Further ways to stop US Gun Violence
1. Look at how every Western country that bans guns manages to have so little violence
(e.g. Australia, my country, since we brought in gun control.)
All Americans should know about other countries, and how nice it is to live in them without fear.
2. Look at USA motto "In God we trust". Do you really have to change it to "In Guns we trust"?
3. USA Constutional right to have guns is taken up wrongly. People are to have guns to belong to a citizen militia. None of the present gun-owners do today, I gather.
Guns in other countries
What do ‘Americans know about gun laws in other countries? In Australia, although guns cannot be completely excluded, we sleep safer knowing that gun crimes have dropped since strict control was legislated. Americans’ motto ‘In God we trust’ is really about guns.
Australians have more crime through alcohol, more statistics of death and wounds with road accidents. Northern European countries have even got by with police unarmed with guns except for special circumstances.
You have the problem that it is harder to remove a social evil firmly established than to prevent it. Try to stop the level of weaponry accessible to the population before you have military wars within your bounds. The gun-toting population would be useless as a supplement to the militia you already have.
February 1988 – so long ago, and still relevant
GUNS, CRIME AND FREEDOM
It was a treat as a child to go rifle-shooting in the sand hills - we had better luck with the tin cans than the rabbits. And now thirty thousand Australians have marched in what police reported as Melbourne's biggest demonstration. They were up in arms that day on January 30 because they are 'ordinary people who have a hobby and we are going to hang on to it' (Mr Ted Drane, President of the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia).
It is a pity that such juvenile and 'manly' pleasures are at risk because of the increase in serious crime. But it is our whole life-style that is being changed by crime as well.
Crime is taking away from us our Fourth Freedom, for which World War II was fought - Freedom from Fear. A close hard look at what is happening should make us keener to 'prevent criminals' in the first place - which would be more effective than our current attempts to prevent what criminals do by the battle tactics of war - by ever more police battalions, defensive life-styles and regulation of ordinary people.
The freedom most at risk in Australia today is freedom from fear. Last year saw two issues about freedom threatened by crime - the right to carry guns and the right not to carry an ID card. How much freedom is our Bicentennial year actually celebrating?
We spend great sums on national defence, because international aggression could take our freedom. Since most governments today are dictatorships, we are alert to the risk of loss of freedom from government. But the original reason why people welcomed central governments was to protect themselves from the bandits and robber barons of the Dark Ages. We can still go back to that sort of Dark Age.
The tension in societies between private power and State power is creative, like the tensions that create homeostasis, or balance, in the living body. But the balance can tip to either extreme. The danger from above is the police state; the danger from below is the tyranny of crime and robbers. We are obsessed by both dangers.
Our lives are becoming, insidiously, dominated by crime - in our entertainment (25% of Christmas week prime time television) and in our everyday lives. It is not just the honest man's right to a gun. It is becoming hard to think of anything we do that does not have its freedom limited by crime. This is the greatest way in which our real 'standard of living' and 'quality of life' has fallen in the past thirty years. What are we losing? -
The right to feel safe at home, with open windows at night, and unlocked doors by day. The freedom to give hospitality and to show kindness to strangers, in safety.
The right of people at work, especially in banks, service stations, pharmacies, and milk-bars, to feel safe at all times.
The right to travel freely anywhere, any time of the day or night. The right to have safe and undamaged public transport. The freedom to hitch-hike, and to give lifts to hitch-hikers, in safety.
The freedom of children to play and go around their locality and even go to school by themselves, in safety. The freedom of adults and children to make friends. Even in some schools, teachers and children have lost their rights to feel safe from violent classmates, thieves, vandals or arsonists.
In some localities, there is loss of the right to walk along the street without fear because more people are owning savage dogs to protect themselves from crime and fear. For every attack requiring hospital treatment, there are hundreds of frightening experiences.
Even the right to have beautiful buildings is eroding, as design increasingly considers defence. People must even hesitate about modern skylights, because of the risk of burglar entry. 'Home security' is an increasing cost and anxiety. The four walls have to be secure against people, more than against weather. In old folk's homes in this summer heat, windows have been kept shut and locked, because of the young thieves who rob the old. The old and weak are particularly likely to be burdened in everyday living by the bother and frustrations of deadlocks, double-locks, back-door locks, security devices and alarms which make homes like prisons of the mind for inmates, living in fortresses. The 'ordinary public' is increasingly given official and commercial advise to hamper its own freedom of action for the sake of security from loss or attack, by increasingly expensive and complex means of domestic and work surveillance and security.
