At one point, Joan threw this out there:
Come up with some better solutions [to the gun violence problem]. I still haven't heard them.
This was my reply. I thought it was fairly respectful and serious. I am attempting to think seriously about the issue that she poses and engage in some actual discussion.
Then you haven't been listening. I'll spell out some ideas loud and clear:
Crime, suicide, and accident prevention.
Stiffer sentences for violent criminals. The majority of your violent crime is committed by a relatively small number of repeat offenders. So, put violent criminals into jails for a long time. Cut back on parole opportunities. It is absurd that in many states, murderers can get out on parole with less than a dozen years served. It is also absurd that in some states, "juvelines" (talking gang-banging 16 year old teenagers who certainly can be responsible for their actions) who commit extremely violent crimes including murder are sometimes treated in the juvenile justice system then
released onto the public to kill again when they turn 18. This proposal works, has a proven track record, and is argueably cheaper than letting the felons back out onto the streets (at least according to the DOJ).
Corollary to Above: Using a Firearm in a Crime is an Aggravating Offense. If you use a firearm to commit a violent crime (actus rea) with criminal intent (mens rea), then the offense automatically bumps up at least one category. A minor misdemeanor goes to a gross misdemeanor. Gross misdemeanors go to felonies. Low-grade felonies become major felonies. Put the violent offenders who use firearms to commit their crimes into prison.
Eliminate mandatory sentences for non-violent crimes. Much of this is related to the "war on drugs." It is crazy that we're filling up our prisons with non-violent offenders that smoked a little weed and paroling violent rapists and murderers.
Legalize marijuana. Much of the violence is related to trafficking in drugs. The fact is that contraband is expensive because it is contraband; as long as the demand exists then if you squeeze the supply it just increases prices and value and thus the lengths that dealers are willing to go to in order to protect their trade. If you
legalized marijunana then it takes a large number of drug users out of the illegal street corner market and puts them into CVS drugstores where they no longer associated with criminal gangs and dealers. Legalization also would bring down prices and move things into legitimate distribution channels which would likely reduce violence. Think about it: during prohibition, gangsters killed lots of people to protect their illegal trafficking in booze. As soon as prohibition was over, alcohol-trade related slayings dropped.
Tax legal marijuana sales and use the proceeds for drug cessation programs. This strategy has worked very effectively with tobacco to reduce smoking. Legalize it, tax it, regulate it, and then educate the people to reduce demand.
Eliminate Criminal Penalties for Laws which have no Mens Rea component. Treat them as Civil cases. If there is no guilty mind (criminal intent), then criminal charges are not necessarily appropriate. Again, we fill up our prisons
with offenders who did not knowingly commit any sort of crime. Civil penalties are more appropriate in this case; you can still get justice with steep fines and other civil penalties without clogging up the prisons.
Consider downgrading many non-violent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Right now, it is a felony to mail certain types of flowers, to transport lobsters without the right kind of bag, or to lie to or otherwise hinder the official duties of a federal agent without being under oath (so why do we have perjury, then?). Why are these felonies? Why do many of them apply towards "three strikes and you're out" laws intended to put habitual violent offenders into an already overcrowded prison system?
- Consider ways to expand Mental Health Services in Stressed Communities. This is getting into the suicide prevention category. You don't prevent suicides by taking away guns (and ropes, and cliffs, and medicine, and knives...). You prevent suicides by providing effective mental health intervention and community support to people who need it. I don't know exactly how to do this as I also have trouble with providing "free" services to everyone (someone has to pay), but I think we can agree on the goal even if the path to get there is unclear.
Encourage Positive Institutions. Strengthening communities, enhancing social capital, and encouraging responsible community institutions like PTAs, faith groups, and others to put down roots should be helpful. I really suggest the book "bowling alone" (Putnam). It highlights the dearth of social connections in many American communities. Social capital (or a lack thereof), unsurprisingly, has a direct link to suicide rates.
Television. One of the biggest killers of social capital is the TV. I don't know how to address media influences, and I'm leery of stepping on the 1A, but the fact remains that TV is often a pernicious influence. I think the real blame lies with ineffective
or absent parenting strategies more than the media but there has got to be some
way to think about addressing media's effects.
Firearms accidents are rare and the numbers are decreasing so this is my last area of concern. I'd prefer to focus on the real problem areas (violent crimes and suicide) first.
