April 17, 2007

Bang Bang, That Awful Sound

My AmSpec column today is about the Virginia Tech massacre.

Posted by John Tabin at April 17, 2007 12:44 AM

The VT shooter was a piker. Check out some of these other mass killings:

Bath, Michigan school shootings, 1927...45
Julio Gonzalez, Bronx, .................87
Jack Gilbert Graham, 1955 ..............44
David Burke , 1987 .....................43

Then of course you have your serial killers who kill only one or two at a time...but the numbers really add up:
Wayne Williams, Atlanta ............29
Randy Steven Kraft .................67
Ted Bundy .......................30~50
Gary Leon Ridgeway .................48
John Wayne Gacy ....................33

But all these guys are rank amateurs compared to the pros...Communist governments:
USSR (Stalin, et al).......61,911,000
China (Mao and crew) ......35,238,000
Nazi Germany ..............20,946,000
Viet Nam (Ho Chi Mihn)......1,697,000
Cambodia ...................2,035,000(
Thanks to US leftists for the 2 above)
YugoSlavia .................1,072,000
Castro & Che .................513,000
Yet some a**hole is going to call for the disarming of the populace....go figger. sm

[Line breaks added to make this more readable. -JT]

Posted by: Steve Mitton at April 17, 2007 11:58 AM

The Bath, Michigan killings were firebombs, not shootings; VT is the worst shooting spree ever. (That actually reinforces your point.)

Posted by: John Tabin at April 17, 2007 12:36 PM

Shame on you for exploiting our tragedy to further your viewport.

Guns solve problems, the exact logic used by the shooter on Monday.

Posted by: Philip at April 17, 2007 06:28 PM

I offer comment from SAF:

BELLEVUE, WA – Today, as the nation is mourning Monday’s horrible loss at Virginia Tech, this should be a time of deep reflection and offering our prayers for the victims and their heartbroken families.

Sadly, noted Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, some groups and individuals are using this terrible crime to further their own political cause: the continued erosion of firearm civil rights and the abolition of firearm ownership in the United States.

“Almost from the moment the first news broke about this monstrous crime,” Gottlieb said, “we at SAF have been forced to respond to staccato attacks from gun control organizations whose goal is to destroy the Second Amendment. Perhaps we should be astonished, but in fact, we are once again simply disappointed in the morbid exploitation of this event. We are grateful, however, that the media has given us an opportunity to respond to these attacks. There was a time in the past when that did not happen.

“These groups, that so quickly have tried to politicize Virginia Tech’s sorrow and loss, have a well-documented history of shamelessly dancing in the blood of crime victims to advance their agenda,” he continued. “Such deplorable behavior should not be forgotten by the American public. Eighty million law-abiding gun owners in this country did not go to Virginia Tech or some other college campus yesterday to unleash carnage. They have harmed no one, and their civil rights should not be erased in response.

“Today, we should all stand together as Americans with broken hearts,” Gottlieb added. “Today, we are all Virginia Tech students and alumni. Today, we are all diminished by this great loss.

“There will be plenty of time in the days and weeks ahead to analyze what happened, to try and make some sense of such a senseless act, and to examine what may have gone wrong and learn from it,” Gottlieb stated. “For now, let us direct our emotions toward where they will do the most good. Let us offer our prayers and support to the families of the victims, and to the thousands of students whose lives will be forever changed by this despicable, cowardly act.”


Copyright © 2007 Second Amendment Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
Second Amendment Foundation
James Madison Building
12500 N.E. Tenth Place
Bellevue, WA 98005 Voice: 425-454-7012
Toll Free: 800-426-4302
FAX: 425-451-3959
email: InformationRequest@saf.org

Posted by: Dusty Baker at April 18, 2007 12:24 AM

I'm still trying to find the word 'militia' in your article. It must be there. Please tell me where.

Posted by: PT at April 18, 2007 01:39 AM

Hey Steve Mitton, you left out the American Indians. And they had rifles after a certain point.

Posted by: PT at April 18, 2007 01:41 AM

Hey, Mr. 2nd Amendment, how's the 21st century U.S. homeland-defending, despot-despising 'militia' liking those new-fangled anti-personnel microwave weapons that the U.S. DoD is about to roll out? The next U.S. chief executive despot is going to have quite an arsenal, isn't he? Will your Uzis be enough of a match, you think?

Posted by: PT at April 18, 2007 01:43 AM

"Guns aren't that different from information."

This is a clever rhetorical device, but surely you must realize that guns and information have nothing in common. Information doesn’t kill people. When angry people seek out information, the result is greater knowledge, not murder. I disagree entirely with your position. I base my opinion about gun control on the fact that more gun killings occur in the U.S. in one year than in all of Western Europe combined in five years. I base it on the fact that school shootings have happened before, and they will likely happen again, and this kind of crime is almost unique to America (when it happened in Dunblane, Scotland, guns were banned, and no massive gun killings have happened since). But I’m not interested in trying to convince you to change your opinion. I do think, though, that using catchy phrases like the one in your article is dangerous and irresponsible. Many people use slogans and clichés to defend weak arguments. If you really want to defend loosening gun control, say something that makes sense, not just something that employs clever parallelism and has a nice ring to it. I'd be curious to see what real arguments could be made in favor of promoting more guns in America. (I particularly like the one about defending the Second Amendment -- "It should be our right to bear arms, because it is our right to bear arms" -- a tautology at its best.)

