Friday, December 28, 2012

Back to Politics: Emoting Vs. Facts

Here's an article quoting actual facts and figures:

"Will Banning Guns Stop Homicides? Stats from England and Australia Show…

The debate on gun control is only gaining momentum. On Thursday, Senator Diane Feinstein outlined her plans to introduce sweeping legislation that includes fingerprinting and registration of all those who currently own so-called semi-automatic “assault” weapons.
Those in favor of a total ban on firearms often point to countries like England and Australia where firearms are banned or virtually impossible to possess. A look into the statistics might offer some clarity, though, about how safe such a move actually makes a country.
Let’s start at home. From 2009 to 2011, homicides overall declined slightly according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, with a corresponding drop in homicides by firearms.
In fact, the report says homicide is not among the top 15 leading causes of death in America. (As recently as 2009, the CDC reported that homicide was in the top 15 at #15.) Instead:
  • Accidents (unintentional deaths) were #5 and Suicide (intentional harm) has held solid as the 10th leading cause of death for several years.
  • The stats from 2009 show that homicides totaled 16,799, with 11,493 of those attributed to guns.
  • During that same year, motor vehicle deaths were nearly triple that of gun-related deaths — 34,485 vs. 11,493.
  • Death from accidental falls totaled 24,792, almost double the firearms homicide total.
The stats for gun deaths have actually shown some significant declines in the past two decades.
Homicide and Gun Statistics from England and Australia Show Banning Guns Doesnt Work
Image: National Institute of Justice
Looking at the above graph, it is worth noting that deaths caused by “other guns” has been relatively flat since 1985. The assault weapons ban was in place from 1994-2004.

And what about the argument most often made by the Left quoting the success of oppressive gun laws in countries like Australia and England? A recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Joyce Lee Malcolm shows that argument to be hollow: “After a school massacre, the U.K. banned handguns in 1998. A decade later, handgun crime has doubled.”
Malcom’s article details what happened after Australia banned many guns following a 1996 mass murder of 35 people by a madman with assault rifles. The country tightened registration laws, banned assault rifles, pump-action shotguns, and also forced a buy back of more than 600,000 guns. What effect did this have on crime?
“A 2003 study published by the Brookings Institution, found homicides “continued a modest decline” since 1997. They concluded that the impact of the National Firearms Agreement was “relatively small,” with the daily rate of firearms homicides declining 3.2%.”
During the same period in America, deaths attributed to firearms dropped by nearly ten times the decline seen in Australia. Restricting or confiscating handguns seems to have had almost no effect on homicides in Australia and the stats also show that the law had no real effect on suicides.
“Suicides with firearms went down but suicides by other means went up,” Malcom notes.
And what about the oft-cited British gun laws? Have they done the job?
Restrictive gun laws have been around for almost 100 years in England, and Malcolm reports that getting a permit requires proving to police that you have a “good reason” for needing a gun. Self defense is not considered to be a good reason in England. Following a 1987 shooting in the British town of Hungerford, the Brits enacted stricter controls. And in 1998, a near-total ban on gun ownership followed another mass shooting. Were these moves a success?
Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time.
There is little doubt that the Senate will soon put forth new legislation regarding gun ownership, especially as it relates to so-called assault weapons. However, those making the argument that banning guns has worked in places like Australia and England might be advised to check the statistics or risk looking foolish if they encounter someone armed with the facts.
(H/T: Weasel Zippers)"

No matter how you feel, the facts show that gun-control just plain doesn't work.

--Leslie <;)))><    

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Season's Greetings!

To everyone:

Happy Hannukah, Jolly Solstice, Merry Christmas, Joyful Sir Isaac Newton’s Birthday, Happy Kwansaa, Jolly Eid al-Fatr, Happy Bodhi Day, Merry Boxing Day, Lusty Saturnalia, Happy New Year, Jolly Hogmanay, Merry Twelfth Night – and a partridge in a pear tree!

In other words, Happy Holidays -- all of them.

