On President Obama, the Dallas shootings, mental illness, and guns

Yesterday President Obama held a press conference in Warsaw, where he’s attending the NATO summit. I saw a bit of it on the news last night, and listened to a lot more of it this morning on YouTube, where the hour-long conference has been posted (full video below). I want to mention and react to three issues that Obama brought up about the shootings in Dallas and Minnesota, the reactions of Americans, and what we should do about the issue of terrorism and gun violence.

But first let me state that Obama was measured, thoughtful, and, well, Presidential.  This is the kind of demeanor and mentality that I want in a president, and can’t imagine Donald Trump giving a press conference that comes close to this one, as opposed to his usual unhinged brain-dump.

That said, I want to take issue with two things that Obama said, and to praise another. The part I’m discussing is Obama’s statement about Dallas from 0:28-7:57, and his response to reporter Kathleen Hennessey of the AP when she asked about the shootings (16:00-25:26).

Is America divided? Obama went to great pains to argue that the unrest we’ve seen in the last week does not denote some fundamental division in our country. That, of course, is pretty much what he has to do to preserve the peace and pretend to the rest of the world that everything is okay. Here’s what he said:

“As painful as this week has been, I firmly believe America is not as divided as [some people claim]… There is sorrow. There is anger. There is confusion about next steps. But there is unity in recognizing this is not how we want our communities to operate. This is not who we want to be as Americans.”

But of course, this is not true. First, America is divided—profoundly so—in at least three ways. First, along racial lines. Many blacks don’t trust whites, or white police officers, and this fear is not unjustified. At a recent meeting (video here) a woman asked a seated crowd of white people this question:  “I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our black citizens—if you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society—please stand.”

Nobody stood up. Would you? I wouldn’t. And until everyone would stand, things won’t be right in our country.  I haven’t seen so much racial division in the U.S. since the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four police officers for beating Rodney King, or since the bimodal reaction—divided among racial lines—to O. J. Simpson’s acquittal for murder three years later. Yes, that division is far from superficial.

We’re horribly divided along political lines as well. Never in my life have I seen such a stalemate between Republicans and Democrats—to the point that Congress has been frozen into inactivity. Republicans hate liberals and they hate Obama, while Democrats (more rightly, I think) see Republicans as regressive and selfish, with policies determined to keep minorities and women as second-class citizens. Neither side has a spirit of bipartisanship. Unless Congress becomes Democratic this fall, this is going to continue. So after Hillary Clinton is elected, as I think she will be, we’ll see the same lack of progress that we’re used to.

Finally, we’re divided on the issue of gun control. Many Americans cling to their weapons, while many more—a majority—want stricter gun control. Few Americans go as far as I do, asking for seriously stringent gun control along the lines of Australia and the UK.  I see no rational reason—and screw the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment—to allow people virtually unlimited access to guns. Many of the same Americans who love their guns also refuse to blame guns as a factor in American mass shootings and gun violence, mouthing the old and ridiculous trope of “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” (To which an appropriate response is “Guns don’t die from gun violence, people do.”)

Those who want no change in the gun laws aren’t offering meaningful solutions to the problem of gun violence, save the ineffectual claim that we need better treatment for mental illness. In their hearts, I think, they want things to remain the same as they have been in America. By that I don’t mean that gun lovers want these mass killings to continue, nor that they don’t care about the victims, but simply that they’re willing to tolerate those killings as the necessary price we pay to keep our beloved guns.

But more on that in a minute.

Was the Dallas shooter mentally ill? Micah Xavier Johnson killed five police officers and wounded nine other people before an explosive-laden robot killed him. Immediately after the massacre, as with other shootings, people began characterizing Johnson as mentally ill.  President Obama agreed: in the video above you’ll see him say that Johnson was “demented,” had a “troubled mind,” was a “troubled individual”, and he calls other similar killers “madmen.”

This is confusing and unproductive, in several ways. First, it’s simply tautological to characterize every mass shooter as mentally ill simply because of his actions. Many of them would not have been judged “demented” or “mentally ill” before they committed their acts. Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 70 people, was first exculpated by a team of forensic psychiatrists because they deemed him mentally ill. The public reaction was so strong against this that the court convened yet another team of psychiatrists, who duly found him sane and in the grip of an extremist ideology. He was found guilty and sentenced to 21 years in jail.

The “insanity” clause thus causes repeated problems for our legal system, because of course there’s no objective line between “sane” and “mentally ill.” My own solution to this is simply to have a judge or jury determine if the accused did the crime, and then have a panel of experts decide what kind of treatment/incarceration would be best for the individual and for society.  In such a case we can dispense with the “insanity” defense.

Further, the easy resort to calling someone like Johnson a “madman” allows people to neglect the possibility that ideological factors and not insanity motivated murders, whether those factors be white supremacy, a hatred of whites, or an anti-Western Islamist theology.  If we’re to prevent these acts, or at least treat those who commit them, we need a fuller understanding of what makes people act as they do. I’m convinced, for instance (though others are not), that radical Islamism plays a large role in many acts of terrorism.  Obama said this:

“I think the danger is that we somehow suggest that the act of a troubled individual speaks to some larger political statement across the country. It doesn’t… The demented individual who carried out the attacks in Dallas is no more representative of African Americans than the shooter in Charleston was representative of white Americans or the shooters in Orlando or San Bernardino were representative of muslims. They don’t speak for us.”

He’s right that these shooters aren’t representative of the racial, religious, or national groups to which they belong. But they may be representative of strains of Islam, or strains of racism and bigotry, that promote violence. While Obama meant well when he made that statement, it serves to efface (deliberately) any political, racial, or religious motivations for mass murder.

As the Washington Post has pointed out, most mass shooters don’t meet the normal definition of mental illness (read the article):

The oversimplification [imputing mass shootings to severe mental illness], experts say, is perpetuated by the gun industry and a society that assumes that the mentally ill are the only ones capable of deadly rampages. Now, with the White House and Congress prioritizing an overhaul of the ­mental-health system to try to curtail mass shootings and gun violence, critics say the country is chasing an expensive and potentially counterproductive cure on the basis of the wrong diagnosis.

“It would be ridiculous to hope that doing something about the mental-health system will stop these mass murders,” said Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of “The Anatomy of Evil,” which examines the personalities of brutal killers. “It’s really folly.”

The rehabilitation of these people, once arrested, could of course use psychiatric techniques or treatment, but that doesn’t presume that the killers are mentally ill. (How many readers have had therapy? Are all of you as mentally ill as shooters are said to be? I didn’t think so.)

Will stopping the proliferation of guns reduce gun violence? This seems self-evident to me: if weapons are easy to get, they’ll be used more often in homicides, suicides, or accidental shootings. But of course gun lovers can’t bring themselves to admit this. “Guns keep us safe,” they say, despite the fact that the U.S. is the First World nation in which you’re most likely to die from gun violence.

So kudos to Obama for saying that guns are a big factor in killings like those in Dallas (and on the part of the police, too, who wouldn’t need to be armed if the citizenry wasn’t). As he said in his response to Kathleen Hennessey:

“With respect to the issue of guns, I am going to keep on talking about the fact that we cannot eliminate all racial tension overnight. We are not going to be able to identify… every madman or troubled individual who might want to do harm against innocent people. But we can make it harder for them to do so.”

