Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | December 17, 2012

Window of Opportunity

Oh noes; we can’t talk about gun control so soon after another massacre! It’s unseemly. It’s disrespectful to the victims. It’s too hard.

Tell me this: why isn’t it “too hard” and “unseemly” to talk to a patient who’s just had a heart attack about losing weight, increasing his activity level, and smoking cessation? Because it’s not. On the contrary, it’s a well known window of opportunity when motivation for change is, momentarily, peaking. Seize it or lose it.

Too soon, they say; too soon. Well then, when?

Not now, they say. Not now.


The real answer, I fear, is that they want to wait until the emotion dissipates, tempers cool, and the national attention has moved back to (or over) the fiscal cliff. Just long enough for people to forget just enough of how they felt that day when yet more innocents were blown away so as to effectively change nothing.

That’s what they really want.

“The only problem with gun laws in this country is that there are too many of them”, they cry. Lax, piecemeal enforcement enhances the illusion that “all we have to do is enforce the laws we have” and everything will be fine.

“We need better mental health care.” Yes, we do. But we also need to get the guns away from the mentally ill. Talk about your false dichotomies.

To everyone taking umbrage at the label of “terrorist”, here is my simple challenge:

  1. Do you support a ban on the sale of high capacity magazines?
  2. How about a ban on hollow-point bullets?
  3. What about banning fully automatic weapons (only useful for killing people or to really crappy marksmen and hunters)?

If so, wonderful, we’re all on the same page. If not, let’s look at what you really want.

You want more guns. You want enough people to be packing so that no one will dare mess with anyone else. In essence, you want people to be afraid.

What the hell do you think is meant by the word “terrorism“?

Congratulations. You’ve succeeded.



  1. Great!!!!

    Sent from my iPod

  2. As part of the “other” side that you are inveighing against here, I’ll just point out that from your prescribed solution…
    1. Been done before. Do you know what happened to murder and gun violence rates in association with its implementation and subsequent revocation?
    2. Been done. Travel to New Jersey much? Do you know how much more deadly “hollow point” bullets are as compared to solid bullets? Would the children in those classrooms or movie goers in Aurora have fared better with Geneva Convention approved munitions?
    3. Done. For closing in on a century. When you speak of automatic weapons when you mean semi-automatic weapons, you lose some of the respect of the “other” side, because it belies your ignorance of something which you are using some pretty confrontational language to attack. Attacks from ignorance aren’t well received, regardless of the setting.

    Everyone is disgusted by what happened. And there are things that could be done that most (but never all) gun owners and gun ownership rights proponents would join with pro-gun control groups to support that could make some small, mostly symbolic differences in gun violence. Magazine caps? Gun safety course requirements? True background check for every gun purchase? Sure, I’m in. But in the absence of a complete gun ban, which will never happen in the US (and wouldn’t be especially effective, see Kingdom, United), there will continue to be gun violence in the US. If the laws re: murder aren’t enough to preclude this type of action, gun laws aren’t going to be much of a roadblock either. I wish there were a solution to this type of event, but there isn’t a solution that gets us from where we are now to a place where no parent has to ever consider again that there is a microscopic chance that a sociopath won’t wage violence on those whom they value most. I’m not a terrorist, although I’ve used violence against actual terrorists. I just believe that there are constitutional and practical limits to what the federal and state governments can do to insulate citizens from insanity. Pace that, it doesn’t follow that I am therefore insane or a terrorist. I also don’t empathize less with the loss which has occurred. I think it’s an absolutely acceptable time to discuss gun control; I just feel that that discussion is not going to result in what I am assuming is your preferred outcome and, like most, not willing to engage in an actual dialog when we start from the position that I am morally inferior due to having arrived at a different perspective of what gun control is capable of achieving. Kind of like how you are able to disagree with Gawande re: medicine as restaurant chain without feeling that the increase in morbidity and mortality such changes could potentially cause make Atul a murderer.

