Political Animal


December 14, 2012 2:54 PM Facts Behind the Tragedies

By Ed Kilgore

I’m watching CNN now, and it’s very clear the initial reports of minimal casualties at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, were grievously erroneous. Local police are confirming 27 dead, including 18 children; no reports yet on the injured.

Remember: This is an elementary school. One report suggested the shootings began in the kindergarten section of the school. Aside from the ineffable tragedy of such young lives lost, you have to figure the traumatization of the survivors will be extraordinary.

I doubt this time we’ll hear many claims that the victims should have themselves been packing guns.

There’s little to say in a situation like this, but do want to pass along some facts posted by Ezra Klein:

Mother Jones has tracked and mapped every shooting spree in the last three decades. “Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii,” they found. And in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally….
The Harvard Injury Control Research Center assessed the literature on guns and homicide and found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders. This holds true whether you’re looking at different countries or different states….
Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive.

Now I’m not much in the mood right now for a “debate” over gun laws or much of anything else. But when the time for that comes, Ezra is exactly right on a key point:

\When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.

Now’s a time for reflection, prayer and sympathy. But when it’s time to think, nothing should be placed arbitrarily off the table.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • ruviana on December 14, 2012 3:17 PM:

    Sorry Ed, they're already saying that teachers and even children should have been armed.

  • Quaker in a Basement on December 14, 2012 3:18 PM:

    But when itís time to think, nothing should be placed arbitrarily off the table.

    OK. But if we want this conversation to become productive, we have to acknowledge the existence of the Second Amendment and the current Supreme Court's interpretation of its meaning, like it or not.

    With that as a starting point, can we finally talk about what we can do about mentally ill people shooting kindergartners?

  • OKDem on December 14, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Sadly the gun worshipers, let us be clear that guns have become one the "Christian" Right's false idols, contended that the children and instructors in Sweden should have been packing.

    Their idolatry of metal phallic symbols will be no less obscene this time.

  • gdb on December 14, 2012 3:37 PM:

    Sorry Quacker, but that's kinda like saying now that the Dred Scott case is decided, let's talk about how we prevent the acceptance of slavery in Maine-- or manybe Canada. And sorry Ed, but now is the time to use emotion to advantage-- just like opponents of gun control do. This country's gun laws really are insane.. and all too many, including the Kilgore's and the Quakers, are explicitly or implicity cowed by the aggressively insane.ely insane.
    And they don't like to hear it or admit it.

  • Quaker in a Basement on December 14, 2012 3:44 PM:

    that's kinda like saying now that the Dred Scott case is decided, let's talk about how we prevent the acceptance of slavery in Maine

    No, it's not kinda like that at all. It's much more like saying Dred Scott is decided and we're going to have to deal with that if we want to change things. We don't get to pretend otherwise.

  • DJ on December 14, 2012 3:52 PM:

    Yes, we need to discuss the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court's recent interpretation of it. Also, the fact that they got it wrong:


  • CharlieM on December 14, 2012 4:00 PM:

    Screw the Supremes. With regards to the 2nd amendment, let's start with how the founding fathers got it wrong.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 14, 2012 4:04 PM:

    It really is a pissin' pity that we Americans weren't thoroughly scandalized and shamed into getting tighter gun control laws after what was the first of these random massacres and shooting sprees. Seriously, this is yet another shooting this year alone, never mind the last three or four decades. I feel personally ashamed that these things should happen on what seems like a quarterly basis and I'm only absorbing these events like an action movie or something.

    But what's really strange is that whenever I watch BBC tv show or movie that takes place in the UK and I see someone brandishing a firearm I immediately think: He shouldn't have that gun. Guns are sooooo illegal over there. That's really BAD.

    I only wish I (all of us, really) could be that sensitive to reports of gun crimes in America...

  • maggie on December 14, 2012 4:05 PM:

    my only argument would be this part:"...and more mental illness were not correlated". Countries with universal health coverage that includes mental illness, would have more accurate numbers on the mentally ill and it would be more likely to be treated. We have no idea what our rate of mental illness is because even if you have insurance here, it often excludes mental health. There maybe in fact be a correlation if you look at rates of treated mental illness vs untreated, rather than the overall rate of mental illnes.

  • emjayay on December 14, 2012 4:06 PM:

    OK: Surely you aren't suggesting that some Americans, having been on the losing side of globalization and the financial sector golden shower party of the past decades, are maybe clinging to their guns and religion?

  • POed Lib on December 14, 2012 4:09 PM:

    The issue is not guns. The issue is "What kind of guns?" How can one person with 2 guns kill almost 30 people?

    High capacity magazines, which can be quickly changed, is how. This is how it was done in VTU. Aurora. Clackamas Mall.

    High-cap magazines. WE NEED TO BAN HIGH-CAP MAGAZINES.

    Nothing over 6 rounds should be legal. And all should require a screwdriver to change them.

  • Richard W. Crews on December 14, 2012 4:11 PM:

    There are several issues to be faced.
    BNack in the "good old days", the 50's, losers would go crawl in a corner - maybe killing themselves. Now, with all the self-inflated self-importance, these losers want to make strangers share their pain. There is just way too much ego in this country - and it is reflected in that Republican nonesense of the "rugged individual."
    This country needs to see more commonality and community. Everything counts. ObamaCare is an encompassing trhing, and Republican fighting words are divisive and builds bad ideas. Little, peripheral, but contributing.
    We need to limit gun capacity. Anyone who backs gun ownership as freedom from governmental tyranny is NUTS. Anyone with a career, a mortgage, a sewer, a wife/family can never face up to the government. Once that's realized, then large capacity guns aren't needed for home defense or hunting. So let's open up that argument.

  • Ronald on December 14, 2012 4:13 PM:

    three quick points
    1) deep sympathies for the families and especially the poor children for whom this will be a nightmare for years to come
    2) The Constitution reads 'A well-regulated militia, being necessary...'. It doesn't say 'a free for all with guns, being necessary...'. Time to implement the Constitution as it was meant to be.
    3) Beyond the talk about guns, we really need to have a discussion in this country about how the mentally ill are helped. With almost no health care coverage, expensive treatments out of reach of most people, and a serious lack of help for adults with mental disabilities, it is a recipe for more tragedies.

  • Govt Skeptic on December 14, 2012 4:35 PM:

    "Now I'm not much in the mood right now for a 'debate' over gun laws or much of anything else."
    And thus this tragedy will pass without any meaningful action following it. If we want healthy, lasting, meaningful change, the time to act is NOW. Because you know what the NRA is doing today? Framing their response and spin, and initiating focus groups to see what works best.
    Liberals suck at getting things done because we have feelings, and so instead of capitalizing on something beyond our control to AVERT the next massacre, we'll take a day (week, month) for our feelings. The NRA is the enemy. You hit your enemy when they are weak, regardless of how you feel about anything else in the world. And you keep hitting them until they stop moving. End of story.

  • Prof B in LA on December 14, 2012 4:38 PM:

    Oh, the kindergartners shouldn't (necessarily) have been allowed to pack heat, but

    "If only there was ONE adult in the school who was allowed to carry a weapon the chances would have been great that the death toll would be significantly less, if existent at all."


    "Had one teacher or janitor been armed (as we are allegedly allowed under the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution)it could have been a different story."

    You can always count on the wingers.


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