Sandy Hook and Peshawar

A couple of news items that struck me recently

* Two years after the Sandy Hook massacre, a US Federal Appeals Court has ruled that people with a history of mental illness have a constitutional right to gun ownership.

* In the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar massacre, a Pakistani judge granted bail to the alleged planner of the Mumbai massacre, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, a leading figure in the (military-backed) Lashkar e-Taibi terrorist group.

Obviously, these decisions were neither aberrational nor the product of a legal system divorced from any social context. Rather, they reflect deeply ingrained views in the societies from which they emerged. Beyond that point, I don’t have a lot to say, but I’ll be interested to read the views of others.

89 thoughts on “Sandy Hook and Peshawar

  1. I think it’s unsafe to draw too much from the gun law thing. It came down to a poorly-implemented state law:

    as a 2011 New York Times piece reported, a number of states have created rights-restoring programs under which petitioners with past disqualifying mental illnesses can submit documentation to show that they’ve recovered and are fit to own a gun. Michigan never set up such a program, though, so Tyler had no means of proving himself fit.

  2. I think keeping civilian gun ownership down to a sensible mimimum like Australia does is a good idea. It doesn’t stop disturbed people or political fundamentalists getting guns in some instances and still murdering . It doesn’t stop murders with other weapons. But gun murder stats are kept way down.

    (Civilian?) Firearm-related death rate per 100,000 population per year. – Wikipedia.

    US 10.3 (2011) and there are about a dozen countries worse, some much worse.
    Australia 0.86 (2011)

    “The Small Arms Survey is also useful – although it is from 2007, it collates civilian gun ownership rates for 178 countries around the world, and has ‘normalised’ the data to include a rate per 100,000 population.” – The Guardian.

    According to The Guardian:

    The key facts are:

    • The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people
    • But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate – that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people
    • Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean

    Which statistics are right? Wikipedia said US 10.3 per 100,000 people. That’s a big difference in stats for a 4 year gap. Are they defining things in different ways? Is someone counting wrong?

    The Guardian Australia says in an article titled “High gun ownership makes countries less safe, US study finds”: Wednesday 18 September 2013

    “Guns do not make a nation safer, say US doctors who have compared the rate of firearms-related deaths in countries where many people own guns with the death rate in countries where gun ownership is rare.

    Their findings, published Wednesday (this is 2013) in the prestigious American Journal of Medicine, debunk the historic belief among many people in the United States that guns make a country safer, they say. On the contrary, the US, with the most guns per head in the world, has the highest rate of deaths from firearms, while Japan, which has the lowest rate of gun ownership, has the least.

    The journal has fast-tracked publication of the study because of the shootings at the Washington navy yard. It was originally scheduled for later this week.

    It follows an emotional appeal from a doctor at the trauma center in Washington where the victims of Aaron Alexis’ random violence were taken. “I would like you to put my trauma center out of business,” Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, told reporters in the aftermath of the massacre. “I would like to not be an expert on gunshots. Let’s get rid of this. This is not America.”

    The fraught question of whether gun ownership protects populations from crime or makes them less likely to be killed has been debated for 200 years, say the authors, Sripal Bangalore of NYU Langone Medical Center, and Franz H Messerli of St Luke’s Roosevelt hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. They say the arguments began as soon as the second amendment stating “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” was passed in 1791.

    At one end is the argument that gun control laws are an infringement on the right to self-defense and on constitutional rights, and that there is no evidence that banning assault weapons would reduce crime. At the other end is the view that fewer firearms would reduce crime rates and overall lead to greater safety, they say.

    In some of the recent mass shootings – for instance those in Aurora, Tucson, Oak Creek, Virginia Tech – it has been suggested that the killer was mentally ill and that lack of treatment was a bigger issue than gun ownership. With this in mind, the New York-based doctors looked in their study not only at the relationship of gun ownership to firearms deaths but also mental illness.

    They examined data from 27 developed countries, using gun ownership figures from the Small Arms Survey and deaths from the World Health Organisation, the National Center for Health Statistics and others. They also looked at crime rates compiled by the United Nations for an indication of the safety of each country.

    More guns meant more deaths, they found. “The gun ownership rate was a strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death,” says Bangalore. “Private gun ownership was highest in the US. Japan, on the other end, had an extremely low gun ownership rate. Similarly, South Africa (9.4 per 100,000) and the US (10.2 per 100,000) had extremely high firearm-related deaths, whereas the United Kingdom (0.25 per 100,000) had an extremely low rate of firearm-related deaths.

