A good guy with a gun


And there’s the eagerly-awaited press conference where Wayne LaPierre of the NRA explained why it’s desperately urgent that there be hundreds of millions more assault weapons in the hands of everyone.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s vice president, at a packed media event was interrupted twice by protesters demanding tougher gun controls.

No, that’s wrong. The thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, much more safely and in time, is not letting him get one in the first place.

Angry and combative, Mr. LaPierre, who has led the N.R.A.’s operations for two decades, complained that the news media had unfairly “demonized gun owners,” and he called the makers of violent video games “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”

You know…I’m finding it hard not to start shouting about wanting LaPierre’s head on a stick.

He said that armed security guards at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 might have stopped the gunman, Adam Lanza, at the outset of his rampage. “Will you at least admit,” Mr. LaPierre said, appealing directly to members of the news media who he said had been unduly skeptical of the N.R.A., “that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?”

No, you damn fool. 26 innocent lives would have been spared that day if Adam Lanza had been no more able to obtain an assault rifle than he was to obtain a tactical nuclear weapon.

The event Friday, billed as a news conference, was odd both in tone and substance. Rather than offer the type of hedged or carefully calibrated comments that politicians and lobbyists often prefer, Mr. LaPierre let loose with a scorching attack on the N.R.A.’s accusers.

He blasted what he called “the political class here in Washington” for pursuing new gun control measures while failing, in his view, to adequately prosecute violations of existing gun laws, pay for law enforcement programs or develop a national registry of mentally ill people who might prove to be “the next Adam Lanza.”

Oh right, because “the political class here in Washington” isn’t craven enough toward the NRA.

Here’s a squalid fact for you – certain kinds of information about guns and crime are treated as secret under the law. 

Under the law, investigators cannot reveal federal firearms tracing information that shows how often a dealer sells guns that end up seized in crimes. The law effectively shields retailers from lawsuits, academic study and public scrutiny. It also keeps the spotlight off the relationship between rogue gun dealers and the black market in firearms.

Such information used to be available under a simple Freedom of Information Act request. But seven years ago, under pressure from the gun lobby, Congress blacked out the information by passing the so-called Tiahrt amendment, named for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.). The law removed from the public record a government database that traces guns recovered in crimes back to the dealers.

“It was extraordinary, and the most offensive thing you can think of,” said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group for police chiefs. “The tracing data, which is now secret, helped us see the big picture of where guns are coming from.”

Just like that. The gun lobby managed to get a law passed (a rider to a bill, to be exact) that protects gun dealers by making information secret.

Pathetic.

 

Comments

  1. jonathangray says

    The thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, much more safely and in time, is not letting him get one in the first place.

    And how do you enforce that? Good guys with guns.

  2. jonathangray says

    Angry and combative, Mr. LaPierre, who has led the N.R.A.’s operations for two decades, complained that the news media had unfairly “demonized gun owners,” and he called the makers of violent video games “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”

    You know…I’m finding it hard not to start shouting about wanting LaPierre’s head on a stick.

    Remember, remember …

  3. John Morales says

    jonathangray:

    And how do you enforce that? Good guys with guns.

    So, the only reason you can’t get your hands on a nuke or an aerosolised biological agent is “Good guys with guns”?

    PS Hi Piltdown!

  4. jonathangray says

    So, the only reason you can’t get your hands on a nuke or an aerosolised biological agent is “Good guys with guns”?

    If I was determined/resourceful/rich enough, what else would stop me?

    Look, abstinence campaigns just don’t work. What we need is proper gun education in schools so kids get the information they need to use them responsibly.

    PS Hi Piltdown!

    Hi John. BTW, did you see that recent Pharyngula post in which PZM mentions his son’s fondness for death metal? I wonder if that includes the awesome sub-genre known as brutal death metal? Rock and roll!

  5. jonathangray says

    Bob Ponds:

    Wayne LaPierre is a bad guy with a gun. The only way to stop him is without a gun.

    Like this you mean?

  6. John Morales says

    jonathangray:

    If I was determined/resourceful/rich enough, what else would stop me?

    The relevant thing here is: how much resourcefulness or affluence or determination does one need in America to get an assault rifle? I put it to you that it’s not very much, given they’re freely available in shops and cheap and even advertised!

