Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre in perspective

It is of course extraordinarily sad that 32 people, young people have been murdered in cold blood.

There will no doubt be many calls to do something.

At a time like this we need to have some perspective, the reality is that in the last 50 years there have been 500 "spree killings" worldwide.

This includes Columbine, Dunblane and Hungerford.

In the same time over 150,000 have died on the UK's roads alone, in France we are looking at nearer 300,000, Yugoslavia just does not bear thinking about as the death rate on the roads in the former Yugoslavia make every where else look like a safe place to drive!

Virginia Tech has just become a "weapon free zone". The problem is of course, is that only applies to those who follow the regulations, it does not apply to those who don't.

In all the spree killings the one thing that is common is that the perpetrator is better armed than the victims.

21 comments:

The Real Sporer said...

On point!!!!

Every study shows that violent crime dramatically falls with an increase in hand gun ownership. The most violent American cities have the strictest gun control.

One armed student would have ended that spree.

james higham said...

I've avoided the topic, Benedict but my thoughts are as yours here.

Benedict White said...

The Real Sporer, I can't comment fully on the US, but gun control laws obviously only apply to the law abiding.

The other thing is that people do need to get things in perspective. These events are thankfully rare.

James, many thanks. I was going to avoid it to, but like with rail crashes we must "do something" with out it appears first considering how bad the problem is compared to other things. I find anual road deaths a handy measure of what the public think is reasonably acceptable in one way.

tjm said...

Benedict, I regularly support your posts on pb.com, but I think your thinking is seriously flawed here. Laws don't "only apply to the law abiding". With fewer guns in society, access to one is far more difficult. Although criminal gangs will always be able to find a weapon if they want one, I'm pretty sure most students in the UK wouldn't know where to start. I'd like to see which study the real sporer has been looking at, but seeing as these shootings almost always take place in the US, where gun access is the most open in the Western world, I'm pretty suspicious.

This is obviously a tragic and important issue. We must make sure our thinking is reasoned and flawless in the British Conservative tradition - not clouded by the ideological rash logic that has undermined the Right in the US.

Benedict White said...

TJM, The major point of the article was to put the massacre into perspective. No flawed thinking there.

The second point is gun control does not seem to make the difference that its proponents claim.

Real Sporer comes from Ohio, so if it makes you feel better you can just think of him as a gun toting nut, but you are wrong to assume that the USA has easier access to firearms than anywhere else in the western world.

Canada has very high gun ownership, and the only gun related murder Michael More could find there when he made "Bowling Columbine" was committed by an American from Detroit. In Switzerland having an automatic rifle at home is not "allowed" it is mandatory.

There are studies that do show that in the US where there is more gun control there is more gun related crime, except in Chickasaw county Georgia where there is gun control, if you don't have a gun and you are over 18 your nicked.

The reality is that in the USA it is not practical to ban guns. People who wanted them most, and to do harm, criminals, would get hold of them.

If you look at Dunblane, can you honestly say the ban on handguns has stopped another one? The reality is that the actual failure that caused Dunblane still exists which is that Thomas Hamilton should never have had a firearms licence and had the system worked would never have got one. Yet 11 years on, the problems with the licencing system still exist and yes, you can still get certain types of handgun.

In that sense legally held hand guns are not in fact the problem in the UK, and where they have been the problem whilst grotesque and hurtful has always been small compared to other things. The problem is illegally held guns, and banning them with knobs on doesn't do any more than banning them.

Lord Nazh said...

"Although criminal gangs will always be able to find a weapon if they want one,"

This statement should make anyone think real hard about their future. Do you really want to live in a society where the criminal gangs are the only armed citizens?

Anonymous said...

Hmm..not sure how having a gun will help you if you are shot in the back.

More guns = increased risk.

Obvious really, but then the dead are Americans, so expendable really..

Benedict White said...

Lord Nazh, you have to bear in mind we have a different perspective over here in the UK, but that is something to think about.

Anonymous, "More guns = increased risk."