    “There was a significant correlation between guns per head per country and the rate of firearm-related deaths with Japan being on one end of the spectrum and the US being on the other. This argues against the notion of more guns translating into less crime. South Africa was the only outlier in that the observed firearms-related death rate was several times higher than expected from gun ownership.”

    High rates of mental illness in any country, on the other hand, did not predict more gun deaths.

    “Although correlation is not the same as causation, it seems conceivable that abundant gun availability facilitates firearm-related deaths. Conversely, high crime rates may instigate widespread anxiety and fear, thereby motivating people to arm themselves and give rise to increased gun ownership, which, in turn, increases availability. The resulting vicious cycle could, bit by bit, lead to the polarized status that is now the case with the US,” the doctors write.

    “Regardless of exact cause and effect, the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that countries with higher gun ownership are safer than those with low gun ownership.”

  3. Define mental illness. The DSM catalogues an ever-growing list of ‘illnesses’ that are really don’t cause an impairment. Is OCD a mental illness such that one should be banned from owning a firearm, or driving a car (given the use of cars in attacks in Jerusalem and France recently, anything can be a weapon)? What of anxiety disorders? Transsexuals are included in the DSM: are we a menace to society purely because of that? Are we even ‘ill’?

    Mental illness is a real thing, but it is often transitory. Even when it isn’t, it probably doesn’t put a stop to someone’s life. Let’s not forget that, throughout history, the label of ‘mentally ill’ has been used as a tool of social control.

    Ikonoclast’s quoted study seems disingenuous: if there aren’t many firearms, then they won’t be used as often. We often see suicide as a reason to restrict firearms, but Japan has a high suicide rate. Then we can look at the laws and misuse of firearms and see that Mexico, for example, has an horrendous murder rate but tight gun laws, while Switzerland has many firearms in the community, but they are rarely misused. The culture of a society seems to be a large factor in all of this. Even within a society, the uneven distribution of firearm misuse and resultant suffering between various geographic areas and ethnic groups highlights the importance of social attitudes toward violence. A macho, honour-shame society or part of it will always have more violence.

    There is also the disconnect between illegality and the reality of availability. We have had tight drug laws for a long time, but drugs are not hard to find. Guns are old technology. Cheap machine tools result in them being easy to manufacture and who knows what will occur with 3D printing. It seems to me that fixating on the ‘evil thing’ is not the most constructive response. Perhaps better results might be seen from concentrating on problematic attitudes that cause some people to be more prone to violence, just as enlightened drug policy concentrates on harm minimisation and, in some jurisdictions such CO and WA in the USA, is even moving toward an acceptance of the reality that some genies cannot be put back in their bottles.

  4. For any Americans participating in this comment thread, I will point out that what seems surprising to many non-Americans is that the United States has not changed the second amendment or interpreted it in such a way that prevents people from buying and carrying firearms such as pistols for the purpose of self defence.

    Events since the formation of the republic have shown there is a tension between the goals set out in the preamble of the Constitution and widespread private gun ownership and so it seems odd that so little has been done to control and limit firearm ownership. It seems clear that to, “…insure domestic Tranquility…” and “…promote the general Welfare…” requires robust public health measures that definitely should include gun control. It is interesting, and to many of us odd, that after all these years of significantly more gun violence than in other developed countries, so little has been done to resolve this tension.

  5. @Ronald Brak

    It’s about profits for weapons manufacturers and the whole military-industrial-oligarch complex. They have a great system going at all levels. Promote wars and instability abroad. Sell bulk weapons to US military. Sell bulk slightly obsolete weapons to allies. Sell bulk even more obsolete weapons to allies today who might be declared enemies tomorrow. Sell bulk side arms to the American public. Sell bulk retired armoured personnel carriers with anti-IED capability and other medium weaponry to Homeland Security along with 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition (in March 2013 causing a world-wide non-military ammunition shortage… very temporarily). Sell heavy side-arms and military level full automatics, street-sweeper shotguns etc. to paramilitarised police forces. Look like passing token magazine-size control laws. Cause a huge rush on semi-automatic and automatic weapons / magazines to beat the “ban”.

