What to Do

In discussions about gun violence on news sites and gun control blogs, I’m often asked what my solution to the problem is.

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The incident at Newtown, Connecticut brings particular poignancy to this question.

First, let’s put this problem into perspective. The current U.S. population is somewhat over 318,000,000, according to the Census. Adding in non-resident visitors and uncounted aliens and rounding for ease of calculation, I’m calling it 320,000,000. Of that number, roughly 30,000 die per annum from gunshot, of which deaths two-thirds are suicides. That works out to 4.7 / 100,000, a rate that we hadn’t seen since the early 1960s.

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The chart here shows data from 1976 on.

This means that your chances of dying by gunfire in America in raw numbers are one in about 10,600. If you don’t shoot yourself, your chances improve to one in 32,000. The numbers vary from city to city, but in our centers of population, murder victims tend in large percentages to be people with criminal records themselves, so if you’re not a criminal, your odds get even better.

But certainly, 30,000 is too many. The answer to this problem in the eyes of some is gun control, but as regular readers know, that is something that I regard as a violation of the rights of good people. Is there another answer?

Submitted for your consideration are my suggestions for reducing violence of all types, including firearms violence, in this country:

1. End the War on Drugs.

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We’ve had a number of efforts at prohibition of substances, going all the way back to attempts at drying up the nation in the nineteenth century, but our current efforts at banning classes of entertaining drugs other than tobacco and alcohol got going for serious in the 1970s. In the forty years since, we’ve wasted a trillion dollars, and half of all federal prisoners are in for drug crimes.

As we saw in the 1920s during the Prohibition of alcohol, we are seeing again: Banning a substance only encourages criminal smuggling, gang warfare, collateral damage, and the ruining of lives of many who merely possess the forbidden fruit. Addiction should be treated as an illness, not a crime, and all recreational substances should be regulated in the manner that our two legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, are. All who were convicted for mere possession should be immediately released and pardoned to remove the stigma of a criminal record.

2. Incarcerate violent offenders for longer terms.

Alcatraz_Island_at_Sunset

Once drugs cease to be a criminal matter, we will solve the problem of overcrowded prisons. This will create room for violent offenders. Criminals who use a firearm in the commission of a crime can have extra time added to their sentences.

3. Improve schools.

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As a teacher, I’ve gone on at length here about education reform. To sum up, we need to spend more money to pay teachers what they’re worth, to reduce class sizes, to repair and upgrade facilities, and to offer a wider selection of classes. The goal here is to provide all students with a chance to succeed. It seems obvious, but the more educated a population is, the less crime that population commits.

4. Improve access to mental health services–with the caveat that privacy must be protected.

Sigmund_Freud_LIFE

In these incidents of mass shootings, some shooters are seeking revenge against those whom they perceive as having wronged them, but the typical case is a young, white, male, loner with mental health problems. Unfortunately, such individuals don’t often see themselves as needing treatment. I suspect that part of their reluctance involves a fear of being reported, so making privacy a guarantee is important. Of course, young men who head down the road to becoming a mass shooter reach a point of no return. That leads me to the next two points.

5. Stop making these shooters stars.

Temple_of_Artemis

As author and space scientist, David Brin, argues, we should treat these mass shooters in the same manner as the Ephesians wished to treat the arsonist who burned down the Temple of Artemis. His name was to be erased and never recalled again. This, of course, will require the voluntary cooperation of news organizations, since we cannot do right by violating rights. But as long as America has a love affair with wacko killers, those nutcases will have motivation.

6. Address bullying.

Bullying_on_Instituto_Regional_Federico_Errázuriz_(IRFE)_in_March_5,_2007

Here in America, the intellectual loner is not a popular type. But a core value of our nation is that we all should be free to express our own individuality. That is one of the key messages that should be taught until the concept is absorbed. We can be ourselves without demeaning others. At the least, it should be clear that attacking others will not be tolerated.

But there’s more. We’ve created a culture in schools where someone who acts in self-defense is treated the same way as the person who started the fight. One solution to this is to teach martial arts–Krav Maga, for example, since it’s free of the religious overtones of Eastern systems–and make it clear that human beings, even students, have the right to stop physical violence used against them.

These are my answers to the problem, realistically assessed, of violence in our society. We will not eliminate all of it. Violence is in human nature, and Americans are more violent as a culture than other societies, but we can go a long way along reducing it. And we can do so without violating our rights.

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15 thoughts on “What to Do

  1. Pingback: What to Do | That Mr. G Guy's Blog

  2. Prof. Godel Fishbreath

    There is nothing in your proposals that I would not whole-heartedly support. And I suspect that the entire Left would agree.
    But some of them would expand government, or government expenditures, and might raise taxes. Would everyone here be still on your side on that?

    Anything that stops massacres of civilians and of kids would get my vote. *Anything*. After that, you can keep your guns. Statistics show you are only hurting yourselves, (family murder and suicide) and if they are wrong, all the more power to you.

