Michael Olenick: The Lesson of Newtown – Time to Charge for the True Cost of Gun Ownership

By Michael Olenick, a regular contributor on Naked Capitalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @michael_olenick

Twenty children the same age as my daughter and her friends, plus another six adults trying to protect them, lie dead, murdered by guns. Adding insult to injury the families and community the guns destroyed will now – just like every other gun rampage – be handed a price tag.

I understand that a deranged murderer pulled the trigger, and that he could have theoretically gone on a killing rampage with knives, but it is hard to believe so many could or would have been dead before the police arrived. Guns killed these people.

Rather than parsing the Second Amendment one more time there is an easier approach, one typically favored by conservative gun owners for other public policy issues: end cost-shifting. Force those who chose to own guns to bear the full cost of the mayhem their hobby unleashes. Ending the gun subsidies will eventually end the gun violence.

Families of the victims should be compensated from a fund owned by a tax on guns and ammunition, as should the cost of all gun-related law enforcement for this and every other gun related crime. When guns leave a victim disabled the fund should pay for their care for life. When that victim leaves a family with less income, or no income, the fund should pay. When neighborhoods are besieged by gun violence the gun fund will pay for enough police protection to stabilize the area. Every cost of gun violence should be shifted back to those who choose to participate in the gun economy.

Gun owners have displaced the massive cost of their hobby – and, no, guns are virtually never used for legitimate self-defense – to everybody else. It is time for this subsidy to end.

Gun owners should pay taxes when a gun is sold, no matter where it is sold, then another for ongoing registration fees, and yet another for ammunition. Failure to pay the tax – or to show tax stamps that a weapon is up-to-date on tax payments – would result in the tax plus steep penalties. Guns could be turned in for fair market value, paid for by the gun fund, and of course those that don’t pay the tax would have all their weapons, including the ones paid for, immediately seized for past-due gun tax.

This solution does not violate the Second Amendment: people are still free to own all the guns they want; they just have to pay full freight for the cost of guns to society. There’s an easy opt-out method for those who cannot pay: turn in one’s guns – for their one-way trip to the smelter – and the gun fund will even deliver up some money, no questions asked.

Many guns are illegally traded but by allowing law enforcement to demand up-to-date tax stamps these can be quickly seized. Further, by requiring the steep tax be paid when a gun is sold, no matter where it is sold, gun runners have a strong disincentive to buy them in bulk at trade shows from state’s with lax gun control laws because they’ll be too expensive.

As the number of gun and ammunition sales dwindles fewer gun owners will be responsible for the enormous cost of gun ownership, which some estimates put at $100 billion yearly: let’s end the free-ride for gun-owners. This will drive up the tax for the remainder and launch a virtuous cycle of ever fewer gun and ammunition sales.

Right-wing politicians seem to have equal zeal for taxation based on use and against cost-shifting, so it will be interesting to hear them defend why non gun owners should subsidize the massive cost of widespread gun ownership. I can’t wait to hear the Tea Baggers explain why the cost of open gun ownership should be externalized to the families of the slain children, those who survived, and all the other terrorized first graders, teachers, and parents in the country.
I realize that to many people their guns are precious. Guess what: I think my first-grade daughter is precious too. I think her friends are also precious, as are all the little kids killed that look just like them. I know it’s brazen but I’m even willing to say our kids are a hell of a lot more precious than your guns.

As for your delusional fantasies, they’re just that, whereas our nightmares are very real. No, the United Nations is not going to take over the United States; that simply will not happen. But, yes, there is a chance that your first-grader can be murdered in school by guns: that is a genuine possibility. No, those two narratives do not “compete” – one is based on genuine fear, the other is utter bullshit.

If Nancy Lanza had to pay $50/bullet and $10,000 per year per gun it’s safe to say twenty children and six adults, plus Nancy herself – even her rampaging son – would be alive today. Families would be wrapping presents for their kids, not the bullet-ridden bodies of those same kids. Nancy Lanza was apparently a suburban survivalist and maybe I am too, advocating that we survive by finally neutering paranoid gun enthusiasts.

We can’t effectively outlaw guns for both legal and political reasons, but we can force gun owners to pay for the carnage they collectively cause society. This solution would quickly result in the seizure and destruction of a massive amount of firearms. Even opening the debate, in an economic rather than legal or political context, might have the same effect as throwing cold water on a stumbling drunk.

I do not believe the right to own guns trumps the right of children to grow up, and I’m sick of subsidizing those who do. We can’t legally or pragmatically pry the guns out of their hands, but we can definitely pry the money out of their pockets to ensure they pay the full cost of their carnage. No need to take their guns: it’s easier to take their paychecks and trucks until they turn the guns over.

Unless a copycat decides to take out her own first grade class my daughter will eventually grow up, and maybe have a daughter of her own. When she drops her daughter off at school she should know for certain that the last sound of the day will be a school bell, not a gun blast.

Like every parent I mourn for the children, for those who lost their children, those whose children who survived physically but are likely to be emotionally scarred for life, and the premature loss of innocence for first graders.

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  1. One Gun Owner

    Let’s use the “Free Market”. Require gun owners to carry personal liability insurance of say, $10 or $20 Million dollars.

    1. j.s.nightingale

      We can cut the cost of health insurance at the same time as internalizing the full cost of gun ownership on gun users and buyers, if the health cost of gun related deaths is drawn exclusively from gun buying and gun use insurance. The cost of insuring each gun is calculated as a multiple of the firing rate. So shot gun insurance will cover the potential health costs for one victim, a six-shooter will cost 6 times as much to insure, and an automatic will cost 50-100 times as much to insure. No “abridgement of rights” guaranteed by the Second Amendment required. They just need to pay the full costs for 30,000 deaths per year.

      1. Eric

        Michael Olenick’s proposal is brilliant! If congressional Democrats are serious about their (mouthed) support of “gun control,” they’ll push for Olenick’s proposal and let Grover Norquist (and congressional Republicans) just twist in the political wind.

        This would be a way to defeat both Norquist and the NRA — and the Republican Party — by reframing two until-now losing issues (gun control and creation of new taxes) into becoming now one winning issue: taxing ammunition and at least some guns.

        It would both reduce federal deficits, and reduce homicides and suicides. Let Norquist and the NRA squirm!

        1. Cugel

          We certainly CAN ban assault weapons and large ammo clips. There are NO “legal” barriers to this any more than there are legal barriers to the laws preventing people from buying M-60 machine guns, ground-to-air missiles or rocket artillery.

          No remotely plausible interpretation of the 2nd Amendment means that any weapon used by the Army can be purchased or owned by private citizens.

          And if we can ban ANY weapons, we can ban assault weapons and big ammo clips.

          We have a POLITICAL problem, with conservatives refusing to budge. Well, the solution to that is to attack those who are blocking reform and keep demanding change. Make this a big political issue. And keep fighting.

          We have the majority. They may put up a struggle but eventually if enough people push for this hard enough we’ll win.

    1. bmeisen

      From Lambert’s link yesterday to “On the guns thing …”

      “If one wanted to invoke mental illness as an explanation for the shootings, one would still need to explain why the person decided to get guns and shoot others as opposed to, say, run naked in the streets, a behavior that would also get the person defined as mentally ill. And one would still have to explain why mentally ill people do not pick killing with guns as the behavior expression of their mental illness in other countries.”

      The silver bullet for gun ghouls is the USA’s way-outlyer position on the highly significant correlation between rates of gun-ownership and rates of gun-related deaths across developed countries.

      I appreciate Olenick’s proposal and add that we should also encourage good old boys to take up bird photography, a hobby that satisfies much of the primal-hunter-shoot-that-thing-drink-beer itch. Maybe it makes sense to also revise the Constitution, like recognize the 2nd amendment as the anachronism that it is, drop it and confiscate guns from all the loonies.

      1. Tommy A

        Horseshit and distraction.

        If that principle had a handgun the threat would have been neutralized at the threshold and all those children would be alive.

        Not a person among us wouldn’t have shot that punk dead if given the right tools to do the job.

        All you liberal dipshits can do is approach symptoms to disease with hipshots and hand grenades.

        Quit treating symptoms.

        1. AbyNormal

          from the look of its recent spending, the NRA will need a lot more of You…free of charge of course

          Total Spending – Lobbyist
          1998 1.44B – 1048
          2002 1.82B – 12,119
          2005 2.42B – 14,072
          2008 3.30B – 14,225
          2009 3.50B – 13,804
          2010 3.52B – 12,976
          2011 3.33B – 12,719
          2012 2.45B – 12,015

        2. dejavuagain

          Even better, if each child and teacher in the school was carrying a military assault rifle with full battle gear – helmets and body armour, this would not have happened – after all, none of the soldiers so equipped in Afghanistan are every injured or killed – oh yes, let’s see fully trained in shooting a moving target with body armor dead on in a panic situation – oh yea.

          I hate to say it, but you are deranged – go crawl back in your bomb shelter and grab your ankles.

          1. Tommy A

            I hate to say it but you are the liberal retard that refuses to accept reality and only escalates bad logic as a distraction to accommodate your emotional horse shit arguments.

            I said “principal” not every teacher. Furthermore, the top school administrator would be required to demonstrate the same yearly firearms proficiency as local law enforcement.

            Like it or not, if that principal (or psychologist) could match that level of force there would have been no Newtown CT. That doesn’t matter to you though because guns are the “enemy” of your emotions.

        3. c s

          So the capacity to shoot to kill at a professional level (police/military) should be a job requirement for elementary school principals? How much additional pay should they receive for this dangerous job? How should their administrative duties be shared with the need for preparedness to shoot to kill at all times? Should they be proficient with rapid fire assault weapons? Wear body armor at all times? Be always in the the building? What are their liabilities if there’s an attack on the school and they fail to repel it? After all, what you’re suggesting isn’t just window dressing, right?

          1. Tommy A

            Again, more liberal emotional escalation based on total fabrication of fact.

            Do law enforcement carry such weaponry you describe? Only in crisis and the ones that do are specialists. Now that your emotional argument is full of holes, to answer your other question.

            Teachers and administrators need more money period. If one increases their job description they yes, compensate for it.

          2. Big Dave

            Shut up and go talk to some teachers. I did. They were unanimously in favor of being allowed to openly carry a gun in the classroom.

            Around here, the only stores that have NEVER been robbed at gunpoint are gun shops … because all the clerks are wearing guns on their hips.

            Again – it’s not about the guns. It’s about the crazy.

          3. jrs

            So when teachers were polled on whether they want to carry a gun, were students also polled on whether they want thier teachers having a gun. Why not?

          4. Woody in Florida

            So are you suggesting we don’t need Federal Air Marshals? Many schools already have law officers on campus, making them less desirable targets than you may think. These officers are armed and will respond to a psycho with a knife or a gun or even a broken bottle. There will always be crazy people, we just try to prepare. Remember 9/11 was not done with guns but was every bit as painful. Please don’t think that I am trying to be insensitive, I just can’t see how a few crazy people should be used to describe all gun owners. It feels like blaming all people of European descent for the atrocities of slavery, or all Christians for the wrongs committed during the Crusades. This talk of “gun owners” smacks of prejudice and we should all be sensitive about that.

          5. Nathanael

            Woody, the problem is the NRA. The NRA is the enemy of responsible gun owners everywhere. It was taken over in the 1980s by a bunch of crazy gun fetishists who think their mission is to spread fear (“they’re gonna take all your guns away!!! black helicopters!!!”) in order to get more people to stockpile ammo — Wayne LaPierre being the leader.

            Responsible gun owners have two options: reject the NRA loudly, or start an insurgent campaign to replace the irresponsible gun owners running the organization, people like Wayne LaPierre.

            As long as the NRA leadership is the face of gun owners in the US, the face of gun owners in the US is a bunch of dangerous crazy people. The NRA is therefore the worst enemy of responsible gun owners.

            I’m not the only one who thinks this: Mark Sumner agrees that the NRA is going to destroy any sort of gun ownership in the US if it keeps up its crazy anti-regulation policy.


        4. Heretic

          A person, with minimal training at the gun range, could probably fire 1 aimed shot every 2 seconds (or less). It would take less than 10 seconds to reload a hand gun. If it takes a school security force at least 1 minute to respond, that means Mr Lanza shoots 20 rounds before he dies…many innocents would be dead before anyone could respond.

          The only way minimize loss of innocent life at a school, in a society that condones widespread gun ownership, would be advocate a ‘shoot first ask questions latter’ kill zone around the school for all unauthorized person that approach the school. Would this be an acceptable security policy for you? :)

          I personally see no reason why the USA must tolerate the ownership of military grade weapons or easily concealable weapons within its borders.
          Just for the sake of discussion, concerning the issue of ‘self- defense ‘ and home defense, a long barreled single round rifle would deadly enough to be a deterrent, but would difficult to conceal and difficult to reload. (although a rampage could still occur, at least many more people could escape because of the much slower rate of fire, and the much lower portability of ammunition).

          1. Heretic

            Btw, why don’t we rely on armed security robots, like in Terminator 3 (a horrible feminist fantasy movie); a track based bomb disposal robot could be easily modified to carry a machine gun and a Barrett 50. Or how about something more imposing to patrol the school yard? An ED-209 perhaps ( with the software bugs addressed)?

        5. Mattski

          So. . . school principals should be trained in the use of semiautomatic weapons and have armories sufficient to withstand assaults by an armed-to-the-teeth and increasingly paranoid white male “citizenry”? The rest of bleeding humanity thinks not.

          We just need to start ignoring the batshit crazy element like this and tend to the business of disarming American society, especially batshit crazy white males, who are hording most of the guns. Police departments are for it; mayors are for it. We can do this, and the NRA knows it. Single action hunting rifles for demonstrable hunting purposes–no problem. Anything else: kiss our collective ass.

          1. Ryan S

            Really? Cops support disarming the populace? Actually more beat cops support people’s right to carry since they can’t be everywhere at once. A lot of you idiots have more than likely never held a gun, fired a gun etc. You rely on a police force that is not obligated to protect you as per the supreme court. You’re victims with a victim mentality and everyone must suffer. Why not give this a read (you probably won’t…after all it might burst your false reality) and then go buy a gun to fund your cute little tax. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/

        6. lucky

          In order to preserve your freedom to own guns, my child should go to school under the protection of an armed faculty and staff? Sounds more like a living under siege than freedom to me.

          1. jrs

            It’s deeply totalitarian in spirit, oddly always pushed as a possible alternative by those who claim their cause is freedom. Quite clueless, if there cause actually was freedom in any broad sense they’d care about things like the environment kids are raised in, and childrens rights, and how these impact the future civil liberties in a society etc.. Children raised in an armed pen, will tolerate TSA groping, will tolerate an armed drone for every block, etc.

          2. abprosper

            The US already is deeply totalitarian. We have state run surveillance cameras in many cities with cops and metal detectors in schools.

            We kill people including US citizens without any due process via drone and imprison more than anyone else.

            Heck we pretty much ignore the basic protections of the 4th amendment for a myriad of bad reasons, spy on people with mass data mining and IMO are only a few more years from just using the whole Constitution as toilet paper.

            I can’t see how arming teachers and improving physical security in schools , so long as you train them to a basic standard (make it part of being a teacher) would make the US more totalitarian or make things worse.

            As to the gun law issue, US vs Miller (1935) and D.C. vs Heller (2008) already show that it is an individual right to own militia appropriate weapons and the 14th amendment mandates that states follow the Federal Constitution. That specifically limits the powers of the States.

            Also the firearms in this case were properly registered, background checked in a State with strict gun laws and were stolen and misused. What people are suggesting, punishing millions of responsible people for the failures of the mental health system is what totalitarians would do. It called collective punishment and is no more appropriate than say charging the media with incite to murder (which is fundamental the effect of the way they cover these events) every time there is a shooting.

            Sometimes bad stuff happens and in a smart society (we aren’t one) we don’t rehash stupid arguments or look for glib simple solutions (including more guns for teachers) we work to real solutions.

            These are things like improving mental health systems, fixing the conditions that create broken families, restoring kinship and friendship networks and all the hard things that would not only reduce spree shooting but unhappiness and drug abuse as well.

            of course as I said earlier, we aren’t very smart and thats too bad. We coulda been a contender …

          3. will nadauld

            This is not an argument in favor of guns. Guns are everywhere. Legal registered and blackmarket untraceable, they are everywhere. your child needs to go to a school that is protected because no matter what law you pass regarding guns, those who choose to own them or acquire them will. We dont need semi automatic guns. We dont need first person shooter games or most anything that main stream media is putting out for entertainment these days either. Also, remember that it is a tiny minority of the mentally ill population that commit violent crime of any type let alone crimes that are this horrific. This minority shapes public opinion and perception regarding mental illness and makes it hard for those of us who are “mentally ill” in beautiful and interesting ways.

        7. citalopram

          Of course you would have shot that punk dead, or he would have shot you dead. He was armed and murdering everything in his path.

          This is about easy access to firearms. He got these from his mother, who stock piled them because she was a fire arms nutter.

          There should be a total ban on citizens owning firearms at all.

          Then, the nice long process of confiscation occurs.

        8. Jack

          @Tommy A(for asshole?)
          “If that principle had a handgun the threat would have been neutralized at the threshold and all those children would be alive.”

          Neutralized at the threshold? Tough talk Tommy. Did you know that Newtown has a thriving gun club community and is home to a gun industry promotional organization? BTW, just how thrilling is it for you to stroke the long barrel of your gun? Does the gun give you a sense of importance? Does it make you feel like the man that you apparently would like to be?

        9. nonclassical

          …let’s address “more guns nonsense”;

          ..when police show up, firing going on, how do they know who is the perp? Do they just unload on everyone firing? How about the darkened theater, where smoke grenades were introduced, then firing…what if several people had guns-started firing??? How about those innocent non-gun owners who would be shot? What do police witness in this scenario, when they show up…people all over the place firing guns…

          NRA DISINFORMATION=PROPAGANDA knows no rationale…

        10. vlade

          His mum had a gun (quite a few in fact), much good though it did to her. Giving principal a gun would just increase a chance that someone takes his gun and starts shooting there.

        11. Onewonders

          Tommy – you are mistaken if you think that shooting in a crisis situation is as simple as you think it is.

    2. jim

      psychiatry is very shakey science at best. Anybody who has seen a doctor probably has been diagnosed with mental illness and peddaled antidepressants at one time or another.

        1. jim

          Need to ban perverted and violent hollywood desensitizing everybody to this crazy bloddshed and other propaganda they push daily to youngsters.

          Also need to put a stop to the non-stop messianic wars in the mideast that is slaughtering thousands of kids every year.

        2. Pete

          Tommy ole boy, what if the Principal loses his “principles”, and his marbles, and goes on a shooting spree? To follow you logic on down the line, eventually we will be arming all the students too. Yay!! More guns! It’ll be just like dem wild wild west films. Methinks your prescriptions are symptom-based.

          I think it was George Carlin “…. so they’re going to ban the toy guns, and they’re going to KEEP THE F#CKING REAL ONES!”

          1. citalopram

            Less guns, less nutters going around shooting kids. We should make it harder to get guns, and that starts by banning them outright for any and all citizens.

    3. wombatpm

      This is more a mental illness problem than a gun problem. Would this have been any less tragic if the shooter had opted instead to crash through the playground during recess in a car? Poisoned the cafeteria food? Run screaming through the halls with a machete?

