Sunday, April 5, 2009

Do Mass Killings Suggest Need For Gun Control?

A man walks into an immigration office in upstate New York, holds the occupants hostage and opens fire, killing 13 people before turning the gun on himself as the police close in.

A man in Pittsburgh kills three police officers.

A third man, in Washington state, kills his five children in their trailer park home before driving over to a nearby casino and turning a gun on himself in his vehicle.

All of this in a space of two days.

Is this an indication that we need to clamp down on guns in the United States?

Of course, in this country, with its gun culture, it's difficult to cap the bottle after the weapons genie has already been out for so many years. Lots of people own guns. Most of them law abidingly.

But with tensions such as they are in this society, some gun owners who are mentally unstable present a clear and present danger to themselves and those around them.

It's sadly ironic that the Binghamton, NY case took place just weeks after a noted psychiatrist lashed out at the news media on News Talk Online on for reporting, inaccurately he argued, about the psychological effects of the economic downturn. He suggested that there was no upturn in the number of depressive, suicidal people because of the economy. Maybe not, but the New York state gunman, Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese immigrant, was upset about having recently lost his job (he was also apparently angry that people made fun of his accent). Wong had three guns on him, lots of ammunition and was wearing body armor.

In the Pittsburgh case, Richard Poplawski, who had recently lost his job and was wearing a bullet proof vest shot it out with police. In addition to his personal economic woes, police say he also feared President Obama would take away his guns. (Are there those who will now argue that this is a reason to not consider stricter gun control laws?)

Whenever there are mass shootings of innocent people by deranged gunmen in the United States, some gun advocates suggest the answer is more, not fewer guns. If only one of the victims had been armed, perhaps the shooter could have been stopped, they say. If someone bent on a rampage feared he might be shot by one of his intended victims he might be deterred from carrying out his plans.

Of course, a person who plans on taking his own life after killing others might not worry too much about getting shot in the process.

That aside, it is probably true that had someone in the immigration office been armed, Wong might have been stopped before killing 13 people. But what of the other two incidents?

In Pittsburgh, the victims were police officers. And they were not just armed, but trained as well.

And in Washington state, it's unlikely that any of five children would be carrying guns on them in their trailer home in the event that their father, James Harrison, might turn a rifle on them. So the argument, in those two cases, doesn't hold.

Clearly there are good reasons why most gun owners arm themselves. A friend who grew up on a farm says his father always has a loaded shotgun propped up next to the stove in the kitchen to take care of "varmints" that might be lurking outside, bent on attacking his livestock or eating his crops.

There are those who also live in remote areas who keep themselves armed for protection because of a typical long response time for police. On the other side of this scale, there are those who keep a gun by their sides in high crime urban neighborhoods for protection.

Then there are those who only crack open their weapons for sports shooting or hunting. All of these are legitimate reasons to own guns.

Finally, invariably those who wish to further control guns in the United States push for what they call an "assault weapons" ban (though there are fears that guns and ammo may be taxed at a higher rate soon as well). With the exception of the Pittsburgh shootings, in which the man was reportedly armed with an AK-47, the gunmen were not using assault weapons. So such an additional restriction would not have prevented the other two tragedies.

Perhaps the real lesson to be learned is that it is expecting too much to put the burden on government to prevent these kinds of tragedies. Sometimes, distraught people do bad things to others. And sometimes, no laws and no amount of law enforcement can keep it from happening.

We talk about issues like this and more weekdays at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on


Anonymous said...

No person should ever give up there guns..ever..Kat..Pittsburgh

Anonymous said...

its really terrible sad this situation, we all need to think deeply about this situation and keep in mind what guns are for??? some can say to defend ourself but thats not the real purpouse of a gun, the real one is for kill. We need to change our way of thinking. Nice report Gary, ty.

preesi said...

Gary the leading method of Mothers killing their kids is drowning...

Supposedly 19 hijackers took down 4 planes on 9-11 with box cutters and pepper spray...

In the past month 25 houses in Coatesville Pa were burnt to the ground by arson. The arsonists later turned out to be firefighters.

Three of the leading methods of suicide are Carbon Monoxide, hanging and drug overdose...

A wife recently exercised her husband to death in a community pool...

Gary? If people want to kill themselves or others they will find ways...

GUNS dont kill, people do...

Anonymous said...

Yes there is an obvious need here. Shot guns not to be excluded. Most mass killings are from a high powered hunting rifle.

Anonymous said...

I believe if someone is of the frame or mind to kill or hurt others banning guns or stricter control will not help. As we've seen in the UK people use knives, bombs, cars, lead pipes, whatever they have access to when they are mentally unstable. If a person commiting these horrible acts on others were thinking properly they wouldnt commint these acts of violence. I think we need to address the cause of these acts rather than the method used to carry them out.

Anonymous said...

