Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, October 02, 2017


Here's the breakdown of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982, by the race/ethnicity of the perpetrator. (I came across this in the discussion by Jen Hayden at Daily Kos, which also features tweets by Nelba Márquez-Greene whose daughter was murdered at Sandy Hook elementary school.)

So yes, the majority of mass shooters in the U.S. are white men, and very few of them are Middle Eastern terrorists. Many bloggers, such as Duncan Black, are complaining that it isn't called terrorism if white people do it. The justification you will get from the corporate media is that the word "terrorism" implies a political motive, and most of these rage killers don't have one. In other words it's not the race of the shooter, it's the reason.

Now, if you want to use the word that way, you can. As of now there is no evidence of a political motive behind the massacre in Las Vegas. This is looking like a brain tumor to me. That might change of course. But in the meantime the issue is that being worried about politically motivated terrorism, whether or not you think that includes right wing extremists and white supremacists as well as Muslims, while not being nearly as concerned about non-political violence, is irrational. People who commit mass murder of random people out of some ostensible political motive are just a particular kind of nut. They embody their rage and alienation in a political ideology but what difference does that make? The people in Las Vegas are equally dead and injured no matter what was going on in the shooter's head.

The reason why this happens in the U.S. and not so much in other places is that our country is full of firearms. In this case, clearly the shooter used an automatic rifle, probably the equivalent of an AK-47 or an M-16. It is legal to own these in the U.S. if they were first sold before 1986. They have to be registered and most of them are at specially licensed gun ranges, though private citizens can keep them in their houses. There are about 390,000 such legal weapons in the country. But it is actually very easy to convert a semi-automatic weapon to be fully automatic. So there are an unknown number of illegal automatic rifles in the U.S., and Stephen Paddock had at least one.

Update: As we all know by now, he had a dozen semi-automatic rifles that had been modified to shoot rapid-fire like an automatic rifle using a device which is perfectly legal. So it's even worse than I thought.

This could be fixed by legislation that outlaws semi-automatic assault rifles and large capacity magazines. (Based on the sound of the gunfire, which I heard on NPR, Paddock had 30-round magazines.) Instead, congress is getting ready to repeal the ban on gun silencers, because they are obviously essential to recreational shooting and self-defense.

We are insane.


Don Quixote said...

Here is a letter I wrote today to the NY Times.


Re: "At Least 50 Dead in Las Vegas Shooting":

Multiple news sources have been reporting that since the alleged gunman had no known "political or religious" affiliations, the shooting was not an "act of terrorism."

Pardon me?

Death and destruction rained down on any people, anywhere, is terrorism. The message is clear: if the assailant is a lone Caucasian male without a political or religious motivation, it is not terror. I vehemently disagree: I am a Caucasian male and I'd like to call out the NRA as a terrorist organization, and members of Congress who back their policies as terrorist affiliates. Most terror in the US and elsewhere is perpetrated by males. Even if it turns out that Stephen Paddock had a brain tumor, like Charles Whitman, then that's a strong argument for the universal, single-payer, comprehensive health care we should already by rights have. The endemic mass shootings in the world are still rarely, if ever, committed by women. Racism and testosterone are the most dangerous forces on the planet.


I just finished watching Ken Burns's documentary, "The Vietnam War" on PBS. One thing it made clear is that we were terrorists in Vietnam. Not just William Calley. War is terrorism. It is not honorable. Most violence is perpetrated by males. But we have the knowledge of our hormones and tendencies and we have research. But we are uber-political animals. If we can't get the men out of politics, we're not going to make it as a species. This makes me sad because there aren't just Charles Whitmans and Stephen Paddocks in the world: there are Mozarts and Shakespeares and Bachs and Freeman Dysons and Picassos. Hardly seems fair to get rid of all of us, but the distribution of intelligence and rationality in the human animal seems to follow the bell curve.

Mark P said...

