Someone Give Me Newt’s Address, And I’ll Send Him A Copy of ‘Devil In A White City’

Look, Newt’s position on the cause of this tragedy is just silly (skip ahead to 3:38). The rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in the US was 5.1/100,000 in 1960 (surely the idyll of the Country Club Republican). In 2004 it was 5.5. We’re hardly Sodom, Newt.

I’m someone who thinks there are interesting intersections between anomic young men and modern philosophical thought that may lower the barriers to bad behavior, and provide a kind of ideological armature for the nihilistic acts of rage they choose to commit. But to blame the kind of acts the VT murders represent on any philosophical position – be it postmodernism, liberalism, or Rotary membership – is just stupid and foolish and skirts being disgusting. The killer was an insane young man who could and should have been identified and helped (or at least stopped) long before last week, and no philosophy, political position, or educational fad made him crazy and evil.

We have had evil people who have done horrible things since there have been people. Newt’s a Christian, he ought to get that.

(‘The Devil In A White City‘ is the violence-porn bestseller about a charming mass murderer active in Chicago during the World Fair of 1893. I’d also suggest ‘Everything Bad Is Good For You‘ as a followup.)

(h/t The Moderate Voice)

44 thoughts on “Someone Give Me Newt’s Address, And I’ll Send Him A Copy of ‘Devil In A White City’”

  1. And people wonder why I tend to diss the concept of Newt As Intellectual whenever it comes up. May I offer this, ex post facto, as Exhibit A?

    Newt was great political mover, and whether you like the ideas contained in the Contract With America or not, you have to give him credit for putting it together, selling it to his fellow R’s, and effecting a great transformation of political power in 1994. But credit as a brilliant thinker? Not so much.

  2. Drawing inferences from any one data point is a bad move. It’s like trying to make a point about global warming based on a particular drought or outbreak of cold weather.

    Even if you credited Newt’s position or any other position, tying this particular act of violence to it is simply trying to leverage people’s emotionalism to push your agenda and not a rational argument. The biggest objection I would have to Newt is that regardless of whether he is right or wrong, he must know that his thesis doesn’t apply in this case, in which case the behavior he is engaging in is deceitful and exploitive and that would disqualify him as my candidate right there. And if he doesn’t, given the quality of the evidence we have that this was an act of a diseased mind and not a culturally induced fit of disfunctionality, he’s just stupid. Since he isn’t stupid, I’m afraid I hold to the former.

  3. My opinion of Newt Gingrich is negative. His divorce and his unfaithfulness indicate bad character.

    This ridiculous attempt to exploit a bloody catastrophe politically is a further demonstration of bad character. It has no other significance.

  4. Can’t watch a 12 minute video on this bandwidth. Sorry.

    I will say this, however. The campus environment and the deliberate policies that disarmed it are public policy choices, and amenable to debate as political issues pro/con. Based on the headline, this was at least part of Newt’s argument. Well and good.

    Unless he belongs to an organized movement, however, the actions of a crazed mass murderer are NOT public policy choices, and raising them as a political issue thus falls somewhere between foolish and deceitful. The killer may have filled his statement with a ton of signature leftist shibboleths, but so what… in another day and age, he’d be ranting about demon spirits instead, and the meaningful content would be about the same.

    Attempting to descry meaning in the actions of an insane individual should be a foolish errand on its face – but if anyone doubts it, I prescribe one day-long visit helping out at a full-on psychiatric ward.

    Now, the bad news… unless someone has sought medical treatment and on some kind of database, it is entirely possible for a person with deep mental health problems to show up for a gun permit and then buy a gun, and seem perfectly normal both times.

    On a policy level, this means that even if you can restrict gun ownership for such people, it may not be at all obvious at the point of sale. There’s also the consideration that mandatory disarmament of such people (which makes a lot of sense to me) will have the inevitable effect of discouraging many people (either gun owners or folks afflicted with paranoia) from seeking treatment. And entry into a national database would discourage many, many people from ever seeking psychiatric care due to concerns re: who might get that information and how it could be used against them in later life.

  5. The Devil in the White City is a great book, though I found the story of Sophia Hayden (the female architect driven into a sanitarium by the insufferable society ladies of Chicago) much more interesting than the murderer H. H. Holmes.

