Thursday, December 27, 2012

'School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America'

Ron Paul, of all people, expressed views similar to my own "pox on both their houses" perspective on the recent policy debates in the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school shootings: “Predictably," he declared, as reported by Politico, "the political left responded to the tragedy with emotional calls for increased gun control,” suggesting that, “This is understandable, but misguided. The impulse to have government ‘do something’ to protect us in the wake of national tragedies is reflexive and often well intentioned. … But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don’t obey laws.” Thank you!

OTOH, Paul blasted the NRA's proposal to place armed police in every school:
He said the federal government should not try to “pursue unobtainable safety” with state-sanctioned security and claimed Democratic and Republican lawmakers have “zero moral authority to legislate against violence.”

“This is the world of government provided ‘security,’ a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse,” Paul said in a statement on his website. “School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.”

He continued: “Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. We shouldn’t settle for substituting one type of violence for another.”
The proliferation of legal guns in America over the last several decades makes their prohibition as fanciful as the prohibition of alcohol or pot. Yes, "we could try." But you'd fail, just as the drug war has failed, just as alcohol prohibition failed. This isn't Europe or Japan, where the populace was disarmed by totalitarian states, or else under martial law after a war, so that strict gun control could be imposed from scratch. In the US, and certainly Texas, it would be many decades before the black market exhausted its supply. The only upside would be for the private prison companies, who are always looking for new categories of citizens to criminalize and incarcerate.

By the same token, in an era when the Obama Administration considers civilian casualties acceptable collateral consequences of extra-judicial executions (read: drone strikes), I couldn't agree more that “Democratic and Republican lawmakers have 'zero moral authority to legislate against violence.'” And his comment about the NRA proposal "substituting one kind of violence for another" could have come straight from Gandhi or Dr. King. Paul's statement expanded on the theme: "Real change can happen only when we commit ourselves to rebuilding civil society in America, meaning a society based on family, religion, civic and social institutions, and peaceful cooperation through markets. We cannot reverse decades of moral and intellectual decline by snapping our fingers and passing laws." Amen, brother. Preach!

I always worry when government makes policy in reaction to some specific, rare event like the mass shooting of first graders. There's an old saying, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. The massacre in Connecticut was a zebra, one cannot reasonably ban everything with hooves in response.

Personally, I find US and Texas gun laws both over- and under-restrictive, in an almost schizophrenic kind of way. For example, it's no doubt too easy for folks diagnosed with a serious mental illness to acquire firearms, and the legal framework governing mental illness is conflicted and generally underdeveloped. We could do much better at getting those in need access to mental health services and supervising, whether in corrections facilities, hospitals, or in the community, people who pose a serious risk of violence when off their meds. Intermediate levels of supervision - perhaps including greater use of preemptive civil commitments - could support compliance with treatment protocols on the front end instead of punishing the mentally ill after something bad has happened. But all that would require a community mental health infrastructure that today doesn't exist. In most places, the county jail is now the area's largest mental health provider. OTOH, if you want to talk about "gun control" aimed narrowly at those with serious mental illness, you'd probably get a lot less pushback than for any kind of general ban.

At the same time, the universal ban on felons possessing firearms ends up sending a lot of folks to prison who've committed no other recent offense, and only a subset of those people (Texas releases more than 70,000 felons from prison every year) are so dangerous they merit a lifetime ban on firearm ownership, as federal law prescribes. Meanwhile there are some misdemeanors, including family violence, that probably merit elimination of gun rights but don't. (In Texas, a domestic violence conviction means you can't own a gun for five years.) Misdemeanors vs. felonies is an arbitrary line.

Certainly I believe the law can be changed in ways that would reduce the number of gun deaths. As our e-pal Dan Kahan recently opined, the most immediate and effective method of reducing the gun death total - though it has nothing to do with lone-gunman school shootings - would be to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and cocaine. A large proportion of gun deaths - not the least of which are the 60,000 or so in northern Mexico over the last six years - relate to the black-market drug trade. You don't see the makers of Samuel Adams lager engaged in gun battles with Anheuser Busch.

