What I Learned About Guns Working at the State’s Attorney’s Office

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114 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Great post.

    I am also a lawyer though my only experience with criminal law stuff was in my classes and on the Bar. But as an urban-dweller I concur with your observations.

    I have never been to Chicago but in every city I have lived in, the nice and seedy parts can blend very easily together. This seems especially true in San Francisco and New York where you can have a big income divide on the same block or within a few blocks of each other. So I have walked by drive-by shootings on the way to the movies and they allegedly were fairly common in my neighborhood right before I moved in.

    This is probably why many city-dwellers tend to favor gun control more often.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Two interesting and pertinent stories. Regarding the story about Melanie shows how pro-gun people so often miss the boat about guns and violence. Easy access to guns can and does easily lead to more and more lethal violence. I can find the numbers, but having guns in the house makes one more likely to be killed by a gun. While they might make you feel safe, they increase the likelihood of having one used on you. None of the above implies that any of the gun control being debated or even possible could do much of anything about this kind of crime. Americans are violent people with a belief in righteous violence and a deep love of and history of gun ownership. That is a recipe for a lot of gun violence.

    I wish we were having more discussion about how to keep guns out of the hands of gang bangers and people truly likely to be dangerous. We should be looking more at ending the gun show loophole, microstamping ammo and making straw buying much more difficult.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak says:

      Can we actually show that “having a gun int he house” makes you more likely to get hurt? I don’t want us to circlejerk, and confuse “having a gun means you’re more likely to be hurt with it than a knife”, with an actual upsurge in violence because of the weapon.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to greginak says:

      None of which would stop someone from shooting in a fit of anger.

      The straw-purchase loophole? I agree it needs closing, desperately. That’s still not going to stop gangs from using underage kids for dirty work or as gun mules.

      Gangs use a variety of methods to recruit new members, targeting in recent years younger and younger members because of the less stringent penalties for juvenile offenders. Gangs actively recruit youngsters age 15 and younger to carry out risky assignments or carry the weapons or drugs.

      Addressing gang crime is important. There are a number of issues involved, and there are a number of angles at which it needs to be addressed. The spiral of poverty, where many young kids from disadvantaged backgrounds see gangs and crime as the best way out? I’ve yet to see a solution proposed from the libertarians that doesn’t amount to “free markets magically fix everything yay!” Indeed, so much of the conversation from the Tea Party and libertarian crowd seems to devolve into insistence that gang crime is the result of some form of social or moral failings on those who’ve already taken a lot of abuse from society.

      I don’t have perfect answers but I have some good starting points:
      #1 – A kid who wonders where his next meal is coming from isn’t likely to do well in school and isn’t likely to be in a great position long-term in life.
      #2 – A kid who wonders every day going to school whether today is the day there’s going to be a shooting or other gang violence isn’t focusing on school very much either.
      #3 – A kid who sees the older role models in his neighborhood making money off of gang-related crimes is going to internalize those role models as having better things in life, and being more successful in life. This is true whether they’re relatives of his (parents, older siblings, cousins) or not. And it’s likely to be true even if his parents are trying to drill into his head that gangs aren’t the way to go.
      #4 – A kid who gets to high school and sees that being a member of a gang is a way to have people to watch your back against bullying or other abuse, is in an amazing position to get recruited by a gang promising mutual protection.

      We need to address these. And while we’re doing it, we need to address them concurrent with methods to give gang members less and less access to guns.

      I’m of the opinion this is where the 2nd Amendment has really failed. The Founding Fathers were good men, but at times they were ill-informed or downright gullible. They intended the 2nd Amendment to ensure that they had adequate troops if war came to their doors, in an age when most of the framers were businessmen and large-scale farmers and were unfamiliar with the type of city gang disputes we see today. Likewise, the best firearms they had available to them and the majority of what were owned were all muzzle-loading varieties; it was a rare officer in the military who had a personal pistol, and even that wasn’t likely to be more than a single-shot affair, pepperboxes being rather ungainly and the invention of the cap revolver not to come until Samuel Colt figured it out in 1836, Collier’s 1814 flintlock revolver being as much a risk to the wielder through misfires and wear on the unreliable flints.

      Today? We don’t have a well regulated militia in places where gang violence is worse. We have a pseudo-militia of sheriffs, police and SWAT teams trying to do their jobs while highly organized but completely governmentally independent militaries known as gangs hold their own little feudal wars on our city streets.

      The founders were good men, but it’s not something they could have seen coming; none of them were foresighted enough to envision a time when weaponry gave one man the ability to put out more firepower in a minute than their best brigades could put out in ten.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

        Libertarian’s point is : legalize drugs. You’d do well to remember that. Because it is at least part of a reasonable solution.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kim says:

          And why is this? Libertarians believe that legalizing drugs will eliminate economic incentives to participate in drug-related crime (“free markets yay!”). To the extent they might be right, that only removes ONE of the various influences that cause gang crime to exist.

          Gang crime existed long before drugs, though. Prostitution was their thing, protection rackets, and in many cases gang organizations have come up because of overwhelming economic disparities. Take a poverty-stricken neighborhood, give it a decreased police presence, mix in a dash of racism, and watch ethnic groups form gangs to protect each other.

          The idea that legalizing drugs will magically solve gang problems is just more “markets yay” magical thinking. It may be a small part of the solution, it’s not a part I disagree with on logical grounds to wither away some of the monetary incentive, but there are a lot more incentives going on here than can be taken away just by legalizing drugs.

