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  #11  
Old 11-10-2009, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by pmccumber View Post
In one pragmatic breath I can say that it is foolish to think we could remove guns from the criminals but in the next pragmatic breath is also extremely naive to believe that the near daily mass killings aren't a horrific cost we're paying.
This is the rhetorical trap we get into on the matter, the root of violent crime. We can make the observation that we have amongst the highest crime rates and highest gun ownership in the world. But what is the causal relationship? In other words, what creates the response by a nut shooting people like this and would the chance of violent crime be lower if criminals where acknowledged to be the only ones with guns? Would murder rates be lower by increasing laws? The state of places like Washington D.C., Chicago, etc. don't seem to follow that argument.

Maybe this is a symptom of other externalities that make the high crime/high gun ownership relationship not in fact as clearly linked without our fairly unique societal reasons. For example at Ft. Hood I would argue that this is a microcosm of a larger environment where social control and removal of liberty makes people lash out. Military installations (domestically anyway) are somewhat paradoxically one of the least free places for Americans as weapons are very controlled and personal firearms are strictly prohibited, etc. But yet what happened happened. This guy had no regard for laws and found a way around several levels of control, arguably models for gun control that leftist politicians would like to see for everyone. Service and personal weapons are locked up and checked with the armorer unless you are working military police. Civilian concealed carry permits aren't recognized.

What I'm driving at is maybe this is one observable outcome of the mountain of growing restriction in our daily lives. This is something libertarians try to argue, that free people who are held responsible for their actions trend towards more civil society (what I would suggest is the uniquely American part of the equation, don't tread on me, live free or die, etc.). If there are no repercussions for actions, then there's no reason to live morally and our human failings (like greed) become more dominant. Too often government influence cannot be (or is not) measured, but maybe in general people's attitudes can be an attributable reaction to laws?

There was no less widespread ownership of guns through the 18th and 19th centuries (and maybe more per capita being less urban and firearms being important tools for many things). But homicide rates didn't start climbing until about 1910, which seems to coincide with laws such as the Sullivan Act (passed in New York in 1911, which wasn't limited to just gun control), for example. Then look at the trends, during the Depression and after the Great Society homicide rates increase despite continually growing laws on gun control but during socially turbulent times.



Contrast that to historical homicide rates (these being from Europe, colonial and early American data are harder to find but argued to be similar in relative rate and trend).



That was taken from a paper discussing violence in America, which includes a couple of interesting tables that I paraphrase. The gist of the paper seems to conclude that as an effect of higher personal liberty, responsibility and privacy, you can reasonably expect more crime is going to happen. It's the rough and tumble attitude of the new world, the frontier. With more freedom comes more chance to fail or have unforeseen things happen. But does show that a reduction in overall gun ownership has resulted in an increase in crime here in America.

Table 1
NYC murder rate:
5 (pre-1850)
10 (1850-2000)

European murder rate:
2.7 (pre-1850)
2.1 (1850-2000)

Table 2
US Households with any gun:
60% (pre-1850)
39% (1850-2000)

US Households with short guns:
1% (pre-1850)
10% (1850-2000)

US Murders by short gun:
10% (pre-1850)
46% (1850-2000)
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  #12  
Old 11-10-2009, 06:30 PM
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Personally, I think much of the violence is due to population density. If the worldwide population continues to escalate, what will life be like in 100 years?

I also think that laws and rules are necessary evils. Our company is kind of a microcosm of society. In the 2+ years I've worked here, I've seen some of the start-up nature get undermined by corporate policy when troubles arise. For example, we used to have a pretty open policy concerning having beer around the office. When we had one complaint, however, the corporate officers had to make a policy that quashed all the fun in the name of being consistent. What ends up happening is that everyone remembers the early years as great times because of the wild frontier nature. But it's just not sustainable as the company size (population) grows.

I think the same thing is true of society. Whenever I hear things like "This is something libertarians try to argue, that free people who are held responsible for their actions trend towards more civil society" I always think that it's wishful thinking for frontier days. I lived in the City of Chicago for 10 years (not the suburbs), and I don't see how eliminating laws and government in favor of "holding people responsible for their actions" would be workable in the least. It would be chaos.

