from “the most recent year reported” and are subject to change as new information is added.
  • Gun ownership data comes from http://www.gunpolicy.org/. Although the U.S. leads the world in per capita ownership of firearms, more than one-half of the countries in the world have a higher murder rate than the United States, many of them much higher. If private firearms ownership “causes” murder, the U.S. murder rate should be the highest by far. It’s not even close.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. reported 12,664 murders in 2011, continuing a decline that has been occurring since 1993. To put these data in perspective, had the U.S. experienced El Salvador’s homicide rate, there would have been 218,039 murders in 2011 and yet private firearms ownership is 15.3 times that of El Salvador! Greenland’s rate applied to our population would have resulted in 60,496 murders. It becomes very difficult in the face of these data to seriously argue that there is any meaningful correlation between private gun ownership and national murder rates.

It is also absolutely clear that the propensity to commit murder (and the probability of being murdered) is not equally distributed among the U.S. population. Black Americans kill and are killed at eight times the rate observed in the rest of the population. Again, see FBI-Uniform Crime Reports. The effect of this unequal distribution on the national murder rate is enormous. When the black murder rate is “normalized” to those levels observed in the rest of the U.S. population, the U.S. murder rate is cut virtually in half and falls close to rates seen in Western Europe and Canada. These data do not support the idea that there exists any causal relationship between national murder rates and private firearm ownership.

Incidents such as the mass killings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook are of a special type. Unlike the killings that account for most U.S. murders in which black Americans are disproportionately both victims and killers, in mass killing incidents the killers tend to be White or Asian male mental patients.

Prior to 1968, there were virtually no mass killings in the United States and it was possible for anyone to purchase any legal fire arm with no background check. Guns could be mail-ordered from catalog stores such as Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Wards, JC Penny, or Spiegels and they would be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Then, beginning in the decade of the 1970s,  the U.S. experienced a dramatic increase in the number of mass killings. Two factors accompanied that increase and both warrant exploration.
  • Throughout the 1970s, mental health care reform emptied out the state mental hospitals and made it much more difficult to have dangerous mental patients involuntarily committed for treatment.
    • In 1987, the “anti-depressant” PROZAC was approved and widely prescribed followed by ZOLOFT, PAXIL and other SSRI drugs. Known side effects include suicide ideation and violent behavior. Most—if not all—of the mass killers from 1980 on were taking one or more of these drugs.
    The Sandy Hook tragedy invokes feelings of shock, horror, and great sadness in all of us. It is essential that we identify and understand the true causes. It will be a greater tragedy still if we allow this terrible event to be exploited to advance a dangerous political agenda that will do nothing positive and place all Americans at grave risk.


    FJB


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