    But you say:

    The killer was an insane young man who could and should have been identified and helped (or at least stopped) long before last week, and no philosophy, political position, or educational fad made him crazy and evil.

    You say “helped”. Well, maybe he could have been “helped” at some point in his life, but by the time Cho came to the US I think he was past it.

    The fact is that only a very small percentage of mass and serial killers are true psychotics, who are beyond responsibility and definitely need all the help they can get. The rest are “psychopaths”, which is a bullshit word we invented because we live in a society that doesn’t want to say the word EVIL.

    Now evil is evil, and as you point out you can multiply examples of worse people than Cho from all eras and cultures. I also believe that it exists and always will exist in spite of all attempts to “cure” it. But psychopaths are not persons who are trapped in an insane mind, and they are partly conditioned by society as much as anyone else.

    Our society has certainly developed severely impaired reflexes when facing evil, and evil cannot thereby be discouraged. We live in a society where anger is good, guilt is assigned to groups and not individuals, murderers are “sick” and deserving of copious amounts of sympathy, courtrooms have revolving doors, and it is the ordinary law-abiding citizenry who are cast as the villains. Granted, our society claims to discourage violence, but every 15 year-old kid knows what hypocrites we are. We definitely encourage resentment, alienation, and self-pity, and we are finding new and better ways to do it all the time.

    The modern ACLU is the flagship of this inverted morality. I saw one of their lawyers on the idiot box the other night, protesting the fact that Alec Baldwin got his visitation rights suspended for unleashing his psychopathic rage on his little daughter – and arguing at the same time that the girl’s mother ought to go to jail for releasing the tape. In other words, Alec Baldwin could get custody of his daughter by making an obscene phone call to her. The psychopaths get all the breaks in their book, because it is bourgeois society that is the threat.

  6. I would second Glen’s diagnosis and add that Newt’s assessment is largely correct.

    This is an old, old problem in the West (Herostatus or Nechayev) but Liberalism, the sense that there are no moral boundaries, no right and wrong, no good and evil, nothing that cannot be done if it is not “cool” is responsible for the atmosphere that enables a Klebold and a Harris and Psych-Cho. That doesn’t stop them soon enough.

    Klebold and Harris had liberal, busy and self-absorbed parents who never bothered about their kids using pipe bombs, sawed off shotguns, or whatever because that was against the Liberal philosophy of let your kid do what he wants.

    Psych-Cho slipped through all these cracks because he “had his rights” and his Korean ancestry made Liberal VT admins fearful of a discrimination lawsuit if they kicked him off campus.

    I hold no brief for Newt personally, I found his affair and divorce of his wife dying of cancer disgraceful and abhorrent, but his ideas seem both accurate and well spoken to me.

    We will always have evil nutcases. It used to be that we would not tolerate them, nor would their rights be paramount, nor would we hesitate to punish them severely when we found them in their first acts, nor would we cower and wait to die when they ran amok.

    These are all the legacies of Liberalism that Liberals sadly own.

  7. Jim, modern liberalism as we know it (even accepting that it contains the value issues you describe, which I don’t completely accept) is a post WW II phenomenon outside a very small group of intellectuals.

    How do you explain this connection to pre WW II mass killings?


  8. I don’t know, AL. Arguably there has been a steady erosion of authority, tradition and religion in the West at least since Montaigne going through Descartes, Locke, and Spinoza through the Philosophes, the Positivists, Nietszche, right on through to the Postmodernists (who are in many ways actually hypermodernists). It’s the price we’ve paid for the Enlightenment. The spiritual and social capital of Christianity started to run out about 1914, certainly by 1920 (See Eliot’s Wasteland). Sure, there have always been murderous nutcases and always will be. But there hasn’t always been the current alienation and anomie that encourage and promote that kind of behavior.

  9. There’s a kind of “magical thinking” going around about the effect of having lots of armed people in this situation. It really amounts to a personal fantasy: “_If *I* had been there with my gun, *I* would have blown that guy away and saved all those lives!_”

    And probably you would have, at least if you were lucky. But in the real world, if a lot of people are carrying guns, then lots of them are less skilled and less controlled than you. Some of them have tempers, and some of them respond too quickly to fear.

