Monday, July 23, 2012

Dark Night

Dark Night

In the aftermath of the movie theater massacre last Friday in Aurora, Colorado, gun control issues predictably reenter public consciousness.  The result will probably be just as predictable.  If state and national response to this mass shooting follows the pattern set by responses to other mass-shooting tragedies (fairly recently, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood), nothing whatsoever will change.

It’s a fact that the United States Constitution contains the Second Amendment, which the Supreme Court has interpreted quite capaciously within the past few years (striking down some cities’ attempts to regulate the sale of firearms, for instance; see D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago).  It’s also a fact, from a strict constructionist standpoint, that the founding fathers could not have intended private citizens to enjoy untrammeled rights to automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, as those technological ‘advances’ had not yet been made.  Nevertheless, it’s an additional fact that guns are part of this country’s mythological self-representation, the lethal reification of rugged individualism. 

Most advocates of gun control therefore realize that the United States will never ban guns altogether.  Moreover, the political power of the National Rifle Association has guaranteed that elected representatives – no matter what their individual beliefs about unfettered gun ownership, no matter what horrendous gun-enabled incidents occur – will shy away from proposing or supporting any legislation directed at regulating guns or ammunition.  Twenty years ago, gun laws tended to be a partisan issue; today, no party is willing to take on the gun lobby.

The reason is money.  The NRA presents itself as a citizen’s advocacy organization, but it has become a lobbying group primarily for gun and ammunition manufacturers.  U.S. companies make most of the world’s guns and bullets, and they sell them throughout the world.  It is a huge and highly lucrative industry. 

At the same time, individual paid NRA membership – among hunters and recreational shooters, for example –  has been decreasing (after a long post-9/11 rise) and there’s evidence that the organization inflates membership claims in order to exert maximum pressure on state and national legislators.

Hunters know that an AK-47 is not helpful in shooting a deer (it’s neither sporting nor useful if one wants to enjoy some venison).  Hobbyists know that rapid-fire weapons do not measure one’s skill on a range or a skeet-shooting context.  People who sincerely believe they need a gun for self-protection know that a conventional pistol or shotgun will suffice. 

So who benefits from non-existent gun control laws?  Weapons manufacturers.  And, arguably, criminals. 

But not so fast.  There’s a seemingly legitimate scholarly debate about whether tougher gun laws actually result in a decrease in crime.  One problem about the reliability of this debate is that funding for solid research about the gun/crime nexus has been reduced to almost nothing (thanks in large part to NRA efforts).  Another problem is situational: when a headline-grabbing incident such as the Aurora shootings happens, people are quick to focus on the putative psychopathology of the perpetrator and to meander into the shadowlands of profiling and predicting behavior. 

Often (as was true this past weekend) tentative conclusions resemble warmed-over gruel:  you usually can’t tell who will turn homicidal, mass murderers will find a way (bombs, chemical attacks, poisonous snakes, whatever) to attempt to make their desires/fantasies/compulsions/sheer evil happen.  Ergo, new gun control measures would not have stopped Aurora, or Tucson, or whatever hideous event is in the news at the moment.  Family members, co-workers, fellow students, Facebook friends should be more vigilant.  Etc., etc.

For sake of argument, let’s grant that all this is true and sufficient.  Is there a reason other than the dark night risen of this past weekend, and corollary occurrences, to reconsider gun and ammunition control in the United States?

There certainly is. 

Gun suicide.  Nearly 60 % of all suicides in the United States are committed by gun; outside of accidents, gun suicide is one of the top causes of death among teenagers and military veterans, significantly outweighing numbers from homicide.  There’s absolutely no question that having a gun in the home enables ‘successful’ suicide – the percentages of suicide attempts by, say, pills or hanging that result in death are substantially lower than the percentages of suicide attempts by gun that result in death. 

It’s true that most gun suicides are not accomplished with AK-47s.  A single well-placed shot from a conventional weapon will suffice.

So what sorts of legislation might address some of these problems?