And isn't the establishment of laws and courts simply a consistent, fair structure for holding people responsible for their actions?
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  #13  
Old 11-10-2009, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Hulk View Post
Personally, I think much of the violence is due to population density. If the worldwide population continues to escalate, what will life be like in 100 years?
Not sure the evidence support this assumption. In the period 1400-1850 Europe had higher population density than America ever did and their crime rates were lower even then. Since 1850 their rate has continued to decline while population still grows. I am suggesting that the old world's sociology and mentality has more to do with crime than simple statistics on inanimate objects.
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I also think that laws and rules are necessary evils.
Don't disagree that anarchy as envisioned by Jefferson would work in modern world. Even as soon as Jackson's era it was pretty clear the move from a purely agrarian society to a market and mercantile economy was going to make things different. But I don't agree that it means we ignore the principles of the individual they worked to protect.
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I think the same thing is true of society. Whenever I hear things like "This is something libertarians try to argue, that free people who are held responsible for their actions trend towards more civil society" I always think that it's wishful thinking for frontier days. I lived in the City of Chicago for 10 years (not the suburbs), and I don't see how eliminating laws and government in favor of "holding people responsible for their actions" would be workable in the least. It would be chaos.
The problem socially is that laws and rules replace common sense here. People are not moral because they feel the need to be moral, they follow rules and the absence of a rule for every outcome now results in the chaos when things don't fit the mold. There is no sense of right and wrong.
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And isn't the establishment of laws and courts simply a consistent, fair structure for holding people responsible for their actions?
Yes, this system of laws and judicial oversight is supposed to provide that structure. But laws are not fair anymore, they are done with socially directed outcomes. The argument on licensing contractors for example. How is this uniform? Some people are better off with the law, some people are worse off. This is the subversion of our system that happened in the middle 19th century, that laws are no longer specific and non-arbitrary protections of natural rights and nothing more. Laws are passed preventing unpleasant things or individual inconveniences.
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Old 11-10-2009, 08:59 PM
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Why would you even need a gun in Vail? Paperweight to hold down all of your benjamins?
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Old 11-10-2009, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveInDenver View Post
What I'm driving at is maybe this is one observable outcome of the mountain of growing restriction in our daily lives.
How would that explain the fact that European homicide rates per 100,000 are less than half what U.S. rates are? Assuming of course that Europeans are more restricted than Americans, which is an argument I would debate.

There are some new books out that attempt to explain why the U.S. has over double the homicide rate of any affluent democracy. There are some interesting conclusions, many of which tend to our politics.

Some of this goes to the trading of a "culture of honor" for a "culture of dignity". The Europeans are way ahead of us in this area, having frankly had more time at it than we have.

The biggest restriction I have in my life is having to work 15+ hours a day because I can't afford to lose healthcare and I have to save for college for four kids. Something most of our European friends don't have to do on either account. Government doesn't even come close to restricting me the way "productivity" does.

Which is why when we finally break free for a trip to Moab we hear all those European accents out traveling the world. Amazing how all these restricted people get out about the place with big smiles on their faces, isn't it ?
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Old 11-11-2009, 06:43 AM
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How would that explain the fact that European homicide rates per 100,000 are less than half what U.S. rates are? Assuming of course that Europeans are more restricted than Americans, which is an argument I would debate.
I would agree that we're not the most free society in the world anymore.
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There are some new books out that attempt to explain why the U.S. has over double the homicide rate of any affluent democracy. There are some interesting conclusions, many of which tend to our politics.
I've been working through (in that they are somewhere in my pile of books) a few, if you're interested.

Homicide: A Sociological Explanation by Leonard Beeghley
Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control by Gary Kleck and Don Kates
More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott

These books are not all one sided coming from my viewpoint (Beeghley most definitely does not agree with Kleck and Kates). Beeghley is a sociologist from Univ of Florida and Kleck a criminologist from Florida State, so I'm also guessing there's some professional rivalry.