    Unleash hell at every level. Don’t worry about deaths, at least 20% of the population is unproductive and expendable (for systemic reasons of course but call it their fault). Rinse and repeat. Count profits.

  6. @Mayan

    Mental illness is hard to define, but rather easy to identify when you see it.

    But I guess the sort of mental illness that should disqualify you from gun ownership is pretty simple. If you don’t need a gun, and you want one, you fail the test.

  7. @Ikonoclast

    US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people…

    Which statistics are right? Wikipedia said US 10.3 per 100,000 people.

    Not necessary for one of them to be wrong and the other right.

    One is “Firearm-related death” and the other is “murder”.

    For example police/security shootings account for one death (usually black) in the US every day. The vast majority of those are not “murder” in the sense that the killer does not end up being charged let alone found guilty.

    And of course there’s suicide. “PewResearch.Org” has an article from 2013 titled ‘Suicides Count For Most Gun Deaths”:

    Suicides by gun accounted for about six of every 10 firearm deaths in 2010 and just over half of all suicides, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Since the CDC began publishing data in 1981, gun suicides have outnumbered gun homicides. But as gun homicides have declined sharply in recent years, suicides have become a greater share of all firearm deaths: the 61% share in 2010 was the highest on record. That year there were 19,392 suicides by firearm compared to 11,078 homicides by gun (35% of all firearm deaths). The rest were accidents, police shootings and unknown causes.

    Violence begets violence. The US is as responsible for anything that happens in places it nefariously involves itself, such as Pakistan, as the “locals”.

  8. It’s worth noting that the loony-tunes who recently took 17 hostages in Martin Place was armed with a shotgun. Not a semi-automatic or pump action shotgun, which were banned in 1996. So he had a weapon he could only shoot twice (I guess) before having to reload manually. He also doesn’t seem to have had any body armour. So he wasn’t a threat to the police, and had very little ability to kill his hostages as a group (though obviously he was still lethally armed). This means that in Australia a man who had a clear desire to make a powerful terrorist statement, and probably wasn’t planning on coming out of it alive, couldn’t arm himself for the task. The same scenario in America would have played out very differently, I think …

  9. Neo-Con’s have a deep ideological hatred for the existing ‘rule of law’ (see anything published in a Murdoch outlet, for example) and want star chamber “justice” instead.

    Over hundreds of years people threw off capriciously applied arbitrary decrees of “guilt” and replaced them with democracy and the “rule of law”.

    The key thing to remember with bail is the word “alleged”. Our criminal justice system is not perfect but it is the best there is at attempting to get a fair outcome. We don’t need fascists like Rupert Murdoch telling us how a justice system should work.

    As an aside, if you only get news and information from inside Australia you wouldn’t be aware of the criminal trials still ongoing in the UK in relation to Murdoch hacks’ corrupt and illegal actions.

    I don’t use “alleged” there because several have been found guilty. That is the difference – even a Murdoch scumbag deserves the presumption of innocence and, if assessed to be appropriate by a judicial officer independent of the government, bail until a proper judicial process is complete.

  10. @faustusnotes

    There are several inquiries/reports/investigations underway into the incident, including a proper judicial process in the from of the inquest, so we’ll have to see what they determine.

    But in my opinion – having watched TV coverage of the final hour live – there is a very real possibility that the police directly caused all three deaths. Two from gunshots and one from heart attack (the manufacturers of stun grenades warn about the likelihood of such deaths in their product material, and a lot of those were being thrown around at the time).

  11. Megan, I have no idea who or what caused what damage, but it appears to me that the hostage taker was not sufficiently armed to either control the hostages or to take on the police. That’s a gun control win. It’s notable that in all the debate about police killings in America the issue of gun control – e.g. the fact that it is routine for police to worry about armed assailants – is not raised, and this toxic dimension of US interactions with police is missed.

  12. @faustusnotes

    Of course you are correct about the apparent effectiveness of gun control in the sense that he didn’t appear to have had any of those banned or controlled weapons.

    Moreover, during the afternoon three hostages managed to run away, and in the early evening two more did too. Just before the mayhem at about 2am (I cynically note, about the last possible time for a ‘Daily Telegraph’ front page wraparound to go to press before the morning papers must be delivered) that resulted in three deaths and several serious injuries, even more hostages ran away.