          Libertarian’s point is: legalize drugs? Great. Now can we get to the other 99% of the problem that the libertarians are trying to ignore?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

            This is funny because the “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” going on in the other thread.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              If you legalize drugs, there are still going to be poor kids growing up worried every night about whether they get to eat tomorrow.

              If you legalize drugs, there are still going to be poor kids going to school every day worried that they’re going to be beat up by one gang or the other, or worried that today is the day a fight between their gang and the rival gang breaks out.

              If you legalize drugs, there are still going to be kids recruited by gangs to do the other things gangs do.

              If you legalize drugs, there are still going to be kids who see financially successful gang members (and the gangsta-rap glorification industry and thugs who ascend up into pro sports who either were in a gang, or act like they did for brand-promotional reasons) and want to “be like them.” First step? Join a gang.

              If you legalize drugs, will those same kids still see their parents scratching to make a living doing things the “right way” while the people who do things the “wrong way” get ahead? Yes.

              Is drug legalization justifiable as a policy? Yes.
              Might it lower the violence level a little bit by taking some of the economic incentive from certain larger-scale gangs? Yes.

              Is drug legalization a magic cure that will overnight sort out all the ills and make the gangs vanish? Despite what misguided, uninformed libertarians might like to think, there is no way in hell this can be the case. There are too many factors going into gang violence. Drugs have become a source of income, but the reaction of gangs isn’t going to be to just close up shop if you legalize drugs, it’s going to be to find a new source of income.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to M.A. says:

                Prohibition ending did not eliminate all of the problems related to alcohol.

                The point of ending prohibition was not to eliminate all of the problems related to alcohol, though.

                It cleaned up the whole “bootlegger violence” problem, though. It sure helped with the “wood alcohol adulterating the booze” problem. At the end of the day, it even helped with much of the criminality problem because Good Christian People no longer had to associate with criminals to get a glass of beer.

                Modern Gangsters were *BIRTHED* by alcohol prohibition and prohibition’s end more than decimated them… until, of course, they discovered drugs.

                Eliminating the war on drugs will not eliminate the gang problem… but it will more than decimate it.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Modern Gangsters were *BIRTHED* by alcohol prohibition and prohibition’s end more than decimated them… until, of course, they discovered drugs.

                But the modern gangs are not from that group. They picked up on drugs eventually as a method of revenue – but that isn’t how they started out. Vice Lords, LK’s, Crips and their offshoot Bloods – even MS-13 started out as a group of salvadoran illegals banding together against some of the other ethnic gangs.

                Legalize drugs and you might cut into their revenue streams somewhat. You won’t end the violence, because the violence existed before the drugs.

                Unless you meant “decimate” in the name of 10% reduction, but I doubt we’d even see that effect from it. More likely, other areas would be stepped up. More protection rackets, harder turf wars, more smuggling of immigrants and girls to be put into prostitution.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

                Can’t squeeze money out of a stone. Prostitution doesn’t bring in enough, by itself, for people to get really rich.
                Also, you’re removing the incentives for gangs to cooperate over large areas.
                Which means more violence short term, and less violence long term. If a gang can’t keep the violence rate below a certain level, it’s going to get shut down (by residents, if nothing else).Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

        This is a good comment, M.A.

        Addressing gang crime, effectively, reduces or eliminates almost all non-spouse related homicide.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          Only if you count rural gangs among them.
          Plenty of people get shot pulling off the road to help someone up here.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Kim says:

            I’m not from a rural area and I’m not familar with this problem. Can you explain?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

              We think of gangs as a city problem. But as in the era of Prohibition, rural areas make for better stash houses. Meth labs are a country phenomenon: they stink like hell. When a batch starts up, sinister ministers turn up to take delivery and move it.

              I knew a little town in the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix. Almost a ghost town, Top of the World. I went up there to do some photography. Coming back through Superior, I stopped for gas and struck up a chat with the clerk. He told me the Superstitions were riddled with gang activity and to steer clear of anyone I’d meet up there.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to greginak says:

      Well, I think having a gun in the house makes you more likely to successfully kill yourself too. As opposed to most other means of suicide that people can and do back out of, it’s harder to change your mind after pulling the trigger.Report

  3. Avatar M.A. says:

    I mulled over the facts of the case long after I turned in the brief. How easily can anger turn deadly given quick access to a gun?


    This is the answer to the omnipresent cries of “but I need a gun to protect myself” from so many people. They wouldn’t need a gun to protect themselves, if they didn’t think there were too many guns around already; they ought to be able to use less lethal weaponry for the same task.

    If she’d tasered Danny, he’d be alive. If she’d whipped out pepper spray, he’d be alive.

    But what she had on hand was a weapon, whose only purpose is to kill.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

      Staplers can kill. So can kitchen knives. In fact, I bought some kitchen knives that were balanced for street fighting (no idea why the fuck someone thought that was a good idea.)Report

      • Avatar Jeff Rubinoff in reply to Kim says:

        Is a stapler’s main function to kill? Is a kitchen knife’s? Which is easier to kill someone with, a stapler, a knife, or a gun?Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Jeff Rubinoff says:

          Unprovoked and at short range? Tossup between knife and gun.I’d give better odds on the knife, if you bothered to poison it first.

          My point is: angry people use whatever weapon is at hand. removing one weapon does not make them any less likely to hurt someone, except in so far as you’ve removed the skill needed.

