Thursday 26 July 2012

Guns, Gun Control, Mass Murder a la Carte

The recent murders in Aurora, Colorado at the opening of the latest Batman movie, have reawakened the never-ending debate over gun control, the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms and wage war against an evil government that got out of hand) and so on, with New York Mayor Bloomberg calling on Messrs. Obama and Romney to stand up and speak out on this issue.
Under normal circumstances, we citizens of Canada love to take such an opportunity to boast about how civilized we are up here, where only a microscopic fraction of the population owns a gun, where all legal guns must be registered with the government, and where it is almost impossible to obtain a permit for a handgun, let alone a carry permit.
However, on this latest massacre, the timing was bad, from the Canadian point of view. In the couple of weeks before Aurora, Toronto experienced a wave of gun violence: a shooting in broad daylight on the patio of a popular restaurant in Little Italy, a mass shooting at a block BBQ party on Danzig Avenue, where two people died and 24 were wounded (at this writing, one is still in critical, so those stats may shift), including an 18-month old baby, a wild shooting spree in the food court of Eaton Centre (Canada's largest shopping mall), again in broad daylight, and a few other isolated incidents, in one of which the brother of the victim was charged with first-degree murder.
And of course, the politicians at city, province and federal levels all found it necessary to weigh in with hollow pronouncements, while citizens wailed before the news cameras, community workers demanded restoration of the funding cut by Toronto's obscenely obese Mayor, Rob Ford. and more serious and thoughtful people pondered what can be done.
To be sure, there is a serious problem in Canada -- still nowhere near that of large American cities, whose murder rates pale against those of cities and towns in Mexico.
But that is beside the point.The real question is, How to rid the population of guns, in particular handguns, almost all of which are illegal?
I have no easy answers to this difficult question. Since we in Canada have no 2nd Amendment, and have rather strict laws about the possession of handguns, it must also be said that the criminals who own handguns could not give a shit about the laws. So what can we do about this escalating problem?
Before we can answer this question, we need to examine the facts:
99% of Canada's owners of handguns possess them illegally.
99% of those illegal owners of handguns are members of gangs.Most of them wear tattoos proudly declaring their affiliation and/or accomlplisments (the teardrop tattoo beneath the eye).
The easy and simplistic answer would be to incarcerate every known member of a gang. We in Canada already have such a law, but this has got us nowhere. One could, and IMO should, pass a law stating that mere possession of a handgun ought to result in a sentence of five years in prison. In Canada, this is possible, since we have no NRA lobbies here, and no second Amendment to deal with.
The obvious first step would be to force all gun manufacturers to imprint their items for sale with something far more secure than a simple serial number. Perhaps an embedded GPS which could flag the whereabouts of every single weapon sold.
But the US manufacturers of guns, and the NRA, and various people who have either mis-read or else misunderstood the meaning and context of the 2nd Amendment, all these people and lobbyists continue to cite the 2nd Amendment (the right to bear arms) without actually reading the document.
First of all, the 2nd Amendment was written in a day long gone. The government has weapons that far outstrip the few rifles and AK47s that any given paramilitary group or even mere citizen, can possibly own. Faced with heliocopter gunships, surface to surface missiles, SEAL troups, and so on, the right to bear arms is ludicrous -- unless, of course, you would prefer a society in which the members of certain groups with an agenda ought to be permitted to own AK47s, surface to surface missiles, and so on. So the whole point is pointless; if one seriously believes in the 2nd Amendment, then every citizen has the right to possess WMDs, and to unleash them against Washington, Langley and various other obvious targets.
What to do? As a Canadian, I obviously have no sway in the politics or policies of the USA. The best  Canadians can do is Diplomacy. We can argue that every weapon manufactured and sold within the USA be serialized and stamped with an un-erasable imprint, and possibly a GPS that cannot be removed without total destruction of said weapon. This would make it possible to trace the weapon of interest from its source to its current possessor.
The horrible thing about the recent event in Aurora is that the perpetrator was able to purchase weapons of assault-caliber plus over 5000 rounds of ammunition for same, without a single security check -- not that a simple security check would reliably identify a potential mass-murderer, but at least it might be a start.
The incident in Aurora and the previous incident in Columbine are, from the Canadian perspective, exceptions. North of the 49th parallel, such murders can almost without exception be attributed to gangs, mostly Asian but also amply represented by Somalis, Jamaicans and others -- which is not to say that there is a colour-component in this -- I'm sure there are all-white Canadian-born gangs too, but the fact is that we have chapters of the Crips and the Bloods here, not to mention other gangs who work for the Hells and the Rock Machine and a couple of other biker gangs. The question becomes, How to deal with them?