. . . We are unique among advanced countries in the scale of violence we experience. I’m not just talking about mass shootings, I’m talking about the hundreds of people already shot this year in my hometown of Chicago — the ones we just consider routine. We may not see that issue as connected to Dallas but part of what’s creating tensions… [is] that police have a really difficult time in communities where they know guns are everywhere. If you care about the safety of our police officers, you can’t set aside the gun issue and pretend that’s irrelevant.”

Only a lame-duck president can get away with saying something like this. Otherwise the NRA will fight hard to defeat you at re-election time.

I was pleased to see Adam Gopnik forthrightly addressing the problem of guns in a new New Yorker piece, “The horrific, predictable result of a widely armed citizenry.” “Predictable” is right, and why I argue above that the gun lovers are willing to tolerate the violence of American society as the price of owning guns. It’s a reprehensible attitude, and one that Gopnik deplores. I’ll finish with an excerpt from his excellent short piece:

A black man with a concealed weapon should be no more liable to be killed than a white man with one. But having a nation of men carrying concealed lethal weapons pretty much guarantees that there will be lethal results, an outcome only made worse by our toxic racial history. Last night’s tragedy was also the grotesque reductio ad absurdum of the claim that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. There were nothing but good guys and they had nothing but guns, and five died anyway, as helpless as the rest of us.

Once again, the difference in policy views is clear, and can be coolly stated: those who insist on the right to concealed weapons, to the open carrying of firearms, to the availability of military weapons—to the essentially unlimited dissemination of guns—guarantee that the murders will continue. They have no plan to end them, except to return fire, with results we know. The people who don’t want the regulations that we know will help curb (not end) violent acts and help make them rare (not non-existent) have reconciled themselves to the mass murder of police officers, as well as of innocent men and women during traffic stops and of long, ghostly rows of harmless civilians and helpless children. The country is now clearly divided among those who want the killings and violence to stop and those who don’t. In the words of the old activist song, which side are you on?

I’m on the “let’s get rid of guns” side. And I’m always horrified when some readers argue that we must have our weapons. Seriously?


  1. Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Three great points.
    And the one about reference to madmen and the insane etc when terrible events occur, is entirely key, as everyone then starts to believe anyone labelled with a mental illness must be on the verge of going on a killing spree and you rightly make the connection to ideology rather than mental state.
    Otherwise every army member in a position to kill could be considered sane by some or ideological or mad by others when they do kill.

    • scottoest
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      It’s a label that is often cynically applied, so that people don’t have to address actual motivations behind actions.

      The GOP always beat the “mental health” drum when there’s a mass shooting, but then quietly don’t actually do anything. It’s just a gambit to deflect attention and blame long enough for the public to lose interest.

      Thus, all we do is roll from tragedy to tragedy. And because the media have been cowed into endless false equivalency and “Both Sides”-erism, they are systemically incapable of pushing back against the dishonesty.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    And I’m always horrified when some readers argue that we must have our weapons. Seriously?

    Unfortunately, they are serious, even though their arguments have been shown to be faulty.

    • Alexander
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Perhaps some are serious. But the majority of them, are they serious? How do you explain the presence of several dozens of gun magazines in any magazine store in the US? Guns are a hobby, and a sick one.

  3. Merilee
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink


  4. Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Yes, America has its own version of sectarianism resurrected on a scaffolding of racial, political, and economic differences that are strategically manufactured over time to further disenfranchise the impecunious. But we can haz guns!

    “Heroism breaks its heart, and idealism its back, on the intransigence of the credulous and the mediocre, manipulated by the cynical and the corrupt.” — Christopher Hitchens

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Blessed are the sesquipedalian: for they shall inherit the internet! 🙂

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Again, a very good posting and right on the points covered. There is no doubt that racism continues to play a large roll in America as it has since the first blacks arrived to perform the labor that white people did not want to do. This racial attitude infects every part of the society in this country.

    But to solve this or our gun problem or any number of other big problems we must fix our system of government first. Without doing this we have no chance with all the rest. The number one starting point issue to begin this repair must be a great change in who the people are that represent all of use in government. This can only happen by removing the money from this system of government. We must have complete and total public funded elections with no private money allowed. This will do several things that are essential to fixing government. With specific public money amounts used to run for office and no private money, the people who will run for office changes dramatically.

    This first step will likely take an amendment in the constitution but so what? You can argue this case with the usual oh well, that will never be possible, but to me, if it is not possible, nothing else is.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Sorry…all of us. Not use.

    • scottoest
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure how you un-ring the bell on a lot of the pathogens that have infected American government at all levels.

      Publicly funded elections would be a great reform, but how do you even get to a point where such legislation is presented, let alone allowed to come to a vote? And how does it fix anything, in a country where the Supreme Court has already opened and closed the book on the legality of ‘SuperPACs’?

      It’s like gun control – let’s assume there’s enough votes for Australian-style gun control legislation in the House and Senate (already entering the land of fairytales here) – how does such legislation survive a collision with the Supreme Court, which has already weighed in on the 2nd Amendment?

      How do you un-ring the bill on gerrymandering of districts, when it’s almost impossible for the Republicans to lose the House now? How do you return the GOP base to a place where they don’t see compromise as unforgivable weakness, and secularism as the enemy? They are inculcating a new generation into their ways of thinking as we speak.

      How do you give the Democrats a spine and vision during all of this, when all they have to do to secure votes, is point to the alternative?

      The United States can’t even keep it’s dams and bridges structurally sound in the 21st century, let alone enact electoral reform.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        But you see, you are actually asking some of the questions that can only be handled if we had a different kind of elected official in office. A person who is only running because it is possible and wants to accomplish good things and represent the “people” not the lobby or the folks with the money you need to get reelected.

        You have to look at and understand what we have in Washington DC. The lobby, the Congress and even the Executive. It is a self serving, revolving door that does nothing except take in money to get reelected and then move over to K street, become a lobbyist and make the big money. It is totally corrupt and nothing but greed. Your representative in Congress do not care two shits about you the people. They do not have to. All they care about is staying in office and then moving over to where the really big money is…Lobby. This allows big business, Wall Street and the very rich to run just about everything.

        The problem is not Republican or Democrat, Left or Right — it is a system of greed and money and nothing more. This is the bell you must un-ring first.

        • scottoest
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          You’ll fine no disagreement here – but where is the impetus to deeply reform that system coming from? And if isn’t coming, what does the United States look like in 30 years? 50 years?

          Short of actual revolt, does the American government even have the capability any more, to reform itself? They can barely agree to keep the lights on from month to month, and even that is becoming a political game.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            My guess is that things have to get very bad before something like this can be done. But there has to be a movement to do it from the bottom up. The people have to know it and believe in it and then demand it. So the current crop of rotten representatives are given an ultimatum by the voters. Either stand for this Amendment or you are out. Knowing you will be out if you do not comply is the only motivator you have. It is really not all that different from how they operate now only instead of a lobby, such as the NRA or others telling the congressman what to do, it is actually the people. imagine that…

      • chris moffatt
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        “…how does such legislation survive a collision with the Supreme Court, which has already weighed in on the 2nd Amendment?”

