Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Study of Gun Violence in the USA

I am going to talk about guns in a way you have never seen before, so hold on.

Part I: Perspective

But first, before we examine how guns impact our society, let’s get some perspective, some unusual but useful perspective.
Item
World[1]
USA[2,3]
Total Current Population
7,434,000,000
320,000,000
Annual Births
144,000,000
4,000,000
Annual Births Rate
1.94%
1.25%
Annual Deaths
60,000,000
2,600,000
Annual Deaths Rate
0.81%
0.81%
Annual Net Gain
84,000,000
1,400,000
Annual Net Gain Rate
1.13%
0.44%

Our (the USA) average life expectancy is 78.8 years.  This ranks us 33rd in the world, following Japan (83.7 years), Switzerland, Singapore, Italy, Spain, Australia, Israel, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, France, Canada, .., Sweden, Norway, …, Greece, UK, but you get the picture.[4]  We’re doing something wrong.  And deaths by firearms don’t make the difference (My suspicion is that, as America may be the most competitive country in the world, it is also the country where stress is most prevalent.  And while stress cannot be found as a cause of death, it may bring on a cause of death earlier than it might otherwise.).

And now a brief look at the principal causes of death in the USA: cancer; chronic lower respiratory diseases; accidents; stroke; Alzheimer’s; diabetes; influenza and pneumonia; kidney diseases; suicide.  The last of these, suicide, comes in at some 40,000+ / year.[5]  And homicide, by guns or other means, doesn’t make the top ten.

But I can hear you interrupting, “Hey, fella, this is all well and good, but I thought this was a piece on guns, and I don’t see any mention of them yet.  What’s with all the stats?”

We all know this one gun stat: 33,636 deaths (2013) in the USA were attributable to guns, 63% (21,175) of these were suicides, 33% (11,208) were homicides and 3% were accidents.[6]  But 33,636 deaths / year are insignificant when you compare them with the fatalities caused by disease.  Gun deaths account for 1.3% of deaths / year in the USA.  (There were also 62,220 non-fatal gun injuries[7].  But we are going to concentrate on gun deaths, because the amount of data we will need to digest is quite enough without parsing injuries, when gun injuries alone deserve a study of their own.  Some 30% – 40% of American households own guns, and the average gun owning household owns some 8 guns, while “the top 20 percent of gun owners owned 65 percent of America's firearms.  The top 3 percent of gun owners averaged over 25 firearms each.”[8])

“So, if I get you, you’re saying that gun deaths are not such a big deal, that we should all relax and stop making a big deal out of nothing?”

Well, no, I am not saying that.  Admittedly, the vast majority of fatalities are caused by terminal illnesses, but these illnesses kill people at the edge of life, these people die of disease-related old age.  No one dies of simple “old age” anymore.  Try finding “old age” on any list of causes of death.  Whereas, gun deaths kill people in their prime, in their bloom, gun deaths kill children.  And, lest you think that 1.3% of deaths / year is no big deal, let me ask you: would you ever get into an airplane (or a train or a bus or a car) if you knew that the plane had a 98.7% chance of landing safely, if you knew that you would crash 1 out of every 77 flights (yes, a 98.7% success rate means a 1 in 77 failure rate) (whereas the actual odds of being killed in a single airplane flight are 1 in 29 million)?  If you said “yes,” that you would book such a flight, it is because you don’t have a grasp of numbers.  No one in their right mind takes a 1 in 77 chance of death to do anything.

Some more perspective.[9]  We are 107th (3.9 murders / 100,000 population) out of 218 countries for homicide rate.  The worst is Honduras with a rate of 84.6 / 100,000 (20 times as bad).  But our neighbor Canada comes in at #169 (1.4 murders / 100,000) and the only European countries with a worse record than ours are Russia (9.5 / 100,000), Lithuania (5.5 / 100,000), Ukraine (4.3 / 100,000), and Albania (4.0 / 100,000).  France comes in at 1.2 / 100,000, UK at 1.0 / 100,000, Germany at 0.9 / 100,000 and Switzerland and Austria at 0.5 homicides / 100,000.  For a “civilized” country, we are pretty homicidal.

