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Gun Control

So, in an effort to irritate as many people as possible, let's talk about gun control in light of the recent mass shootings.

(The fact that there was a mass shooting by a person of Asian background is simply extraordinary. Hopefully, that is a one-off and not the beginning of a trend.)

To establish my priors, I shot competitively in my youth, hunted some in my young adulthood, own a pistol and have not fired a gun in decades. I live in a blue city in a red state and am politically independent. I am comfortable with guns, but do not have any emotional attachment to them.

The number of people killed by guns in the US is an abomination. There is clearly a huge problem.

Given the sensitivity of the subject, I thought I would go to AI for a discussion. ChatGPT was at capacity, so I went to another AI that I have made an extension to Chrome. Here is what it had to say.

Gun violence in the United States is an ongoing and serious issue. It has been a major source of debate among citizens, politicians, and law enforcement for decades. With no clear solution to this problem on the horizon, it's important to understand what gun violence looks like in America today. 

According to statistics from 2019 compiled by Gun Violence Archive (GVA), there were nearly 40,000 deaths due to gun-related incidents across the country that year alone—the highest number since at least 1999 when GVA began tracking such data. This includes mass shootings as well as homicides involving firearms; suicides are not included in these figures but constitute a large portion of overall gun deaths each year too. The majority of victims are male with African Americans being disproportionately affected compared with other racial groups; most incidents also occur within cities or urban areas where access to guns is easier than more rural parts of the country which tend to have stricter regulations on firearm ownership and usage laws. 

There is much disagreement over how to best address this issue, but some common proposals include increasing background checks before allowing people to purchase weapons or strengthening existing laws around who can own guns—particularly those deemed mentally unstable or convicted felons who shouldn’t be allowed to obtain them legally under any circumstances regardless their individual state’s current restrictions. Other ideas involve implementing stricter punishments for those caught committing crimes using firearms, investing more resources into mental health services, providing better education about responsible use/storage practices, etc. Ultimately though whatever steps may be taken must ensure public safety while respecting individuals' Second Amendment rights; finding balance between both will likely remain a difficult task going forward given all complexities involved here.

In 2022, there were 44,287 deaths in the US from gun violence, including 647 from mass shootings.


Interestingly, the US is not in the top ten countries for gun deaths per capita (it is actually number 18), with El Salvador, Venezuela and Guatemala leading the way. The US is at 10.6 per 100,000 people with the closest Western, developed nation being France at 2.7. (El Salvador is 39.2, China is 0.2, Russia is 2.7 and Singapore is lowest at 0.1.) Brazil even has more total gun deaths than the US, which is in second place.

But, just because we cannot win any prizes does not mean we are not awful.

If you want to look at it by state, Alaska (23 per 100,000 people), Alabama (21.4) and Louisiana (21.2) are on top, with Massachusetts (3.4), New York (3.9) and New Jersey (4.1) on the bottom. Note that our least violent state by this measure at 3.4 is still above the most violent Western, developed country other than the US - France at 2.7.

For those of you who must view everything through a political lens, this really does divide reasonably well into red states and blue states, with red states having the highest rates.

For completeness, Chicago has the 12th highest gun death rate in the country of any big city, and pales in comparison to Baltimore, Memphis and Detroit. This turns out to divide reasonably well into red city, blue city, only in the other direction than with states, with blue cities having the highest rates.

Finally, you can't get away from the race issue. This is gun death rates by race (note the implied suicide rate by whites as the grey part of the chart, and remember that blacks make up only 13% of the population but 66% of gun deaths).

​We own a lot of guns - we get first place in this category with 120.5 civilian guns per 100 people (the Falkland Islands are second with 62.1). The closest Western, developed country is Canada with 34.7. Other countries: El Salvador 12.0; China 3.6; Russia 12.3; Singapore 0.3; Brazil 8.3.

So, my first conclusion is that gun control in a country having 1.2 guns per person is an oxymoron. You can fix things around the edges, but that train has left the station. Perhaps a better metaphor is that Pandora's box has been opened.

With so many guns around, people who are unstable or are emotionally overwrought, or want to settle a score or want to commit suicide-by-cop or suicide at all are going to be able to use a gun.

You cannot take people's guns away without amending the Second Amendment and that ain't gonna happen. A more liberal Supreme Court might restrict some gun rights, but even very-liberal Supreme Courts in the past have not done so.

We have a very, very serious inner-city violence problem, including a violence-and-gun-use culture. This is one of the outrageous, festering sores on our society which requires, but is not getting, serious attention.

We have an individualistic, violent culture, which now has outrage exuding from every pore. 

Given those facts and circumstances, what can, not should, be done? Given the extensiveness and seriousness of the problem, we have to do something, don't we?

Well, if it were easy, it would have been done, already. The problem is endemic, serious and very difficult.

Here are my thoughts:

As an overstated, simplistic generalization, this is a cultural, mental health, inner city problem. You can and should do all the around-the-edges things like background checks, which will only make a small dent in the problem - but they will move the ball forward while making you feel better and giving politicians something to talk about. You have to address culture, mental health and the inner cities in order to deal with the fundamental issues and actually make a difference.

The cultural challenge is huge and basically unsolvable on the timeframe of generations. Great strides have been made in the culture for blacks, women and homosexuals, so it can be done. However ...

The mental health problem is basically a surveillance problem. It is a different mental health problem than that associated with homelessness. The homeless mentally ill are seriously mentally ill. Time after time a mass shooter has been said to have been "on the police's radar." However, the monitoring problem is so large as to be practically impossible.

The inner-city problem is an abomination and something we morally and practically have to address, even if there were no violence. But we are not addressing it, and if we do put together a program to address it, this is another multigenerational task.

What I am saying is that there are things we can do, like hardening schools, but in the end, gun violence in the US seems to me to be a pandemic. It is within us and a part of us. It is solvable, but the effort is huge, multifaceted and multigenerational.


As with all trends, we have taken the "well-regulated militia" trend to extremes.

And there we are.

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