        Precisely the point. Unless you are going to toss out the constitution, and many americans seem to be happy with that idea, this is the sticking point. If there are so many people against the status quo it should be possible to amend the constitution to modify or eliminate the second amendment. Amendments can be repealed. I don’t like the second amendment but there are others that I do like, a lot, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 13th, 15th and 14th for starters; we can’t throw them all out can we? But once we start where does it end. Law is law except when we don’t agree with it?

        Canada, UK, Australia, european and many other countries are not governed under constitutions that have this blanket firearms permit so laws can be introduced to limit guns, to further limit guns, to abolish gun ownership completely. This can’t be done in the USA because “freedom” – although most of those other countries also enjoy “freedom”, sometimes more than in the USA.

        Regarding the events in Dallas I have long been wondering how long it would be before someone decided to target white police. I remember back to the sixties/seventies and the militant black panther movement. Are we going to see that again or something worse?
        One thing is certain police can not be permitted to murder citizens in the streets any longer. Shot four times for an allegedly non-working taillight? Please!

        • scottoest
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          It *IS* possible to amend the Constitution – it just isn’t easy, and requires a willingness to collaborate. The Founders always intended for the Constitution to be amended as time went on – unfortunately, the US Constitution has come to be regarded as some sort of divinely inspired document, and not the flawed work written by men of a certain time (though still nonetheless with many important ideas in it). As such, the idea of changing the Constitution is treated as blasphemy; particularly on the right.

          Frankly… suppose they had a constitutional convention to make changes. Would you trust modern American politicians to leave the Constitution in a better place than where it started? I’d expect a bunch of asterisks to be added to the 1st Amendment, for the 2nd Amendment to be expanded, and for the 4th and 5th Amendments to be all but thrown out – and that’d be day one, before lunch.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          As Justice Scalia observed for SCOTUS in District of Columbia v. Heller, “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and instead allows “presumptively lawful regulatory measures.”

          I suspect we may see the Court addressing (and giving a broad reading as to) what constitutes such reasonable regulatory measures soon, once Hillary is in the White House and there is a full compliment of nine Supreme Court justices again.

      • Adam M.
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        If you’re implying that Congress would never agree to kill their corrupt gravy train, I think you’re right. The only way I can see is a constitutional amendment that bypasses Congress, going directly through the states, since most state governments aren’t nearly as corrupt as the national government. That’s what Wolf-PAC is trying to do. I think they have 5 states on board, but they need 34, so it may be a long road.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 11, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          “. . . since most state governments aren’t nearly as corrupt as the national government.

          Huh what? Granted, state governments are smaller than the Fed so perhaps based merely on size they could be said to be quantitatively less corrupt. For whatever worth that would be. But qualitatively? There is no significant difference between many state governments and the Fed.

        • Ken Elliott
          Posted July 11, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          “since most state governments aren’t nearly as corrupt as the national government.”

          That’s an intriguing thought. I wonder the truth of it, though. I know in my state money and greed are as much a motivation for those that serve at the state level as they are for our national representatives. And I have had some insight, not full insight of course, by having known 3 State Representatives, as well as a close friend who has to deal directly with state government officials and agencies, all of who were able to provide a bit of a view into a section of life that normally is seen only through the media filter. Again, I can’t say for certain one way or the other which entity is more corrupt than the other, state government or federal government, I just know that money is a primary motivator in the rationale of those at the state level I have had access to, albeit limited access to be sure.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Some of the gerrymandering is being taken care of by citizen referendums. Republicans tried to stop it in one state, but it was eventually upheld by SCOTUS.

  6. rationalmind
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    One of the best illustrations of the problems mere access to guns gives is a comparison of two incidents at schools in the UK.
    Just the names are enough. One was the Dunblane School Massacre where a man with a gun killed a teacher and sixteen tiny children and injured a further 15 people. (Incidentally tennis star Andy Murray was a student there at the time.)
    The other is known as the Wolverhampton Machete attack where a man known very clearly to have a mental illness attacked a similar school . He injured 3 children and 4 adults and killed nobody. Most notably Lisa Potts one of the teachers put her own safety in peril and nearly lost an arm by physically putting it in the way of a blow aimed at a child’s neck. She was awarded the highest civilian award for bravery, the George Cross.

    The differences are stark and illustrative the absence of a gun in the second case makes a clear difference.

    • Dave
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      All very true.

      Sadly, however, the US gun lobby would just argue that if the teachers had been armed, both attackers could have been taken out before they harmed anybody.

      • rationalmind
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Idiots who would risk putting guns within reach of young children. To be any use the teachers would have to carry guns at all time.

        Working with young children would make them more likely to be people whose gentleness would not encourage them to do this and also remember teachers can become mentally ill too.

  7. Christopher
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I come from a family (well, one side of it, anyway) that is chock full o’ gun nuts. I don’t understand them. I fail to understand why their right of own guns is more important than my right, and anyone else’s, to live into old age.

    As for the rest of the troubles, well, it’s not a zero sum game here. Being supportive of the Police doesn’t make you a racist, while at the same time supporting Police reforms doesn’t make you anti-Police or pro-Black Lives Matter. I am a big fan of having a police force that can protect me or assist me following a robbery, car theft, home burglary, car accident, or even just directing traffic for a ball game. Of course, I also don’t wish to be bullied, harassed, or perhaps shot by an angry, unstable cop, nor would I wish that on anyone else. Reforms are in order. They can always do better; they have already done better. Need I point out the changes in policing since the 1960’s firehoses, batons, and police attack dogs? And they need to do even better. But it’s not just the Police that need to change. I would ask the woman who asked the “white” people to stand about violence in “black” neighborhoods. It’s not the Police committing the shootings, the home break-ins, the thefts, the drug deals, etc. I would ask her to answer this question: Who would be more safe, her, living in an all-“white” neighborhood, or me, living in an all-“black” neighborhood, or even her, living in an all-“black’ neighborhood?

    As I was typing this, NPR was interviewing someone, I don’t know who, or what their POV was, but he said something like “The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of the child”, meaning, if I understood him correctly, that if we can’t imagine a world without guns, racism, and the general stupidity surrounding these problems, then as adults, we’ll fail to create and support such a world. It reminds me of what I recall was the stock answer to why rap/hip-hop lyrics were full of violence and drugs and sexism, because “that’s the way it is”. Well, I reject that just because that’s the way it is that it is how it has to be.

  8. Barry Lyons
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    That’s an excellent post, Jerry. Like you, I’m also on the “let’s get rid of guns” side.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I agree that America is divided. It’s divided along racial lines and many ideological lines. It worries me. I worry there could be civil wars in America. Last week, I was full of Weltschmerz and all I could say was “get your shit together, America!”

    The gun issue is complicated in that there are so many guns and various other weapons already in America. I usually recommend Americans look to Canada for gun laws because we are cultural the most similar country to America you will find….but it’s not as simple as that for the proliferation of guns and many other factors.

