The state where this past weekend’s mass murder occurred is considered to have the fifth strongest gun laws in the nation.


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The state where this past weekend’s mass murder occurred is considered to have the fifth strongest gun laws in the nation.

They say they want an “assault weapons ban” yet Connecticut already has one (and good luck getting them to define “assault weapon”). They say they want “waiting periods” yet Connecticut already has those, too. They say they want to ban high-capacity magazines, even though the low-capacity ones take only seconds to change. Background checks? We already have those nationwide.

How effective is gun control? Not very effective it appears. Which of course means we must impose these laws on everyone. Now! Immediately! Just because! Regardless of whether it makes sense!

And then there’s this: “It’s a nasty combination of supreme self-righteousness and reflexive demonization.”

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

25 comments

  • I’ve been beating back stupid arguments of people on Facebook, one person argued with me that the 2nd Amendment guarantees access to muskets only, no modern firearms. This same person carpet bombed me with questions like, ‘How about access to grenade launchers, or an IED mounted on on a remote controlled quad copter?’

    The willful ignorance of the history behind the 2nd Amendment Right to bear arms is astonishing. The fact that the 2nd Amendment appears in the Bill of Rights only second to our right to practice religion freely, or to petition the government, or to speak freely, shows it was high up on the list of founding fathers’ thoughts on what rights were important.

    What we are engaged in now, is simply a fight to preserve our right to self defense and defense of our families, when the government doesn’t have a police officer to protect us. Aside from freedom of speech and practice of religion, and the right to petition the government, there is no other more important God-given right. Without this right, we are at the mercy of criminals and others, including our government.

    The sad thing is, the real problems are not being addressed like: 1. the number of mentally ill people committing these crimes, 2. the potential influence of violent movies and video games on our youth, 3. the potential influence or role of pharmaceuticals in these cases, and 4. what locations in our country assigned as gun-free zones are actually vulnerable targets, which need armed police and or security.

  • Craig Beasley

    You are right that we have the right to personal self defense, but the home defense aspect of the 2nd Amendment is only a subset of the overall right of an American citizen to defend themselves and to organize against threats via force of arms. The sentiment contemporary to the time that the 2A was written was a defense against a tyrannical government. The 2A was and is a warning to any future government that the citizens would be able to mount a competent defense against any such tyranny, if all other methods of redress had been exhausted.

  • Jim

    So what’s to be done? Given the number of recent events like this, and the absolute horror of Newtown, what if anything is to be done?

  • The first thing we should do is revisit our methods for treating the mentally ill. Since the 1960s we have made believe that some of these very ill individuals could somehow be re-introduced into society. Sadly, in too many cases, that hasn’t worked, and has resulted in at least two mass murders (Tucson and Connecticut) that could have been avoided. It has also condemned a large number of the mentally ill to wander the streets as the homeless, something you can see routinely in New York as well as in most other major cities. This isn’t a humane way to treat the mentally ill. Better they were held in hospitals, as was done in the past.

    Second, loosening the gun laws in restrictive states like Connecticut would probably be helpful. As the posted article noted, except for the Tucson attack in 2011, “every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.” Moreover, the facts in this case are undeniable: The more restrictive the gun laws, the more violent gun crime you get. In every case where the gun laws have been made less restrictive and freedom was allowed to operate the crime rate has dropped.

    The one thing we mustn’t do is to pass any laws in a moment of panic and emotional distress. Laws are serious things, and they require serious thought, something that we as a nation seem to increasingly not understand.

  • Jim:

    Let’s take my 4 points in order:

    1. More mental illness funding and treatment, not just turn them out into the streets. This probably would mean more institutionalization. Deny access to firearms for the mentally ill. Require possessors of firearms who have mentally ill in their household to have a secure gun safe.

    2. Restrict the viewing of violent movies and video games on our youth. Legislation and taxation, perhaps to fund mental illness programs.

    3. Require the FDA to study the link between pharmaceuticals and homicides, if any.

    4. Do away with gun free zones, increase the carrying of firearms at schools, increase the involvement of police in our schools, educate our children about how Hollywood glorifies violence, in the classrooms.

