Gun Control 2.3
November 17, 2017
Gun Control 2.5
December 24, 2017
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The fourth episode of our series on gun control and gun violence  begins our look at the United States. Was the Wild West as violent as Hollywood has lead us to believe? How do daily mass shootings effect the national American psyche?


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Theme music: Holy Deep by The Passion HiFi

Show Notes:

  • Okay, now we get to ‘Murica.
  • Recording this on the fifth anniversary of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre where  20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members, were shot and killed.
  • We all know American has a gun problem.
  • Or does it?
  • It certainly has a lot of gun deaths.
  • But is that a problem?
  • I guess it depends on your perspective.
  • According to a recent Pew poll, Overall, half of Americans say gun violence is a very big problem in the United States,
  • Let’s review the modern stats in the USA.
  • 101 guns per 100 people.
  • Australia: 13.7 guns per 100 people.
  • UK: 3.78 guns per 100 people
  • Canada: 25 guns per 100 population
  • 35 – 42% of households have at least one gun.
  • 10,000 – 11,000 gun homicides a year.
  • You have 230 times the chance of being killed by someone with a gun if you live in America.
  • And another 21,000 gun suicides a year.
  • And of course there are the mass shootings.
  • On average, about one a day, if you use the FBI derived definition:
  • FOUR or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.
  • The Gun Violence archive mapped 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days, there is a mass shooting every nine out of 10 days on average.
  • If you limit the definition to where three or more victims are actually killed, not just wounded, by the attacker and you exclude shootings stemming from more conventional crimes such as armed robbery or gang violence, there is still about one a month.
  • Since we recorded our first episodes in this series on 28 Oct, there have been 30 mass shootings in the USA, including one at an elementary school in California, where five adults were killed and several children were injured, and the one at the First Baptist Church in Texas where 27 adults and children were killed and another 20 injured.
  • So the question is – why is America’s position on guns so vastly different from comparable countries?
  • Now of course, we’re not going to even try to solve it.
  • It’s a complex issue.
  • I just want to try to understand the arguments for and against America taking the same kinds of steps the rest of the developed world has done to reduce gun violence.
  • And the idea of gun control gets many people hot and bothered.
  • Some people tell me that American is just different because it has a violent past and guns have always been a way of life.
  • I think that’s intellectually lazy.
  • Lots of countries have a violent past.
  • America wasn’t the only fucking country with a Wild West.
  • Australia was a convict colony.
  • We tried to wipe out our indigenous population too.
  • America isn’t the only country to have a revolution or a civil war.
  • Germany has a pretty violent past too.
  • Their firearm homicide rate is even less than Australia’s.
  • According to The University of Sydney, in Russia, another country with a violent past, about 25% of homicides are committed with guns – in the USA, it’s more like 60%.
  • BTW, Russia’s homicide rate is nearly double that of the USA.
  • It doesn’t have many mass shootings but it has a lot more bombings than America.
  • BTW – The homicide rate in Russia more than tripled between 1988 and 1994 and is now among the highest in the world.
  • Any guesses why?
  • The Russians are also the second biggest drinkers of hard liquor in the world.
  • Want to guess who is number one?
  • South Korea.
  • I’d drink too if Kim was my neighbour.
  • Up until a few years ago, there were pretty tough restrictions on gun ownership in Russia, but they loosened up a little in 2014.
  • But a 2011 poll found that 81 percent of Russians opposed easing the existing gun regulations.
  • Japan? Pretty violent history.
  • They have 6 gun related homicides a year.
  • So American stands alone when compared to comparable the UK or ex-British colonies.
  • According to Gallup, In 2017, only 28% of Americans favored a ban on handguns.
  • But it wasn’t always that way.
  • in 1959, 60 percent of Americans favored a ban on pistols and revolvers.
  • What changed?
  • For a long time, gun control laws were not controversial in the USA — they were the norm.
  • Within a generation of the country’s founding, many states passed laws banning any citizen from carrying a concealed gun.
  • The cowboy towns that Hollywood lionized as the ‘Wild West’ actually required all guns be turned in to sheriffs while people were within local city limits.
  • Frontier towns — places like Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge — actually had the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation.
