Saturday, July 09, 2016
Obama on the problem of guns. (Again)
The president was asked this morning about whether it was wise of him to talk about guns in the wake of mass shootings. This is what he said:
With respect to the issue of guns. (heavy sigh)
I am going to keep on talking about the fact that we cannot eliminate all racial tension in our country overnight. We are not going to be able to identify ahead of time and eliminate every madman or troubled individual who might want to to do harm against innocent people. But we can make it harder for them to do so.
And if you look at the pattern of death and violence and shootings that we've experienced over the course of the last year or the last five years or the last ten years. I've said this before, we are unique among advanced countries in the scale of violence that we experience and I'm not just talking about mass shootings, I'm talking about the hundreds of people who have already been shot this year in the town of Chicago. The ones that we just consider routine.
Now we may not see that issue as connected to the one that happened in Dallas but part of what's creating tensions between communities and police is the fact that police have a really difficult time in communities where they know guns are everywhere. As I said before, they have a right to come home and now they have very little margin of error in terms of making decisions. So if you care about the safety of our police officers, you can't set aside the gun issue and pretend that that's irrelevant. At the protest in Dallas, one of the challenges for the Dallas police department as they're being shot at is, because this is an open carry state, there are a bunch of people participating in the protest with weapons on them. Imagine if you're a police officer and you're trying to sort out who is shooting at you and there are bunch of people who've got guns on them.
In Minneapolis, we don't know yet what happened but we do know that there was a gun in the car that apparently was licensed. But it caused in some fashion those tragic events. So, no we can't just ignore that and pretend that it's just political or that the president is just pushing his policy agenda. It is a contributing factor, not the sole factor, but a contributing factor to the broader tensions that arise between police and the communities where they serve.
And so we have to talk about it. And as I've said before there is a way to talk about it that is consistent with our constitution and the 2nd Amendment. The problem is that even mention of it somehow evokes this kind of polarization. And you're right when it comes to this issue of gun safety there is polarization between a very intense minority and a majority of Americans who think we could be doing better when it comes to gun safety.
This is leadership. It would be very easy for him to elide the gun issue right now. Many people of both parties are happy to do it. But his saying that it's the guns themselves that are part of the problem is important. (I said this on Friday, here: they're giving us a mass case of PTSD)
But that expresses itself in stark terms when it comes to legislation in congress and state legislatures. And that's too bad. We're going to have to tackle that at some point and I'm not going to stop talking about it because if we don't talk about it we're not going to solve these underlying problems. It's part of the problem.
We have always had cycles of political unrest in this country, even political violence. But we have never before had a citizenry armed to the teeth, many of them with military style weapons designed to kill mass numbers in one go. For that we can thank the NRA. It is a recipe for carnage on a level that I suspect way too many people have not yet fully understood, even with the massive bloodshed of innocent people, including tiny children, we've experienced these last few years.
Common sense says that we can do something about this if we want to do it. If men and women who love their killing toys are not allowed to have them, they will not be oppressed. They will still have all the civil liberties that everyone has to ensure a free society. Their excuse that citizens with guns will be able to repel a tyrannical government like the Minute Men in 1776 is a silly fairy tale. If it comes to that we will have much bigger problems than the lack of a semi-automatic rifle in our home.
Anyway, I'll just put this up again. If we were sane we would see that the first step is to deal with the guns:
Here is an interesting story for you to read today:
British doctor John Snow couldn’t convince other doctors and scientists that cholera, a deadly disease, was spread when people drank contaminated water until a mother washed her baby’s diaper in a town well in 1854 and touched off an epidemic that killed 616 people.
Dr. Snow believed sewage dumped into the river or into cesspools near town wells could contaminate the water supply, leading to a rapid spread of disease.
In August of 1854 Soho, a suburb of London, was hit hard by a terrible outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snows himself lived near Soho, and immediately went to work to prove his theory that contaminated water was the cause of the outbreak.
“Within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days,” Dr. Snow wrote “As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.”
Dr. Snow worked around the clock to track down information from hospital and public records on when the outbreak began and whether the victims drank water from the Broad Street pump. Snow suspected that those who lived or worked near the pump were the most likely to use the pump and thus, contract cholera. His pioneering medical research paid off. By using a geographical grid to chart deaths from the outbreak and investigating each case to determine access to the pump water, Snow developed what he considered positive proof the pump was the source of the epidemic... Snow was able to prove that the cholera was not a problem in Soho except among people who were in the habit of drinking water from the Broad Street pump. He also studied samples of water from the pump and found white flecks floating in it, which he believed were the source of contamination.
On 7 September 1854, Snow took his research to the town officials and convinced them to take the handle off the pump, making it impossible to draw water. The officials were reluctant to believe him, but took the handle off as a trial only to find the outbreak of cholera almost immediately trickled to a stop. Little by little, people who had left their homes and businesses in the Broad Street area out of fear of getting cholera began to return.
It took many more years before it was widely accepted that cholera came from the water. (In fact, it took a priest trying to prove that it was God's will to finally do it!)
But here's the relevant takeaway: they didn't need to cure the disease to end the epidemic. What ended it was shutting down the pump.
This gun fetish is the most maddening issue of our current era, in my opinion. It feels as if our culture is literally insane.
digby 7/09/2016 11:30:00 AM