Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As mass shootings become ever bloodier, American politicians keep shooting blanks

Félix, our jack-of-all-trades assistant at our ranchito, comes from a dirt-poor family plagued by illiteracy and other problems. Felix himself only reached the sixth-grade before going off on his own to work at whatever he could find, including a stint doing manual labor in Texas.

Yet if you were to dismiss him as a pitiable dumb Mexican it would be a grave and totally unfair judgment. Félix has a sharp brain that must keep whirring even when he sleeps. He and his family follow current events closely, including news about the U.S., plus sports shows and nature documentaries on an old TV set we gave him.

Sometimes he comes to work asking questions about some craziness in the U.S. he'd heard about and for which we have no answer.

Félix, this morning, about the massacre in Las Vegas: How can someone in the U.S. buy two dozen weapons, including quick-fire rifles and ammunition to match, and then bring them into a luxury hotel in broad daylight? Don't they have security guards at hotels in the U.S.? Didn't anyone at the hotel ask any questions? Why do these horrible mass shootings keep happening and the American government doesn't investigate and take steps to lessen the chances of their reoccurence?

When we visit the U.S. we're constantly peppered with questions about the killings and the horrible security situation in Mexico, which is admittedly alarming.

Now is our turn, for us living in Mexico, to ask some of the same questions Felix raised this morning.

Stew pointed out this morning that at least in Mexico—small consolation—the perpetual violence and killings can be blamed on the drug cartels, and largely confined to certain parts of the country. That helps us rationalize the situation and allay our fears.

In the U.S. there are no such qualifiers. You can get shot dead at a gay disco, a church, a cinema or a social service center in the middle of a Christmas party, for a variety of reasons or none at all. Geography makes no difference.

Some blame Islamic terrorists except they account for only a fraction of the mass shootings. One could shut out all Islamic immigrants and round up all the Muslims on American soil and that still wouldn't explain much less prevent mass shootings such as the one at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, or at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C. to name just a few—and tragically way too many—such incidents.

must confess that when I heard the news from Las Vegas my initial reaction was numbness, almost a shrug. Here we go again.

Get ready for cable news to unleash the usual barrage of pictures of wailing mothers; tearful strangers placing offering of flowers and candles on the still blood-stained site of the tragedy; preachers rolling out the usual pious cliches—and most offensively, politicians proffering their "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and extolling Americans to remain "united."

United behind or around what? What does a constant stream of thoughts and prayers do except get us through one tragedy until the next one inevitably occurs?

Stew and I used to watch a TV series called "Mayday!", which despite its title was engrossing rather than alarming. Each show reenacted a plane crash and then the exhaustive investigation into what caused it, followed by what measures were implemented to prevent similar accidents, whether the causes were mechanical malfunctions or human error.

Not such learning curve occurs with mass shootings. I was convinced that the Sandy Hook massacre of twenty children (children!) would surely lead to an examination of gun laws and possible legislation to try to lessen the chances such tragedies would reoccur.

But after the public uproar subsided, and the gun lobby unfurled the usual propaganda about the Second Amendment and the need for everyone to own guns, national amnesia set in.

If anything, the opposite happens after these mass shootings. At this moment there is legislation pending in Congress to expand gun owners' "rights" to, among other things, ease restrictions on the use of silencers on firearms ostensibly to protect the hearing of shooters.

I'm just waiting for Felix to hear about that bit of lunacy and expect me to explain it.

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30 comments:

  1. For once, I have no words........except there are more homicides in the USA now then there are in Mexico Yup. Check it out.
    For the period from 2005 to 2015 in Mexico there were 200,000. In the USA, for the exact same period there was 280,024! Why do people continue to have the perception that Mexico is more dangerous?

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    1. Babs, I think you need to compensate for the US population being much larger than Mexico's, and also Mexico's notorious problems with crime statistics, which are often suspect. And then you have the drug wars, between the cartels, police and army, which distort the picture. So I would count to three before making any conclusions.

      al

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  2. IGNORANCE AND PREJUDICE, Babs! Amazing isn't it? Drives me crazy!

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    1. Joan, please read my reply to Babs. There may be misperceptions but if you count all the killings resulting from the drug war and add them to everyday killings, Mexico comes out as pretty dangerous place. Whether it's more dangerous than the U.S., I don't know, but pretty dangerous nonetheless.

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    2. Based on my research I still have not determined which country is safer! It does seem as if the USA is safer though I'm not convinced. I do notice when the subject of Mexico comes up here, there is still a lot of ignorance and prejudice. Of course living in San Miguel can color a persons perceptions, although in Bab's case she has certainly seen a lot of Mexico.

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    3. Those numbers that I quoted DO include drug violence and come from the Atty Genl of Mexico. And yes, Joan, US citizens have been brainwashed for the last 20 years, at least, that Mexico is dangerous so, contrary to common sense, they believe it. I certainly feel much safer in Mexico then in the USA....