      People can do crazy and horrific things with or without guns.

      1. Cynthia

        These massacres are not merely about mentally disturbed loners or lax gun control laws. They are the logical outcome of an increasingly militarized culture that glorifies violence — whose leaders publicly tout their “kill lists” and readiness to use armed force to further the “national interest.” We are a gangster nation — we should expect the occasional drive-by massacre.

        When I saw the picture of Barack Obama, the mass murderer of Muslim children, weeping a bitter tear over the deaths of these children I could not believe the cognitive dissonance.

        We as a country practice moral disengagement, like concentration camp commanders who could kill thousands in the day and come home to a loving family in the evening.

        H/T: Common Dreams


    4. Yves Smith Post author

      Mark Ames has done the most extensive investigation of mass shooters to date in his book Going Postal. What he found was a complete lack of ANY demographic or psychological pattern among the killers, except in the overwhelming majority of cases, they’d been badly bullied.

      Most were from two parent homes, no history of mental illness, in fact, most had seemed perfectly normal, were a mix of middling students to high achievers. And even though they do skew male, there have even been women shooters.

      Lanza is in fact unusual in having had blindingly obvious mental health issues. The overwhelming majority of killers seemed quite normal.

      1. Nathanael

        Badly bullied. Think about that commonality.

        If other people are routinely assaulting you, and the authorities do not respond, violence quickly becomes the only sane response.

        Now, this violence was frequently *misdirected* for whatever reason; not targeted at the bullies. Personally, I’d like to figure out why that was and change it. I don’t give a damn if repeat bullies get killed; that might deter other bullies. But why are innocent people getting shot?

    1. John F. Opie

      That’s not how it works. No Amendments to the Constitution are repealed, but rather supersided with a new Amendment that nullifies the previous one (see prohibition). If you don’t like the 2nd Amendment, you need to get a new Amendment passed through the House, approved by the Senate, signed by the President and then ratified by 34 States, either by their legislatures or by holding a ratifying convention to ratify the Amendment.

      You can’t hold a national referendum on this: there are clear and deliberate steps to the process of changing the Constitution.

      1. Tyzao

        Repealing an Amendment is an Amendment to an existing Amendment (which is pretty much what you said). A Referendum is simply a measure to determine exactly where the populace stands on an existing issue, and is perfectly logical. Have a referendum on a single issue, and only a single issue, in the very near future would be very effective measure towards policy development.

        1. John F. Opie

          Not really. We don’t have national referendums, except when a presidential race can be interpreted as such (when one candidate wins virtually all states, for instance).

          The US is a constitutional republic, not a democracy with direct voting of laws and/or policy. You’re calling for something that doesn’t exist and would be, in all likelihood, judged to be unconstitutional (since we have separation of powers and the courts usually decide that it is unconstitutional for one part of the government to give up powers to another part.

          It’s simply how the game rules are written and played. No national referendum mechanisms exist, there are no precedences, new laws would have to be written and probably a constitutional amendment needed as well. Why bother, when there are already perfectly workable constitutionally approved mechanisms in place for making changes of the kind you envision.

          There are plenty of reasons for the rules and mechanisms existing the way you do. Read the Federalist Papers for more.

    2. jim

      what up with all these knee jerk reactions? What about a little scientific analysis into what has changed in the last three decades to cause so much craziness? I would bet perverted violent hollywood is largely responsible. What destroying the family fabric that holds it all together? ow many kids have come back disabled and dead from the mideast? 20 kids hurts, but where is the outrage over the thousands sent in to the mideast meatgrinder for some religious quest?

  2. Grandparents for gun control

    Holding gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers strictly liable for all the harm caused by their products will align their interests with the publics interest in the safe sale and use of these weapons.

    Make their liability meaningful by requiring sufficient liability insurance of everyone in the chain of possession. We are required to have insurance to drive; why not for firearms?

      1. Sufferin' Succotash

        Drinking a can of pop hurts maybe one person.
        Shooting up a schoolroom full of kids can hurt a lot more than one person.
        Better false analogies, please.

      2. kj1313

        Considering the main ingredient of soda is subsidized by the government (high fructose corn syrup) the true cost of soda already skewed.

        1. LeeAnne

          Lambert, do you know anything about markets? Excessive taxes have the same effect as prohibition of popular consumer goods. Profit margine go up and trafficking expands exponentially.

          Government is the biggest trafficker in all things illegal and has committed the most horrendous mass murders of the 20th century and getting set for more.

          Its a FACT that no trafficking in drugs, or arms to Mexican drug cartels, can go on without participation of authorities.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Sorry that just isn’t the case in lots of countries that have tough gun control laws: Australia, Japan, England, etc.

          2. Lambert Strether

            All of which, if true, would be a reason why gun hobbyists should not bear the full costs of their hobby why, exactly?

            Clue stick: “Look! Over there!” isn’t really a strong argumentative stance.

          3. nonclassical

            LeeAnne is historically inaccurate-Smedley Butler; “War Is A Racket” tells who controls decisions, with campaign contributions…as does John Perkins, “Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man”…Naomi Klein; “The Shock Doctrine”, and if you want to read nearly one hundred pages of footnoted documentation to all assertions made, “Killing Hope” by William Blum…

            follow the $$$$-it doesn’t lead to “government”, who is supposedly “broke”…

  3. skippy

    One of the best things about Australia… hardly anyone owns Guns and those that do live in the country – bush (were they actually use them for something – besides killing – other humans).

    skippy… America… where people live in constant fear w/o a tank in their lawn…

    1. TrueDat

      I guess it says it all that only in a hell bent for leather capitalist society like ours a typical response would be to just figure out how to monetize the costs of gun violence. Just the “cost of doing business” or merely another “negative externality?” Talk about mistaking symptoms for the disease itself.

      We live in a society scared of everything, conditioned to respond to manufactured external “threats” with “shock and awe” in the most violent means possible, and where most or all of the marginalized “losers” among us have free access to the weapons of their choice, with or without a permit, and every incentive to “go out in a blaze of glory” using them. And so far our best responses involve either MORE of the same “security” measures which have brought us to this wretched state, or monetizing the costs (“pay to slay?”) for official membership in the club.

      We need to bring the military home and close the borders just to keep our own madness from infecting the world any longer, then sell tickets to the resulting show. Talk about a missed revenue opportunity! A total “1st world imperialist hegemon” societal meltdown induced from within due to its own narcissistic self-contradictions will no doubt be THE psychological thriller for the ages.

    2. LeeAnne

      People in my country did not live in fear before the drug wars were accelerated by Reagan. In spite of public sentiment against it (the people have no real power) increase in drug wars incresaes the police state, booming prison profits, etc. -on and on

      It was ‘the people’ who experienced increased violence in the culture caused by illegal trafficking, who ended alchol prohibition.

      Recent administrations are captive to illegal dark forces like banks laundering money and more who would go out of business without drug profits.

    3. Tom

      skippy, hardly anyone owns guns in Australia because they were pretty much made illegal. That wasn’t always so. Are you old enough to remember when the big crack down on ownership that came your way back in the ’90s? I do. Wanna know what the first thing that became a scarce commodity in the hardware stores? PVC pipe. So, if you want to find out where all those guns are that hardly anyone owns down under, go scouring through your neighbor’s backyard with a metal detector. Probably most are buried in the outback though to keep you from doing just that.

    4. BagHolder

      > One of the best things about Australia

      Skippy, you might want to do a reality check.
      The incidence of violent crime in Australia and the UK is approximately twice that in the US.

      1. knative

        Violent crime ranges in severity, right? So maybe the reason why the UK and Australia have higher “violent crime rates” is because they like to go to the bar more often than their American cousins, and consequently get in to more drunken bar fights. Also, from the Daily Mail:
        In Britain, an affray is considered a violent crime, while in other countries it will only be logged if a person is physically injured.

        Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html#ixzz2FNe8j4AS
        Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    5. Ms G

      That is one the Great Truths about this nation that Michael Moore got bang-on right (Bowling for Columbine).

  4. grunk

    $50/bullet and $10,000 per year per gun?

    It’s a good thing the government bought those millions of bullets and guns before the prices went up.

    Armed government vs. unarmed citizenry? No thanks. That doesn’t end well.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘Many guns are illegally traded.’ — Olenick

      Correct. Even now, when they’re relatively affordable.

      Just imagine how the weapons black market will grow when gun ownership is intentionally made unaffordable. It’s the same experiment we’re already running with smuggling cigarettes from low-tax jurisdictions into tax hells such as New York.

      ‘No need to take their guns: it’s easier to take their paychecks and trucks until they turn the guns over,’ says Olenick.

      Wow, talk about heavy-handed paternalism. Olenick makes Pol Pot look like a pillar of enlightenment and tolerance.

      1. LeeAnne

        Exactly right. And Bloomberg goes for MORE and HIGHER cigarette taxes (relief for many in the lower income brackets), while at the same time, when he was presented with the idea he was HORRIFIED or at least distainful by the idea of taxing luxury goods.

      2. Crazy Horse

        Right Jim, the author doesn’t seem to understand how black markets work. Under his system only the rich (and the criminals–same thing) will be armed.

        The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms- but the intention was in the form of a militia similar to what is present in Switzerland. So let’s allow bolt action rifles for everybody–fine for putting a buck in the freezer but much more difficult to use for slaughtering 6 year old kids. All other guns from Glock pistols to Bushmasters have to have their magazines welded shut so they become single shot weapons. And I’m fine with seizing the houses and monster trucks belonging to violators who scoff at the law.

        While we are at it let’s disarm the Imperial Military Complex who’s only function is to defend corporate America’s projection of power worldwide.

        1. LeeAnne

          Agreed, only backwards: “While we are at it let’s disarm the Imperial Military Complex who’s only function is to defend corporate America’s projection of power worldwide.”

          Let’s do that first before taxing guns and ammunitions so that only the rich and FBI deputized private armies with immunity for murder in an ’emergency’ (undefined -open ended) can defend themselves.

    2. billwilson

      Most of the civilized world does quite all right like that. It is the places where the citizens outgun the government where you have problems (Mexico, Honduras …)

      1. LeeAnne

        The only guns ordinary Mexican citizens have are generated by drug trafficking supported by American drug prohibition policy. This rogue American governmennt has blood on its hands. Without American drug prohibition enforcement policy excessive profits in drug trafficking would not exist. thousands of innocents would not be getting beheaded and in other ways tortured and murdered, and banks would not be profiting to such an extent that profits are taxed in the 100s of $millions and more than a $Billion.

        Where’s the outcry against drugging little kids and teenagers with psychotropic pharmaceuticals.

        No, authorities get their version of the atrocity story out, separate the parents to guarantee only the authorized version, (God only knows the nature of brainwashing and intimidation going on there while people are grieving) in the name of mercy, where they have NONE, and media including that dolt Murdoch gets on the bandwagon to inflame other nuts. They inflame other nuts willingly with full knowledge that it works.

        When are you going to start thinking for yourself?

        1. LeeAnne

          Reason, let me try and help you out.

          The only guns ordinary Mexican citizens have are generated by drug trafficking.

          Drug trafficking is an American global industry.

          American drug prohibition enforcement policy produces excessive profits for illegal drugs.

          Criminals now have the upper hand in the American governmennt. They have blood on their hands.

          Without American drug prohibition enforcement policy excessive profits in drug trafficking would not exist.

          thousands of innocents [killed on the Mexican border] would not be getting beheaded and in other ways tortured and murdered
          and banks would not be profiting to such an extent that their profits have been taxed with ‘fines’ while they admit to no guilt. Those fines are in the 100s of $millions and more than a $Billion (look it up).

          Where’s the outcry against drugging little kids and teenagers with psychotropic pharmaceuticals.

          Every recent horror story has been handled the same way by authorities: they have a lone nut dead or too crazy to be questioned or seen in public ever again.

          FBI agents are on the spot at the scene to immediately hold and separate the parents and other observers away from the press and even others involved in the tragedy; their relatives, neighbors, friends, cell phones. The purpose IMO to guarantee, not only that the authorized version of the story sticks, (God only knows the nature of brainwashing and intimidation going on there while people are grieving -they’re obviously ‘encouage’ not to speak to anyone about the event) by FBI agents who are known as liars and have no mercy.

          Rather than going easy on rhetoric to help prevent copy cat crimes authorities know occur with sensationalized violence; the media, including that dolt Murdoch has been on the bandwagon to do the opposite: inflame other nuts willingly and with full knowledge to produce the outrage necessary for IMMEDIATE legislation theatre.

          There -I’ve adjusted it just for you.

    3. Francis L. Gross

      “Armed government vs. unarmed citizenry? No thanks. That doesn’t end well.”

      I love those kinds of comments. Makes me picture the US Army dropping targeted bombs and sending armored tanks into rural Nebraska, you know, for the hell of it.

      And then see all the survivalists reclaim Amurrika from the big, bad US Army.

      At least, in the Hollywood version that is.

    4. Nathanael

      Grunk, handguns are gonna be practically useless against a tyrannical, oppressive government.

      Nonviolent resistance in large groups works better. Swaying the military units to join you works best.

      If those don’t work, you need tactical training, organization, explosives, and artillery. The gun fetishists have, for the most part, made absolutely no attempt to protect their right to organize militias, or to own explosives and artillery. Those are already highly regulated.

  5. PaulArt

    Its a good suggestion to levy a tax but how does it prevent a rich 2nd amendment fanatic to buy automatic weapons by the truck load and distribute it free to other m0r0ns? They could say that it is purely for ‘humanitarian’ purposes to enable young adults to learn to shoot and learn about guns so that they will be ‘responsible’ gun owners, the weapons given out have to be returned after a 3 month period. You will then see something like this in the news, Father of 19 year old who massacred 43 people at a Birthday Party interviewed on WENK54 – “Yes it was my son who killed the 43 people at that party, no I do not own guns but I know that he attended a Gun Giveaway celebration a month back, maybe he got the gun there”.

      1. Tommy A

        Perhaps ignorant Thorstein can tell the Internet how to deal with deadly force without deadly force.

        After all, man has been trying for thousands of years.

        Since obviously outlawing guns only assures outlaws have guns, how are you going to deal with taht situation?

        Cmon retard, let’s hear your silver argument?

          1. Lambert Strether

            Glad to see the only problem with Tommy is tone. I prefer Tommy’s unvarnished posting to public relations euphemisms.

            That said, the well of gun advocacy isn’t poisonted by tone. It’s poisoned by evil, if “handing a baby a loaded gun” can be defined by evil — the “baby” in this case being the troubled young men who commit these massacres, over and over again. They are children too, and I see remarkably little attention paid to how they got dragged down to the pit of hell.

          2. ambrit

            Mr Strether;
            Well now, unvarnished, and offensive, comments are that much easier to dismiss. That’s why I prefer more sedate postings. When arguments are bad, call the arguments bad, not the posters.

          3. Lambert Strether

            @ambrit I think Tommy makes very bad arguments openly, as opposed to very bad arguments in a sidelong and circuitous manner. It’s refreshing!

            As I said, it’s not Tommy’s “tone” that poisons the well; or the openness with which he makes them; but the nature of the arguments themselves.

        1. reason

          “Since obviously outlawing guns only assures outlaws have guns”

          No it doesn’t – I think you meant – it “assures ONLY outlaws have guns” – if there are fewer guns around, it is probable that fewer of them end up with outlaws. (And minor criminals would also be less scared of being shot in the act and so would be less trigger happy – and less likely to be armed.)

          But police and the army (you know “regulated militia”) would still have guns. And then people having guns could be arested on suspicious, rather than having to wait until they actually shot someone.

          1. Lambert Strether

            @ambrit As is well known, we have a police state. And the noble “well regulated militia” haven’t done squat about it, showing the whole “Because freedom!” for the self-indulgent, PR-driven, rationalizing crock it always was.

      2. PaulArt

        Ahh, Comrade Thorstein here mistakes me for a paid lackey of the NRA. I assure you Comrade Thorstein that what I am plugging for here is a complete ban on all weapons like they do in Canada and in most developed Western nations. Most studies that compare handgun violence among Western nations put us right on top of the list. NRA lackeys give themselves away when they compare auto accident kill rates to gun killing rates and ask if we should ban cars. I recently replied to one such muzzle sucker on HP saying that the correct comparison should be gun violence rates between USA and England, Japan, Canada or other such developed country with a healthy democracy.

        1. Ed Seedhouse

          “I assure you Comrade Thorstein that what I am plugging for here is a complete ban on all weapons like they do in Canada”

          We don’t do anything of the sort up here in Canada.

          1. JEHR

            In Canada we tried just having a long-fun registry so that the police could see whether or not someone owned a gun during, for instance, a domestic violence call. But the Conservatives got rid of that pretty quick although the Quebecers are going to court in order to get the info collected in their province. They may win too.

            Yep, Conservatives here love their guns and harsh criminal sentences and lots of prisons.

  6. Eleanor

    There are still rural American who depend on hunting for part of their food. It would be unfair to tax their hunting rifles at the same rate as assault weapons. There is also the problem of Native American treaty rights which guarantee hunting and fishing. Native Americans are –mostly — very poor and many really do depend on hunting and fishing. I’m not sure if making hunting unaffordable would be a violation of treaties, but it’s something to think about. Also, there are far, far too many white tailed deer.

      1. Eleanor

        I’m not an NRA troll. I really dislike guns and am in favor of gun control. However, a tax on all guns would harm poor people who hunt and allow rich nuts to have as many assault weapons as they want. Better to simply ban assault weapons.

      2. Lambert Strether

        This is actually true in Maine, too.

        Isn’t this really a distribution problem? Given them free food. Cheap at the price, no, even if gun advocate-enabled massacres are few and far between?

        * * *

        Give them free food as a form of social insurance for the rest of us who would prefer not to see children shot (even Afghan children, but that’s another discussion) and if they still want to shoot animals, let them do it with a “long lensed” camera, which has the added benefit of being just as fondle-ready as the barrel of a gun.

    1. sleepy

      Seems to be the situation here in small town Iowa. Most own huting rifles and shotguns–but their use is limited to hunt deer, pheasant, and rabbits, and not other people.

  7. beene

    “The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
    – Thomas Jefferson (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria)

    “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”
    – George Washington

    1. billwilson

      A tank on every front lawn, an anti aircraft battery in every back yard. You gun nuts are … well … NUTS.

        1. AbyNormal

          tight group: Browning Arms; Freedom Group (which includes Remington Arms, Marlin Firearms, and Bushmaster Firearms); Olin; Alliant Techsystems; Sturm, Ruger & Company; and Smith & Wesson. Average annual revenue per worker is about $140,000.

      1. ambrit

        Dear bill;
        Well, how about when that tank in your front yard belongs to the local warlord, er, police chief.

    2. dejavuagain

      The mother was armed to the hilt – a lot of good that did her. I guess she forgot to carry her guns and body armor while having morning coffee and to have a loaded gun in one hand while she drank cofee with the other.