    As a policy issue, the question about having lots of people carry guns amounts to balancing the benefits of having a massive killing spree like this ended more quickly, against the cost of having more deadly conflicts breaking out, even if each one involves fewer people.

    My personal guess is that, numerically, the costs would outweigh the benefits. Anecdotally, in gang-infested neighborhoods where gun-ownership (often illegal) is much more common than the norm, it appears that the environment is less safe, rather than more. And you get tragedies where innocent bystanders are killed by stray bullets.

    So perhaps, if all gun-owners legal, and they all are as skilled and responsible as you are, everything would be fine. But that’s not the world we live in. And good social policy should be designed for the world we actually live in.

    If someone wants to argue against this, the way to do it is to show that the cost-benefit trade-off actually goes the other way than I think, not just to shout, “It’s those darn Liberals again!”

  10. Beard –

    The problem is that there is empirical evidence that contradicts you.

    We have specific cases of school and other mass shootings that were stopped by armed bystanders.

    We have specific data going back a decade (since the start of ‘shall-issue’ CCW laws) that – at minimum – shows no rise in crimes with guns as regular citizens freely get the right to carry them.

    So I hate to say it, but I think the ‘magical thinking’ is on the other side of this particular issue. I’m open to facts that point the other way, but I’ve looked hard and don’t see many.


  11. Beard concedes that gun control does not disarm thugs. That’s a reasonable concession given what we know about said thugs. However, once he does so, he doesn’t get to point to said thugs’ behavior as a benefit of disarming non-thugs. Thugs behave differently wrt guns than non-thugs.

  12. Or are you just arguing that we should give guns to everyone, which can only help, since the thugs already have them?

    My argument was a bit more careful than that. Even non-thugs have tempers or are too quick to respond to fear.

    What it really comes down to, is deciding who should have the right to bear arms? What does “well regulated” mean, if it means anything at all?

  13. I think the murder of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison by the deranged Patrick Prendergast during the same period is an even better example.

    Holmes was a classic serial killer, he moved amongst society and people that new him simply couldnt believe it of him. He killed in cold blood, not rage, and killed for pleasure. Prendergast was more like Cho, it took about 5 seconds to determine something was way off with the guy. He wrote disturbing letters to various officials that mirrored Cho’s lunatic ramblings. Later he championed Harrison’s election campaign (in his own mind anyway) and wrote him with election advice. Somehow this convinced him that Harrison owed his election to Prednergast, and when his ‘due recognition’ wasnt forthcoming he put 4 bullets into the mayor in a rage. Harrison had never heard of him.

  14. _”My argument was a bit more careful than that. Even non-thugs have tempers or are too quick to respond to fear.”_

    This is ultimately the arguement at the heart of the control momevement. Despite statistical evidence to the contrary, they cant conceive that average citizens (or at least a significant number of them) wont turn every fender bender or argument into a shootout.

    To me, this goes directly to what it means to live in a republic where we trust our neighbors with all types of liberty. We hand 16 year old testosterone laden males car keys every single day- and yet our streets dont run red with vehicular homicide somehow. But that is apparently different than allowing citizens to carry firearms. If you think about it, each of us puts our lives in the hands of strangers every single day in a myriad of ways. But guns evoke this almost hysterical sense of menace, as though they have some malevolent will of their own they exert on their owners.

  15. “Crime Plunges in Pro-gun Town”:
    bq. But Kennesaw’s crime rate plummeted. In fact, the number of some crimes declined amid soaring population growth. For example, in figures the city provided to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Kennesaw had 54 burglaries in 1981 – the year before the gun ordinance – with a population of 5,242. In 1999, with a population of 19,000, only 36 burglaries were reported.

    bq. The rate of violent crime is approximately four times lower than the state and national rates, Kennesaw’s Crime Statistics Report said. “Violent crime is almost nonexistent in residential neighborhoods,” Graydon told UPI. The detective, who has been with the police department since 1986, said the isolated exceptions take place in motels or in commercial areas.

    Regarding rampages stopped by armed bystanders:
    “Quotations from local newspapers”:

    That whole thread over at Protein Wisdom is a goldmine for pointers to such stories and statistics. Beard, before you dismiss these quotes as “partisan”, do some of your own Googling and check out whether your own convictions are in fact based in fact. If you’re not willing to do that, no reference from someone you don’t agree with is going to work for you.