Add firearms to the mix and we are even more violent.  This source[10] lists only 72 countries but we are 18th (3.43 murders / 100,000 population) out of 72 countries for homicide rate committed with firearms.  But we are first among modern industrial countries.  Canada comes in at 0.38 murders / 100,000, while most of western Europe comes in at less than 0.3 murders with firearms / 100,000.  Even worse, on this abbreviated list we are first (6.69 / 100,000) for suicides committed with firearms.  On a country to country comparison, not a lot to be proud of.

Now let’s look at states.  OK, this is not so easy.  Of course, it is easy to compare states simply according to their total homicide and suicide rates, and the same when committed with firearms.  What is difficult to impossible is to demonstrate causation or even correlation of gun violence with gun laws in effect, for every state has its own mix of gun regulations, and you can slice and dice until forever and not come up with a clear picture of what conditions cause what outcomes.  But I said it was easy to compare states according to their raw statistics, so let’s see how states compare looking at their rates of combined deaths due to firearms.[11]  What I see when I look at that map is blue states are relatively free of gun violence, while red states are filled with it.  (What I find perversely ironic (isn’t irony always perverse?) is that the states with the least gun violence want more gun control, while the states with the most gun violence want less gun control.)  For a sensible account of this subject, see this.[12]

Gun violence in the USA has – believe it or not – a cost.  I have read the figures $174 billion to $229 billion / year.  While those numbers feel high to me, the costs of gun violence include: medical treatment, legal fees, long-term prison costs, long-term medical and disability expenses, mental health care, emergency services, police investigations, and various security enhancements.  So, maybe the cost is up there, even if it is not $174 - $229 billion (just about the total annual cost of Medicaid).  So, for those of you who need to see value and cost in terms of dollars, there you are.

Part II: The Reality of Firearms Mayhem in the USA

Mass Shootings

Let’s be absolutely clear: were it not for these few spectacular events (see table, below) (if you do your own research, you will discover many many more that did not receive the same amount of publicity), we would not be debating guns in the USA so every day.
Site of Mass Shooting
Date
Deaths
Injuries
Columbine High School, Littleton, CO
04/20/1999
15
23
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
04/16/2007
33
17
Fort Hood, TX*
11/05/2009
13
33
Tucson, AZ (U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords)
01/08/2011
6
11
Aurora, CO
07/20/2012
12
70
Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, CT
12/14/2012
28

Boston Marathon, MA (not a shooting, but it contributed)*
04/15/2013
3
183
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC
06/17/2015
9

San Bernardino, CA*
12/02/2015
14
22
Pulse nightclub, Orlando, FL*
06/12/2016
50
53+
I regret any errors in the table above, but the internet is not a boss who demands
consistency, and my argument will not be affected by a few murders more or less.



* committed at least partially in the name of Islam




Let’s also be clear that these mass shootings represent only a tiny fraction of gun deaths every year in the USA.  Every big city nationwide has a few gun murders every week.  But those events are so commonplace that they barely make their own local news, indeed they most often do not.  On the other hand, these mass shootings are so rare (relatively speaking) and so awful that they make the national news and they remain newsworthy for weeks after the fact.

Let’s also be clear that all of these mass shootings were made possible by the use of automatic and semi-automatic weapons; indeed, they are not even imaginable without automatic weapons.

But, mass shootings barely scratch the surface of gun deaths in the USA, most of which is background noise, like automobile deaths, or drug overdose deaths.  What makes them dramatic (and “newsworthy”) is the unnecessary death of so many innocents at one time by one gun-man (sometimes, but rarely, two; sometimes, but rarely, a woman involved).

Most gun homicides do not occur as part of mass shootings, so addressing mass shootings does not address garden-variety shootings, which are responsible for most gun deaths in the country.  Preventing all mass shootings – surely a worthwhile goal – would save only a few dozen lives / year, less than 1% of the total, and we would still be left with several tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths / year caused by guns.
Onward.

Terrorism

Even including 9/11, less than 1% of violent deaths in the USA have been at the hands of terrorists.  Since 9/11, less than 1 in 1000 violent deaths in the USA have been attributable to terrorism of all kinds, not just the Islamic variety.[13]  Four of the mass shooting incidents above (80 deaths, 207 injuries) were committed by Muslims or those who claimed Islamic intentions.  And it is probable that that %age will increase.  Still, concentrating our legislative energy on mass shootings committed by Islamic terrorists will do very little to reduce unnecessary gun deaths in the USA.

