Missing the Big Picture

I am lucky to be blessed with a full head of hair that should last me my entire life. This is especially useful this week, as I have been pulling it out reading commentary and suggestions of how to prevent another Orlando.


Too lazy to make an animated GIF so you can see me shaking my head as well.

Like I said in my original post, the arguments fall into two groups:

  1. Those, generally on the left, screaming for more gun control.
  2. Those, generally on the right, screaming for restrictions on Muslims.

Both of these are far too simplistic, because you can’t change one thing without having an effect on others.

And, yes, I know that the shooting was in a gay dance club. I do not want to minimize the importance of that, but most of the suggestions I am seeing are more generally addressing mass shootings and domestic terrorism. I am completely–COMPLETELY!–in favor of legislation that would turn sexual preference and gender identity into a protected class under civil rights law, but that isn’t the focus of this post.

Gun Control

I am not really on either side of the gun control debate. I believe that Americans should be able to own pretty much any weapon they want, but I do also believe that “well regulated” should mean something.

  1. I think that all American students should have a gun safety course as early as third grade. I want to make sure kids know how to behave properly around firearms.
  2. I think that all people should have to pass a gun safety course before purchasing a firearm or ammunition. Ideally, this would be marked on the buyer’s driver’s license or ID card.
  3. I think that, perhaps, gun licenses could be like driver’s licenses, with different classifications. Just as I need a different license with different testing requirements to operate a motorcycle or drive a semi, maybe we should have more in depth tests for people wishing to purchase semi-automatic military-grade rifles. (I freely admit that I am not as informed as I should be on this issue.)
  4. I think that that all transfers of firearms should require a background check, which should include running the identity against the Terrorist Watch List and No-Fly List. If the person does find out that they are on either of these lists, there should be a clear and expedient appeal process, where the government needs to justify their inclusion on the list in the legal system.
  5. Under current federal law the CDC is prohibited from research on gun violence, due to a ban put in place by members of Congress who are supported by the National Rifle Association. This ban needs to be removed. If the NRA doesn’t feel that guns are the problem, then they should let the CDC do the research. We don’t know what the research will show, and without this knowledge we cannot intelligently address the problem.

I also understand that none of these would have prevented Orlando. The killer underwent background checks and wasn’t on any watch list.

Radical Islam

The world is full of radicals. Most of them don’t blow themselves up to make a point. However, even “mainstream” Muslims around the world often have intolerant views, such as advocating for the death penalty for apostates.

The issue we have is that we cannot legally, without amending the Constitution, restrict people of a particular religion, whether it’s people already in the U.S. or people wanting to migrate here. Obviously, we can get around that by placing restrictions on people from specific countries, but that was loathsome when we did it to Chinese and Japanese people last century and it isn’t any less loathsome now.

We do also need to be realistic. We need to effectively screen people entering the country, especially those of military age. A grandfather bringing his daughter and her four children here aren’t likely to be a threat, but three brothers in their twenties should be screened very thoroughly.

Of course, this doesn’t stop an American Muslim from becoming radicalized.


So, what can we do? First, we can stop treating them like pariahs and start treating them like neighbors. Say hi and smile instead of glaring angrily. Be polite and respectful. Make them feel welcome and at home instead of making them feel like outsiders.

The Big Picture

I’m a free range parent. Too many people live their lives in fear and I refuse to raise my daughter that way. One of the reasons I am a free range parent is because serious violent crime is as low as it was in 1963. The world is a safer place than it was when I was growing up, when I was free to wander my neighborhood without parental supervision–and my neighborhood extended about two miles from home.

The funny thing is that the reasons for the drop in crime are not obvious. There are three main reasons, only one of which really seems connected.