        1. Rowdyincanada

          You guys are being ridiculous and it makes you come across as such. If this boy had taken his guns from his father he’d be so demonized but his mother gets a pass. Granted we don’t know the details yet however its fair to say that the current laws were effective in that he tried to buy a gun himself that week and was denied. His mother on the other hand being a gun owner has the legal and moral responsibility to keep them from others. Those guns should have been locked in a safe and if she did have one in a bedside table it should have had a trigger lock on it with a key either on her neck or hidden nearby somewhere. If she had done that then those kids would not have been killed that day and anyone who wants to use politics or their own bs agendas to say otherwise is just plain rotten. Thats not to say that this individual wouldn’t have attempted something again or in a different manner however if you’re going to have a society that feeds it’s children straight garbage and gave up whatever semblance of rules morales or proven organizational structures it had decades ago then this is what we are going to have to live with. It amuses me how little most people really know about anything these days. One tidbit for any detractors of my rant. Our brains are made mostly of fat. Something like 60% of that is omega 3 dha. Decades ago we had a balance between omega 6 and 3. Now most people eat little or no omega 3 due to feed practices processing and general garbage food. Is it any wonder why there are people everywhere suffering mental problems? Wait you guys are right this is just a one dimensional issue like gun control…….morons.

    3. Rowdyincanada

      Very good quotes to reference. Anyone who does not agree with those two great men and who doesn’t understand the importance and the vision that they possessed can not truly call themselves a patriot or even a true American. Modern people are woefully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of people in the past and the important lessens that have been gleaned from past atrocities and tragedies. America is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest tragedies in history. Some truths remain true for all time regardless of changing ways. Like the constitution for one and alot of stuff in the bible for another. Btw I’m not American or religious but I’m not blind or stupid either and need only look around, research and read for a bit to come to these conclusions. If you feel strongly different you probably also think that most of the food in the grocery store is good for you or that government has your best interests at heart. Silly humans.

  8. The Federal Farmer

    The federal constitution does not give Congress the authority to regulate these weapons. What’s wrong with Connecticut instituting its own gun laws?

    Why is this a national issue?

    1. LucyLulu

      It doesn’t? Somebody better tell the feds their ban on fully automatic weapons is illegal.

      What good does it do to ban assault rifles in one state if they can purchased a few miles across the state border? That’s how Virginia has managed to rack up a lucrative gun business.

    1. bmeisen

      To hell with conspiracy theories – if ALL grammar school children are locked and loaded ALL the time then we WILL be ready when the Martians arrive.

        1. anon cowherd

          Nope. The classrooms aren’t ‘armed’.
          And israel doesn’t allow any random tbgr to pass out semi-autos “like candy”.
          the least deadly countries either
          1. restrict all guns, or
          2. control (ie, well regulated militia) who handles the firearms. Israel choose the second only because many locations in israel can quickly become a combat zone. In tbgrz-ese, this a “police state”, but considering how tbgrz usually vote to oppress themselves, tbgrz are justified in fearing their own political choices.


          Tea idiots seem to think that a private business (banks) with “gun free” customer policy won’t have armed personnel.
          “gun free” schools should use the same policy. Arm known, qualified (determined by a representative democratic process) employees, but no random loony teas wandering about (despite the rw laws imposing such).

      1. Up the Ante

        Are you implying that the role of Lambert is as “locked and loaded” ?

        Is he ‘found out’ ?

        That rather than being against smart meters in ‘Maine’ that he’s in fact for them ?

        J. Edgar look-alikes clapping their hands ??

    2. Ray Phenicie

      One can never ever leave out the possibility of government complacency and involvement in so many of the major events outlined in headlines from the Kennedy Assanation to the World Trade Center to the Gulf Oil Spill to Fukushima to . . . Sandy Point elementary. The problem is the clouds of coverup and denials by those involved and their allies. Ultimately disbelief on the part of the average citizen: ‘Our government would never be capabal of doing that.’

  9. LeeAnne

    Gun ownership is a hobby only as long as government and authorities behave themselves.

    They can hardly be said to behaving themselve in recent decades. On the contrary, our Billions are spent by them for propaganda to terrorize Americans.

    This is no time for a post liek this.

    1. billwilson

      There is no better time than for a post like this!!! Guns cause massive damage in society … and the folks that have guns should pay.

      1. LeeAnne

        Cars not only do massive harm to people; they do massive arm to the environment. Taking away the people’s right to protect themselves against assault permits, indeed encourages acts like this.

        Drugs! Where’s the oucry against pharmaceutical drugs? Everyone of these mass murders is a lone guy with photos quickly distributed with his eyes poping out of his head.

        1. Francis L. Gross

          “Cars not only do massive harm to people; they do massive arm to the environment.”

          Very insightful; unsurprisingly, most left-leaning people that are in favour of gun control tend to hold similar positions with cars and the environment…isn’t that what this article is really about anyways? Charging for externalities? I’d do the same for cars, the cost of which does not account enough for environmental damage.

        1. ambrit

          Dear Tommy A;
          Let’s not descend into trolldom here pardner. There ARE good counter arguments. Name calling is counter productive at best. On this site, if you want to make the ‘nanny state’ argument, you have to give some examples. (Like how Romneycare turns out to be a massive redistribution of wealth into the coffers of the Medical Industrial Complex. Now that’s nanny state-ism.) Also remember, there’s a gigantic emotional pain being vented here. Children have been killed, by another child no less. Someone has to be responsible, somehow.

          1. Tommy A

            Point taken.

            Example A – TSA and any other government racket that punishes the class for the terrible actions of the few or one exception.

            Who’s responsible? The responsible don’t live in a fantasy land where happy thoughts and denial are the weapon of choice to deal with the irresponsible.

            The responsible separate their emotions from the situation in order to determine a rational way to deal with it. Not some convoluted abyss of further instability perpetuated by the same emotion.

            Give the top school ADMINISTRATORS the tools and training to deal with deadly force. I trust them to exercise the reciprocal force prudently. Last I checked every elementary school was packed with lionesses. Why deny them the support of the same level they can expect from threats in our schools.

            Everyone lost with Newtown. It didn’t have to be that way and removing firearms from society only assures it will happen countless times again, not the other way around that liberal dogma preaches.

        2. bmeisen

          Ultimately we do NOT have parity with Martian weaponry. Their laser ray guns and totally freaky negative energy bombs – they are going to blow us away when they arrive.

    2. Tommy A



      Couldn’t be farther from the truth, or reality.

      Want to show your ignorance, blame a gun.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No grip on reality, but that is hardly surprising.

        Go look at murder rates in the US v. in economies with restrictions on gun ownership and then we might have an intelligent conversation. All you are offering is utterly fact free assertions, for instance, the efficacy of having teachers armed. Shooter walks into room, starts spraying bullets, pray how does teacher get to where the gun is?

        And in general, police have ascertained that a gun is USELESS even with a well trained shooter with the weapon on his person, if the assailant is within 21 feet (UNARMED assailant, mind you). The assailant can get to the cop before he can pull his gun out and aim.

        The efficacy of guns as defensive weapons is grossly overstated. The only reason they look effective is because cops generally use them in situations when they know there might be trouble, as in they already have them pulled out and are ready to fire.

        1. nobody

          There’s a lot more involved in addressing the question intelligently than a reduction to a matter of differences in gun ownership rates and restriction policies allows:

          In 1982, the murder rate in the nation as a whole was 9.1 per 100,000. This level of violence was four times higher than most western countries. But within the United States, the homicide rate differed very much from one region to another. The northern tier, from New England across the northern plains to the Pacific northwest, tended as always to have the lowest rates of homicide: 3.8 in Massachusetts, 2.1 in Maine, 3.1 in Wisconsin, 2.3 in Minnesota, 0.9 in North Dakota, 4.4 in the state of Washington. The middle states, on the other hand, had murder rates that were moderately higher, but below the national average: 5.7 in Pennsylvania, 7.2 in the middle west, 5.7 in Kansas, 6.0 in Colorado. The south Atlantic states averaged 10.9 murders per 100,000 in 1982. The southern highlands and the southwestern states had extremely high murder rates—14.7 in the west central states, and 16.1 in Texas. Homicide rates were also high in northern cities with large populations of southern immigrants, both black and white. But southern neighborhoods occupied by migrants from the north tended to have low homicide rates. These patterns are highly complex; many ethnic and material factors clearly have an impact. But IN ECOLOGICAL TERMS, HOMICIDE RATES THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES CORRELATE MORE CLOSELY WITH CULTURAL REGIONS OF ORIGIN THAN WITH URBANIZATION, POVERTY, OR ANY MATERIAL FACTOR.” [emphasis mine]


          “Some scholars offer a materialist explantation: the comparative wealth of New England against the poverty of the southern highlands. But many a hardscrabble Yankee hill town is poor and orderly, and more than a few southwestern communities are rich and violent.

          “Others argue that southern violence is mainly a legacy of ethnic or racial diversity. But some of the most violent communities in the southern highlands have no black residents at all, and are in ethnic terms among the most homogenous in the nation. At the same time, many New England communities are ethnically diverse and yet comparatively peaceful.


          “The laws of New England are actively supported by other institutions. For more than three centuries, town schools have taught children not to use violence to solve their social problems. Town meetings strongly condemn internal violence. Town elites teach others by example that violence is not an acceptable form of social behavior in New England. In short, violence ‘isn’t done’ in the prescriptive sense. And when it is done, the regional culture of New England has little tolerance for violent acts, and punishes them severely.

          “All of these tendencies run in reverse throughout the old southwest and southern highlands. The principle of lex talionis is still part of Texas law, which allows a husband to kill his wife’s lover in flagrante delictu. Texas places comparatively few restraints on the ownership of firearms. Texas schools and schoolbooks glorify violence in a way that those of Massachusetts do not. Texas elites still live by the rule of retaliation, and murder one another often enough to set an example. Texas is entertained by displays of violence; Massachusetts is not amused. In short, violence simply IS done in Texas and the southern highlands, and always has been done in this culture—SINCE BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR AND SLAVERY AND EVEN THE FRONTIER—JUST AS IT HAD BEEN DONE IN THE BORDERLANDS OF NORTH BRITAIN BEFORE EMIGRATION.” [emphasis mine]

          (pp. 889-90)


          1. LucyLulu

            This month’s edition of the Atlantic (and Ezra Klein blogged on it over the weekend…….. no comments from the peanut gallery, s’il vous plait) re-ran an article that found the homicide rate in different states correlated to the level of gun regulation. Southern, red states had high homicide rates and loose gun regulation. Conversely they found lower rates among the more tightly regulated northern states. They did not find a correlation to population density or poverty.

            Note that this was a correlation, which doesn’t imply causation. Still, it’s an interesting observation and extends to comparisons of U.S. and foreign countries as well. There ARE countries with higher gun violence, but they are countries with little government in place or in turmoil, such as Yemen, Somalia, Mexico and Swaziland. These are the countries whose company we should keep? Oyyy.

          2. Nathanael

            Lucy: I’m going to suggest reverse causation. In other words, places with higher homicide rates have looser gun regulation.

            Basically, if the voters want to kill people, they want to be able to kill people so they vote for no regulations on guns.

            Nasty way to look at it, but it’s perfectly possible.

          1. LucyLulu

            Cool. Liked the chart format. Nine of the countries with the ten highest homicide by firearm rates per 100,000 people were in Latin America/Caribbean. And you have the same likelihood of being killed by a firearm in the US as you do if you live in the Gaza Strip. Damn. Same as Gaza…… if that’s not enough to wake you up that we have a problem!

        2. Nathanael

          Heck, look at gun-related *accidental death and injury rates* in the US, versus (for example) Canada.

          Canada has training and safety requirements. Canada’s accidental gun death rate is pretty much zero.

          The US has dozens per state every year. I’m afraid of American hunters. I’m not afraid of Canadian hunters, because they’re trained.

          What the hell is wrong with this country’s gun legislation? The Constitution says “well-regulated militia”; the founders meant by that mostly “well-trained” (but also, ‘keep the crazies away from the guns’).

          We have no training or psych requirements in most of the country, including the states with supposedly “strong” gun control.

          1. Nathanael

            (To clarify, not every state has dozens per year, but the most populous ones do and even the smallest seem to have one or two per year.)

    3. Thorstein

      We need to disarm the police as well. We will not do this with guns. Keep trying. LeeAnne, I expected better of you.

      1. ambrit

        Dear Thorstein;
        The police never were anything like Sheriff Andy of Mayberry. Read some of Dasheill Hammetts books, disguised as fiction, “The Maltese Falcon,” “Red Harvest,” “The Continental Op.” etc. to get a taste of the milieu of ‘police’ work. He was a Pinkerton man in real life, during a period very much like what America is being guided into again.
        The idea that “The Law” will keep everyone safe and ‘secure’ works only so long as that same “Law” works for the general good. Long time readers of this site will recognize that the sanctity of the ‘Rule of Law’ is no longer a given, if it ever really was. When the power structure ceases to be basically neutral and turns to coercion and oppression for visibly partisan reasons, what is the citizenry to do? The argument that a massive withdrawal of support will bring down the ruling Authority rests upon the very shaky assumption that there is a cohesive body politic. I argue that such is not the case. Even the ‘sainted’ Ghandi worked from a position of minority status; he only claimed to represent the ‘vast majority’ of Indians. He succeeded basically because he was a very shrewd manipulator of World Public Opinion. What does one do when WPO cringes in fear before an Imperial Hegemon? Die?

        1. Thorstein

          Dear Ambrit,

          I am under no illusion that the police have ever been much of anything except Pinkerton agents, in service to the wealthiest barbarians, but deputized under the “Rule of Law.”

          I believe that there is a cohesive body politic, a peace-loving body politic that abhors the senseless violence of United States society. I believe that body is oppressed and coerced, to use your terms, not by “partisan” forces, but by barbarian forces. Call these forces, for concreteness, the military-industrial complex, the police state that is its domestic reflection, and the financial sector that launders the money it extracts from the alaughter of children. Call them also the NRA, who feeds gun nuts adolescent superhero fantasies of themselves as the last refuge of truth, justice, and the American Way.

          1. ambrit

            Dear Thorstein;
            I agree with your analysis as far as the shape of the present power blocs is concerned. I might quibble about the ‘cohesiveness’ of the body politic you posit, but perhaps merely as to its extent. What matters here, I believe, is the effectiveness of that body politic. When regulatory bodies are captured by those they are supposed to be scrutinizing, who is to blame? More to the point, how is the balance to be restored? That is the big question. Our disagreement I suspect, is on how to effect such change. Optimists vs. pessimists I fear. (Fear itself plays into it in a big way. Your comment about adolescent power fantasies hits close to home. How else do you think armies do the control thing? So, our choice is; join up and serve the masters, or gun up and hope for the best? Not a pretty set of choices, is it?

          2. Nathanael

            Ambrit: someone I respect deeply suggests that our elected local governments are the key to exercising the will of the body politic. He points out that Russia (for example) rarely had elected local government.

            The Governor of Michigan is eliminating elected local government, so *they’re* in a serious pickle, but this isn’t something which has been done in most other states.

    4. knative

      Lets be honest here, if the government decided to go to war with its citizens, the citizens would get destroyed no matter how many guns they have, because the government has bombs, chemical weapons, nukes, and anthrax. Also, the military is right wing, police are probably right wing too, and most of the people that own guns are right wing, so if the government did decide to start killing its citizens, it probably wouldn’t attack the people with guns who are afraid of their government in the first place.

  10. jim

    Where is the outrage for the wars in the mideast with tens of thousands of kids killed and disabled?

    What about banning drones, missles, nukes, and the western killing machine? waaaay more money and lives to be saved by reducing wars, or censoring hollywood than messing around with gun owners.

    1. Thorstein

      That outrage has been on these pages for years. where have YOU been. Keep trying to hide your guilt.

  11. JB McMunn

    Why stop at guns? Let’s do this for automobiles, skis, ATVs, airplanes, Drano, alcohol, Motrin, high fructose corn syrup, fast food, and all forms of fire.

    1. LucyLulu

      When these other items primary purpose is to cause death and results in the loss of the lives of 20 young children and 7 adults at a school in a matter of moments, the country can have that discussion………..

      I’m not advocating banning all guns but not having common sense regulations in place, given the increasingly violent nature of our society, is plain irresponsible. An assault rifle with a 30 round clip is not needed for hunting or self-protection, and driving an automobile requires a license, nor is it legal to leave it unsecured.

      1. Konraden

        Likewise, a car with a fire-engine red paintjob, 650hp, and an eight-speed transmission isn’t needed either, yet we don’t ban those things (or even require any special licensure) for people to drive those.

        And have you seen what happens when someone wrecks those cars at speed?

        You can no more restrict “types” or “styles” of firearms anymore than any other equally dangerous item. Repeatedly blaming firewarms and firearm manufactueres for shootings makes as much sense as blaming automobiles and automobile manufacturers for collision deaths.

        12,000 people are victims of non-suicide firearm death each year.
        30k+ are victims of automobile accidents each year.

        Clearly we have a car problem in this country.

  12. Eleanor

    I just did some checking via Google. 47% of Americans report owning at least one gun, 6% of Americans go hunting. I still want to defend hunters, though I do not like hunting myself, but this is nuts.

      1. Eleanor

        I’m not sure what this conversation is about. It’s clear that I’m not making myself clear. So I will bail out.

  13. voislav

    This is the most striking piece of data I ever saw


    Chart 4 shows that non-gun levels of violence are similar in developed countries, but the US has much higher levels of gun violence. So the whole argument that the same outcome could have been achieved without guns does not hold.

    To use medical jargon, the data shows that US has the similar levels of violence, but much worse outcomes. I would relate this not only to gun availability but also higher lethality of the guns. Other countries do not allow ownership of assault and automatic weapons which are more likely to produce lethal outcome than handguns, rifles or shotguns.

      1. reason

        Per capita?

        And what is the scale of that difference? (The scale of the difference in gun related homicide is incredible – up to 100 times/capita – if you add accidents and suicide very nuch higher still.).

  14. Norman

    I see wordpress is censoring again, which they do when ever the so called moderator doesn’t agree with the comment. Fall through the cracks, spam, try again, all the usual excuses from wordpress.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Get a grip. If a comment went into moderation, what you wrote hit a moderation tripwire. We get to comments in the mod queue when we have time, which might be a very long time. Complaining about it simply gets you troll points.

      1. ambrit

        “Troll points?” Wow, does NC have a Troll Ranking Stats board? No snark here, it’s really interesting to see the architecture underlying things. I suspect that there could be a Troll Alert Algorithm. As Spock says, “Fascinating.”

        1. Lambert Strether

          If you wamt every comment evaluated for trollery and spammishness in near real time by a sensitive, caring, yet ruthlessly efficient individual, then you can write NC a big fat check for the full time staffer that tasking will take. We’ll give them a chair and name it after you. Otherwise, stop the tiresome whinging.

          If people want a forum where there’s no moderation at all by algorithms or humans, the exit to 4chan is that way.

          1. LeeAnne

            Lambert, that’s a pretty vicious retort to a mild observation. I really object.

            None of this is up to the usual standards of NC; not the article nor the comments. Very few add anything to understanding what’s going on; au contraire, the article is worthy of MSM, an opportunity for arguments that defend the status quo. The status quo is to terrorize people everywhere in every way.

          2. Snow White

            Agreed, vicious is a bit extreme. Better would be Grumpy.

            The princess awaits with hugs and hot soup to soothe all in the fairy tale….. then everybody sings all together.