    But say you were determined/resourceful/rich enough to get guns otherwise unavailable to the public, might you then not be determined/resourceful/rich enough to avoid “Good guys with guns” stopping you? I mean, you’d already have overcome any number of hurdles to approach your target well armed, and you have the element of surprise and the tactical advantage of choosing your time and place.

    (See, I can play that specious trick too ;) )

    The simple point here is that prevention is better than cure, and it is hardly disputable that an inverse relationship exists between the availability of weapons and their frequency of employment.

  7. Tim Harris says

    But the matter, jonathangray, is not about kids getting or not getting the information to use guns responsibly, is it? It is about mass murder and how to prevent it. And in this case, the perpetrator had been given lots of information about how to use guns responsibly, but he didn’t use his gun responsibly, did he? Or perhaps you think otherwise. Also, are you suggesting that kids of the age of those who were killed should be trained in the use of guns so that they can deal with any insane mass-murderer who breaks into their school and starts shooting? Are you suggesting that every kid of that age should go everywhere, including school, armed with some sort of gun. Instead of mouthing vapid semblances of proposals , could you think about the matter a bit and make some very specific proposals, explaining why you believe these proposals would help reduce this kind of incident in particular and gun violence in general.

  8. Silentbob says

    @ 6 jonathangray

    Look, abstinence campaigns just don’t work.

    O RLY?

    What we need is proper gun education in schools so kids get the information they need to use them responsibly.

    I know, right. If only someone had told Lanza it was irresponsible to fire loaded guns at school children.

  9. sailor1031 says

    Mr LaPierre said “I call on Congress, today, to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.” To pay for this I would suggest that a 10,000% federal sales tax be levied on new firearms plus a 200% income surtax on all owners of automatic weapons, assault rifles, grenade launchers and other “hunting” weapons.

    His other suggestion that NRA member volunteers could be armed and present in every school is downright terrifying. Just what we need – a George Zimmerman in every school.! If you think the carnage is bad now……

    BTW in Australia they did ban such weapons after a massacre some sixteen years ago. The legislation included a buy-back program and a lot of dangerous weaponry was removed from the society. Gun owners went along with it. So it can be done. Just not here I fear because of LaPierre and those like him and a pusillanimous congress.

  10. gillyc says

    John Morales @9 – I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean ‘inverse’? Increasing availability of guns correlates with increasing frequency of employment, that’s not an inverse relationship. Unless I’m misunderstanding your point?

  11. gillyc says

    jonathangray – here in the UK, our police aren’t usually armed with guns and they don’t seem to have much trouble enforcing our gun laws. Perhaps you should look at what goes on in other countries.

  12. mildlymagnificent says

    Good guy with a gun. No. That’s not what’s needed.

    If you go down this route you want super-fit, hyper-alert guys who would qualify for protective service agent / bodyguard employment. And you want them to maintain/update/upgrade these skills for as long as they’re employed by the school.

    Or do you really not want someone with fast reaction times and shoot-accurately-in-chaotic-environment skills? If that’s not what you’re specifying, what good do you think these armed people would be in a crowd of several hundred children or teenagers when somebody else starts loosing off a few rounds?

  13. Wave says

    With all the talk about guns, the central issues in all of this, that of mental illness and its treatment, is being totally ignored.

    You just knew the NRA rep. would say the stupid things he said.

    Adam Lanza was seriously ill, and there are many mnore just like him.

  14. Philip C. says

    From the transcript:

    LAPIERRE: How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark.

    A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill? The fact is this: That wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger, more lethal criminal class — killers, robbers, rapists, gang members who have spread like cancer in every community across our nation.

    That’s the jaw-dropping part, IMHO: more stigma for the mentally ill, less for gun-owners! Register Them, not Us!

  15. Acolyte of Sagan says

    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre,

    I suspect that Mr. LaPierre was watching different coverage of the latest massacre, because as far as I can tell the only thing that stopped this particular bad guy with a gun was said bad guy turning gun on himself.
    Later in the same confused rant about why more ‘good guys with guns’ is a cracking idea, LaPierre asked

    “When you dial 911, do you want help to come from a mile away or just a minute away?”