Let’s take suicide-by-gun first.  If there were nationwide licensing standards, potential gun purchasers could be required to complete a gun-ownership safety course that would include safe storage of weapons in the home.  Parents of young children install safety locks in cabinets containing toxic cleansers or prescription drugs, for instance; shouldn’t the same level of awareness be directed towards guns and ammunition?  The old shoe-box on the closet shelf solution certainly is not sufficient with older children, who may also know combinations to gun safes and lock boxes (or could simply break into them).

‘Advanced weapons storage’ would be particularly useful in the case of teen gun-suicides.  Teenagers who attempt suicide are not always (probably not usually) chronically mentally ill.  Instead, they can be in the throes of volatile emotions, emotions that can and do change pretty quickly.  If a suicide attempt is unsuccessful, often there’s no second try.  Situations change, a ‘cry for help’ is heeded, young people mature.  But if that despondent, impulsive teenager has easy access to a gun, there’s usually no chance for help or healing.  The first try is deadly.

Secondarily, more background checks (and corollary waiting periods for gun ownership) about criminal and mental records could help keep guns of all sorts out of the possession of people (teens, parents of teens, and adults in general) who might have tendencies to be irresponsible or deadly with guns.   It could also be argued that having a reasonable limit on guns owned (who needs more than two hunting rifles or self-protection handguns?) might be helpful, as a few guns are easier to secure in the home than is an arsenal of firearms. Also, multiple purchases drive the ‘secondary gun market,’ which is the source of many guns used in criminal activities.

Ah – abridgment of Second Amendment rights!  Well, what about the constitutionally guaranteed rights against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment?  Why do we submit to taking off our shoes and having our hair gel confiscated at airports?  Terrorism is a good reason . . . but the number of U.S. citizens who die by gun-suicide and by domestic gun violence each year far exceeds those killed in 9/11, much less the number killed in this country by overseas-motivated terrorism in years subsequent (just about zero).  In other words, why should the United States take measures that may be constitutionally shaky to protect its people from ‘alien’ terrorism while refusing to take some commonsense measures to protect people from home-grown death-by-gun? 

Going back to the Aurora killings – wouldn’t the death and injury toll have been less if it had been illegal to purchase automatic weapons (in other words, reinstitute the Brady Bill) and, perhaps, if coordinated tracking of internet ammunition purchases had been in effect (raising red flags if a single civilian bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition within a short time period)?

Theologically, ‘the dark night of the soul’ is a crisis of faith when a believer wrestles painfully with disbelief in what had been a religiously or culturally dictated given in order to come to a more sanctified understanding of what’s right and moral.  It may be time for the United States as a nation to wrestle with its own dark night of the soul regarding the putatively sacrosanct nature of unregulated gun ownership.

The victims of gun violence deserve no less.


  1. Follow the money. You hit the nail on the head when you pointed out who benefits from lax gun laws: gun manufacturers and criminals. And who shills for the gun manufacturers better than their number one lobby group, the NRA, the supposedly "non-profit" organization that pays its CEO millions of dollars and to whom the gun manufacturers give tens of millions of dollars a year in "donations" so they will push for deregulation of guns up at Capitol Hill.

    We as a people need to say enough is enough and demand that the welfare of the people if more important than gun manufacturer profits.

    One of my blog posts on the Aurora shooting:

  2. "Hunters know that an AK-47 is not helpful in shooting a deer (it’s neither sporting nor useful if one wants to enjoy some venison). Hobbyists know that rapid-fire weapons do not measure one’s skill on a range or a skeet-shooting context. People who sincerely believe they need a gun for self-protection know that a conventional pistol or shotgun will suffice."

    Let's just tackle those points A) the AK-47 pattern rifles shoot the 7.62x39mm cartridge which is on-par with the .30-30 Winchester rifle round which is one of the most popular deer cartridges in US history, also the .30-30 is often fired from lever carbines which are small and light and ideal for hunting in dense woods...much like many modern semi-auto carbines. Also the AR-15 pattern rifle is one of the most popular hunting rifles these days. They're light, they're accurate, they are very versatile, and with the large number of young veterans returning home, its a very familiar platform for them. (As a general rule popular hunting rifles mirror military rifles of the time)

    As for hobbyists, go have a look at any long-range rifle competition. Sure there are lots of bolt-action rifles, but you'll also find just as many M1 Garands, M1A, and AR-15 rifles. All VERY accurate, all VERY good for competitive target shooting, all semi-automatic rifles.