  • In fact, many of those same cities have far less burdensome gun control today then they did back in the 1800s.
  • A visitor arriving in Wichita, Kansas in 1873, the heart of the Wild West era, would have seen signs declaring, “Leave Your Revolvers At Police Headquarters, and Get a Check.”
  • That’s right.
  • When you entered a frontier town, you were legally required to leave your guns at the stables on the outskirts of town or drop them off with the sheriff, who would give you a token in exchange.
  • You checked your guns then like you’d check your overcoat today at a Boston restaurant in winter.
  • Visitors were welcome, but their guns were not.
  • According to Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America by Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA:
  • there’s a photograph taken in Dodge City in 1879. Everything looks exactly as you’d imagine: wide, dusty road; clapboard and brick buildings; horse ties in front of the saloon. Yet right in the middle of the street is something you’d never expect. There’s a huge wooden billboard announcing, “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.”
  • While people were allowed to have guns at home for self-protection, frontier towns usually barred anyone but law enforcement from carrying guns in public.
  • When Dodge City residents organized their municipal government, do you know what the very first law they passed was? A gun control law. They declared that “any person or persons found carrying concealed weapons in the city of Dodge or violating the laws of the State shall be dealt with according to law.” Many frontier towns, including Tombstone, Arizona—the site of the infamous “Shootout at the OK Corral”—also barred the carrying of guns openly.
  • In fact – Tombstone’s infamous… ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral,’ … developed precisely because the Earp brothers were trying to enforce the law against carrying firearms in town, which the Clantons were flouting.
  • According to the Earps’ version of events, the fight was in self-defense because the Cowboys – an outlaw group called the Cochise County Cowboys, or simply the Cowboys (in that time and region, the term cowboy generally meant an outlaw; legitimate cowmen were instead referred to as cattle herders or ranchers) – were armed in violation of local ordinance, aggressively threatened the lawmen and defied a lawful order to hand over their weapons.
  • To reduce crime in Tombstone, on April 19, 1881, the city council passed ordinance 9, requiring anyone carrying a bowie knife, dirk (a short dagger), pistol or rifle to deposit their weapons at a livery or saloon soon after entering town.
  • And, by the way – Despite its name, the gunfight did not take place within or next to the O.K. Corral
  • The shootout actually took place six doors west of the O.K. Corral’s rear entrance.
  • But the “Gunfight Six Doors Down From The OK Corral” never really caught on.
  • Wyatt Earp brought in his marketing team….
  • Speaking of which – the book that built the Wyatt Earp legend – The 1931 book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal was a best-selling biography by Stuart N. Lake – was mostly fictional.
  • BTW, did you know that in 1881 Tombstone had fancy restaurants, a bowling alley, four churches, an ice house, a school, an opera house, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, along with 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous brothels?
  • Today in Tombstone, you don’t even need a permit to carry around a firearm.
  • Like any law regulating things that are small and easy to conceal, the gun control of the Wild West wasn’t always perfectly enforced.
  • But statistics show that, next to drunk and disorderly conduct, the most common cause of arrest was illegally carrying a firearm.
  • Sheriffs and marshals took gun control seriously.
  • Although some in the gun community insist that more guns equals less crime, in the Wild West they discovered that gun control can work.
  • Gun violence in these towns was far more rare than we commonly imagine.
  • Historians who’ve studied the numbers have determined that frontier towns averaged less than two murders a year.
  • Granted, the population of these towns was small.
  • Nevertheless, these were not places where duels at high noon were commonplace.
  • In fact, they almost never occurred.
  • Why is our image of the Wild West so wrong?
  • Largely for the same reason these towns adopted gun control laws in the first place: economic development. Residents wanted limits on guns in public because they wanted to attract business people and civilized folk. What prospective storeowner was going to move to Deadwood if he was likely to be robbed when he brought his daily earnings to the bank?
  • Once the frontier was closed, those same towns glorified a supposedly violent past in order to attract tourists and the businesses to serve them. Gunfights were extremely rare in frontier towns, but these days you can see a reenactment of the one at the OK Corral several times a day.
  • And of course – HOLLYWOOD.
