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Monday, December 17, 2012

More on the Sandy Hook Shooting--A Call for Commen Sense Media Control

Just some more random information and observations regarding the shooting and the media coverage.

First, the press and pundits from other nations (including the British) have interjected themselves into the debate on whether there should be increased gun control. The Economist suggests that the U.S. should follow the British lead and ban all firearms, although it acknowledges that this may not be realistic given the number of firearms in the U.S. Another op-ed from the Economist states the off-repeated lie that mass shootings are increasing in frequency, and goes so far as to suggest that Americans cannot be seriously upset or saddened over the tragedy unless they are willing to adopt more gun control measures.

However, let's look at the British experience. Glenn Reynolds (who has his own piece in USA Today on the false security of "gun free" zones) noted a couple of articles on Britain's gun crime, including this 2001 BBC piece noting that gun crime had increased by 40% following Britain's gun ban, and this 2009 piece from the Daily Mail reporting that after a decade following its gun ban, Britain's gun crime had increased by 89%. Casting our eyes to Australia, which also enacted a broadly sweeping ban, the statistics show that while murders and suicides using firearms decreased, the murder and suicide rates did not. In other words, the absence of firearms made no difference in the overall murder and suicide statistics--not having firearms, people just used something else. In fact, analyzing data from many different countries, there does not appear to be any statistical correlation between a nation's murder rate and its gun ownership. (Although, I would note that there has been research showing that, at least in the U.S., increases in the issuance of concealed carry weapons is statistically correlated to reduced violent crime). (See also this article on Virginia). So, at best, gun control has no impact on crime; at worst, it actually results in an increase in crime.

One of the most egregious errors by the media is that the incidents of mass shootings is increasing. I would note that crime rates have actually been declining over the last couple of decades. But, more to the point, the number of mass shootings peaked in the 1920's. The National Review notes:
Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.

In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.
The latter article goes on to discuss the ineffectiveness of "gun free" zones:
Gun-free zones have been the most popular response to previous mass killings. But many law-enforcement officials say they are actually counterproductive. “Guns are already banned in schools. That is why the shootings happen in schools. A school is a ‘helpless-victim zone,’” says Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. “Preventing any adult at a school from having access to a firearm eliminates any chance the killer can be stopped in time to prevent a rampage,” Jim Kouri, the public-information officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, told me earlier this year at the time of the Aurora, Colo., Batman-movie shooting. Indeed, there have been many instances — from the high-school shooting by Luke Woodham in Mississippi, to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. — where a killer has been stopped after someone got a gun from a parked car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.

Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

I spoke with Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.

“Disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks,” Lott told me. “A couple hundred people were in the Cinemark Theater when the killer arrived. There is an extremely high probability that one or more of them would have had a legal concealed handgun with him if they had not been banned.”

Lott offers a final damning statistic: “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”
I had cited yesterday to how the recent Clackamas Mall shooter ended his shooting spree after an encounter with an armed citizen. Another (local) media report an be found here.

I still haven't seen any reports discussing the failure of Connecticut's assault weapons ban, although The Truth About Guns (citing an NBC story) notes that the shooter had tried to buy a gun prior to the shooting and been turned down because he didn't want to undergo the background check.

Finally, I had mentioned yesterday that Forbes Magazine had called for restrictions on the media. Some more of that here, including the following:
We live in a sick society, and we get the media we deserve. Connecticut was a prime example. The American public needed solemnity, grieving, and thoughtful reflection. Our media gave us the exact opposite.

The founding fathers never envisioned the damage that could be done by a 24-hour news cycle. The media incentivizes killers by giving them attention, and they put innocent people in danger. Clearly, we cannot sit by and hope this situation will improve. How many more deaths will it take before someone does something?

I know what you're thinking: Free societies are inherently messy. And what about the First Amendment?

I'm not suggesting we completely abolish the media. But perhaps we should curtail it. Isn't it time for some common sense media control?

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