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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 30, 2014

 
Common Sense on guns

by digby

This interview by Harold Pollack with noted expert on gun laws and criminology Philip Cook is worth reading in full. This excerpt gets to something I think is very salient:

P: Mass shootings by disturbed individuals comprise a very small fraction of American gun homicides. Is there a danger that such horrific incidents might be misleading as a guide to preventing more common forms of gun homicide?

PC: Mass shootings galvanize public attention to the problem of gun violence, and serve as horrific reminders that no one is entirely safe from this scourge. Too often, though, the media accounts are focused on the question of what could have been done to prevent the last mass shooting, and provide no perspective on the chronic problems of gun violence – the half million assaults and robberies, the 11,000 gun homicides, and the 20,000 gun suicides that occur each year. Even if there is no easy answer to the question of what could be done about Elliott Rodger, there are a variety of promising actions that would be helpful in reducing gun misuse.

HP: If you could propose one or two policies to reduce gun homicide and that have some prospect of making it through Congress, what would you emphasize?

PC: Tough question. Congress is simply not a promising venue for action against gun violence, not these days. There has been some hopeful talk about a bipartisan deal around mental health and guns, but don’t hold your breath. Even federal action to reduce violence (regardless of weapon type) seems unlikely to be forthcoming, but there is a somewhat better chance there: I would suggest expanded financial support for local police departments through the COPS program, and an increase in the federal alcohol excise tax rates, for starters.

I suspect that the “action” in the near future, as it has been during the last year, will be in the state legislatures.

HP: What would you like to see states do, even in areas that go beyond what Congress is likely or able to do at the federal level?

PC: In the “laboratory of the states,” we can hope to learn from systematic analysis of innovations. For recent examples, almost half the states have adopted Stand Your Ground laws, and two studies by economists found similar conclusions: the effect has been to increase the homicide rate, with no reduction in assault, robbery or rape. An analysis of Missouri’s repeal of their universal background check system in 2007 demonstrated quite convincingly that it resulted in a [14 percent] jump in gun homicides (with no change in non-gun homicides). We are still awaiting an analysis of California’s requirement that pistols be designed to stamp a serial number on the shell casing, so that police investigators can link shootings to particular guns.
The general direction that makes sense to me is adoption of regulations and law enforcement tactics that have the effect of making guns a liability to criminals. Guns should be readily traced to their owners. The police and courts should work together to deter illicit carrying of guns, and crimes committed with guns should be viewed as more serious than similar crimes with knives. Gang members should understand that if any of their members misuse a gun, they will all pay a legal price (as in Boston’s Operation Ceasefire beginning in 1996).

I’m also sold on the potential of smart guns to make gun-owning households safer. The German firm Armatix has developed a gun that uses RFID technology to unlock a gun (similar to the keys for unlocking cars). Only when the gun is near a special wristwatch can it be fired. This is one of many methods for “personalizing” a gun and reducing the chance of an unauthorized use – say, by other household members (young children, teenagers thinking of suicide) or burglars.

The NRA is against all those things, of course. Even smart guns, which I cannot imagine a principles reason to oppose other than a belief that guns cannot be regulated in way at all. Which means you are much freer to shoot guns than you are speak in this country.

And ponder this lovely comment for a moment:

"Guns are mostly for hunting down politicians who would actively seek to take your freedoms and liberty away from you. Google 'Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung Il, Castro, Stalin' just for starters."

I guess he doesn't realize that there are people in the world who might interpret that to mean his good friends Sarah Palin and John McCain might be fair game too.

I do like the fact that he honestly says that guns are "mostly" for hunting down politicians. Makes it very clear that the "protecting the family" and "deer-hunting" arguments are bogus. These guys think of themselves as revolutionaries. Good to know.

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