    What gets lost in the lefty anti-gun proselytizing is the fact that though most people have fists, most people don’t get into fistfights, and while anyone can get a knife and carry it pretty-much unhindered (I’ve got a pocket knife in my backpack right now, and it goes through an X-ray machine every day), almost nobody gets into knife fights. Most people aren’t evil, therefore most people don’t do evil. (Except for whatever jerk started auto-spamming my blog with deviant trackbacks. That’s what I get for being merely a qualified supporter of abortion over at Amanda Marcotte’s site….) So yeah, I think the “how do you recognize the psycho versus the concerned bystander” argument is pretty bogus. Once the psycho is down, the concerned bystander stops shooting.

  16. Beard, I’m working but a fast Google got me this column from the state Senator who introduced Texas’ bill from “an Amarillo paper”: :

    “One of the reasons I authored Senate Bill 60, the Concealed Handgun Law, was because I trust my fellow Texans. Contrary to opinions expressed on almost every editorial page across the state, I knew that when law-abiding Texans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms was restored with the passage of SB 60, they would exercise good judgment and behave responsibly.

    Ten years later, and the statistics continue to prove the point.

    Since the passage of the Concealed Handgun Law, the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows an 18-percent drop in handgun murders, down from 838 in 1995 to 688 in 2004; and a 13-percent drop in handgun murders per 100,000 population, down from 4.5 murders per 100,000 Texans in 1995 to 3.95 per 100,000 in 2004.

    In 2000, on the fifth anniversary of the Concealed Handgun Law, the National Center for Policy Analysis issued a report that indicated Texans with concealed carry permits are far less likely to commit a serious crime than the average citizen.

    According to the report, the more than 200,000 Texans licensed to carry a concealed firearm are much more law-abiding than the average person.

    The report illustrated that Texans who exercise their right to carry firearms are 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for a violent offense. They are 14 times less likely to be arrested for a non-violent offense. And they are 1.4 times less likely to be arrested for murder.

    H. Sterling Burnett, a senior policy analyst at the NCPA and the author of the report, concluded:

    “Many predicted that minor incidents would escalate into bloody shootouts if Texas passed a concealed-carry law. That prediction was dead wrong,” Burnett said.

    With 247,345 concealed handgun licenses active in Texas as of December 2005, the number of law-abiding licensees has had a positive effect on the crime rate.

    Texas Department of Public Safety Uniform Crime Report indicates the overall crime rate in Texas has continued to drop during the past 10 years. In 1997, DPS reported 5,478 crimes per 100,000 Texans, based on a population of 19,355,427 Texans. In 2004, with almost 3 million more Texans, the crime rate is 5,032 per 100,000.

    The effect of the Concealed Handgun Law has been so positive, it has converted some of its most outspoken initial critics.

    John Holmes, former Harris County district attorney, wrote to me several years after the passage of the law:

    “As you know, I was very outspoken in my opposition to the passage of the Concealed Handgun Act. I did not feel that such legislation was in the public interest and presented a clear and present danger to law abiding citizens by placing more handguns on our streets,” Holmes wrote. “Boy was I wrong. Our experience in Harris County, and indeed state-wide, has proven my initial fears absolutely groundless.”

    Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, shared this view:

    “I lobbied against the law in 1993 and 1995 because I thought it would lead to wholesale armed conflict. That hasn’t happened,” White told the Dallas Morning News. “All the horror stories I thought would come to pass didn’t happen. No bogeyman. I think it’s worked out well, and that says good things about the citizens who have permits. I’m a convert.” “


  17. Wolf – I’ll disagree – Watch the whole interview. He not only makes the points you suggest (which I’d agree with, btw) but points out that the cultural changes are at the root of this tragedy.


  18. Another thought- how often do each of us go out to a restaurant and sit with our backs to complete strangers, each of them with a sharp knife close at hand. And alcohol flowing freely! Yet nobody worries about getting a steak knife in the throat for bumping into a guy on the way to the mens room. Its just not an issue.