I think that education is the best approach to prevent accidents. Why don't we talk about basic firearms safety in public schools, just like the DARE program or driver's ed? I know that you hate Eddie Eagle because the NRA runs it. Fine. Don't use Eddie Eagle. Use another program run by a less divisive organization that has a similar message. How can you go wrong with telling young children:"Stop, don't touch, leave the area, tell an adult?" I mean, you can shoot the messenger (pun intended) but the message seems fairly "common sense" to me. What would you prefer to tell young children? "Pick guns up and play with them while running in traffic?" How about, "Stop, don't touch, hang around and call your friends over to look at it?"
Likewise, for adults, education is still important. Back when we had conscription, many young adults probably got this training in the armed forces but wtih an all-volunteer force, there is no such broad based education regime in place. In high school you could certainly address a few key rules of firearm safety and that would be one way to address the deficiency. Another way would be through hunter's education programs (already done), but those only reach a small audience. Community Policing could be an effective forum; local police officers could teach, support, or sponsor gun safety classes.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Joan's reply was in three parts. I think I'm on thin ice over at her blog, probably close to being banned as was Sean D. Sorrentino, so I'm going to comment her, at my place. After all, it is her blog, her "virtual house," and if she doesn't like the discussion then it is rude to press my point in that particular forum.
Interestingly, her most recent post (Dec 31) is this:
Part #1: Happy New Year, Chris. I am not in the mood for your treatise. But thanks anyway. Nothing satisfies you guys. Go enjoy yourself on New Year's Eve as I intend to do and stop thinking about guns as I intend to do.
On this New Year's Eve, I will be thinking about all of those who have lostSo, evidentially her idea of not thinking about guns is to think about people who died because they were shot. Mmmmk.
their lives to bullets in the last year. I will also be thinking of New Year's
Eve pasts when people I know or knew lost their lives or their health to
Part #2: P.S. Chris- are you overthinking everything? For goodness sake. This can be simple. You just seem to have to write volumes about everything and you are one
upping me for every word I say. That does not bode well for future "discussions"
No one wants a smart ^%$$ outdoing them whenever they open their mouth or write what they are thinking. I am a pretty sincere person and I'm here to write for
more people than just you. Your tendency is to dominate the conversation and
kill the topic with way too much information. Keep it simple.
Her criticism here is justified in that my response was fairly thorough and verbose. I clocked it in at just over 1000 words, which is about two pages of single spaced text. A decent sized essay. In my defense, I did break things out into categories with simple, bolded headers so if you wanted to, you could just skim the highlights.
Because she has asked me to, I'll try to be more concise in the future. However, "too much information" is not a bad thing. She is frequently misinformed at best and simply wrong often on many points, including laws which are already in effect (including her group's signature legislation!) and well-known and publicized crime data. She wins if she is allowed to reduce issues to sound bytes ("Evil assault rifles are scary and make people kill cops!") based on information that is simply false. If we can move the discussion to a rational basis grounded in common law and/or criminology statistics, we will win every time.
Unfortuanetly, this makes me a smart ass in her book. Probably grounds for a banning. It is just plain mean to tell someone if they're wrong. If someone consistently says that 1+1 = 3, the sky is orange (not blue), etc, is it really compromise to correct them on the first point then accept the second falsehood?
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Part #3: Again, Chris, to your suggestion ( since I am not publishing
your treatise here) " I think that education is the best approach to prevent
accidents. Why don't we talk about basic firearms safety in public schools,
just like the DARE program or driver's ed? I know that you hate Eddie Eagle
because the NRA runs it. Fine. Don't use Eddie Eagle. Use another program
run by a less divisive organization that has a similar message. How can you
go wrong with telling young children:" We've done that and we do that. What
do you guys think we are doing out there? We often work with other
organizations on the issues you suggest. I remind you again, however, that I
am blogging about and putting my focus on gun injuries and deaths. There are
all kinds or other areas to address. Many groups are out there working on
them and we work with many of them. Just because you don't see it happening
doesn't mean it isn't.
The first chunk there is a quote from me. I'm really confused on this point. Joan is claiming that "we" (the Brady Campaign? Gun Control advocates?) have in the past and currently in the present support accident prevention education campaigns.
