Tuesday, December 10, 2013

One Year Later

Nearly one year on, these are the things I remember.

Going to my favorite breakfast restaurant the next morning and sitting next to a loudmouth man who talked about how he didn't even want to have Christmas anymore, but who, as he paid for his meal, tried to get the waitress to stop by his car dealership.

The town piling up all the toys people donated in the basement of the town hall and letting kids just pick freely from them. After Chirstmas they still had so many that they had to make expensive plans to get rid of the absurd mass of toys that people donated with no thought whatsoever as to whether they were comforting anyone but themselves.

The woman who set up an ad hoc memorial consisting of little Christmas trees, which she described as having "pink lights for the girl angels and blue lights for the boy angels," and my bafflement both at the fact that gender essentialism is somehow necessary after death and that the six adults got red lights.

The day it took an hour to drive the mile from my house to the comic shop because of the traffic around the church, not from people going to one of the funerals, but from news vans parked across the street filming people at the funeral.

The numbing awkwardness of meeting a bunch of Jill's family for the first time at a family Christmas party two days after, and having a half-dozen identical conversations, all of which begin with someone I've just met asking where in Connecticut we live, and which end precisely one sentence later.

How it was too soon to talk about the politics of gun control right up until the impetus to actually do anything had passed.

Reading an article in Salon that offered a deconstructive take on the name of the bar Nancy Lanza frequented - My Place - viewing it as the epitome of American capitalist culture. My Place added a bar no more than a decade ago, and anyone local knows it as one of the main local pizza places; I first ate there over twenty years ago.

The signs some presumably well-meaning people put up suggesting that everything is God's plan, and how I wanted to just drive out at 2am and tear them all down, along with the brightly colored signs comforting the town made by kids who had never been there and hung from every telephone pole, and all the other mawkish, brightly colored shit that consisted of nothing more than hollow platitudes trying to advance the sickening lie that there is anything OK about a world where one morning twenty first graders can be gunned down in their classroom. 


  1. You really don't like the country you live in do you?

    1. He has, it appears, some reason

    2. To be honest his reasons don't look too much different to what I've encountered in the UK. Seems there is no greener grass on this planet.

    3. Of course, it could be that he loves some aspects of his country and hates others (such as, in this case, people's reaction to a tragedy). That's certainly true of me. Sometimes I'll focus on the good stuff, but not always. And sometimes a situation means that, for a while, I can't see the good stuff at all.

    4. I'll take a more aesthetically pleasing shade of brown.

  2. nothing more than hollow platitudes

    When half of Americans believe that any form of gun control is an unacceptable infringement of their liberty, then hollow platitudes are all that's left and I don't think you can really blame people if they despair.

    I mean, here's Moms Demand Action but what action are they demanding? If you search through the small print you can see that it's "background checks for gun purchases" which seems pitifully inadequate to me, but I guess they think that asking for more than that would be so far beyond the political pale as to be counter-productive.

  3. As always Phil, beautifully written and straight to the point. I'm not about to lecture any Americans about gun control and we've had our share of mass killings in this country but really, after that tragedy there are still people who consider the ability to own a gun to be some kind of freedom?

    1. Beautifully written ? This is an angry and mean spirited rant at being inconvenienced by others dealing with a tragedy.

    2. Do you really, seriously, believe the point of this piece was Phil griping about being bloody inconvenienced going to a comic shop, and not, say, about the crassness, excess and utter pointlessness of typical American responses to mass slaughters by sick bastards who have easy access to vast amounts of firepower?

      That Americans will do everything---send bushels of toys, conscript thousands of kindergarteners to mail their drawings, devote days worth of TV mourning--- to mourn a horror except doing any actual thing---say, a ban on automatic weapons or a stringent screening process that may prevent a mentally sick person from acquiring them---that could prevent future such tragedies? That the question is not whether there'll be another Newtown, but when, and how many will die this time?

    3. @C.
      Thank you for eloquently expressing the slightly ruder reply to Corpus Christi Music Scene I was tempted to post. Perhaps he or she might want to read Doctor Sandifer's post again.

  4. The lives that are saved by guns are real and valuable too. But they get less attention because people not dying is not a headline.

    1. which is all well and good, but this is about all the absurdities that exist with regards to the battle against ANY sort of reasonable approach towards gun ownership. Why is it harder to get a drivers license than it is a gun? Why does anyone need automatic and semi-automatics for "hunting"? This is about tiny little coffins and lax gun laws and people too scared of the NRA's empty platitudes to do anything meaningful. Do try to stay on target.

    2. For me what is appalling isn't even any particular position on gun laws. Well, OK, actually, that's not true, the NRA's proposal to put armed guards at schools was sickening and obscene.

      What rankles, for me, is the idea that the period of mourning is to be divested of politics. A flood of pointless teddy bears? Sure. Martyrish statements about how you don't even want to have Christmas while still selling cars to your waitress? Perfectly OK. Vultures circling the church, shutting down traffic in the town so that they can train their cameras on people who don't want to be put on television? Acceptable.

      Any discussion or acknowledgment of the fact that a tragedy like this happens for reasons and exists in a political context? Unacceptable.

      That, to me, is sickening.

    3. It's been years since the NRA was anything other than the gun manufacturer's lobby.

      If someone proposed "Everyone gets background checks, everyone gets fingerprinted, every gun has to take a DNA sample of the owner and glue it to the back of the bullet like in Judge Dredd, but everyone in america has to buy at least 10 guns every year from now on", the NRA would change its position on regulation in a heartbeat.

      (Others have pointed out that the NRA used to be in favor of moderate regulation aimed at making sure that the people who had guns were going to be the "right sort of people" right up until about '68 when it became clear that it wasn't going to remain feasible for the "right sort of people" to legally exclude minorities.)

