Guns in America: 45 Years on the Treadmill

@TBPInvictus here:

I’ve got no charts, graphs, tables or economic analysis to offer with this post, so please forgive me and move along if that’s what you were looking for.

I’ve been simmering as I absorbed some of the commentary proffered by the right on the recent Newtown shooting. The self-exoneration speech by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has brought me to a boil. So, herewith a look at what passes for the right’s “leadership.” Note: None of this is from The Onion.

First up, Mike Huckabee, who claimed that the shooting was the result of our having taken God out of our schools which, of course, begs the question as to how pedophiles have had free run of churches for the past few centuries. What’s up with that, Mike?

Let’s move on to Megan McArdle, who proposed that “if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.” Yes! Now there’s a strategy – 20 six-year-olds giving the bum’s rush to a guy who’s not in his right mind and armed to the teeth. Let me know how that works out for you, Megan. Oh, and if we’re ever (regrettably for me) in the same place together and a shooting erupts, I’ll be right behind you rushing the shooter, because I just know you’d go first.

Right behind McArdle (not in rushing the shooter, but just in sheer idiocy) is Charlotte Allen, who would have 12-year-olds (like my son) rush the shooter: “Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.” Yup, Charlotte, put a couple of “husky 12-year-olds” up against a semi-automatic weapon and it’s pretty much game over, eh?

The guys over at Powerline came up with a variant of LaPierre’s strategy before Wayne did: Schools should be more like “biker bars”: “Within the realm of constitutional options, the most practical remedy I can think of would be to require that a certain number of teachers or administrators in each school be trained in the use of firearms and armed at all times. That would probably deter most school shooters. It is curious, but true, that even those killers who do not intend to survive their crimes never seem to open fire in the presence of another armed person. No one tries to shoot up a biker bar.” Maybe we could also give the kids jello shots to sedate them a bit before rest period.

The arm-teachers-and-administrators argument has, I think, a couple of problems, not the least of which is this: Teachers are the exact same people that conservative folks (like those at Powerline) generally think are incompetent and overpaid (AEI: “Overall, public-school-teacher compensation exceeds private levels by approximately 52 percent, for a total of more than $120 billion annually in excessive labor costs.” Heritage: “Public-school teachers receive significantly higher salaries than private-school teachers, even more than private teachers at secular general-education schools.”) Yet now we should arm them and give charge them with putting their lives on the line. Good luck with that; it seems just a tad twisted, contradictory and conflicted to me. It’s been all but forgotten that there was at least one armed officer at Columbine at the time of the attack. It should also be noted that when police took down a shooter at NY’s Empire State Building, 9 people were wounded – all of them directly or indirectly (shrapnel) by police bullets. How is the “arm everyone” strategy going to play out in a crowded theater, mall, arena, or stadium, with potentially dozens of armed citizens pulling/firing weapons?

Let’s discuss a couple of other issues: Bloomberg estimated that it would cost $7.9 billion to put an armed guard in every school. How is that going to fly with the Tea Party? Are they going to stand behind that? And that’s apparently one guard per school. My daughter’s high school is massive facility with at least a dozen entry points. It accommodates about 1,600 students. So we’ll have one guard at a huge (and I mean huge) physical plant protecting 1,600 students and dozens of teachers and administrators. Color me skeptical.

And, of course, no tragedy is complete without someone implying that it was a government conspiracy, this time as a catalyst to allow Obama to shred the second amendment and confiscate every gun in the country.

All that said – and that’s a whole lotta crazy – LaPierre trumps them all. His speech [PDF] was about as tone deaf as anything I’ve ever heard; it was nauseating for me to listen to it. He blamed Hollywood (arguably the folks from whom he lifted his plan, seeing as it leans heavily on the plot of the 1990 comedy Kindergarten Cop), the media, video games. The NRA waited a week to speak up – out of respect for the victims, they said – which should have given them time to collect their thoughts and come up with their best “meaningful contribution” to this discussion. Then LaPierre came out and shit the bed like I’ve never seen anyone do before. (NY Times editorial: “Still, we were stunned by Mr. LaPierre’s mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant. Mr. LaPierre looked wild-eyed at times as he said the killing was the fault of the media, songwriters and singers and the people who listen to them, movie and TV scriptwriters and the people who watch their work, advocates of gun control, video game makers and video game players.”) To my knowledge, no one has yet come out in support of Mr. LaPierre’s rant, or his “plan.”

Finally, it should go without saying that LaPierre’s refusal to take any questions at his presser – which was announced right up front – was beyond cowardly.

So, that’s what the past week has brought us – nothing even remotely in the ballpark of any meaningful change. Just useless rhetoric by folks who have been giving us nothing but for 45 years.

When we experience meaningful events in our society – like Newtown – I often browse archival databases to see what’s happened in the past when similar events (assuming there have been similar events) have occurred. What I found in this case was a headline that’s stood the test of time: “Gun Control Bill Lags,” or something very close to it (“Gun Control Debate Revived After Shooting”). The only thing that ever changes is the date.

Above right is a clip from the NY Times in 1966, when a piece of gun control legislation was passed in New Jersey. It includes what might possibly be the first use of the phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Here’s one from 1967, which will almost certainly be duplicated, word-for-word, in 2013:

Here’s 1968:

Fast forward to 1976:

I could go on, but you get the point. Anyone see a pattern emerging?

It’s 45 years later – is there any doubt we could see the exact same headlines today? Oh, wait, we already are (WSJ):

We desperately need to make some progress – the status quo is simply not acceptable. Enough is enough. We should all be enraged by what happened last week in Newtown. We should be enraged at how corporate and special interests have bought a government that is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

I’ll get back to economics when my blood pressure normalizes. Actually, there’s not much to even report on that front – the economy appears to continue chugging along despite the best efforts of our “leaders” in DC to prevent it from doing so.

Further reading:

Wonkblog: Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States

Harvard School of Public Health

Global Socialogy (one of the best recent pieces, in my humble opinion)

NRA: Willing to Make Concessions on Gun Control

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