    One thing I notice, as an outside observer, is the American fear of the federal government – this manifests itself in the phrase “big government”. Americans mistrust and fear their government more than any other Western culture. I think this impedes a lot of progress. For one, it puts gun legislation at the State level where if it were managed at the Federal level, it would be much more consistent at the least.

    • scottoest
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Sometimes when I look at America, I think of the Roman Empire when it was in decline, and wonder what it felt like day to day for the people themselves. Did it feel like it was in decline? Did the Romans themselves scoff at any implication that they were, because their lives were too short and small to see things in a larger context?

      America, in many ways, sort of feels like an “empire” slowly coming apart at the seams. Especially when you think of how the founding ideals of the country are being increasingly tossed out through terrible legislation at state and federal levels, which will not be easy to overturn – particularly matters decided by the Supreme Court.

      I look at the state of American politics these days, and I don’t see any clear path to some sort of renaissance. Maybe that’s just me being overly pessimistic.

      • Dave
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        I wonder whether the “founding ideals” of the USA are actually part of the problem. Even leaving aside the fact that black slavery was integral to some of the newly-independent states, the deliberate creation of a decentralised system with power divided between the executive, legislature and judiciary makes it extremely difficult to take decisive action and has led directly to the political paralysis that seems to characterise the USA today. Add to that, the entire thing is founded on a written constitution which can only be amended with great difficulty, and where major issues of the 21st century have to be viewed in relation to the “original intent” of the Founding Fathers, i.e. what a bunch of guys in the late 18th century thought about things. This leads, among other things, to these endless debates about what the “Right to bear arms”, the “Well-regulated militia” and so on REALLY mean.

        In the UK, we’re often criticised for not having a formal written constitution. Some of those criticisms are justified, but it does confer the advantage of flexibility (e.g. Scottish and Welsh devolution)and gives the government of the day the ability to take decisive action when called-for (e.g. the post-Dunblane handgun ban). There’s a lot wrong with the UK’s political structure and system of government, but I still wouldn’t swap it for the USA’s version.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          I’ve often thought similarly. We don’t have a formal written constitution in NZ either, and I like it that way though atheist groups are some of those most keen to get us one. I just don’t think that the example of the US constitution is that convincing.

          Language is a big issue for a start. Look at confusion in interpreting the second amendment. Now imagine it was written in the language of Shakespeare, Chaucer, or even Beowulf. English will continue to evolve and change, and law needs to continue to be understandable. For 200 years the second amendment didn’t mean just about anyone had the right to own a gun, then that changed in 2006. No one can agree what the second amendment actually means anymore because of the way it was written, but there was no doubt at the time.

          It is ridiculous to assume that we are at some point in civilization where things won’t change, and it’s usually for the better overall. Law should reflect that. Instead of arguing whether the constitution allows same-sex marriage for example, just get on with recognizing that as people we should and change the law accordingly. No one who opposed same-sex marriage in NZ could use constitutional arguments and mostly accepted the inevitable.

          And if the government really was determined to take your guns, you’re dreaming if you think the constitution could or would stop them.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Americans mistrust and fear their government more than any other Western culture. I think this impedes a lot of progress.

      You’re absolutely right. And what makes matters worse, the tea-bag wing of the Republican party also hates the government. So you have politicians working in the government who actually hate said government. Can you imagine being a good doctor, but hating the patients you’re supposed to cure?

      • Posted July 11, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        I think a better analogy for this is a doctor hating medicine. “Doctor hating his patients” is a good analogy for governments hating the voters.

  10. Historian
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The divisions by race, politics, and the right to own guns are all interrelated. The demographics of the country are changing and threaten the perceived dominance over minorities by many poorly educated whites. The largely successful effort by the country’s elites to maintain power by employing divide-and-conquer tactics go back to the earliest days of the Republic. For most of the 19th century the then overwhelmingly Protestant majority were warned by the elites that Irish Catholic immigration threatened its status. Thus, in mid-century the Know Nothing Party emerged for a time as a significant political force. Most whites in the antebellum South did not own slaves, but they largely supported the institution and the Confederacy. Why? Because they totally swallowed the teachings of the planter elite that slavery allowed them to be superior to the black slaves. Freedom for the slaves would threaten their social status.

    As the great historian Richard Hofstadter noted in his mid-20th century writings, declining social status is a major factor in mass movements. Hofstadter’s theories do much to explain Trump. Poorly educated whites have for decades felt their social and economic status has been declining. The conservative elite of the Republican Party has provided them with the causes of their plight: liberals, gays, blacks, and immigrants. To the chagrin of the elites, they find themselves no longer able to control this base of the party. The poorly educated whites have come to realize that the Republican establishment has really done nothing for them. Hence, the stage is set for the entrance of the demagogue Trump. In near panic mode, the poorly educated whites have turned to the strongman for deliverance. The rise of a demagogue is not a new phenomenon, but it has never so threatened this country. As flawed as Hillary is, she is what stands between the election of a proto-fascist demagogue.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      A wise and probing comment, as usual, Historian. As a young man just beginning to make his way as a politician (1838), Abraham Lincoln was worried about your ‘photo-fascist demagogue’ whom he thought all too likely to appear on the American scene to tear down the the edifice of the Republic, still young after being built with the blood of the Fathers in the mortar. This was in his address to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield IL in January, 1838. Lincoln was worried that, in a time of social and racial unrest (especially across the South the people of the United States might be swayed by a powerful demagogue from their devotion to the rational rule of law, which Lincoln (I think rightly) believed was the foundational necessary condition of democracy, though of course he always understood that democracy to be undergirded with ‘unalienable rights’ as a check upon raw majoritarian rule.

      Lincoln’s Trump figure was Stephen A. Douglas, who would bedevil him all his political life, their great agon being the great senatorial election debates of 1858, where Douglas without shame as it were trumpeted Dred Scott’s ‘the negro has no rights that the white man is obligated to respect.’ No question that Douglas meant what he said in his constant race-baiting.

      Trump has said he would repeal the 1st Amendment. No reason to believe he wouldn’t if he somehow got the power to do so.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        aargh! that’s ‘photo-fascist’ It’s Trump who’s the ‘Photo-Fascist.’

        • Robert Bray
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink


    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I think you are right but the problem is as much one for the Democrats as the Republicans. Remember back a few years ago, the 80s will do. Lots of political pundits noticed the two parties were actually looking more alike than different. Bill Clinton was a prime example of the very moderate Democrat that was still successful even in a state like Arkansas. Very much the good old boy who rubbed up against big Wall Street money. Professional politician thru and thru.

      The Democrats threw the middle class under the bus nearly as much as the other side. It is just that the Republican Dogma worked well with the poorly educated as you say. Blame it on Washington and everyone agrees but fix nothing.
      So we can say, saved by the bell with a Hilary president but is only slows down where we are headed in the end. She will get very little done because of the real forces that now run everything. She knows it and that is why she really pays little attention to a reformer like Bernie. Just throw the little people a few bones and keep on doing our Washington DC thing. Make more money.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      You sound sarkeesian; “everything is racist, everything is sexist”.