          3. Yves Smith Post author

            No, LeeAnne, what is “wrong” with the article is it offends your near-religious views about gun ownership. As I wrote earlier, they are not effective in terms of defense (and as one reader pointed out, Adam’s mother was armed to her teeth and look how much good that did her).

            Guns in homes have been demonstrated to lead to what would have been merely ugly family fights to lead to deaths and accidents due to kids and even adults horsing around with weapons. The justification for gun ownership is extremely weak. The use by rural populations for hunting is the only one that makes any sense, and you can craft rules to allow for that.

  15. Sean Carr

    “I can’t wait to hear the Tea Baggers explain why the cost of open gun ownership should be externalized to the families of the slain children, those who survived, and all the other terrorized first graders, teachers, and parents in the country.”

    I am a libertarian and believe your argument has merit as well as being thought provoking. Of what benefit did you find stereotyping and insulting me to make your point? You simply took an important discussion about what costs we need to socialize as a civilized people and turned it into a mud slinging contest. Again I might add.

    The small town I reside in has a police officer in the school full time which all our town residents pay for in local taxes. Unbelievably a tea bagger such as myself supported the city councils decision.

    1. Lune


      A sincere question: was there some danger that led your community to decide to place a police officer in your school, even with the significant expense that entails? This is the type of external costs that the original author is talking about. In many communities the placement of extra police officers, metal detectors, etc. etc. is because of the risk of weapons getting into schools (admittedly not just guns but knives, etc.). This is especially true in poor inner-city schools. Is it fair that a well-off gun owner (not saying all gun owners are well-off, but potentially the tax could be restricted to well-off ones) can offload the external costs of his hunting hobby to a poor school that can’t even afford textbooks?

  16. larry Levin

    “government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” Martin Luther King.

    The US constitution is the shield to protect us from tyrannical government.

    1. jrs

      Yea and some of the ammendments are pretty good, but they have been mostly eviscerated (except for the 1st to some degree). But guns alone will not offer much protection against a tyrannical government. Your tyrannical government has the most powerful military in the world. But but you don’t realize to the extent you are outgunned.

    1. dolleymadison

      EXACTLY. The fish rots from the head…its not guns. It is the systemic violence in our country. The teaming masses use guns ….the elite use money and their ownership of the government, the courts and the financial system to committ violence on a much larger scale. Yet no back to back mournful news coverage for that, and not a single criminal indictment. The biggest supplier of illegal guns to our streets – the Drug Cartels – are financed by HSBC who gets to walk without a single criminal indictment. That’s how much Obankster cares about getting guns “out of the hands of children.”

  17. weinerdog43

    I like One Gun Owner’s suggestion… $20 million minimum coverage limits and strict liability in tort. This would be per weapon so there would be some financial penalty for numerous weapons. Certainly more practical than an annual $10k fee.

    1. Michael Olenick

      I think that the premiums and liability would end up costing about the same as the proposed tax; different mechanism towards the same end. Insurance would cover the cost to the victims — which is enormous — but we would still be subsidizing the cost of law. Given that insurance company’s are for-profit entities we may as well use the profits to pay for enforcement. It’s an alternate mechanism towards the same goal, not unlike mandatory auto insurance.

      Interesting commentary here though one theme resonates: comparing guns to everything else. Nothing else besides guns exists with the sole purpose of killing; all of it has some other societal value, that sometimes results in death. For example, even though cars have enormous benefits we require that drivers are licensed, insured, and car owners pay yearly taxes plus steep taxes on the fuel cars use. Civilian guns have no realistic value beyond their use as a hobby, though they cause an enormous amount of damage, which is externalized to others.

      It is long past time to end this subsidy.

      1. bmeisen

        Should gun-associated risk be insurable? I think treating it as insurable could be a bad idea. Some risks are not insurable, for example those for whom probabilities and payouts can not be calculated, for example the risk that I will produce children who become homicidal maniacs. Others are effectively not insurable because either probabilities and payouts are too high, e.g. life insurance for the terminally ill, or because payouts are too high despite low probabilities, e.g. insurance against core meltdown in a nuclear power plant. In the former the uninsurable risk is private. In the latter it is public.

        So what about the risk of owning a gun? As a private risk? Or a public risk? Certainly it’s private if you ultimately shoot just one person, for example as Dick Channey did. But it becomes a public risk if you end up mowing down kids in a grammar school. Do we compel gun owners to insure against all probabilities?

      2. weinerdog43

        Michael, I’m with you that something must be done. But politics is the art of the possible. A $10,000 annual fee is not possible. Insurance may not be the best solution, but it is readily doable.

        1. bmeisen

          Good example. Should we compel poison owners to insure themselves against the risk of … call it “poison abuse.”

          As with poison, it doesn’t make sense to compel gun owners to insure themselves against potential mis-use. The notion that insurance provides a free-market form of regulation is misleading. There are cases in which the public is exposed to unacceptable levels of risk when individuals fail to insure themselves against private risk, as when large portions of a citizenry do not obtain health insurance and the dominant ethos forbids disinterest in the suffering of others. In this case the state is justified in compelling individuals to purchase health insurance because only when all citizens participate can the financial requirements for a sustainable system be fulfilled.

          However, the failure of gun owners to insure themselves against private risk does not expose the state to unacceptable levels of risk. The US could continue to endure the occasional “going postal” event.

  18. Timothy Gawne

    In wonderful gun-controlled Mexico, the official per-capita murder rate is three times as great as it is in the heavily armed United States (the real rate is probably even higher). Saying that “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is a tautology, but also, apparently, quite true.

    When illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia killed thousands of Americans on 9/11, we didn’t hear a cry to enforce the immigration laws. When (possibly millions) of Iraqi children were killed by sanctions against medicine, our self-rightous leaders intone that it’s ‘worth the cost’. Don’t get me started on how many children die in car accidents, but nobody is calling to ban cars. The NECC pharmacy sent out tainted steroids which will end up killing or crippling thousands, but no criminal charges are contemplated against the CEO (cost of doing business, you know).

    You are far more likely to kill yourself by slipping in the shower than to be shot by a spree gun killer. Ban showers? OH WHEN WILL THE CARNAGE STOP?

    Bottom line: this is a highly selective, manufactured outrage. The rich and powerful, although themselves surrounded by heavily armed guards, do not want you to be able to defend yourself. Trust me, we lose our guns, the murder rate will not go down. But a lot of other bad things will go up.

    1. Myshkin

      Another fatuous argument to pile on the heap of fatuous arguments of the gun advocacy crowd. The recent spate of deaths related to cars, showers, soda pop etc.; of course their primary, secondary and tertiary purpose have nothing to do with killing, the primary design directive for all guns.

      My impression is that a core group in the gun crowd can’t think straight about guns and rational debate is quite beyond them. Confronted with evidence, as horrofic as what we just witnessed, they resort to false rationalizations and then ad hominem attacks and finally covert and overt hints at violence if the state should try to prohibit gun ownership.

      We are, it seems, at last, a nasty species in a nasty world. I live in a country where many around me are carrying weapons,(a likelihood given that the country is awash with over 300 million) it is suggested that for safety I must lilkewise arm myself. The aburdity of the argument is built upon the underlying fabrications rerarding our moral culture. The advanced (most advanced some would crow), most powerful country, that proclaims itself a leader in all things, leads most notably in horrendous weapons systems of mass destruction, and an extensive military spread about the world, prioritised over health care, education and the general welfare.

      The foundational legal underpinning, the constitution, has been interpreted so as to allow guns to innundate civil society. Americans revel in a popular culture of violence, it is the expression of our pop arts, cinema, TV, music, gaming and sports.

      Say good-night Gracie. I’m going to make some appointments on my Mayan social calendar for the New Year.

  19. Jim S

    I would like to see more reasoned discourse, especially given the hotness of the topic.

    The two questions at hand–variously addressed in comments already–are: What is the place of the right to bear arms in dismantling the National Security state? If we withdraw, in whole or in part, the right to bear arms, what would the effect be on the pressure cooker that American society has become? While I have my opinions, I think there’s plenty of room for discussion.
    Messr. Olenick, I’m afraid I find your analysis and proposed solution to be rather simplistic.

    1. Justicia

      Q: “What is the place of the right to bear arms in dismantling the national security state?”

      A: If anything, allowing the populace to be armes with military assault weapons only serves to justify greater reliance on the national security apparatus to keep us ‘safe’ from degranged people who get their hands on these weapons.

      The idea that armed (even heavily armed) but undisciplined and untrained citizens can defeat the U.S. military is just nonsense on stilts. Our government spends more on ‘defense’ than all other countries of the world combined.

      1. Jim S

        Your first point occurred to me after I posted, and seems to me a valid concern.

        On your second point, I’m less in agreement. From personal experience, the US military is tops for firepower, but riddled with problems. I also wonder how the order to put down an armed rebellion would be received by today’s officers, who are more likely to be gun-toting Libertarians than tree-hugging Liberals, but after all that may just stop to consider what their oath to defend the Constitution means. I might qualify your statement to say “armed, undisciplined, and untrained individuals can’t defeat the US military”. I think this statement is less true when applied to groups of organized–not even trained–citizens such as the alleged “well-regulated militia”. Of course the US has quashed that sort of private paramilitary activity. I saw a comment here or on another blog asking if the police forces may be considered a militia; insofar as police are increasingly militarized and tied to the DHS, I think not, but again, who knows for certain what they will do in practice. Similarly the National Guard is reliant on the active military for logistical support and shares the same or worse institutional problems. I wonder if the militia as the Constitutional Convention understood it could be re-instituted, but it would seem to require a new social contract. At any rate, if gun-owners are reduced to individuals–hobbyists–the state’s handling of them can be at a much lower profile.

    2. Lune


      Arming a population with guns won’t do anything against a tyrannical state, at least not in this day. The idea of a civilian militia putting up resistance against a professional army might have had merit in Washington’s day, because the equipment of a professional soldier was usually little better than what a civilian had at home (indeed, in plenty of “professional” armies of that time, many soldiers were expected to supply their own weapon)

      The reality is that if the U.S. military decided to declare war on us, the civilian population, we’d be toast, regardless of how many guns we run around with. The far superior weaponry, training, and command-and-control structure of a modern army means no civilian militia would be an effective counter.

      Interestingly, the way that modern revolutions frequently occur is when a civilian populace convinces the military to disobey their superiors’ orders and join their side, not by defeating them in actual battle. Think Boris Yeltsin standing at the Russian White House with the Army’s tanks. To the extent that professional soldiers would (hopefully) have an intrinsic aversion to shooting an unarmed civilian, I think you’d actually have a *better* chance of convincing him to defect to your side if you’re unarmed than if you’re threatening his life with a gun.

      Although I’m a gun control advocate, I fully support the sport of hunting. But any other reason for guns, especially defending against the black helicopters (and even self defense) is specious.

  20. LeeAnne

    Its very provocative to run a post like this on a finance blog. No coincidence it occurs when evil MSM beckons with alluring possibilities.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “Provocative”? So the brave Constitution defenders, our well regulated militia, leap over the block of the NDAA and the assassination of US citizens, all done in the open, and then stumble at the straw of a blog post?

      Pull the other one! It’s got bells on!

      1. LeeAnne

        Its done under rule-of-law. That card is getting old and worn. We don’t know when, where or how the trigger will go off that causes backlash, but its there; its common sense. Right now, effective backlash has come from IT specialists. Wikileaks is the one we’re most familiar with, but there are others, and lone operators exist all over the world. They can do considerable harm, put big dents in the system in ways we can’t even imagine.

        Its only recently that consciousness is emerging out of populations targeted over a lifetime by a well oiled multi $billion dollar criminal propaganda machine.

        ‘Good’ will prevail -hopefully in my lifetime. It can take time. ‘Good’ is on the side of defending ourselves, our families, friends and communities.

        The pressure against this, against defending ourselves with everything a healthy instinct normally does, has been extrordinally successful.

        Not for ever. Its too unnatural.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Oh please. You and I both know that’s not what the “Because freedom!” talking point means. The bumper sticker is “Fear the goverment that fears your gun,” not “Fear the government that fears what some IT specialists somewhere might do someday.”

          It’s one thing to use stale talking points. One expects that from gun advocates. It’s quite another thing to redefine stale talking points on the fly.

  21. Frank R.

    What happend in Connecticut was terrible, absolutely terrible. Evil certainly does lurk in the hearts of men. What happened has happened many times before, in the USA and elsewhere. Evil will not be banished by banishing guns. Evil people will find ways to do their dirty deeds. The worst school murder tragedy in US history occurred on May 18, 1927. 45 people, mostly children, were killed and 58 were injured when disgruntled and demented school board member Andrew Kehoe dynamited the new school building in Bath, Michigan out of revenge over his foreclosed farm due in part to the taxes required to pay for the new school. Evil is timeless. Please say a prayer for the grieving families.

    1. reason

      Sorry, nice speech, but the evidence says otherwise:
      Paul451 (wonderfully written)
      “It’s worth repeating (and repeating and repeating until it starts to sink in) the example of Australia. In 1996, Australia changed its gun laws following a particularly bad mass shooting: banning assault rifles, severely restricting other types of fire-arms, limiting magazines to five rounds (three for pump-action shotguns, auto-loaders were banned outright). Researchers compared the rate of mass shootings before and after – using fixed criteria, not just what “felt” like a mass-shooting – and found that the rate dropped from one every 18 months before the change, to just one event in the 16 years since the change.

      There were no other noticeable changes that might be responsible for the reduction; no reduction in poverty, or improvements in mental health treatment. And judging by other crime rates, there wasn’t a significant change in culture or economics or policing. Hell, even the number of firearms in society recovered within a few years. And the only things that did change, we shared with the US. There was an increase in antidepressant use in Australia, but so too in the US. Video-games violence became more photorealistic, and so too in the US.

      It’s such a perfect experiment: Same country. Same culture. Only one major change, gun laws. And one clear result, the virtual elimination of mass shootings.

      If you want to reduce the rate of mass shootings in the US by an order of magnitude, Australia can tell you how to do it. But your country won’t like the taste of the medicine.”

      1. LeeAnne

        At the same time, wars increased. Now we have the ultimate: a War against Terrorism -a perpetual war against a tactic used by everyone at war.

      2. BagHolder

        Mass shooting don’t list in the top 1000 leading causes of death.

        > It’s such a perfect experiment: Same country. Same culture.

        Then why is violent crime so high in Australia compared to the US?

        1. LucyLulu

          “Then why is violent crime so high in Australia compared to the US?”
          Source? And what constitutes “violent crime’?

          According gunpolicydotorg:
          In 1996, there were 516 homicides by firearms or 2.82/100,000 people. In 2008, there were 225 homicides, and in 2010 the rate was 1.04/100,000. (most recent years reported)

          For homicides by all causes, there were 1.2/100,000 in 2009. Prior to 1996, the rate consistently ran 1.6 and above.

          The rates of homicides caused by guns fell dramatically after regulations were instituted in 1996. The overall homicide rate also fell, albeit less dramatically.

          Compare their overall homicide rate to the US’ rate of 4.96/100,000 for homicides of all causes in 2009, its about 1/4. Australia isn’t close to making the top 25 countries.

  22. Jack

    Your basic idea has merit and is worthy of further discussion among our citizens and our lawmakers. What I fail to understand is why you poison the discussion before it begins with vitriolic obscenity and demeaning characterizations of those who support gun ownership. That is not how meaningful discussions among people with differing views should be framed. Character assasination of opponents seems to be a common thread among many liberals. If you really want to have a meaningful dialogue such action is counterproductive. But, perhaps your real goal is not to have productive discussion but merely to reaffirm to yourself your supposed moral and intellectual superiority.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Jack;
      Come on now. You lost us with that last sentence. Mr Olnicks world view is there for everyone to see. Some of us disagree. No need to indulge in character assassination.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Jack: What ambrit is recommending is that you frame your bad arguments more cleverly. Let me help ambrit out by providing more detail:

      1. It’s not effective to assassinate the writer, thus: “merely to reaffirm to yourself your supposed moral and intellectual superiority.”

      2. Far more effective, in my opinion, is your opening move, where with “Your basic idea has merit and is worthy of further discussion” you affirm your own “moral and intellectual superiority,” while hoping nobody will notice

      3. Your successful tactic of distraction: Making the thread about the poster, rather than the poster’s proposal to prevent gun hobbyists from shifting the costs of their hobby to the rest of us, which you do not mention or refute.

      I can only surmise that Amrbrit doesn’t draw attention to points 2 and 3 because he regards those tactics as well executed. Kudos!

        1. Malmo

          Begs to differ with what? The mom admits only to behaviors she labels herself as menatlly ill, yet immediately contradicts herself by claiming she doesn’t know what makes him behave in such a way. Thus she has not established cause and effect, and neither, apparently, have the professionals working with the boy. She did say his condition was getting worse after the drug interventions, which could easily be attributed to the effects of those powerful substances.

          1. AbyNormal

            the mother is not a professional in the field. the professional is bound by the insurance carrier and is well versed in passing the buck to law enforcement.

    1. nobody

      Associations between autism and notorious violent crimes are easy to find–they seem almost automatic… In the scientific literature, you can find powerful deficit models of autism at work in predictions that autistics should disproportionately be violent and prone to criminal behavior. For decades now, examples and claims…fitting this prediction have been highlighted, while the few dissenting views…have had little effect.


      Hippler et al. provide a competent overview of the relevant…as well as a fair discussion of their study’s limitations. Under the banner ‘Wider Implications,’ they write: ‘There is a public perception that individuals with mental health diagnoses in general, and Asperger’s syndrome in particular, present a threat to the general public. We contend that, based on the follow-up data from Asperger’s original cohort, as well as other studies, this perception is wrong.’ Even wider implications include the neglected question of how being regarded as just naturally violent and dangerous to others, as natural born criminals, has affected the outcomes of autistics.


    2. Nathanael

      Nope. Doesn’t fit Asperger’s at ALL.


      There are two different meanings used for “empathy”. One is an ability to read other people’s emotions — the other is caring about the other person and feeling their emotions once you know what they are feeling.

      People with autism spectrum disorders can’t easily read other people’s emotions. They usually care way more than you neurotypical jackasses once they do figure the emotions out, though.

      Also, people with autism spectrum disorders NEVER have flat affect. Guaranteed. Usually they’re emoting much stronger than neurotypical people. Sometimes idiot psychiatrists can’t read their affect, though.

      Uncaring behavior is more psychopathic. Psychopaths can often read other people’s emotions really well but just use this to manipulate them.


  23. OregonChris

    Recently I attended the opening a Cabela’s sporting goods store near where I live. Seeing all of the people there made me realize that there will never be any kind of comprehensive gun control in America. Like it or not, we have a gun culture. It will not be taxed or legislated out of existence, that is pure fantasy.

    Given the practical reality that our guns and gun culture are not going away I seriously doubt that these calls to abolish/destroy the culture are productive at all.

    I consider myself a responsible gun owner and I do not think I should be punished for these atrocities. I would support an assault weapons ban and a drastic overhaul of our mental health system. The problem is larger than that though as our society seems to produce a destructive amount of fear, alienation and hate….