    That guy didn’t shoot hostages when several of them escaped over several hours. Now three people are dead. We’ll see what the inquiries come up with, but I believe old fashioned experienced police negotiators could have got everyone out alive and justice served for the hostage-taker.

  13. Yes, it was somewhat depressing to realise that probably the same number (or less) of hostages would have died had the people in the coffee shop just ganged up on the gunman.

    But not sure how all gun deaths can be blamed on the police. I thought that the coffee shop owner attempted to disarm the gunman, and was shot, which led to the police storming the shop. Let me know if that is not the case, because I like to know details, but have trouble finding them.

  14. I thought that the coffee shop owner attempted to disarm the gunman

    You might have thought that because that was the narrative?

    As an exercise: can you say ‘why’ you thought that? From what authoritative source you got the information that made you think that?

    Very seriously – I AM NOT having a go at you, or anyone else who thought that scenario was true, I am questioning its origins and veracity.

    The fact that none of the freed hostages have publicly stated that as a fact – or anything else of substance for that matter – indicates that it was a fabrication. A kind of mini-wmd perhaps.

  15. Agree that our gun control laws meant the Sydney hostage-taker did not have an automatic weapon. That almost certainly kept death and injury down.

    Formed the impression from the number of shots the police discharged into a darkened exterior that it is possible that hostages were hit by police bullets. But it is hard to guess what happened from so little information. It is also quite possible that hostages died from the criminal’s fire.

    Would like to know who caused the first discharge or explosion. If it was the criminal, then the police had to go in. If it was the police then they bungled albeit they bungled a difficult situation.

  16. Given that he was armed with a shotgun and more than two people were killed or injured, I can’t see how he could possibly have been responsible for all the damage done. My guess is that any inquiry will exonerate the police whether or not they deserve to be, but I don’t take that to mean they did a bad job. I didn’t pay much attention to the siege, from afar, and saw no video coverage at all, so I don’t care to pass judgment on the police. But even if they bungled it from woe to go, only two people out of a possible 18 (plus police) died, and that’s a win for gun control in my book. It means that Australia remains on track for its 2017 target to show a statistically significant effect of the gun buyback scheme.

    Next, if we can ban all guns outside of shooting ranges, the next looney tunes who wants to mimic IS will have to do it with a knife.

  17. I too am waiting for the details on the end of the Sydney siege. The video I saw included the sound of many many explosions and gunshots. Far more than I could be convinced was necessary or indicated a well-trained and successful police operation. It was reported that one police officer had pellet wounds to the face (from the gunman?). I don’t remember hearing a shotgun discharge on the video but it could have been muffled or before the bit I saw. So from what is reported 7 people were hit by at least 1 bullet. (5 hostages + 1 gunman + 1 policeman) It’s going to be pretty interesting exercise tracing all those bullet trajectories. Is there a timeline for the investigation?

    As a side note, some years ago there was major lobbying for more firepower for the police (which they got). At the same time we had some major reductions in firearms types and availability to the public. Is it time for the police to roll back their arsenals as well? I mean if you carry automatic weapons you don’t fire selectively. You empty the magazine.

  18. @David Allen

    Automatic weapons have at least three settings; safety, semi-automatic and automatic. Many have the setting sequence in that order so a panicking shooter will slam the little lever to automatic and empty the magazine. But the Sydney fire sounded like semi-automatic fire to me, i.e. as fast as you can keep pulling the trigger.

    I believe the Kalashnikov has the settings in the order of safety, automatic and semi-automatic so a panicked soldier will tend to select semi-automatic and not blow his whole magazine in one burst.

  19. @Megan

    As an official ideological justification, the concept of ‘rule of law’ can be exploited for tactical advantage in restraining the abuse of power by its holders; but it can also be used by the holders of power as a mystifying device to disguise their own agency and disclaim responsibility.

    Our existing legal system has advantages over some others, but describing it as ‘the best there is’ is an assertion unsupported by evidence.

  20. @Megan
    There were witnesses as to who fired first, but as most of them would have been hostages, and quite traumatised by the experience, I’ll wait until they’ve had a chance to be interviewed by the appropriate authorities, and for their accounts to be cross-checked against other evidence, before I come to conclusions as to what went down. Certainly, once the firing began, it sure sounded (on the TV footage of it) like a lot of bullets were zinging around: knowing why it was necessary for so many shots to be fired, that will hopefully be explained in the aftermath.