I used to think like that, it is after all both an obvious and in soe ways attractive view point. However it does not seem to me know to bear all that much scrutiny. The fact is that law abiding people do not go around killing other people regardless of whether they have guns or not.

People who are not law abiding do, and it follows that if they have no respect for the law they may well get hold of illegal firearms.

Since Dunblane we have made it illegal for people to have handguns yet their use in crime has risen.

"Obvious really, but then the dead are Americans, so expendable really.."

Now that is just being unkind.

tjm said...

Actually, the US does have the most liberal gun control in the Western World. The vague term of "gun ownership" might reflect different statistics, but if you look at each case one-by-one you will see there are strong regulations. Canada has some very tough gun laws. Registration has been required on guns nationwide since the 1930s. The 1995 act clamped down on it even more, and has been effective in reducing crime. In Switzerland, guns are *not* mandatory - only mandatory to serve in the military militia. Equally, both those countries have much more spread out populations than exists in the densely populated areas of the US. Swizterland also has regular checks travelling between cantons. Yes, had the perpetrator of Dunblane been succesffuly checked he wouldn't have got a gun, but as long as you allow these weapons you will always get people slipping through the net of routine checks.

The studies in the US are extremely flawed, as laz gun supply in one state effects surrounding states. The lack of international borders means you have to treat the whole country as one.

Lord Nazh, you mean would I prefer gun crime was mainly limited to gang-on-gang violence rather than having gun access for students at Columbine and Virginia Tech? Yes, I certainly would.

Benedict White said...

TJM, Even in Canadian and Swiss built up areas don't go around shooting people, but you have a point it is not quite so easy to get hold of a gun.

However, what you need to look at is how many killings are carried out with legally held weapons as opposed to illegally held ones, or indeed compare the death rates to other activities. They are very small.

You can't have a totally no risk society, and trying to get one simply does not work

Lord Nazh said...

Gang on gang violence.. heh

you think that gangs only do violence on other gangs... if that were true, there'd be no gangs.

If there are any guns and YOU make sure that the VICTIMS cannot have ANY guns, you will have mass murder by an easily stopped assailant.

tjm said...

Benedict, you may be quite correct to say that many of these crimes are committed with guns being carried/owned in an illegal manner. But you'll find that the source for most of those guns was through legal means. More legal guns means more illegal guns. Cross-country studies have shown this.

Lord nazh, actually most gun shooting from gangs is gang-on-gang violence. Although guns are used for armed robbery etc on civilians the usual intention in these cases is simply for the threat of violence. Although obviously there are tragic cases where guns do get used when things get out of hand, this is much smaller than gang-on-gang violence.

As for your point about victims needing to have guns to stop crime, in most places in the civilised world the police are usually the ones to apprehend criminals. Perhaps you think law-enforcement was more effective in the old west, where everyone carried a gun?

Timothy said...

The second point is gun control does not seem to make the difference that its proponents claim.

That's just rubbish. Dunblane, there were many dead. Subsequent increase in gun control. Subsequently teacher given award for heroically defending class from a knife-wielding maniac.

Likewise, didn't a Lib Dem MP (or one of his staffers) get attacked by someone with a sword. Might they have been shot dead if guns were more widely available?

Technology is simply an enabler. It helps us to do things more easily. The printing press enabled one writer to be able to reach a vastly increased number of people, for example. On the other hand a gun only increases your ability to inflict pain or death.

It's nuts to suggest we'd be better off with more guns.

Most of the argument against banning guns in the US is that it is "too difficult". Since when did we give up on worthwhile things because they were hard? Where's the inspiration for a better world?

Benedict White said...

Timothy, Your entire post seems predicated on the assumption that either of those two homicidal maniacs have ever applied for, or would have been granted a firearms licence.

After all, we are talking about legally held firearms rather than illegally held ones.

have you any evidence to support your assumption?

verity said...

All these anti-gun nuts with their raving - deeply ignorant - hatred of the United States are so predictable I can't even be bothered to read through their paint-by-numbers posts.