    Empower citizens to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.

  • Jim

    I’ll tell you my feelings to get it out of the way: I don’t give anyone a pass on this. I think many things should be part of the solution. The gratuitously violent movies from Hollywood are a problem, the honoring of violence in lyrics today, state of mental health, and (to me) lack of proper gun control on assault weapons.

    But here is where I think it gets dicey. For arguments sake, I could say to you that making guns more restricted is something society can do with relatively little cost. Its enforcement, which already exists. And yes, you can say the same from your vantage point that we should loosen those laws- in fact, your approach might even be cheaper. We would disagree, but so be it.

    But I keep hearing from gun advocates the mental health and cultural issues. I would like to know how you address the cultural issues without infringing on the 1st Amendment, and even more importantly, what exactly does it mean to address the mental health issue? And given the current environment of spending in Washington, who is going to pay for it? Gun advocates always say that you can’t prove more gun restrictions will have any effect. It seems to me that the same can be said about addressing mental health or cultural issues.

  • Jim

    Rene-
    I had just responded to Robert above, but I will ask you the same, or at least suggest the problem. What exactly does addressing mental health mean, how much will that cost, and who is going to pay for it? Everyone is already looking to slash spending. And I am with you on gratuitous violence from Hollywood, but that also infringes on constitutional rights. I recently went to the movies and the coming attraction was “Killing Them Softly,” and I wondered, does Brad Pitt not have enough money in his account to maybe pass on a movie like this? I don’t know what the underlying movie message was (I did not see it), but I do now how it was chosen to be marketed.

  • Jim:

    I respect and applaud your concern for the 1st Amendment! Our liberties are precious things given to us by God, not men or governments.

    As far as I know, taxing violent movies and video games is not a violation of the First Amendment, although it has been a few years since I took Constitutional Law in graduate school. If it is, I believe an argument could be made in the Supreme Court that it is in the community standards interest to tax these things. Some of the movies and video games are grossing hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Freedom of speech is not without its limits. I know this from my academic studies of case law in graduate school.

    Addressing mental health means incarcerating people and treating them. Let’s face the fact that some mental illness cannot be cured. We cannot let these people wander the streets and stay in our homes – a danger to the helpless in our communities — and to themselves. Where to get the funding? Well taxation of drugs, liquor, tobacco, firearms, and violent media are some suggestions. I’m sure there is an opportunity to make billions in those consumer areas.

    Quentin Tarantino, Sean Penn, and Brad Pitt are some of the worst progressive liberal offenders from Hollywood. Also George Clooney. We need to call on Hollywood to stop the glorification of violence. The video game makers also should be more restricted on who gets access to their violent games. The problem must also be handled in each household, each set of parents, guiding their children.

    We’re going to have to lock some people up. And we’re going to have to lock our weapons up. I’ll start by locking my handgun receiver when I get home this evening.

  • The one thing I did not mention in my previous response, which applies to all suggested solutions, is that they must be done at the state level. This is not a problem of the federal government. Connecticut should address its own gun laws. It should review how it treats its mentally ill. It should decide whether gun-free zones make sense (they do not).

    Meanwhile, I disagree strongly with Rene. The cultural issues cannot be legislated. We must persuade. Stop buying the movies. Don’t let your kids see them. Protest, boycott, demand better from Hollywood. But don’t ask the government to play big daddy and save you from yourself.

  • Mr. Zimmerman: I had not called for a Federal tax on violent video games and movies, but do endorse a tax on a community or state level to fund mental health programs.

    I suggest, however, as Jim points out, that there is a Federal issue implicit in free speech rights of the video game and movie makers. A community standard would probably be challenged in a Federal court.

    My preference is to handle these matters locally. I prefer to call these moral issues, not cultural issues. There is no doubt in my mind these violent movies and video games are influencing American youth – aka the Batman killer.