    Like many other people, I am wondering if in this case having a sniper shoot the guy would have been the least risk solution. I’m not advocating a shoot first, ask questions later, strategy in general, but perhaps if there was a situation in which it was at least worth considering, this might be that situation. I can appreciate that in the case of a single person as the threat, it is usually worth waiting them out until the fight goes out of them, or they start to fall asleep. Tough job to do as everyone is watching you, second guessing you—as I am doing, for instance.

  21. I think you are looking at it the wrong way, in my book a civilian wanting to own a functioning gun is exhibiting signs of mental illness. That goes for recreational hunters too.

  22. @faustusnotes
    Do you have an source for this claim? Most outlets are reporting it’s not currently certaint what kind of shotgun he was armed with but that it was probably a pump action. Obviously, just because certain firearms were banned in 1996 doesn’t make it impossible for criminals to get hold of them.

  23. To quote the judge quoted by Slate:

    The government’s interest in keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill is not sufficiently related to depriving the mentally healthy, who had a distant episode of commitment, of their constitutional rights.

    I think the comma before “who” should not be there: it’s a restrictive cause. The mentally healthy, even though they were institutionalized 20-30 years prior, cannot be denied the right to own guns on the basis of the mere fact of hospitalization.

    This does not seem unreasonable to me. If I was treated for depression as a college student, does it mean I’m a dangerous maniac at 50?

  24. @rog
    From your past record of commentary I would judge that you are being flippant. However, why would you only cite ‘civilians’ as showing signs of mental illness for wanting to own a gun? I am ok with my ‘mental illness’ for wanting firearms to kill the hares, rabbits, foxes, feral cats, poor people’s ill pets and several species of destructive birds that come to my property on occasion but what about the sanity of war and the odd police shooting of some poor mentally ill person when other means were available?

  25. @Megan

    I’ve no idea why I think the shop owner tried to disarm him and got shot. Except perhaps that having been suggested by someone, it sounds reasonable. Why would the police wait so long before going in guns blazing? The simplest explanation is that there was something that compelled them to act. There may be other explanations and we’ll see…

  26. @Salient Green If you didn’t shoot the foxes rabbit numbers would be down?

    I’m not being flippant, anybody that gets pleasure out of drawing a bead on another living being needs their head read. IMO.

  27. Hunting and therefore gun ownership has become symbolic of male superiority. Teddy Roosevelt was someone seen to identify with alpha males, his safaris could last for months and he shot anything and everything, often in the tens of thousands. He coined the phrase “walk quietly and carry a big stick”.

    In hunting, the finding and killing of the game is after all but a part of the whole. The free, self-reliant, adventurous life, with its rugged and stalwart democracy; the wild surroundings, the grand beauty of the scenery, the chance to study the ways and habits of the woodland creatures—all these unite to give to the career of the wilderness hunter its peculiar charm. The chase is among the best of all national pastimes; it cultivates that vigorous manliness for the lack of which in a nation, as in an individual, the possession of no other qualities can possibly atone

  28. @rog
    I’m disappointed, you usually show much more thoughtfulness. You think foxes only eat rabbits? You think everyone who draws a bead on another living thing gets pleasure from it? You think only civilians get pleasure from drawing a bead? You think feral species should be uncontrolled? Including the occasional human running amok? You think I and many others who need to shoot things shouldn’t take pleasure in the success of the hunt or a job well done while being able to put aside the death of another living creature. I hope you are a vegetarian as the logical conclusion to this would put you in a quandary.
    Anyway, I have a lot of work to do before all the guests arrive for lunch. Merry Christmas all and special tidings to John Q and Ikonoclast and Jungney.

  29. @Salient Green

    Yep, have a Happy Materialism as I say! That is materialism in the philosophical sense as we are material beings. Obviously, I decry too much materialism in the consumerist sense, except being a bit fat makes me a bit of a hypocrite. BTW, I have lost 2 kg in the lead-up to Xmas and I hope to keep the good work going in the New Year.

    With respect to guns, certain civilians need them; some farmers do and professional vermin shooters need them too. I’ve noticed Australian farmers rarely fire their guns. They are not gun happy. Target competition range shooters are sensible people too. The problem is recreational hunters IMO. Nobody but professional vermin shooters should ever be shooting animals except for farmers shooting the odd pest or farm animal that needs to be put down. If a whole herd has to be put down usually a professional shooter is brought in notwithstanding the fact it is often close range work.