  19. Mark Poling [#18]: please check your links. Both of them failed for me.

    Wolf Pangloss [#17]: Jonathan Kellerman paints a more balanced picture than you do. De-institutionalization was a train-wreck resulting from a confluence of liberals wanting to replace large madhouses with neighborhood treatment, and conservatives eliminating the funding for neighborhood treatment. This led to mass homelessness for the mentally ill. It seems clear that some balanced combination would work reasonably well: supervised neighborhood treatment for 60-80% of the mentally ill, and large, well-equipped institutions to segregate the less tractable and more dangerous 20-40%.

    A.L. [#19]: Thanks. I’ll look into it further.

  20. Beard brings up that sneaky phrase, “well regulated”, a major 2nd Amendment bone of contention.

    Here’s what it means: It means a “well regulated militia” is a useful derivative benefit of an armed population, not a requirement. The idea that the first clause isa requirement, and not a benefit of the second clause can be quite easily shot down by substituting any other concept into the same grammar, for example:

    “Classical symphony being lovely to hear and a benefit to the state, the right of the people to owned stringed instruments shall not be infringed.”

    Could you possibly imagine twisting those words to mean that only trained classical musicians may own a violin, or that “the people” refers to state-trained and sponsored orchestras only?

    “Healthy children being important to the future prosperity of the state, the right of the people to consume fresh vegetables shall not be infringed.”

    Here, one would have to assume that the right to eat fresh vegetables is reserved only to children that are already healthy, obviously exactly counter to the intent!


  21. Try these Beard (copy and paste should work):

    Armed citizens stopping crime:

    Gun-ownership decreasing violence in a Georgia suburb (this one worked for me, don’t know what bolixed the other):

    Ben, I’m going to disagree with you a little bit. Non-suppressive gun licensing laws (by which I mean laws that are no more onerous than those governing getting a drivers license) would seem to be in the interest of both the states and gun owners. Owning a gun without being able to show you know how to handle it is a Very Bad Thing in my opinion. The sticky thing is that “non-suppressive” part….

  22. But Ben, the consequences of irresponsible use of stringed instruments or fresh vegetables is not all that serious. (Except for violins, of course.)

  23. How about this formulation:

    Personal transportation, being very useful in cases of state emergencies, the right to own automobiles shall not be abridged.

    Also, automobiles cause more American deaths than firearms. Where’s the outrage?

    Sorry for the continued hijacking A.L. Another case of obstinance on obstinance crime, I reckon.

  24. Newsweek’s James Pinkerton, no member of the VRWC he, said on FNC yesterday that VT’s English Department currculum itself was nihilistic. He didn’t go on to say that Cho’s own studies there might have pushed him over the edge, but he did aske “What happened to Shakespeare and Silas Marner?” A curious pairing, I guess, but James Lewis thinks that when pondering what motivated Cho Seung Hui to go berserk, his professors at VT’s English Department might want to “look in the mirror pretty intently”:

  25. No time to post and do it justice, but I just gotta say – Newt da man! I listen to C-Span a bit and when he is on, he never fails to impress me with his ideas. Whether that makes him a good candidate for president, I can’t say. Disclaimer – I did not get to watch this interview and work may not be permitting for a while.

  26. Rev. Sensing –

    Interesting stuff that would be worth looking into in detail.

    I noticed in Cho’s “manifesto” that he lashed out at George Bush (something which has gotten little attention, surprise, surprise) who has been “safari hunting” in Cho’s psychic wilderness. On the other hand he also attacked the convicted pedophile Debra Lafave, and John Mark Karr who falsely claimed to have killed Jon Benet Ramsey – two individuals who are walking around free. It seems that Cho shared some of our own outrage. Did we make him do it?

    I think our attempts to preempt madness are pretty lame, and social conservatives tend to fall into the same materialistic superstitions that the left revels in. They’ve got guns, nuclear weapons, and pharmaceutical companies to blame for all the world’s problems, while we’re down on pornography, video games, and rap music.

    But no sane person could have foreseen that David Wayne Chapman would kill John Lennon because he was obsessed with Catcher in the Rye. For that matter, John Wilkes Booth was a Shakespearean actor from a family that was obsessed with classical history – his brother Junius Brutus Booth was named after the legendary assassin of Tarquin the Proud, and all the brothers played Brutus and Cassius on the stage. Yet his brother Edwin was a celebrated man and one of the most beloved actors of the 19th century.