We are losing freedom for adults to make a beautiful environment and to enjoy it. In many areas vandals repeatedly wreck whatever is done - yet until the 1950s, ancient relics could stand untouched for centuries, or thousands of years, at risk only to wars, iconoclasts and seekers for building materials.
And it is particularly the weak without a voice - the young, the old, women and minority groups who are losing their freedoms - even more than the marching gun-bearers. And the weak most live in fear in the districts where they have no vocal citizenry to stand up for their rights.
'Victim onus' is a serious aspect of our loss of freedom. It is children's fault at school if they leave their belongings where they can be stolen, because the old coat-racks and open lockers have lost their sanctuary. Warnings and publicity about crime often stress that it is the unwary victims' fault if they are attacked or lose a bag or a car, owners' faults if their home is burgled, and victims' fault if they are hurt resisting bandits. What sort of a life is it to be constantly suspicious and on guard? Publicity to encourage potential criminals to be honest is rarer, except in shops.
Children are major sufferers of loss of freedom because of crime. Can't go free anywhere they want, as freely as we could when I was young. Can't play in playgrounds. Can't have playgrounds like they could be because of the fear and reality of vandalism. In industrial suburbs, with limited space to play, in tower flats with no backyards, creative and constructive hobbies can almost impossible. Try in those places to encourage children's desires to make this or that - after the first few attempts the children give up. "No. No more. They'd only smash it up.'
A great deal of the government regulation that frustrates and hampers the 'ordinary citizen' - all those multiple restrictions upon the freedom of the individual - is put on the statute and rule books because of the abuses of freedom and criminal attitudes of the minority. Imagine, for example, if everyone was keen to pay their due taxes! The solution is more corporate honesty, to help prevent the need for more regulation. Human nature is in fact capable of that, and more.
It is often claimed that people complaining about the model of TV crime and destruction have the freedom to 'switch the bloody thing off' - but that leaves the real complaint untouched. This is the real anxiety for our own freedom if we are raising a generation on a viewers' diet of destruction and callousness, and of incompetent models of domestic life. We can sit like three monkeys, while our civilisation is shot to pieces around us from the screen.
And by example and by dramatised example, even by the obsessions with ancestral violence rather than with its hard work and ideals that are being taught in the Bicentennial Celebrations,the young generation is taught that the ways to become rich or famous are not by production or by invention or social service or anything useful. And so affluence does not reduce our crime-rates, although poverty increases the number of those incompetent enough to be caught. The liberties of the subject are most threatened when crime is based in wealth and power, not need, and is motivated by greed and anger.
Even our economic system is becoming dependant upon crime, which is now one of our major sources of employment, in commission, prevention, defence, detection and reparation.
Our political and social freedoms have been won by restricting the freedom of others to tyrannise. The aim of 'law and order' is to protect the freedom of the innocent to go about their own lives - to give them liberty of action and freedom from fear, depredation and violence.
There is no reason except stupidity why Australia should slavishly 'go the way of the USA'. That is a land we should not copy for its guarded towns where the rich elderly exist under permanent electronic surveillance, high schools with armed guards, and places in cities, even in their capital city, where taxis dare not take you, and a major reason for the demand for citizen gun-carrying is plain fear.
Individuals may not be able to do much about international losses of freedom, but they can still preserve their own freedom, as an example to the world. Nothing can be achieved or kept without paying some price, and the Greeks were probably pretty right in seeing the ideal for the body politic as a balance of a balance of tensions. There are solutions, even to problems of human behaviour. The solutions are complex, but feasible.
For one example, let's imagine a society with no crime; and recognise that entertainment is a means of showing what might be. Life mirrors Art, and dismal prophecies are liable to be self-fulfilling. so our imagination needs to become obsessed with the sort of society we want to have. For what we imagine, others will do. We have one measure of progress - the GNP. In the next two hundred years we should be measuring with two other indices - GUS - Gross Unnecessary Suffering, and GNF - our Great National Freedom. At the end of this bicentennary year, we could publish the progress on all three measures of 'Australian culture'.