I heard an explanation on PBS of why the government doesn't necessarily want to call domestic terrorism "terrorism". It has to do with the definition of terrorism as it relates to acting for the benefit of a foreign government (or, in the case of domestic terrorism, for a particular cause, whether political, religious or otherwise). The rationale was that the government would need to designate organizations as "terrorist", a designation which some would fear might be misused. I'm not sure I buy that argument, but, apparently the police and prosecutors feel they have sufficient tools to deal with such cases through other laws. It doesn't stop anyone from calling such acts terrorism, but there are no specific charges associated with that.

Based on listening to the videos of the massacre, it sounds like the shooter had either a very large-capacity magazine or a belt feed. It's simply absurd that any civilian could get access to such a weapon. I noted when all the politicians in Nevada spoke on the news that they were thankful to the first responders and confident that Nevadans would get through this. There was absolutely no mention whatsoever of even trying to do anything to prevent such acts.

Don Quixote said...

Yes. Everything is salutary; there is no will to change the status quo--about the environment, about health care (except to take it away), about gun laws, about racism...the desire on the part of the bastards in charge is to roll back the laws, to ignore science, to send the brown people whose descendants were brought here against their will "back to Africa"--as if they don't belong here more than the Caucasians do! Reactionaries are in power and are willfully ignorant and blind. It's shocking how all they seek is plausible deniability, instead of solutions. They can't seek solutions to problems which they've created and which they deny! It's as if speaking words can create reality. That's what the neocons believed and these pathetic losers are the descendants of Cheney and his treasonous gang.

We are in a world of shit created by wealthy Caucasian male bastards. All they care about is power. Life means NOTHING to them. Not all wealthy people, of course...the rich reactionary Republican shits in charge at present. People completely devoid of character, honesty, compassion, real humor, integrity. And Fox propaganda network is their mouthpiece and echo chamber.

Gay Boy Bob said...

As much as some of your commenters would like to expand the definition of 'terrorism' to satisfy their hatred of white people(and white men in particular)in the racist rants here on your blog, it just isn't true. Every dictionary and every common usage of the term says he's just a hateful racist idiot.

Here's how even the Patriot act, as revised, defines terrorism:

Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Pub. L. No. 107-52) expanded the definition of terrorism to cover ""domestic,"" as opposed to international, terrorism. A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act "dangerous to human life" that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism.

And after these hateful comments above, I'm starting to wonder if this commenter has any high powered rifles himself...

Don Quixote said...

Ha! Gay Boy Bob, you may not be an idiot, but neither are you particularly astute--or logical. By the definition of the "Patriot Act" you quoted above, both Stephen Paddock and the NRA engage in domestic terrorism! They CERTAINLY seek to "intimidate...a civilian population."

I say you are not particularly astute because I neither own a gun, want to own a gun, or believe in the right of individuals OR POLICE OFFICERS to possess unlimited access to guns. That business about "It's not guns that kill people; people kill people!" is complete bullshit. Try killing and wounding over 600 people at a concert without a gun! I've never even fired a gun. So much for you and your fears, GBB.

Here is a link to a profound and passionate plea from a great American, Roseanne Cash, in today's (10/3/17) New York Times:

She' correct when she says that there is NO OTHER WAY to say it: the NRA funds domestic terrorism. They are a domestic terror organization.

And Fox Propaganda Network should be prosecuted for the liable and fraud they commit each and every day.

Gay Boy Bob said...

Interestingly enough, the June 14, 2017 10 minute politically motivated shooting by a left-wing activist trying to kill as many Republican legislators as possible didn't seem to rate a post here.

Did I miss something?

Don Quixote said...

No, it just wasn't talked about. It's fine that you bring it up but don't think you can change the subject. Terrorism is terrorism. I realized after watching "The Vietnam War" on PBS that our involvement there was terrorism! This is what happens in a country where people who have colored skin are devalued.

Anonymous said...

