Ban scary

Savage MSR 10

The Savage MSR 10 Hunter, the “modern hunting rifle” that led REI to ban products from Vista Outdoors, the Savage parent company. 


The United States is a country where appearance matters – matters a lot; a country where fears sometimes run wild; and a country today caught up in a pre-occupation with self.

In better times on the roller coaster of American history, this has been a nation where people sat down to talk about what they could collectively accomplish. Today it is often a nation where people preach at each other about what they shouldn’t do.

Community values have bent before a wave of social media that is “all about me because I am so much (pick one) better, smarter, or socially concerned than you.”

All of which pretty well summarizes the latest gun control debate in which everyone is right and many are wrong. It is a debate with broad implications for Alaska where, for some, firearms remain survival tools that put food on the table.

It is a debate compounded by the fact some guns – those commonly called “assault rifles” – look scary even if they function no differently from similar rifles with a more traditional appearance.

This is what everyone does seems to agree on: The death of even one innocent person is a tragedy.

This is where the discussion dissolves into seemingly impossible debate: Laws without reason are the definition of tyranny.

There are people who see meaningless laws as a step on the way to the end of American democracy, which already faces more problems than most Americans really want to think about.

And there are those who would happily embrace tyranny in the name of safety over even the smallest of random risks because they are afraid. And when we are afraid in America, it has become the government’s duty to shelter us from our fears.

We are so fearful now that some think children should lead and the adults follow as if 11-year-olds are somehow blessed with the wisdom of the ages.

The dead

The situation is only compounded by the fact there is and long has been a gun problem in the U.S. It’s just not the gun problem everyone is talking about in the moment because nobody cares all that much about the people getting shot every day.

The focus is on the outlier, the unpredictable event, the horrible tragedy of a rare school shooting that happened far from most Americans but feels like it was in their neighborhood school because the media hype is such that they believe it could happen in their school.

And it could. The odds are very small. Schools today are safer than they’ve ever been. But it could happen just as other bad things could happen.

Still, as Northeastern University reports, “mass school shootings are incredibly rare events. In research publishing later this year, (Professor James Allan) Fox and doctoral student Emma Fridel found that on average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and about one of those incidents on average takes place at a school.

“Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today, Fox said. ‘There is not an epidemic of school shootings,’ he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents. There are around 55 million school children in the United States, and on average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school, according to Fox and Fridel’s research.”
One student killed by gunfire is one too many, but one death for every 5.5 million students pales compared to the carnage in the streets of Baltimore, Chicago and some other major cities. More than 300 people were last year murdered by firearms in Baltimore, a city of only 622,000. That’s a death rate of almost 48 per 100,000.

Young, African-American, dead

Dig into firearm deaths in America, and what you find is that the gun deaths are largely a plague visited upon poor, young, African-American men. The country’s 30 most murderous cities accounted for nearly a quarter of all U.S. firearm homicides in 2015.

“A review of the Sun-Times data show that the faces of homicide cases in 2017 resembled the bulk of those in years past: young men, typically people of color, gunned down in economically depressed areas on the South and West sides. Black or Hispanic men between 18 and 40 years old accounted for nearly two-thirds of the dead,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported in January.

The day after the huge March for Our Lives rallies across the country, a 23-year-old man died from a gunshot to the head on Chicago’s Southside. Six more people were shot but survived on that same Sunday in the Windy City, according the Sun-Times. 

While Americans debate the danger of rare shootings involving assault rifles, young men of color are being gunned down daily with handguns. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 11,004 firearms homicides in the U.S. in 2016, the last year for which full data is available.

Seven thousand, one hundred five of those homicides involved handguns, 374 rifles and 262 shotguns. In 3,007 deaths, the type of gun was not identified, but there is no reason to believe the ratio of weapons involved in those homicides differs much from the ratio in the homicides in which the weapon was identified.

Thus about 90 percent of firearms deaths in the U.S. involved handguns and about 5 percent rifles of which a smaller but undetermined subset would be semi-automatic rifles with assault rifles a smaller but undetermined subset of semi-automatics.
The data quite simply says rifles, semi-automatic or other, aren’t the big gun problem. And schools, though what happened in Parkland was horrific, are not America’s danger zones.
The economically broken neighborhoods of America’s cities are the danger zones. More people die in a couple of weeks in such Baltimore neighborhoods than die all year in schools in a nation of 326 million people.