A curious but illustrative feature of our society is our increasing fascination with predators, and concern for their welfare. Crocodiles, lions, sharks, snakes, eagles, bull-terriers, and even the crows that prey on the smaller birds that protect the trees from disease. And when the Children's Hospital in Melbourne reports that over 80 children have been badly hurt by savage dogs in past months, the reply of dog-lovers is that children either tease the dogs, or show they are fearful of them. "If you show fear of a dog, of course it will attack you." The desire to have fierce and dangerous dogs is itself based on fear of crime and attack, as well, perhaps, for some, in using them as co-aggressors. But the result for the weak and voiceless people in society can be fear in the streets.
Crime traditionally is based in poverty. The solution is to eliminate, rather than poverty, the causes of poverty which can continue even when the manifestations are paid off. END In our local bushland park, with a creek running through, boys keep trying to maintain a wooden bridge so that a track to go over, rather than ford through the mud. It is repeatedly smashed down. The bushland itself is not free. Vandals smash down the trees, trample plants, submerge them with litter.
Many people's everyday lives are becoming closer to our entertainment - crime themes took up , in that season for Peace and Goodwill, and they are programmed quite often right across the board in normal prime times, to be inescapable for TV watchers. he honest man's right to a gun that is threatened.
The ordinary citizen probably pays more to crime than he/she pays in taxes. Who pays the shopkeepers' bill of $600 million per annum lost through shoplifting - now an accepted factor in price mark-ups? Who pays for the staggering sums now being taken from banks? The cost of computer swindles and other white-collar crime, of insurance, security systems, repairs to public amenities? As well as the proportion of tax required for corrective, legal, police and social services. This on top of what many individuals lose through theft, burglary and damage.
PART 2. A BICENTENNIAL AIM: A COUNTRY WITHOUT CRIME.
Prophecies that crime will continue to increase are liable to be self-fulfilling, even though they are based on expectations that Australia follows America. They are also based on common views of 'human nature'. Are human beings basically bad, to be restrained, or basically good but can be perverted, or are children potentially either, in a very complex way?
If humans are basically bad, with only a 'thin veneer' of civilisation, the outlook is still not hopeless, because there are enough people who would suffer in a criminal society to try to prevent it in their own interests. If they are basically good, then it is possible to try to do something about all the pressures and influences that are corrupting them. If all children (and adults) are potentially both saints and sinners, then they should not be led into temptation, and given every encouragement to be each other's helpers.
The gun debate is full of assertions about 'human nature' which are so common that they need to be examined critically. Every assertion about 'man' or 'human nature' should be measured. 'Man is naturally ruthless, bloodthirsty and aggressive', say some letter-writers. Yet in some societies, this 'Man' would number no more than 5% of the population, and even among the Huns at their most terrible, the proportion would have been less than 50%, counting the women. In Australia at present, statistics would be interesting for the number of men who are actually behaving in that way, and the number who even fantasise being ruthlessly aggressive. Measure the time actually spent in such behaviour or fantasies, and we could realise that a minute fraction of Australian life is spent on brutality, aggression, rape and thirsting for blood. We really prefer the other deadly sins - greed, envy, malice, sloth, and pride.
This is not reflected in our entertainment. If statistics could be applied to our prime time entertainment, 'Man' on television would be found to be much worse than 'Man' around us.
The costs of crime in our society are outrageous
Although there are occasional reports of small tribes which have no experience of crimes, it is probable that no
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However, the public debate on crime prevention harps on deterrence of criminals. There needs to be much more public discussion of who these people are and how they came to be that way. Institutes of Criminology have been operating for decades, and their research on the pressures and shaping forces that lead to criminal acts is, or could be, invaluable if their findings are taken seriously. However, our research methods cannot investigate everything. There are some things that could only be investigated by changing aspects of real life to see what effects resulted.
