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Las Vegas

from Peter Radford

So we go through it all again.

We go through the constant call for payers. The incessant search for reasons; the outpouring of emotion; the interviews; the graphics; the enumeration of mayhem; the grief of families; the interviews with experts; and the silence of the voices lost.

There are never, however, efforts to deal with the problem.

America is obsessed with guns. It adores them It worships them. It is sick with guns.

Blame it on the foolishness of the second amendment. Or, more pointedly, blame it on the truly stupid interpretation of that foolish amendment.

And blame it on a nation that clings stubbornly to the illusion that a few men a couple of hundred years ago would endorse the twisted version of their vision that the second amendment has become. They surely would not. They would move on, just as America today refuses to move on. The need for a well-armed militia is hardly relevant in today’s world. It is an artifact of history. Our contemporary problem is not the need for a militia, it is our need to rein in the gun lobbyists and the gun makers who peddle death.

Economics has a concept called “revealed preference”. Like it or not we can apply it to yesterday’s sickening violence. Because preferences are inscrutable to analysts — they are hidden within the minds of consumers — economists are forced to rely on what people actually purchase in order to define them. The assumption being that consumers reveal their preferences in their purchasing behavior. That there may be a million other causes for why people act as they do, but economists zero in own what they can measure. The immeasurable is ignored. 

So: whenever there is a mass shooting in America, and 2017 has seen over two hundred so far [yes over two hundred]! voters reveal their preferences in their action or inaction with respect to guns. More specifically, legislators do. And the reviews are in: America is indifferent to gun violence.

This looks as if it contradicts the outpourings on the day of a massacre. But leave it a day or two. Listen for the reaction. Watch for the determination to clamp down on guns. Look for any evidence at all that the country wants to prevent future mayhem. Wait. You will be waiting for a very long time. America adores its guns more than it detests the violence. Revealed preference suggests that all the angst is just smoke. The real preference is for continued violence. No one actually does anything to restrict the flow of weaponry onto the streets.

So:

  • America has 29.7 murders using guns per million people. Switzerland is a distant second at 7.7.
  • There have been over 1,500 mass murders since the infamous sandy Hook massacre[about one per day]
  • Americans own over 42% of the non-military guns in the world, despite having only 4.5% of the world population.
  • States with stricter gun laws have fewer gun related deaths.
  • And even after a massacre the public doesn’t cry for gun control. Indeed the percentage of voters opposing gun control has edged up in recent years [perhaps due to white supremacists and their fear of a black man in the White House]?

So, don’t allow all this teary-eyed melodrama fool you: America will still love its guns tomorrow. America will remain the most violence-riddled  and violence-addicted of the advanced nations.

And there will be more massacres.

One more thing, if you think I am being callous or worse, remember this: after the Las Vegas slaughter survivors asked whether the shooter had been Muslim or a “regular guy”. Had he been Muslim we would have plunged down the terrorist rabbit hole and there would have been immediate calls for retribution and/or reaction, but he was a “regular guy”. So there is no need to react. After all, we all know that nothing can be done about a regular guy who owns an arsenal of offensive weaponry. No, nothing can be done about that. We all simply have to live with it.

Or die.

  1. October 5, 2017 at 5:31 pm

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  2. patrick newman
    October 5, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Why on Earth would a democratic modern country enshrine the ownership of a lethal weapon in its constitution as a right?

  3. October 5, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    I can’t think of a modern democratic nation that does. Where in earth can you mean?

    • Risk Analyst
      October 5, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you for that. If we had a “comment of the month” section, your comment should be nominated.

  4. robert locke
    October 5, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    I don’t think Americans love guns. I don’t, never had one in my house; moreover, I have never seen an American shot with a gun, and I am 85 years old. The problem is not love for guns, but the rigging of the American political system in a way that frustrates democracy. No need to point out how it is done, we are know that a minority runs the country through the control that nonpopulated state have in the dominance of outcome, and the way that rich people control elections. We have a leadership crisis in America. I’ve never seen such a lousy lot of people in a financialized economy in leagues with a political elite disserve the community in which they live. It is a real crisis for the American people.

  5. Garrett Connelly
    October 6, 2017 at 3:24 am

    Figure it out. Roughly. About how many million completely innocent people do you think the Pentagonians have killed since 1945?

  6. October 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    There are over 300 million guns in the USA today. That is a more than 100% increase since 1968. In that time the nation has not been invaded or become involved in a new civil war. The guns aren’t needed for personal protection. So why the increase? As they say, follow the money. During the 1970’s a hardline and well-funded group took over the NRA. The usual suspects funded them. Koch, etc. Their views on gun ownership and use are absolute. The right to own guns is fundamental and guaranteed by the Constitution. Gun manufacturers were a natural ally. Particularly, since all the gun companies were nearing bankruptcy, after four decades of changes in laws to restrict and control gun ownership and use. With the new NRA policies certain groups benefited. Gun owners and potential owners, gun manufacturers, the NRA, and politicians who received large “campaign” donations to support pro-gun use and ownership changes in the laws. Losers are cities, police departments, and citizens not owning or wanting to own guns.

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