People kill people. With guns

One of these days I’m going to get around to doing a nice long post on gun control.  For now, I simply want to point out that, perhaps, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” but it’s a heck of a lot easier with a gun and that is the tool most often used in this country when people kill each other.  I guarantee you that if spoons were effectively and severely restricted, there’s be a lot less soup eaten in this country.

A great principle in public health is that of “harm reduction.”  Perhaps you cannot eliminate a problem, e.g., illegal drug use, but you can find a way such that the problem causes less harm.   This can certainly apply to guns as well.  No, we’re not going to get rid of crazy (or evil) people.  And, in this country there is clearly no political will to dramatically limit the supply of guns (and only a dramatic limit would really help).  What we can do, however, is dramatically limit the harm the comes from combining crazy people and guns.  No civilians need assault rifles, 30 bullet clips, etc.  None!  It still would’ve been a tragedy if Loughner showed up with a 6-shooter, but not nearly as bad.  Furthermore, it was far too easy for a guy with serious red flags to get a gun.  I’ll throw it to Big Steve again:

Anyhow, we are not going to stop all crazy people from doing crazy things.  But we can limit the harm such people can do.  This is a lesson we have learned again and again at great cost.  Jared Lee Loughner did not have to go out of his way to find this gun, but just went to a store.  Let’s make it hard for these guys.  Let’s separate out the dedicated, disciplined people with mental problems from those who are less motivated.  Let’s make it just a bit harder for them.  Yes, banning various kinds of guns does not make it impossible for people to get these kinds of weapons, but it increases the likelihood that the next person who decides to assassinate someone will have harder time getting the means to do so and perhaps will do far less damage.

True dat.

What we do  know

Apparently, Big Steve has taken to tweeting as well as blogging.  Love this one:

Perhaps too soon to blame heated political rhetoric, but never too soon to blame NRA and others for easy access to gun w/ 30 bullet magazine

Clearly, Loughner was a genuinely deranged young man.  If not Gabrielle Giffords, it seems pretty clear to me he was going to end up shooting someone, whether political or not.  The emails from his community college classmates were chilling.  Gun control is a much more complex subject than typically given credit for (I take my cues on the matter from Kleiman).  Regardless, on what rational basis do you justify the legal trade it items such as assault rifles, armor-piercing bullets, 30 bullet clips, etc.?  I sure don’t see one.

Quote of the day


These days, America is the advanced nation with the least social mobility (pdf), except possibly for Britain. Access to good schools, good health care, and job opportunities depends on lot on choosing the right parents. [emphasis mine]

It really is actively harmful to political discourse in this country– as Krugman lays out in more detail– how much so many Americans dramatically misperceive the social mobility in this country.  If there was one political mis-perception I could correct, this might be it.

So when you hear conservatives talk about how our goal should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes, your first response should be that if they really believe in equality of opportunity, they must be in favor of radical changes in American society. For our society does not, in fact, produce anything like equal opportunity (in part because it produces such unequal outcomes). Tell me how you’re going to produce a huge improvement in the quality of public schools, how you’re going to provide universal health care (for parents as well as children, because parents in bad health affect childrens’ prospects), and then come back to me about the equal chances at the starting line thing.


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