No, there is no "war on Christmas;  it's just that it has a lot of competition.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish   )O(

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fish in a Barrel

Last week, in Connecticut, a vicious lunatic named Adam Lanza murdered his mother.  Then he stole her (legal and registered) handguns, drove to the school where she had worked, marched right in the front door without any difficulty, went to the room of the kindergarten class his mother had taught, walked right in -- then shot the teacher, and proceeded to shoot the students.  There was no one in that room capable of stopping him.

Apparently the school had made some preparations for such an incident, for other teachers -- hearing the gunshots -- locked their classroom doors and made all the kids hide in a corner out of sight from the doors.  They also phoned the police, who arrived quickly and began clearing the building.  Just who finally stopped Lanza -- whether he shot himself or the police did it -- is still unclear, but obviously it was none of the students, teachers, or school staff.  That, thank you, is because the school's -- possibly the state's -- Zero Tolerance Policy forbade anyone, from the principal down to the janitor, and certainly the students, to bring a firearm or any other effective weapon into school.  That policy, of course, did not prevent Lanza from doing it.  That policy made the students and teachers into helpless targets.  Everyone has heard the phrase 'like shooting fish in a barrel';  it could easily be replaced by 'like shooting kids in a zero-tolerance school'.  Or, for that matter, a 'no weapons allowed' theater or shopping mall.

Of course, the moment the news came out, the professional liberals of the media began howling for More Gun Control, with such well-crafted phrases that they must have written up their appeals long in advance.  Of course President Obama was asked for his opinion, and he made a stirring speech about the 'tragedy', but was careful to say only that 'something must be done'.  A few media pundits bothered to say that we need better vicious-lunatic advance detection.

What nobody bothered to mention is this odd little fact.  For the past several decades, whenever some vicious lunatic wants to go kill a lot of innocent people, and decides to use guns instead of bombs, he'll go to, in order of precedence:  a) a school, b) a theater, c) a shopping mall.  You never see a vicious homicidal/suicidal lunatic go shoot up: a) a police station, b) an army base, c) a shooting range.  There has been just one case, and that in recent years, of an Islamofascist sleeper-agent shooting up a military base -- but even that base had a strict policy of keeping the guns locked away from the soldiers, leaving the armed military police to take the killer down.

Another odd little fact: you never hear of a vicious lunatic shooting up schools, theaters or shopping malls in Israel.  This is because in Israel: a) the schoolteachers have usually had military or police training, and are always armed, b) the theaters have armed guards always watching, if not armed police or soldiers in the audience, c) the shopping malls have guards armed with rifles or shotguns, placed in strategic positions, always watching the crowds -- and never mind how many of the shoppers are armed.  The teachers, guards and even civilians are trained and prepared to recognize a threat, and shoot him before he finishes saying the "-hu" on "Allahu akbar".  Likewise, when was the last time you heard of a vicious lunatic shooting up anything in Switzerland?

Gee, are we seeing a pattern here?

Yes, it would be nice if we had some reliable public system for detecting vicious lunatics before they kill anyone, and quietly trundling them off to the Happy Home.  The problem is that nobody has any idea how to go about doing that little thing.  We've seen from too-long experience that Gun Control doesn't work, despite the pious insistence of various liberals.  Getting Guns Off The Streets campaigns have only increased markets -- and prices -- for illegal gun-dealers.

The only tactic that works is arming, and training, the public at large -- as in Israel and Switzerland -- and providing realistic security systems, including armed guards, in vulnerable target areas -- such as schools, theaters and shopping malls.

Perhaps a good first step in this direction would be to make up small stickers (with really tough glue on the backs) saying "Helpless Victims Here" and showing an icon of a fish trying to leap out of a barrel, and stick them up on walls right under any sign that says "Gun-Free Zone" or "No Weapons Allowed".  Most people will get the hint.  Eventually, even politicians and media pundits will, too.