    So existence itself is hideously booby-trapped. But while environment itself is obviously not everything, social environment absolutely counts for a lot. But I think Armed Liberal is being too dismissive of our contemporary influences. We are a society that doesn’t want to punish, that is profoundly divided over the most elemental values, and that tends to applaud sociopathic persons. All of which is not helping us to be safe.

  27. Beard & AL,

    “We have specific data going back a decade (since the start of ‘shall-issue’ CCW laws) that – at minimum – shows no rise in crimes with guns as regular citizens freely get the right to carry them.”

    I believe the claimed effects of CCW laws is controversial and the subject of much debate. The Texas research, cited by AL, is by a conservative pro-gun organization and points to a **decline** in handgun deaths *after* the passage of the Texas CCW law in 1994. But statistics show a general national decline in handgun deaths not just in Texas over the same time period. There could be all sorts of reason for the decline, lower murder rates generally because of fewer high risk youth, a decline in gun ownership generally, etc., or perhaps concealed weapons deter crime.

    Dept of Justice gun statistics:

    John Lott is a proponent of the claim that gun ownership deters crime. Tim Lambert and Steve Levitt (author of Freakonomics) are critics of that claim.

    Common sense suggests that lower gun ownership rates equate to lower homicide rates, and I have seen stats that tend to support this (both international and domestic) but can’t point you to authoritative stats right now.

    Surprisingly guns aren’t a large part of violent crime in the US, but are a large part of homicides.

    # Incidents involving a firearm represented 9% of the 4.7 million violent crimes of rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault in 2005.

    # The FBI’s Crime in the United States estimated that 66% of the 16,137 murders in 2004 were committed with firearms.

    Dept of Justice

  28. Chew, you are assuming all of your conclusions. Regardless of whether homicides dropping is significantly corellated to concealed carry, there is _no_ doubt statistically that the surge of shootings, accidents, and homocides breathlessly predicted by anti-gun activists does not exist. ‘Common sense’ is apparently subject to much debate as well.

  29. Sensing @28 said

    “”What happened to Shakespeare and Silas Marner?”

    Cho took a British literature class and quoted Shakespeare to one of the females he contacted.

    Here you are focused on gun lore, heroic fantasies of taking out Cho with a well aimed shot from a 45, and fighting the great Islamofacist threat, so you cite a couple of right wing commentators speculating about how the allegedly radically leftist “nihilist” English Lit department at VT somehow might have taught Cho how to become a violent hater?

    Meanwhile in the other corner David Blue was previously claiming that the VT leftist bourgeois culture made all the students soft and passive victims.

    Such psychological projection about the evils of “lefty” campus culture is breath taking.

    (I don’t know VT that well, but let me speculate that its a pretty conservative school relative to others, with a strong ROTC and military tradition. I did observe that many of the victims had been athletes in HS and were religious, and a few even in the ROTC.)

  30. (sigh) Mental self-discipline time: it’s always right to make an argument that addresses the issue; it’s never right to just say “you suck”.

    Joe Katzman #4: Newt Gingrich went onto a broad rant – which I wouldn’t even try to load again on my bandwidth, to critique it in detail – on teaching people right from wrong, the necessary foundation of morality in (Christian) religious teachings and so on, and liberals standing in the way of these necessary teachings. It was a broad-brush cultural argument.

    celebrim #2 nailed it exactly: the creep was at most a data point. He was not a sufficient basis to be making such an argument. (Even if the bum’s background was such that you could argue that he would have gotten a life-long indoctrination in the ways of Jesus if not for liberals.) Rather than making the sort of argument a smart man like Newt Gingrich would know he had to make to play the game right, Newt Gingrich was tying something horrible and shocking to a political cause he disapproves of.

    Wolf Pangloss #17: I unwisely listened to this – and would not strain my connection like that to do it again – and Armed Liberal is simply right on this. It was not a specific policy argument. Newt Gingrich did that early on, and that was OK. Then, when Armed Liberal said, Newt Gingrich started damning liberals, in a way that tied them to something evil. And – taking us back to the start of the thread – the history is serial killers in America is a more than sufficient answer to this. The bum who did these killings no more proves something about liberalism that the Harpees or H.H. Holmes.