Homicides

All gun deaths are either homicides, suicides or accidents.  Homicides (murders) are committed by a) professional killers (organized crime or contract killers / “hit men”), b) repeat offenders (the criminal class), c) gang members, d) police-military-security folks who own guns for work, and e) “accidental killers.”  The first four of these groups probably can’t be kept away from firearms by gun control laws.  Apparently, most gun homicides are committed by criminals, but their victims are most often other criminals.  While only a few homicides are committed by contract killers[14].  Which suggests that you and I need to worry most about “accidental killers.”  Normal people, our neighbors, who own firearms.  These people are always (at least temporarily) insane when they do their deeds, as “normal” people don’t commit murder, except when they snap.

Suicides

While most (63%) gun deaths in the USA are suicides, every suicide by gun is committed by a person who is, at least temporarily, insane.  They have severe depression in common (I don’t know this but it feels right).  Guns make suicide easier.  Roughly half of all American suicides are gun-assisted.  However, most (85%) suicides by firearm are successful, i.e. fatal, while suicide attempts by other means most often fail (4% success rate), are at least non-fatal.[15]  Owning a gun is a fatal risk for some 20,000 Americans / year.  Being suicidal is not always the result of a long-term mental illness, it can be quite sudden.  This is important, so please re-read this short section again.

Accidents

In the year for which we have the best statistics (2013), there were 130,557 accidental deaths[16].  But accidents are accidents, right?  And not all accidents with firearms were fatal.  But how many accidents with knives (no data) result in death?  Firearms are special.  8% of accidental deaths by firearms are committed by children under the age of six[17].  Put THAT in your pipe!

Mental Illness

Every “accidental killer” (the 5th category under Homicides, not Accidents immediately above) is, at least temporarily, insane.  But the vast majority of these unfortunate people are not clinically / technically mentally ill before they commit their crimes.  And they would most probably not ever show up on a list of those who were examined and found mentally ill.  Only 4% of gun homicides are committed by a person who has been found to be mentally ill or incompetent[18].  On the other hand, most people will respond to a “trigger event” by going, at least temporarily, insane.  But most don't own firearms.  The perfect storm is a) a rational person, b) a trigger event (catching a spouse…, being fired from a job), c) a person to blame for the trigger event, and d) ready access to firearms (especially automatic weapons).  You can’t prevent these murders by keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.  You may prevent some of these murders by making it harder for normal people to own guns.

Criminal Access

"Gun laws will not keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, they will only prevent law-abiding citizens from having access to their constitutional right of self-defense.”  If we can’t keep guns out of the hands of “criminals,” then why waste time talking about it?, let’s just accept it and move on.  But most murders committed by criminals and gang members are other criminals and other gang members, so why worry?  Law abiding citizens need only really worry about other law-abiding citizens – with guns.