    4. Do you have some statistical data Roderick?

    5. inkdestroyedmybrush,

      the absurdities that exist with regards to the battle against ANY sort of reasonable approach towards gun ownership.

      To me it seems the other way around -- i.e. that even the nominally anti-gun-control people in this country accept the basic principle of gun control when they shouldn't. I oppose all gun control because:

      a) The right to self-defense is the foundation and presupposition of all other rights. To infringe that right is to remove oneself from the moral conversation.
      b) Since all people are equal, it's wrong for some people (e.g. the government and its agents) to have rights (e.g. the right to have certain weapons) that are denied to others (e.g. private citizens). [To forestall the inevitable question: no, this doesn't mean that private citizens should be allowed to have nuclear weapons; it means that governments shouldn't be allowed to have nuclear weapons, as there is no purely defensive use of such weapons.]
      c) As an anarchist (a corollary of (b)), I favour building the new stateless society within the shell of the old. That requires the gradual transfer of security functions from the "public" (actually private governmental) to the "private" (actually public voluntary) sphere, so the private rather than the public sphere is where weapons are needed.


      I agree that the NRA is more a gun manufacturers' lobby than a gun rights lobby.

      The NRA is also, of course, a pro-gun-control organisation; they've always favoured reform over abolition, which is one reason that genuine opponents of gun control despise them.

      They're also essentially a Republican PAC; when they issue their gun rights report cards for politicians,they give higher scores to Republicans than to non-Republicans even when the non-Republican politician has a stronger anti-gun-control record. They also have a record of refusing to oppose gun-control legislation when it's introduced by Republicans. Of course disguising pro-big-business/big-government-partnership policies in strident anti-big-government rhetoric is the standard Republican m.o. (just as disguising pro-big-business/big-government-partnership policies in strident anti-big-business rhetoric is the standard Democratic m.o.).

      Still, the NRA is better than nothing.


      Do you have some statistical data Roderick?

      Well, for example:


  5. The tigers deterred by my rock don't get much attention either.

    1. When there are huge databases of cases where attacking tigers retreat when faced with your rock, then it'll be a good analogy.

    2. How many times has an invading British army turned back from the US in the last two centuries?

    3. And yet, somehow, despite the loss of that oh-so-important personal defensive technology, benighted, backward countries with effective bans on personal gun ownership somehow manage to totter along with substantially lower rates of crime, murder and violence than the united states. It must be due to magic.

      Eppur, si muove.

    4. There is some correlation between levels of gun ownership and homicide. There's a stronger correlation between levels of income inequality and homicide (along with many other things), and combining the two gives an even closer match. (Source: The Spirit Level, by Wilkinson & Pickett, chapter 10.) Which is probably worth mentioning. But what the figures there don't show is how levels of gun regulation affect the results, and without knowing about the various States' laws and practices I can't dig that out.

    5. BeserkRL is correct and, in order to prevent the death of innocent people, every adult should be handed a small thermonuclear device capable of destroying a city.

      I am certain that if I and the other citizens of London were walking around with my own "Little Boy" in my pocket, the doctrine of MAD would make us feel totally safe and secure and reduce crime to zero.

    6. Doctor Memory,

      despite the loss of that oh-so-important personal defensive technology, benighted, backward countries with effective bans on personal gun ownership somehow manage to totter along with substantially lower rates of crime, murder and violence than the united states.

      It's true that there are plenty of countries (like the u.k.) with stricter gun laws than the u.s. that also have lower crime rates.

      Yet it's also true that those countries (including the u.k.) generally also had lower crime rates than the u.s. before they enacted those stricter gun laws. Indeed crime rates have gone slightly up, not down, since the introduction of those laws.

      That suggests that the difference in crime rates between the u.s. and the u.k. is not the result of different gun laws.


      The difference between guns and nukes is that there is ordinarily no way to use nukes purely defensively, without massive collateral damage. That is why private citizens shouldn't have them. That is also why governments (even if their existence were legitimate) also should't have them.

    7. As I understand it, that's not true. Gun bans tended to preceed a temporary uptick in crime, not a permanent one.

      Which is kinda what you'd expect if the gun ban was motivated by a upward trend in crime rates -- it's going up, they enact a ban, and the upward trend ends, but not immediately.

      (At least, that's what I was told happened in Australia. Dunno about the others)

  6. The relationship between lax firearms regulation and high rates of violent death has recently been quantified in a Harvard study, available here: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390

    Basically, fewer people are shot dead in US states with heavy firearms regulations than in less regulated states. There is no correlation with non-firearm deaths, so it's not as if people who are denied guns are just going around stabbing each other instead.

    Also, and this is a really important point, the majority (about 61%) of deaths by firearm are suicides, not homicides. Most people who survive their first suicide attempt never make another attempt, so the likelihood of success in the first attempt is a very important factor in public health. For non-gun methods of suicide, the success rate on the first attempt is around 2%. With guns, it's 85%.

    Doubtless more research is needed to investigate the full complexity of issues around mass firearms availability in the US. Fortunately, President Obama has recently rescinded the regulation that denied research funding to any project that might provide evidence in favour of gun control.

    1. Thanks Iain. Always handy to see some actual research.

    2. Yes, the Harvard study is interesting, but it doesn't make a good case for gun control. What it shows is that gun control laws have virtually no effect on the rate of homicides Their effects are almost entirely on suicide.

      The difference between suicide and homicide, of course is that people have a right to commit suicide. Justifying gun control by appeal to the need to prevent suicide is grossly paternalistic. For those who are worried about preventing homicide, by contrast, the study offers no real support for gun control.

    3. While I do agree with the broad scope of your argument (state paternalism is a bad idea), I would like to point out that suicide DOES leave victims other than the person who killed themselves (except in the rare cases where they leave no family or friends behind them).