    Is he suggesting that the 911 dispatchers no longer send the nearest available police unit, but rather allocate the job to the nearest well-armed ‘good guys’? Ain’t that what used to be called a posse?
    What’s next? Well, as LaPierre – and seemingly the entire pro-gun crowd – seem to hark back to the ‘good old days’ of the lawless West, fed, no doubt, by ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Rawhide’ and John Wayne films, how about making all the ‘goodies’ wear white hats and the ‘baddies’ black? Issue all ‘good guys’ with Deputy badges along with their ‘good’ guns?
    Maybe some ‘scientiffical’ types can invent bullets that only kill ‘baddies’?
    No, I’ve got it, the perfect solution that would appeal to the ‘goodies and baddies / them and us’ mentality of the gun lobbyists; tattoos. Yep, just like the Nazis with the Jews, tattoo a unique number or symbol on anybody with a history of any kind of ‘mental’ illness so gun shop owners know not to sell them guns.
    Or maybe they’d prefer the much simpler method, also as employed by the Nazis, of the ‘Final Solution’.

  16. johnthedrunkard says

    As a ‘good guy,’ who owns several guns, I think I have some high ground from which to point out how bogglingly insane LaPierre’s claim is.

    Goodness, and a gun, don’t spontaneously appear whenever a lunatic shows up with a Bushmaster. The gun in my closet, or the school teacher’s desk, will not stop Lanza. The gun on the security guard’s hip MIGHT make Lanza adjust his itinerary; e.g. to use a different entrance or make sure to kill the guard first.

    In order to make LaPierre’s fantasy a reality, every public place would have to be a fortress patrolled by combat-trained, heavily armed, personnel. This would be a ‘well regulated militia’ created for the sole purpose of countering the slaughter caused by the ‘right’ to keep and bear arms that the NRA has turned into a national fetish.

    It is true that hastily-written, incoherent laws with only local application have little chance of making a significant difference. The old Sullivan law didn’t really do much for New York when anyone could bring guns in from neighboring states.

    A set of simple, enforceable, NATIONAL, gun laws; with the national will to enforce, would make it possible to take action against rage killers and gun-nut crazies.

    Today, we haven’t even got a place to stand, from which to exert the needed leverage, thanks to the NRA and its cringing acolytes in government.

  17. ttch says

    I call upon Mr. Wayne LaPierre, in his role as Vice President of the National Rifle Association, to propose a change to the membership rules of the NRA, to wit: Every member must submit a notarized statement from a licensed mental health professional, stating that the member does not suffer from any recognized mental illness or defect. Such statements must be submitted annually. This in addition to a statement from the member’s local police department that the member does not have a criminal record.

    The NRA should lead by example, Mr. LaPierre. Lead by example!

  18. says

    I’d like to see more focus on this mental illness registry proposal and how horrific it is. I skipped through the press conference video to find where he said it (the relevant part starts at about six minutes in), and as far as I can tell, LaPierre was deadly serious, as if he was proposing some normal, responsible thing that only sheer lazy negligence could prevent our government from putting into place. And he didn’t qualify his proposal either. He just went on and on about all the scary horrible incomprehensibly monstrously crazy people there are out there, and how we’ll never know how many there are until we implement an active national database of the mentally ill. Not “those who are provably, dangerously mentally ill,” (still a nasty proposal given the difficulty of defining it clearly and the likely destructive effects it would have on people who are often very vulnerable), but “the mentally ill”, which, as everyone here probably knows by now, is something like a quarter of American adults in any given year.

    I hate to Godwin, but this really is shades of Hitler, wanting to single out a group of vulnerable people for registration and demonization, over something that’s not in any way under their control. This proposal alone should disqualify LaPierre, and the NRA as a whole, from anybody ever listening to anything they have to say again.

  19. says

    I’m probably not the best person to talk about it either, since while, on the one hand, I have had personal encounters with mental illness (in myself and close friends and family), on the other hand, they’ve mostly been limited to comparatively minor and treatable depression and ADHD type stuff. So anything I have to say on the subject can easily be dismissed as, “Oh, you’re just being paranoid, we don’t mean *you*.”

    But of course the problem isn’t whether or not they mean me, the problem is that even if we restrict our consideration only to the kinds of mental illnesses that are stigmatized as “scary”, the vast majority of those people aren’t any danger to others either, and in general the linkage between mental illness and violence is much weaker and muddier than most people believe it is. (I think this has been linked on FTB before, but I’ll put it up again: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525086/#B8 .) So all a registry would do is add to the stigma of mental illness, making people who are already hurting feel even more outcast and isolated, rather than actually helping to stop violent people before they act.