--Leslie <;)))>< (not in a barrel)   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Pagan, the Christian, and the Overworked Garage

This happened a few years back, while John and Mary Creasey's son Richard was staying with me in Phoenix.  We were trying to get him a job, and he'd applied to the Post Office.  The application involved taking a test at one of the PO's administrative offices, so I drove Richard there, left him off for what promised to be at least two hours, and went looking for someplace to have lunch.  As I started to roll out, I noticed that one of the rear tires was flat.  Not terribly confident about changing tires by myself, I went looking for the nearest garage instead.  I found one within a block, up at the corner, and pulled in.  I signed in at the office, where a harried mechanic sadly told me that there were four cars in line ahead of me, so I'd have to wait.  Ah well, at that rate, I'd still make it back to the office in time to pick up Richard, so I sat down on a bench to wait.

The nondescript man in the nondescript suit, on the bench beside me, noticed my pentacle pendant and grew increasingly nervous.  Finally he burst out: "Ma'am, do you realize you're wearing a Satanic symbol?"  Well, I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume he was innocently misinformed.  "Oh no," I said, smiling.  "That's a Wiccan symbol;  it's an upright five-pointed star, representing a human figure -- head, arms, legs and body -- inside and touching a circle, which represents wholeness, or the world, specifically the natural world.  The two together represent the unity of man and Nature, which is a big point of the Wiccan theology.  The Satanic symbol is a five-pointed star with the point down, representing a goat's head.  There's a big difference."

"Difference?" he asked cautiously.  "But aren't 'Wiccans' really witches, who worship Satan?"

"Certainly not," I snorted.  "Wiccans are commonly called witches, but they're purely Pagans, who worship Nature and the spirits of Nature.  Satanism is the worship of the Christian devil -- more specifically, the Catholic devil.  I mean, what would a 'Black Mass' mean to a Protestant?  Pagans, of all kinds, aren't Christians at all.  They don't worship the Christian god, so why on Earth should they worship the Christian devil, let alone the Catholic devil?"

He started to speak, then caught himself -- and I could see him thinking: "For revenge."  He didn't say it because he guessed that then he'd have to admit that Wiccans, witches, and Pagans in general had some good cause to want revenge for.  Instead, he tried a different tack.  "Don't, uh, Pagans consider their religion superior?"

"Well, superior for themselves, anyway."  I shrugged.  "Consider religion in general as a carved jewel with lots of different facets.  Each facet reflects light a little differently, but they're all part of the same gem -- the same desire and spiritual impulse."

"But doesn't one of those...facets reflect light best?"

"Should one facet of a diamond reflect light, and all the rest be dark?  Hardly -- especially when you consider that they all affect each other.  Paganism affected Judaism and Hinduism, Judaism directly influenced Christianity, Christianity and Judaism influenced Islam, Islam and Hinduism influenced Buddhism, and so on.  No man is an island, and no religion either."

He thought that over for a long moment, then tried something else.  "But do you, uh, Pagans believe that a spirit of evil exists?"

I shrugged again.  "Oh, it probably does by now -- if only because so many people have believed in it, so hard, for so long.  Faith itself has power, you know.  That's another reason why we Pagans don't give any attention to any spirit of evil;  we don't feed it any belief at all."  I couldn't help adding, "Faith is the real Food of the Gods."

Again he started to speak, and again he stopped himself.  I saw his eyes widening as he took in the implications of that.  If human faith can feed a god, any god, and lack of faith can starve and weaken one...

Right then the mechanic came up and told my unlikely companion that his car was ready.  He got up, looking downright grateful for the interruption, and hurried off.  A moment later another mechanic came up and told me he had a few minutes to help change my tire.  Between the two of us, we got the tires swapped off in ten minutes.  Buying another tire to put on the old one's rim took another twenty minutes.  After that I managed to get a quick lunch at MacDonald's, and got back to the administrative office in time to pick up Richard after the test.

I never saw the curious Christian again, but I sometimes wonder what effect my answers had on him.

And no, Richard didn't get the job.   

--Leslie <;)))><  )O(