      “The demographics of the country are changing and threaten the perceived dominance over minorities by many poorly educated whites.”

      What do you actually mean by this?

      I am not an American but I cannot see how black Americans are a “threat” to poor whites and making all these clever historical analogies can sometimes obfuscate things.

      It seems to me the major issue for poor whites is uncontrolled hispanic immigration.
      Note that poor blacks are just as (or more) vulnerable than poor whites in terms of competing in the job market with cheap import labor. (black unemployment is much higher than white)

      It might be that the huge influx of hispanics destabilized black communities and actually helped spawn movements like BLM.

  11. FloM
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Excellent piece. On the issue of divides, sadly a new divide seems to spring up in the liberal camp owing to the Bernie or bust or never Hillary stance a not insignificant number of people seem to want to adopt. And of course the big divide, probably the root cause of the problem is between the rich and the poor. And that is also much more pronounced than in other western countries. This is the great shame of this country, the richest nation on earth yet so many living in deplorable conditions.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    We’re going to miss that man, Obama, more than we can imagine. He and his family have been a class-act all the way.

    BHO has been the living embodiment of the African-American adage that you have to be “twice as good” — twice as smart, twice as talented, twice as trustworthy — to succeed in the white man’s world. Imagine what the rightwing would have done — oh hell, imagine what the mainstream media would have done — if, like his immediate predecessors, our first president of color had gotten caught shtupping an intern or ignoring a daily security brief entitled “[ISIS] Determined to Strike in U.S.” shortly before the attacks in San Bernardino or Orlando.

    Compared to President Obama’s articulate extemporaneous addresses, Donald Trump’s speeches increasingly come off like rambling, drunken wedding toasts.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I had a female VP as a mentor once. The first thing she told me is “you’re going to have to work at least twice as hard than the males” and she was right. She also told me that even she was a VP, she would often be assigned things like arranging staff days etc. because it was perceived as something women were good at. I also so birthday celebrations or any type of celebration falling to females and often females went to other females for help with such tasks. Not me. If I had to do that (I hate those tasks), I went to whomever could help and often this was to men.

  13. mordacious1
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Leaving the gun debate aside for a moment, the problem with the Dallas assassination of police officers is that people with an agenda have knee-jerk reactions whenever a black person is shot by the police. There’s no need to wait for an investigation, a racist cop unjustly murdered another black man. When media outlets, elected officials (who should know better) and members of the public start ranting about unjust killings by cops, some people get emotional and might act out in the way that the Dallas shooter did.

    As in Ferguson, often it turns out that the shooting by the cop was justified and, in the Ferguson situation, the city was burned and looted before the truth comes out. The truth doesn’t matter to those who have an agenda. Waiting for results of the investigation isn’t necessary. Michael Brown is still used as an example of police brutality. It boggles the mind.

    As the investigations into the deaths of the men in MN and LA are carried out, it’s beginning to look as if both shootings were possibly justified. We have to wait until the investigations are concluded (I know that’s hard to do). I personally felt, given the various testimonies (and lack of testimony), that the shooting of Mr. Castille was probably an unjust killing of an innocent man. It appears that I too was too hasty.

    The cop, smartly, has only stated that the suspect (and he was a suspect) reached for his gun. It was reported (and there was a cartoon to that effect here) that he was pulled over for a tail light. He was pulled over apparently, because he matched the description of an armed robbery suspect who stole some Newport cigarettes. He may not have had a CCP, as the girlfriend claimed. If so, he had a loaded pistol while driving (this is never a good idea). There is a shot of the GF holding a pack of Newports at the scene. There is also be a picture of the shot suspect with what may be a pistol in his lap, only a thorough investigation will clear all this up. Let’s wait, shall we?

    I don’t want to jump to conclusions about this case, as the media and others have done. I just wish that people could at least wait until the preliminary investigations are done before convicting the cops of being racist murderers. Now we have 5 dead cops in Dallas because possibly the media jumped the gun…again and got some guy steamed enough to gun down cops.

    There are bad cops out there and sometimes good cops make mistakes, but for the most part, cops are doing a great job. A job that most of us couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do.

    Sorry PCCE that this got so long.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Don’t believe everything you read in conservative treehouse – it has been pretty thoroughly debunked by snopes.com. Look it up yourself.

      • mordacious1
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps, but the point remains that a rush to judgment (as in the Michael Brown situation) can result in negative consequences (in this case, 5 dead cops and several wounded). The media, the politicians and the left are generally too quick to throw the cops under the bus, because it fits their agenda or they’re appeasing the mob. No matter how this turns out, it’s better to wait until all the facts are crystal clear before we condemn one side or the other. I’d like to at least hear the officer who did the shooting’s testimony on what happened and not just go by the passenger’s statements. The President, of all people, should be calling for calm until the facts are out. He blew it during Ferguson, never accepted fault and continues down the same path. Shame on him. We are a nation of laws, after all.

        • Posted July 11, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          I generally disagree with you on this thread, but here I am with you. I think the police need more support from citizenry. It may sound paradoxical, with so many reported cases of rogue police officers. But we need police, so we must ask ourselves, what kind of police do we need and how to get it?
          Once I heard some friends (upper middle class) complain of their kids’ teachers and the poor state of teachers in general. I asked, “Well, but who becomes a teacher? Would any of you encourage your children to choose the career of a teacher?” Complete silence. Same with police.

  14. sabre422
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Jerry’s observations on gun violence, mental illness and access to guns pretty much cover my view of things. I grew up in a military family, and my father bought me my first real gun, a 22 target rifle, over my mother’s objection, at the age of 12. I had owned cap guns, bb guns and pellet guns up to that point and safety was always preached by my dad… a veteran of 3 wars. This was in the early 60’s. I owned a few more guns up until the early 1980,s when I got rid of them all. I was living in Baltimore, Murderland, as some referred to it back then with over 300 kills in the City and 100 more in the surrounding county each year. It was clear to me then as it is today that access to guns was likely the biggest issue. It wasn’t my brandishing a BFG “big f**kin’ gun” that thwarted two potential home robberies, it was my BFD “big f**kin’ dog” who put a quick end to the danger when he whooped up a storm with noises in the night. I have been gunless since 1983, and always sleep well at night with man’s best friend on guard. Ask any cop and he will tell you one of the best things to own for home defense is a dog.

    Jerry, my older brother is a cat person, but he still keeps a gun.

    Post script: just before my mother died a few years ago at the age of 98, she told me that she had saved a few of my things from my childhood. When I got around to checking them out in the basement of her home, I found the 22 target rifle that my dad had bought me and she had objected to so much. I almost took it home, but living here in Massachusetts now, I didn’t have a permit.

    While it will not happen in my lifetime, I am for banning hand guns, and assault type weapons.

  15. DrDroid
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Excellent post.

    “…can’t imagine Donald Trump giving a press conference that comes close to this one, as opposed to his usual unhinged brain-dump.”

    LOL! So succinctly captures my reaction to Trump’s media appearances! I can’t believe anyone could envision Trump as President. What an embarrassment!