    1. weinerdog43

      Chris, I also own multiple firearms. I’m not really interested in giving them away or selling them either. But the fact remains that unlike virtually every other product, a firearm is designed to terminate life. Rather than eliminate ownership of certain types of firearms (like assault rifles), why not tax them differently? Or require exceptionally high levels of insurance? A .22 should not cost as much to insure as an AR-15.

      1. Eureka Springs

        I share Chris’ experience as one who has watched a Cabela’s open in north west Arkansas this year. And I share his other views expressed so far.

        I’ll just add at first glance, aside from the desire to find ways to reduce violence, I don’t agree with the framing or much of the intent of the main post. For one thing if you open up this can of worms your way… it sounds much more like a neoliberal plan than a conservative one. Of course todays American conservatives often find bipartisanship in neoliberalism.

        What you are doing by placing a dollar price on things you don’t like – guns/ tragedy also puts more dollar pricing on the things you value, such as your daughter… and that I find disturbing. Especially as I’ve observed the way our gov’t/military handles such a scenario in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Lives are cheap. More than just the cost of guns and bullets, but very cheap none the less. Still we spend well over a trillion a year as a killing machine… and that’s just in matters of foreign defense.

        Yesterday I asked so-called liberals on an AR blog who were struggling with this issue…. they were raving against the NRA and Mike Huckabee more than anything else… smug in their Obama tears.

        I said there is a madman, a known killer with terrible weapons and clear intent to do it again… he’s running free and we can stop him before he does it again. Shouldn’t we at least try? He’s the president of the United States.

        I’ll just say they were as disconnected in their response as any crazed NRA Fox viewer on this issue you can imagine.

        I don’t like this post or this thread and I don’t like 99 percent of the “discussion” from either side all around the blogos, including most of my own thoughts… So I’ll stick with keep your damn hands off my guns for now. And I will stop by Cabela’s this week to buy a few more bullets before they go up in price.

        Even worse than a libertarian conservative stance on this issue to me is the so-called lefts desire to punish, tax, restrict liberty, while not really addressing violence at all. Probably the most important discussion this nation needs to have in addition to the systemic looting NC covers so well.

        So thanks for trying, NC… please try again.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Ding ding ding, Eureka Springs! Your point is well made. I’ve been so busy playing whack-a-mole with gun advocates that I missed this critique:

          Here’s how the poster’s proposal would be implemented in what we laughingly call “the real world.” We’d set up a national marketplace for gun insurance, with some way for people in rural areas who really do need to hunt for food to get a reduced rate through a subsidy, maybe through a government plan for those eligible. And to purchase a gun, you’d have to participate in that market.

          So — did anybody see this coming — ObamaCare except for guns. Mandate and all.

          So — a “market state” solution.

          The road we’re on is the road to a market state, and, give credit, I think a lot of the gun advocates on this thread hate that prospect just as much as the liberals and the anarchists.

        2. LucyLulu

          Fundamentally agree.

          Cost-shifting morality is a slippery slope. Should we place high taxes on doughnuts or directly on the obese for shifting medical costs on the rest of society. Should we tax those who didn’t evacuate after Sandy and required emergency services? As members of society all of us incur costs inadvertently at one time or another. Should our government essentially become a fee for service provider? Or are some services included in our vision of how government is meant to function, e.g. police protection and basic disability insurance? Do we expect a society that is completely just, all are fairly compensated when ‘shit happens’. The author attempts to describe his proposal as cost-shifting but because it singles out one group of people to target while leaving others alone, it really comes across as a punitive measure.

          I advocate sensible legislation to reduce the lethalness of some of these guns and to keep them out of the hands of felons and those who are disturbed. We also need to address other contributing problems, such as lack of access to mental health care. But regulation is simple, could conceivably be passed through Congress, and if the results are similar to those of foreign countries, would significantly affect both gun-related homicides and mass murders such as in CT. It’s long overdue.

          The tragedy is that it took the deaths of these 20 white(mostly) children to get public attention…. while we have areas where children of color have lived with the fear of being fatally shot for years, and most having family members who have been gunshot victims.

          1. Nathanael

            I no longer care whether it’s a slippery slope, because it works. Companies ignored pollution prohibitions, and pay pollution taxes. (!!!) I have no real idea why; it is a topic for abnormal psychology classes, psychology of CEOs. However it is true.

          2. Yves Smith Post author


            Not true. In the paper industry, new mils have been outfitted to standards that greatly reduce air and water emissions. More costly and less effective to clean up old mills, but a lot has been spent on that front too. This is true of many industries that use not nice chemicals in producing their output.

            The recklessness of fracking has led people to forget the considerable progress that has been made on other fronts.

        3. Nathanael

          “I said there is a madman, a known killer with terrible weapons and clear intent to do it again… he’s running free and we can stop him before he does it again. Shouldn’t we at least try? He’s the president of the United States.”

          I argue that we cannot stop him. If you think we can, I ask, how? I voted for Jill Stein.

    2. Lambert Strether

      “It’s the culture” [shrug]. Yes, and a culture shift toward gun ownership and advocacy that was very well funded, too, and produced the desired policy (with, granted, some collateral damage to the occasional bystander). Very likely funded, I might add, with the contributions of many gun advocates on this thread, who therefore bear their share of the responsiblity for the cultural change the marketing campaigns they funded.

      Not buying the [shrug]. I’m sure cigarettes were once justified in the exact same way, and yet the culture changed to treat them as the poison they are.

      1. OregonChris

        I didn’t mean to imply a “shrug”. As a practical matter I just don’t think guns are going away. Guns are very normal in my circle of friends/acquaintances for hunting, sport and concealed carry. For those who don’t travel in that kind of circle I just think they should realize that it isn’t so simple as taxing/legislating guns away. There is a practical reality about the number of guns out there, and the numbers of reasonable, intelligent and law abiding people who are not going to give them up.

        I would point out that it seems like we just jump to the conclusion that there is some kind of national solution to stop these atrocities. I don’t think there is one. That said, I don’t see why anyone should have a right to own a Bushmaster. I would support changes in gun laws that recognize people’s right to own guns for hunting and basic self-defense and nothing more (with assault weapons falling outside those categories). My friends would disagree with me on that but they are still good people who shouldn’t be blamed for this tragedy.

  24. Jagger

    Look at our society and how children are raised to adulthood if you want to wonder why these mass killings happen so often.

    Look at the primary influences on children as they grows to adulthood. What influences compete with the parent in raising their children bearing in mind that many children lack the “perfect parents” or are from single parent families. Does media provide a positive or negative influence of the values of children? What about school and values? What influence does our economic system have on the family unit and how our children are raised-positive or negative?

    With the decline of religion, what is replacing religion as the primary arbitrator of values? It is certainly not science. Is it the parent or the media or school?

    What is the state of our mental health system and is it effectly working with the mentally ill.

    It is too late to talk about guns-that horse is already out the barn. Yet we do it over and over everytime these things happen and nothing changes. We could try something a little deeper and look closer at the ills of our society. Our society is a pressure cooker which eats and spits out those that stumble in the race for survival. One price for ignoring those ills are these periodic, random mass killings.

  25. tracy coyle

    Gee, all these people on a site devoted to economics (in general) and no one thought to use a calculator.

    200,000,000 guns in the US x $10,000 = $2 trillion per year in registration. An estimated 20 billion rounds of ammunition per year x $50 = $1 trillion per year divided by the 12,000 deaths per year is $250,000,000 per person.

    A six yr old is more likely to be hit by a car on the way to school, or struck by lightning than to be killed by a gun toting murderous nutcase rampaging through a school. Of course the slaughter of innocents might have been prevented by armored windows around the locked exterior doors, having locks on the interior doors, an armed guard in the school.

    Of course it is illegal to murder, steal guns, bring them on to school grounds, murder more – I’m sure future murderers will honor all the new laws. Of course not being able to get guns would slow down some people – unless the Attorney General oks a little gun running on the side.

    We will ignore the minor idea that a prohibitive tax is likely to be considered a taking by the government…not to let legalities get in the way of a good emotional rant.

    Almost as many people die from drunk drivers as guns every year – maybe we should tax car owners $10,000 per year registration (on top of the current registration costs) and add a $50 per drink and $50 per gallon tax on gas to compensate the victims.

    Between the gun and car registration taxes we’d raise $6 trillion a year. Probably not. The rich would still have their cars and guns though…and all them with their armed guards.

    Drugs are mostly illegal. Can find lots on most high school campuses though. 99% of gun owners don’t need more legal restrictions or taxation, the 1% that do won’t bother with new laws any more than they do with the current ones.

    Sorry Mr Olenick, your emotional distraught apparently eliminates your ability for rational thought.

    1. weinerdog43

      Tracy, I also think Michael’s approach is impractical, but doing nothing is not an option either. I strongly think mandatory insurance might be the best option. We do it with automobiles, why not guns? The victims would be compensated; premiums would be calculated via actuarial science; a certain percentage of the premium could even be used for crime victim fund for non insured weapons; you can’t purchase a weapon without proof of insurance; etc…

      Doing nothing is not working. Insurance might not be the best approach, but I have not seen anything better that has been proposed.

    2. Michael Olenick

      Guessed on the numbers but easy enough to run the actual numbers and they make the proposal look a lot more reasonable. There are 310 million guns in the US, and they cause about $100 billion a year in externalized costs. That leaves the yearly registration fee at an affordable $322.58/gun/year; less with an ammunition tax. That cost will increase as the money is used for enforcement decreases the number of guns. Couple this with strict liability laws for the gun manufacturers, sellers, and owners and we might actually bring the problem under control. $100 billion a year, for enforcement and victim compensation, will go a long way to relieving the financial burden on everybody else.

      Having run the numbers my idea works even better than I initially realized. The raw number of guns is much higher than I realized, so the costs are lower.

      Somebody mentioned that running this on an economics blog is provocative. That’s because we’ve never really addressed gun control from an economic perspective, probably the NRA wants any conversation except this one. They’d prefer to steer towards moral discussions, that quickly turn into nothing, or legal discussions, knowing they have the second amendment. Financial discussions — especially those that eliminate the subsidies — do not work in their favor.

      1. ambrit

        Mr. Olenick;
        I suspect you are right about the NRA abominating economic analyses of gun ownership. The basic stumbling block to the adoption of your idea that I see is one of ‘control.’ The underlying supposition of any control scheme, whether it be through direct coercion or indirect, (as in taxation,) is in who benefits the most from the outcome. A sane and demilitarized society is optimal, I agree. However, the form that society takes is crucial. Who sets the rules? And for whose benefit? A taxation scheme would work, if one were to wholly embrace the financialization of civil society. The rich would have, literally, carte blanche. Something like the automobile culture would emerge. Most happy go lucky folks breezing along, unworried, with a small but significant underclass anxiously creeping around. (True, the two aren’t too similar, but I argue that the psychology of the people involved would be the same.)

      2. tracy coyle

        So, you acknowledge that your emotion drove your desire to penalize those not responsible for the murders. I carry personal liability insurance even though I don’t own a gun – but we don’t hold people responsible if someone steals their car and kills someone with it, why should we do so with guns.

        We also don’t hold car manufacturers or dealers responsible for the DUI driver that kills someone.

        The desire to eliminate guns is just that, a desire to eliminate guns. It will not stop gun murders, nor will it curtail crime – ask England.

        You want TO DO SOMETHING. To BLAME someone. To hold SOMEONE accountable. Blame the school district for not protecting the children in it’s care. Blame the police for showing up after all the killing was done. Blame the murder for murdering. You might even blame the gunman’s mother for not realizing her son was suicidal/murderous – or maybe she did and couldn’t get help for him.

        But don’t blame ME for it (as a former gun owner, current weapon owner, and strong supporter of gun ownership).

        1. Justicia

          “We also don’t hold car manufacturers or dealers responsible for the DUI driver that kills someone.”

          But we do hold the bartender who sells a drunk driver alcohol responsible if the driver has an accident after leaving the bar. I think this argues for strick liability for manufacturers of assault weapons and ammunition that has no other purpose but to kill people.

          1. tracy coyle

            “But we do hold the bartender who sells a drunk driver alcohol responsible if the driver has an accident after leaving the bar”

            Yes, another way that people dilute responsibility by adding layers to the accountability. God was partially responsible for sin by leaving a tree of knowledge lying around where some one could take a fruit from it.

            Personal responsibility is not something that can be left to the individual because (as the Left claims) 1) there is no such thing as an individual; 2) society is culpable for broken people; 3) culture is only responsible for things people don’t like, ie, violent films, games and porno don’t cause violent people, only the culture of gun ownership causes that.

            My partner had a client that, in violation of the restraining order both had on each other, went to dinner with her estranged husband, where they got into a fight and she jumped over the table and drove a fork into his chest, he responded with a plate across her head. Both survived and were arrested – but we should hold the restaurant responsible for providing the fork and plate?

            In almost every attempt to say why guns should be eliminated if you replaced gun with another item used in the commission of a murder, such as ‘bat’ instead of gun, the argument becomes silly – yet, such silliness is embraced by the anti-gun as reasonable.

        2. Lambert Strether

          Why not blame you? One the one hand, gun advocates want to shift blame to “it’s the culture.” On the other hand, gun advocates, through their membership in gun advocacy organizations, not only destroyed the ability of the government to regulate guns, they changed that same culture to normalize gun possession and ownership, and the glorify the gun.

          So why not blame you? You helped fund the change! Why can’t you just say that the lost lives are worth it because you prefer gun policy as it is? That would be honest, at least.

          1. tracy coyle

            “Why can’t you just say that the lost lives are worth it because you prefer gun policy as it is? That would be honest, at least.”

            Yea..the freedom of speech means that people get to say offensive things. The freedom to defend oneself means that sometimes people will go on the offensive, even against free speakers.

            Yes, people die because we have the freedom to own guns. People die jumping off bridges because we have the freedom to go where we want. People die of drug overdoes because we have the freedom to obtain medicine. People die in car crashes because we have the freedom to drink. And the freedom to own and drive cars. I doubt you are interested in banning speech because some use it to incite violence I doubt you are interested in banning drugs because some abuse them. I doubt you are interested in banning alcohol because some people get drunk. I doubt you are interested in banning cars because people speed, crash, kill and sometimes do so while drunk.

            People abuse freedom, we don’t ban freedom. Punish those that abuse it. And yes, that means we have more people doing things that are bad for them – because we have the freedom to choose doing good things or bad things. Eliminate choice and you eliminate liberty. But liberty is overrated, right?

    3. damian

      850 Billion in ocal law enforecement is due to wide gun availability


      gun owners need to pay for law enforcement – $1000 per gun owner 20% premium for up to 10 guns and then goes to 50% premium – bullits $5.oo each


    4. Nathanael

      The societally determined value of a life is anywhere between $100,000 (we won’t spend more than that per death to prevent household accidents) and $100,000,000 (we’ll spend that much per death to prevent airplane accidents).

      So, you are arguing for, perhaps, a 50 cent bullet tax and a $100 gun tax, equating to $2,500,000 per death, nicely in the middle of the range. Good to know?

  26. MIWill

    We have reviewed the request for compensation from the US Gun Violence Fund that you submitted four years ago.

    Your claim is denied.

    JPMoney, Fund Admin

    You qualify for our Perky Perks Plutonium Card. Give us a jingle today!

    1. OregonChris

      LOL. Have to wonder about whether its a good solution when creating another insurance industry is the answer….

  27. dolleymadison

    Oh so your plan is to make it so only the government and rich people own guns. Yeah – that will make me feel safe. Absent in all of this talk about “gun control” is the fact that the biggest supplier of illegal guns to our streets – the Drug Cartels – are financed by HSBC who gets to walk without a single criminal indictment. That’s how much Obankster cares about getting guns “out of the hands of children.”

  28. alain maronani

    There is a very simple idea…not against the constitution…btw…right to carry arm…

    Abolish trade for ammunition…for all caliber with

    Some provision for hunting…limits on caliber and bullets (number).
    Some provision for shooting sports (22 lr, air pistol or carabin, and so on)

    Make having ammunition after a grace period a federal crime as having drug…

      1. ambrit

        Mr Strether;
        My friends and acquaintances in the gun nut community are seriously afraid if this very idea. You would be amused, (and probably appalled,) at the volume of ammunition being traded now. (Google ‘Spam Cans for Sale.’)

          1. ambrit

            Mr Strether;
            So, you would advocate sedition? That’s what it boils down to.
            Most of the gun nuts I know, including that fellow living in my bathroom mirror, are basically afraid. An earlier comment mentioned that most mass shooters, murderers really, let’s be honest here, were bullied at some point in their lives. Hence, a lot of the gun nut culture is a form of compensation behaviour. As any reader of this site realizes, there is a lot out there to be really afraid of. Very few of us have attained perfect enlightenment. The rest stumble on.

    1. ambrit

      Mr Strether;
      (Counter snark alert.) If only that eternally d—-d Ronald Regan had been stopped from dismantling Americas mental health system back in the ’80’s. Oh wait, he was.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Gun advocates, when faced with the massacres that are the inevitable consequence of the policy and cultural views they espouse, and, in many cases, directly fund, invariably respond “If only ____ had owned a gun and been trained to use it, they would have been able to protect themselves.” (Hence they encourage moviegoers to carry, etc.)

        Yet Nancy Lanza met all of those criteria, including training, and ended up in her own kitchen with her brains blown out by her son, who she had also trained to use a gun, and taken to the range.

        Showing the utter bollockitude of yet another oft-repeated pro-gun progaganda point.

    2. LeeAnne

      Lamber, please don’t forget that this blog gained prominance for its finance commentary.

      Posting stuff like this is a travesty, like any filthy MSM tabloid. This no place for a detailed intelligent discussion on the shock of the day. And you should know that. I wonder who you work for anyway.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Shorter: Shutupshutupshutupshutupshutup.*

        * * *

        How is Olenick’s proposal to prevent hobbyists from shifting their costs to the public at large inappropriate for a top political economy blog?

        NOTE * “Filthy”? “Who you work for?” (To be clear, I work for the readers, who fund me, here and at my home blog. Who do you work for?)

        1. LeeAnne

          I don’t decide the agenda for this blog; you do. And it has changed considerably. Advocating for or against contraversial issues was never its focus. NC has won recognition for its unique point of view on a range of finance issues.

          This post is hardly in that category. This is MSM stuff and support for the status quo; quite the opposite.

          There are better ways to phase out the blog if that’s the intention.

          1. Yves Smith Post author


            Since you are so unhappy, go read another blog more suited to your likings. I’m not changing my editorial policies.

            You could have just as easily seen this idea on Mark Thoma’s blog or at Economix. This is in fact a classic economists’ way of dealing with externalities (Google that) so this is ENTIRELY appropriate for a finance and economics blog.

  29. tracy coyle

    BTW, I hope one (or more) of the parents of those children in Newtown sue the school district for failing to protect the children in their custody.

    1. weinerdog43

      So your idea boils down to cost shifting. Better to turn a school into a fortified prison than impose a penny on those that own guns. Sorry, but no.

      1. tracy coyle

        No, my suggestion relates to keeping responsibility where it belongs. If I have an obligation to myself and family to protect us, then it is not abdicated by having my children in school – if the school can not protect them, they shouldn’t be IN school. The murderer is responsible for the murders, the school is responsible for ensuring a reasonable level of security – a benchmark I suggest it failed to meet. Gun owners were not responsible for the shooting – he stole the guns – yes, from his mother.

