We all grieve over the senseless loss of life in Connecticut this past week. Our instinct to find answers that might prevent another such event is understandable and reflects our highest motives. But in our haste, we quickly dust off our previous theories, like still more gun control laws and still stiffer penalties for gun violence. Let's take a breath. Let's take stock. Let's first be sure that we're looking at the problem with a true adult perspective.
First, despite such headlines, amplified by 24 hour electronic media, violent crime is going down in America, and has been for almost 20 years according to the FBI. Meanwhile, Chicago could well end 2012 with over 500 homicides, but since they're dispersed in time, relatively little attention is paid. Who agonizes for them? (New York City had 209 murders in 2011.)
Let's look elsewhere in the world. Over 2,000 Hamas rockets have been lobbed into Israel this year. Whether poor technology or poor marksmanship, they have done relatively little damage, even though some schools have been hit repeatedly. A dozen Newtowns could have happened.
Let's look back in time, particularly the century just completed. Wars and revolutions took well over 100 million lives, many millions of those horrifically so. Despite terrorism like 9/11 and the actions of madmen like at Newtown, it's hard to imagine the 21st Century's toll being anyway close to the 20th, or for that matter, the 19th, the 18th, or many before that.
Let's look a little closer. Most of the 20th Century's toll ended with World War II, the genocide of Mao Tse Tung in China the exception, which ended about 1970. The dawn of the age of mass destruction weaponry seems to have ushered in relative peace. We speak of thousands of casualties now, not millions. The threat is ever with us, maybe even increasing, but so far mutual assured destruction continues to be a very intimidating deterrent. The bomb has kept the peace.
Let's look at Chicago again. Two facts stand out as possible explanations, the first being its nationally infamous corruption, a.k.a. The Chicago Way, meaning your odds of getting caught are lower. But another is that Illinois is the only state that prohibits concealed carry, meaning the odds of a victim shooting back are lower. Where would you rather commit armed robbery - Chicago or Dallas?
And this takes us back to Newtown again. And Aurora. And Columbine. And the other "gun free" zones.
By all means let's have a discussion. But let's not childishly pretend that criminals and crazy people will obediently and rationally comply with new controls or fear new consequences. We've tried this already. Instead, let us consider what does appear to be working, to have a discussion worthy of the innocent we again mourn.
Cross-posted and comments welcome at Speed Gibson.