          A fishing hook’s main function is to kill, too. I’m pretty sure a bunch of folks have lost their lives to fishing hooks (mainly due to tetanus).Report

          • Avatar Griff in reply to Kim says:

            Yeah, you really have to watch out for all those guys who get mad and, in the heat of the moment, poison their knives and jab people with tetanus-encrusted fishing hooks.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Griff says:

              Which, of course, is part of the point.
              You’ve got “plotted to murder an unsuspecting target” and then you’ve got “got mad. went stupid”.

              When unprovoked coworkers draw knives on you and try and slash your gut, it’s time to find a new business.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

        And strangely, death by stapler is quite rare (despite there being more staplers than guns), and “death by gunshot” is not.

        It’s amazing all the things that CAN kill, but people seem to prefer the machine made explicitly to do so over, well, anything else.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

          And strangely, death by stapler is quite rare

          Are you sure about that? Maybe the liberal media just buries those stories to further their anti-gun agenda.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Morat20 says:

          “Can be used to kill” and “Explicitly was designed for the sole purpose of killing, by driving a lead slug through a body at near-hypersonic speeds” are two very different things.

          If everyone had the temperament of Buddha or Gandhi, I’d have no problem letting everyone in society have guns. But then again if everyone had the temperament of Buddha or Gandhi, we wouldn’t need the guns anyways.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to M.A. says:

            Near hypersonic speeds? Handguns are all subsonic, and rifles are merely supersonic (just above Mach 1).

            Hypersonic is Mach 5 & above. No bullets from chemical powered weapons can move that fast. If they did, the shockwave from the round passing through a person would leave very little for police to identify the body with. The Navy is playing with a railgun that pushes a slug to Mach 7, but that’s the only hypersonic gun I know about.

            Seriously people, get the terminology right. Saying that bullets are hyper-sonic leads me to believe you are hyper-eager to induce hyper-fear & hyper-hysteria in others.

            Not something that lends you credibility.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to M.A. says:

            “Can be used to kill” and “Explicitly was designed for the sole purpose of killing, by driving a lead slug through a body at near-hypersonic speeds” are two very different things.”

            To listen to some people, one would think that armies were equipped generally with everything *but* guns, and only poor, third world countries would sink down to having their soldiers only carry guns 🙂Report

          • Avatar Just Me in reply to M.A. says:

            You do know that most guns are used for killing non-human beings right? Or do you mean that we wouldn’t hunt either if we had the temperament of Buddha or Gandhi? I’m just trying to clarify whether you feel that guns should never be used for any reason.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Morat20 says:

          Death by gunshot is pretty rare.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Percent of people dead who’ve been shot with a gun: pretty high.
            Percent of people dead who’ve had a staple jammed into their thumb: pretty low.

            Percent of people dead from a rusty fishhook vs. number of people who’ve ever handled a fishhook, or even vs. number of people who’ve ever gotten a fishhook accidentally stuck in their flesh: almost zero unless basic first aid and vaccinations are both completely ignored.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            You know, I hear you on that, but I’ve been hearing it so much lately that …

            One of the arguments gun-rights people make is that death by mass murderer is really rare. And that death by handgun in a robbery is pretty rare. And death by murder suicide is even rarer. But you know what isn’t rare, they say: death by vehicle. Cars, they say, are the biggest killers on the road. Should we outlaw cars???!!?

            Well, the thing is, death by cars is more common than death by gun, but all things considered it’s still pretty rare. So, what’s the general attitude of society towards death by vehicle? To continue to improve safety conditions of both vehicles and drivers to minimize the likelihood of an otherwise preventable death. So even tho any specific death-causing factor in vehicle use is rare, the idea is to make them even rarer. Hence, seatbelts, airbags, testing-while-driving and drunk-driving laws, and etc.

            Is there an analogue to this in the gun-violence debate?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Stillwater says:

              Yes. Reasonable efforts at gun control.

              Keeping firearms unloaded (or if loaded, stored in a secure place). Closing the gun show loophole.

              But we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about the reinstatement of the AWB. We’re not talking about making gun owners more responsible or guns safer to handle. We’re talking about banning Ferraris.

              And on this particular thread, while talking about why banning Ferraris is a stupid idea, we’re getting pushback because people don’t really neeeeed to drive 160 miles per hour, so what’s the big deal?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t think I’ve ever been in a forum where you and I talk past each other so much, Patrick. I responded to your argument that gun murders are rare by saying that that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to minimize them, and you respond with lots of talk about banning Ferrari’s and the AWB?

                Man, this symposium is gonna be tough on us.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                But efforts at making people use and own guns safely (analogous to making roads and car ownership safer through regulations, licenses and certain bans) will require all of the following:

                1. Identifying gun owners with a license and a database of owners
                2. Requiring licensed gun owners to prove safe storage of their weapons
                3. Requiring psychological testing of licensed gun owners
                4. Requiring gun owners to take gun safety courses
                5. Banning the sale of guns that are less safe than other guns (like banning unsafe cars, e.g. cars without seat belts) that aren’t “necessary” (e.g. banning guns capable of taking large magazines or capable of going through body armor or police vehicles)
                6. Tracking guns with mandatory GPS devices (as we track cars with serial numbers and license plates, we need tracking measures that will work for small concealable guns.)