However, there's no public safety benefit from criminalizing common activities and uses by everyday gun owners, especially because there are too many of them. (Long-time readers may recall Grits worked with the Texas State Rifle Association and even authored a public policy report in support of legislation to allow legal gun owners to carry a weapon, stowed securely, in their personal vehicles.) But neither are more guns inherently a good solution. Giving teachers guns to keep in classrooms full of mischievous kids, for example, as has been suggested in Arlington, is a recipe for disaster.

The all-or-nothing debate over guns has turned into another hackneyed, culture-war flashpoint, obscuring more moderate, selective policies aimed at mitigating specific, underlying causes of gun violence. Ron Paul, I fear, is the wrong messenger; the public is so used to ignoring him it's got to be second nature by now. And Grits thinks government should probably play a bigger role in this matter than the Congressman would countenance, along the lines described above. But I'm glad to hear somebody say in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy that more, harsher criminal laws aren't the only or even the best solution.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are armed guards on college campuses, and have been for quite awhile now. Same goes for some inner-city public school campuses. Why such an uproar over the idea now?

Anonymous said...

I usually dont share your points of view but this article is very good. It is a fact that banning anything now wont achieve anything except for getting more people armed. Go try to legally buy a AR right now....
Also agree with the taxation and legalization of at least marihuana, then it would not become a mexico-usa illegal trade that kills thousands of people both sides of the border.
And getting rid of 100% of guns... well could become the main ingredient for a civil war..
I disagree with you on the arming teachers subject though.... I think a few teachers who voluntary do it could help a lot. Schools could provide extra training and as all gun carriers (in Texas) carry is concealed so the little spawns wont get traumatized when they see a gun because the should not be able to see it!

JJ said...

There is only one way I would agree with banning firearms. Ban anyone from having them, including police, government, etc. That is the only way I would ever agree. Make owning a firearm illegal, I don't care. The spirit of the constitution will live on with many an American, whether legal in present day or not.

Anonymous said...

Why do you reference the mental illness card? In this specific case, there is no mention of the mass murderer being "mentally ill". Reports were he had aspergers syndrome, which is not a mental illness. Quit making excuses for this horendous act as being caused by someone who is "mentally ill". Everybody is always looking for an excuse to justify their actions. If he was so "mentally ill" how would he know how to operate an ar15? Reload a magazine and take extra magazines with him? Let alone, how could someone who is "mentally ill" be able to put together a premeditated killing spree of innocent children. Is a symptom of "mental illness" a mass murder of 20 children and 7 adults? Quit making bullshit excuses for something that does not exist in this case, which is "mental illness".

Anonymous said...

11:53PM

Anyone who is a mass murder suffers from some form of mental illness or is truly evil. As a police officer and avid read of Grits I can tell you we have a problem in our society concerning mentally ill people. The County Jail is were most of them end up by default. There is no where else to put them.

During the 1970s and well into the 1980s this Country deinstitutionalized a lot of mentally ill people and in effect did away with the institutions that kept the mentally ill. Now I do not believe in permanently locking up all mentally ill persons in institutions but truly dangerous have to be with better treatment and care than they received prior to the 1980's.

Banning guns is not the answer, any police officer can tell you where to go in their city to buy an illegal firearm. All banning guns will do is take them out of the hands of law abiding citizens. The illegal firearms trade will not go away, just like the illegal drug trade will not go away no matter how much resources the government throws at it. I believe legalizing marijuana will cut drug and gun related crime by at least 50%. Now I have no numbers to back that statement up. Just what I see everyday at work. Now as for cocaine, I have fought and seen some individuals in humanly strong while high on cocaine. I do not believe legalizing cocaine is the answer. But I can say this I have never fought or been given a hard time by someone high on weed. They are relaxed and extremely compliant.

Just my .02cents

Anonymous said...

11:53

Asperger's is included in the current DSM IV. In the upcoming revision (DSM V) it is dropped, but individuals currently diagnosed with Asperger's will fall under the Austism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. So, Asperger's Syndrome is considered a mental disorder/illness by the APA.

There are many mental disorders/illnesses that don't impair the ability to plan. E.g., anxiety disorders and depression.