    For home defense there's a LOT of hard scientific data that points out that not only does a 5.56 carbine like the AR-15 have superior stopping power and accuracy, and low recoil, but it has less wall penetration than shotguns and pistols.

    That makes it very good for home defense.

  3. "It’s also a fact, from a strict constructionist standpoint, that the founding fathers could not have intended private citizens to enjoy untrammeled rights to automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, as those technological ‘advances’ had not yet been made."

    This statement has a faulty premise. The Founders were familiar with technological progress. Americans were allowed to own the latest in military technology, including cannon and even had armed ships. Following your logic, you should only be allowed free speech using handbills, printing presses, and your voice.

    Furthermore, "need" has nothing to do with anything that you mentioned, especially determined by a second party. A citizen gets to determine their own needs. If you are concerned about waiting periods, how does a waiting period help those that need a self defense weapon NOW, such as threatened people. Suicide RATES are no different in countries that have greater gun control Suicides will find a way. And if you are worried about death in general, we seem willing to tolerate three times the death rate over gun deaths, with cars.

    You are right, though. It is time for the US to wonder about the effects of gun ownership and the victims of gun violence, especially in mass killings. And America is realizing that gun ownership and carry is the proper thing to do. Self defense is a human right. You cannot legislate or regulate enough to stop "crazy." Victims of violence of all kinds, not just "gun" violence deserve a chance to fight back. Their freedom to do so should not be restricted.

  4. "It’s also a fact, from a strict constructionist standpoint, that the founding fathers could not have intended private citizens to enjoy untrammeled rights to automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, as those technological ‘advances’ had not yet been made."

    Think about that statement for a moment. Would it hold true if the object were changed?

    "It’s also a fact, from a strict constructionist standpoint, that the founding fathers could not have intended private citizens to enjoy untrammeled rights to computer word processors or desktop publishing, and the instant content distribution of the internet, as those technological ‘advances’ had not yet been made."

    The existence of the Right, and the purpose behind its protection under the Constitution and Bill of Rights, does not depend on the technology used to exercise it. The founders knew about innovation and revolutionary changes in technology - heck, Benjamin Franklin was a scientist and inventor! - and did not base the Bill of Rights on what they considered possible technology, but on the basic human Rights necessary for people to remain free from oppression.

  5. You mention automatic weapons, but you should understand that the term has changed over time. Automatic used to be the equivalent of a self-loader, a gun that strips off a new cartridge using the energy from the fired round.

    A semiautomatic firearm shoots one round per trigger pull and then loads a new one. It doesn't fire again until the trigger is pulled again. A fully automatic gun will fire until the trigger is released or the magazine is emptied.

    Fully automatic firearms are heavily regulated. Owning a genuine AK-47 would require a background check more extensive than for other guns, a Class III firearm's license, and the approval of local law enforcement.

    What I'm getting at here is that a lot of the debate over "assault weapons" comes from basic confusion about the categories and functions of firearms. The sloppy way that many people use language to speak about guns creates fear.

    In addition, the publicity surrounding the incident in Aurora also stirs up an urge to do something. But when you look at the numbers, you'll see that these incidents are rare. They are also not the kind of thing that can be prevented. The shooter could have used gasoline bombs or some other easily obtainable and equally dangerous device or substance. He happens to be the kind of person who can't be stopped--someone who is both insane and organized. Fortunately, people like that are few.

    The real question here is whether we will base our laws on the actions of outliers. A free society govern on the principle that its citizens are good people who can be trusted. Otherwise, we have an authoritarian state.

  6. I will let others correct you wild factual mistakes about the law, about firearms tech and terminology, and teen suicide. Let's just address one thing you've got wrong.

    "today, no party is willing to take on the gun lobby. The reason is money."

    Umm, no.

    The reason is votes. You remember those, right? Those little votes that mean the difference between "Mr. Senator" and "Who the heck are you?"

    Let's give you a little background. I live in North Carolina. The officially released number of active Concealed Handgun Permits as of June 30th 2011 was 228,072. As of June 30th 2012, one year later, that number was 277,577. That's an increase of 49,472 permits. If we assume that no CHP holder died, moved out of state, or failed to renew his or her permit, that means that 49,472 entirely new people went out and got CHPs in the last 12 months. That's an increase of 21.7%.

