Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bang, bang! Something must be done!

Police-reported crime rates, Canada, 1962 to 2010
On the morning of Friday, December 14, 2012, a young man walked into an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut and committed an atrocity. He shot and killed 20 children, all just 6 and 7 years old, and six teachers of the school, I'm sure you all know the story.

I've been reluctant to write anything about that, not because I was not affected, just the opposite.

My wife and I have spent Friday's with our grandson for the past 7 months now, and many more to come I hope. We entertain each other. Our house is his plaything and we just supervise, its always fun and lots of work. I know we treat this little one differently than we did our own children years ago, wisdom does come with experience.

So as I heard news reports of the shootings that day, while our little guy was playing at my feet, I knew what kind of reaction to expect from the media and the talking heads on TV. The presence of my grandson made the pain of this story much more acute for me. I tried, but could not imagine the pain of the grandparents and parents of those children killed in Connecticut. There are no words.

As expected the debate and the discussion around the Newtown killings centred on how to prevent a future occurrence as if that were possible. Of course that means removing guns from people. The reaction was reflexive, and from the highest levels. The US President visited the town and made assurances that something would be done.
Of course, its for events just like this that laws are enacted by the political class. Good laws come from rational discussion and debate, where the rights of individuals are protected, where unintended consequences are considered, where time is taken without the emotion or trauma of events to cloud judgment.

After 9/11 and many orders of magnitude greater, the same kind of reflexive reactions among the political class and the media happened. Did that improve things? Are we safer, more certain that events of that sort won't ever happen, or are things worse? Have freedoms been lost? Have unnecessary wars been fought? Bodies heaped on bodies in far off lands, with a generation of afflicted children there, now sworn to vengeance. It has been made far worse by clouded judgement.

Newtown is not the same as 9/11, but the cries to do something are just as loud in proportion and the political class just as eager to appease irrational demands.

So lets be rational, is there a correlation between guns and crime? This Harvard study says no in the conclusion: "the burden of proof rests on the proponents of the more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death mantra, especially since they argue public policy ought to be based on that mantra....To bear that burden would at the very least require showing that a large number of nations with more guns have more death and that nations that have imposed stringent gun controls have achieved substantial reductions in criminal violence (or suicide). But those correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared across the world."

The media and political class seem to imply that mass shootings such as Newtown and crime in general is on the rise, is that true?

No, not in Canada anyway, the graph above (from here) clearly shows that crime did rise until the early 1990's, but has been falling steadily ever since. The severity of crime is down in almost every jurisdiction in Canada, and crime rates in 2011, the most recent year for data, is the lowest in 40 years. The reasons probably to do with aging boomers.

To appease critics in Ontario, where we already have stringent gun controls, Premier McGuinty recently announced a locked door policy for schools. About time, I always lock my door at home, don't the children in government schools deserve the same consideration?

So how about the US, are things just getting worse and worse there? Is crime on the rise? Are shootings an every day occurrence? Watch this short video for an interesting analysis, you may be surprised.

Postscript: Obviously this is a complex and controversial issue, there is no simple single answer. I have some experience with firearms, but not nearly enough, certainly not as much as I would like. But I found a blogger who is very experienced and has an opinion that I can support, here.

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