    If we disagree, well I respect your opinion, but disagree that we cannot take the makers of video games and movies to task on this issue and drive accountability in our communities. Where better to place mental health funding – squarely on the backs of those promoting insanity and violence in our culture, and lowering our standards.

    Call this persuasion of the makers and consumers, on a state level, with funding.

  • Jim

    Yes, whereas we say parents should take personal responsibility, I just wish some in Hollywood would do the same…of their own volition. I used “Killing Them Softly” as an example…that movie will be made no matter what. I just wish actors of the stature of Brad Pitt (and studios as well) might on their own elect not to market product that is so gratuitous in the violent images they portray. Trust me, I know what a slippery slope this is. Not easy. I guess I am saying large Hollywood figures on their own might be just a bit more judicious in what they sell to the marketplace. Wishful thinking I know, but what else is there.

    And let’s call out hypocrisy…being such a humanist as Brad Pitt is, I don’t think we would be wrong in calling him out on this.

  • There is a reason I left the movie business after twenty years. I realized what a sick industry it had become, and didn’t want any part of it.

  • I just looked up the Dark Knight Rises on the IMDB, it has a PG-13 rating. I find this a bit surprising. I gave the movie 10 out of 10 on IMDB for it’s brilliance and plot.

    The violence in the movie, in some places, is extreme. Note in the following news article, one victim was 6 years old. What was a 6 year old doing in a movie that is rated PG-13?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181160/James-Holmes-Batman-killer-charged-24-counts-murder-116-counts-attempted-murder.html

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4444517/Mum-of-the-youngest-victim-of-Batman-cinema-killer-James-Holmes-is-pregnant.html

    I think the PG-13 rating was probably too generous given the level and frequency of violence in the movie, throughout. But that’s just my opinion.

    Hollywood makes some brilliant movies and some real garbage. I’m not suggesting a Federal regulator of movies, but am suggesting were not only in a cultural war with the progressives in Hollywood, but we’re also in a moral war with hypocrites. Multinational conglomerates control the news media and the movie makers.

    Peace to you Robert and Jim.

  • wodun

    Blaming video games and movies is just as wrong as blaming guns.

    Is there any evidence that any mass shootings have been because someone played video games, watched movies, or even read a book?

    And extra taxes on video games and movies to try and prevent violence is stupid.

    I can understand if people don’t choose to play a video game with violence in it but that doesn’t mean they know anything about how violence is used in video games. And it certainly doesn’t mean they can say video games lead people to snap and go on shooting sprees. Same with movies and books.

    The underlying issue with 99% of these incidents is severe mental illness and you cant legislate that away and you cant stop crazy from being crazy.

    I want people to keep their hands off my guns, books, video games, movies, religion, and music. For now this is still America.

  • Well thanks for calling me stupid. Since we’ve dispensed with civility, I won’t bother responding to your criticism.

  • Rene,

    You know I demand a high level of civility on Behind the Black. In this case, however, don’t take what wodun wrote as an attack on you. He was criticizing your position, not you. He could have argued his case better, but he wasn’t making a personal attack. If I thought that is what he had done, I’d call him on it, even if I agreed with him.

    I’d like to hear your response.

  • Well Robert, thank you for wanting to hear my ‘stupid’ position. I’ll try to keep this concise.

    I am suggesting a strategic view toward solving this problem of gun violence. One part of the strategy is to look at movies and video games. The violent video games and violent movies do in fact influence young minds. There’s no denying this. Popular radio host Michael Savage agrees with me on this issue. Common sense says don’t expose children to extreme violence and desensitize them. We all know how malleable young minds are to music, fashion trends, and so on. My own mother prevented me from playing with toy guns and watching gory horror flicks until about 14 years old, and I’m glad she did.

    Take a look at the Batman killer. The guy thought he was the Joker. The Newtown guy I’m reading spent most of his time in a basement playing Call of Duty, with little to no social interaction – so reports currently say.