    Moreover, a registry would discourage people from seeking mental health treatment for fear of ending up the registry, which would probably increase rather than decrease the number of cases in which people with untreated mental illnesses do stuff we’d rather they didn’t.

    And of course, this is all ignoring the fact that mental health status is a type of private medical information, but the registry isn’t good for much of anything if it’s not accessible to people beyond those who are normally permitted access to medical information. How do we ensure that employers don’t get this information and use it to deny jobs to people, or that nosy neighbors don’t get the information and try to get their “dangerous” neighbor (after all, ze’s on the registry, right?) thrown out of their housing, or any one of zillions of other types of breaches of basic civil rights? It’s just a bad, bad, bad road to go down, and it really says something about the NRA’s priorities that Wayne LaPierre is seriously proposing this as an alternative to registering guns, given that gun ownership is voluntary and non-stigmatized and that gun owners are, in general, not a vulnerable class of people. (Seriously, how the hell is it worse to be required to receive training with and register your gun than it is to be required to do the same for your car, especially since cars are a hell of a lot more essential for many people’s everyday lives?)

  20. John Morales says

    [OT]

    gillyc,

    it is hardly disputable that an inverse relationship exists between the availability of weapons and their frequency of employment

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean ‘inverse’? Increasing availability of guns correlates with increasing frequency of employment, that’s not an inverse relationship. Unless I’m misunderstanding your point?

    You are correct; I was careless there.

  21. Wave says

    A mental illness registry is a ridiculous idea.

    However mental illness is an essential component in quite a number of these massacres.

    Since massive numbers of mental patients were deinsitutionalised in the 60s, the problem has just been allowed to fester.

    In America there is a death of facilities, treatment centres and resources for the mentally ill because no one wants to pay for their care. It’s just so much easier and cheaper to sweep it all under the rug.

    No, you damn fool. 26 innocent lives would have been spared that day if Adam Lanza had been no more able to obtain an assault rifle than he was to obtain a tactical nuclear weapon.

    Lanza was an adult male. His prey consisted mostly of six year olds, some of whom weighed all of 30 pounds. He could have killed them using the standard ten inch butcher knife one finds in most kitchen drawers.

    I’m not trying to defend the NRA in any way whatsoever, I just think the problem is far, FAR more complexe than just prying a gun from Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands.

    Lanza’s mother had expressed grave misgivings about the state of her son’s mental health, but no one really listened.

    The more I learn about Lanza and the events leading up to his rampage, the more I,m struck by the similarities with the Montreal massace of 1989.

    The parents of both Lanza and MarcLepine, author of the Montreal Massacre were divorced. Both were raised by their mothers in single family homes. Both lacked good, solid male role-models. Both were marginal, isolated loners, quite unable to fit in. Both chose easy targets ( women for the one and children for the other ) that would allow them to “bulk up” a flagging sense of masculinity. Both ended their blaze-of-glory rampages by committing suicide…the manly thing to do.

    Finally, Like Lanza’s mother, Marc Lepine’s had gone to the authorities to express misgivings about her son’s mental fragility and his pôtential to do harm, and like Lanza’s mother, no one listened to her either.

  22. says

    Wave, have you not heard about the knife attack at a Chinese school that happened around the same time as the Sandy Hook killings ( http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57559179/china-school-knife-attack-leaves-23-injured/ )? 23 people were injured, some seriously, but none died. Guns make a big difference in the lethality of these events. While they can be reasonably safe in the hands of a trained and responsible person, they are nevertheless exceptionally high-quality amplifiers of the consequences of stupidity, carelessness, derangement, and evil, much more so than a knife or a tire iron. And unlike knives and tire irons, they fundamentally have little useful purpose other than to kill.

    In addition, while mental illness may have played a clear role in many of the more recent memorable shooting sprees (although not in the DC sniper killings, the Fort Hood shootings, the Bath School disaster — the USA’s first known school rampage, Eric Rudolph’s anti-choice terrorism, and many other charismatic murders that I’m not patient enough to list), the sprees are only a drop in the bucket next to the kind of everyday gun homicides that kill one or two people at a time, not to mention all the accidents and suicides. The vast majority of shootings most likely have no link to mental illness (modulo suicides, but even suicide is not generally the result of the kind of mental illness that we tend to associate with spree killers). If we’re serious about addressing the harm done by guns, we should look at where they’re actually doing the most damage, not just the things that make the big headlines.