    49,472 new CHPs means that a total of $5,194,560 was spent (at $105 each) just to get the permit. Assuming an even distribution, that also means that one fifth of the already active CHPs went in for renewal last year. At $75 each, that's an additional $3,421,080, a one year total of $8,615,640.

    Money is committment. People can approve of something or they can disapprove of it. But until they act on that approval or disapproval, they are not changing anything about their world. Here in North Carolina, we have somewhere in the vicinity of 95,000 people who have parted with some serious cash just for the opportunity to carry a gun tucked under their jackets.

    What has your side done? A big fat NOTHING. The local anti-gun group has gone bankrupt. (Financially bankrupt, they were already morally bankrupt). They dumped their Executive Director to save the $40K a year they were paying her. The lobbyists that they hired have quit. They've basically zeroed out their bank accounts, and they couldn't keep staff working for free. Where are all the people willing to donate money and time to this "worthy" group?

    We've got nearly 100,000 people on our side paying between $75 amd $105 each (ignoring the training costs) for permission to exercise their rights, and you guys can't keep the lights on at the local anti-gun group. Our Pro-Rights group has money, time, and volunteers. We've got a huge mailing list and we've used it to shut down the phones and the email system at our State Capital.

    Now I've painted you a local picture, multiply that by the whole country. We've got the people, which means we have the votes.

    So, I ask you, why should the politicans pay any attention at all to you? Voting our way means they keep their jobs. Voting your way, outside of a few gerrymandered districts, means they get put on the street and get referred to as "Former."

    It's not the money that the manufacturers are making, it's the votes that we can deliver to our candidates. It's called politics, and we play to win.

  7. I see the usual squad of gun nuts has rolled out of their basements to harass anyone who disagrees with them. Expect a lot more of them, Deb. They "astroturf" (where they post on their blogs and forums to swamp out the comments sections and polls that they disagree with).

    1. That's pretty rich, Jason. I don't think that anyone who pushes a wooden boxcar in a parade by himself, paid for by some foundation or other, has any right to call anyone "astroturf." Pot/Kettle anyone?

      See my comment above about who has numbers and who doesn't. Who funds themselves and who takes that sweet sweet grant money from leftist foundations to push an unpopular position. Then you will have a clear idea who is "Astroturf."

    2. Uh-huh. This from the guy who eliminated comments from his own blog because he got tired of having his positions taken apart point by point.

      This from the side who's funded almost entirely by the Joyce Foundation, and absent that money, couldn't muster up enough support to fund anything whatsoever. Who's members at the recent "protest" in DC could have arrived in the same car, the numbers were so low.

      What upsets you so is that we're winning. Yup, we've figured you out.

      We're winning, Jason, er, "Baldr" (!) because the facts are on our side, history is on our side, truth is on our side, and public opinion is on our side.

      Astroturf, indeed.

    3. AT least this blogger has open comments. She seems willing to read comments. And, at least, this topic has driven traffic to her. We would actually appreciate any response from her.

      Unlike you. YOU closed comments. So, if this is swamping comments...on a blog with few if any comments on other posts...which I perused upon arrival...Nice Blog, are we drowning out anything if there is no one else but you, Baldr.

      This is just an example of the mainstream popular support for 2nd amendment freedom. There's enough of us to show up.

    4. Found the blog on your twitter feed Jason!

      You want us to read it or not?

      Also "AstroTurf" implies a group pretending to have grass roots but having none.

      You work for Ceasefire Oregon, we're just regular folk who want to make sure that lies don't get spread by the anti-gun lobby.

      Note we have said nothing untrue.

  8. I'll be more basic than Weerd or Jake. They're exactly right, of course, but it comes down to more fundamental things.

    I'll say this slowly and simply.

    In our society, we choose liberty. Liberty comes at a price. Part of that price is that bad people will do bad things. When they do, we catch, convict and punish those bad people. We do NOT punish or restrict others who have done no bad things.