        1. weinerdog43

          This nut shot his way into a locked school and you think the school has culpability? Seriously?

          You’re still cost shifting back to the taxpayers. School districts have to carry liability insurance and you are now encouraging the distraught parents to sue the school. This effectively means the parents who fund the schools, and had their kids killed/maimed at said school should bear the brunt of lawsuits via increased insurance premiums and excess verdicts. This is circular in the extreme. No, either you make gun owners take a financial stake in this process or you concede there is nothing to be done.

  30. Lambert Strether

    I think it’s great to see the NRA starting to lobby for more funding for the mentally ill to prevent the crazy– due entirely to pressure from their membership!

    Oh, wait….

  31. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

    Yves’ idea has a lot of merit. And as for not being able to do anything about mental illness, maybe the way our civilization treats 99.9% like rats in cages, running a treadmill, desperate to produce ever more profit for our strutting “wealth creators”.

    1. JTFaraday

      I went to my oldest nephew’s suburban northeast middle school graduation a few years ago. What struck me was how serious they all were–serious on the way in, serious on the way out.

      In between the school gave out literally hours of “awards” for academic achievement of all sorts, including performance on jumping through test hoops–I can’t tell you how many different tests–almost all going to the same dozen or so kids, plus or minus a few.

      No wonder they were so serious. They were being shown up in public, halfway through their academic careers. The winners were happy enough, popping up and down to get their awards. If this ceremony is any indication of the culture at large, then it’s a “loser culture” all right.

      They did very briefly acknowledge public service, which I thought was nice–they didn’t have to do that– but it was clearly the booby prize, all things considered.

      Interestingly, despite the quite intense and competitive suburban youth sports culture, generally aimed more at college transcript building than the pros I would say, this really didn’t figure in the ceremony. I don’t know, maybe that doesn’t really hit the schools proper until high school.

      I don’t entirely blame the school for this atmosphere. They’re just responding to the elite education uber alles (or bust) dicta that are handed down to them from on high, but there’s also no question that they’re the front line enforcers, (along with some of the parents).

  32. Hubert

    Your “full funding for enforcement and costs” idea actually should and could be applied to other areas too.

    How about all public housing projects, low income units, section 8 units, homeless shelters, etc. called “Public Housing” for the rest of this note– having to buy liability insurance to cover the cost of crimes committed by those that reside in them and their costs to society?

    That is, a neighbor is assaulted by someone living in one of these units, the perpetrator is arrested, convicted of the crime and then the victim could sue the person who of course will be on welfare and destitute. Then they can attach the damages from the surety bond or insurance or whatever you call it that insures the public housing.

    All police and court costs invoked by residents of public housing can be subtracted from the fund as well.

    All of the churches, temples, non profits, foundations and the socially concerned sociological backers of housing projects can pay into the fund and fully insure the liability of what they are placing into our communities– often against the wishes of that community.

    As a bonus, most of the gun crimes in our society are committed by people living in public housing, therefore your dream of insuring the costs of gun crimes would be partially met.

    Insufficient funding of the insurance pool? Then the units have to be boarded up or turned into free market rents. Senior and aged housing can and should get a waiver from this requirement.

  33. Stefan

    Michael Olenick’s idea is a good one (though the amounts of tax he mentions sound a little punitive).

    Similar to motor vehicle and boat regulation, gun regulation should include: training, certification, registration and licensing of owners and users, along with registration, taxation, and liability insurance for weapons.

    While these procedures cannot prevent incidents such as at Newtown, they may have positive effects at the margins. And it is at the margins that these incidents are occurring.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Stefan;
      To play Advocus Diaboli for a moment; a public elementary school is “at the margins?” For whatever reason, this person attacked the bedrock of society, its’ children. Why?

    2. Lambert Strether

      It’s not punitive. It’s designed to make gun adovocates bear the cost of their hobby instead of shifting it onto the rest of us, who are tired of bearing it.

      Oddly, none of the gun adovocates on this thread seem willing to address this proposal directly.

  34. LeeAnne

    It is not as if ‘ideas’ matter at a time like this while parents, relatives, friends and neighbors have only begun to grieve.

    Its bad enough that MSM makes hay out of this. Why are we doing it here???????????????????????????

    1. ambrit

      Dear LeeAnne;
      We do it here because a lot of us see this as a Reichstag Fire event. Obama and the power structure he serves have shown themselves to be totally amoral and opportunistic. This is a time when the long derided Conspiracy Nuts could well be right. The idea goes; remove the guns from the hands of the public, not to protect said public, but to protect the Elites from the public.
      Two cents from the Peanut Gallery.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Bollocks. If the NDAA, Obama killing American citizens without due process, massive surveillance of all electronic communciations, and (heck) the violent suppression of Occupy by DHS-funded and organized local police forces hasn’t brought the “well regulated militia” out of the box to defend the Constitution, nothing ever will.

        I mean, there’s a plus, in that this particular piece of gun advocacy is exposed as the public-relations wankery it always was, but in a way it’s sad it wasn’t true, or anywhere near true.

        1. LeeAnne

          Your comment is confusing. Are you saying that, if militias are not being violent, we the people are not within our rights to own tools sufficient to potect ourselves in our own homes and on our own persons precisely at a time when government agencies like the FBI are out of control; are arming civilians by referral only by other members that grants them immunity for mortal crimes committed in the event of an ’emergency’ declared by a criminal government?

          And is this irrelevant to the discussion? On guv purchase of 1.4 round of ammo:

          ” … orders placed by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and now other federal agencies for the purchase of over 1.3 BILLION rounds of “killing ammunition”. Primarily, while a hollow point can result in a “through and through” wound, the norm would be for the bullet to expand and damage as many internal organs as possible upon finding its target. I’ve interviewed a number of police departments and a few federal agents (actual federal agents who are required to be armed), and have learned that not a one of them have ever heard of using hollow points for either training or certification purposes.” here

          1. Lambert Strether

            I’m saying it’s malarkey, and self-indulgent rationalizing malarkey at that.

            If gun advocates were really serious about using their guns to prevent a police state, they already would have. I mean, the NDAA and Obama shooting American citizens without due process isn’t black helicopter or Agenda 21 stuff. It’s right out there in the open.

            I’m not saying that would be a good thing (I’m a non-violence advocate) but if you take gun advocates at their word, they would have acted long ago. So, malarkey. It’s all about gun ownership, and whatever self-actualizing benefits that accrue from that. Period.

        2. jrs

          Amen. It’s myth. Delusion. What mythical day are they waiting for? And why also no attempts at non-violent resistence before then? Shouldn’t we be stopping it before it gets to that point? Isn’t that like the preferable answer and violent revolution the last ditch attempt if anything. How about trying non-violent revolution first? It’s often more sucessful, and I doubt anything else ever could be sucessful against the U.S. government.

          Because while at least a plausible sounding case could be made for using a gun against a home invader, using one to overthrow the the U.S. government, isn’t even plausible. It is the largest and best funded military the world has ever known. You think they couldn’t crush any rebellion you managed to mount if they wanted to? (short of a military coup maybe where the military itself turns against the government) You think they haven’t had years practicing crushing resistence movements in the whole world, places like Iraq, and they don’t even have the real motive to crush them there, Iraqis are not a real threat, they just need to keep them subdued enough to steal their resources. Logically if you fear the government’s force politically you become a strong supporter of massively decreasing the military budget! Because basically you want to stop funding that which could be used against you. And you almost never vote Republican, because they want a strong defense, you probably don’t vote Democrat either because while less vocal they also pour much of our money into the MIC. Maybe you vote for a party that sincerely wants to cut the military, at least that would be consistent.

  35. Uncle Bob

    After browsing through the above/below comments, I’d say we’re living in a crazy country and it’s getting worse.
    My work and interests are with the “Social Work/Mental Health” issues in the community. There has been 13 mass shootings in the USA alone in 2012; 19 mass shootings in the past 5 years.
    One major piece of the puzzle that the mainstream media neglects to ponder is the correlation between psychotropic medication, anti-depressant medication and the people committing mass shootings. I can understand one reason they nay not want to harp on the issue ; because people will stop taking their meds. I’ve got news for you..They are already doing that; which makes things worse than they were before they started taking the meds in the first place. Then they change meds and start all over again!
    These people are walking experiments for the Psycho-Pharmecuitical Industry!!
    Mentioning the fact these people had mental illness without mentioning the medications they were taking/not taking is akin to witholding information/evidence. It is important because many psychotropics and anti depressants can dangerously affect a person’s behavior, in turn which may affect the people around them.
    So, along with all this talk about tougher gun laws which will only turn the USA into a Police State, and all this talk about the NRA lobby and big money; Turn the Gun Issue into a Public Health Issue like HIV, Cancer and STD’s, with education and awareness.

  36. 70andOut

    Michael O, first check: what video games he was playing, what shoot-em-up TV programs he watched and what “dark” movies he watched. Its the person not the killing utensil that is the problem.

  37. nobody

    So far, probably the best comments I have seen on this issue come from the late Joe Bageant, who is sorely missed:

    [F]or an American, assessing gun ownership is spongy ground at best. It’s a matter of trying to asses the color of the bottle from the inside. None of us do it well. Objectively speaking, I don’t believe any American needs to own a gun. But as long as so many Americans believe they do, we’re going to have the ongoing debate, not to mention the total bafflement of the outside world as it watches. To an American, guns represent an entirely different thing — several of them actually — than they do to other nationalities not steeped in gun ownership.

    “Somehow though, I believe the gun ownership debate detracts from the real issue of America’s interior psychic violence, which manifests itself in so many escalating ways these days. Said violence is very deeply ingrained. Every day I watch a hundred little social and interpersonal brutalities and attitudinal cruelties, which seem to go unnoticed by the public at large (though not unfelt,I am sure). And they seem to be growing.

    “To me, even the school shootings and the attending meaningless discussions about gun ownership are a distraction from the real problem. And that problem is a complex one having to do with such things as the decay of our social support network and families, the unacknowledged fear permeating this collapsing empire, the exploitation of the citizenry by telling them there is danger at every turn — Muslims, crime, etc., and the vast unarticulated rage and insecurity that lies just beneath the surface if everyday life here. It’s hard to see it if you are a visitor, but even harder to endure if you happen to be a citizen of a country that holds a quarter of the world’s prison population, yet represents only six percent of the world’s population — a system that teaches us to value punishment and revenge over keeping our common society in good repair.

    “Consequently, a great many people own guns out of pure fear of a worst case scenario which varies according to the person’s anxieties. These include government intrusion by a hardening totalist state; crime activity generated by wealth disparity and a growing and increasingly desperate underclass; sexual violence perpetrated upon women (fear of which has been inherent in urban women for a long, long time); and plain old American distrust of authority and its abuses. And finally there is the mundane familiarity with guns on the part of so many Americans, built over generations of everyday exposure, among which I number — people who understand that guns don’ t pull their their own triggers.

    “In a country where high background stress and insecurity is the norm, and where greed is purposefully stimulated and misnamed “personal drive,” and especially one in which gun ownership is protected by the nation’s most esteemed founding document, I cannot imagine Americans asking anytime soon just what national disease is causing so many of its men and boys to pull that trigger. The answer is just too horrible to face, because we would all have to take responsibility for our failure as individuals and as a society.

    “So we delude ourselves that we can legislate and/or criminalize behavior as a substitute for asking that national question. Perhaps if we suffer the consequences of our national long enough, perhaps with a dozen more school shootings, we will find the balls to ask that question. But I doubt it. There are too many larger forces profiting from our national violence: the burgeoning privatized prison corporations, the rapidly growing police and security industry, and of course the gun manufacturers. There is money in fear, especially if one lives in a country where any justification for fear makes the news 24/7.

    “In fact, if I did not live half the year in a Central America village where no one owns a gun, and guns are seen as a rather sick thing in and of themselves — in other words, if I had to live in America full time — I’d probably go out and buy one myself.”


    1. nobody

      Re: “To an American, guns represent an entirely different thing — several of them actually,” cf:

      “Though they’ve had successes, the Scots-Irish generally haven’t done well economically. They’re individualistic, they’re stubborn and they value their way of life more then their financial situation. If a politician comes out for gun control they take it personally. It’s not about guns, really: if you’re against the National Rifle Association you’re against them as a people.”


    2. Klassy!

      Yes, yes, yes. We can point to other countries strict gun control laws– maybe that is why a country such as Norway may have fairly high rate of gun ownership (although I’m not kidding myself, the US blows everyone out of the water) but a fraction of the gun violence in the US, but I think it is more. It might also be that they live in a country where its not always “you’re on your own, buddy!”.
      Every failure is personal here.

  38. steve

    1) Make drugs legal. Many gun related homicides go away, along with most of the costs.

    2) Mass killings are unique to gun killings. Their force multiplication effect is pretty self-evident. That is the externality for which gun owners should pay if you want to go this route. About 5 million new weapons are sold per year. Add on about a $30 surtax and you should come out about right. Ideally, you do not tax single shot weapons, so maybe you make it a bit higher since you wont tax them.


      1. Francis L. Gross

        There’s dead weight loss, sure. But, to say that “all tax dollars go down the same dark hole” is a bit ridiculous and does not represent any objective reality.

  39. docG

    I firmly believe in gun control and if I had my way all gun ownership would be strictly regulated and limited only to those who need such weapons, i.e., police, security, military, etc. But realistically, gun controls that really matter and could make a difference are politically unattainable in the USA, so dream on — it won’t happen.

    Nevertheless, as I see it, the real culprits in this epidemic of mass murder are not really guns. A good deal of mayhem can be perpetrated with things like knives, axes, sledge hammers and, last but not least: high explosives.

    If we really want to get to the root of the problem we need to go beyond the weapons of choice to take a hard look at motive. Why do so many disturbed individuals choose such extreme forms of mass violence in the first place?

    The answer, as I see it, is actually very simple: the influence of the media. First of all, and obviously, the extraordinary amount of violence depicted and dwelled on in so many TV dramas, movies, video games, etc. I’m aware of all the arguments pro and con, but the degree of violence manifested in “entertainment” media cannot be ignored.

    Even more influential, but rarely discussed, is the manner in which such events are treated in the news media. The message is clear. If you are thinking of suicide and would like to go out in style, making yourself the object of obsessive attention for weeks or even months on end, turning yourself into an instant celebrity worldwide, all you need do is grab some handy weapons, go to some public place and start shooting — or knifing — or bombing — whatever. Your fame will be guaranteed. Well known pundits will be discussing you and debating your motives obsessively and everyone in the world will be wondering why you did it.

    Well, I know why you did it. You did it to get attention. You did it because narcissists like yourself are enabled and in fact encouraged by all the media attention they get.

    I for one am sickened by the way such events are presented in the media, time and again. It’s truly disgusting. Such behavior has NO redeeming social purpose. The innocent victims of this latest nut case are dead and gone. Nothing will bring them back. And nothing is to be gained by dwelling endlessly on the various events of the killer’s life, in all their disturbing detail. It’s a form of mass hysteria, fueled by journalism professionals who should know better.

    Such events should be reported, sure. And that should be it. I’d even favor a law requiring that the identity of the perpetrator be withheld. Yes, you heard me: the perpetrator NOT the victim.

    1. nobody

      Go to wikipedia and check out the list of rampage killers collected in the entry there:


      Then click through and explore the separate lists by region: Africa and the Middle East, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania/Maritime Southeast Asia.

      It seems to me that the basic category of event in question is whatever label best brings together the phenomena classified as instances of spree killing, rampage killing, “running amok,” and the like.

      I don’t think you can talk about the subject comprehensively without talking about mass media presentations of such events, but it seems to me that “influence of the media” doesn’t take one nearly as far as one might think.

      You are quite correct though in saying that “[a] good deal of mayhem can be perpetrated with things like knives, axes, [and] sledge hammers.” In the spate of school stabbings in China that began in 2010, there’ve been more than twenty deaths and, if the attack that happened last week is included, more than 100 injuries. There are single instances in the lists of rampage killings on wikipedia where, with a sword or machete as the weapon of choice, the body count exceeds 20.

      1. docG

        No way would I want to minimize the importance of gun control — and the way the widespread access to guns, including very high powered automatic weapons suitable only for military action, makes such attacks increasingly more “efficient,” in terms of body count.

        But the media folk have a LOT to answer for. They are truly out of control.

  40. Jeff Z

    Many things going on here, so I will confine my self to a few numbered points / questions.

    1. In light of Uncle Bob’s comments, is there enough attention paid to mental health issues? Do we have confidence in the diagnoses, and subsequent treatments? What is the difference here between someone who is legally an adult, and someone who is not?

    2. How do we address the INTERACTION between mental health issues and the availability of guns, both legal and illegal?

    3. Can we discuss a “violence ridden culture” and what to do about it without running afoul of FIRST Amendment considerations? What is the mutually reinforcing circle between audience, advertising, press, and cultural fare such as movies?

    4. In light of one and two, what is the proper balance between the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the Second?

    5. What is the role of economic distress and inequality? Do these phenomena work to increase the incidence of mental health issues, (somehow defined) and through what channels? In addition to tighter gun control laws in some places, there are additional policies in place that reduce the divide between the top income earners and the bottom income earners in many of those same places.

    6. Buying the line of random and senseless violence prevents an investigation into possible causes, before it can get started. It maybe random and senseless, but I would like to see more evidence that backs up this claim. If we get started with this, then it seems to me the better of we as a society would be. It may be a long time before we are successful, like trying to predict an earthquake or volcanic eruption. Making progress, but still very far to go.

    1. nobody

      Regarding “mental health issues,” please consider the following:

      [The] presumed link between psychiatric disorders and violence has become so entrenched in the public consciousness that the entire weight of the medical evidence is unable to shift it… The fact that mental illness is so often used to explain violent acts despite the evidence to the contrary almost certainly flows from how such cases are handled in the media. Numerous studies show that crimes by people with psychiatric problems are over-reported, usually with gross inaccuracies that give a false impression of risk.



      Mental disorders are neither necessary nor sufficient causes of violence. Major determinants of violence continue to be socio-demographic and economic factors… Members of the public exaggerate both the strength of the association between mental illness and violence and their own personal risk… [R]esearch supports the view the mentally ill are more often victims than perpetrators of violence.



      Associations between autism and notorious violent crimes are easy to find–they seem almost automatic… In the scientific literature, you can find powerful deficit models of autism at work in predictions that autistics should disproportionately be violent and prone to criminal behavior. For decades now, examples and claims…fitting this prediction have been highlighted, while the few dissenting views…have had little effect.”


      Hippler et al. provide a competent overview of the relevant literature…as well as a fair discussion of their study’s limitations. Under the banner “Wider Implications,” they write:

      There is a public perception that individuals with mental health diagnoses in general, and Asperger’s syndrome in particular, present a threat to the general public. We contend that, based on the follow-up data from Asperger’s original cohort, as well as other studies, this perception is wrong.

      Even wider implications include the neglected question of how being regarded as just naturally violent and dangerous to others, as natural born criminals, has affected the outcomes of autistics.”


      Someday…we’ll look back on today’s ideas about autism with the same sense of shame that we now feel when talking about psychology’s pre-1974 views on sexuality.