    Clearly, Teddy Roosevelt’s attitude to nature and wildlife is despicable. It’s from the era of almost total aristocratic and oligarchic entitlement. All nature and all the lower classes are there to serve and die for the elite’s comfort and amusement. The modern oligarchic elite are taking us backwards and attempting to reconstruct the key elements of their heyday.

  30. I’ve recently heard the comment from that nutbag senator that if Australians had access to legal sidearms then good sidearm owners would protect the public from ‘baddies’. However, I’ve never read any reports from the US or elsewhere in which, by chance encounter, a random gun toter actually protected the public from a ‘baddie’. So, it’s got to be another bit of NRA nonsense.

    I’ve been in licensed possession of two weapons while traveling in remote country. I borrowed them for self protection because, back in the seventies, a good friend was shot and killed while camping somewhere on the NT/Qld border. It appears to have been a ‘thrill kill’ because none of his possessions were stolen.

    So I borrowed an eighteen inch barrel Mossberg eight shot pump action shottie. It would be illegal to own such a close quarters combat weapon now. The other weapon was a double barrel hammerlock shottie.

    Both times I was grateful to have a weapon – once in Tassie and once in WA – when I was the subject of attempted robbery or harm of some sort. The mere sight of such cannons had a salutory effect especially on the mad bastard who approached me at three am while I was camped up near the Peddar Dam ready to head off to the south west the next day. On that occasion, I was the only other person there and this character wanted something. He didn’t sing out from a distance to alert me to his presence. I woke to the sound of his footsteps on gravel.

    There are ways around this sort of danger these days. There are many more campsites these days with far many more people in them than there used to be. Moreover, I usually sleep and camp a couple of hundred metres away from my vehicle.

    I have never fired a gun of any sort.

  31. @Nathan
    Even if it were a pump-action shotgun, they are legally limited to a 3-cartridge magazine. The tube gets crimped at the three-round point.)

  32. @Alex K.

    If you were treated for depression as a college student it doesn’t mean you’re a dangerous maniac at 50; also, if you were treated for depression as a college student it doesn’t mean you were a dangerous maniac then. In the overwhelming majority of cases mental illness does not make people more dangerous to others; it is much more likely to make them dangerous to themselves. I imagine there have been plenty of cases of suicide caused (or partly caused) by depression but very few, if any, of homicide.

    The idea that allowing people with a history of mental illness access to guns is an important blow against the cause of gun control is the converse of the idea that preventing people with a history of mental illness from gaining access to guns is an important element of gun control. Either way round, it’s linked to erroneous and cruelly unfairly stigmatising ideas about mental illness and the people who suffer from it. If you want to pick out an easily identified group of people who should have more severely restricted access to guns because there’s good evidence that they have a higher propensity for violence than the rest of the population, your first choice shouldn’t be the mentally ill, it should be young males.

  33. @J-D

    No contest to your argument but in the US context, what with the 2nd Amendment and its judicial interpretation, there is zero chance young males can be denied gun ownership on the basis of their sex and age. In theory, some states could adopt elaborate disqualification criteria that would keep guns away from a good deal of young men, but they will have to be elaborately worded so as not to be overtly discriminatory.

  34. @Alex K.

    I don’t think there’d be any more acceptance in this country (or any other) than there would be in the US of the idea that young males should be subject to more stringent restrictions on access to firearms than other people. However there is substantial acceptance (in the US and elsewhere) of the idea that people with a history of mental illness should be subject to more stringent restrictions than other people. This is not because of the wording of the Second Amendment; it’s because of the kind of ideas many people have about mental illness, the kind of ideas that lead to people casually using the word ‘maniac’ in the way you did earlier and which are in turn reinforced by that kind of word usage.

  35. Personally I think the USA is over represented in just about every public policy discussion. But few more so than the debate about firearms. It is an outlier in so many ways.

    However so long as we are discussing the USA it would be good to know why the murder of black people is so extreme in that nation. It massively tilts their homicide figures. I presume blacks are mostly killed by other blacks but I have not seen the data. Non blacks are still murdered at a rate higher than Australia but it’s more in line with developed nations. There seems to be something fundamentally broken in regards to black communities in the USA.