  1. An increase in the incarceration rate. This one is obvious. The more people you have in jail, the fewer who can commit crimes. One estimate I saw, but, unfortunately, can’t locate at the moment, estimated that this resulted in a 12% drop in violent crime.
  2. The legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade. One study suggests that a decline in unwanted births resulted in a significant drop in crime. (The study in #3 suggests that it is about 29%.)
  3. The removal of lead from gasoline. The least obvious reason may be the most significant. One study suggests that 56% of the crime decrease in the 1990s was due to the removal of lead.

There are, of course, problems with all of these. Increasing the number of people in prisons to the point where we have the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world (with the possible exception of North Korea) is effectively discarding much of our population for relatively minor offenses. Abortion has its own problems. Removing lead from paint and gasoline did cause some growing pains, but, fortunately, we are past those.

My point is that any solution to mass shootings will have to be a multifaceted approach. Gun control, immigration restrictions, and increased surveillance each have a role, but none can completely solve the problem. Income inequality, prejudice, a lack of a good mental healthcare system, and the Syrian Civil War all create mass killers, along with, probably, several other factors that we don’t even know. Under current federal law, only domestic abusers who abuse a spouse or child are prohibited from firearm ownership, so this is one area where a loophole could be closed easily with legislation (In 57% of mass shootings the killer targeted a spouse, partner, or other family member).

The Bottom Line

If your first reaction after Orlando was to be concerned about your guns, to want Muslims extensively monitored and restricted, or to want other people’s guns taken away, you are being too simplistic. This is a complex problem without simple answers. We will have to chip away at the causes of mass shootings as we learn more about them.

Think, then speak, not the other way around. We have enough of that already.



Filed under Immigration, Public Safety, Religion

4 responses to “Missing the Big Picture

  1. Jay Kersting

    Your gun safety classes are a great idea. I have thought so for decades. Skills with a firearm should be part of it as well. But I will disagree with a gun license because, unlike driving, gun ownership is not a privilege but a right. However, indicating on a drivers license that someone has passed the necessary skills. I also think that there should be an option on drivers licenses to indicate, where the individual opts in, to explain to law enforcement conditions like autism that could trigger odd reactions in stress inducing situations like traffic stops and wrecks. But that is a topic for another day.

    Guns are not the problem. Access to guns is not the problem. People who will use whatever is in their messed up minds is the problem. 19 didn’t use guns on September 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols didn’t either. Boston 2013. And so on.

    The German theater shooting…yeah, that was guns. But the mental state is still the issue.

    • The difference between 9/11 – Oklahoma City and Orlando is that Congress passed significant–in some cases, draconian–legislation to prevent similar attacks. Congress–both parties–keep failing to address guns.

      Maybe gun licenses aren’t the answer. Doing nothing isn’t the answer. I was surprised to learn that 99% of people barred from buying guns for mental reasons are veterans–because the VA is about the only agency to report. That, at least, needs to be fixed, and I am not sure it can be without comprehensive mental health reform.

      • Jay Kersting

        Doing nothing is akin to admitting that there is no problem.

        The education piece is the best first step towards a comprehensive solution. The other steps that need to be included are mental health issues. 99% of the people being veterans makes sense….and they aren’t getting the care they need in many cases based on the VA being overwhelmed. Others need to be compelled to report the mental health issues IF they take a penny of federal funding. If not, I am not sure how else you can force them…withholding licenses?

        But criminal reporting is part of the issue. The lag time to getting people with criminal records on the lists is a problem. I read recently that it is only 80% current/accurate. That would great if throwing a football, amazing if hitting a baseball, but anything short of 98.5% (with the 1.5% being a lag for a couple of days only) is inexcusable.

        You are running because the two party system is a disaster. The sooner more people see each of those parties for what they are, the better we will all be.

  2. Improving reporting is certainly part of the solution. The Murphy Amendment would have done some of that. Combine that with the Grassley Amendment–which would have given veterans a way to get *off* the list once they got on it–and we would really be going somewhere. But the Republicans killed Murphy and the Democrats killed Grassley, so we ended up with nothing. Again.

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