    I’d also note that even in the cases where there does seem to be some kind of link to mental illness, the strength of the link is often exaggerated simply because so few people can envision being in a situation where they would genuinely want to kill anyone, much less random strangers, so they sloppily fall back on the, “Ze must’ve been crazy,” explanation as a form of mental self-protection. Unfortunately, in many cases the killer is deceased by the time anybody gets around to asking the question, so all we’re left with is after-the-fact armchair rationalization, rather than properly validated professional diagnoses. There’s also a big selection bias in this — the cases that are the most memorable and make the most headlines are the ones people find most disturbing and confusing. Everybody can figure out why a jealous spouse might shoot a cheating partner, but very few people can figure out why a 20-year-old would go out and shoot up a school full of little kids he’d never met before. So we spend a lot more time talking about the latter case than the former.

    I have friends and family members who are responsible gun owners, and I’ve gone shooting at ranges on more than one occasion and enjoyed it immensely. I don’t want to see guns, even things like handguns and “assault weapons” (a misleading term if there ever was one) and moderate-capacity magazines, banned. But I do want to see gun rights activists beginning to actually take responsibility for the safety hazard that these weapons pose to everyone else (and to the activists too, really), rather than just polishing their persecution complexes and fighting every attempt at regulation. I want to see the NRA calling for gun owners be required to pass stringent safety training (with teachers who, like my middle school shop instructors, consider it their first responsibility to scare the shit out of their students so that the students will take the equipment they are handling seriously) in order to be allowed to own a weapon, and to keep that certification updated. I want to see the NRA agree that legally-owned guns should be registered, and that the owners should be required to bear some form of legal or financial responsibility if their gun harms or kills someone else or damages property, even if they weren’t the one holding the gun at the time. If they would do that kind of thing, I’d actually respect them and take them seriously. But instead, they’re proposing that people with mental illnesses be put in some kind of creepy Big Brother registry. (And here I thought conservatives hated big government intruding on people’s private lives!)

    Improving access to mental health services is an important thing too, possibly even a more important thing than good gun laws, and, sure, in an ideal world we could use these terrible events as a way to make people give a shit about that and actually take action on it. But in reality, mental health issues are only slightly relevant to the problem of gun violence, and unfortunately that very small link is now being blown out of proportion in order to deflect the blame from our irresponsible gun culture (and the NRA’s role in fostering their irresponsibility) onto those scary, demonic, incomprehensible crazy people who should all be registered for the protection of the “normals”.

    In short, I get what you’re saying about the importance of mental health, but I really think it’s an extremely dangerous red herring in the discussion of what should be done in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. The fact that this red herring has led anyone to seriously propose what LaPierre proposed is disturbing, and I don’t understand why the NRA hasn’t already been shamed into firing this guy with extreme prejudice.

  23. says

    Another thing I was reminded of in reading through the comments in Kate’s post: if you wanna talk about mental illness being a big component in a lot of these spree killings, there’s something else that seems to be an even bigger correlate both for spree killings and for all other kinds of violence, pretty much across the spectrum, and that’s being male. Seems to me that if we actually care about addressing this problem (as opposed to just scapegoating those who are different or deflecting blame from our favorite toys), our first order of business ought to be to look into what’s going on with these stronger correlations, rather than latching onto things like mental illness that sound exciting but are much less clearly relevant.

  24. denis says

    Australia had 13 massacres in 20 years, introduced regulations , and nearly 20 years later hasnt had one since.

    Not all gun owners are the same. They arent all good or all bad. I dont demonize them as a group. The only gun owners who SHOULD feel demonized are those ignoring the evidence for regulations. There is a mountain of evidence justifying the need for regulation and control. The second amendment actually DEMANDS that it be “well regulated”.

    Responsible owners WILL recognize the need AND they will support it. However those irrationally arguing against it WILL RIGHTLY be demonized as knowingly and deliberately enabling murderers and child killers.

    Further, those denying the evidence, and arguing against it are irrational; and definitely should be denied the opportunity to own or use arms.

    If you are a gun owner and feling demonized, there could be a valid reason.

  25. says

    First of all I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had trouble clearing my mind in getting my ideas out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Kudos!|

  26. says

    Please consider stirring things up by signing this:

    http://wh.gov/QEZ6

    It’s a poke at a hornets nest, but I’m sick of the politicians talking about this on the NRA’s terms.
    It takes 150 signatures to show up in searches.

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