  36. @TerjeP

    I don’t know what’s going through your mind, but I do know that other people who make comments along similar lines do so in order to suggest that the problems of black people in the USA are caused by black people, without ever giving any reason for preferring that hypothesis to the alternative one that the problems of black people in the USA are caused by white people.

  37. @TerjeP
    This (found in Wikipedia) might help. Gary Younge in The Nation (2014) wrote

    America is very segregated, and its criminality conforms to that fact. So the victims of most crimes are the same race as those who commit them. Eighty-four percent of white people who are killed every year are killed by white people. White people who buy illegal drugs are most likely to buy them from white people. Far from being extraordinary, the fact that black criminals are most likely to commit crimes against black people makes them just like everybody else. A more honest term than “black-on-black crime” would be, simply, “crime.”

  38. @TerjeP

    It’s an easily observable phenomenon that if you fundamentally break a society or a sub-society they turn on each other as well as on external enemies. Oftentimes, they turn on each other first. When a dominant group is established uniting the society or sub-society (often partly by superior force) then they turn on external enemies. Violence begets violence. The primary violence and oppression in the USA starts and historically has existed as white on black oppression and violence. That’s where the cycle starts. That’s where the whole cycle has to be stopped.

  39. According to Channel 9, repeating unsubstantiated and unsourced “journalism” from a well established propaganda outfit and purveyor of lies (ie: the fascists’ journals of choice, News Limited):

    One of the Sydney siege victims may have been hit by a police bullet and not a blast from the shotgun held by Man Haron Monis, it has been revealed.

    The Australian reports NSW Police Homicide Squad detectives are considering the possibility that police bullets ricocheted off the Lindt café walls, hitting the hostage, after at least one woman’s injuries were found to be consistent with police fire.

    Three surviving women who received gunshot wounds when heavily armed officers stormed the building shortly after 2am on December 16 were taken to different hospitals following the firefight.

    They were told not to discuss the events to preserve the integrity of the “critical incident investigation”.

    I call this the propaganda tactic “The Cat’s on The Roof”, but it could broadly fall under ‘feeding the chooks’ or ‘taking out the trash’.

    My term comes from an old joke. A guy asks his friend to mind his cat and look in on his elderly mother while he is away. After a few days away he calls the friend to see how things are at home. The friend tells him the cat is dead. The guy is beside himself with shock and grief but also anger at the friend for being so insensitive with the devastating news.

    He berates the friend and tells him he shouldn’t have been so insensitive. The friend asks what he should have said, after all the cat was dead and he only told the truth. The guy explains that he should have at first said that the cat was on the roof and wouldn’t come down. Then later he could have said that the cat fell off the roof and was hurt. Later he could have said that the cat was at the vet and things were looking a bit grim. And finally he could have reported that the cat had passed away. That would have been a far more sensitive way to have delivered the news.

    The friend accepted the advice and apologised for having been so blunt with the news.

    The guy accepted the apology. Then he asked how his elderly mother was going.

    The friend said “she’s on the roof and won’t come down”.

  40. @Megan

    If some or all of the gunshot injuries were caused by bullets fired by the police, is there some further conclusion you think that would support? If so, what further conclusion is that? Maybe my recollection is faulty, but I think you suggested earlier that it would have been possible to end the siege without any injuries; however, even if it were shown that some or all of the gunshot injuries were caused by bullets fired by the police, that would not be sufficient to establish the conclusion that the siege could have been ended without any injuries.

  41. Actually, the live footage from ABC 24 is interesting and concerning. Of course, we don’t know if the footage commences when the real action commences. And we can be sure the footage doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Timer 0:00

    Establishing camera shot and ABC female reporter voice-over. This reporter continues voice-over the entire time and makes it harder to count explosions.

    Timer 0:03

    The footage cuts to a camera shot of the police tactical squad of about 8 personnel. The police squad is lined up at a door or entrance and around the corner of the door along the wall. Simultaneously an explosion or shot occurs. The rear person on the squad appears to be involved in this explosion as gases blast backwards from about the position of his pointed weapon in the flashlight of his weapon.

    Timer 0:03

    Entire squad is moving forward in a coordinated fashion at the time of this blast. The entire squad appears to have been given a go command before or timed with the first shot. Lead squad members enter.