    “Neither side has a spirit of bipartisanship. Unless Congress becomes Democratic this fall, this is going to continue. So after Hillary Clinton is elected, as I think she will be, we’ll see the same lack of progress that we’re used to.”

    If neither side has a “spirit of bipartisanship” then presumably the stalemate will continue regardless of who controls Congress. There are those who will decide that electing Trump will free us from “the same lack of progress that we’re used to”. Indeed we will then have “progress”, in the wrong direction (I think we call this “regress”).

    I’m not a fan of Hillary. Even the NYT has blasted her:(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/opinion/sunday/the-clinton-contamination.html)

    I’ve never been through an election that presented us with such poor choices for President.

  16. Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I agree that guns should be completely banned. But even the most liberal commentators will fall all over themselves to say how much they support gun rights and the second amendment.
    If the dems want to shift the discussion – in the way that the Repubs are so skillful at doing- they need to find some prominent commentators who will advocate a complete ban.

  17. ladyatheist
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    It’s about assault rifles for sure.

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead first-graders

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead church-goers

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead movie-goers

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead marines

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead civilians & a severely injured politician

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead college students

    Disturbed individual + assault rifle = dead cops

    It doesn’t really matter what those individuals are disturbed about. The fact that they can easily act on it and murder multiple people in a short amount of time is the common denominator.

    I disagree about us being divided. I think we are becoming more and more fractured and splintered due to extremist echo chambers all over the web. It’s why I don’t de-friend people who disagree with me about religion, politics or anything else (with a few exceptions). I don’t want to fall prey to the demonization of “others” that can happen when you isolate yourself from other viewpoints. It also gives me a window into the nuttery going on in other corners of the web. I have FB friends who are Bernie Sanders nuts, libertarian nuts, right-wing nuts, anti-GMO nuts (who wouldn’t even approve of hypo-allergenic peanuts!), pro-gun nuts, etc. I try to focus on what we have in common. I have a lot of “friends” that I don’t really like but I like to keep an eye on their corner of American nuttery. The truth doesn’t matter to the nuts, and nothing can dissuade them because they have loads of links “proving” their prejudices. They share memes based on lies, articles cribbed from other made-up sources, out-dated information, crackpot “scientist” sites, etc.

    I’m an atheist because it matters to me what’s true, and I’m a skeptic because it’s hard to know for sure what’s true. That’s not enough to insulate me from nuttery but it’s a start.

  18. Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I think we can all agree that only deranged people go on shooting sprees as long as they expand the definition of ‘deranged’ to include about 20% of the population.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Although it’s way too soon to say for sure, I’m hopeful that, with the tragic events of last week, our nation may have turned a corner on racial awareness. What gives me hope is that, notwithstanding the police shooting in Dallas (which ordinarily would have unleashed a massive racial backlash), some sane, thoughtful voices on race have actually begun to emerge from conservative circles. In particular, Matt Lewis has posted a thoughtful essay on the Daily Caller and Leon Wolf has put up another on “Red State.” (Yes, that Red State!) Hell, even such usually unhinged wingnut characters as veep wannabe Newt Gingrich and failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio have come out with relatively sober, balanced comments about race in America.

    In response, let me say something that rarely crosses my mind or lips with regard to the American right: well done, guys.

    Maybe there’s reason to keep hope alive, after all.

  20. Damien McLeod
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The UK has it right on gun issues. Disarm the citizenry, then we can disarm the Police. If the cops seem trigger happy it’s because they’re in constant fear for their lives. With thugs armed to teeth and ordinary people hoping for an opportunity to “Stand Their Ground” (with belligerence) against anybody (even Police) it’s no wonder some cops “flip-out” under the strain and shoot innocent people. I’m surprised so many don’t.
    The more people carrying guns around, the more freaked-out the citizenry becomes (including the Police) and thereby more gun violence ensues. It’s a vicious circle and we Americans seem to stupid to figure it out.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I would have thought that the Menendes murder on the London Underground would give the lie to the notion that a disarmed public is safe from trigger-happy police. I don’t think those killers were in fear for their lives.
      But you’re right; if we want police to stop shooting people we have to take away their guns.

      • aljones909
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        That’s a very unjust characterisation of the UK police. The UK public are very safe from trigger happy police. A case like the de Menezes killing is exceptionally rare. It happened in 2005. The police believed he was one of the terrorists involved in the previous days failed bombing attempts.
        Here’s a stat I heard on the BBC radio program “More or Less”. In 4 years the London police discharged 5 bullets on active duty. One bullet per year in a city of 8.7 million. It’s exceedingly unlikely that the public are in danger from trigger happy police.

        (please note. the stat is from memory. I’ve tried to locate the program in the BBC archives but have not yet managed to find it).

        • chris moffatt
          Posted July 11, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

          It’s not that the case is an outlier; it’s that it happened at all. An unarmed innocent man savagely assaulted and then shot by police is not a good thing. Couldn’t they simply have arrested him? I’m not “characterizing” all police in the UK but I am condemning this particular act of extreme violence and there is no guarantee that it can’t or won’t happen again.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

            I agree, it was appalling, it was a cock-up of huge proportions, and heads should have (metaphorically) rolled for it.

            And there is no *guarantee* it can’t happen again, but how likely is it? It hasn’t happened since 2005.


      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        UK police kill about 3 people a year.

        US is estimated to be around 1000.
        Corrected for population it’s about 200 to 3.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        That wasn’t ‘Menendez’ (they were the Hispanic parent-killers IIRC), it was Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician.

        And you’re right, it *was* murder in my opinion, due to rank police incompetence in mistaking him for a terrorist. I find that appalling.

        The fact that the Police authorities, instead of immediately admitting their horrific blunder and issuing a grovelling apology, tried to cover it up by portraying the dead man as a suspicious individual, does them no credit at all and is to their eternal shame.

        BUT – how many police shootings have there been in Britain since? Would de Menezes have been safer if he *had* been carrying a gun?


  21. Posted July 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I would argue Americans are in more danger because of the issues they are not really divided over (war on drugs and war on terror) than the issues they are divided over.

  22. Posted July 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Excellent points.

    Only a few days before the tragic events that brought gun culture and racism into the headlines yet again, there was this campaign called “SHARE THE SAFETY”

    “It’s more important than ever for all of us to Stand Our Ground. But some can’t afford to defend themselves. Systemic poverty and dumb laws keep the urban poor unable to acquire life-saving firearms. That’s why we are the NRA are teaming up with Smith & Wesson to ‘Share the Safety’ […] when you purchase […] we will donate a firearm and training to an at-risk, low income citizen in an urban centre of your choice”

    Watch it first. But before you spill your coffee: it was a prank by the amazing prankster-activists of the Yes Men, exposing the hypocrisy of the NRA and the Right. Suffice to say, the the other side was not pleased.

    In a pointed way, it utterly destroys the “more guns” rhetoric as a hypocritical double-standard. Of course, the kind of people who are into guns, don’t want to arm the poor citizens in the urban centres. And when they insist on playing the tough rugged individual who stands up to law enforcement and the evil government, they don’t have poor blacks in mind, but more a kind of romantic libertarianism in rural America.