People that want to do bad things will find a way to do it. It has been proven that when the gov't bans/tightens use of items, the people will do what they want. Proabition didn't work. Making marijuana illegal has not worked or any other drug for that fact.

Anonymous said...

Gary – I believe this type of gun violence does call for greater gun control laws. But your statement – “And sometimes, no laws and no amount of law enforcement can keep it from happening.” – does have an unfortunate truth to it, as well.

As the NRA has said on many occasions – “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But that does not mean that certain guns & weapons are not designed for the everyday person. They are made for warfare and have not place on our streets.

I know that this subject comes up every time a horrific shooting like this happens. But my question to lawmakers: “How many innocent lives need to die before they buck the NRA lobbyist and legislate strong gun control laws?”


Anonymous said...

Couple of thoughts. First, too many guns out there to control. And while the argument that you gotta start somewhere has some truth to it, as soon as the GOP regains power, out go the gun ban. Second, if we would enforce the laws we have now it would have much more effect than passing new laws against law abiding gun owners. Such as, allow police to search likely illegal gun possession in urban areas, stricter followup on felons, stricter enforcement of drug dealers, and of course, getting a handle on the too many illegals in our country. Democrats have a long history of blaming inanimate objects for what people do, but then it is much easier to pass a useless ban and claim victory. Passing a good national health care bill will save a lot more lives than any gun ban. Trying to pass a gun ban will probably lead to neither occurring and a return to GOP rule.

Vandenplas84 said...

As somebody from the uk I find it shocking that americans need to feel thay have the right to unlimited weopons. We trust the army and police here and the only people that have guns is farmers and criminals. Do we need guns here? As long as the government and police work for us then no.

ElusiveAngel said...

As in all the cases presented, it would seem that to the perpetrator they were either at the end of their rope, enraged, and or cornered with no end in site of their dilemma. It would seem that these perpetrators had no one to seek solace with and recieve the much needed help they needed. It would also seem that mankind is so absorbed in self that these ones slip past us, and we are unaware and unprepared for the dangers that lurk in these ones minds.
Would implimenting gun control be an answer? I think the question would be...Do you really think people will abide by the laws of gun control? I think not. Where there is a will there is a way. Most people that have had guns in their lives will not be willing to relinquish their hold on their weapons. Siting that there is a need for their protection or their families protection. In the aftermath of 911 more people have armed themselves in fear of invasion. Others in fear of predators that break into homes and businesses to take what does not belong to them. Not many will take kindly to their arms being taken from them. We all know that when someone wants a weapon. They know where to go get one even if it is in an illegal manner. To be honest I do not know what the solution is. Either way, it will cause problems and issues that will be hard to resolve. It is with heartfelt condolences I wish to extend to the familes of those lost in the aftermath where the lives of their loved ones were lost.

Anonymous said...

Like so many other things in our history, the "right to bear arms", born from our arguments with the Crown, prior to independence, has gotten carried away to the point where most of us have knee-jerk reactions to the notion of not having a gun at all...when we really don't need one. And now Charleton Heston doesn't need one, either.

Ivan Hentschel

THE LonesomeDove said...

Since legislation piled on top of more legislation has already given us a drug and prostitution-free America, we have every reason to believe that criminalizing and/or banning gun ownership will enjoy the same positive results. Taking firearms from law abiding citizens can only result in turning violent crime and mass murder into a thing of the past! And, we know this will come to pass because the criminal element, as well as those individuals on the brink of insanity, will always stop, think and take the law into consideration before committing a crime.

So far, the legislators in favor of ever stricter gun control laws have used absurd and inane arguments in their ongoing attempts to deny "the PEOPLE" their right to bear arms and dismantle the Constitution. So, please listen as Suzanna Gratia Hupp from Texas explained to a group of them, with eloquence and surprising candor, the true purpose of the Second Amendment. Admittedly, the video quality is poor, but it's the audio that counts.

Criminal Injustice said...

I think people are trying to fool themselves by saying there are no psychological effects from the economic crisis, when in reality people are losing everything they worked hard for which has to take a toll on their mental state. It's becoming a new trend to be fired and choose to go on a murder spree, a sad trend. Taking away guns won't stop that. Those who want to kill will kill regardless, they will find a way.

Criminal Injustice said...

There is a post i want to respond to down there concerning the united kingdom. Guns are illegal there yet they have a very high crime rate when it comes to violence. People don't have free access to guns so instead they beat each other to death and stab people. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the process of buying a gun precisely because of events like this. In states where you can carry a gun the crime is lower because the criminals don't know if you can shoot back. All of the worst gun crimes are committed by criminals who know they have their guns and the law abiding citizens do not, so: shooting fish in a barrel.
First I have to take 6 hours of gun training. Then buy my gun. Then take that receipt of training and ownership to the local police station. They perform a background check. 15 days later if I'm cleared, I take the clearance and go pick up my gun. I will no longer be the fish in the barrel. Most states have more than sufficient background checks and an overabundance of laws. But criminals do not follow them. This mindless bleeting for gun control completely ignores the realities of the issue.