    Timer 0:05

    A loud, angry female voice on the scene outside (not the reporter) cries “What the h*ll was that?”

    Timer 0:08 to 0:24

    Next shots or reports. The next two dull reports (shots?), might be inside. Little or no flash. These are followed by several sharp reports and flashes.

    Timer 0:25 to 0:33

    About 4 of the sqaud remain outside in camera view. Two of these prepare (pull pin) and throw something in, probably flash grenades. By this stage, at least 1 initiating shot, two dull report shots and at least a dozen more sharp semi-automatic shots have occurred. It does not seem possible to separate flash grenade reports from other reports at this poor sound quality.

    Timer 0:46

    A uniformed policewoman in (another) shot with a high voice tells a camerman to get back. Is this the woman who shouted “What the h*ll was that?” It sounds likely. So uniformed police likely uninformed of “go” command.

    Summing up.

    Comparing this to other footage, this footage is cut. Other uncut footage suggests at least 3 dozen or more shots. One reporter said. “Frankly, too many to count.” Other footage clearly shows the squad moved before any audible shots or reports. Were there shot sounds or other knowledge the “seige command” had that we are not privy to?

    Over a dozen sharp reports and maybe up to two or three dozen occurred in addition to two duller, heavier reports. The action seemed to be initiated by the police squad moving forward in time with a possible shot from rear sqaud member through the window. If the gases (clearly seen in the weapon flashlight) near this rear member were from a shot inside then the squad was already moving. It’s conceivable their movement drew a shot from the inside in that case.

    There are lots of questions to be answered about this action. What happened and why? How competent was the action? Or was it rash and premature?

    Final question. Has ABC 24, other media and anyone who comments on this footage already broken any new laws?

  42. Monis had a shotgun which(usually) fires pellets, not bullets.

    You could imagine the scenario created by the likes of Leyonhjelm; everybody pulls out their shooters and with bullets flying everywhere the fatalities are more like 90%.

  43. The police have highly trained and experienced negotiators who end sieges without injuries all the time. There was one on the Gold Coast on christmas day, in which the guy had allegedly fired shots, which ended without injury after about 11 hours of stock standard expert police negotiation.

    If “all of the gunshot injuries were caused by bullets fired by the police” that speaks for itself – i.e. the police shot everyone and the hostage taker shot nobody.

  44. @Megan

    Did the Gold Coast seige gunman have any hostages? If not, that radically changes the equation. The police can run an interminable seige in that case. They can wait until he collapses into sleep from sleep deprivation for example.

    On the other hand, did the Sydney Seige police go in precipitately? The claim is the “perp” shot first (into the stomach of a hostage trying to disarm him). Is that true? We don’t know yet.

    Even if it is true, was the assault handled well from that point? Two or three dozen shots in rapid flurries in a dark, confined space (room) all in short order along with at least two flash grenades makes me wonder. Those might be characteristics of an indiscriminate assault.Could clearly make out who they were shooting at?

    It seems like the authorities are managing the event all ready. Why no statement about which projectiles hit which people? Surely they know this by now. These would be matters of ballistic empirical fact. Revealing them before any enquiry is not prejudicial. Why are the authorities already behaving like they have things to hide? People are justifiably cynical about modern right-wing government authority in the West and its propensity to lie and cover up following matters like the Iraq WMD lies and all the spying, war crimes and lies exposed by Wikileaks and the Snowden revelations.

    It might be that nothing untoward or incompetent has occurred in offical actions. But if so the public needs all the available facts so it can judge for itself. The enquiry ought to be expedited.

  45. Footnote: Another media claim is that the perp fired a warning shot and then discharged a second shot (shotgun) at close range into the first victim’s head. Apologies for repeating gruesome claims but it’s the media who first made these claims part of the public record.

    So it’s all about conflicting claims at this point. No substantiated or corroborated facts about what happened inside are yet on the public record.

  46. @Ikonoclast

    Not sure, but he has been charged with “deprivation of liberty” so it’s possible.

    That was just the most recent example off the top of my head. There have been several around the country in the last few months involving “hostages” which ended after negotiation and without injury.

    I agree, and I think I’ve been consistent about this, that we need to see what the proper investigations find and also see what evidence is presented/made public. The tendency to secrecy for “operational reasons”, or whatever other excuse, inevitably undermines public faith in TPTB.

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