Part III: Terms of the Debate

People have different goals when they discuss firearms. 
  1. I want to live in a world where everyone loves each other, no one ever goes crazy, and homicide and suicide no longer happen.
  2. I want to live in a world where the total number of unnecessary violent deaths – by homicide, suicide and preventable accidents – are at a minimum.
  3. I want to live in a world where I can move around without fearing that a crazy person with a firearm might take my life.
  4. I want to live in a world where I am allowed to be armed so that I can defend myself if the need arises.
  5. I want to live in a world where the Constitution is understood and respected and obeyed no matter what the cost; our constitutional rights come first.
I believe that this sums up the possible ways we can look at the question of firearms in America.  If I have left out any scenario, please let me know.
  • Scenario 1: a world where everyone loves each other, no one ever goes crazy, and homicide and suicide never happen.  In the former Soviet Union, in the days of the Gulag, the USSR had very little violent crime; the state was the master criminal and it locked up whom it pleased.  So: little crime, much oppression.  My preference: I'd rather live in a world of one million unnecessary violent deaths every year than in a slave state where the only criminal is the state itself.  Putting this extreme case aside, an all-loving world is a fantasy, and maybe we can revisit it in 1,000 years.  But we will waste no more time on it here, as the only place where this may be possible is in your dreams.
  • Scenario 2: a world where the total number of deaths attributable to gun violence is at a minimum.  One way to look at this is to research which countries and states in the USA have the lowest and highest levels of gun violence, and see if the data point you anywhere.  Variables to consider include: the # of gun deaths (homicides, suicides, accidents) per 100,000 population, the # of guns per 100,000 population, the # of gun owners per 100,000 population, rural vs urban community, geographical region, the specific gun control laws in effect, level of gun control enforcement, etc.  Some questions are just not easily answered by looking at the statistics.  You’re on your own.
  • Scenario 3: a world where I can move around without fearing that a crazy person with a firearm might take my life.
    • Stay home.
    • Move to another country.
    • Move to a state that has had the fewest gun deaths per 100,000 population over the past decade (or where the rate of gun deaths has trended down persistently).
    • Move to a state with the strictest gun regulations.
    • Some questions are just not easily answered by looking at the statistics.  You’re on your own.
  • Scenario 4: a world where I can be armed so I can defend myself if the need arises.
    • Move to Texas!
    • Move to a state with the laxest gun regulations.
    • Imagine: it’s July 20th, 2012.  You are at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, in Aurora, CO.  You smell tear gas, then you hear shots.  But you are armed!  And so is half the audience!  I ask you to consider if the mayhem that would ensue would produce a result less deadly than what that deluded shooter was able to accomplish all by himself (12 deaths, 70 injuries).  The reason that I ask you to consider this possibility is that all solutions have unintended consequences, unintended but predictable.  If you believe that crazy people – like that gunman – will not dare to commit mass murder if they know that other citizens may be armed, you are assuming that they typically act rationally; but if we know anything, we know that they are NOT acting rationally (many of them expect – consciously or unconsciously – to die themselves).  Do you honestly believe that this very smart and well-educated (I bet you didn’t know that!) young adult white male expected to get away with mass murder and escape and live happily ever after?
  • Scenario 5: a world where the Constitution is honored.  See next section.

What is this section all about?  Perhaps the greatest obstacle to solving the problem of gun violence in the USA is the fact that different Americans want utterly different outcomes.  Some want the end of gun violence in our country, some want to feel personally secure, some want to be able to defend themselves, some want to feel righteous in their support of the Constitution.  Different outcomes.  There can never be a solution that answers the need for different outcomes.  What outcome do I personally prefer?  A better educated America.  That is why I write, to alter your perceptions.

Part IV: The Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms

The U.S. Constitution defines and limits the powers of the Federal Government.  It addresses the Legislative branch, the Executive branch, the Judicial branch, methods to amend the Constitution, and the powers of the individual sovereign states.  It says nothing about the people, about the people’s rights or powers, or about firearms.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only place in the written Constitution where firearms are discussed (prior to Supreme Court decisions, for which see below).  The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  So, what do these words mean?  Looking at the words and ignoring their historical context, the first thirteen words are a “dependent clause,” and the “right to keep and bear arms” is dependent upon the rationale for keeping and bearing arms – a well-regulated militia, which is “necessary to the security of a free state.”  What is a militia?  It is a local military force or army – never private and always public – that exists for the sole purpose of allowing civilians to be able to defend themselves against a foreign enemy at a moment’s notice.  As for the amendment’s historical context, our Founding Fathers felt that having a standing army of professional soldiers was inconsistent with a free state.  A well-regulated militia of civilian soldiers – not a standing army – was how a free society would defend itself against a foreign enemy.  Even before war broke out in April of 1775, the colonists had suffered the indignity of having to quarter a standing army of British soldiers in their own homes; they were not about to institutionalize a standing army that might tyrannize its own people.  (And, yes, our Founding Fathers might not approve of our decision to keep a standing army these last 70 years since the end of World War II.)  Looked at this way, the Second Amendment does not seem to endorse an absolute right to keep and bear arms for any reason whatever.  But Supreme Court rulings have ruled otherwise.

“Well, the Constitution says that I have the absolute right to keep and bear arms.”  The one thing that we do know is that neither you nor I get to interpret what the Constitution says; that job belongs to the Supreme Court (For a brief history of Supreme Court rulings on citizens’ rights concerning firearms, see [19]).  The short story can be found in a recent decision called District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which ruled that self-defense was a legitimate reason to keep and bear arms, but it stopped short of declaring that right to be absolute.  But it was a 5-4 decision, so “what the Constitution says” can be pretty slippery.

Finally, what constitutes firearms today would be utterly unrecognizable to the authors of the Second Amendment back in 1791; so much so that it makes no sense at all to apply that Constitutional “right” to all of today’s firearms; and the sooner we understand that and move on the better.  The Second Amendment is no more absolute than the First Amendment, and there are a half-dozen exceptions to that amendment’s Right of freedom of speech.  We should do what we should always do: think seriously about the question and apply our common sense.