  31. Mark,

    “Regardless of whether homicides dropping is significantly corellated to concealed carry, there is no doubt statistically that the surge of shootings, accidents, and homocides breathlessly predicted by anti-gun activists does not exist.”

    I think your observation *may* be correct. But AL cited an article in which violence was claimed to have DECREASED because of the CCW. That also may not be correct.

    It’s certainly possible that the Texas CCW could have led to a small increase in homicides but that this effect was swamped by the overall decline in violence. The statistical studies may not be able to distinguish that case. But I believe you are correct that most studies, John Lott aside, have shown no increase or decrease in homicide rates after passage of CCW.

    The CCW issue is distinct from whether decreasing gun ownership generally might decrease homicides. The low murder/gun ownership rates in Europe may be some evidence for this.

  32. AL #20, I watched after you requested. I see what you mean. It was disjointed. However, it seemed to me that he was responding to Columbine when he said those things, and I don’t know if you remember what was happening in popular culture around that time but I recall watching the Matrix, which came out a week or so before Columbine, and realizing that Columbine was a Matrix copycat crime. After Bonnie and Clyde came out, Hollywood has routinely glorified spree killers and mass murderers. Look at Natural Born Killers or the entire career of Quentin Tarantino (film geeeeeeeeenius, if you manage to ignore From Dusk to Dawn). Much of Hollywood’s product is in fact a murder porno industry, selling murder porn just as dehumanizing as the other kind (16mm, Seven, Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of Wax, The Hills Have Eyes, and my old favorite freakout horror movie, Videodrome, which could make almost as good a hypnotic induction tape for psycho killers as the Matrix series).

    And of course Cho’s “martyr” language referring to the Columbine killers points up another influence towards evil that is accepted and promoted by certain American leftists, plus David Duke and his pals.

    Beard #22, of course you are right about what Kellerman wrote. The leftist de-institutionalization forces would never have carried the day, despite formulating all the supporting propaganda and training a generation of compliant psychiatrists, if it were not for the eagerness of the libertarian wing of the republican party to write off a big government expense the experts said was a waste of money. It was a perfect storm.

  33. AL,

    “chew – how do you deal with Switzerland, then? Virtually 100% gun ownership and a vanishingly small murder rate?”

    I suspect most countries with very low murder rates also have low gun ownership, e.g. Japan, but Switzerland may be the exception?

    Or is it? Some social and cultural factors suggest a lower murder rate. Switzerland is wealthy country with generous social benefits and generally low crime. Almost all males undergo military training and service and are required to keep their military rifles at home while they are in service. This is in contrast to the US, where there is high inequality and very few undergo military/weapons training. Nevertheless, possession of other than military firearms requires a permit in Switzerland. So it appears gun ownership is more regulated than in the US.

    Gun possession is far below the nearly 100% which you claim. I’ve read something like 30% of households have a gun. Private gun ownership, other than military, appears to be in the middle of European norms. There are are some 2 million guns for a population of 7.8 million, not nearly as high as the US.

    “The Finns are the most heavily armed at 30 guns per 100 inhabitants, followed by the French and the Germans. The Dutch have only two guns per 100 inhabitants. Switzerland, with 16 guns per 100 inhabitants, is in the middle.”

    Moreover, the murder rate is not vanishingly low as you claim but in the middle comparable to some other European countries, and much higher than Japan.

    “According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2002 was 2.91 per 100,000 population for Switzerland, 1.05 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA.”

    Other crime rates are similar:

    “For rape, the rate in 2002 was 6.61 for Switzerland, compared with 1.75 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2002 was 33.40 for Switzerland, 5.02 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2002 was 83.64 for Switzerland, 26.68 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA.”

    Recently there have been some mass killings which has led to pressure for stricter gun controls.

    How do you explain the Swiss murder rate?

  34. chew, I think the Swiss murder rate (and the Canadian one) is evidence that the causes of violence in the Unites States are social, not due to the kinds of tools, cars, or weapons we own.

    You’re right btw about gun ownership in Switzerland – I wrote too quickly. The militia is about a quarter-million households.