    These attitudes, as comical as they often are, also need to be addressed. Too many Americans still live in libertarian fantasy universe where they are completely blind to mass surveillance of NSA and cameras with tracking software at every corner, yet stylize themselves as defiant toward law enforcement with “acting up”, insisting on some paragraphs, a strange fetishization of “rights”, trying out magic key words to bypass routine controls by the police and more.

    In other countries, there are simply rules, traditions and expectations how such situations are supposed to work, which goes a long way to maintain a cooporative climate in such a situation. Police can simply ask for your ID and it’s not a big deal. The USA has outdated “Stop and Identify” laws, bourne out of romantic libertarian notions that also seem to underlie gun culture.

    Finally, the argument that more guns made things safe, because bad guys anyway have guns: The criminals are also prepared and they also use surprise to their advantage. And nobody wants to anticipate deadly danger all around the clock. The solution is to cooperate and worry about catching the criminal later. And to deescalate and have lesser weapons floating about. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, and again the solution is contrary to US romanticism of the rugged individual and his gun — but it works and tends to keep everyone alive.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      Oh man, that’s fricking brilliant!

      I was laughing so hard I almost cried.


  23. Rhetoric
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “The country is now clearly divided among those who want the killings and violence to stop and those who don’t.”

    Why are supporters of the second amendment always portrayed as blood hungry savages? Every comparable analogy I come up with seems too silly to actually type out.

    I think I deserve the right to adequate self defense until the police arrive. I thankfully have our constitution to back up this belief. The vast majority of gun violence in this country is committed by organized crime. The majority of black people are killed by other black people. The majority of people killed by police are white. My girlfriend in college fought off a rapist with a gun. I have fought off an armed burglar.

    If you don’t treat the police like assholes and follow their instructions your chance of having a violent interaction drop to essentially zero. If you do not associate with known criminals, gang-like or otherwise, or drug addicts, your chances of being killed by a gun drop to essentially zero.

    • rationalmind
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think the evidence supports your claim


      • Rhetoric
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Where did I argue against how owning a gun increases the risk of being harmed by one? Again, a comparable analogy seems too silly to actually type.

        I would point to the discussion section where they discuss limitations in the research, and even mention how the increase in homicide rates isn’t actually that significant. And as always, it seems, they did not account for active criminal activity.

    • Posted July 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      “If you do not associate with known criminals, gang-like or otherwise, or drug addicts, your chances of being killed by a gun drop to essentially zero.”

      No. Someone dear to me was killed by a gun in the USA, despite having a blameless life. His lack of association with the underground world did not protect him – it just resulted in failure of law enforcement to indict the suspected murderer.

      • Rhetoric
        Posted July 11, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        How could you – possibly – be this dense? It has to be intentional, right?? “Essentially zero” is not the same as “zero”? Statistically, random people being killed by guns isn’t even remotely a problem on the societal level. It is not something that should be considered when we are talking about whether or not to completely disarm our country as Jerry would want us to do.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

          “completely disarm our country as Jerry would want us to do.”

          Eh? Since when was Jerry talking about disarmament? I do agree that disarmament would be a damn good idea – scrap all the nukes. The world would be a safer place.
          But that’s not what Jerry was talking about and you know it.

          So in this context ‘disarm our country’ is just emotive BS. Banning private ownership of guns has no relation to whether a country has armed defence forces. What exactly is the NRA and its associate gun nuts ‘armed’ against? The US government? Foreign invasion? The combined firepower of the NRA and every other gun nut in the country, for all their wet macho dreams, would hardly be effective against the armed forces of, say, Venezuela.


    Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”–the inescapable fact is that guns make it a helluva lot easier for people to kill people

    • mordacious1
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      So do cars. Do we really need cars that have 800 HP under the hood? Speed kills. Do we really need hard liquor? Isn’t beer and wine enough? Considering the death toll from alcohol, I’d think people would be clamoring to ban it. Assault style weapons kill relatively few people in the US each year (about 300 killed by all types of rifles), but this is what the media wants you to focus on. Almost 100,000 people die each year from medical mistakes made in hospitals. Why don’t we focus on that? Are the hundred or so people killed by assault style weapons so much more horrible than 100,000 malpractice deaths?

      People die, it’s a sad fact. We can’t outlaw everything that kills people, it’s impossible. Alcohol kills 88,000 people in the US each year. Sure, we could outlaw it again and save all these people, but we don’t. Why? Because people have decided that they’d rather accept the risks, than to give it up. The majority of Americans support gun ownership. They’ve decided that they’d rather accept the risks than give it up. That’s the way democracies work.

      Jerry mentions that Australia made it difficult to own guns and therefore there are fewer gun related deaths there. Good for them. That’s their choice. There are fewer alcohol related deaths in Saudi Arabia. Do we want to be like Saudi Arabia? The people say “no”. Do we want to be like Australia? The people say “no”.

      • Andy
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        So, if we accept your analogy to cars then:
        There’d be an innumerable set of regulations governing safety requirements and what features are allowed.
        You’d have to have a government issued license, which has to be regularly renewed and can easily be taken away.
        You’d need to carry liability insurance.
        There would be laws against being drunk-in-charge with no-refusal right against drug/alcohol testing.

        Sound good to me!

        • Rhetoric
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

          The thrust of his argument that you chose to ignore, instead going down the analogy rabbit hole, is that for every freedom we enjoy there are trade offs. Free speech (and I know this is the next amendment the progressive left is coming for) means the KKK gets to march down main street every so often. Citizens owning guns mean some of them will be used for violence. The majority of people agree with this trade off because statistically speaking your chance of being harmed by one is incredibly small. 13,000 people were killed (not murdered) by a gun in 2015 despite a third of the population owning one. ~0.01% of guns are used in a homicide. This statistic from the FBI doesn’t even factor in justified killings in self defense.

          • Andy
            Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

            Hmmm, you seem strangely sure about what he really meant. But anyway, your figure sounds close to the Wiki / BBC one. As you make a point of mentioning that “justified killings” should be excluded, lets quote the whole line to see what it does exclude: “Firearms killed 13,286 people in the U.S. in 2015, excluding suicide. Approximately 1.4 million people have been killed by firearms in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011.”

        • mordacious1
          Posted July 10, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

          There are innumerable sets of regulations governing safety requirements and what features are allowed on guns.
          You only need a government issued license for cars if that car touches the street, if it remains on private property, you don’t need one. Same with guns. You need a government issued license to carry a loaded gun in public in most states, it must be renewed and can be revoked.
          It is illegal in most states to be drunk and in possession of a firearm in public…just like cars.
          You don’t need liability insurance to own or possess a car, only to drive it on the road. Most gun owners keep their guns at home, so there is no need of insurance.

          So there, aren’t you thrilled? All your wishes are fulfilled.

          One thing you forgot though. Driving a car on a public street is a privilege. Bearing arms is a constitutional right. Therefore you cannot equate the two.

          • Andy
            Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

            And again *your* choice of analogy still implies that a gun owner who ever takes it into public places should have insurance.

            Earlier you said, “So do cars.” Now you say, “Therefore you cannot equate the two.”
            Your logic seems broken.