  • The story of guns in America is far more complex and surprising than we’ve often been led to believe. We’ve always had a right to bear arms, but we’ve also always had gun control.
  • Even in the Wild West, Americans balanced these two and enacted laws restricting guns in order to promote public safety.
  • Here’s an important fact: a staggering 80% of gun homicides are gang-related.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), gang homicides accounted for roughly 8,900 of 11,100 gun murders in both 2010 and 2011.
  • That means that there were just 2,200 non gang-related firearm murders in both years in a country of over 300 million people and 250 million guns.
  • Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and New Orleans all have very high per-capita murder rates.
  • Individual police estimates usually find at least 65% and often more than 80% of all murders in those cities are gang-related.
  • Now – 2200 non gang related gun homicides – that’s a lot less than 11,000, but it’s still a hell of lot more than the non-gang related homicides per capita in Australia, the UK and Canada.
  • We have gangs too, and most of them have guns.
  • But I feel like writing off the gang related deaths as being irrelevent is problematic.
  • I think it’s subtle racism, because it’s code for “oh it’s just blacks”.
  • Nearly 90% of the zip codes that saw mass shootings had higher-than-average poverty rates.
  • And analysis of mass shootings in America in 2015 found that three-quarters of the victims whose race could be identified were black.
  • black Americans are still six to 10 times more likely to die from gun violence than whites.
  • it also noted that the reality of this “gang violence” was very different from the image of sophisticated criminal organizations warring over drug profits and turf.
  • Law enforcement officials say the gangs in many cities are loose, fractured groups of teenagers and young adults.
  • Many gang-related mass shootings began as fights over small incidents of perceived disrespect.
  • often fueled “by what could be considered minor disputes turning into deadly standoffs”, including “fight[s] over shoes, on social media, or at a party”.
  • Then of course there are the mass shootings.
  • How do daily mass shootings effect the national American psyche?
  • Christopher Wrenwood wrote on our FB page: Disclaimer: in no way is this meant to diminish the agony and suffering of the wounded, the killed, and the friends and families of those hurt in previous incidents. That being said, we are all already victims of these shootings. Our entire society is already a victim. The fear is always in the back of your mind when going to a concert or a theatre. In a department store while holiday shopping, you see someone acting sketch and the first thought is “Do I need to get out of here?” It’s a collective national trauma, and to some degree everyone is victimized every time there is a mass shooting. Of course we are afraid that someone we know will be hurt, it just keeps happening.
  • According to one psychologist, Sheila A.M. Rauch, Ph.D., an associate professor at Emory University School who has been providing treatment for PTSD and anxiety disorder for over 20 years, there is a growing acceptance of mass shootings in America and it has a numbing effect on the society and they become less trusting of each other.
  • According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 40% of Americans are worried that either they or someone they love will be a victim in a mass shooting.
  • And what does America’s inability to remove mass shootings from their culture say about their national psyche?
  • To many people around the world, America, as a nation of people, appears insane.
  • And that affects how we think about America in general, Americans, and America’s role in the world.
  • And it has to affect the way Americans think about themselves and about each other.
  • As a nation, if you can’t even stop your citizens from buying weapons of mass killing and using them, what does that say about your values as a society?
  • A 2011 survey of 28 countries over five continents found that a major distinction between different national regimes of firearm regulation is whether civilian gun ownership is seen as a right or a privilege.
  • The study concluded that only the United States and Yemen were distinct from the other countries surveyed in viewing firearm ownership as a basic right of civilians and in having more permissive regimes of civilian gun ownership.
  • In the remaining countries included in the sample, civilian firearm ownership is considered a privilege and the legislation governing possession of firearms is correspondingly more restrictive.


1 Comment

  1. Andrew says:

    Actually as of 2016 Canada’s non gang homicide rate was 1.32/100k vs 0.68/100k in the US. Your numbers are totals, they are not per capita rates, 2200 in a country of 320 million isn’t bad. What the US has is a gang problem, one that exists in it’s gun controlled corridors.

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