The forgotten

Most of the dead are black men between the ages of 20 and 29.  A Brookings Institute report three years ago calculated they were dying at the rate of 89 per 100,000. Compared to others in the same age cohort, the death rate was four and a half times higher than for white men, more than 10 times higher than for black women, and more than 20 times higher than for white women.

“To put that fact in some international perspective, in Honduras—the country with the highest recorded homicide rate—there were 90.4 intentional murders per 100,000 people in 2012. That includes all means, not just firearm homicides,” the report said.

The study also noted big differences between the gun deaths of blacks and whites. Seventy-percent of the white gun deaths were suicides with less than one in five a homicide. For Americans of color, the figures were more than nearly opposite: 82 percent of the deaths were homicides, only 14 percent suicides.

The discrepancy between black and white has only been increasing fueled largely by white suicides. Princeton University professors Ann Case and Angus Deaton, who’ve studied the increase in suicides for years, have called the growing suicide rate among white men age 45 and older an “epidemic.” Many of those men were big supporters of gun rights.

Their firearms suicide rate is up about 67 percent since 2000, according to the Case and Deaton study.

“The combined effect means that mortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015,” the professors reported.

Gun deaths are now heavily focused on young, black men who shoot each other in the country’s inner cities and old white men in rural areas (and rural Alaska Natives of all ages) who shoot themselves.

“White men die (of suicide) at the highest rates — roughly 10 times that of Hispanic women and black women — because they tend to have greater access to firearms,” wrote Mike Maciag at Governing magazine earlier this month. “Gun ownership, which is more prevalent in rural areas, also explains why certain regions have higher suicide rates. Firearms account for about half of all suicide deaths.”

The deaths of old white men in rural America and young black men in the ghetto have been ongoing for years, but these deaths do not make good fodder for  igniting a ‘”moral panic.”

“What exactly is a moral panic?” David Garland,the Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law and a professor of Sociology at New York University wrote in an essay published by the British Academy when the United Kingdom was facing a gun crisis years ago. “Let me describe to you a New York Times story from last month, which has all the hallmarks of a
moral panic report and shows all its characteristics quite clearly.

“It also shows the extent to which politicians have learned to recognise moral panic processes and try to manage their fall-out. The story was printed below the following
headline: ‘Latest death of teenager in South London unsettles Britain: With an
outpouring of soul-searching and public sorrow, British leaders expressed dismay at the recent spate of gun crime.’ The report then describes the murder of a teenager, the
fifth one to be shot to death.

“While some politicians depicted the bloodshed as a sign of deep social malaise, Prime Minister Tony Blair resisted suggestions that the killings reflect a broader crisis among Britain’s young people. Acknowledging the shootings were horrific, Blair insisted we should be ‘more careful in our response, the tragedy is not a metaphor for the state of British society, still less for the state of British youth.'”

Blair, needless to say, took a beating. Preaching reason to a mob is not easy.

“I have already mentioned the political uses of moral panics but one should also emphasise the mass media,” Garland added, “which is often the prime mover and the prime beneficiary of these episodes since, of course, the sensation not only sells papers and entertains readers, it generates further news in a kind of unfolding
story as people take positions, commentators disagree and so on. ”

Little substance

Much of the news coverage of the March for Our Lives rally has been devoted to commentators spinning sensation, arguing over National  Rifle Association influence on lawmakers and why Congress has done nothing rather than focusing on what can be done.

What can be done is difficult.

Mother Jones, not exactly a conservative publication, picked up on a Rand corporation study on the likely outcomes of changes in gun policies prior to the march and decided a lot more research is needed.

The Rand study concluded some changes in gun laws might help a little, some might help more, and some – laws requiring guns be kept out of the hands of children – would help a lot. Both suicides among children, and accidental and intentional injuries to children, go down when children are denied access to firearms. If you have firearms and children in the house, firearms should be kept where they can’t get at them.

Other news organizations picked up on the Rand report in varying ways.

“The best available evidence suggests NRA-backed gun policies are making crime worse,” the old-media Washington Post headlined. As Mother Jones reported, the study says “there is limited evidence that…concealed carry laws increase unintentional deaths and injuries or increase violent crime,” and “there is moderate evidence that…stand-your-ground laws increase violent crimes.”

Those are policies the NRA has backed.