    But that gives them a rate of gun ownership comparable to ours – and a homicide rate far below ours.

    So do you think that taking guns away would make us Swiss?


  35. AL

    “causes of violence in the Unites States are social,”

    I would agree with that. For example, poverty, cultural values and heterogeneity, the prevalence of heavy drinking of alcohol by young men.

    Yet I also believe the common sense intuition/observation that access to a gun makes it much easier to kill someone. So I do believe that reducing gun possession and greater regulation of gun access (permitting and training) would reduce fatalities from assaults, accidents, and maybe even from suicide.

    Thus even though Switzerland has a lower murder rate than the US, my intuition is that if gun ownership was reduced in Switzerland the murder rate would go down.

  36. chew – I think we’re close to an agreement here; the question is a) the relative impact (i.e. if we halved the number of guns what would the impact be?); b) the cost of change (i.e. the social and political cost of the measures it would take to really reduce the number of guns to a level that would have any meaningful impact); and c) a moral dimension which isn’t yet on the table but goes to two things: the value of letting people be responsible for themselves, and the value of letting people be free enough to make bad decisions.

    As I’ve said frequently in the past – I’m all about some regulation of who can own and carry guns and under what conditions they can and should be used.

    I don’t believe everyone should own guns any more than I believe everyone should skydive or rockclimb. But I believe that living in a society which allows people to do those things brings values to bear which are intrinsically good, and offset the individual tragedies which may come as a consequence of those things.


  37. _”The CCW issue is distinct from whether decreasing gun ownership generally might decrease homicides. The low murder/gun ownership rates in Europe may be some evidence for this.”_

    Fair enough Chew- but it truly is an unknown that could have some interesting (and potentially scary) unintended consequences. The British crime rate has climbed dramatically since guns were virtually outlawed, particularly assaults and home invasion scenarios. Most burglaries in Britain occur when the residents are presents, exactly the opposite of the US. Assumedly British criminals dont have to fear being shot by homeowners. Gun confiscation in the US could quite possibly lead to the perfect storm- increased crime rates without the assumed corresponding drop in lethal intent. In other words US criminals taking advantage of unarmed victims could end up committing even more murders. As i think this thread has nicely showcased, there just isnt a viable template for this relationship. Crime is just to culturally variable. I think it is a dramatic leap of faith to argue that reducing gun availability would reduce violent crime at all.

    _”Yet I also believe the common sense intuition/observation that access to a gun makes it much easier to kill someone.”_

    But it seems there is a persuasive argument that access to a gun makes it harder to kill someone- and also reduces the number of instances where criminals come face to face with victims via deterrance. There is also a powerful thread in the American psyche that makes it intolerable to put oneself at the mercy of a criminals good intentions.

  38. Below i’ve linked to a justice department report on crime in Britain vs the US:

    -In 1981 the US burlary rate was double Britain’s. By 1995 the British burlary rate was double the US.

    -In 1981 the English assault rate was just above the US. By 1995 the assault rate was more than double the US.


    Point being- you are far more likely to be robbed or assaulted in Britain than in the US, which was not the case before the UK outlawed guns (though correlation does not imply causality). On the other hand, the rate of murders hasnt dropped in Britain- it has increased slightly. According to “this”: BBC report, the number of handgun crimes increased by 40% within 2 years of the ban. My point is if this trend held true in America, we would have the worst of both worlds- a higher or static murder rate _and_ skyrocketing crime.

  39. Mark,

    I find crime stats and studies linked to the gun issue often hard to interpret because of the agenda of the reporter, the definitions used, and because so many factors could impact on crime. My understanding is that the handgun ban in the UK went into effect in 1997. Both the burglary rate and assault rates appear to have **declined** since 1997 which cuts against the argument that those handguns deterred or prevented crime. The stats you point to are for 81-97 which don’t appear to be on point.

    English Crime Trends (Tim Lambert)
    Note his discussion about how the definition of assault changed.

    English Crime in England and Wales

    page 29, figure 4.3 shows burglaries declining after 1995.

    The UK does appear to have a higher burglary rate than the US in general, but I’m sure that if I looked I could find some low gun country with a low burglary rate, and some high gun country with a high burglary rate.

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