Anonymous said...

I will never be a fish in the barrel for a criminal or for the government. You anti-gun people change your tune once you've been mugged or have your home invaded.

The police are not there to protect you. They are there to pick up the pieces and mop up the blood.

That your assailant is doing ten to twenty won't do you any good while you're dirt napping because they had a gun and you didn't. Tighten controls and only the criminal will have guns.

Bad people will do bad things whether they have guns or not. That crazy lady in Texas drowned her five kids. Are you going to take away bath tubs and kitchen knives?

Anonymous said...

i think its a sign that the times are broken. A new culture / paradigm needs to arise. The traditional way of going about life / paying bills etc. needs to be ammended. People are killing because of money...i'm convinced of it.

Brizter said...

As someone else from the UK I would like to pick up on a point made by Criminal Injustice.

Of course it is true that violent crime exists within the UK, but the amount of damage you can inflict to a number of individuals in a short space of time is limited when you only have fists, sticks, or even a knife at your disposal.

Guns are specifically made to injure and kill, not so with ad hoc instruments.

The equivalent of a school shooting (although there was one in Dunblane Scotland several years ago) can not happen without firearms being available.

There are illegal firearms around of course, but the owner of these faces criminal prosecution if caught in addition to charges for any damage he or she may have inflicted.

The police here use non fatal means of control such as pepper sprays truncheons and mace. Where guns are involved there are highly trained dedicated response units who attend and they have to follow a strict code. Every shooting is investigated and each officer has to account for and justify his or her actions.

The suggestion that arming everyone would ensure safety I find unconvincing. Would anyone reasonably conclude that arming all airline passengers would make flying safer for example?

At the age of 54, I have never handled a gun. In fact I have only ever seen one and that was carried by a policeman at an airport.

I like it like that

I would feel distinctly less safe in the street if I thought everyone around me was carrying a gun.

Anonymous said...

Well Gary I gotta have my say on this one......I repeat one poster.....GUNS don't kill, people do. Doesnt matter if its a gun, knife, baseball bat, tire iron....the list goes on and on. What's next on the ban list? Maybe just maybe we should look at the REAL problem with crime. Criminals are pampered and have more rights than law abiding citizens. They get free meidcal, food, lodging, education, a gym, movies. Dang alot they get I can't. How bout we try punishing criminals and see if crime doesnt go down some?

Kyle Jordan said...

Any gun control law is unconstitutional, and against originalist interpretation. Period. The Second Amendment was put in place with the intent that every able bodied citizen would possess weapons in order to serve in a militia in case of invasion. Weapons such as assault rifles shouldn't be restricted, but should be promoted, because you're more ... Read Moreable to defend yourself, your family, your community, and the nation at large, with state of the art weapons as compared to outdated 1900's bolt action technology. And perhaps you should get a tax credit if you own a firearm in working condition, and maybe another if you like...go to militia practice, because you're contributing to the manpool if we ever get invaded, and doing your duty to the state. Civilians possessing firearms responsibly should not be seen as a problem, but something worthy of respect.

"I think the truth must now be obvious that our people are too happy at home to enter into regular service, and that we cannot be defended but by making every citizen a soldier, as the Greeks and Romans who had no standing armies; and that in doing this all must be marshaled, classed by their ages, and every service ascribed to its competent class."
--Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1814.

Anonymous said...

I think too many people, whether they are for or against gun control legislation, assume that gun control means no more guns.
I live in Canada where there are some gun control laws but those laws are primarily directed at controlling who can possess and purchase guns and what type of guns they can have. At the present time I do legally possess some guns but because I have allowed my permit to purchase weapons to expire, I cannot legally purchase any guns. This is my choice and if I decide I want to purchase another gun, I have to apply to renew that permit. I will be checked to see if there is some reason that the permit should not be renewed, ie a criminal record involving violence. A criminal record for something like impaired driving would not necessarily prevent the renewal.

Two Dogs said...

The issue of gun control is a moot point in my opinion at the current time because our government in honor bound to make seriously bad decisions with our current batch of legislators. Intellectually incurious people are going to ramp up their efforts to ban guns because, "You cannot let a good crisis go to waste."

However, I can purchase five thousand guns, place them on my kitchen table and no one would die from that. If you honestly think that more gun control would reduce gun violence, take the time to look at the astounding number of gun crimes that have happened since Australia made the effort to start collecting guns. And think about the reason just a little more.

If in the end, you cannot find a reason to NOT ban guns, please do not vote, you do not possess the intelligence necessary to make good decisions.

Bob said...

Denying me the right to defend myself because others abuse that right is just plain wrong. Drunk drivers kill innocent people every day, but that does not mean I need to give up right to drive. I agree with the person who stated that the cops are there to pick up the pieces...