Saturday, December 05, 2015

About those guns

It is, of course, an indictment of where the political Right in America has gone that they now simply cannot contemplate action on guns in the way that Ronald Reagan once did.  (Yes, he did support the decade long ban on assault weapons, despite having been a gun rights defender at other times.  Unfortunately, it seems that getting shot is about the surest way an American politician can be driven to enthusiasm for gun control - see Gabby Gifford's site, for example.)

The media if full of fascinating stuff about the guns used at San Bernardino, and other mass shootings:

*  the New York Times pictorial list of what weapons they used (which actually shows a preponderance of pistols, it seems);

The Australian notes this morning that despite having "tough" (by American standards - ha!) gun control laws, Californians can still buy assault style rifles provided they are slightly harder to re-load:
Included in the ban were rifles that can use detachable ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and have other characteristics. Magazines that hold more than 10 bullets are also outlawed.

But rifles that aren’t specifically listed in the ban are considered legal, as long as a tool is required to release the ammunition magazine. The change is intended to effectively limit the number of rounds the gun can fire because it presumably takes extra time to reload.

California’s law prompted the gun industry to start marketing military-style rifles with so-called bullet buttons, a sort of sleeve that blocks quick access to the release button. Users can use the tip of a spare bullet or a tool to release the gun’s magazine, although a small magnet can be attached to the ­button so that users can quickly press it using just their finger.

The executive director of the Violence Policy Centre in Washington, Josh Sugarmann, said the gun industry was “cynically ­exploiting an inadvertent limitation” of California’s assault weapons ban.
*  As usual, the paranoid reasoning - both (I assume) that having your own gun will help protect you in a gun massacre, and that the Feds under Obama are about to swoop in on their black helicopters and disarm the wingnuts of the nation - is expected to lead to an increase in sales

*  Despite the Australian gun control experience getting an extensive airing in the US media again (as it does after every massacre), even I can see that if you are starting with a base of an insanely armed society, you can't expect the Australian method to be replicated there   Vox has a good bit of commentary on this:  What no politician wants to admit about gun control.  But that is not to say that there is nothing to be done, of course.  The stupidest of all arguments, which appears regularly in Catallaxy, of course, is that because some crimes still happen with guns in Australia, our gun control measures are a failure.   It's such an insanely dumb attempt at a debating tactic, you have to wonder about the brain size of those deploying it.

*  In a broader sociological context, another Vox piece looks at the gun control problem in the US as part of the broader polarisation of American society: gun enthusiasts, mass shootings are not arguments against guns but for them. The rise in mass shootings is only convincing both sides that they're right, causing them to dig in further.

It's not even clear that opinions on guns and gun violence remain amenable to argument. Over the past few decades, gun ownership in the US has evolved from a practical issue for rural homeowners and hunters to a kind of gesture of tribal solidarity, an act of defiance toward Obama, the left, and all the changes they represent. The gun lobby has become more hardened and uncompromising, pushing guns into schoolschurches, and universities.

This has taken place in the context of a broader and deeper polarization of the country, as Red America and Blue America have become more ideologically homogeneous and distant from one another. The two sides are now composed of people who quite literally think and feel differently — and are less and less able to communicate. The gun issue is a salient example, but far from the only one.
 The article, which is quite fascinating, goes on to look at the argument that the polarisation is partly based on a Conservative/Liberal personality divide - but then it also lists the reasons to be skeptical of such arguments too.

I don't doubt that the polarisation has happened, and as I have said frequently, it has been more of a case of the Right moving into an eccentric, ideologically motivated, evidence free, corner, than the Left going more Left.   (Even allowing for the silly revival of extreme political correctness on US campuses.)  

I seriously think there is inadequate blame for this to be put on the internet, and the Fox Network.    

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