                That means a federal license with a national database for all handgun owners, paid with (IMO, pretty expensive) taxes and fees, requiring them to prove to the police that their gun is properly stored and that they are trained and psychologically sound. That also requires that all gun sales be done by licensed sellers.

                I don’t see any of this happening, IMO, because the pro-gun crowd is more against gun regulations, licenses, and bans than automobile regulations, licenses, and bans.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                We don’t require psych evaluations for a car license.

                In California, we require gun safety courses. Legally, you are required to store your firearm in a secure location.

                I think both of those are certainly reasonable gun safety defaults.

                I don’t know what you mean by “5”.

                Why would we require GPS tagging of guns? What problem are you trying to solve, here?Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I’m not skipping some of your statements out of hand. I just have to think on them longer so I don’t just have a knee jerk reaction to them.

                6. Why would it have to have a GPS? Why isn’t the gun being registered as a car is good enough. We don’t (and I would be against any suggestion we should) track where each car is at every moment by installing and monitoring cars.

                5. We don’t ban cars that go over speed limits or are more likely to be in accidents or ticketed for speeding. We do get charged higher insurance premiums on such cars though.

                4. I agree with. You should take a gun safety course if you own guns.

                2. Depends on what you mean by safe storage of weapons. Also depends on how you are going to enforce it inside of someone’s home.

                Again, like I said, I have to think more on 1 and 3.

                I am not against making gun sales only being done by licensed sellers. As long as there is a method for individuals to be able to reasonably be able to sell via a licensed seller. I think your list is a great starting point for a conversation on what can be reasonably done to regulate guns. Noted that I may not agree with all of them, just like others may not agree with a list I could came up with.

                P.S. Vehicles are not banned if they don’t have seat belts. You can drive cars if they were manufactured before seat belts were put in cars, though it is recommended that you retrofit them.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Just Me says:

                P.S. Vehicles are not banned if they don’t have seat belts. You can drive cars if they were manufactured before seat belts were put in cars, though it is recommended that you retrofit them.

                Where I live, if you don’t retrofit, you can’t get the car to pass safety inspection and therefore can’t drive it on public roads legally.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

                Not true. You can get antique/classic plates and drive whatever you please. Post law if I’m wrong. 😉Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Stillwater says:

              The other part of this that’s missing:

              Death by gun is (mostly) with intent to kill.
              Death by car is (mostly) accidental.

              Gun nuts want to cry about people dying in car accidents? Key word – accident. Almost nobody goes out to run over people. They’re using the car to get from point A to point B and through negligence or accident or circumstance, something goes wrong.

              The same can’t be said for deaths by gun.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

                Death by gun is (mostly) with intent to kill.


                Banning the gun is going to remove the intent?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                No, but it will remove a point-and-click death interface from someone’s list of tools to do the job.

                If you want to kill someone with a car, you’ve got to work at it. If you want to kill them with a knife or other hand weapon, you theoretically have to either chase them down or manage to plan to catch them in a place where they can’t escape.

                If you’re going to poison them, well, you’re well beyond even the fuzziest lines and definitively in the “premeditated” stage.

                The “well why don’t we ban [insert name of tool here not explicitly designed to do nothing but kill] instead” argument I see from the gun nuts is some of the stupidest nonsense, far worse for killing any reasonable discussion. All it proves to me is that the gun nuts are NOT reasonable, and are NOT interested in a good-faith conversation.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

                No, but it will remove a point-and-click death interface from someone’s list of tools to do the job.

                Have you ever actually fired a gun, M.A.?

                You know that police officers rarely hit anything with accuracy if it’s farther away than 6 feet, in an actual combat situation?

                I think you have very unrealistic ideas of how the things operate.

                The “well why don’t we ban [insert name of tool here not explicitly designed to do nothing but kill] instead” argument I see from the gun nuts is some of the stupidest nonsense, far worse for killing any reasonable discussion.


                If the problem is the intent, the object used is a cosmetic detail, unless you believe – honestly believe – that the fetishization of guns is a major contributing factor towards killing psychology.

                Maybe you believe that, I don’t happen to find it to be credible in the face of the psych lit I’ve read, but some people do think it.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Cherry picked, massaged statistics = bullshit.

                You know that police officers rarely hit anything with accuracy if it’s farther away than 6 feet, in an actual combat situation?

                “In the New York reports, the hit ratio of officers who committed suicide with a firearm — and, therefore, hit their target 100 percent of the time — is included when the overall average is calculated, bringing it up.”

                And then there are the questions of What sort of training did they get and what sort of distances do they most likely encounter? If your argument is that cops are missing beyond 6 feet, did you know there’s an incredible gap in that data? What are you considering “short range”? What’s your link to your data?

                If the problem is the intent, the object used is a cosmetic detail, unless you believe – honestly believe – that the fetishization of guns is a major contributing factor towards killing psychology.

                Look up “Weapons Effect”. Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage did some stellar work in this area. Followup available here as well: Anderson, C.A., Benjamin, A.J., & Bartholow, B.D. (1998). Does the gun pull the trigger? Automatic priming effects of weapon pictures and weapon names. Psychological Science, 9, 308-314.Report

              • So long as the police fire upwards of 40 shots per incident, there’s no problem.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Cherry picked, massaged statistics = bullshit.

                I’m sorry?

                Excuse me, you’re saying that police officers committing suicide is relevant to this discussion, how? If they are not relevant, including them would be massaging statistics.