I don't know if Lanza did what he did because of a mental illness. But it seems like a reasonable question to me, and something good may come from asking the question.

On the other hand, it seems to me that labeling him as evil has the effect of stopping any serious examination of what happened, and what can be changed to prevent it from happening in the future.

Anonymous said...

248

Asperger's is a developmental disorder, not a mental illness, so it is not an Axis I diagnosis, correct?

"I don't know if Lanza did what he did because of a mental illness"
What do you mean by this? Is mass murder a symptom of mental illness? There is no documented evidence that lanza ever was diagnosed with a mental illness. So we can speculate til were blue in the face.
I resent the fact that people are looking for a crutch or card to justify their actions. In this case, the mental illness card cannot be played.

Anonymous said...

2:38

"Anyone who is a mass murder suffers from some form of mental illness or is truly evil."

Is this a fact or your opinion?

Anonymous said...

On the issue of security in school's, most high schools in Texas already have police officers in the schools. I grew up in Miami Florida in the early 70's. We had a police officer in my high school and I recall times when I saw one in Junior high. This is not a new concept. We just have to insure the job of the police is to serve and protect and not arrest every student in sight.

On the issue of removing guns even in Iraq the citizens have semi auto weapons. The military channel has shown the Marines going house to house checking on these. And all the local has to say is "Ali Baba" to explain why he needs it and he keeps it.
I would hate to see the day the UN brings in the Blue Hats to do this in America.

Ham2mtr

Anonymous said...

2:48 here.

3:44 said:
"I resent the fact that people are looking for a crutch or card to justify their actions. In this case, the mental illness card cannot be played."

As far as I can see, no one is trying to justify Lanza's actions. They are trying to understand those actions. Particularly in light of the descriptions of him by his friends and family, which don't indicate a history of violence. Did the people close to him miss something? Did something change that pushed him over the edge? These are reasonable questions to ask. To not ask the questions seems to me to be unwise.

Anonymous said...

If this particular mass shooting doesn't get assault rifles banned then the next one will. Or it may even take the one after. But, rest assured gun control is in the future. After the Norway mass shooting last year, and other shootings of schoolkids in other countries, it was bound to happen here. But will gun control solve mass killings? It's doubtful. Watch for incendiary bombs to become the next weapon of choice for those who wish to make a statement. And just imagine the damage, death, and absolute horror that a single incendiary device will cause. These can be easily rigged with a timer, and a small battery with a cheap hotwater heater element in such things as a common propane bottle. Pardon the distasteful pun, but I suspect we'll be jumping from the fire right into the proverbial frying pan...

DEWEY said...

Armed guards in schools ? Columbine had armed guards. Kent State had the National Guard (who did the shooting).
This is intended to be humorous: Armed teacher to students: "You kids behave, or I will start shooting !!"

Anonymous said...

DEWEY said...
"Armed guards in schools ? Columbine had armed guards."

Columbine also happened when the 1994 assault weapons ban was in effect. The ban obviously didn't prevent it.

Anonymous said...

The assault weapon ban banned the manufacture of "assault" weapons. It didn't ban the possession of pre-ban manufactured weapons. "Klebold's TEC-DC9 was made during the congressional debate by a Miami gun maker who tripled production to beat the ban - and called it his best year ever" (Denver Post).

Congress should consider banning the possession of these weapons, not just their production. Why should the rest of us be put at risk for the sake of the GI Joe fantasy's of a bunch of middle-aged pot-bellied sociopaths.

Marty said...

Gun control will NOT stop killers from killing. Trying to understand a killers motive will not stop him either. A killers motives are as varied as the killers. To know what his motive was you would have to sit down with him, look him in the eye, and discuss it.

A killer determined to kill will do it with whatever weapon/means they have available. They do NOT need guns to do it with. I don't think I have to site cases to illustrate that point. Gun control is ineffective at stopping violence. Gun control only disarms law abiding citizens.

Putting police in the schools may help to some degree. But, it won't stop a killer. Police are mostly reactionary in their response. Something has to happen, and they then respond. They serve as some deterrent, but they cannot be everywhere at the same time. A killer will wait until they are not in the same area, then strike.