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    4. Babs, we are of one mind on this! I see the two situations as being quite different. I have no stats at hand, but it seems to me that the overwhelming number of murders one reads about in Mexico are connected to cartels duking it out with each other and with the cops and soldiers. Your average citizen is rarely involved. Gun violence in the U.S. seems to be of an entirely different nature. More haphazard and unpredictable. Just one observation. If you step into a convenience store in the U.S. at 2 a.m., you would be justified in being nervous about it. Stepping into a convenience store in Mexico at 2 a.m. can be done safely 99.99 percent of the time.

      I feel absolutely safer here than I did in Houston or Atlanta, and that was almost two decades ago.

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    5. Felipe, when I see you agreeing with me and Babs, I feel we're approaching a new Age of Aquarius, full of harmony and understanding.

      I think in total carnage of all kinds, Mexico takes the prize, although I agree that the killing is limited to druggies, the police and the army, and to certain parts of the country. I make the same argument with regard to Chicago, where we lived for 30 years. There's a lot killing going on, but it's limited to certain parts of the city (the South Side) and between narco gangs and the police. Nothing much happens in the the other three-quarters of the city.

      al

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  3. Good luck explaining this one to Felix, Alfredo. After that, you can try explaining it to me.

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  4. The right to bear arms is part of the U.S. Constitution. Love it or hate it, that's the law of the land. Anyway, there are so many guns floating around in the U.S. now that totally outlawing them would be akin to locking the barn door after the horses have skedaddled. Pointless.

    There is also the issue that if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. This is not just a cute phrase. It is true. Look at Chicago, one of the most gun-controlled cities in the U.S., and its gun-violence rate, its murder rate, is astronomical. Or look at very gun-controlled Mexico. Did you know that there is only one gun store in the entire country where individuals can purchase a pistol legally? It's run by the military, and it's in Mexico City. So, clearly, outlawing guns does ... not ... work.

    Freedom has its downsides, and this type of rare, but bloody, occurrence is certainly one of them. Psychos live among us. Better to just outlaw psychos.

    By the way, machine guns have been illegal in the U.S. for decades. If the Vegas guy had one, doubtful, it was illegal. What it appears that he had was some add-on rifle stock that enables one, somehow, to fire very fast. That rifle stock is legal. It should not be.

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    1. Felipe, we're starting to agree on some things; a scary trend.

      If I'm not mistaken, the Supreme Court upheld the interpretation of the Second Amendment to cover personal ownership, so that debate is pretty much moot. And I agree that at this point, given the politics, any sharp regulation of weapons is very difficult if not impossible.

      But there are places, most European countries, plus Australia and New Zealand, where strict gun control works and you have much lower rates of gun deaths than you have in the U.S.

      Mexico's gun control laws are a joke, you're right. Around here in the boonies where we live, guns are plentiful and not one fiesta goes by that someone doesn't get shot, usually during a drunken argument.

      Still, to at least consider some regulation of weapons, at least around the edges, makes sense but instead Congress keeps loosening the regs. Pretty soon they are going to legalize weapons in grammar schools.

      You're right about machine guns. That's a mistake on my part, reflecting my general ignorance about weapons and shooting.

      al

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    2. I suspect that far fewer horses bolted from the barns in Australia, New Zealand, etc., before gun control was legislated. America is overrun with firearms. They are all over the place. The genie will never return to the lamp no matter how much one segment of society wants him to.

      But, more importantly, I submit that cultural issues play leading roles in the relatively lesser violence in those nations, which is to say it's more about the people than the arms.

      As for your agreeing with me, it just means your mind is expanding, a good thing. May you continue down the path of enlightenment. Here, take my hand.

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    3. You're right that there are so many guns in the U.S., about 300 million, that it'd be difficult to make a dent. But optimistic fool that I am, I think there are small steps that can be taken, and by golly, the NRA, the GOP and the Democrats seem to agree on limiting the bump stock modification to automatic firearms.

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    4. Al, the bump stock thing, which I had never heard of till this week, should be banned. If it's illegal for the average citizen to buy a machine gun in the U.S., providing an add-on that effectively turns a semi-auto into a machine gun makes no sense whatsoever.

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  5. Babs the US population is 2 and a half times larger than Mexico. I love Mexico but the US is much safer.

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  6. Felipe makes sound points. Give me a guy with a gun (or two) when I'm faced with a killer who has one (or more) and mine is out of reach.

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    1. I've thought about that argument before and unless you're a very familiar with guns and know how to use them, and can maintain you cool during a tense situation, confronting a couple of experienced thugs with guns is a losing proposition. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. I am afraid the difference between the past and now, is not so much the the amount of fire arms out there, but the amount of people on psychotropic drugs. So many of these killers were taking these meds for their mental condition. The Las Vegas killer was on Diazapam. These drugs rob one of their good senses, and they make some people really dangerous.
    I read an article the other day that said Isis is using them to dull the minds of young kids so that can become suicide bombers.
    As to the question of gun control, where ever there is enough money, there will be plenty of arms available.
    We don't need gun control, what we really need is crazy control.