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4444369/Batman-cinema-killer-James-Holmes-acts-like-The-Joker-in-jail.html

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/exclusive-mind-newtown-killer-article-1.1223612

    As I’ve stated elsewhere here, after coming back from a combat tour in Afghanistan, I reflected on my time there. There have been generations of children in that country who have been regularly exposed to violence and death. These children were then and now making home made bombs to blow me and my buddies up. There’s a great example of how society can shape children’s minds and behavior in sinister ways to do evil. these same children would draw pictures in crayons of airplanes and helicopters fighting soldiers with machine guns.

    There’s enough concern, with leaders in the Congress, who tend to agree with me on this issue:

    http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/273905-video-game-lobby-silent-through-post-shooting-scrutiny-by-lawmakers

    Now, there’s now a bill to potentially direct the National Academy of Sciences to study this. I’m not the only person suggesting there something there.

    When I got back from serving in Afghanistan, I had a neocon friend of mine ask me, ‘Hey man have you played that realistic new release of Call of Duty?’ I had to lecture him (an adult) that the game is nowhere near to the realities of war. This is a desensitized adult I was talking to.

    Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages,”

    Evidently, people agree with my concern, and disagree with wodun. Notice the media attorney at the end of article stating, “I frankly think Congress has better things to do,”.

    Really?

    So what to do? In the absence of meaningful self regulation of the movie and game industry, I suggested we tax these violent games and movies in our communities. If we don’t do that, the Federal government through Congress will eventually take some sort of action. I almost never welcome the Federal government taking action on anything. We could turn that money raised over to the local schools who can educate parents and children about the glorification of violence.

    More importantly, taxes aside, I’m saying many parents in this country let their children play violent games online with adults (some of these children are as young as 8 — I’ve asked them when they play against or with me online) and they bring their children to violent movies. Where are we to get funding for mental health? I suggested a viable possibility and it was attacked as stupid.

    In conclusion, I merely proposed an idea, suggested our society strategically look into what are the causes of all this? True you cannot legislate out crazy (unless your Hitler), but we can take steps to shield young minds from extreme violence. We need to get all of society thinking differently about this issue, the glorification of violence. The desensitization of generations of people. We need to tell our children to go outside and play with others and make social bonds, not lock themselves into hours of video games.

    If you want to keep government out of your pocket book and your purchases, encourage industry and the media to be more responsible on how they market movies and video games because parents are not protecting their children.

    If we cannot agree on a local tax, can we agree on a commission to investigate mental illness, pharmaceuticals, violent games and movies, and improving gun screening and locks?

  • wodun

    “Rene Borbon
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Wodun is a TROLL.”

    I don’t think stupid people read this blog but I do think your taxation idea is stupid for a multitude of reasons.

    I don’t think these attacks on media are based on facts or data but rather emotion.

    This kid played video games? So do 100% of kids his age. Just because he played video games doesn’t mean they caused this or that tens of millions of gamers will be going on rampages. Because if video games could really cause this type of behavior, that is what we would see but they don’t, so we don’t see that in the real world.

    And tarring gamers with this is just like thinking that every gun owner is a heartbeat away from a psychotic rampage, and they aren’t.

    I agree that children shouldn’t watch violent movies and play violent games but not because I think it will turn them into murderers but because they are not emotionally equipped to understand what is going on and it could be a traumatic experience for them. There are already rules in place for this as you mention with the movie ratings but there is a similar structure in place for video games.

    I do think that media can shape perception but proving that it has actually caused any of these mass shootings is a difficult hurdle.

    I have agreements/disagreements with your other points but I’ll just stop before this becomes a novella.

  • Pzatchok

    Pay for the mental health problem out of the Obama Healthcare plan.

    What we need to do is get more people involved. Involved with their community first.
    If you see someone acting crazy look into it. Don’t just walk by assuming someone else will deal with it.
    This guys own mother thought she was dealing with him for years. She took him out of high school for a reason and home schooled him.
    Did any neighbors ask her why? Did the school do follow ups and make sure the kid was getting an education? Can they or the state do that yet?
    This kid obviously had a doctor at some point in his life. When did the doctor stop doing his duty and just forgot about this kid?
    Supposedly he had a run in with the school several days before this. Why did they NOT call the cops on him, and if they did why did the cops not put this loon into some observation facility for a few days?