However, in the past, on her own blog, she has admitted that she has no interest or expertise in running gun safety classes. The Brady Campaign website has no educational materials for firearms safety; they maintain no instructors that are qualified to teach firearms safety. In fact, the Brady Campaign has looked at Eddie Eagle and his message and found him to be a "Joe Camel with Feathers." They think that the message is ineffective, based on one study from a medical journal. The Brady Campaign then suggests alternative methods to keep kids from getting into accidents with guns:
The cartoon bird provides a kid-friendly excuse to oppose stronger laws that
would keep guns away from children — laws requiring adults to safely store their
firearms out of the reach of children, for example... [The burden should
be on] adults or parents to keep guns out of reach, or on manufacturers to make
sure children can’t fire their weapons...
Children in the United States die from gunfire at a higher rate than in any
other industrialized nation, underscoring the need for gun safety education. But
the responsibility for protecting children from these lethal weapons should not
be dumped on already overburdened teachers and fiscally-strapped school
districts that have limited instruction time. The responsibility belongs to
parents, gun owners, and gun manufacturers.
The Brady Campaign wants safe storage laws -- laws which are ineffective at reducing accidents, unfortuanetly, according to many sources, including pro-gun control research groups. They also want magic technology that doesn't really exist, is unreliable, or is incredibly expensive such as fingerprint recognition on guns to prevent unauthorized users from firing them. They say that we need gun safety education but are refusing to support any sort of meaningful education efforts. Their criticisms are largely unfounded, especially given that the NRA provides grants to provide the program materials and instructors for free; local law enforcement officers wear the Eddie Eagle suit and I really doubt that they are charging for their appearance. There is no burden on schools or other youth groups other than time (admittedly valuable).
The study that "Half Truth" Helmke quotes did find that the Eddie Eagle students still played with guns if exposed to them. However, read their full results summary (emphasis mine):
On the interview assessments, students who received the Eddie Eagle training or the behavioral skills training (BST) performed significantly better than did control students. There was no significant difference between the performance of Eddie Eagle training students and behavioral skills training students.
On the role-play assessment, the behavior skills training students performed significantly better than did the Eddie Eagle training students, who in turn performed better than the control students.
On the in situ assessment, the three groups did not perform significantly differently.
These results indicate that the Eddie Eagle training program and the behavioral skills training program were equally successful in teaching young children how to describe the ideal response to finding a firearm, but that the Eddie Eagle training program was less successful than the behavioral skills training program at teaching young children how to act out this response. However, neither program was successful at teaching young children to use these skills in real-life scenarios.
What this tells me is that at least the Eddie Eagle program is more effective than nothing. It may not be the silver bullet but it certainly doesn't hurt. We also know of at least some anecdotal saves.
The conclusions: Existing programs are insufficient for teaching gun-safety skills to children. Programs that use active learning strategies (modeling, rehearsal, and feedback) are more effective for teaching gun-safety skills as assessed by supervised role plays but still failed to teach the children to use the skills outside the context of the training session. More research is needed to determine the most effective way to promote the use of the skills outside the training session.
So, they have ONE study (and some VPC "Google Research"). What does Eddie Eagle tout to its credit? The NRA website lists accolades. Endorsements by the National Sheriff's Association. SUpport from tens of thousands of law enforcement officers. Favorable reviews from peer reviewed studies. A favorable endorsement from the Clinton BOJ. Endorsed by the Association of American Educators.
So here we have a program that at best is effective and at worst may help a little and certainly does not hurt. Of course, the Brady Campaign hates it. However, Joan's assertion that her group is actively involved in gun safety training is simply not true as far as I can tell. I cannot find a single gun-safety education initiative sponsored by the Brady Campaign. They do not field a single instructor, donate a single dollar to education initiatives, or even speak fondly of any of the many well-regarded firearms training programs in the country. All that I've seen is legislative proposals trying to mandate mandatory adult education prior to even owning guns which is really intended as a barrier to ownership, not as an actual safety measure.
If it weren't for the fact that we're apparently dealing with someone who is handicapped I would be more frustrated. As it is I am kind of befuddled and sad that her reality is so different from mine, and that she apparently lives in such constant fear of police officers and her neighbors. Unfortuanetly her misunderstandings (at best) and blatant falsehoods (worst interpretation) are read and believed by others, and that is the reason I address them. I'm giving up hope that she ever intends to find common ground. That is not her purpose or intent.