But none-the-less, politics and American spirit are not secondary to the question. IOW, that we have within our fabric the social important of individual rights makes comparison to Europe and Asia not complete. Things that do or don't work, particularly in Europe, don't fit here necessarily because we are not the same people socially, geographically, politically.

What irritates me about Beeghley and most sociologist's approach to the question is that they say particular groups or people are 'vulnerable' to gun violence (say inner city African Americans in housing projects is a common social group with higher than average homicide rates). It's as though people do not have a choice not to do something. These are people pulling the trigger or stabbing someone, not robots. They made an irrational decision for some reason, but it needs to be recognized that it was a choice and there are consequences for that.

BTW, did you read that paper by Eric Monkkonen that I linked to in an earlier post? His claim is that America has had significantly higher rates of crime since the 17th century colonization. His conclusions sum up the problem well I think in a short paper.
Quote:
Some of this goes to the trading of a "culture of honor" for a "culture of dignity". The Europeans are way ahead of us in this area, having frankly had more time at it than we have.
What do you mean by this?
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Old 11-11-2009, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveInDenver View Post
...They made an irrational decision for some reason, but it needs to be recognized that it was a choice and there are consequences for that...
In this case at least the decision was certainly irrational, and the freedom of rational choice was constrained to a greater or lesser extent by mental illness (or in the vernacular... "flat nuts").

Which is why it would be very difficult if not impossible for the man to purchase a gun in the first place. Legally, that is. Laws are important to draw general lines of accountability in society. But laws cannot solve root problems and we get in trouble with impinging on freedom for the law abiding center-of-the-bell-curve folks when we try to elevate laws to that position, in quest of "doing something" about the outliers.
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Old 11-11-2009, 10:55 AM
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Seems there are a few obvious bits of info that none of you have addressed:

The US has the largest and most affluent consumer economy in the world, we also have the largest "middle class" of any country. Although there are huge gaps between the upper incomes and lower middle class incomes, generally speaking, the majority of our population is better off financially than most places in the world.

Two things come from this: We are the biggest market place for illicit drugs in the world. The drug culture has contrbuted significantly to the crime rate (including homicide) whether it is a junky that shoots the store owner in an attempt to steal to feed his habit, gang members fighting over distribution turf, or cartel members shooting each other over a deal gone bad. If you removed all direct drug related murders and the next layer or two of ripple effect related crimes you would see our numbers be much closer to the rest of the world.

Europe and lots of other places in the world have a much more relaxed attitude towards drugs. Its basically anything goes in Amsterdam in designated areas, lots of drugs are decriminalized elsewhere.

The other impact of the American way of life is the focus on productivity and generating income. In Germany and France it is almost unheard of to work more than an 8 hour day yet their per capita incomes and medical benefits are close to ours. They have a lot more paid vacation than the average American does. Thats why in Germany the average income tax rate for my employees was 68%. So don't kid yourself, they aren't getting "free" health care.

Is there a need to work 15 hours a day? Do both parents need to work full-time jobs and put the kids in day care or make them latch key kids? Is it really neccessary to make these sacrifices just to give your kids a full ticket ride through college? These are all personal choices that we each have to make and there is no right or wrong answer. But I think we over look the potential negative impact this can have on the social fabric of our families and therefore our society.

When I first moved to Turkey one of the most striking comments made to me by a Turk who had never met an american before in person was: Why do you americans hate your children? I was shocked and asked her why she thought that was the case. She said we spend all of our time working instead of spending time with our kids and then we force our children to leave home at a young age. I explained to her we value productivity and we see children leaving home after high school or college as a sign of success and independence. The Turks typically have 3 generations all living under the same roof.

Just some things to think about.
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Old 11-11-2009, 11:45 AM
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Very well said, with experience to back it up... thanks Randy.

And drugs are another example of why making something illegal does not necessarily address the real issue. From my perspective... that would include 'assault' weapons and other similar gun control. The only people a ban affects are the law abiding; the pushers still have them. Useless. And proven so by the statistics.
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Old 11-11-2009, 01:17 PM
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So am I reading this right, did you guys just argue to "legalize it?"
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