    Older Med Student/Current Toddler Parent/Former Deliverer of Violence to Terrorists

  3. OMS: thank you. We’ve already proven ourselves (as a nation) incapable of rational discussion on almost any topic in the heat of the moment. That’s why “now is not the time.” Anyone with a reasonable grasp on reality will acknowledge that there is simply no way to remove all guns from US society, no matter how much we’d all like to do so. Passing additional laws in an effort to do so will only restrict the ability of law-abiders to protect themselves form law-breakers. That’s not a good solution either.

  4. Consider the cost of gun violence. With America facing a serious financial crisis, gun violence needs also to be addressed from a financial crisis perspective:

    Gun violence impacts society in countless ways: medical costs, costs of the criminal justice system, security precautions such as metal detectors, and reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence. These impacts are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually (Cook, 2000).

    U.S. lifetime medical costs for gunshot injuries total an estimated $2.3 billion (Cook, 1999). That’s over $6 million dollars a day.

    U.S. taxpayers pay for almost half ($1.1 billion or 49 percent) of lifetime medical costs for gunshot injuries (Cook, 1999).

    Gunshot injuries due to assaults account for 74% of total lifetime medical costs (Cook, 1999).

    A study of gunshot victims in Alameda County, CA, found that between 75 and 93 percent of the gun violence victims in the hospital’s treatment area were uninsured (Dozier, p. 282 and p. 284).

  5. OMS and PJ: You are misconstruing the emotion of my posts. You have already stolen my country from me at the point of your guns, and I am under no illusions of ever getting it back. I *know* meaningful control of firearms is not possible in this country; it is from the depths of my despair at this futility that I lash out. You are just rubbing my nose in it.

    Have a nice evening.

  6. RS – What would be the real costs of a confiscation and surveillance regime capable of zeroing out gun violence? And which of your $100b costs ascribed to gun violence would be reduced due to a gun-free society? The vast majority of those costs look like I could blame them on violence and crime more broadly, even in a gun-free world. The cost to society of incarceration, mental anguish, metal detectors and the like would not change one cent (and would quite possibly increase, but that argument is for another as-yet-hypothetical day) in an America with no legal private citizen gun ownership. Although I appreciate the point you are making, I don’t think you will get much traction in the marketplace of ideas to say, in essence, I would very much like to overturn your Supreme Court decided constitutional rights so that we can spend less money on the health care of uninsured secondary to crime-related violence.

  7. NAD –
    I mean to rub your nose in nothing; my point was to focus you on framing your argument (a legitimate one as far as I’m concerned, that gun violence is a bad thing) towards something constructive. I haven’t stolen your country, and the despair you feel has nothing whatsoever to do with me. I understand your emotion well; I just wanted you to understand the emotions of the hypothetical terrorist you were lashing out against, as I presume you wish your thoughts and emotions to affect a target audience. You want those who support private gun ownership to decide that less gun ownership would be a good thing. I respect you based on reading your blog for a few years now and want you to have a little more success with communicating with a group of people whom it appears you have little to no understanding. If you didn’t wish to communicate, I assume you would have written your feelings on a piece of paper and then burned it. I wish you solace, regardless.

  8. One thing, for the sake of accuracy: fully automatic weapons have been banned in the US for a very long time by the National Firearm Act.

  9. Well, while you’re lashing out in despair and calling people who respected you and considered you a friend terrorists, let me reply to your questions and highlight some of the monumental ignorance you display:

    1. No, I do not support a ban on high capacity magazines. You do. Good for you.

    Therefore, given that your preferred magazine capacity to be X, then X-1 is an acceptable number of murders to you before reloading.

    “Hey everybody, Lucy says it’s okay to gun down 9 people, as long as it’s not 10! Or heck, shoot as many as you want, as long as it’s not more than 9 per magazine!” Somebody go get more magazines, let’s go on an officially sanctioned Dino Doc shooting spree!”