We recognise now that any of us are capable of committing criminal acts, if the environment fosters that capacity. This recognition of common frailty should make us examine what are the factors that make us more likely to be honest, kindly and constructive, to build them up. What are the distinctive features in the relatively honest societies that have existed? How from our convict beginnings did such a peaceful nation emerge? Can people believe that just as things can get worse, there have been times when things have got better?
Again and again there are the claims that 'they'd only do it any way' and 'If they want to get in, they will,' which ignores the importance of triggers for any behaviour.
It is not only from criminology that we can learn about criminal behaviour - these actions follows the same principles of learning and action as other behaviour. One aspect that the ordinary citizen ignores in talking heatedly about 'Them', is the significance of 'average behaviour' in the community.
There will always be extremes in any sort of behaviour, with the average people in between. The argument I would like to see examined is that of 'Critical Mess', on analogy of the concept in physics of 'Critical Mass'.
According to the idea of 'Critical Mess', a society can tolerate a considerable amount of criminal and destructive behaviour in it. However, if average behaviour and attiltudes become more dishonest or callous, then the whole social system slips a notch, and the worse extreme will become more numerous and more antisocial still. Change average behaviour on the other direction, and the 'virtuous' extreme will become stronger. But if average behaviour slips too many notches, there is a qualitative as well as quantitative change in the whole social structure. We have moved into 'Critical Mess'.
This theory is in some ways a democratic argument - because it says that what individuals do does matter. They are not helpless. When they deliberately collect biros, or regard the firm's property as perks, or enjoy evading tax, or hit their girlfriends, they are helping to push 'average behaviour' into a criminal mode, which fosters the increase in deliberately antisocial individuals at the extremes, and makes it harder for others to be honest. Road speeds are a clear example. When enough drivers are doing 80 on a suburban road marked at 60, then the irresponsible drivers go at 100 kph, and the 'average driver' feels forced to go at 80 too, regardless of personal wishes. In Victorian times, many 'average people' were doubtless hypocritical in their displays of goodness - but it has been recognised that 'hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue', and this tribute may have to be accepted as inevitable - rather than rejecting a public goal of virtue merely because some will be dishonest in their profession of it.
Collective myths are self-fulfilling too, because of the push to be like everyone else. Illegal acts appear justified when anyone claims, 'But everybody does it' - and I have met youngsters who honestly believe that everyone shoplifts and all men force sex on girls and behave violently. The myth of the 'Selfish Gene' is easily transferred to the idea that people only and always behave according to immediate self-interest and true altruism can never be found - it is a handy self-justification, but not in fact true, despite all the American research on college students to support the myth.
of how people behave And there is research to show that those who spend most time watching television develop poorer opinions of the human race. How does our culture shift in its mores and attitudes? What are the main shapers of our culture - and could they change in a positive direction, before there is a 'back-lash' of attempts to impose pseudo-puritan authoritarianism and wowserism? There are many answers to this, but the most important must still be mentioned.
The media are getting sick of those who suggest that television is a teaching medium. Nevertheless, something that has been said a million times may still be true. In fact, the question now needs to be asked - why are people so keen to have violence, crime and destruction on television, now that the myths of 'catharsis' and 'outlets' have been so flagrantly disproved? What vested interest requires it - what is it in the nature of the medium or the mediocrity of imagination and acting that makes these themes necessary for 'impact'? A person must be deemed innocent until proven guilty, but any thing that may harm human beings should be deemed dangerous until proven innocent - as we are now learning to treat medicines and possible pollutants. Can television truly claim to be helping to prevent the 30,000 annual calls to Melbourne police over domestic violence, and are television ads. teaching people to buy their products rather than snatch/steal them?
At present, most of our entertainment depicting the future predicts a horrible one. Let our artists, entertainers and visonaries instead imagine a society with no crime - or at least one in which only occasional black sheep appear. Then liable to be self-fulfilling. O
: A Bicentennial aim: a country without crime
New York Times 14.11.2011. Felons Finding It Easy to Regain Gun Rights
Decades of lobbying by pro-gun groups have loosened laws
across the country, allowing thousands of felons each year
to regain gun rights, often with little or no review.
Video: Restoring Gun Rights to Felons
Documents: Felons and Guns
Background Briefing on gun control had 78 comments, almost all from anti-gun laws.13/11.2011