I confess that I have no ideas on this. The most difficult problem is this: initiation. To become a qualified member, you must kill somebody, witnessed by other members of your gang. Therein lies the problem facing undercover cops. In theory, an undercover agent might elaborately stage a fake-kill, but the resources required to pull such an event off would far outstrip the budget available. And so it goes: such groups are almost impenetrable.
And yet, and yet and yet. Albert Camus had it right in The Rebel: progress follows, and can only follow, the rebel who says, "I would rather die than endure this." Ultimately, the slave rules: when the slaves all say, "Fuck you! I would rather die!", the power of the Master evaporates, because the Master is defined by the Slave. The moment when the Slave says "I prefer death to this shit" is the moment when the Master loses all his power.
Despite the recent events in Toronto, Statistics Canada has weighed in the subject, declaring  the city of Toronto safer than it's been in years. This speaks most of all, IMO, to the power over the collective mind that newspapers and TV newscasts hold over the collective memory. The fact is that crime, and in particular crimes involving guns, have gone way down in the past decade, since what was then dubbed ""The Summer of the Gun".
Back to States-side (that's how Canadians refer to the USA, particularly in Ontario) statistics. James L. Holmes ordered 6,350 rounds of ammunition over the Internet without triggering any alarms. He also acquired, thanks to "freedom", a high-capacity machine gun with a special magazine that holds 100 rounds, not to mention his bullet-proof pants and vest.
All this reminds me at least of the carnage suffered in Norway at the hands of Anders Breivik, who murdered 76 people approximately a year ago. This murderer purchased his ten 30-round magazines from an American supplier over the Internet.
In the USA, approximately 15,000 people die from gun-homicides every year. Despite this, the NRA continues its idiotic argument that the Second Amendment guarantees the citizenry the right to bear arms, Now and then, the facts and the truth need to be observed. Don't count on the NRA recognizing these simple basics of objective argument, but let us persist. The homicide rate in the USA is at most recent count four times that of Canada.
One must, albeit lamentably, admire the skills of the NRA in their success at coercing both parties into cowardly silence and inaction. As a Canadian and therefore an outsider from politics in the USA, I am at a loss to explain how such a vociferous minority could cow the presidential candidates into silence. On the other hand, as a resident of the nation above the 49th parallel, I am free to espouse my opinions and to suggest revisions to the law -- and I offer these recmommdations in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie:
1. Embed a non-erasable serial number within every weapon sold.
2. Embed a GPS within every weapon sold, that cannot be disabled without disabling the weapon itself. Thus we can determine the location of every new weapon at any time. Obviously this would not affect weapons currently held by citizens and gang-bangers, but over the next decade or so, it would seriously impact the sale and distribution of such weapons.
3. As Chris Rock suggested, perhaps we should raise the price of bullets to $5000 per bullet. Granted, this might cause a surge in the traffic of illegal bullets, but we could add to this a prison sentence of, say, five years, for the illegal sale of bullets.
With each passing day, the news grows worse and worse.
An American gunsmith has become the first person to construct and shoot a pistol partly made out of plastic, 3D-printed parts. The creator, who goes by the name HaveBlue and is an AR-15/M16 enthusiast, has reportedly fired 200 rounds with his part-plastic pistol without any sign of wear and tear. HaveBlue's custom creation is a .22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper. In other words, the main body of the gun is plastic, while the chamber — where the bullets are actually struck — is solid metal. ... While this pistol obviously wasn't created from scratch using a 3D printer, the interesting thing is that the lower receiver — in a legal sense at least — is what actually constitutes a firearm. This means that people without gun licenses — or people who have had their licenses revoked — could print their own lower receiver and build a complete, off-the-books gun.

1 comment:

  1. Within Canada, various cities have varying levels of crime and gun violence all with the same laws prohibiting them. Stricter laws, or tracking methods, etc., would likely help reduce crime (if such methods are attainable) - but we'd still see those cities with already relatively high rights as seemingly high.

    I see the path to reducing gun violence as a socioeconomic one. The more we improve inequality of power and money, the more we improve education, the more we improve the mental health of our young, the less violence we'll have.

    Sometimes, tighter regulations and laws help, but when it comes to guns I remain a skeptic towards implementing these methods in a way that will have a drastic enough effect on the supply.