Friday, June 17, 2016

About Guns: A Trump Voter Appeals to our Inner Dirty Harry

Gun Show--Some of the 11 million guns sold annually/
The United States has many more civilian guns per capita than any other country in the world. We have more guns in the hands of civilians than there are civilians.  Annual gun sales have greatly increased during the Obama administration: from less than 5 million in 2008 to more than 11 million today. But even as we are buying more and more guns, the number of households with guns is decreasing.  We don't love guns equally. Guns are concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Trump voters as best I can tell.

Gun owning households have declined from roughly 50% in the 1970's to less than one in three households today. Only 22.4% of adult individuals owned a gun in 2014, down from 31% in 1977. See National Opinion Research Center at University of Chicago Report (NORC 2015). Part of the reduction in household and individual gun ownership is due to the reduced popularity of hunting. Today, only 15% of adults live in a household where they or their spouse hunt, down from 31% in 1977.

Gun ownership for women has not changed appreciably in the last 35 years. Between 9 and 14 percent of adult women have owned firearms during this period. Id. 

Guns are predominantly in the hands of white, rural, male voters. Black and Hispanic incidence of gun ownership is much lower [18% and 15% respectively]. Gun ownership is also concentrated among households with higher incomes: 18% in households earning less than $25,000/year, versus 44% of households earning over $90,000/year.

The Candlelight Vigil Crowd vs. the Dirty Harry Crowd

We may not love guns equally, but--since we're red blooded Americans--deep down Dirty Harry has a hold on our psyches. 

After the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris (mass shooting on January 7, 2015, leaving 11 dead) Trump voter Richard Hewitt explained his attitude to gun control laws in a half hour monologue on his YouTube channel (Nutnfancy). Hewitt's YouTube channel provides knife, gun, and wilderness gear reviews, and a strong dose of pro-gun politics. He's good at it and his videos garner more than 100,000 views.  He's got a fishhook into our Dirty Harry psyches.

Hewitt's thesis is that the way to stop mass shootings is to arm more civilians. If the mass shooter at Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, CT (12/14/12 mass shooting that killed 20 schoolchildren, six staffers, and the shooter's mother) had to confront the possibility that teachers might be carrying concealed handguns, he might have thought twice. If the mass shooter at Virginia Tech (student killed 23 others in mass shooting in April 2007) had to worry about random students on campus being armed with a concealed weapon and that they might shoot back, he might have thought twice. If armed civilians could be found anywhere, anytime, ready to act like Dirty Harry.... mass shooters would stay away.

What we need are more George Zimmermans, only with better judgment. He points to a real life example: Nick Meli and the Clackamas shooting in Oregon (Dec. 2012). But from a policy perspective, it's a fantasy.

"So how is that disarmament thing going in France?" Hewitt asks rhetorically in his video. "This should be the talking point of American gun right advocates for years," he said.
"If that would have gone down in the state of Utah (Hewitt's home state) I would like to think, I can't guarantee it, I would like to think there would have been some rounds fired by concealed weapons permit holders. I can pretty much guarantee you there would.... In Utah, there are guns everywhere. Something like that goes down Downtown, I'd get involved. Absolutely. Got to make a judgment call...." 
Right. He'd be Dirty Harry, not George Zimmerman.

The Australian Example

But the evidence is that fewer guns and tighter regulations mean fewer gun deaths. 

In France they have a gun death rate of ~2.83/100,000,  compared to the U.S. rate of ~10.54/100,000. So, yes, for France, that disarmament thing is working out quite well compared to the United States.

A starker example is Australia. There, after a mass shooting in Tasmania that killed 36 people in 1996, Australian governments united to remove semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles from civilian possession as a key component of gun law reforms. In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, Australia had 13 mass shootings; in the two decades following the gun law reforms they have had one mass shooting (arguably two) and a significant reduction in gun related homicides and suicides. In Australia, removing a large number of rapid-firing firearms from civilians appears to have been effective to greatly reduce the number of gun-related deaths. Today the gun death rate in Australia is 0.93/100,000, which is less than 10 percent of the US rate. 

It's true that "bad guys" may always be able to obtain guns if they are determined to do so. So it's true that no gun control measures can eliminate the possibility of a mass shooting like we just saw in Orlando. But that is not the question. The question is whether gun regulations are beneficial overall to reduce the incidence of gun deaths, including the incidence of mass shootings.  The Australian example suggests the answer is "Yes."  

"Civilians Trained to be Victims" 

Hewitt asserts that advocating to remove rapid-firing guns from civilian populations like they have done in Australia, or to take much milder action that might have a chance in the U.S. Congress, is to train the civilian populace to be victims. The public is foolish to acquiesce, he says. Be like Dirty Harry, he suggests, don't submit to "sheeple mentality." 

"We are a country of liberty" said President Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. "Are you really?" taunts Hewitt. "If you're not armed isn't it kind of hollow?" He speaks to our Dirty Harry impulse; it speaks to us. But all the evidence suggests that flooding a country with rapid-fire guns results in more gun deaths. The evidence is, Dirty Harry notwithstanding, gun control works. 

Allowing more guns than people in a country, and concentrating those guns in the hands of Trump voters is not a good idea. It's not gun control advocates, it's the NRA, and the GOP, and Richard Hewitt and his YouTube channel who are training us to be victims. And we have been "sheeple-ish" about it. No more. It's time to act.

The Crazy

And because Hewitt is a Trump voter, here's the crazy: 
"The progressive agenda, the liberal agenda, the communist agenda, they don't want to arm the people. They want to disarm the people because a disarmed populace is controllable. We can have our way with you; want to tax you more; we want to control you; we want to control your movements; we want to do check-points. Welcome to 1984!
The ultimate safe-guard for a free country is to have an armed citizenry, he says. Candle light vigils won't solve the problem of mass shootings, he sneers. What we need is a populace full of Dirty Harry Trump voters with rapid-fire guns, ready to take the law into their own hands, ready to use those guns to resist tax increases.

HERE's another link to Hewitt. It's worth watching.

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