“Overwhelming Majority Of Studies Find That Gun Control Policies Don’t Work,” headlined the new-media The Daily Caller in its version of the story. 

The Daily Caller coverage was superficial, as was nearly all of the coverage of the Rand study. Maybe it was because the study said there were no simple or easy answers. Maybe it was because the authors of the study tried hard to stay impartial.

“Virtually no one believes that these levels of violence and sorrow should be tolerated: not gun owners, not gun-rights advocates, and certainly not those who believe guns are a root cause of these problems. But there is passionate disagreement about what should be done,” Andrew R. Morral, a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and leader of Gun Policy in America report, wrote in an overview.

“Views on gun policies frequently divide along political and partisan lines. Some of this split could be the result of differing values concerning which goals and outcomes are more important (for example, protecting personal liberties or reducing community violence),” he added. “However, from a survey we conducted of gun policy experts, we found that this is not the primary source of (their) disagreement.”

On both sides of the debate, Morral said,  the views of gun-policy experts “do not stem from different views about the objectives that gun policies should aim to achieve. Instead, experts disagree about what the true effects of different gun policies will be. Both groups prefer policies that they believe will reduce gun violence, but one believes that eliminating gun-free zones, for instance, will accomplish this objective, while the other believes that such a policy would have the opposite effect. This is a disagreement about facts, not about values or objectives.”

The facts, the Rand study, added are few. And yet many are now demanding Congress do something, anything, and quickly. Action could make things better; it could also make them worse.

“…After restricting our review to studies designed to measure the causal effects of policies, we found scientific evidence for relatively few of the more than 100 effects we examined,” Morral wrote.

“Furthermore, many of the possible effects of gun policies that are raised in policy debates have only rarely—or never—been studied rigorously. These understudied and unstudied outcomes in our review included the effects of laws on the gun industry, on police shootings of civilians, on a gun owner’s ability to use his or her weapon defensively, and on participation in hunting and sport shooting.”

But there is little doubt restrictions on the scariest of guns – those that look like what “assault rifles” are supposed to look like – would likely make a lot of Americans feel better.






















15 replies »

  1. Good point bill . Actors and many rich people rarely cause mass shootings and many use drugs . I still think a strong economy would reduce gun issues in inner city.

  2. Bill . From what I’ve seen is people with mental health issues and lack of family intervention tend to be at higher risk for addiction and probable death. A stronger family unit would reduce vulnerability. Opioids and other drugs make guns look bad . Due to related crime . So I say roots of problem are deep and need addressed. Not the symptoms. As that’s similar to whack a mole . Even Nevada shooter probably had mental health issues. Raised by a serious criminal. Then the shooter was addicted to heavy gambling. I think prescription drugs as well . I say the push should be to make our economy and our families stronger. People are less likely to turn to crime if they can support themselves easily and develop self respect. IMO .

    • Well that would certainly explain Rush Limbaugh but how about Robert Downey Jr? Heheh!
      I know that some with mental health issues tend to self-medicate (alcohol and drugs of many kinds), but that is a horse of another color IMO, that is apparent with many homeless individuals.

  3. And about REI’s ban on Giro, Blackburn, and Camelback because of their association with guns and ammo….I’ll bet anything we can following the trail of that hysteria back to one of Giro’s competing brands. Specialized being the number one suspect. The anti-Giro campaign was a hot item in the bike industry social media before REI picked up on it.

    • i’m not too sure how that ban worked either. days after it was ordered, a friend sent me a photo from inside REI Anchorage of shelves still heavy with Giro helmets.

  4. The root of the problem is culture. Anti-gun people ballyhoo Japan’s almost non-existent murders, citing strict gun control. The murder rate among Japanese Americans, now mostly 4 generations removed from Japan, is the same as the rate in Japan…essentially zero. If you look at who is doing the killing in America it’s a fairly small sector of the population with roots in Louisiana and East Texas. Even here in Alaska a murderer’s lineage can usually be traced back to that area. Hot blood! Read Ishmael Reed’s excellent novel “The Last Days of Louisiana Red.” That’s what he talks about in the book.

    • Steve, are you sure our opioid epidemic is due to mental health issues? I’m assuming you meant this rather than Opium Epidemic.
      Addiction is an area that certainly can involve mental health but I’m hearing, relative to opiods, some are just plain addicts waiting to get their first dose. One prescription, say for wisdom teeth removal, and its off to the races for some.
      Granted, if a victim of chronic pain (or other pain) gets addicted then some mental health issues, along with this addiction, would very possibly make things worse.

