Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fear For The Children

Maybe the lesson here is that Kinder Surprise eggs should be cleared for import.
Both of those children are much more likely to die in a swimming pool than by gunshot. And given the way gun deaths in the United States usually work, if the little girl pulls the trigger, the person she is most likely to shoot is herself. (Note, however, that gunshots are a rare suicide method for women, and rifles aren't normally the weapon of choice for anyone.)

Both the Second Amendment and gun-control types tend to engage in over-the-top fear-mongering, each of them seeking to have us believe that there's a dangerous psychopath around every corner - who either needs killing by "a good guy with a gun" or who would suddenly become a productive member of society if only scary-looking weapons (and a lot of the former Assault Weapons Ban was based on appearance, rather than function) were somehow kept out of the hands of people who tend to treat them like Erector sets (or, as gun collectors themselves tend to put it, Barbie dolls).

The American obsession with safety theater is going overboard. The simple fact of the matter is that banning "assault weapons" (a technical term often misused for the scare factor) wouldn't make a dent in gun deaths in the United States - they're not often used in either street crimes or suicides. This ad is all about ginning up fear of the vanishingly rare occurrence of mass shootings - and the even more rare occurrence of one in a school.

And notice how neither of the children in this ad is of the ethnicity most likely to be subject to homicide by firearm - African-American. Inner city children are dying at an alarming rate. The Assault Weapons Ban, when it was in place, didn't make a dent in that. If it is reinstated, suburban parents might rest a little easier; but the hobgoblin slain will be a mostly imaginary one.

The impulse to attempt to reduce the incidence violence by seeking to remove the tools of violence is an understandable one, but misguided. If the War on Drugs has taught us anything, it's that you can't simply ban your way out of people doing harmful things to themselves or others with inanimate objects. None of this is to say that our world wouldn't be a safer place if there weren't firearms around. Guns are dangerous even when people aren't intending to use them as weapons. But the American penchant for gun violence - which is rather low, in the grand scheme of things - isn't a function of the number or type of guns available to the average citizen. It's a function of a society in which, for many people, violence is an acceptable means of getting what they want (or, perhaps more importantly, feel they need). Banning scary weapons won't help that any. Just like banning chocolate eggs with toys in them doesn't teach children not to stuff things in their mouths.

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