Truth in satire

Sometimes, the Onion nails it just so perfectly:

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

NEWS IN BRIEF • Guns • Violence • News • ISSUE 50•21 • May 27, 2014

ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. [emphasis mine] “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

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Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s pictures of the week:

Emirati dhows sail towards the finishing line in the the Al-Gaffal traditional long-distance dhow sailing race between the island of Sir Bu Nair, near the Iranian coast, and the Gulf emirate during the 24th annual dhow sailing race, known as The Gaffal, which has a total of 10 million dirhams ($272,000) in prizes

Dhows sail towards the finishing line in the the Al-Gaffal traditional long-distance dhow sailing race between the island of Sir Bu Nair, near the Iranian coast, and the Gulf emirate during the annual dhow sailing race, known as The Gaffal, which has a total of 10 million dirhams ($272,000) in prize money.Picture: KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images

How we got to NRA World

Great piece in Politico (I know– how often do I say that) adapted from Michael Waldman’s new book in which he explains how the NRA so successfully re-wrote the second amendment.  Best interpretation of the constitutional issues, “well-regulated militia,” etc., I’ve seen.  And I’m sorry, there’s just no two ways about it– the founders had no intent to guarantee an individual right to a gun for self defense as it is currently proposed.  Now, I accept a living Constitution on other amendments, so I’ll accept it here.  But, what’s pretty stark and disturbing to see how the NRA and its allies created this evolving understanding.  Here’s one factoid for you:

From 1888, when law review articles first were indexed, through 1959, every single one on the Second Amendment concluded it did not guarantee an individual right to a gun. 

The amount of willful and obtuse mis-readings of the founding fathers are also pretty amazing.  E.g.,

Thomas Jefferson offers numerous opportunities for pro-gun advocates. “Historical research demonstrates the Founders out-‘NRAing’ even the NRA,” proclaimed one prolific scholar. “‘One loves to possess arms’ wrote Thomas Jefferson, the premier intellectual of his day, to George Washington on June 19, 1796.” What a find! Oops: Jefferson was not talking about guns. He was writing to Washington asking for copies of some old letters, to have handy so he could issue a rebuttal in case he got attacked for a decision he made as secretary of state. The NRA website still includes the quote. You can go online to buy a T-shirt emblazoned with Jefferson’s mangled words.

Wow.

Joe Nocera also covers the book in today’s column:

The critical modern event, however, was the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which tossed aside two centuries of settled law, and ruled that a gun-control law in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The author of the majority opinion was Antonin Scalia, who fancies himself the leading “originalist” on the court — meaning he believes, as Waldman puts it, “that the only legitimate way to interpret the Constitution is to ask what the framers and their generation intended in 1789.”

Waldman is persuasive that a truly originalist decision would have tied the right to keep and bear arms to a well-regulated militia. But the right to own guns had by then become conservative dogma, and it was inevitable that the five conservative members of the Supreme Court would vote that way…

Sadly, that is what we have now, as we saw over the weekend. Elliot Rodger’s individual right to bear arms trumped the public good. Eight people were shot as a result.

Yep.  And switching gears to where it really matters– the needless loss of life that results, I love this story about the father of one of the victims:

GOLETA, Calif. — The father of a young man gunned down Friday during the rampage in Santa Barbara said he is asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Christopher Michaels-Martinez.

“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down his face. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

Saying “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-control laws.

“Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: Not one more,” he said Tuesday morning. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.”

I also was particularly interested in this part of an article about the crazed killer:

The police determined they had no grounds to hold him for psychiatric examination — or, perhaps more significant, to search his apartment, where he had hidden three semiautomatic handguns and a trove of ammunition. Once the police left, Mr. Rodger took down the videos.

Mr. Cameron said that visit illustrated a common error often made in situations of potential threat. “They rely too heavily on how they feel about the person at the time they interview him,” he said. The deputies, he said, should have “cared less about how he behaved in the moment they were talking to him than on the data that brought them there in the first place.”

Yes!  Totally crazy people can act absolutely sane for extended periods of time.  We need to judge by the overall context and warning signs, not the fact that one can be polite to police for five minutes.

And last, it would be even better if we actually knew nothing about the killer.  Seriously.  Ezra:

There’s a reason the media rarely reports on suicides. Sociologists long ago discovered that suicide is contagious — and media coverage helps its spread. There are guidelines endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Office of the Surgeon General, and others warning against “inadvertently romanticizing suicide or idealizing those who take their own lives by portraying suicide as a heroic or romantic act.” They also caution media outlets against credulously relaying the testimony of the deceased. “The cause of an individual suicide is invariably more complicated than a recent painful event such as the break-up of a relationship or the loss of a job,” they write.

But the national media reports ceaselessly on mass murders. Cameras are often there to cover the actual shooting, and they don’t leave until weeks or months after the final press conference. Magazines profile the killers, lingering on their fashion affectations or their love of death metal or their disturbed art or the maddening realization that they didn’t seem like killers at all. These are all natural attempts to understand a tragedy. But the end up glorifying the murderer — and possibly creating copycats.

Sociologists believe that mass murder is contagious, too. “The tornado of media coverage that swirls around each such mass killing,” wrote Zeynep Tufekci at The Atlantic, “and the acute interest in the identity and characteristics of the shooter — as well as the detailed and sensationalist reporting of the killer’s steps just before and during the shootings — may be creating a vicious cycle of copycat effects similar to those found in teen and other suicides.” They also may be fulfilling the shooter’s hopes and dreams.

Would it stop all mass murders if we stopped giving coverage to the killers? Of course not, but the available evidence strongly suggests it would decrease them as those seeking infamous self-aggrandizement would lose that opportunity.  I know we want to understand what happened, but how much can an ordinary person really “understand” another who thinks it is a good idea to walk into a sorority and start shooting anyway?!  I would love to see a campaign directed at major media institutions to make this happen.

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