      • Bill,
        No two paths to addiction or violence are identical, but my experience both as a paramedic back East and in the Alaskan community show Depression leads to addiction, especially with Heroin.
        One example is a young college student from UAA who was raped by fellow college students while at an “off campus” party. She fell into Depression and then turned to Heroin to ease her pain.
        She sadly died of an overdose a few years later and left her parents with guilt.
        I spoke with her mother on several occasions and feel these sexual assualts drive many victims to addiction (via chronic depression).

        There is an obvious connection to theft, since once addicted to Heroin…the addict will do what it takes to pay their dealer…including stealing firearms from private residences of which over half a million each year wind up in the hands of criminals.
        A viscous cycle of mental illness, addiction, theft and violence.

  5. Worth noting that our suicide profile, in terms of who commits suicide, is almost identical to most other “developed nations.” There is an obvious cultural component relating to modern society.

    Our rate is neither the highest nor the lowest, and gun restrictions are unlikely to be able to have any impact as the majority of the people committing suicide with firearms are the ones all “reasonable restrictions” would leave with the greatest access.

    In other countries with tighter laws, those (primarily) men with gun access use them. The rest primarily use hanging and heights. The claim that there is unlikely to be a substitution effect over the long-term fails based on looking at data from other nations. Other than perhaps lowering the small subset of “impulsive acts by teenagers with access,” we aren’t restricting our way out of our overall suicide problem.

  6. This is a story I’ve written about since mid-February … before we can address an issue we first must quantify it, and understand it.

    We’ve been repeatedly subject to uninformed gun control zealots demanding we to turn our schools into weaponized fortresses to “protect” our children from the “threat” of being involved in a school mass casualty shooting.

    Today I’d had enough and decided to do a deep dive – to investigate and analyze the data and statistics … to discover the truth.

    And what I found confirms the outright silliness of these demands.

    How stupid are these claims … about our childrens safety in schools against a mass casualty shooting?

    1,803 times more stupid to be exact.

    The data and statistics show that a child in the US is 1,803 time MORE LIKELY to be killed by an ASSAULT involving a firearm than they are to be involved in a school mass casualty shooting incident.

    You can skip to the graphic at the bottom if you don’t want to sweat the details and my commentary …

    So lets look at how the data informs my position … that militarizing schools to “protect” them against mass casualty shootings is a very poor idea …

    First some higher level data:

    Since Columbine (1999) … There have been 11 school mass casualty shoootings = 0.61/year avg

    More aggregated data:
    Last 15 years … 10 school mass casualty shootings = 0.67/year
    Last 10 years … 8 school mass casualty shootings = 0.8/year
    Last 5 years … 6 school mass casualty shootings = 1.2/year

    Mass school shootings by year:
    2018 – 1
    2017 – 0
    2016 – 0
    2015 – 1
    2014 – 2
    2013 – 0
    2012 – 2
    2011 – 0
    2010 – 0
    2009 – 0
    2008 – 1
    2007 – 1
    2006 – 1
    2005 – 1
    2004 – 0
    2003 – 0
    2002 – 0
    2000 – 0
    1999 – 1
    1998 – 2
    1997 – 0

    21 years = 13 school mass casualty shootings – average 0.62/yr

    What the year by year numbers show us is that mass casualty school shootings are random events … there is no significant difference in pattern … and the randomness shows us a 5 year period is not long enough to capture any real trend.

    Critics will scream mass school shootings have doubled the last 5 years vs the last 15 years … the TRUTH is the actual difference, between an average of 0.67 per year and 1.2 per year, is in reality all but meaningless.

    Now lets look at the school statistics …

    In 2015 there were an estimated 13,600 public school districts with appx. 98,200 public schools, including about 6,700 charter schools, along with appx. 34,600 private schools offering kindergarten or higher grades. There are an estimated 7,200 Title IV post secondary schools.