Is the Second Amendment a bulwark against tyranny?  We do have a standing army which our Founding Fathers feared might be used by a home-grown tyrant.  Would well-regulated militias be able to withstand home-grown tyranny with its standing army (and Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard)?  Should we abandon our standing army (and Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) and rely on state-run well-regulated militias to defend ourselves against foreign enemies, on our soil, on foreign soil?  As a legitimate Constitutional defense against the fancied tyranny of our own national standing army, what better could all of our communities do than to support their own well-regulated militias.  Surely then, gun owners need not fear the wholesale confiscation of all their legally kept firearms.

Think about it.

In the end, our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is what the Supreme Court says it is, even if what it says can be overturned in five years, even if what it says is the result of a 5-4 decision.

Part V: Justice & Common Sense

In a letter to James Madison in 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote these words: “The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another … is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. …  I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self-evident, ‘that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;’ that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it.”  Jefferson believed that the future should not be bound by the customs and laws of the past, even that each generation should write its own Constitution (sic).  We are not taught this alternative philosophy in our public or private schools; rather we are taught to revere the U.S. Constitution as though it was as much the word of God as the Holy Bible (I am not taking sides on this controversy, I only want to draw your attention to a different way to look at things, a way that has been deliberately ignored by the powers that be).  We are also taught that the (only) proper job of the Supreme Court is to determine the Constitutionality of a law that is being challenged by an appellant.  That process is called Judicial Review, established as a “power” of the Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison (1803), and still a controversial power of the Court among Constitutional scholars.  My point is that the job of the Supreme Court was never meant to be Judicial Review and only Judicial Review; the job of the Supreme Court was always to decide controversies of law: between governments, or between a government and the people or a person.  Its implicit function was to be the court of last resort to dispense justice.  Judicial Review was an add-on (that may or may not have been implied by Article III of the Constitution) that has swallowed up its original purpose.  Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was a brilliant exception to this unfortunate aberration.  Had the Court ruled on that case’s Constitutionality, it had precedent for “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896); but they chose to rule for justice instead.  If they hadn’t, we’d still be waiting for a Constitutional Amendment to right an obvious wrong.  When a ruling on Judicial Review is 5-4, it should be clear that what the Constitution says is not clear, and that to make a decision on Constitutionality makes no sense.  What then?  Perhaps the Supreme Court ought to recognize that its objective is Justice, tempered by Mercy, using Common Sense, Logic, History and Facts as its building blocks.

Part VI: Recommendations

If laws against murder don’t prevent all murders, is that a reason for us to scrap laws against murder?  Shouldn’t our laws reflect our collective will, our collective ideals?  Shouldn’t we have penalties for those who don’t obey the law, even if we can’t catch everyone who breaks that law?  And if we can’t keep guns out of the hands of the criminal class, is that a reason for us to make it easier for everyone else to have guns?  To defend themselves against criminals with guns?  Is that what actually happens when we make guns more easily available?  It may be the case that we don’t need new gun laws – that all we need to do is enforce the old laws; well, then, let’s enforce the old laws.

The following recommendations assume that we are starting from scratch, not patching a million different codes.

Federal Law should include the following:
  • Non-citizens may not legally purchase, own, keep or bear firearms.
  • All firearms vendors must be registered with the Federal Government.
  • All privately-owned firearms must be registered with the Federal Government.  New or already owned.  This is no more an infringement of a citizen’s rights than registering his purchase of prescription drugs and automobiles, both of which are dangerous but neither of which is designed to kill.  All transfers of ownership and gifts of firearms must be registered, too.
  • All purchases of firearms must be in person: no internet sales, no mail order sales, of any kind.
  • All purchases of firearms must take place in the state where the buyer lives.
  • There should be a universal three-day waiting period between purchase and delivery of a firearm into private hands.  A state or municipality may require a longer wait.
  • The waiting period should be used in part to access a nation-wide database.  This database will contain data on citizens who a) own guns, or b) have a criminal record, or c) are suspected of criminal or terrorist activity, or d) have a mental illness.  The attempt to purchase a firearm will be added to the database by the vendor, as will the delivery of the firearm.
  • Firearms that are designed for military use (e.g., artillery, “assault weapons,” machine guns, and automatic weapons) or “mass mayhem” may not be manufactured, sold, bought, owned or kept by anyone – except for legitimate military purposes. 
We live in a “federalist” nation; not only are the states often sovereign, but we can all benefit from the various experiments that each state conducts.