                And really, drop the bullshit accusations. You have a problem with something I’m saying, give me a nice, polite request for a reference and I’ll give it to you. You have a social science related argument with the reference I give you, you explain your problem with a citation and I’ll listen.

                You need to stop beginning, continuing, and ending your commentary with accusations of idiocy, dishonesty, or duplicity or you seriously need to go somewhere else.

                Look up “Weapons Effect”

                Okay, I did.

                What do you propose that these studies say? What limitations do you see in this research? Have you looked into problems with external validity?

                Because you clearly think these studies mean something.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                “You know that police officers rarely hit anything with accuracy if it’s farther away than 6 feet, in an actual combat situation?”

                “In the New York reports, the hit ratio of officers who committed suicide with a firearm — and, therefore, hit their target 100 percent of the time — is included when the overall average is calculated, bringing it up.”

                So the percentage in actual cop v. perp situations is even worse than the gross statistics would indicate? So Pat C. is even more right?Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

              Yes, and our safety regs on cars actively make them unsafe. Whee!Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Death by gun shot is, in some states, now more common the death by car accident. The gun shot death trend line bends up slowly; the car accident death down rapidly. And that’s because we did stuff like improve car safety, crack down on drunk driving, and made it more difficult for new drivers to get a license.Report

            • Avatar aaron david in reply to zic says:

              “Death by gun shot is, in some states, now more common the death by car accident.”

              I sorry, but do you have any sort of link for this?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to aaron david says:


                What zic says is right -she is often right, IMO- but, as the link points out, the whole affair is rather complicated, because auto deaths are coming down (yay!) while gun deaths are pretty flat (in the U.S.).

                Still the numbers of overall gun deaths (including accidents and suicides) is pretty shockingly high, which is all the comparative claim between guns and cars is really meant to illustrate.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to aaron david says:

                That struck me too. The source seems to be this:


                Don’t know anything about the study’s authors or methods, but they list 10 states.

                This Denver Post article about the study also cites 2009 CDC stats, showing near-parity nationally between “death by car” and “death by firearm”.

                Nationally, there were 31,236 firearm deaths in 2009 and 36,361 motor vehicle deaths according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

                Now, some of the people who got shot were presumably bad guys who needed to get shot; and some were maybe suicides, depending on how they are counting; but I was still surprised to see total numbers for each that were anywhere in the neighborhood of each other (I assumed cars would far and away outstrip guns, anywhere outside an active war zone).Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

                Thank you, Shazbot3 and Glyph.

                I originally read the Salon piece.

                But this seems to be, as Glyph says, the original research:

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to zic says:

                The VPC is an advocacy group, and as such, I give the information presented as much weight as I would information from the NRA. I have tried looking for the actual CDC breakdown by state, but am having no such luck, and in fact the only references to this data outside the VPC simply references the VPC. If anyone could pop up a link, I think it would be great for everyone.

                That said, I think its awesome that we reduced vehicle fatalities so much with out banning their use.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to aaron david says:

                Try this; the full report, it’s sourced better; the link above was the press release:

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

      I mulled over the facts of the case long after I turned in the brief. How easily can anger turn deadly given quick access to a gun?

      Given the number of guns in the country, and the rage-induced passion killing rate…

      I mean, there’s lots of pissed of wives and husbands and a lot of guns but not too many people get shot by their spouse.

      Now, me… I know me. I know the kind of cat that I am. I don’t have a loaded gun on my person because I get pissed, goddamn it (tip to George Carlin).

      But this is actually a pretty rare occurrence given the number of gun-owning people in the country. So the “easily” part is taken out of context.

      “Easily”, maybe. “Often”, certainly not.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        I mean, there’s lots of pissed of wives and husbands and a lot of guns but not too many people get shot by their spouse.

        I think if you want to work the calculation properly, you’ve got to include the threat of being shot. I’ve heard the story from abused women repeatedly, “I’m going to kill you,” followed by a gun entering the home a few days later. Makes he toe the line, at least for a while. And in the interest in being fair, a couple of those woman chose to escalate the arms race by purchasing guns of their own.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic says:

          That’s a good point, but it’s tricky.

          If the gun is intended to be used, then the threat is a cosmetic detail. If the gun isn’t intended to be used, then the threat (assuming the gun isn’t available) would probably still be there, just different.

          “I’m going to kill you” while brandishing a meat cleaver is (to me, anyway) pretty much a threat of homicidal violence in the same way that it would be to brandish a gun or a baseball bat, if you’re actually afraid that the wielder would go through with it.

          There’s a lot of victim perception here. I’ve never been threatened by a guy with a gun. I’ve been threatened by a guy with a knife, but the threat was that he was going to kick the shit out of me and my buddies, and that’s the threat I thought he was making (it only fleetingly crossed my mind that he might kill somebody with the knife, but that’s because of what he said and how he said it, he was itching for a brawl, really).

          If someone said they were going to kill me while they were waving around a reasonably sharp French chef’s knife, I would take that as seriously as I would if they were waving around a gun. But that’s on my perception, not anybody elses’Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Patrick, there’s nothing ‘tricky’ about it.

            If someone’s controlling and abusive and threatens to kill you, that’s not ‘tricky,’ and a gun is not for show. (And I don’t mean to minimize a knife or fists or a bat, either. They all can do the job.) But a gun, it’s a bit easier. It can be fired in a moment of anger, and someone who’s controlling and abusive has lots and lots and lots of moments of anger.