    See, you’re not the only one who can make incendiary statements based upon stupid assumptions when you’re angry.

    2. No, I do not support a hollow point bullets ban. They are the most efficient means of transferring energy and causing massive tissue damage. If I am lawfully defending myself against an attacker, I want to inflict all the tissue damage I can, thank you very much.

    And yes, that means I am much more likely to kill my attacker. There’s nothing quite like killing your attacker to make him stop, is there?

    But by all means, do tell me of all the horrors you see from hollow-point bullets in your practice. I mean, you must be a subject matter expert, what with all the horrific bullet wounds that come into your clinic, right?

    3. Fully automatic weapons HAVE been banned from private ownership since 1934. Even ownership transfer of those already extant requires a VERY thorough background check, an additional $200 fee for each weapon, and so damned many hoops and hurdles to jump through that they are all but unavailable to anyone but wealthy collectors.

    And they are virtually NEVER used in crime. That’s not redneck terrorist NRA propaganda, that is easily verifiable crime statistics.

    So yeah, we’ve had your fully-automatic weapons ban in place since before you ever drew breath on this Earth.

    You trumpet your ignorance when you post things like this, yet you want us to treat you as rational in your demands? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

    I’ve offered in the past to teach you about guns, even to take you shooting so that at the very least, your objection to guns is based upon a principled stand by a person knowledgeable of the issues.

    You declined.

    You don’t want to know what you’re talking about. You prefer to wallow in unreasoning fear.

    Go, then. Live in terror, doctor. But remember that it’s your choice, not one imposed on you by gun owners.

  10. They let you practice medicine despite such obvious willful ignorance?

    Your position is untenable, irrational and incorrect. Fix yourself.

  11. I do not support a ban on high capacity magazines. The number of cases where any particular magazine capacity is relevant is tiny, although sometimes emotional–and in most cases high capacity benefits defense more than offense.

    …and I would prefer that criminals use extremely high capacity magazines (Ideally cheap ones) because they are far more prone to jamming.

    Almost all police use hollowpoint bullets, for very good reasons–they are less likely to overpenetrate and go through something to hit an innocent, and less likely to ricochet and hit an innocent. They also incapacitate quicker and more effectively, reducing the number of rounds necessary to stop an aggressor, again reducing the risk to innocents.

    Fully automatic weapons are a red herring–Legally owned fully automatic weapons have been used in maybe 3 crimes in the last 80 years, none of them mass shootings, none of them where the fully automatic part mattered. The media tends to misrepresent semiautomatic (one shot per trigger pull) weapons that look like machine guns as automatic.

    If mass shootings overwhelmingly occur in places where guns are already banned, does it make sense to continue banning guns in those places? Mass shooters invariably stop when confronted by another gun–surrender, killed or suicide. Last week a mall shooter near my brother’s home was confronted by a good guy with a carry license. Good guy didn’t get a clear shot without too much risk to others, so he retreated–but the next shot by the murderer was suicide, before he had enough victims to be officially a mass murderer. The story was in the local news, but nowhere near as covered nationally as the shooting itself.

    There is a huge moral difference between offensive and defensive violence. Offensive violence-initiating force or threatening force for your gain is immoral. Appropriate defensive force, or the threat of defense is moral.

    I don’t want everyone to carry, but I want decent law abiding people to have the ability. Do you really think that pointing a gun at an active shooter is terrorism? Something that should be discouraged?

  12. Thank you for having the courage to write this. More of us need to step up and speak out in spite of our fear of those with guns. I am tired of the same old tired arguments against real gun control (obviously we do not really have that)! My question to those who carry and use guns is this, “Why do you need these weapons and for what purpose do you use them?” A gun has one purpose: to wound or kill!