State and local Law may include the following:
  • States may further limit gun ownership, the number and capacity of magazines and clips, and the amount of ammunition.
  • Licensing citizens for the right to own firearms (like an automobile test: proving that you know how to use them).
  • What kinds of firearms should be prohibited from civilian use?  Let each state decide.
  • All prohibited firearms that are already in private possession must be sold back to the government, none may remain in private hands.  There should be a grace period of 18 months, with a sliding-scale repayment schedule, from paid price or retail price down to nothing at the end of the grace period.  Any prohibited firearms that make their way into private hands thereafter will be the legal responsibility of all those who profited from the transaction.
  • A firearms vendor may refuse to sell to anyone without having to justify his decision (e.g., he thinks that a firearm might be used to injure someone, the buyer may be drunk or acting strangely).  The vendor need not reveal his decision not to sell to the potential buyer, and he may advise authorities of his concerns.  At the end of the waiting period, the vendor must advise the buyer honestly of his decision so that the buyer may know what he has to do to have the decision reversed.
  • If a violent crime committed with a firearm takes place soon after purchase, the vendor will be closed down for a period of time appropriate to the extent of the damage done (If bartenders can be held partially responsible for others’ actions, why can’t can gun vendors?).
Laws respecting ownership of firearms should be federal and state.  Laws re: open carry and concealed carry should be the responsibility of states and/or municipalities.  These laws will cover all public (or government) places, outdoors or indoors.  Privately owned open spaces or buildings will have their own rules, as long as they don’t conflict with the laws in effect.  All private establishments (restaurants, bars, stores, etc) may have their own rules that police may enforce or not.

Part VII: Coda

Anyone who is truly interested in minimizing gun deaths must confront the fact that 2/3 of gun deaths in the USA are suicides and that suicide by guns are successful 85% of the time whereas suicides by other means are only successful 4% of the time.  But how do we keep guns out of the hands of suicides?  By imposing a waiting period on the purchase of any firearm (during which time a background check must take place).  By reporting our friend’s desire to kill himself to the authorities, and giving them the right to “borrow” the potential suicide’s firearms for a while.  By treating depression like a real thing, not just a mental aberration.

There is no reason under heaven for a private citizen to have the right to own military style weapons of mass destruction.  When the Second Amendment was written, the only firearms that existed took a large fraction of a minute to get off that second shot and the same fraction of a minute to get off a third shot.  Manufacturers who send these kinds of weapons into the private marketplace and vendors of these kinds of weapons ought to be prosecutable, too, for the damage that they are partially responsible for.

“Those who live by the sword must die by the sword.”  It seems that most gun violence committed by the criminal class is committed against others in the criminal class (if you can find stats to prove or disprove this, please let me know).  I would rather spend effort preventing gun violence against innocents.  And much of that occurs between people who know each other and even live together.  Waiting periods might help there; and taking an interest instead of minding your own business (e.g., in case your neighbors are having a screaming match) might go a long way to reducing that kind of violence.  The most pitiable of all gun violence is that by young children; but this is easily solved by making fingerprint locks (which would keep the firearm from being fired except by its owner) mandatory for all commercial firearms.

I am a city-dweller.  I own no firearms and feel no need to own any.  Every day I see police on duty, if I have to call for help they are not far away, and too many gun owners living in close quarters is asking for trouble.  If I lived in the country, where my neighbors live a mile away, where police are spread thin, and where I fear the unknown more than my neighbors, I’d surely own guns.  Same person, different circumstances.  One size fits all?  No.  It’s about time that we stopped demonizing those who think different from us. 

Finally, the nation is suffering from a loss of well-being, millions of losses of personal well-being.  Globalization, out-sourcing, automation, robotics, all are conspiring to make us worth less than what we were worth ten, twenty, thirty years ago.  And Americans have been taught – God help us – to measure our worth by our job (how much it pays, how special it is, and whether we are still working – pity the poor unemployed rocket scientists!).  Progress has a cost.  And maybe it ain’t worth it.  But what are we to do?  Start the conversation.