    We all understand that, if we think about it. For example, we could catch a lot more bad guys, and could prevent tragedies like the one at issue here, if we simply abolished the 4th amendment and searched everyone without the little niceties of probable cause or individualized suspicion. But we don't do that, because we understand that freedom from unreasonable search is a fundamental right, and none of us wish to live in that sort of society.

    Similarly, possessing a firearm is a fundamental right. It is my right as an individual. I will not surrender it "for the children;" indeed, it is for the children that I demand that my rights be respected.

    In short, I didn't shoot anyone, and you will not restrict my rights for what someone else did. Piss off.

  9. The victims of gun violence deserve no less.

    Minor correction: The victims of violence deserve justice. Justice comes when the person responsible for the tragedy is caught, tried, found guilty, and appropriately punished.

    Note that I said the person responsible. The tools the person uses to perpetrate his or her crime don't matter, and focusing solely on the tools removes guilt from the person using them. As stated above, the alleged shooter could have done a lot more damage with a few gallons of gasoline. I'd add that if his apartment is as well booby-trapped as the news reports say, he could have used some of that to make a bigger statement and kill a lot more people.

    Questions for you: If guns are always bad, why do we insist that police and military personnel carry them? If semi-automatic "assault weapons" only exist to kill a lot of people, why do most police departments keep them in the trunks of their patrol cars? Are the officers intending to kill a lot of people?

    The tools are driven by the intent of the person wielding them. This is true for knives, claw hammers, screwdrivers, and yes, even guns. They can be used for great good or great evil, but absent a person willing to use them, they themselves are neutral.

    Well, what about the constitutionally guaranteed rights against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment? Why do we submit to taking off our shoes and having our hair gel confiscated at airports?

    The Constitutionality of the TSA's "security checkpoints" is tenuous at best. I believe they are tolerated for two reasons: 1) You have the right to travel within the country, but doing so by airplane is a conscious choice; and 2) Americans, for whatever reason, are not yet outraged enough to demand a change. Personally, I think we should have been outraged at the first toddler that was felt up, or the first wheelchair-bound grandmother forced to strip, but America at large is not there yet.

    The victims of violence deserve justice, but it will not be found by destroying the rights of all of us who did nothing to terrorize or bring harm to anyone. If that is "justice," then step in line: you're as guilty as the rest of us.

    1. In a sane world, the TSA infringements would not be tolerated. And, to be blunt, those infringements are not there in order to "protect" the public. They are, as another appropriately put it, "security theater." They make us 'feel' better; they do not make us safer.

      They're not intended to.

      What TSA is intended to do is is get Americans used to, and accepting of, suspicionless searches. Because if we are, those searches will be expanded. It's already happening. And government will justify it, as it always does, for "security." For "the children."

      For that reason, government's infringements through the TSA ought to be resisted. I resist by simply refusing to fly. Anywhere. For any reason.

      Folks, it's simple. NEVER, EVER, consent to any search. NEVER.

  10. Thank you for your comments. Seriously. It is gratifying (on a personal level) to have people take the time to engage with one's thoughts; it is gratifying (on a policy level) to think that one's blog stimulates discussion, particularly on a matter as fraught as this.

    Let me say a couple of general things:

    The main purpose of this blog was to draw attention to teen suicide-by-gun. I see that most of the responses have to do with 2nd Amendment rights in general. OK. I said what I have to say about this, and not from any special standpoint. I do think, however, that the unfortunate numbers of teens who kill themselves with guns is something we as a nation should contemplate.

    The comment about original intent is interesting -- and helps make my point! To me, strict constructionism as a legal ideology (Federalist Society etc.) is non-supportable, logically and practically.

    By the way, I didn't say, ever, that 'guns are always bad.'

    For anyone who's wondering, I'm not only not paid by any group -- I'm not even a member of any group! Full disclosure: I'm a registered Democrat (I guess that's a group, although usually you wouldn't know it). Who doesn't always vote the party line. That's it for groups!

    1. Thanks for hearing us out. Many of the lobby groups and other proponents of gun control simply delete any comments that make a fair argument for more liberal laws for gun ownership.

      As for suicide, certainly it can be noted that 50% of the suicides in this nation come from the use of a firearm, and of the roughly 30,000 people killed per year with firearms around 17,000 of those deaths are suicide.

      Still one must wonder if any restrictions would make any difference in that number.

