Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The ultimate homicide

David Brooks writes:
I don't see any guns! Image from etsy.
Suppose you wanted to write a novel about a homicide. You'd want to describe the killer's neighborhood and family, of course, and his school—I say "his" school, because you'd probably want your book to have a male murderer, since most murderers are men, and fairly young, so their school is important; and his culture, because murderers tend to belong to a particular culture, right? They're rarely just regular people. And you'd have to describe his gang, you know how murderers always belong to gangs.
And in the same way you'd want to describe how he embarked on his criminal career and how many times he's been arrested and how many times he's been jailed and how he gets along with his probation officer. I mean, you can't really have a murderer if he doesn't have a probation officer, can you?
In other words, you'd want to do what I did with my novel about marriage, "The Social Animal", where I created the characters by adding up all the most [jump]
typical things I could think of, so my Harold and Erica would represent a kind of Everycouple, and carry a universal meaning, like the Ultimate Marriage. Only my editor kept saying this isn't a novel, it's a sociological treatise, and so I finally went with that, and it must have been okay, because they're still getting thirteen bucks for it on Kindle. But in the same way you would have the pattern, or profile, of all the factors that go into making up the Ultimate Homicide.
Over the past quarter century in America, it looks as if our authorities were reading that novel, because they have locked onto just about every factor in the profile except for one. Police have massed in the more murderous neighborhoods where kids from murderous families go to murderous schools, and they've focused on the murderous genders at the murderous ages, and so forth, and they've jailed practically everybody they could find that fits the description, and laid off all the probation officers too. You don't really need probation officers anyway, unless you're going to let all those criminals out of jail, and that would be crazy.
From Guns of Icarus.
There's just one element they've neglected, which is the gun thing.* Because guns are involved in a lot of murders. More than hammers. Not every conservative is going to admit to that, but I will, because that's the kind of honest, plain-spoken, clubbable conservative I am. Also, because it doesn't really make any difference. Maybe they did leave guns out of the equation, but they still managed to reduce homicide rates by incredible amounts.
Now the debate on violence has started up all over again, and while you'd think people would take advantage of the moment to give themselves that pat on the back and talk about all the things we've been doing right. But no, all anybody wants to talk about is guns, guns, guns. Frankly, it's baffling.** All I can think is that it must have something to do with Americans being material determinists. They see a piece of lead traveling through somebody's brain and they just don't understand that without metaphysics that lead wouldn't be going anywhere.
And then American experience shows that gun control just doesn't work.*** And it was found that the Brady bill only stops suicides.**** And the Center for Disease Control discovered that there was no evidence one way or another.***** So please, let's by all means try having universal background checks, although they won't work. But for heaven's sake let's remember what does work, which is what has worked in the past, which is going after Baltimore drug dealers, not West Virginia gun shows.******
*For example, according to one highly trustworthy source,
Policies at the federal, state, and local levels have attempted to address gun violence through a variety of methods, including restricting firearms purchases by youths and other "at-risk" populations, setting waiting periods for firearm purchases, establishing gun "buy-back" programs, law enforcement and policing strategies, stiff sentencing of gun law violators, education programs for parents and children, and community-outreach programs. (Wikipedia)
Of course that's just a bunch of—well, government. Congress, on the other hand, in its majesty, has taken to ignoring the gun thing as hard as it can, even to the point of shoving it sort of violently out of the picture:
However, federal legislation also aims to prohibit intentional interference of weapon sales to criminals domestically and insurgents abroad by prohibition of ATF and local law enforcement from access to digital databases for the purpose of idenfitication of the place of sale for weapons recovered at crime scenes.  
**Could be because the newspapers have been so full, coincidentally, of stories about non-dark, non–gang member murderers without criminal records or probation officers shooting large numbers of people dead, many of them six or seven years old, in nice exurban out of the way places in Connecticut, Colorado, or Arizona, the very kinds of places in which Brooks and his little pal Professor Kotkin see America's commodity-society future.

***Wait a minute, two paragraphs ago you said it hadn't even been tried.

****And why on earth would anybody be concerned about that? Anyway suicide is only a fraction of total gun deaths in the US—two thirds, to be exact.

*****There was no evidence because Republican-led legislation denied funds for anybody who wanted to research the question.

******Jeez, how do you even do this? Do you realize what you're saying? That gun control is flawed because it discriminates against white murderers in favor of black ones? Are you trying to... Oh, never mind.
Little Conspirators. From Etsy.

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