    This kid was failed by everyone around him for his whole life. I bet almost all of them thought they were doing him a favor by not interfering.
    Will this is what we get. Crazy people running around free, able to do the most horrendous things imaginable because no one felt the need to interfere.

    I can guarantee you this was NOT the first time this kid ‘acted up’ or went violent.
    If he and his mother was my neighbor I would be over there every single time I heard this kid screaming at his mother or ghosts or what ever.
    I don’t care what the mother called me or said. The simple fact that I’m getting involved should tell her that she needs help with this kid. And I would have done all I could to make sure he got that help at the youngest age possible. Mainly because then is when he is the most controllable.

    Waiting until he’s 200 lbs an adult and still violent is not the time to deal with it.

    Sorry but this has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with our mental health system in America.

  • Dale Martin

    Just a point of information; I lived in CT for 30 years, when one heard “Newtown” the first thing that one thought was “Nut House” there is a huge Mental Hospital located there. Just why this disturbed individual was not there is the problem, not what kind of weapon he had..CT like a lot of states, has since the 70’s been reluctant to commit persons who need treatment. I do not know who to blame for this, or if it is even necessary to blame anyone, just that when the states began to open the doors and let these people out of the facilities, we suddenly had a “homeless problem” and various other manifestations stemming from this action. I still have my CT Weapons Permit, and one here in AL as well, simply because of this situation. I would not ever return to CT without a weapon, as the state is in such a sorry condition…Just my opinion, and based on my recent visits, there seems to be a disconnect between the politicians and reality for some reason; the “gun free zones” are just an indication of this to me…I will let some socialogist explain the vast gulf between the rich and poor in that state, as I cannot do it justice here. There are all kinds of problems evident from the murder and crime rate that tell me something is not quite right..

  • wodun

    Do you have any data to back up your claim that video games and movies are causing mass shootings?

    Correlation is not causation.

    Lanza drank water every day, that doesn’t mean water caused him to snap.

    “Take a look at the Batman killer. The guy thought he was the Joker.”

    Even though he shot up a Batman screening, it doesn’t mean that the Batman movies caused him to snap. Relying on tabloid news to determine why something happened is the wrong way to go.

    “There have been generations of children in that country who have been regularly exposed to violence and death.”

    Real violence and death, not video games and movies. Don’t try and equate the culture in Afghanistan with video games and movies in the West. We are not going to become like Afghanistan because of video games and movies.

    “Evidently, people agree with my concern, and disagree with wodun.”

    That doesn’t mean you are right =p Plenty of people agree with me too.

    I disagree with the assertion that these mass shootings are caused by our culture or our media. There isn’t any scientific data to back that up. These incidents involve the severely mentally ill who snap because of what is happening to them in their own life.

    Lanza perhaps because his mom was going to have him committed. The Aurora guy because of the onset of schizophrenia and his academic career falling apart. Not because of Batman and Call of Duty.

    “(some of these children are as young as 8 — I’ve asked them when they play against or with me online)”

    If you do play games, I hope you would be able to take a game theory look at how violence is used in games and how it might affect people. Call of Duty and other FPS are violent but they make it very clear that a person is not immortal. To a normal person the message would be that in real life this type of behavior would lead to imminent death in a short period of time and thus be a type of behavior to avoid.

    I don’t think kids should play violent games or watch violent movies but if their parents let them, then I have no issues with it. Hopefully, the parents are also talking to them about the difference between real life and imaginary violence and giving their kids the emotional tools to deal with both.

    “The desensitization of generations of people.”

    Perhaps the opposite is the way to go. Instead of infantilizing our society and hiding the truth from people we should be exposing our society to the reality of violence. Our media doesn’t show beheading videos or the other forms of execution taking place in the Arab Spring countries and it means that our society does not have a realistic view of what is taking place in the world.