Also, it's understandable that occasionally Republicans will be targeted...more and more...since they are the ones trying to promote gun violence and screw everyone out of health care, social security, etc. You reap what you sow, even if it's from crazy people. Lots of stories haven't "rated" here but it's not for lack of validity. It's only one blog. Start your own! Then you can add to the cacophony.

Don Quixote said...

And read Roseanne Cash's article before you go shooting off your mouth again.

Gay Boy Bob said...


This type of mass murder didn't seem to happen when guns were easier to obtain. The National Firearms Act of 1934, and especially the Gun Control Act of 1968 only made them more difficult to get...and yet here we are.

So, if 80+ years of more and more incremental gun control isn't moving the needle in the right direction, a rational person would think there may be more to this issue than simply more of something that has not proven effective.

And now for opinion: The American culture has become more secular in this time-frame which means fewer people feel accountable to the almighty. Violence, in particular gun violence, has been used for entertainment everywhere. You can't hardly go to a movie without massive amounts of gun violence. And then we have very graphic video games with first-person gunfights where the goal is to murder as many people as possible. Let's not forget popular music as rappers legitimize the thug culture that includes gun violence.

All of these factors constantly bombarding us have desensitized and coarsened the culture. If you add in the victim mentality so prevalent today where somebody must pay for your problems, you have a recipe for mass murder.

Gay Boy Bob said...

Here's something that I think will be truly helpful from WaPo written by Leah Libresco,a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight and certainly not a pro-gun person.

I found it to be well written and researched without all of the political hype.

Hope this helps.

Anuj Agarwal said...

Hi Stayin' Alive Team,

My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Stayin' Alive has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 75 Public Health Blogs on the web.

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 75 Public Health Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.


Daniel said...

Gay Boy Bob, nice to have a handle to associate with your often annoying comments.

Full disclosures: First, I own two semiautomatic carbines that I use for varmints and predators (four legged variety) on my rural property in a very rural western state. Neither are “assault rifles” but the ranch carbine (.223 cal) has high capacity magazines. The old ranch carbine from a few decades back came with a 5 shot clip. It was adequate though I would have preferred a 10 shot clip. The newer carbine, purchased fairly recently, came stock with two 20 round clips. Don’t need them but that is what was in the box. I consider these firearms a necessity. No one wants to watch a mountain lion hauling off their two year old grandson or the family dog.

Second, IMO, it is rather a weak argument to support your opinion with articles from the opinion page of newspapers. That seems to be a common tactic of yours.

I did read the article you referred to in the WaPo. The author correctly identifies that gun violence comes in multiple forms and that there is no single answer. Agreed, a suicide is different than a mass shooting. I’ll focus here on mass shootings, a public health crisis that not only affects victims, survivors and their loved ones but the entire public. There is a clear solution to this crisis, limit the size of magazines sold with semiautomatic firearms. A sceptic on this issue might say it’s too late, there are millions of these already out there. That’s true and the blog author is correct, we are insane.

Gay Boy Bob said...


There are commenters on this blog that proudly claim they have never discharged a firearm. In their eyes, you're an asshole for even possessing these.

The piece I offered up is from a statistician who was not a gun-rights promoter and held a pro-gun control position until she actually researched the subject. Actual research changed her mind that the common gun control proposals would not be effective.

The Clinton Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994-2004)limited magazine capacity to 10 and during that period, the same frequency of shootings occurred as before.

March 1998 Arkansas school
April 1999 Columbine school
July 1999 Atlanta All-Tech and Investment Securities
Sept 1999 Wedgewood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth TX
Nov 1999 Honolulu
Dec 2000 Wakefield Mass
Mar 2001 Santana High School
July 2003 Meridian, Miss

It doesn't appear that limiting the size of magazines or whether weapons had a pistol grip, etc. had any measurable effect on the frequency.

On a side note, I'm really open to regulating devices such as the "bump-stock" because they are clearly an "end-run" around current gun statutes.