    In 2017 there were appx. 50.7 million students in primary and secondary school in the US with appx. 34.6 million in K-8 and appx. 15.1 million in secondary schools. Add appx. 20.4 million post secondary/college students

    In 2017 there were appx. 3.2 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers with a student teacher ratio of appx. 16.1

    Total public, private & post secondary schools = 140,000

    Total est. students K-12 & post secondary = 71.1 million

    Total school mass casualty shootings last 10 years = 8 (0.8/yr avg) … total fatalities last 10 years = 108 (10.8 avg/yr)


    Chance of any one SCHOOL being involved in a mass casualty shooting in any given year = 5.95 in 1,000,000

    Chance of any STUDENT being involved in a mass casualty shooting in any given year = 0.11 in 1,000,000

    Chance of any STUDENT being killed in a mass casualty shooting in any given year = 0.15 in 1,000,000

    We do NOT need to, nor SHOULD we … militarize, arm or harden our schools.

    The chances of any ONE of the appx 140,000 public, private and post secondary schools in America being involved in a mass casualty shooting in any given year is appx 3.5 in a million over the last 35 years.

    Over the last 10 years the chance is appx 5.71 in a million that one of the 140,000 schools in the US would be involved in a mass shooting incident in any given year.

    The chance any student in one of those schools being involved in a mass casualty shooting in school are lower than the chance of being struck by lightning. (see below)

    The damage of the DAILY reinforced, NEGATIVE psychological and emotional aspect of fortifying our schools with armed guards, metal detectors and the like, is massively higher than the minuscule benefit … against the all but non-existent chance any school or student will ever be subjected to the random violence of a school mass casualty incident in their school.

    As the “Odds of Dying” graphic I compiled below shows … a students’s chance of dying by firearm in a random ASSAULT in their lifetime are 1,802 times more likely than that same students chance of being killed in a school mass casualty shooting.

    As a student I was exposed to and taught atomic bomb drills. These were a bit scary, but we did them a couple times a year. Imagine being exposed to those drills, but with staff and students being exposed to full on gas masks, crawling under your desks, and kissing your ass goodbye … EVERY day.

    That is what this idea of militarizing our schools amounts to.

    If we TRULY want to affect gun violence in the US there is one choice. Target the CRIMINALS who are COMMITTING these crimes. Identify them, arrest them, prosecute them and sentence them to the most draconian penalties the law allows.

    Study after study unequivocally agrees – increased enforcement and penalties have a significant, top level, affect on crime.

  7. Jobs . Secure borders , immigration reform, international trade reform, Change welfare to job based temporary subsidies and training, no more free rides over 2 months. Then provide completely free drugs of all kinds to destroy the international market combined with aggressive treatment centers that pay bonus when users stay clean for specific time periods broken into small long term payment that’s not enough to motivate scammers,and a huge marketing campaign to embarrass anyone who uses as a lame looser . Stuffs free anyway. Death penalty to anyone selling but make clear drugs are free . I truly suspect this combo would basically solve majority of gun crimes. And many world wide problems. Even help with suicide , mental issues and family breakdown witch lead to unstable youth – adults. After money and industry regains value Americans would again be able to build their lives successfully with less stress . Due to return of industry and money value. Do whatever it takes to bring money value back . Break up the current scam of a federal reserve system . No more money printed or loaned to us at interest . Basically I believe America has a financial problem not a gun problem. My educated opinion. Then treat us all as adults and leave 2 Nd amendment alone as that really has nothing to do with the issue at hand . It’s more about family stability and parents having time and support to raise responsible children. My opinion. Sad part is surely our politicians already know this ? Why don’t they work together and implement it . Guessing everything I said could be backed by careful research. I’m sure I missed 90% of what smart people could think of . Thoughts?

    • With gun safety, like many issues…it is a personal problem. (Secure your firearms…lock box or safe)
      Over 600,000 firearms are stolen from private residences each year and enter the hands of criminals and children.
      Obviously there is a drug dependency component to this situation.
      The ATF and local Law Enforcement needs to get a handle on the theft and not let repeat offenders out in the community (SB 91).
      “straw man purchases” where one person is legally buying firearms from a licensed federal dealer and then reselling for a profit to the black market is the true culprit here.
      Why are some folks allowed to buy 100 guns a year, so they can just resale at gun shows where background checks are absent?
      These behaviors and NOT the legal citizen who buys their gun over the counter is where the system needs change.
      Like Craig said…
      The mass shootings are graphic and sad…true tragedies of our nation, but still just a drop in the bucket to the 35,000 dead annually in America and 116,000 who are shot and live each year…epidemic.

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