      1. David

        Yes! I cited this NCBI study and others in refuting vacuous reactions by uninformed social media friends about mental illness and violence. It’s so sad that people don’t stop to think about whom they demonize when they don’t take the time to learn about what causes the horrible events they hyperventilate over.

  41. Lambert Strether

    Life’s little ironies. From Links yesterday:

    National Shooting Sports Foundation
    Flintlock Ridge Office Center
    11 Mile Hill Road
    Newtown, CT 06470-2359

    FAX: (203) 426-1087

    Email: info@nssf.org

    The NSSF’s mission:

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 7,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers.

    Seems that bucolic Newton is just as tooled up as Nancy Lanza — at least in terms of housing a propaganda arm for the gun industry. “Culture,” donchya know.

    Oddly, or not, this little factoid isn’t appearing in the coverage.

    1. citalopram

      Welcome to America, where literally everything is sacrificed on the altar of Moloch (money).

      “I gotta get out of this place…”

  42. Tom

    What an interesting thought, tax them all so high that no one could afford them. But really, it’s just a way to say you want to ban guns and not get down to the root of the problem, which is that we’re simply an insane society. No amount of taxation, no prohibitions of any kind will ever solve the problem. If it were true that prohibition works then the prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s and the “war on drugs” would have been a total success and there would be no alcoholism, drug abuse or drug related crimes and murders, there would be no mafias, drug lords or street gangs killing each other and innocent bystanders.

    I’m sure that there will be rebutals that the comparison is not the same, but it is. It ignores the root cause of the problem.

    Additionally, as I saw mentioned before, making them illegal or heavily taxing firearms will simply drive the trade underground, create a new level of black markets, a new brand of criminal to fill up more beds at the for-profit prisons. I’ll bet there will even be some who join the illegal trade just because they’re told they can’t have one. It’s almost human nature in a way to be oppositional, isn’t it.

  43. nobody

    Although I find Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s treatment of the subject in his essay “The Radical Loser” from a few years back to be ultimately a bit unsatisfying, it’s more thoughtful than a lot of the other stuff out there (which is often reactive, and sometimes mindlessly so).


    It might be worth connecting some of the thoughts there to his impression, registered somewhere else (and not in the essay I thought I remembered it being in), that America seems to be a particularly lonely place to live.

  44. BagHolder

    This article by Michael Olenick is truly unfortunate.

    > guns are virtually never used for legitimate self-defense

    Wow. I’m going to guess that Mr. Olenick made up the rest of his “facts” also.

    The real threat to children is obesity, smoking, and motor vehicles. So why isn’t Olenick discussing serious threats to children? Why is the US so tolerant of drunk driving? In Japan, there is basically a zero-tolerance policy towards driving while intoxicated, and drunk driving is virtually unheard of. Also obesity is practically non-existent.

    1. Lambert Strether

      So, I take it you would support diverting the funds that the NRA and allied “trade groups” spend on gun advocacy to these more worthy endeavors, thereby putting your money where your mouth is in a totally non-bogus manner?

      And if you don’t mean that, what do you mean?

      1. BagHolder

        Hi Lambert… I can’t make any sense of your reply.

        Why would I support stealing funds from a private organization?

        I do support stronger anti-drunk driving laws and public health initiatives against obesity, including pedestrian and bike-friendly urban planning.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Gun advocates consistently argue that “_____ kill more people than guns do.” The typical response is to point out, correctly, that this is a really, really stupid argument, since (a) doing one good thing doesn’t prevent doing other good things* but also (b) because gun advocates never, themselves, do anything about ____, showing their argument to be purely tendentious.

          My point is directed at tactic (b). Assuming for the moment that the argument is correct (which it is not), why don’t gun advocates push for their advocacy organizations to devote some funding to ____, given that on their own showing, it’s more important? That’s hardly “stealing.” Of course, they don’t, showing again their argument is completely tendentious, in a more subtle fashion.

          Does that help?

          NOTE * Suppose poisoned food kills few people than poisoned water. Would anybody take the fool who argues “Poisoned food kills fewer people than poisoned water, and so we should not regulate food for poison” seriously? Of course not. In general, people give the PR-driven talking points of gun advocates far too much deference.

          1. BagHolder

            According to data compiled by Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, guns killed an average of 4.92 victims per mass murder in the United States during the 20th century, just edging out knives, blunt objects, and bare hands, which killed 4.52 people per incident. Fire killed 6.82 people per mass murder, while explosives far outpaced the other options at 20.82.

            Though these tragedies caused by disturbed individuals are horrific, ones chances of being killed in a mass shooting, he says, are probably no greater than being struck by lightning.

    2. Nathanael

      BagHolder, you can count the successful uses of guns for self-defense in the US each year on the fingers of one hand.

      There are more *accidental* gun deaths each year than there are successful uses of guns for self-defense.

      This is of course not true in Canada, where they actually have training, competency, and safety requirements. But in the US, buying a gun generally makes your life *less* safe, because you typically don’t know what the hell you’re doing with it.

  45. Cynthia

    The problem of the school shootings goes far beyond guns. This country has an ethos of violence, and every institution, from politics to media to entertainment, is responsible. We have a president who kills children daily with his drone program, and who has given himself the right to assassinate any US citizen he simply thinks might be anti-American (no trial by jury or presumption of innocence allowed). On top of that, we have an entertainment industry that makes billions off the violence it assaults our senses with daily, a “defense” industry that is the biggest money pit in history, and politicians who stand in front of the entire world and lie just to get us into more useless and unnecessary wars. In light of the death and destruction of families, lives and property that this country has wreaked throughout the world, do we really expect to evade the consequences of our violence?

    H/T: Common Dreams

  46. Kaiser Freeman

    How would you guys handle the killing of the other 17,036 babies in Connecticut? No guns were used. Could we tax abortions to prevent the killing of 17,000 plus unborn? Do any of you think preventing the partial birth abortions that Connecticut allows would be a good place to start? What is seen and what is not seen. It is a crying shame. Consider the health care cost of the 17k + annual abortions in Connecticut. Which would cost Connecticut more Guns or abortions? Which prevention would save the most lives?

  47. Michael Olenick

    Running some facts and figures:
    $116,500 Cost/cop/year average (USDOJ)
    67,140 elementary schools (US Dept. of Ed)
    24,651 secondary schools
    4,730 combined
    127,902 gun cops needed (1/elementary, 2/other)

    $35,367, 1994 medical cost non-fatal gunshot (JAMA)
    $70,260, 2012 cost adjusted for inflation (BLS)
    73,883 non-fatal firearm injuries 2011 (CDC)

    31,347 firearm deaths in 2009 (CDC)
    $2,000,000 adjusted payout to 9/11 victim

    Add it up and it comes to $82.8 billion annual cost. Add another $15-20 billion for things like decreased earning power after gun violence and amounts now paid to control guns and it comes to about $100 billion, just like the authors of the other study I found said.


    If there are 310,000,000 guns in the US then an annual tax of $320/yr/gun — whether in gun or ammunition fees — would at least take the financial burden off the rest of us.

    Unless gun owners argue that the right to own a gun extends to the right to force everybody else to pay for it they should agree, though I suspect they believe exactly that.

    As for other externalized costs .. externalization happens, always has and always will. But it tends to be less lopsided: there’s typically positive externalities to go along with the negative one’s. That’s not true with guns: only gun owners enjoy their guns though they leave the rest of us — and our little kids — to pay the price for that enjoyment.

  48. BagHolder

    Michael, in Mexico, civilians have been prohibited from owning firearms for as long as I can remember. Is that the model that you want?

    In the US, many firearms-related injuries are the result of improper gun handling. So why don’t we teach proper gun safety in schools? That would reduce many firearms-related injuries at low cost. So why don’t you support teaching proper firearm safety in schools?

    As for the other cases… people *intent* on injuring others, they will use whatever tool is available. (Reference all the mass school killings conducted with knives in China.)

    The press is to blame for a large number of these killings too, because they inspire copy-cat crimes. How do you intened to deal with that?

    1. Lambert Strether

      So, the United States is going to turn into Mexico when gun hobbyists must bear the full costs of their hobby? How does that work, exactly?

      Skipping the rest, simply because my mind boggled at the first point.

    2. Nathanael

      Are you willing to pay to teach firearm safety and handling in schools? Most of the gun nuts also complain about high property taxes for schools!

      How about requiring safety and handling training as a condition of getting a gun permit? Believe it or not, it is not required in most states, including those with supposedly “strong” gun control!

  49. BagHolder

    As others have pointed out, the murder rate in the UK has gone up dramatically since firearms bans were instituted, while it has continued to fall in the U.S. (except in cities with draconian anti-gun policies such as Chicago).

    In fact the violent crime rates in the UK and Australia are about double that of the US.

  50. Timothy Y. Fong

    If we’re going to talk about costs, then we should also talk about benefits:

    From a legal perspective, firearms ownership is a protected right under the Constitution; that’s case law, District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008). If you can essentially tax a Constitutional right out of existence– which is what you are proposing here– then we can do it to any Constitutional right. Frankly, the sensationalist news coverage of mass shooting events and other crimes drives copycats. Things like Twitter and blogging and Facebook accelerate bad information and rumors. And general purpose computers support piracy, hacking and identity theft. By the logic of this post, we should be able to tax and regulate them, so that only the wealthy can afford to exercise them.

    And people are okay with this?

  51. Gil Gamesh

    A brilliant proposal and winning argument. Gun violence advocates will no doubt beg to be excused from being, directly and indirectly, responsible for the apalling carnage we endure here, carnage that could be much reduced had we the political will. As we have seen too often, many Americans are adamant that others take personal responsibility. Just others.

    It is the USA, and what money wants, money gets. If any bill comes out of Washington in the aftermath of the Newtown slaughter, look for it to be drafted by the relevant trade associations and manufacturing lobbyists.

    What this terrible event has exposed, in high relief, is that gun violence apologists and advocates, all responsible and law-abiding, naturally, have come out braying their tired and tiresome arguments against any rational policy to reduce gun-caused homicides here. The bad faith is beyond comprehension.

    The 1st graders at Sandy Hook? Just a cost of doing business. Columbine, Va. Tech, NIU: shrines to personal freedom.

    Well get this, you stupid mothers: your right to bear arms is trumped by my right to live, my kids’ rights to live, our communities’ collective rights not to live in the shadow of chronic, unending violence.

    1. AbyNormal

      “Well get this, you stupid mothers: your right to bear arms is trumped by my right to live, my kids’ rights to live, our communities’ collective rights not to live in the shadow of chronic, unending violence.”

      worthy of a double post, Thank You Gil

    2. LeeAnne

      who are these ‘Gun violence advocates’ you refer to. Odd, I distinctly see arguments for and against gun ownership with suggestions for licensing, restricting, and training to use arms resonsibly -and maintain a leval of protection that keeps the bad guys away.

      This country is on the verge of releasing hundreds of thousands violent criminals onto the streets at a time when police budgets are stretched.

      We better be armed.

      1. BagHolder

        “Gun violence advocates” are those who wish to disarm the general population (such as the total disarmament of law abiding citizens in Mexico, etc.)

        Every home in Switzerland has an assault rifle. Are the Swiss “gun violence advocates”?

        1. citalopram

          Switzerland heavily regulates firearms in there country. Every bullet must be accounted for and citizens are inspected. Well-regulated militia indeed.

          1. Nathanael

            Exactly. It’s worth noting that the Founding Fathers knew about the Swiss system and admired it.

            Every bullet accounted for. Every gun accounted for and registered. Everyone reporting to training on a regular basis….

      2. Lambert Strether

        LeeAnne is correct. I use the term “gun advocates” because they are not advocating violence. (Whether their advocacy enables gun violence is another thing, but they are not violence advocates as such.)

        1. Gil Gamesh

          Admittedly, over the top. Since I am convinced that gun advocates enable gun violence, I will hold them responsible, if only indirectly and small part. One would have to be obtuse not to see the connection.

    3. Ms G

      “… our communities’ collective rights not to live in the shadow of chronic, unending violence.”

      The horrific incidents (massacres) to which you refer don’t, at least in my view, qualify as “chronic, unending violence.” These are not everyday events occurring continuously over a given timespan.

      I am not taking issue with your underlying feeling of rage, but with the hyperbole and inaccuracy of your description of “the problem.”

      There have been life-threatening and life-ending monsters throughout history. Several did not use guns, e.g. Jack the Ripper. But the stories were/are vivid in our collective memory (such as it is) precisely because the killings were not ordinary or “chronic.”

      1. Nathanael

        These are everyday events occurring continuously over a long timespan. Sorry, you need to actually look up how *often* this stuff is happening.

      2. Gil Gamesh

        Tell it to the people of the South Side of Chicago. They are people, mostly poor, mostly black. Not like Newtown.

        Homicide by gun violence happens every hour here. Sure, mass murders are sensational. The deaths of black kids…just another day in the life.

        1. Ms G

          Sorry Gil Gamesh, that was a cheap shot. Your own post referenced extraordinary events like the mass school shootings at Columbine, VA Tech and now Newton. Now, in reply to my post, you expand the universe to deaths by shootings everyday in poor urban neighborhoods. Changing the fact set and adopting a sanctimonious tone does not help your argument.

          Parenthetially, I know about daily, chronic gun deaths in poor urban neighborhoods, Sir, as I live in New York City and have for the better part of 3 decades. Also parenthetically, you may also know that these daily (indeed chronic) gun killings are primarily carried out with illegally procured arms, raising the question (addressed at length in the past 40 years) as to whether even a ban on weapons would have much if any effect.

  52. Xanti

    I think this is a stupid idea, for a number of reasons. However the main reason I oppose any form of gun prohibition is because like any other form of prohibtion, it won’t work. I’m not sure why the Left can be right on drug prohibition but not gun prohibition. Creating yet another black market sounds like such a great idea.

    Add to the fact that most gun crimes are committed with illegal weapons, add to the fact that you’re more likely to be hit by an asteriod then be shot at in school, add to the fact that any attempts to take away guns (which would never happen) would require a far more invasion and intrusive police state, add to the fact that Canada and Switzerland and Vermont are heavily armed yet most of the most peaceful places on the planet, add to the fact that the gun control issue has become yet another studie wedge issue to distract people, and you can see why stuff like this is idiotic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZs_CblHi8g Gun Prohibition: Bad Idea

    1. Lambert Strether

      I actually like that argument, and it connects well to “the gun running is symbiotic with drug running, with the cash them both flowing through HSBC” point that somebody (I think Leanne) makes up-thread.

      * * *

      That said, it’s hard to separate out the “any stick to beat a dog” arguments from the serious ones on this topic (which is why I’ve beaten up the “Because freedom!” argument elsewhere on this thread.

    2. Ms G

      I agree with the list of “add to that” and especially agree with the last item: “add to the fact that the gun control issue has become yet another studie wedge issue to distract people.”

      The fact that Third Way Poster Boy Michael Bloomberg has been obsessed with “gun control” for as long as he’s been mayor (now close to 12 years) should be a red flag to any progressives, especially those who finally defected from the Legacy Party Charade. The tragic massacre of Newton is unfortunately proving already to be an “opportunity not to be wasted” by the likes of Obama and Bloomberg who want nothing more than Americans begging hysterically for more subjugation.

      They seem to be getting their wish.

    3. Nathanael

      Forget prohibition. I want mandatory safety and marksmanship training as a prerequisite for a gun permit, and a permit as a prerequisite for purchase.

      First, this will prevent hunting “accidents” and home “accidents”, which are far too common and due primarily to gross negligence by the incompetent.

      Second, this prevents the typical enraged killer from getting guns quickly to go on a shooting spree. It won’t stop a seriously premeditated killer, but it will reduce the problem.

      Meanwhile, the illegal gun sales will dry up pretty quickly if the loopholes are closed. US gun regulation in some states is weaker than UK regulation was in *1903*.

      1. Ms G

        Note, however, that the young man who carried out the massacre at Newton had been turned down by a CT gunshop when he tried to buy one. In your proposed regime, the kid could have failed marksmanship training, but was still able to carry out his massacre because he had access to his mom’s guns (and let’s assume for the moment that she did, indeed, have marksmanship training).

        I don’t have a problem with your proposal. I’m just not clear how it would prevent what happened at Newton.

      2. LucyLulu

        I’ve always advocated what you propose, Nathanael. A mandatory course like the concealed carry course.

        Ms. G, there is no measure that will prevent ALL incidents. We should still try to prevent as many deaths as possible, and here in the U.S we are currently faring miserably.

    4. Nathanael

      Xanti: Canada and Switzerland have *EXTREMELY STRONG* gun control laws — focused on letting *only competent people* have guns. In Canada, you have to pass a marksmanship test to take a gun hunting.

      The US would do great if it had such laws.

  53. Lambert Strether

    “Lynching is cultural [shrug].” Bruce Bartlett draws a great analogy, assimilated by Faceborg, alas, so here it is:

    I think the gun issue is similar to the lynching problem. Such incidents were horrifying, but Congress refused to enact an anti-lynching law. However, the publicity given to the issue helped lay the groundwork for the civil rights movement and its ultimate success. But it took 30 years. I fear it will take a similar length of time and many more mass shootings to change the political dynamics.

    “Industrial accidents kill more people than lynching [shrug].”

    “The only defense against lynching is more lynching except even more lynchy [shrug].”

    And so forth.

  54. Gerard Pierce

    Michael Olenick must be a member of the H L Mekken fan club: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”.

    He came up with a very creative solution – if you want to exchange one form of injustice for another.

    It’s an emotionally appealing solution – until you give it about 5 minutes rational thought.

    I don’t own a gun. For the time being I don’t want to own a gun. But I’d like to see an honest logical solution.

    Transferring costs is a two way street. If you are going to compensate everyone injured by a gun, honesty requires that you also compensate everyone who was mugged because they were not allowed to defend themselves.

    The statement that no one ever defends themselves with a gun is simply not true. And the fact that the potential victim might be armed has to have some effect on crime unless all potential muggers are terminally stupid.

  55. Ms G

    An interesting fact in this story (to me, at least), is that but for the fact that the mother had a small arsenal of firearms in the house that were freely accessible by her son (who had some sort of affect disorder preventing empathy and had exhibited violent behavior recently) the young man would not have had a gun (or guns) to carry out his massacre.

    Apparently he tried to buy his own gun at a CT gun dealer very recently but was denied because he refused to submit to the background check and other requirements to which gun purchases are subject in CT.

    In other words,gun control regulations (!) existed in CT and (2) worked. What did not “work” was a mother who somehow did not bother to ensure that her son had no access to her own (legally purchased) weapons.

    P.S. I am not a fan of weapons, never used one, and don’t plan to ever own or use one.

    1. Nathanael

      FYI, people are very confused about “affect disorders”. The son could potentially have been a sociopath (who notices others’ pain, but doesn’t *care*).

      That’s very different from autism (roughly described as: cares a lot, but often doesn’t *notice*). Even autistic people notice that great gobs of blood == sadness and pain.

  56. Lurker

    Or maybe gun owning households that include young males should be the ones required to carry insurance or pay the fees, to be waived if said young males successfully pass a psychiatric examination.

  57. George

    The costs of gun ownership are generally negative, because they are effective in self-defense and deter crime.

    The reality is there are and will always be crazies who become violent.