Why doesn't "America" just ban guns? Because, you ill-educated little idiot, America's laws are made by the states. "America" is a federation of independent states. See, that why the national government is called the Federal government. (These are the same self-righteous, ill-educated people who think the President is somehow the "boss" of the 50 states' governors. As in the wail, "Why didn't Bush send the trooops into Louisiana days earlier instead of lolling around in the air-conditioned White House watching TV?" Because he can't send the troops to invade a state without the invitation of the governor.)

The states that ban guns, as aforementioned here, have in general higher crime rates than rational states like Texas and New Hampshire.

No, you can't "just walk into a store and buy a gun". There's a two-week cooling off period in Texas, while they investigate you for a record of criminality or bonkersness.

I haven't seen any anti-gun nuts writing in to demand that the S Korean government ban movies about massacres. Yet this killer choreographed his massacre to copy a S Korean massacre movie.

Where are all the angry-self-righteous, spiteful Brits denouncing S Korea?

Benedict White said...

Verity, Whilst it may be the case that Texas has those rules, Virginia does not. They do an instant check, and perhaps that is why this man got hold of his guns.

verity said...

An instant check by computer is probably as good as a two-week check.

I don't know how he got his guns, but certainly, you can buy assault weapons anywhere, including Britain.

Frankly, under normal circumstances, had this not been a college campus, some passing adult - more likely several - would have had a gun and shot him dead, saving many young lives.

Benedict White said...

Verity. You would hope an electronic check would have been as good however we now know that he was known to the police as having mental health problems but was able to certify himself as not having any.

It is too early for a postmortem on this though. I suspect the issue will be looked at in detail in Virginia.

verity said...

BenedictWhite - Yes, obviously this case will be looked at carefully in VA and it will occasion thought all over the United States. Of course. But you cannot make laws for a, by and large, sane population based on the actions of a man who was so disturbed he was off the Richter scale.

Doubtless the VA solons will close the particular loophole of allowing people to assert that actually, they did have a problem before but now they feel fine.

What they will not do is commit political suicide by tightening up on gun control. Tony Blair wants to ban anything with a blade. Thank God America is a more rational, reasoned place and no one in the US has as much raw power to do ill as the PM of Britain. People have to be free.

Were this not a college campus, there would have been passing adults who were carrying guns and would have shot this deranged individual through the head and there would have been far less damage.

Benedict White said...

Verity, If I am right, it is not so much a question of making laws for the hard cases, (which reading between the lines, makes bad law) as having the procedures and enforcement to implement the laws that already exist.

Obviously banning blades is nuts, because we all need to cu up our food, and carrying a blade is illegal unless you have a lawful reason to do so. All it needs is enforcement.

Outlawing carrying a blade with knobs on is not going to help if you are not enforcing the law without the knobs.

Verity said...

Dear God! (And I mean that.) You people have no concept of freedom. You're talking about degrees of whether someone can have something with a blade in Britain. Do you understand how far you have fallen? Tony Blair is outlawing kitchen knives which we have, I believe, been using on our islands for at least 2,000 years and probably much longer.

Blair, a controlling madman who makes Ghenkis Khan look too sneaky, continues to brutalise the British public. More and more laws to circumscribe action by citizens. More CCTV cameras. More traffic cameras. More little boys of 6 arrested for "sexual assault". Control. Control. Control. Especially over parents.

You are lost.

The Virginian legislature is, I am sure, in shock. And many of them will have a connection, one way or another - their history goes back 300 years - to one or more of the families affected by this hideous . They will not react in panic, because that is not the American way.

From comments I see in the newspapers, it might be an idea for the all-knowing, all judging British to step back and maintain a period of intense shut-upness. No one cares about your opinion. You live in a dictatorship because you have no checks and balances.

You're ignorant of American culture and the laws of 50 different states. Britain could fit inside the state of Texas 3 1/2 times. That should give you an idea of the scale.