  13. Ambulance Driver wrote:
    “Fully automatic weapons HAVE been banned from private ownership since 1934. Even ownership transfer of those already extant requires a VERY thorough background check, an additional $200 fee for each weapon, and so damned many hoops and hurdles to jump through that they are all but unavailable to anyone but wealthy collectors.

    And they are virtually NEVER used in crime. That’s not redneck terrorist NRA propaganda, that is easily verifiable crime statistics.

    So yeah, we’ve had your fully-automatic weapons ban in place since before you ever drew breath on this Earth.”

    So what you’re saying is, the ban worked.

  14. Anon @ 3:07 –
    Yes, that ban worked by banning a type of weapon that not many private citizens possessed in 1934, and thus had little political support or implementation difficulty, and has been followed by law-abiding gun owners since. I assume you would like a similar ban on all firearms, of which that set of circumstances is not true (lots of them are possessed by voters as we speak.) The constitutional validity of the right to private ownership of those weapons has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. I’ll leave the ball in your court to name a coalition of 38 states that would en bloc vote to amend the constitution to reflect your desired (again, assumed) reading of the 2nd amendment. Something some of us are attempting is to frame the debate within the confines of what is politically feasible, so that a dialog can actually take place. I want less kids to get murdered. Banning what, exactly, would get us there? And if your response is let’s ban guns and then less kids would die, my response is let’s ban car speeds over 35 mph, swimming pools and alcohol, three things that each on their own kill a hell of a lot more kids. And they’re all unnecessary. It’s silly argument, but when debaters open the door to silliness, the other side might step through it as well.

  15. Why do so many people use a non sequitur argument (i.e., why not ban swimming pools?).. Obviously, there has not been any progress on banning semi-automatic weapons despite there being no compeilling reason for ordinary citizens possessing them. We as a nation must come to some agreement on gun control! Too many people have lost their lives….

  16. JPB –
    The fact that you don’t feel that there is a compelling reason for ordinary citizens to possess semi-automatic weapons isn’t the argument-ender you believe it to be. The citizenry (via polling and ownership statistics), the courts (see DC v. Heller) and legislature (pending legislation?) all seem to indicate that I do have a compelling reason for possessing whatever legal firearms I might. I used a non-sequitur before as a response to what I consider a non-sequitur. It literally does not follow that since we don’t want kids to needlessly die, we must therefore ban the private ownership of (for the sake of argument) semi-automatic guns. What constitutional right to swimming pools do we have, in light of the fact that ~3x more children die at the hands of swimming pool-related drowning as compared to gun violence? Don’t we care about children? That argument is absurd, I agree; please understand that to the other side of this debate, your desire to ban legal gun ownership is likewise absurd. What else could explain the reason “…there have not been any progress on banning semi-automatic weapons”?

  17. The list of things people are free to own with no compelling reason to do so would take a ream of paper to list.

    The burden of proof is not on me to demonstrate why I should own something, the burden of proof is upon you to provide conpelling reasons why I shouldn’t.

    And the fact that 0.000001% of the possessors of that object occasionally commit a heinous crime with it is not a compelling reason.

    So if you’re going to make specious arguments against the ownership of an object despite the absence of a compelling reason, prepare to justify your ownership of a legion of other objects someone else doesn’t think you need.

    Your entire argument is a non sequitur in itself.

  18. JPB,

    The bottom line is that my rights are worth the lives of a few innocents.

    Evil shit happens, get over it. None of what you propose will change that fact, so stop pretending that it will.

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  19. So what you’re saying is, the ban worked.

    They quit making Plymouths in 2001. Since then many fewer people have died in Plymouth accidents–How many lives would have been saved if they had quit making them sooner?

    Of course we have less machine gun violence, or assault weapon violence, or purple gun violence if we restrict purple assault machine guns–but do we have less violence?

  20. AD, you made great fun of Lucy for supporting a ban on high-capacity magazines. Let’s look at it from the other side. “Hey, everybody, AD says that since we can’t stop you from shooting 6 people, we may as well let you shoot 30. Or 100. What difference does it make?”