            I’ve spent some time talking on the who of this; who should not be allowed to own guns?

            And I’d say you got a restraining order against you, you gotta hand ’em over, and no purchasing. Two orders? More? Serial offender? Life-time ban. And I’d ponder the value of similar limits on drunken-driving convictions; three and your out of the gun game and alcoholism diagnosis; but that’s because much of the violence I’ve witnessed has been committed by drunk people.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic says:

              And I’d say you got a restraining order against you, you gotta hand ‘em over, and no purchasing. Two orders? More? Serial offender? Life-time ban.

              I think it’s pretty reasonable to state that anyone who has multiple restraining orders from different people is likely someone who ought to have a higher order of scrutiny, certainly.

              I think it’s pretty easy to have one spurious restraining order filed against you, on the other hand. Burt would be a good candidate to chime in, here, but a restraining order (IIRC) is a civil action and doesn’t require much in the way of substantive proof to acquire in all jurisdictions (granted: it’s also very difficult to get them in some others). I can easily see a spurned wife of a gun owner filing for a restraining order just to make him have to turn in his gun collection.

              I’m not sure this is legit. Domestic violence deserves better overall treatment, I agree. I don’t have enough information to say whether or not I’d be okay with it as a default policy.Report

              • FWIW, there’s no reason that such clauses can’t be inserted into any given restraining order by a judge. It is my understanding that in many states, they are automatically included by law in any domestic violence restraining order (e.g., http://www.wcadv.org/sites/default/files/resources/Fact%20Sheet%20on%20Restraining%20Orders%20and%20Firearm%20Surrender%20from%20Wisconsin%20Coalition%20Against%20Domestic%20Violence.pdf ).

                A campaign to either make it easier for judges to put in such clauses in cases where domestic violence has not been fully proven but is a real possibility or to generally encourage judges to be more liberal with granting such clauses is not a terrible idea, though.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                In general in most places that i’m aware of there are two levels of restraining order. There is an initial order ( called an ex parte order in AK) that is given to most petitioners as a way of separating the parties. It doesn’t require both parties to be present and is a better safe then sorry order. It does not involve an actual finding that some DV or threat happened. They are short term ( 20 days max here) and are meant to lead to a hearing where both parties are present and give a cooling off period.

                When both parties are present each can have their say and the judge can make a formal finding that some DV or threat occurred. A long term order means the judge found something actionable happened while a short term order is for quick legal protection without a finding.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak says:

                Dude. that’s actually pretty awesome. Seriously, that’s something working -well-.Report

  4. Avatar Just Me says:

    People do stupid things. No gun should be pointed at another for any reason unless that person’s death is what you want to achieve. The fact that she stated that she only meant to scare him showcases that she had no concept of gun safety or had a clue about what a gun really is for. It is a real problem that so many people think of guns as toys. I really think that the first thing we should tackle is gun training and gun safety. This should include having to view someone or something that has been killed by a firearm. Not just watching a video, but actually viewing something or someone that was at one time was alive and now isn’t. I don’t know if she had a gun to protect herself from gun violence or if it was to protect her from rape or muggings. Stories like this just tick me off, especially with the I only meant to scare them part included.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Just Me says:

      “…but actually viewing something or someone that was at one time was alive and now isn’t.”

      There’s certainly something to be said for this, or perhaps going even farther. For me, Dad and Grandpa’s lectures and demonstrations on gun safety were intellectual things. As it turned out, so was being with them in the woods when it was them killing the small game. It wasn’t until I was a 12-year-old, though, when I was the one who had squeezed the trigger and killed the squirrel, that the lessons hit home emotionally.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Just Me says:

      Watermelons do a great job at showing the destructive power of a bullet.Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I thought about that, I’m just not sure that it drives the point home enough that things die. I feel that it needs to be driven home that gun ownership makes one responsible for what happens with their gun. I come from a community where most households had guns, mostly for hunting. Kids went to hunters safety training. I think that the NRA should back more gun training and more gun safety classes in school. I think that there should be programs like MADD puts on to try and get kids to stop drinking and driving in schools for guns. I think this should be done in all schools, not just those with high populations that hunt.

        I also was just thinking that maybe they could come up with some kind of training like they do for nurses using realistic dummies. They have a dummy at a range, someone shoots it. In a room there is a person pretending to be the victim, moaning and crying for mommy. The gorier the better. The dummy could lay there writhing in pain or something with blood and gore visible. Maybe they could have mental health personnel there to monitor the kids or adults taking these classes to check that someone is not getting inappropriate enjoyment from the act of killing something. It could be a good way to weed out the ones who are lacking in empathy and maybe are prone to being psychopaths. Like I said I was just thinking about this, not sure it would go over very well since some don’t want their children exposed to any violence that is not on the big screen or a computer screen.