      A quick look at foreign nations similar to ours but with fewer guns in public hands the suicide rates aren't very different...and the nation of Japan (who's suicide rates really can't be compared to the United States because of their unique views on suicide and honor) that has almost no privately held firearms has an astounding suicide rate.

      I know a few people who have taken their lives with guns. I also know people who have used blades, OTC Medication (Tylenol), hanging, and jumping from heights. Looking at Japan's suicide stories the methods become even more creative (I've read over a dozen stories of apartment buildings that needed to be evacuated because somebody committed suicide by mixing large quantities of bleach and ammonia and flooded their unit with toxic gas....I've also read that the bullet trains are frequently delayed because people hurl themselves onto the tracks as the train passes)

      I can see the emotional drive to pin firearms and firearm laws as a potential solution, but I just don't really see a connection. It seems there's an even greater correlation to nations and areas that have long dark winters, to suicide, rather then availability to guns.

      Just something to consider.

    2. Couple of points.

      1. No one is accusing you of Astroturf. That was Baldr/Jason calling us Astroturf and us pointing out that he's just another annoying anti-gun grant recipient, so he's projecting. That has nothing to do with you, this is a long running argument between us and him. He's hoping that you don't know what "Astroturf" actually means.

      2. Original Public Meaning (you've referred to it as "strict constructionism," which is incorrect) is the only logical and practical method of Constitutional analysis. If words don't mean what they meant when they were written, then we can pretend they mean anything at all. That's not a Constitution, that's a nationwide game of Calvinball.

      3. Why are you concerned with "teen suicide by gun?" Teens committing suicide is rare. Suicide is an old man thing.

      Teens using a firearm to commit suicide is extremely rare. Some basic numbers using WISQARS 2007. (the most recent CDC data)

      Nationwide Number Per 100K population

      Suicide all methods 34,598 11.47 per 100K
      Suicide 0-19yrs 1,665 2.01 per 100K
      Total firearm suicides 17,352 5.75 per 100K
      Suicide by firearm 0-19 683 0.82 per 100K

      You can see right away that "teen" suicide is a tiny fraction of the total suicide rate and that it's a microscopic fraction of the suicide by firearm rate.

      When you look at North Carolina (where I live) it's about the same.

      Suicide all methods 1,077 11.88 per 100K
      Suicide 0-19 47 1.90 per 100K
      Total firearm suicides 607 6.70 per 100K
      Suicide by firearm 0-19 17 0.69 per 100K

      You can see that firearms are used in 56.36% of all suicides in North Carolina in 2007, but in only 36.17% of "teen" suicides. It is vastly less common, both in terms of percentages, and most importantly in overall numbers. In 2007 there were 2,477,650 people 19 years of age or younger in North Carolina and a grand total of 17 took a gun and shot themselves to death. That's not very many.

      To give you a sense of scale, more people are killed by autos in NC every 4 days than there are teen suicides by gun in a whole year.

      North Carolina has a safe storage law, but it should be repealed. Technically this guy's parents were breaking the law by allowing him access to a shotgun. And a good thing, too.

      "Teen" suicide, while tragic, isn't really that big a concern. That should be obvious once you think about it. Teens have lots to live for, plenty of things to do, and little in the way of real responsibilities. This means that they don't face the kind of pressures that cause them to kill themselves in any great numbers.

      Spend some quality time with WISQARS and you will find that suicide is an old man problem, and a mostly old white man problem. The blog post I linked above explains it pretty well.

    3. Others have said it, but I'll repeat it: Thank you for being willing to discuss the topic in a civil manner, without resorting to name-calling, gross generalizations, and ad hominem attacks.

      Mr. Sorrentino pulled up more raw data than I could have, and that's the most important thing to look at, but I'll still add my two cents.

      I've known one person who committed suicide. Just one. We were in middle school together; he was a 7th grader. As far as I know, he had some hunters in the family, so guns were available, but he chose to end his life by taking a circular saw to his jugular vein. To this day, I don't know what drove him to do this.

      This is presented as an anecdote. One case. It's not a pattern or a trend of teen (or in this case, pre-teen) suicides. But it does illustrate that the people who are intent on ending their lives will find an effective way to do so. If it's a cry for help, their method will either be unlikely to succeed or they won't follow through; they're out to make a statement. If they are serious, there will be no stopping them, gun or no gun.