    I want to applaud, to congratulate the people that were in the audience when that AZ senator lady was shot. They showed restraint, I think, because the second shooter was not shot. It was not a chain of shooters, each one shooting a person shooting a person. I know this is a low bar, but it is nice when a good rational thing is done under trying circumstances.

    Reply
  3. Prof. Godel Fishbreath

    Oh, and thanks for replying to my prior post of ‘the gun positive people do not offer solutions.’ This post is a very comprehensive solution, a total reply, a way to shoot down that objection.

    Reply
  4. gilmiller

    My only problem with legalizing drugs is: what would I write my novels about then? Lol. Very good and sensible post. I’d just have to expand my horizons, I guess.

    Reply
    1. Greg Camp Post author

      I know you can come up with something to write about. Besides, if my idea makes sense, there’s no way for it to win in Washington.

      Reply
  5. Prof. Godel Fishbreath

    Well since your ideas make sense to me, and I believe to the left, maybe it is the right that is stopping them?
    Or is it that fear makes cowards of politicians? Fear that if they drop the near worthless security measures for airports and something happens they will get blamed? Fear that if they legalize MJ etc that they would be called soft on drugs? and other such.

    I am disappointed that O never bothered to legalize MJ. By legalize I mean move it from a category of high risk drugs to one more on the level of alcohol, not to a free pass. Dude is acting so right wing at times.

    Reply
    1. Greg Camp Post author

      The central and often only goal of a politician is getting re-elected. It’s the job of voters to keep them honest.

      Reply
  6. solodm

    I found this piece to sensible and well thought out. I very much agree with your points, and have no reason to doubt of your sincerity.

    You did not address however, the song we hear some sing about ( in essence ) a gun being the answer to all crime – “good guy with gun takes down bad guy with gun, etc.) I have always found that theory off putting, because everyone is a good guy, until they aren’t.
    A few specific issues, that I would like you to address are:
    1) Approximately 22 Veterans take their lives with their own service weapons a day. These are “good guys”, and while you address the mental health aspect somewhat, it is not that easy for veterans to always come forward with underfunded VAs.

    2) It is statistical fact, and previous studies have found that three-quarters of women who are killed with a gun die in their home, and that women typically know their assailant. Nine of the 14 studies were published in 1997 or later. That is after Congress passed a law prohibiting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from spending federal funds on research that could be interpreted as promoting or advocating for gun control measures.
    Please read this: http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2012.pdf

    3) One other, I believe extremely important point, that not many seem to touch on, is that while people do have the Constitutional right to own guns, they are not mandated to learn about them, before taking them into their homes – on to open carry – at least in many states.
    Do you have an opinion on the premise that one regulation that could be considered, would be a mandated basic safety course ( at a very minimal fee) that earned a certificate of passing in order to purchase a gun?
    Thanks for your consideration.

    Reply
    1. Greg Camp Post author

      1. In a free society, we’re all “good people” until we do wrong, and we can’t punish people in advance.

      2. Suicide is an individual right. I support better access to mental health services, as I said in the article, but each person must be free to decide for himself or herself.

      3. The Violence Policy Center is a virulently anti-rights group. I prefer reliable sources. You’re free to fund any studies you wish. I object to federal money being spent to push an anti-rights agenda. Regarding domestic abusers, I support long sentences for those who commit that crime.

      4. I object to tests for exercising a right. I would no more support what you named than a literacy test for voting.

      Reply
  7. Scott Belford

    Yes. a very well written blog and, just like the rest who commented, all of the points for solutions are good. However, just like you shouldn’t judge a son by the acts of his father, you can’t (well you can, but its not right) judge the statistics by the acts of those using them. The statistics are valid or not valid on their own merit; for all you know, the stats could have come from a virulently pro-gun group.

    For another thought, start with the following from New England Journal of Medicine:

    1. As a rule, states with Highest Rates of Gun Ownership are states with least restrictive gun regulation – go figure
    2. As a rule, states with Lowest Rates of Gun Ownership are states with strongest gun regulation – go figure
    3. In states with high rates, 47% of homes have guns
    4. In states with low rates, 15% of homes have guns
    5. Between 2001 – 2005, states with high rates had 16,577 firearm suicides
    6. Between 2001 – 2005, states with low rates had 4,257 firearm suicides!
    7. Between 2001 – 2005, both high and low rate states have around 9,000 other suicides each.

    The implications are obvious but I will state them anyway, states with better gun regulations have much lower rates of firearm suicides so why the opposition with better regulations. It is also obvious to me, those who oppose sensible gun regulations, such as the states with the lowest ownership rates have, have little regard for human life given their (your) fanatical and unreasonable opposition to any regulation on ownership which obviously results in massive death.

    If you did have such regard, you would be working with those who understand the problem to craft better regulations for those states with large rates of firearm suicides.

    Reply
    1. Greg Camp Post author

      I see suicide as a fundamental right. I have no objection to funding mental health services, but I don’t regard suicide rates as a reason for violating the rights of millions of adults.

      Reply

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