        Here is my philosophy on guns for me. I don’t want to be responsible for killing someone. So I don’t own a gun. I have been trained in gun use (through the military and I enjoy shooting). I have a temper and I have been known to get drunk from time to time (less now than when I was young and dumb ‘er’). I would like to think I wouldn’t pull out a gun and shoot it while drunk or mad, but I know I have tried to play with bottle rockets on a New Years eve in the past while totally drunk and came pretty close to having a damaged hand for my stupidity. Luckily I just had a couple of blisters. That just hurt me, I’m okay with just hurting me, I’m not okay with hurting others though because of my dumbassary. So I made the decision to not own a gun. But I also believe that others should be able to make that same decision for themselves and I have no problem if they decide they are more responsible than I am and can have a gun. I also don’t hunt (except for with my car). If I did hunt I would buy a gun but keep it off premises, more than likely at a gun range. But again that is just me. I have seen what weapons can do to humans and animals alike. As Michael said, when you squeeze the trigger it brings it home emotionally for you what guns really do. If I had only shot at inanimate objects I’m not sure that point would have been driven home quite in the same way.Report

        • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Just Me says:

          Just have the kids watch the colorized enhanced version of the Zapruder film.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Just Me says:

          Seeing the effects of gunshots is a good idea. Hollywood makes it far too neat (excepting Saving Private Ryan, which was disturbingly accurate).Report

          • Avatar Just Me in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            Saving Private Ryan is a movie I personally think every American should see.Report

            • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Just Me says:

              I always thought that whole opening bit where they come ashore at Normandy would be a good litmus test to find out whether or not a person has a soul; if you can watch the whole thing and not flinch, grimace, wince, turn away, and otherwise be horrified at what those guys went through to get ashore, you’re the kind of person who could torture animals.

              However, no actual research went into this comment. Just an off the cuff speculation.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Some more thoughts:

    1. This really does seem to be a highly divided issue between red and blue states or more specifically rural and urban. Most gun owners seem to be located in rural areas and they often speak about how long it takes for police to get to them because of their far-out location. Living in a city or inner-ring suburb, emergency response time is much lower. Again one of the many ways in which urban living consumes fewer resources.

    There are always exceptions but I know very few people in urban areas who own guns or want to.

    2. There is an image issue. A lot of people even many gun-control friendly liberals think that there is something sexy about owning a gun. And they imagine themselves in a highly correographed bullet ballet out of an action movie. I have seen a lot of my liberal friends post of facebook stuff like “I don’t like guns but I think I would look damn cool/sexy/badass if I had one on me in a holster.” This goes for men and women.

    3. The elephant in the room is mental health. More specifically does society have a right to institutionalize mentally ill people before they do something really violent. This is another thing that city dwellers see on a regular basis but many suburban or urban dwellers do not. I see it more in San Francisco than in New York but you are almost guaranteed to run into a paranoid schizophrenic on the buses in SF. There is one guy on my route. Sometimes they are fine and then lash out all the sudden in very loud ways and this puts everyone on edge. Another man in NYC was pushed to his death recently and the suspect seems to have a long history of violent acts committed while under mental delusions. She also seems to have spent many years going into and out of mental hospitals and local housing. There were not enough resources to make sure she took her medicine.

    Does liberty require that we wait until the mentally ill commit a violent crime before sending them away for good? Are we comfortable with a society that uses prison to deal with mental illness? If we can do it with humanity and comfort is it okay to just institutionalize the permanently paranoid-schizophrenic before they commit a crime? These are tough questions without simple answers and I am not sure I have any answers either.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

      My (urban) household owns guns. I don’t store them on our property.

      Most paranoid-schizos aren’t really a danger. And institutionalizing someone who just needs to be forced to take their medication seems a bit extreme.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kim says:

        Probably but how do you get them to take their medicine? Does government/society have a right to get them to take their medicine? Or do we just let people be the random victims when a mentally ill person refuses to take their medicine?Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    I’ve known exactly seven people who died by bullets.

    One died in Iraq.

    Three died in hunting accidents. All three died from a single shot, either to the heart or head. Oddly, I only know one person’s who’s been shot in a hunting accident and survived; my grandfather, who shot is own toe of when he was about 13.

    Three people shot by a psychotic who confessed to his father, pled guilty, and hanged himself in his jail cell a few months later.

    I’ve been shot at by a drunken neighbor, convinced it was me calling the cops on his blaring music. (It was not; I’m married to a musician, complaining about someone else’s loud music is the last thing I’d ever do.)

    I’ve known two people who survived gun assault. One a drug dealer who’s house was invaded; he was shot in the stomach, and his large stash of coke and lots of cash taken. Hey, it was the ’80’s. And one the owner of a Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood, shot in the neck while we ate there one night. He survived. Supposedly the Chinese mafia.

    And I was at my chiropractor’s office in Brookline, MA, with my children, ages 6 mos. and 2.5 yrs., when a man went in to the family planning clinic next door and shot several people; the police hadn’t arrived yet as we were leaving to go to another clinic down the street, they came while we were waiting for the C-line trolley, he could have been any one of a number of people we saw as we waited.

    That’s a lot of gun violence for one humble woman to experience in her lifetime. Too close too often for comfort.

    But I want to point out one other fact: over the years, I’ve known a lot of people who grew/sold pot. I’ve family who grew medical pot in CA. Not one owned or wanted to own guns that I know of; I’ve asked the family member, and she reported the same thing there; if you got into trouble, last thing you wanted was a weapons charge involved. So for all the ‘drugs and gangs,’ I think there’s some misconception about pot in general there; but my experience is anecdotal.Report

  7. Avatar Mopey Duns says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as the first story goes, aren’t guns banned in Chicago already? If the guns are still around, where do you go from there? Greater penalties?Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Mopey Duns says:

      In theory that’s not a fair comparison if we’re talking about state or national action. A city like Chicago, which gets an absolutely enormous amount of basically unregulated and unmonitored traffic into and out of the city every day and is surrounded by jurisdictions without such bans, will find it impossible to effectively enforce. The state of Illinois might have an easier time, and the Federal government could probably do a decent job of it if it really wanted to spend the money and deal with the collateral problems.Report

  8. Avatar Diablo says:

    When I was in the Navy, most of my friends had guns. I heard no one stop a crime or protect themselves and family from criminal.

