It’s because we’ve rejected God

Presumably, you’ve seen the absolutely asinine comments from Mike Huckabee and others that the shooting is a result of our society turning away from God. Raleigh’s own conservative columnist makes a similar, but much more interesting and empirically-based argument in the N&O today:

Make no mistake: We are confronting evil. Gun control laws don’t address evil, and neither do mental health professionals. Priests, rabbis and imams are experts in that field. Yet there has not been a serious call for Americans to return to the pews for some deep soul-searching and moral reassessment.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that church attendance would solve and prevent all of our social ills, but we stick our heads in the sand when we ignore empirical data that show regular church attendance leads to more socially desirable outcomes.

In December 2006, Dr. Patrick H. Fagen, then of the Heritage Foundation, cited 132 academic studies and reviews (“Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability”) showing that regular church attendance led to a more stable family life, strong marriages and well-behaved children.

A habit of church-going also produced a reduction in domestic violence and substance abuse. In 2002, Dr. Byron R. Johnson of Baylor University (“Objective Hope: Assessing the Effectiveness of Faith-Based Organizations: A Review of the Literature”) reviewed hundreds of studies and found that the overwhelming majority concluded that rates of depression and suicide declined as religious practice increased.

I appreciate the turning to social science and not being simplistic, but there’s a big pile of data that suggests Martinez is flat-out wrong. That data?  The damn rest of the developed world– most all of which is substantially less religious than the US.  Here’s a chart from a fairly recent Pew study on religiosity around the world:

Okay, then, I hopped over to this very cool site which lets you plot data for the OECD countries of your choice, in this case homicide rate.  I chose the 6 least religious countries according to the Pew study (plus #8 Germany, Russia obviously does not qualify as a modern democracy) and compared to the U.S.  Results are not surprising:

homiciderate

 

Well, that’s pretty clear evidence.  These countries which have turned away from Church and God have way lower murder rates than the United States.  Nice try, Rick.  Hmmm, what’s different then?  Just maybe, could it actually be our gun laws and our gun culture?

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Photo of the day

From a nice snow-themed N&O gallery:

A train on a narrow-gauge railway line, makes its way through the winter landscape near Wernigerode, northern Germany, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. Parts of Europe were hit hard by heavy snow and freezing temperatures. (AP Photo/dapd, Jens Schlueter)

What to do policy-wise

Excellent piece from Ezra yesterday on the most sensible policy options going forward.  Of course, it relied on my (and Ezra’s) guru for all things crime policy related, Mark Kleimann.  So, what to do?

The fatalism about gun control tends to begin with a simple statistic: There are 300 million or so guns in the United States. Perhaps it would be better to live in a world where that number was much closer to zero. But since we don’t live in that world, the thinking goes, there’s nothing much that can be done.

Kleiman doesn’t buy that fatalism. Of those guns, 100 million are handguns, and handguns are used in the bulk of killings (though not in the Newtown massacre).

Moreover, Kleiman says, the evidence suggests that these old guns aren’t huge contributors to gun crime. “The fact that we have all these guns in inventory doesn’t seem to matter much because crime guns are young,” he says. “Bad guys like new toys fresh out of the box. Now, maybe they’d adapt if you made those guns hard to get. But your local branch of the Crips isn’t arming itself out of the proceeds of burglaries. They’re buying new Glocks.”

That’s where the private-sales loophole comes in: It’s depressingly easy for a gang member to drive to a gun show outside the city limits and bring back dozens of Glocks with few questions asked. That’s something we can, and should, stop.

As for the kind of guns you can buy, a tougher assault weapons ban, with fewer loopholes, and perhaps provisions outlawing bullets built to shatter in the body for maximum damage, would help reduce the lethality of the arms on the street.

“What would that troubled young man have done with less powerful weapons?” says Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. “There very likely would’ve been fewer than 26 victims.”

Once people have guns, says Phil Cook, a gun control expert at Duke University, we should sharply increase the attention to and penalties for illegal gun possession. Many cops are told to prioritize drunk driving and drug possession well above unauthorized possession of a firearm. Top police departments across the country are learning that focusing on firearm possession can cut homicides. That’s a lesson the federal government could help other police departments learn.

Even if we do all this, and more, we may still see rampage shootings, and we will still have to grieve for murdered children. But the shootings will be fewer, and the deaths rarer. [emphasis mine] We may not know how to prevent the massacre in Newtown, but we do know how to reduce gun deaths.

I do absolutely hate the frequent argument that essentially amounts to arguing we cannot completely eliminate these crimes so we should not even bother trying to reduce them in frequency or the damage that happens when they do occur.  And it is patently obvious that we can reduce their frequency and potency.

For starters, it just seems reallyreally clear that we need to completely limit high-capacity magazines.  They serve no useful civilian purpose.  Period.  If you can’t do what you need with 6 bullets, you are somewhere in Iraq of Afghanistan, not the US.  If it was up to me, I’d make the policy retro-active.  Obviously, that’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of happening, but it would make a real difference.  Even still, if Kleiman is right (and he usually is), limiting the capacity of all new guns could make a very real difference.  Of course, the determined killer might still enter a building strapped with 3 Glocks, instead of 1 Glock and 2 extra magazines.  But, those 2 extra pistols are going to set him back $1000 or so compared to the two extra magazines.  Tell me that doesn’t matter.  Again, I’m under absolutely no illusions that we can stop spree killers in this country, but for every horrible occurrence that does take place, limiting the lives lost–with no real negative impact on legitimate gun owners (i.e., limits on magazine size and ammunition purchases)– seems like an obvious, obvious step.  The fact that the Aurora, Colorado killer could buy thousands of rounds of ammo over the internet essentially anonymously whereas I have to provide my ID every time I buy Sudafed is an abomination.

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