    Robert Gill
    Phoenix, AZ

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  8. My assumptions have over powered my thinking again. I own guns and am competent by skill and mentality to use them well and safely. In my thinking that is the only way one should own a gun (or more). Although I have never used a gun against another human in these 74 plus years, I am willing to if the need arises to protect me or mine against someone armed and intent on damage. However, many of us in my generation have used guns since an early age and had parents that would have never allowed it except that they saw to it we knew how to use the utensil at hand. My personal preference would be that we in the USA have a system similar to that of Switzerland where everyone does service to the country at an early age, including learning well the use of firearms.

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    1. I'm not worried about sane guys like you (are you?) owning firearms. It's the wackos, terrorists and loons I'm worry about.

      al

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    2. Al, the wackos, terrorists and loons pay no attention to gun laws, which is why outlawing guns will have squat effect on them.

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    3. That's like saying there's no point to banning drunk driving because drunks won't pay attention to DUI laws. You may not get all the drunk drivers, but even if you catch twenty percent, that's pretty good.

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    4. Al, that analogy is so wildly bogus that I cannot believe you actually typed it out. ¡Increíble!

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    5. If you want to use the drunk-driving analogy correctly, here it is:

      Because some people drive drunk and hurt/kill others, we should ban the ownership of cars.

      There, you have it done logically.

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    6. Another way to arrive at a sensible analogy: Drunk driving is illegal, as it should be, because it can lead to injury and death. Car ownership, however, is not illegal. Murdering people is illegal, as it should be. Gun ownership, however, is not illegal.

      Actually, there is no analogy between drunk driving laws and gun ownership. Apples and oranges, mi amiguito.

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    7. Damn, I worked on it for a while. I kinda like it.

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  9. Just FYI
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-u-s-gun-deaths-compare-to-other-countries/

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  10. Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.
    Just FYI
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-u-s-gun-deaths-compare-to-other-countries/

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  11. As dramatic and appalling as the mass shooting in Las Vegas was, the fact of the matter is that mass shootings comprise less than 1% of gun deaths in the USA. Rifles (assault or otherwise) account for only a small percentage of deaths. Day in, day out, handguns kill a bit more than 1,000 people a month. Banning assault rifles, while it might make you feel good, won't do anything to solve the problem of gun deaths.

    That said, the proposals to ban bump stocks, that convert ordinary semi-automatic rifles into something that functions like a fully automatic, makes sense. We have had a ban on automatic rifles since 1986, and banning bump stocks simply expands that sensible ban into devices that mimic the banned weapons. That said, it'd be pretty easy to make one yourself, so any ban is likely to be of limited use, never mind all the ones already out there. I believe that the fully automatic weapons that people had before 1986 are grandfathered, and so still in circulation. I can't imagine that this congress would force people to turn in bump stocks either.

    Frankly, we should all be focusing our anti-gun efforts on small handguns if we really want to make a difference. Relatively few people are killed with rifles. Alas, as a society we seem to be inured to the daily carnage committed by handguns and now only react to these dramatic, mass shootings. But I'll second Felipe's comment about Chicago: lots of laws against handguns coexisting with lots of handgun deaths.

    The fact of the matter is this: Americans mostly believe that guns make them safer. Yet any analysis of the statistics indicates this is a false belief, as people are far more likely to be hurt by their own or family member's hand gun than by anyone else's. So the real battle is to make people understand that guns actually put them into more danger. Until that happens, don't expect much change in gun laws.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, Ca
    Where many a gun rack is seen on trucks.

    P.S. Am I the only living human who wants a full investigation of what happened in Las Vegas before Congress goes on a spree of new law-making? Is it so unreasonable to get the facts first? I wonder. So far, it would seem that no law or set of laws possible under the US constitution and current legal and political environment could possibly have prevented this shooting. Maybe more laws isn't the answer.

    By the way, I don't own a gun, and if I could wave a magic wand and get rid of all handguns except those owned by the US and NATO militaries, I'd wave it in a heartbeat.

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    1. Kim: I agree with everything you said in your comment, how about that? The Washington Post has been publishing articles about mass shootings and gun control that pretty much support what you say, though there are statistics all over the place.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/02/the-san-bernardino-mass-shooting-is-the-second-today-and-the-355th-this-year/?utm_term=.7416229e8449

      I'm not too sanguine about some dramatic gun-control legislation coming out of Congress. As Felipe pointed out there are 300 million guns in circulation (plus very powerful pro-gun lobbies) and that's going to be a tough sell. Reps in Congress have even banned the CDC from even studying gun-related violence. Talk about sticking your head up your butt.
      Still, I refuse to throw my hands in the air and just give up. There's got to be some incremental measures (bump stock ban for instance) that can at least begin to control the carnage.
      In this morning WaPo there's also a reprint of an article about the tediousness of "our thoughts and prayers" routine by politicians. Geezus, the least we can do is come up with a different cliche.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/06/14/when-people-prayfororlando-is-it-empathetic-or-selfish/?utm_term=.2f282747c7e1&wpisrc=nl_inspired&wpmm=1

      Take care.

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