Is America’s popular culture the cause [of gun violence]? This is highly unlikely, as largely the same culture exists in other rich countries. Youth in England and Wales, for example, are exposed to virtually identical cultural influences as in the United States. Yet the rate of gun homicide there is a tiny fraction of ours. The Japanese are at the cutting edge of the world of video games. Yet their gun homicide rate is close to zero! Why? Britain has tough gun laws. Japan has perhaps the tightest regulation of guns in the industrialized world.As Zakaria pointed out, the previous assault weapons law in the U.S. that expired in '04 had a large number of loopholes and exceptions. This is what allows the NRA to claim such laws don't work. They haven't worked because they have been too weak.
The data in social science are rarely this clear. They strongly suggest that we have so much more gun violence than other countries because we have far more permissive laws than others regarding the sale and possession of guns.
After reading LaPierre's remarks, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that it is going to be difficult if not impossible to carry on a reasonable conversation with him and his organization. He wants to put armed guards in every school in the country, he hires a former secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security to create a so-called Model School Shields Program, he wants to turn schools into fortresses. He would rather do this than deprive the four million members of the NRA of their "right" to possess what he called "civilian semi-automatic firearms."
LaPierre claimed that we have no time to debate legislation that "won't work". But it is disingenuous to imply that Hutchinson's task force is going to come up with its model plan tomorrow. Hutchinson, whose remarks followed LaPierre's, made a point of saying that he would consult with all sorts of experts and so on. That takes time. So the notion that legislation would be too slow, while the NRA's task force will be speedy, I find dubious. I suppose, as a short-term 'solution', some schools may want to hire armed security. But the real solution is much tougher gun regulation. Australia did it. It worked. There is no reason the U.S. cannot do it if the political will is there.
Update: Recent conversation at Crooked Timber has underlined for me how little I know about guns. For ex., is it true, as a commenter at CT says, that virtually all guns in use today are semi-automatic, so that an effective, 'non-cosmetic' ban on semi-automatics is equivalent to a ban on all guns? I don't know.
P.s. For those here who may be new to Blogger and its ways: "No comments" below the post does not mean comments are forbidden; it means no one has commented yet. There usually are not many commenters here; however, for the record, I will delete any obscene, libelous comments or those that I deem to be obvious trolling. Disagreement is welcome, but I may decide not to answer particular comments or get into an extended debate.