Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What gets our attention

Mass shooting incidents account for only a small fraction of gun violence, but they become big news, while the everyday drumbeat of domestic and ordinary criminal violence fades into the background. I stopped by a couple of the popular blogs today and the postings on the mass murder in Isla Vista have attracted hundreds of comments. Viz PZ, who copies much of the killer's manifesto.

Not surprisingly, Myers uses this as an occasion to condemn his arch enemy Men's Rights Activists, but the comments don't have any particular discernible central concern or pattern, they seem all over the place. A lot of the argument is over whether we should blame mental illness, which I suppose just comes down to the semantic argument over whether you want to call whatever was wrong with the guy a disease.

Anyway, Mother Jones provides a handy dandy guide to mass murder in the U.S., of which they count 70 incidents in the past 30 years. (Definition: 4 or more dead, not counting the shooter, in one incident.) Most of the weapons used were obtained legally, almost all of the killers were male, and the venues were generally schools, workplaces or public places. But you probably knew all that just from your overall impression. Most of the weapons were semi-automatic handguns, which would not be affected by an assault rifle ban.

So, if we aren't going to eliminate routine sale and ownership of firearms, which we aren't, other than banning testosterone I'm not sure what to do. There always have been, and always will be, the occasional guy who goes amok. If he has a gun, the consequences will be worse than if he doesn't. That's the world we live in.

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