    I googled “tackled gunman reload” and “tackled shooter reload” and quickly came up with four incidents where bystanders stopped a shooting that way, including a school shooting in Colorado and the attack on Gabby Giffords in Tucson. If the gunman has to reload, it gives potential victims a small window of opportunity to escape or take action.

    I googled several terms along the lines of “bystander shot gunman” and the only results I came up with were cases in which bystanders were killed or wounded in a shooting, including the case last summer in which a man killed his former boss near the Empire State Building and the police wounded 9 bystanders while trying to take him down. There’s an article in Slate today for which the author was apparently more successful with his search terms than I was; he reports 3 cases in which bystanders managed to shoot a gunman, generally when the gunman was trying to escape. In all three cases, the gunman had already stopped firing when he was shot. It’s not at all clear we’d be safer from shooters if more of us were armed.

    I’m not anti-gun. I grew up in a fairly rural area and my brother and I plinked our share of cans. As an adult I enjoy target shooting, although I don’t own a gun. However, Slate published another article this week stating that as the number of gun related deaths in this country gradually rises and the number of vehicular deaths gradually falls, gun deaths are now only about 10% behind vehicular deaths. It seems to me that “Nothing can be done” may not be the best approach. It’s easy to say the Newtown shooting represents a mental health problem, and maybe that’s true of all mass shootings of strangers. But the majority of gun deaths don’t come from mass shootings; they come from ordinary crime, family violence, and accidents.

    So the ball’s in your court. What do you suggest?

  21. HeathJ.
    “The bottom line is that my rights are worth the lives of a few innocents.”
    Really? REALLY!?
    Let me rephrase what you just said – “It doesn’t matter how many children die as long as I get to keep my weapons.”
    I’m trying not to classify you as a monster, but it’s pretty difficult.

  22. Yes, really.

    Take it however you want. You didn’t bother to read the rest anyway.

    And you probably would consider me a monster. I actually took an oath to defend the constitution you presume to shit all over.

  23. Brighid: Last week, there was a mall shooting in Clackamas Oregon, where my brother lives. He sent a local news article interviewing a carry license holder who pointed his gun, but didn’t have a clear shot because of bystanders The very next shot by the murderer was suicide. I haven’t seen the story of the license holder in any nationwide mainstream media.

    Obviously this could be coincidence–except in every case I’ve ever read about, the murders stop (often with suicide) when confronted with a gun. When Jeanne Assam confronted the New Life church shooter he committed suicide (or completed his suicide…) with his own gun. Media portrayed her as a security guard, when she was a church member.

    The other issue is that the vastly overwhelming majority of public shootings with 3 or more victims are where guns are not allowed. I’ve found either 1 or 2 in the past 50 years, depending on how the New Life shooting is defined. You don’t get as many law abiding armed bystanders where guns are illegal–which is quite likely the reason mass murderers pick those places.

    RG: Without media coverage these suicide/mass murders would not be as common. How about a new law that forbids publishing stories deemed likely to result in copycat crimes?

  24. JPB: Tell me what would you have had me do when a co-worker was stalking me in the early ’90’s? I went to law enforcement, they said I must have encouraged it. I went to supervisors, they said he’s a ‘good ole boy who doesn’t mean any harm’. At that time when confronted by law enforcement or others in authority the statistics were the offender would either stop the behavior or escalate. 50/50 odds. I’m not a gambler. I took the necessary steps to protect myself. I didn’t have any illusions that I could call 911 and be on the phone with a sympathetic dispatcher while a deputy came to rescue me.

    So unless you are willing to die to protect me from someone, who likely does not follow the rule of law, you will not take away my right to protect myself.

  25. Tass…you shot him?

  26. R: He was killed in a single vehicle accident. When I heard the news I sat and cried with relief. It was over. I somehow doubt you will ever know that same kind of fear and utter helplessness.

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