      If it's intervention you're looking for, watch for the warning signs, which can be found quickly on Google:

      (except that the WebMD one has "firearms in the home" as a risk factor, which is patently false)

      What might really be needed is a solid and compassionate outreach and support system. You mentioned teenagers and military veterans. Teenagers have several options and can remain anonymous, but when a veteran calls the VA crisis hotline, their home gets raided and they get arrested:

      This link goes to part one of a four-part series. I suggest reading the whole thing if you have time. Calling an "anonymous" line for help and being arrested for the trouble is decidedly counter-productive if the goal is to prevent suicides. The idea should be to give people hope, show the light at the end of the tunnel, not play a game of "How low can you go?". There are better ways to prevent suicides.

      Again, thanks for being willing to discuss the topic. You are a gracious hostess, and I for one would be willing to discuss this further if you're interested.

  11. Deb: Thank you for your reasonable response. Those of us who have responded...

    Aaand I see that while I was typing this, Weer'd just said most of what I was planning to say. :P It happens!

    To expand on his comment a bit, though, I would note that while he's right that we can't really compare suicide rates with Japan due to the significant cultural differences, their high rate of suicide combined with their draconian restrictions on weaponry - especially guns - does illustrate quite well that it's not the method or the tool used that we need to be addressing, but the underlying causes.

    In other words, I can't agree with you that "the unfortunate numbers of teens who kill themselves with guns is something we as a nation should contemplate," because what we should be saying is that "the unfortunate numbers of teens who kill themselves by any method is something we as a nation should contemplate."

    Without guns, those who would use a gun to kill themselves would use other, equally effective methods instead. As an EMS provider, I can tell you that I have seen more successful suicides using rope, drugs, or medications, than I have seen using guns - and I live in southwest Virginia, where a significant majority of households have guns.

    The tools don't matter. The key to preventing suicide is early recognition of the warning signs, and early intervention. Taking one tool away won't change that - they'll just find another way.

  12. Deb,

    It was great that you responded. I'm glad that you did. Personally, I don't have a opinion on your topic, except to add to the others.....does the tool really matter when the goal is reducing the number of deaths of innocents?

    Anyway.... thanks again for responding.

  13. Ah – abridgment of Second Amendment rights! Well, what about the constitutionally guaranteed rights against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment? Why do we submit to taking off our shoes and having our hair gel confiscated at airports? Terrorism is a good reason . .

    No, it is not. The constitution should matter, and terrorism is merely an excuse to expand government power. That we are not following the constitution in one area shouldn't mean we get to ignore it in others as well.

    wouldn’t the death and injury toll have been less if it had been illegal to purchase automatic weapons (in other words, reinstitute the Brady Bill) and, perhaps, if coordinated tracking of internet ammunition purchases had been in effect (raising red flags if a single civilian bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition within a short time period)?

    The Brady Bill is still in force--that's the one dealing with background checks at gun dealers. I believe you are referring to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. If you read the contents of the ban you would see that the majority of it bans cosmetic features that are completely irrelevant to crime and misuse--Do we really have a problem with bayonet crime? Is it really a problem if a rifle stock is adjustable so both small and large people can use it properly? The angle of a handle should be regulated? The only part of the ban that covered actual functioning parts was the arbitrary magazine size limit. The number of crimes requiring more than 11 rounds without a 2 to 3 second pause is too low to justify more restrictions.

    And the ban itself illustrates a point--There really isn't a fundamental difference between so called 'assault weapons' like the AK-47 style rifles covered in the ban and a 'legitimate' hunting rifle like the Remington Woodsmaster. Both fire one shot per trigger pull, both chamber the next round automatically, both accept a removable box magazine. The differences are in what compromises were made--The AK was designed to be rugged, reliable and inexpensive, while a hunting rifle is likely to put a higher priority on accuracy and less on low price or the ability to withstand abuse.

    Raising flags for large ammunition purchases would require tracking ALL ammo purchases--and for what? Where would the cutoff be--200 rounds of ammo is less than one trip to the range for many shooters. Has any spree shooter shot that many rounds?