    The reality is that there are and always be weapons for those crazies to use.

    The reality is that making ‘weapons-free safety zones’ is drawing a target for the crazies with weapons.

    The reality is that there can be no alternative to having the ability to deter or defend from such crazies.

    The people who passed the laws making ‘weapons-free safety zones’ should have sleepless nights, but True Believers don’t have such thoughts.

  58. George_III

    The costs of gun ownership are generally negative, because they are effective in self-defense and deter crime.

    The reality is there are and will always be crazies who become violent.

    The reality is that there are and always be weapons for those crazies to use.

    The reality is that making ‘weapons-free safety zones’ is drawing a target for the crazies with weapons.

    The reality is that there can be no alternative to having the ability to deter or defend from such crazies.

    The people who passed the laws making ‘weapons-free safety zones’ should have sleepless nights, but True Believers don’t have such thoughts.

  59. Glen

    This is the second economics blog I’ve come accross which has a post on gun safety and records amounts of comments.

    Well, at least the ad revenue help keeps the site running, and the comments (using IP addresses) provides some data for/against gun safety regulations.

    As for me, not sure how America has become such an outlier with regards to guns/violance, but I’m started to be reminded of those third world countries where many own AK-47s since civil society is weak or non-existant. Can somebody run the data and see if this corrolates to the degree of poverty and/or religiousity (is that a word?) in other countries? Or has that aleady been done?

    1. LucyLulu

      With all those defensive gun uses, how do the two-thirds of Americans who don’t own guns ever manage to survive without having a gun to use to defend themselves?

      I question the figure, but if one assumes its accurate, it seems it would provide more fodder for anti-gun folk than anybody else. They could only wonder exactly why are all these guns being pulled? That’s one incident for every 12 people or so, man, woman, and child. The majority of Americans can go lifetimes and never miss having a firearm. Do we really have that many gun owners who are so quick on the draw? Scary thought for somebody who owns a gun herself (and has never used it outside a range). Unless you are fully prepared to use it, to defend your life and having no other alternatives, never, ever draw your gun. Guns kill. You should expect somebody to end up dead, because there is a good chance they will, irrespective of intent, once a gun is introduced into the picture. I much prefer neither, and fortunately the choice is very unlikely to ever present itself to somebody who can semi-navigate life’s social interactions and avoids risky situations.

  60. David

    First off, I am a gun owner, enthusiast, hobbiest. I own and collect all sorts of weapons. I would fully support the kind of taxation and registration of arms.

    I have just been reading the drivel by the gun advocates here about arming pricipals (TommyA.). How insane is that?

    How about the situation where you have two gunmen, like Columbine. Or where the office is well away from the classrooms as at nearly every high school. It is not hard at all to imagine a situation where one gunman shoots up the classroom and the other waits for the principal. Or where a single gunman shoots and then waits. You assume that somehow the principal will always get the drop on this person and save the day. What happens when the principal is dead on the floor? Or when the principal armed with a 9mm is face with a fully automatic AK?

    Do you then arm the principal and vice-principal, or all of the administrators?

    Again, I own guns and really enjoy them. I would gladly pay for the priveledge of continued enjoyment. I would love to see the fees go to larger police forces, better training, public service programs, etc.

    This notion of more guns breeds less violence is delusionary. But from what I have read here there is apparently no delusion like self-delusion. I shake my head that fellow gun owners are unshaken by the depth of this tragedy and would rather hold on to outdated notions rather than face the truth of the level of violence this country has reached and the need to take measures such as the author outlines to deal with it.

  61. Beppo

    I cannot recommend Mark Ames’s “Going Postal” enough, for anyone who wants to understand the real cause of most workplace and school shootings. School and workplace shootings started exploded during the reagan era of destroying pensions, more work for less pay, and other stuff that happened once the reagan admin made it clear that there would be no consequences for breaking unions and intimidating workers.

    I don’t believe in most gun control proposals, since in America it’s historically been a way of disarming poor minorities. The pauperization of the United States is marching along, and I don’t see why we should give up rights while being stripped of everything else. Shock doctrine south american juntas and post soviet Russia come to mind of concussive events leading to a slippery slope of lost rights.

    The best thing to do would be to eliminate the drug war, rebuild the social safety net, and make schools and workplaces humane again. Then you’d see violent deaths drop by 80% or more.

    1. Michael Olenick

      My wife is Russian.

      Her mom pointed out the total number of school shootings in Russia … ZERO. None, nada, zilch.

      Russians fund police at the schools, and they may have a wild streak but they do not allow maniacs to slaughter their children. That happens in a few other country’s, which usually quickly change their laws. ONLY in the US do we allow this insanity to continue.

      Like I said, for legal and political reasons we can’t ban guns, but we can make gun owners pay the full cost for their hobby.

      1. Ms G

        Actually most NYC public schools are fully staffed with police and security guards, and many have metal detectors and other screening devices like they have at the airports. Students go through the whole ritual of being screened and patted down when they enter their school buildings.

        But then again, this is also the town where the Mayor called out his own “Army” (the NY police department) to deal with peaceful protesters in the manner of Israeli anti-terrorist and riot military police.

        The City’s days of crack and condoms seem so quaint by comparison.

      2. Jerry Denim

        Since 2004 or after 2004? I seem to recall there was almost 400 people killed at a school in Belsan in 2004. The worst school massacre in history I believe.

  62. whatever

    Children do need to be protected from things that can kill them. Unfortunately, we as adults have let them down. Just because the monsters that prey on them and end their childhood in a horrible screech of twisted metal are cute. Just because they LOOK harmless. But they are not!

    Deer kill more than 120 people per year in car accidents. Around 15 of those killed are children, and their murderous killing spree doesn’t stop. Years may go without a school shooting, but every single year, these relentless monsters kill and kill.

    Bambi must die. We must exterminate the scourge of Artiodactyla Cervidae from the land. Regardless of the cost. Are you with me?

  63. whatever

    I’ve got a question for some of the smart guys here who point out how “easy” guns make it to kill people.

    When Jovan Belcher discovered that “his” new baby was not in fact his and “his” wife had actually been screwing another man, got knocked up by the other man, and then lied to Belcher about who the father was, he apparently got pretty mad. Who here thinks the increased difficulty of 228 pound Belcher killing his alduterous wife with his bare hands would have “stopped him”?

    Any takers? Anyone smoking a particularly fine grade of weed?

  64. Ol' Bill

    What a fascinating thread! I had no idea there were so many NRA gun-trolls around NC. I suppose we should be grateful to them for previewing for us the arguments the NRA is going to use, to try to blunt the nation’s purpose at a time like this.

    There’s so much we don’t know, and haven’t asked, about the ill effects of gun proliferation, and Mr. Olenick’s post is a healthy step in the right direction. Among other things, we need to be much more scrupulous as a society about collecting data on gun-related incidents, of all kinds, and that would include negative externalities like wrongful death/injury suits, time lost due to gun injuries, and so on. Mr. Olenick’s figures are enlightening, but data collection in this area is random and inconsistent; we need a more accurate picture, I think, in order to assess whether to regard non-crime firearm casualties as a serious public health emergency or not.

    In another respect, there’s blood on the hands of anti-tax zealots who have forced cuts in public health services, school counselors, and programs that might have spotted disaffected shooters like Adam Lanza early.

    But really, looking at the pictures of the children whose bodies were riddled by a military-style, large-capacity-magazine weapon, can you REALLY not entertain the idea that such weapons belong ONLY in law enforcement and the military? “Well, he could have killed almost as many if he’d brought a hunting rifle.” Maybe: fewer lives lost, I’ll take that. Some of the kids would have gotten shot only once, instead of multiple times, because of the reload factor, and possibly survived?? I’ll take that! “If he couldn’t find a gun, he would have done it with a machete, a knife, a box of kleenex, ….” really, looking at the kids’ faces, some of these arguments ought to bring shame on those who make them.

    Right now my default position is the Australian gun ban: must have been incredibly difficult to implement, but they did it. Number of mass shootings since: zero.

  65. alex morfesis

    Having lived through the crazy late 70’s and early 80’s of my families real estate dumpire with all its wonderous properties in the most heavenly of neighborhoods in new york city, I am left with the impression no one posting on this issue has ever actually seen how quickly a gun fight happens nor watched people convulsing as they bleed out waiting for an ambulance that will never get there on time…

    how pathetic…

    Michael is right…$50/bullet is a fair price if you are truly interested in “protecting” your family. It was illegal to carry and impossible to get a carry permit in NYC back then. Had to learn “other” techniques to handle any attempts at taking the money that I had to collect from our various enterprises…took precautions and never really worried about getting held up…maybe dumb luck I guess…

    There are other things that kill more children on a regular basis…cars are much more dangerous than guns…6 children a day die in automobile accidents…I would suggest that at least half could have been avoided if we did not allow state governments to hand out licenses to anyone who can fog up a mirror. Wont ride a motorcycle here in the tampabay area of florida cause between the 19 year olds texting and driving, and the ninety year olds running red lights to get to the bingo game…it aint too safe driving down here…

    and please…stop using these phony internet quotes on george washington…what he actually said in his first address to congress in 1790 was…

    “Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

    A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a Uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent others, for essential, particularly for military supplies.

    The proper establishment of the Troops which may be deemed indispensible, will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it, it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the Officers and Soldiers with a due regard to economy.”

    good luck
    and be well

  66. Propertius

    guns are virtually never used for legitimate self-defense

    The Department of Justice begs to differ. The NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey) reports 116,000 defensive gun uses annually. This is actually the lowest value among numerous surveys for such use.

    1. Propertius

      The National Self Defense Survey, also conducted by DOJ, used a somewhat different methodology and concluded that guns were used defensively 2.5 million times annually in the United States. The primary difference between the two surveys is that the NCVS data is only derived from self-identified “victims” of a violent crime.

  67. Hugh

    It is interesting that so many are so passionate about the 2nd amendment:

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

    I wish they were equally passionate about the abridgement of so many of our other rights. The 1st Amendment right to free speech has become under Citizens United a mechanism for corporate speech, not individual expression. He who has the most bucks has the most speech. The 1st Amendment’s right to peaceful assembly has been trashed. Any assembly that looks like it might seriously challenge our current political leadership, Democrat or Republican, is subjected to kettling, pepper spray, and police raids.

    The 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as its demands for probable cause and warrants, went up in smoke on 9/11. And they aren’t coming back as long as we have the War on Terror and our national surveillance state. Indeed while the War on Terror creates more terrorists than it kills, it provides a wonderful pretext for endless, ridiculously expensive imperial wars and a justification for the elimination of our basic rights.

    The 5th Amendment and 14th Amendments requirement for due process, the 5th Amendment’s promise that none shall be held to answer for an infamous crime unless under indictment by a grand jury, and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection of the laws have been blown apart by both the War on Terror and the failure to prosecute a war against the real terrorists, our nation’s bankers. The neutering of the 5th and 14th Amendments was crucial to the construction of the two tier justice system we now have. For the rich and corporations, there are trillion dollar bailouts and immunity from all laws minus a few occasional cost of doing business fines. For the rest of us, it is a merciless, implacable system with draconian punishments straight out of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo.

    The 6th Amendment’s right to a speedy trial, to confront one’s accusers, and to being given the resources to mount an adequate defense? All gone in our system where if you have the money to afford an adequate defense, you won’t need one because our rich and elites seldom charge their own. The law is only there for those of us who can not afford it.

    The 7th Amendment’s right to trial by jury like the 5th and 14th is gone in national security cases and has been largely superseded by plea bargains in criminal cases.

    The 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment died the first time our government tortured anyone in its regular wars or the War on Terror.

    The 9th Amendment is what I call the forgotten amendment:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

    Just because a right to privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, for example, does not mean there is no Constitutional guarantee of privacy. The Framers put the 9th Amendment in the Constitution, but having done so, they and all their successors among the powers that be turned their backs on it, and have ignored it for more than 200 years.

    Habeas corpus, one of the few legal rights so fundamental that the Federalists included it in the body of the Constitution, is gone in national security cases. Boumediene affirmed habeas only because Justice Kennedy saw it as a turf issue. In practice, habeas petitions in national security cases go through the DC Circuit, they are routinely denied at the Appellate level regardless of the merits and the Supreme Court on which Justice Kennedy sits just as routinely denies them cert. So habeas corpus is preserved in form but not in substance. A right which is respected in theory but not in practice is no right at all.

    All these rights, the very essence of who we are, what made us rightfully proud to be Americans, gone, done away with, without a fight, without a whimper. Yet the least of these, the 2nd Amendment, bent and twisted out of its original context, this is the one you embrace and hold on to? Guns do not make you safe. The law and the decency of your neighbors do. Guns are no protection against the state. What did your guns avail you when the government erased all your most basic human rights, the crown jewels of the Constitution? You. did. nothing. You are hollow men. Hold on to your metal sticks if you want. They can not protect you from your own moral vacuousness.

  68. jim

    If you want to ban guns, you must have a lot of faith in those running this world.

    I wonder if there was this much support for the patriot act after 911?

  69. abprosper

    citalopram, don’t be silly. You might get some kind of general bill on semi automatic weapons or high capacity magazines maybe and it might (big if) its passes court musters, you won’t get general confiscation in the US without at least another 50 years of cultural changes and maybe not than.

    Use you head, not your heart.

    1. citalpram

      I agree with you, but it doesn’t change the fact that this needs to happen if we want to save lives. Everything else is just smoke in mirrors.

  70. Jerry Denim

    Not being a father perhaps I can’t grasp the intensity of emotion people like Mr. Olenick are feeling in the wake of this senseless tragedy, but his “tax-the-guns-out-of-existence” rant strikes me as being rather classist and condescending to others who may dare take an opposing view to his righteous anti-gun rage.

    It seems to me many people who have never held, shot, or owned a gun seem to think that only inbreed lawless hillbillies and intercity racial minorities own guns. They trust the State implicitly, see no real point in the second amendment and to them the answer to mass shootings is very simple. Outlaw all guns so privileged little white children will never have to die at the hands of a crazed killer. Olenick’s comment about confiscating people’s “trucks” betray his real feelings toward gun owners, but miss the reality that the Lanza’s weren’t poor rednecks but highly educated, highly compensated New Englanders. Peter Lanza was a tax director and vice president of taxes for GE Energy Financial Services. Nancy Lanza received $289,000 a year in alimony from her exhusband and probably would have still owned one of Olenick’s very expensive hyper-taxed guns even if they were $10,000 a piece as he proposed.

    Mr. Olenick’s emotional rant reminded me of when Tom Seleck visited the Rosie O’donald show to promote a movie of his shortly after the Columbine shooting and O’Donnell ambushed the unwitting actor for his NRA membership. O’Donnell attempted to scapegoat the NRA and Selleck for the Columbine tragedy and turn his entire appearance into an opportunity to grandstand in favor of strict gun control. I thought it ironic that in the segment just prior to Mr. Selleck’s appearance O’Donnell was promoting a bunch of Star Wars toy figurines clutching guns which still happened to be on her desk during her anti-gun demagoguery. Even more ironic or hypocritical one might say, it was revealed a short time later that despite O’Donnell’s strong conviction that other Americans should be denied the right to protect themselves with arms, O’Donnell’s own children were escorted to school by ARMED bodyguards. So a poor single mom working two menial jobs living in a trailer park with a psychotic, stalker ex-boyfriend or ex-husband that wants to kill her and her kids isn’t allowed to have a gun to defend herself and her family but rich people like O’Donnell are allowed to pay other people to protect them with evil nasty guns. Not really fair in my opinion.

    The poster Beppo summed up my opinion when he/she said ” I don’t believe in most gun control proposals, since in America it’s historically been a way of disarming poor minorities. The pauperization of the United States is marching along, and I don’t see why we should give up rights while being stripped of everything else. Shock doctrine south american juntas and post soviet Russia come to mind of concussive events leading to a slippery slope of lost rights.

    The best thing to do would be to eliminate the drug war, rebuild the social safety net, and make schools and workplaces humane again. Then you’d see violent deaths drop by 80% or more.”

    For the record I do not own a gun personally but I do respect others who feel the need and want to preserve their right to do so. I consider myself to be well left of Democratic party, but I certainly can’t roll my eyes at people who see guns as a check on a tyrannical government when we live in an age of paramilitary drug raids on the wrong houses, banks that are above the law and Presidents with drone strike kill lists which include American citizens. I’m not saying our gun laws don’t need to be revamped and I’m not making an argument for more guns, I’m simply saying that I would hope a blog like this which chronicles daily the erosion of our civil liberties and the corruption/lawlessness of our government does not attempt to exclude the viewpoints of thoughtful Americans which may not be in favor of scraping the 2nd amendment altogether. Let’s try to stay rational and keep strong emotions at arm’s length when dealing with wedge issues like gun control.

    1. jim

      Excellent Post. We also need consider a bit of scientific research first into the increased violence in society instead of a kneejerk reaction.

  71. Jeff N

    I am as liberal as they come, but I confess, the past two years I have gotten into the hobby of target shooting (never hunting), and have bought four different rifles and one pistol. I am good at it, and my accomplishments have been a (much needed) source of pride in my life.
    That said, I am fine with all of these ideas, but could they maybe “go easier” on less-deadly weapons? bolt-action rifles vs. semi-automatic, rifles that are more than 40 years old, revolver pistol vs. semi-automatic, small .22LR bullets vs. everything else…

  72. Ché Pasa

    Levels of gun-mayhem in this country are only matched elsewhere under conditions of civil warfare. That’s basically what’s been going on in this country for many years, a civil war between ideological and economic factions as well as a civil war between Authority and various designated Out Groups.

    It’s usually at a low enough level and confined to unpopular groups or communities that most Americans feel relatively safe or immune from harm — until something like Newtown happens. Then the fear level reaches a crescendo, always leading to more surveillance and more “security”.

    Taxing private weapons and ammunition and/or requiring high levels of insurance for private firearms and arsenals is great but it doesn’t begin to address the civil warrior mentality that fuels the belief in the necessity of private war-making weapons and their periodic use to slaughter the innocent — or those who just happen to be in the way.

    We can start by putting a stop to the war-rhetoric that we’ve been drowning in for pretty much the whole history of the United States.

  73. ian

    Why not hold gun owners responsible for any crimes committed with their guns? Give people an incentive to properly secure them.

    Why not real background checks, including information on people living with the applicant, forfeiting right to privacy on mental health issues, interviews with local law enforcement, and no exceptions for sales at gun shows?

  74. Michael

    Gping with the tax on gun owners…Who pays the tax for law enforcement and private security? Most law enforcement officers have privately owned weapons.

  75. jonnnn

    It never ceases to amaze the profound ignorance of the urbanite. Gun pourchasers already excise tax themselves at 11% to pay for wildlife conservation, and recently, a miniscule amount goes to shooting ranges. This excise tax is, oh, over 70 years old.

    Yet, Olenick’s proposal has merit in taxing the bejesus on the types and classes of weapons, ammunition, and accessories that propotionally contribute to firearms assited robberies, woundings, homicide, and suicide. The gun control movement MUST thread the difference between family-oriented, wildlife conservation hunting (like reducing over-populated deer to reduce car-deer accidents, etc.) and weapon zealots. If they don’t they likely may continue losing.

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