Arming teachers, on the other hand, serves to protect each of the students in the armed teachers class. Whether their weapon is concealed or not, well, that could be left up to the district. But, armed teachers, who are trained, would serve both as a deterrent and as immediate protection for the students under their care.

As for mental illness, our prison system is FULL of offenders with mental illness. I believe it would be far better to offer treatment for these individuals in the community BEFORE they commit a crime, rather than wait to treat them until they are in prison. Treatment in the community is sadly lacking, and sorely needed.

Thanks for listening to my long post,

Marty Ley
30yr TDCJ Employee

Anonymous said...

Marty,

You are painting a specific subject with a broad brush. The specifics in the Newton shootings are focusign on one topic, an AR15 semi automatic "rifle" with 30 rd clips used with hollow points to slaughter 20 children and 6 adults working at the school.
Anyone who has any common sense and hunts and has children/grandchildren knows there is no reason to own such a high powered "rifle" let alone having hollow points which cause the most damage to whatever or whoever is hit. There is no mention of this guy ever being treated for a mental illness. The developmental disorder he had was asperger's syndrome, which is not an axis i diagnosed mental illness.

As for Texas, everyone involved in the system in any capacity knows that TDCJ-ID is a dumping ground for the mentally ill, along with the Harris county jail being the biggest mental health provider in the state of Texas. You put emphasis on BEFORE, so how do you force someone to go to mhmr and take medication 100% of the time? There are folks on probation and parole right now in Texas that have not been to MHMR like their board imposed special condition "P" says they are supposed to. Parole and probation have some great folks working for them and they even do not follow up with their clients compliance with making appts and picking up medications. And on the other hand, TDCJ-parole employs some of the laziest, inept closet self loathers you could ever imagine. They care too much about what they are wearing, how their clothes and hair look and don't have the time to keep uop with all of that and whether or not their caseload is compliant with mhmr services.

Anonymous said...

Is the arming of of school personnel in Texas a local rights issue and not the business of the federal government?

Spare me the arguement it's a federal issue if the school accepts federal funding.

Anonymous said...

Anyone got any stats on the number of shootings at public schools versus private schools?

Anonymous said...

There have been some shootings at private schools/universities: the Amish girls in Pennsylvania, the shooting at an Episcopal school in Jacksonville, the shootings at Oikos University in Oakland. The numbers are less, but the per capita rates would be more to the point.

Anonymous said...

“Anyone who has any common sense and hunts and has children/grandchildren knows there is no reason to own such a high powered "rifle" let alone having hollow points which cause the most damage to whatever or whoever is hit.”

RESPONSE:

In the world of physics ‘power’ is defined as the time rate of change in an energy state and is a poor metric for describing the level of destructiveness of a ballistic projectile. The two metrics that best describe how destructive a ballistic projectile is are momentum, and kinetic energy. In terms of kinetic energy the 5.56x45 NATO cartridge is nominally less destructive than the traditional .30-30 Winchester cartridge that has long been a standard for deer hunting.

The 4.1 g DM11 FMJBT load in the 5.56 NATO cartridge has a muzzle velocity of 936 m/s yielding a muzzle energy of 1,796 J. The muzzle moment being 3.83 kg*m/s.

A standard 10 g (150 grain) FN bullet loaded in a .30-30 cartridge will have a muzzle velocity of 730 m/s yielding a muzzle energy of 2,580 J. The muzzle moment being 7.30 kg*m/s.

Clearly, 1,796 J > 2,580 J, and 3.83 kg*m/s > 7.30 kg*m/s. Further, the muzzle energy of the .30-30 is 7.30 times that of the 5.56 NATO, and the muzzle momentum of the .30-30 is 1.90 times that of the 5.56 NATO.

So, by either of the two best metrics describing the destructiveness of a projectile the common .30-30 is more potent than the 5.56 NATO at very short ranges.

The Fishing Physicist

Anonymous said...

“Clearly, 1,796 J > 2,580 J, and 3.83 kg*m/s > 7.30 kg*m/s.”

CORRECTION:

That should have been:

1,796 J < 2,580 J, and 3.83 kg*m/s < 7.30 kg*m/s.

Please excuse the typos.

The Fishing Physicist

Anonymous said...

TFP said "So, by either of the two best metrics describing the destructiveness of a projectile the common .30-30 is more potent than the 5.56 NATO at very short ranges."

But the hollow points are much more effective at transferring energy to the target, especially when only soft tissue is struck. The 5.56 will transfer close to 100% of its kinetic energy to the target. The .30-.30 will often pass through, carrying much of its kinetic energy with it. Since "destructiveness" is in the eyes of the target, the 5.56 wins out, for sure.

Anonymous said...

It would be much easier to round up all the illegal aliens in Texas than it would be to round up all the guns.

jcfromnj said...

Have you looked into the stories of 6yr olds in grade school being arrested by Cop's and taken itno court ? Why have more of this insanity by sociopathhic Police on bent on Control ? DUH.....

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:53, anyone who suggests either one is remotely feasible IMO is a fool, a charlatan, or both.

Anonymous said...

Marty said"Gun control will NOT stop killers from killing."

I understand that the NRA has a new initiative based on this understanding. They will be giving an AR-15 to all felons released from prison. The ones who will eventually become killers would become killers anyway, so there's no harm done. The ones who won't become killers will be able to target practice and participate in organized sporting events, thereby benefiting the community. So there is no downside to the initiative.

RAS said...

10/22 You're a twit. Grits I agree with all of your points and Ron Paul's. Legalizing drugs would lower homocides but I think it is still a bad idea. I don't see much separating dopers and entitlement junkies; in fact I think they are mutually conducive.

Anonymous said...

”But the hollow points are much more effective at transferring energy to the target, especially when only soft tissue is struck. The 5.56 will transfer close to 100% of its kinetic energy to the target. The .30-.30 will often pass through, carrying much of its kinetic energy with it. Since "destructiveness" is in the eyes of the target, the 5.56 wins out, for sure.”

If the rounds that the murder fired were loaded with hollow point bullets it is unlikely that those rounds were actual 5.56 NATO rounds, but rather .223 Remington rounds loaded as varmint rounds, unless they were handloads.

In any case your statement was: “there is no reason to own such a high powered "rifle"... and then referencing the ammunition “...let alone having hollow points which cause the most damage to whatever or whoever is hit...”.

Ergo, I was clearly addressing your assertion about “such a high powered "rifle"...” and not about the nature of the bullets that were fired from the "rifle". Thus, my original post still stands as your rebuttal failed to remain on point.

The Fishing Physicist

Anonymous said...

“I understand that the NRA has a new initiative based on this understanding. They will be giving an AR-15 to all felons released from prison. The ones who will eventually become killers would become killers anyway, so there's no harm done. The ones who won't become killers will be able to target practice and participate in organized sporting events, thereby benefiting the community. So there is no downside to the initiative.”


An obvious example of an appeal to ridicule.

The Fishing Physicist

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12/28/2012 11:28:00 AM said:

"Anyone who has any common sense and hunts and has children/grandchildren knows there is no reason to own such a high powered "rifle" let alone having hollow points which cause the most damage to whatever or whoever is hit."

Gun control nuts always try to shift the argument to "need." It's not about "need." It never was. It's all about being able to limit the powers of govt by extreme means.


"There is no mention of this guy ever being treated for a mental illness. The developmental disorder he had was asperger's syndrome, which is not an axis i diagnosed mental illness."

One of the characteristics of Aspergers is poor social communication skills, and poor judgement. They don't have normal emotional responses. As such, the individual will fixate on a certain idea or concept, and wrongly believe it is the answer to a problem.

Anonymous said...

8:45 said- "Gun control nuts always try to shift the argument to "need." It's not about "need." It never was. It's all about being able to limit the powers of govt by extreme means."

So the need is to subvert democracy. Sounds good to me..

Anonymous said...

12/30/2012 09:34:00 AM said:

"So the need is to subvert democracy. Sounds good to me.."

You bet. Democracy equates to mob rule, where the govt can also easily turn into the out of control mob. That's why we don't live in a democracy, and the founders set it up that way. We live in a representative republic. The constitution was meant to limit governmental power, and not the power of the people.