Thank you, in any case, for the editorial. Even if I’d like to never see another handgun in America, except on a policeman, I’m definitely in favor of proliferating information and opinions, even the ones I don’t agree with.

Posted by: Erin at April 18, 2007 03:33 AM

Sad to think that this tragedy could have been avoided. An objective examination of facts clearly shows the solution: Keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. Don't let dangerous people roam freely.
This means we are all concerned about what is happening around us and we all have a responsiblity towards others. The real danger to our common safety, shown by statistics, is civilians with guns.
Allowing firearms to circulate does not protect civilians.

Posted by: Andy Mann at April 18, 2007 08:52 AM

Philip: sorry about what your campus is going through. I hope you didn't lose anyone close to you, and I offer my condolences if you did.

Philip & Dusty: I understand the view that we shouldn't even be talking about policy debates so soon, and I did consider it before writing. Obviously, I rejected it. Time moves a lot faster in the Internet age; most of the points I made in my column, which went up the day after the shooting, were already being discussed on the blogs within hours of the shooting. There's a good argument for using a tragedy as an occassion to think about preventing a similar tragedy. While I thought the Brady Campaign's "Donate Now" button was kind of creepy, I can't really fault gun control advocates for using the occassion of a shooting to make their arguments. And since they're going to make their arguments whether I fault them for it or not, it just seems silly for me to refrain from making the counterarguments.

Erin: My point was that the effort to control information and the effort to control guns both have deadly unintended consequences. I don't see what's irresponsible about that. As for crime in Western Europe, I wonder if you're aware that there is a fully automatic assault rifle in 14% of Swiss homes. Britain, with its gun ban, has a higher crime rate than Switzerland. There's more to crime than a simple correlation to gun laws.

PT: What are you going on about? My column doesn't mention the Second Amendment at all, except in the name of an organization. Did you eat paint chips as a child?

Andy Mann: It's simply not true that what you assert is "shown by statistics." Your assertion is in fact so broad that I don't even know where to begin-- are you asserting that rates of gun ownership correlate to crime rates (wrong), that various gun control laws have been demonstrably effective (wrong in most cases), that gun accidents are are a relatively common problem (wrong), or what?

Posted by: John Tabin at April 18, 2007 11:55 PM

To John Tobin:

The per capita number of deaths caused by guns is higher in the USA than in countries where gun ownership is restrained.

You can compare USA to countries with similar economies and societies, such as Canada and Western Europe. You can also find persuasive proof in third world countries where gun ownership is widespread and deaths by guns are significantly high.

The danger we face today on a daily basis is not from abroad but from co-workers, neighbors, spouses, strangers who are having a very bad day and decide that using that gun will resolve their problem.

Unfortunately we can't eliminate crime but in the VT case, there are some people (mental health professionals) who were overly cautious and decided to give this wacko the benefit of the doubt. In hindsight, that was irresponsible. Additionally, the other students had misgivings about this madman but did not have any one to turn to.

What's more effective : developing tough but fair rules of conduct that apply to people who are a menace to others and force them to straighten up if they wish to continue working, studying, etc or adopting an ostrich in the sand approach, which leads to reacting after the crime?

A peaceful society is not ensured by arming every single man, woman and child but rather by a)people who choose to behave responsibly and b) numerous safeguards within our legal and social environnement which protect us from dangerous people getting out of line.

Posted by: Andy Mann at April 19, 2007 03:13 PM

The per capita number of deaths caused by guns tells us nothing about the relative safety of a country. A victim of a fatal stabbing is no less dead than the victim of a fatal shooting. If you compare gun ownership to the total homocide rates, there is no correlation.

And your assessment of "the danger we face on a daily basis" isn't rational. Mass shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre are (thankfully) very rare.

Posted by: John Tabin at April 19, 2007 10:43 PM

John Tobin :
The number of deaths by guns per capita do tell us about the relationship between public safety and guns in circulation.
The difference between firearms and other weapons is the scale of potential harm that misuse can cause to others and the ease of misuse.
The overall number of deaths by firearms in the US is a reflection of a clear danger to our common safety. Aside from spectacular crimes using guns such as the VT incident, the number of deaths by firearms is the result of significant numbers of civilians who use firearms to settle their differences instead of resolving them peacefully.

According to the US Dept of the Interior's Bureau of Justice Statistics, over the last 25 years, annual firearm deaths hover around 10,000 compared to about 2,000 for knives. Also, about 90% of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty are killed by firearms.

Compare that to a total of about 1,200 violent deaths from all causes for the European Union in 2004 (preliminary research on internet)

Posted by: Andy Mann at April 20, 2007 12:01 AM

Andy, you're not thinking this through at all. Imagine two countries of equal population (just to simplify things): In Country A, there are 100 murders in a year, 70 of which involve a gun. In country B there are 200 murders a year, only 40 of which involve a gun. By your logic, Country B is safer than Country A.

With your comparison of the EU to the US, you're extrapolating a rule (guns=crime) based on two data points. For this rule to be plausible, it would have to be predictive beyond the original dataset. If you follow the links in my response above, you'll see that the correlation just doesn't hold up very strongly when you compare many countries side by side.

And by the way, it's Tabin, not Tobin.

Posted by: John Tabin at April 20, 2007 01:41 AM