    I would argue that desensitization come from not having any experience and that sensitization comes from experience and having empathy.

    If you were really concerned about the effects of real life gun violence you would not hide it from people. People need to know what it looks like and understand the ramifications of it. Death whether through violence, accidents, or natural causes is a part of life and always will be. Parents aught to be preparing their children for reality.

    Violence in media isn’t always a glorification. Characters experiences the negative consequences of their actions. Violence in media reminds us that we don’t live in a safe world. Getting rid of violence in media wont mean there are no more rapists, mass shooters, criminals, or war.

    Media isn’t the problem. Shakespeare is filled with violence. Why leave literature out of this discussion? Books play with psychology and imagination more than visual media. Are we going to be banning Shakespeare? A special Shakespeare tax? No thanks.

    “If we cannot agree on a local tax, can we agree on a commission to investigate mental illness”

    Yes. Mentally ill people should not have guns but actual mentally ill people, not people who have emotions. Mental fitness tests should not be used to incrementally prevent normal people from owning guns for having normal feelings. We are not robots and if the standard is that we must have the same emotions as robots, no one will be able to own guns.

    “pharmaceuticals”

    Yes, pharmaceuticals can have effects on people’s minds but this can also lead to abuses like medicinal marijuana patients not being allowed to own guns or people on other medication that does not cause psychotic breaks.

    “violent games and movies”

    I already went into this and I think it is a bunch of BS. No censorship, no taxes, no infringement on the first amendment please. I am weary of the assault on civil liberties.

    “and improving gun screening and locks?”

    Lanza did not buy a gun and I see some serious issues for an individual’s entire extended family having to pass a background check. I would much rather there be a PR effort to get people to secure their guns better than heavy handed government regulation.

    But even if Lanza’s guns were locked up in a safe could you say that he couldn’t obtain the key or the combination? The mental snap was coming regardless of the presence of guns. Would this highly intelligent person not have made a bomb, used arson, a knife, or any other of a million ways to kill someone?

    We already have strict gun control laws and before any new ones are passed advocates should have to show how they would prevent the specific incident they are using to justify new laws. And remember that laws only affect people who follow them, who are the type of people who are unlikely to go on mass shootings.

    So out of your suggestions, there are a couple that look worthy but they all carry with them the significant danger of infringing on psychologically normal law abiding citizen’s rights and will do nothing to prevent the mass shooting that caused people to seize the moment as a call to action.

  • Jim

    He may not have been there because in general there is not enough beds available in most places. In 1955 there were 340 beds in public psychiatric hospitals for every 100,000 people in the general population. Today, the number is 17 per 1000,000.
    http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=81&Itemid=247
    And 13 states closed 25% of their psychiatric beds in the last 5 years.
    Connecticut closed 17% of their beds.
    This is the trend nationwide. I heard on person interviewed from Connecticut, and he was explaining that while Lanza was in high school, someone was basically watching out for him all the time. Once he graduated, no one was.
    States have been hard hit in all things regarding health care. Its why I ask the question who will pay for any new emphasis on mental health care. Most of these people do not have the means to do it themselves.

  • Overall, I understand the murder and crime rate to be declining for some decades now. Gun ownership may be up or down, but guns were not the issue in the case of Newtown or the Batman killer. Mental illness appears to be the common denominator.

    Something is not quite right in the country, I agree. I don’t believe there is a single cause — I think it is a collection of problems not being addressed. As long as we refuse to deal with the problem of mental illness, I’m afraid we’ll see more of these incidents.

    Unfortunately, the trend is that the politicians and the government are increasingly eroding our liberties. And the accomplices are Hollywood and the media.

  • Pzatchok

    Probably one of the main reasons mental hospitals are being reduced in size is because so few people are being admitted for one reason or another.

    I doubt it has much to do with cost since as soon as a judge orders someone committed the state pays.

    The problem is getting the judge to do his job.

    Now with Obama care running things cost will have nothing to do with treatment. Its free.

  • wodun

    People are conflating violent crime with mass shootings. The two are not the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *