December 19th, 2012

Jumpy beasts

Because it's offensive to remind people that liberty doesn't trump life or the pursuit of happiness

I realize that this isn't going to gain much traction with people who think the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution gives them the right to bear any and all weapons but I'd like to hope the more reasonable segments of society would at least be willing to consider that the Founding Fathers weren't intending to enable spree killers or murderers in general. Maintaining State militias and the responsiblity to be armed to repel invasions by foreign powers has little to nothing to do with the insistance that all weapons must be allowed to the populace.

Robert Wright wrote the following for the Atlantic:

Is there a single legitimate use of firearms that requires more than six rounds of continuous fire? Certainly not hunting. And not any sort of self-defense that's realistically imaginable, unless you've recently antagonized a Mexican drug cartel.

As the gun lobby gears up to battle proposals such as this one, you'll hear a lot about the fact that mass killings are actually a drop in the bucket of total homicides. True. But mass killings take a disproportionate toll on the nation psychologically and spiritually. Thirty individual people dying in isolated assaults in various cities is a horrible thing, but it doesn't terrify our children, and it doesn't turn our schools into bunkers.

A modern society puts all sorts of limitations on its citizens without turning into tyranny. The Commonwealth countries all have significant restrictions on firearms and yet Australia and New Zealand and Canada haven't become repressive police states where their citizens are helpless prey to marauding criminals. Hunters can still hunt, marksmen can still use precision weapons at ranges, etc. etc.

America isn't going to solve its mental health issues overnight. As a lifelong hunter used to reasonable restrictions, I don't have a problem making it inconvenient for mass murderers to do so. To me, it beats 11 year olds putting guns to the heads of fellow students or asking teachers in Texas to become Dirty Harry.

Edit: Mother Jones conducted a two-month investigation into 62 U.S. mass shootings over the last 30 years — begun in response to Aurora, updated after Newtown. They found that while deaths from gun-related violence has been decreasing since the early 1990s (along with crime in general) in the U.S., mass shootings have skyrocketed. They have done so concurrently with millions of new firearms flooding the market along with laws making them easier than every to carry publicly. "And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed."
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The big parley

Before overwhelming the US east coast, the biggest Atlantic storm for 2012 swept through parts of the Caribbean where it killed almost 80 people, destroyed local infrastructure and demolished thousands of homes. In the north-eastern US states, Sandy was downgraded from a hurricane to a super-storm status, but even so it claimed 100 lives, ruined many settlements along the coast in New York and New Jersey state, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless; it blocked public transport for days (the water almost reached the ceiling in some NY subway stations), it paralysed the fuel supplies, and cut the electricity of over 8 million households, causing damages estimated at $ 60 billion (that is what Obama requested from Congress to deal with the consequences of the disaster). And it was only thanks to quick and adequate evacuation measures that the number of casualties was relatively limited.

If anything, Sandy has reminded the wealthiest and most advanced countries that they are not immune to the extreme whims of nature any more than any other corners of the world. And the bad news is that more and more forecasts about the coming years are predicting these disasters to become more frequent and more severe.

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