            • mordacious1
              Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

              You can equate the two if you say both have metal parts or, as I did, both can kill people. You cannot equate the two if you say both have rubber tires or, as you did, imply that both are a right (or conversely, a privilege).

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 22, 2016 at 12:03 am | Permalink

        ‘Do we want to be like Australia? The people say “no”.’

        Well actually, as I understand it, the majority of the people say “Yes” (in regards to gun control, not in regard to keeping kangaroos or drinking bloody awful lager).

        Don’t let your rhetoric carry you away.

        Oh, and cars have an infinity of practical uses, modern life would be quite difficult without them. Guns apparently have no practical uses except to defend against other people’s guns. Your analogy is flimsier than pre-owned toilet paper.


        • mordacious1
          Posted July 22, 2016 at 1:59 am | Permalink

          The majority of Americans support the right of citizens who are not criminals or mentally disturbed to own guns. So no, you’re not correct in saying that we wish to be like Australia.

          I own a lot of things that have less practical use than guns. Guns can be used for hunting, for sport, for collecting and for self defense.

          If the majority of Americans support banning the ownership of guns, then amending the Constitution should be easy. Go for it.

    • Posted July 11, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  25. Vaal
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post Jerry! Huge agreement.

  26. J. Quinton
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I think ammunition should be highly regulated. Imagine: gun nuts can have all the guns they want, but if a person is only allowed to possess or expend 10 bullets in a given timeframe (similar to what I was subject to in the military when performing official duties involving firearms) that would at least cut down on mass shootings.

    • mordacious1
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      So, how was fighting WWII?

  27. Jerry Zhompson
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I have to disagree with you on gun control, Jerry. How has the war on drugs worked? I’m sure we can all agree that a nation without crack cocaine and heroin would be a stronger, more peaceful society. But banning illicit drugs, mobilizing the police to target the drug trade, and imprisoning drug users has only exacerbated the problem. Far from removing drugs from the streets, the War on Drugs has instead put all the power in drug cartels. If drugs were legalized, homicide and inner city crime would fall drastically, as control of the drug trade would fall to legal, regulated entities rather than criminal gangs.

    The same is true of guns. Ban firearms, and an enormous black market will immediately spring up. Ban guns, and only criminals will own guns. We will lose all our power to regulate the control of guns, and their sale and distribution will be controlled by criminals. In essence, You’ll take away the firearm from the common citizen, and give it to the criminal.

    The “gun control” crowd is, by and large, racist and classist. Sure, if you live in a privileged, wealthy neighborhood, you probably won’t need to own a gun. But you don’t know the struggle of poor, largely minority families in the Inner City, who need a gun to protect themselves.

    Gun homicide in the United States is almost entirely a function of the Inner City. Take away some neighborhoods of Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and suchlike, and the U.S. Homicide rate is the same as Western Europe. It’s not the “gun culture” that’s responsible for the high rate of American homicide — it’s urban decay. We need to address social issues like poverty, mass incarceration and the War on Drugs instead of chalking up all these problems to guns.

    • mordacious1
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      What’s funny about the Left’s position on guns in America is, that they want to ban citizens from having them. They also want to disarm the police so we won’t have any more of these horrible shootings of poor innocent young black men on their way to Sunday school. Now you’ve got a disarmed police force trying to enforce the ban on citizens having guns. I wonder how that will work out?

  28. mrclaw69
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    “…Last night’s tragedy was also the grotesque reductio ad absurdum of the claim that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. There were nothing but good guys and they had nothing but guns, and five died anyway, as helpless as the rest of us…”

    I am sooooo sick of that phrase. It’s manifest bullsh*t and as the circumstances show it should perhaps be updated to:

    “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a suicide-robot with a bomb…”

  29. Posted July 11, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    ” I see no rational reason—and screw the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment—to allow people virtually unlimited access to guns. “

    That Constitution – it’s just a piece of paper, right?

    Perhaps those last three S.C. rulings are an anomaly? Maybe there is this really novel argument that the 2nd is really about militias and slavery that clarifies the issue.

    Except – it is not a novel idea – this argument has been made for 200 years and is exactly what the Supreme Court’s last three decision’s supporting individual gun rights were considering.

    And these last three cases are NOT an anomaly – there are more than thirty S.C. cases addressing whether the 2nd protects State’s rights (for a militia) or individual person’s rights.

    The record of these cases is mixed. But S.C. decisions which support individual rights goes back to 1820. It is not some new wacky interpretation made moot by some new idea about slaves and militias. And there has never been a time when the people were not allowed to have guns in America. Nor have they ever had “virtually unlimited access to guns”.




  30. Eric Grobler
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Obviously the US has an aggressive and dysfunctional police force and needs stricter gun control etc.

    However African Americans are also a dysfunctional class with a much higher crime rate that other demographics, significant lower IQ and educational levels, high divorce rate, high unemployment etc.

    The reasons for this CANNOT ONLY BE RACISM.

    I read that recent black immigrants from Nigeria and the Caribbean are highly successful and have a significant higher IQ than the population average (ie whites) and are very high earners (they earn 30% more than US born blacks)

    If black immigrants are performing better than whites on metrics like education and earnings then “racism” cannot be the main reason why African Americans perform so poorly.
    I think black immigrants have a different work ethic and they are not indoctrinated with the idea that they cannot succeed because of “institutionalized racism”.

    I am a jazz lover and artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus produced black music that were sophisticated and inspiring. Look at black art today, it is aggressive decadent ghetto trash and is symptomatic of why black society is less functional today that it was in the ’60s.

    I am tired of people blaming “racism” as the main reason for the dysfunctional state of black society and culture in the US.
    If there is a stereotype that US blacks are less intelligent and more violent then there is probably some truth to it.
    The responsible action would be to try to understand and address the problem rather than denying that such a problem exists.

    • Alexander
      Posted July 12, 2016 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      I’ve rarely read such BS on this list. Just explain to me why, when I lived in Princeton, I had to go and look for a house for a black colleague who wanted to buy.

      Of course recent black immigrants do well in the US, they did not have to *grow up* in the US. By the time black people see that their choices for education and jobs are severely restricted, they are profoundly discouraged. You have to compare this with the chances of people in the UK who have a strong local accent. You can say that this local accent incites the same stupid prejudices as does a black skin color. You have to be a genius like Fred Hoyle to get over this.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted July 13, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

        “I’ve rarely read such BS on this list. Just explain to me why, when I lived in Princeton, I had to go and look for a house for a black colleague who wanted to buy.”
        It is easy too explain, the whites in Princeton are racist – what is your point exactly?

        I did not claim that racism does not exist, my argument is that racism is not the major reason why black communities are dysfunctional.
        The Jews of eastern Europe also faced racism in the early 19th century and were subject to actual institutionalized racism, but were extremely successful.
        The fact that black immigrants are high achievers prove that you can be successful despite racism.

        “Of course recent black immigrants do well in the US, they did not have to *grow up* in the US.” And they do not need your help in buying property in Princeton?

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted July 13, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        B.t.w. I suggest we listen to what black intellectuals like Glenn Loury and John McWhorter have to say who are not captive to virtue signalling.

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