The Experiment That Has Failed

Of all I’ve read about the shootings Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting I think Phil Plait said it best,

Online and in the media I see a similar urge with those talking about this. And it’s a natural reaction to try to assign blame, saying it’s the fault of the NRA, or politicians, or a failed health care system.
None of that is true. I’ll tell you who’s to blame. You are. I am. Everyone is.
America has been called the Great Experiment, and it’s really true. When this country was founded it was a chance to start again, to try to learn from past mistakes, take what was good from learned experience, and apply all that to create a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
And since then, we’ve experimented. We—the American people—expanded voting rights to women, to blacks, to everyone over the age of 18. That experiment worked. We experimented with banning alcohol. That experiment did not work. We’ve experimented with a national road system, a space program, deregulating the airline industry, and more. Some things have worked, and some haven’t.
The purpose of an experiment is to learn. And one of the many purposes of learning is to act on what we’ve learned.
Politicians are the front line of this action. They make the laws. So in events like today’s we look to the politicians and try to lay blame. That’s natural, and not unwarranted. We also look to their influencers, like lobbyists. That’s also natural, and also not unwarranted.
But who are the ultimate influencers of politicians and the laws they make—or don’t make?
You are. I am. Everyone is.
Because we are the ones who are the caretakers of this experiment. And we’re abrogating our responsibility. We are watching the same events unfold over and again, and we’re not doing anything to change the conditions. That is not an experiment. That is irresponsibility, plain and simple. And the responsibility is yours. It’s mine. It’s everybody’s.
And we must ask ourselves: What have we learned today? And what are we, the people in charge, going to do about it?

Yes, it’s time to call our experiment with the Second Amendment as written and as interpreted by the Supreme Court a failure. It’s time to try something that works for good rather than evil. And yes, that we have not addressed this failed experiment is my fault as much as the fault of anyone else.
Please read all of Phil Plait’s post. I left out some his most important points.

6 thoughts on “The Experiment That Has Failed”

  1. As long as you fixate on the gun, you will never solve the problem. They are the tools used by madmen to massacre the innocents, but it is the perpetrator that we must target, not his/her tool. Gun proliferate all over the world, not just the US, and yet mass shootings like the one in Connecticut are rare outside your country (the Norway shooter is one that I can think of). It’s not about the gun, or even the gun culture. We have a gun culture here in the Philippines too. Yet I’d be hard pressed to think of a single mass shooting incident in a school that happened here.
    Phil is a great astronomer but he let his politics cloud his judgement. And that is a bad thing. Repeat after me: it’s not about the gun. There’s something else in play.

  2. Dan, Yes, guns are a tool. Like dynamite they are a dangerous tool and their availability should be limited. While causal links are hard to establish with certainty and there’s always “something else in play,” there is a rather clear correlation between gun ownership rates and gun homicide rates.
    I’m still trying to confirm these these oft cited numbers but they seem about right.
    Last year handguns killed:
    48 people in Japan
    8 in Great Britain
    34 in Switzerland
    52 in Canada
    58 in Israel
    21 in Sweden
    42 in West Germany
    10,728 in the United States
    Of course, these numbers do not speak to the correlation between gun ownership and gun homicide but . . .
    Repeat after me, there is a rather clear correlation between gun ownership rates and gun homicide rates.

  3. I’m not denying that. But my comment was much narrower. I’m talking about mass shootings. Which is the point of your and Phil’s post. You are both using mass shootings to justify gun restrictions. And yet faced with the fact that gun proliferation doesn’t correlate with mass shootings, you change the subject to gun violence in general.
    As an avid reader of your blog, it’s disappointing to see you move goal posts. 🙁

  4. Last time I checked mass shooting was a sub-class of gun violence. They just happen to be a well-publicized form of gun violence and therefore provide a catalyst for discussion of the more general issue. I’m not so sure I moved the goal post. Perhaps I did widen it. Oh, and I’m not sure that gun proliferation doesn’t correlate with mass shootings. That data set is thankfully rather small. I will note that the numbers I cited for Japan etc. don’t leave much room for many mass shootings.

  5. Some things to note, to keep in mind, about these numbers:
    • This list comes from a poster, from 1980 by Rick Boyko, following the murder of John Lennon.
    • These numbers are not adjusted for population sizes.
    • These numbers are not adjusted for gun ownership rates.
    • The US number includes suicides, people defending themselves in their homes, people killed by the police, and in some districts in the US, numbers may include “gun related deaths” where there was a gun present at a death regardless of whether the gun was actually used or not (that is, in some districts, someone stabbed to death, but he had a gun in one of his coat pockets, it will be reported as a gun related death).

  6. Australia’s gun control laws were tightened successively after several mass shootings. People can still own guns, but they need to have a specific reason (i.e., farming, hunting, target shooting, employment as a security guard) and the license conditions vary accordingly. Self defense is not considered a lawful reason.
    Guns and gun owners are each individually licensed and the licenses must be regularly renewed, and the guns inspected. Guns are rarely used even by criminals; when someone gets shot it’s usually front-page news. According to the graphs on this website homicides and suicides using guns are dramatically lower than they have ever been. I also understand that this has mostly been reflected in homicide and suicide rates in general: people don’t seem to have shifted their use of weapons to knives or poison just because they can’t get hold of a gun.

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