Anonymous said...

9:34 said- "So the need is to subvert democracy. Sounds good to me.."

Substitute tyranny in place of democracy and you'll be on point...

Anonymous said...

It's the attitude being expressed here, that the civil insurrection if not outright civil war is the root of interest in assault weapons, that causes middle of the road folks to associate "nut-jobs" with assault weapon owners in general.

Anonymous said...

According to a most recent FBI crime statistic 54% of our nation’s homicides by gun violence occur in blacks ages 1 to 34. Chicago boast 318 children shot in 2012. Also according to the stats the majority of the guns used in these homicides were not purchased legally. How will restricting the liberties of the second amendment reduce this awful fact of American life? How can we ignore 54% of the nation’s homicides perpetrated by a relatively small group of citizens primarily with stolen firearms? Perhaps if our politicians and media are truly serious about stopping gun violence we could take pointers from Europe. A simple solution that would put a big dent in our nation’s gun violence would be to profile blacks for search and gun seizure, especially in places like Chicago. Since gun control policy seems to have little effect on this small group of citizens who are responsible for over half of our nation’s gun violence a targeted effort would go a long way to chip away at a very sad American statistic. Then again I may be na├»ve, caring about a small group of citizens who obviously don’t care about themselves. I think its Jim Crow racist thinking to deflect this fact, to let it go as something black people do, a cultural norm that we as a government at a tremendous burden on national resources perpetuate in the form of a pathetic existence of wallowing in the chains of entitlement. However, I know in our times that pointing out such a fact of American life will be deflected with name calling and race baiting. Typical are the responses when questioning the misplaced priorities of our current federal government and media in the face of such facts like 54% of American gun violence is perpetrated by black Americans in many cases over iPods, hoodies and sneakers.

Anonymous said...

Following the logic of 11:56 -

There were 9,878 deaths attributed to drunk driving in 2011. FBI crime statistics indicate that whites accounted for 85.3% of DUI arrests in 2011. Therefore, targeting white drivers for random sobriety tests is "a simple solution that would put a big dent in our nation's" alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Anonymous said...

11:56 said -

"How can we ignore 54% of the nation’s homicides perpetrated by a relatively small group of citizens primarily with stolen firearms? "

Agreed. The way to take care of this is to require legal gun owners to be responsible. This includes being responsible in keeping their guns from being stolen. The way to do this is to make gun-owners financially responsible for all harm done with their firearms after they are stolen. If you let your gun be stolen and it is then used to kill a child, then you as the gun-owner who let your gun be stolen will be civilly liable for the damage that was done due to your negligent behavior.

Anonymous said...

"This includes [gun owners] being responsible in keeping their guns from being stolen."

Well then, we need to be a better job of dealing with criminals, rather than penalizing law-abiding gun owners.

Anonymous said...

I like the civil liability idea. To 12:41, there are already laws against criminals using guns, but they're not buying them at Walmart. Making gun owners responsible for keeping their weapons secure would be a belt-and-suspenders approach. Don't you think Adam Lanza's mother and the other CT victims might have benefited from that type of extra incentive?

Anonymous said...

12/31 0838 stated: Agreed. The way to take care of this is to require legal gun owners to be responsible. This includes being responsible in keeping their guns from being stolen. The way to do this is to make gun-owners financially responsible for all harm done with their firearms after they are stolen. If you let your gun be stolen and it is then used to kill a child, then you as the gun-owner who let your gun be stolen will be civilly liable for the damage that was done due to your negligent behavior.

I completely disagree. If I have my gun securely locked up and my home is broken into and some thug steals my gun and commits a crime with it, you want to hold me accountable? That's BS! That would be like me stealing your car and killing someone one in it and but because it was registered to you, you get to take the financial heat for it. THat's messed up!

Anonymous said...

If you leave your car unlocked or leave the keys in it and it is stolen and gets into a wreck, your insurance won't cover the damage but you can be held personally liable for the damage because you were negligent and made it easy to steal your car. Same should apply to guns. If you don't have them in a safe, then you are making them easy to steal, and you should be held liable for the damage caused by your negligence.