    Three committed suicide with their gun. A couple got arrested for crimes with their gun.

    I do not see the point of having a gun.Report

  9. Avatar Bill Kilgore says:

    —Such weapons, Joe told us, were fairly common among gangs—

    Did Joe have any numbers to support his claim?

    The umber of people who die from rifle shots is about 500 per year. And that is all rifles, not just “assault thingees” which are a subset of rifles generally.

    While I appreciate the anecdote, absent some confirming data, the likelihood is that Joe’s claim is almost certainly false. The better question is why he chose to use a weapon that is responsible for a small minority of gun violence in this country to illustrate his point about guns.

    I bet I can guess.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to Bill Kilgore says:

      Joe obviously had an axe to grind. His head almost exploded when one of my fellow clerks suggested that legalizing at least some drugs might cut down on the violence.

      I’d have to check the statistics for Joe’s claim. While I have some anecdotal support for the claim in the form of news stories in Chicago and LA about raids on gang drug operations that netted some pretty impressive firepower along with massive quantities of drugs, these too are impressionistic rather than factual.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Michelle says:

        From what I know about gangs, they tend to have “easy” access to a lot more firepower than they tend to use. Because it’s not cheap, ya know? (unless you go raiding the Natl Armory…)Report

  10. Avatar Kim says:

    How in Hell is that first degree murder? Doesn’t that require some premeditation?
    It seems to a novice like me that was second degree, or perhaps manslaughter (technically, but it really should have been prosecuted as second degree murder).Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kim says:

      Offhand guess: prosecution managed to convince the jury that she knew about the situation beforehand and made a deliberate decision to bring the gun and use it if things didn’t go her way.

      Jury also likely didn’t believe the “it just went off, I only meant to scare him” part.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to M.A. says:

        The prosecution had her confession and the accounts of several eye-witnesses. They had no evidence she knew about the fiancee beforehand or that she brought the gun to the gathering on purpose with the intent to harm Danny. Under Illinois criminal law, Melanie’s actions fit the description of first-degree murder:

        Under Illinois Law (720 ILCS 5/9-1), a person commits the Felony crime of First Degree Murder when:

        (a) they kill an individual without lawful justification if, in performing the acts which cause the death:

        (1) they either intend to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or know that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or

        (2) they know that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or

        (3) they are committing, or attempting to commit, a forcible felony other than second degree murder.

        Melanie’s actions are covered by clause 2, that is, the prosecution she knew pointing a gun at Danny and pulling the trigger could cause his death. The few seconds between pulling the gun from her purse and pointing it at Danny were enough to form intent. Since there was no arguing that Melanie didn’t do it–the evidence against her was simply too strong–her attorney tried to get the jury to convict her of the lesser charge of second-degree murder by arguing provocation. Again, according to Illinois criminal law, “a person commits the Felony crime of Second Degree Murder when:

        (a) they commit the offense of First Degree Murder as defined in paragraphs (1) or (2) of subsection (a) of Section 9-1 (see above) of this Code and either of the following mitigating factors are present:

        (1) At the time of the killing they are acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the individual killed or another whom the offender endeavors to kill, but he negligently or accidentally causes the death of the innocent individual;. . .

        The provocation theory didn’t fly because, even though Danny cussed Melanie out and made it clear he didn’t want her there, he didn’t threaten her physically. She maintained she saw him start to get out of his truck and come toward her, but neither physical evidence or eye-witness accounts supported her version of the story.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Michelle says:

          hmm… yeah. okay, I kinda get that. Lying in court rarely helps your case.
          (I’m not exactly sure what a lawyer would counsel someone to say if their recollection is counter to physical evidence. You’re supposed to tell the truth! But what if your truth is WRONG? Ought you to say, “this is what I recall happening, and I realize that it’s not right, but this was what I thought was going on at the time, and I swore to tell you the truth.”??)Report

  11. Avatar Jon says:

    Ok folks, yes, guns were made to kill. There’s no way around it. They just were. Whether it was made to kill humans or any other animal, they all have that in common. The problem is, there’s so many other things made to kill as well. From the beginning of mankind, we have been building things to kill with. Spears, clubs, swords, knives, catapults, crossbows or longbows all have the same thing in common. American culture is so quick to jump on the “ban wagon” and preach to eliminate (or regulate) the tools used in a crime. What we need to focus on is the root causes of it. Guns don’t create crime. I have lived in some of our big cities, suburbs and in rural areas. I’ve also been in law enforcement since 2001. I know the differences in lifestyle and see the effects of violent crime and the effects of good people that are armed. Those times living in an apartment in the city, I couldn’t tell you if any of my neighbors owned guns. But in the southern states and more rural areas, it’s very common to see my neighbors wearing a pistol in a holster on their belts. There is less violent crime in areas where good people are allowed to carry guns. Straight out. http://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/armed-citizen.aspxReport

  12. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Quick question for Michelle: What year was it when Melanie shot Danny?Report

  13. Avatar Rocco says:

    Hi there, this weekend is fastidious in favor of me, since this occasion i am reading this wonderful educational post here at my house.Report