Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mass Murder at Virginia Tech

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In the wake of the horrifying shootings at Virginia Tech, many right-wingers are opining that if students had been allowed to carry concealed firearms, the result would have been different (meaning fewer people killed). Barbara O'Brien makes this belief the subject of a post:

Gun enthusiasts (they do take offense if you call them “gun nuts”) have a pure and transcendent faith that those states that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons for their own protection have enjoyed a dramatic drop in crime. Some of these states have seen a drop in the rate of violent crime, but so have states with stricter gun control laws that don’t allow citizens to carry a concealed weapons. Violent crime rates have been dropping all over for the past several years.

A few years ago I spent some time digging through the FBI’s uniform crime stats by state to see if there was a correlation between violent crime rates and gun laws. There wasn’t one, either way. Some states with lax gun laws had higher violent crime rates than some states with strict gun laws, and some states with strict gun laws had higher violent crime rates than some states with lax gun laws. I assume that’s still true.

For example, Texas, which has allowed concealed carry of weapons since 1995, has a murder/manslaughter rate (per 100,000 inhabitants) of 6.2 and a forcible rape rate of 37.2. Gun-unfriendly New York state has a murder/manslaughter rate of 4.5 and forcible rape rate of 18.9 (FBI, 2005). But, as I said, if you were to compare two other states you might see something very different. There are just too many variables affecting crime rates to say categorically that any particular gun law makes any measurable difference.

That said, if you want an argument for not allowing concealed carry of weapons, just check out Michelle’s previous post. Her theme today is that black people are scary and cause crime. Her link for “the truth about black crime rates” leads to this utterly reprehensible article by a Heather Mac Donald which says, in effect, we can’t blame the NYPD for shooting and killing innocent black men by mistake, since black crime rates are so high.
Ms. Mac Donald says blacks committed 68.5 percent of all murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults in New York City last year, a statistic that seems to her to justify shooting boisterous black men first and asking questions later.

However, did you know that men commit 88.7% of all homicides in the United States? And without looking it up I’ll assume men commit a whopping majority of forcible rapes, too. Does that mean unjustified shootings of men are more forgivable than unjustified shootings of women?

It is true that African Americans commit violent crimes at a higher rate than whites. But Did You Know that if you are ever murdered or assaulted, the odds are that your murderer/attacker will be the same race you are, whatever that is?
A stroll through the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, can tell us a lot about people who commit crimes. For example, renters commit more crimes than homeowners. Women are considerably more likely than men to be murdered by a current or former spouse or lover, especially in rural areas. Next time some farmer’s wife offs her husband, she should use that statistic in her defense.
I’m sure if we kept looking we would find correlations between income, level of education, and several other factors and crime rates. I found a study that claimed children who went to high-quality preschools are less likely to become violent criminals than those who don’t. Information like this is useful if you’re trying to figure out ways to reduce crime.

But when you’re dealing with an individual, you need to look at an individual. It is simply not true that every black man is more dangerous than any white man. Serial killers are nearly always white men, for example.

Which takes us back to gun laws. The NYPD has a sorry history of killing black men who weren’t doing anything wrong. And the cops get training; they get guidelines; they have a chain of command. And they make mistakes. Wouldn’t yahoos carrying concealed weapons to deter crime make mistakes, too? How many mistakes are we willing to tolerate in the name of “safety”?

If someone wants to keep a firearm in his home or behind the counter of his convenience store that’s his business. But people who are frightened or excited make bad judgments. If Virginia Tech students had been armed today, would there be fewer dead? Or more? I think either is possible.

John Derbyshire knows exactly who to blame: the murdered students:

As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.

Yes, yes, I know it's easy to say these things: but didn't the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes—and like most cliches. It's true—none of us knows what he'd do in a dire situation like that. I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I'd at least take a run at the guy.

Nathanael Blake, writing at Human Events, seconds Derbyshire and adds darkly that Cho Seung-Hui's male victims were not Real Men:

Well, there was one who seems to have actively resisted, instead of just ducking and barricading doors. "Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter when the man attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived - because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad - also an Israeli - told Army Radio."

College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Meanwhile, an old man hurled his body at the shooter to save others.

Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that.

When Kip Kinkle opened fire in Thurston High School a few years back, he was taken down by students, led by one who was already wounded. Why didn’t that happen here?

Like Derb, I don’t know if I would live up to this myself, but I know that I should be heartily ashamed of myself if I didn’t. Am I noble, courageous and self-sacrificing? I don’t know; but I should hope to be so when necessary.

So neither "Derb" nor Blake knows whether they would be "noble, courageous and self-sacrificing" if they were about to be shot execution-style; yet they feel perfectly comfortable -- even righteous -- in their outrage at men who were in that situation and did not live up to standards of male nobility, courage, and self-sacrifice that "Derb" and Blake have never been required to find in themselves.

So now Real Men condemn other men for not doing what they themselves have never been asked to do and don't know if they would or could do.


UPDATE: Check out the reader comments section after Blake's post. Very satisfying.

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