I probably should be working right now, but this was enough to drag me back to the soapbox for a day. Earlier yesterday, I ran across a flier from the Asheville (North Carolina) Tea Party, who'd decided it'd be a swell idea to hold a raffle for an AR-15 assault rifle that's nearly identical to the weapon used to slaughter 20 toddlers and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
If you were planning a killing spree of your own, worry not. They're also raffling a pistol so that you can finish yourself off quickly and easily when the police are just around the corner. (Do your country a favor and kill yourself first, please.)
That lead me to write a short and sarcastic story that needed a news image from the tragedy to contrast the cropped image of the flier I'd also prepared. The one I'd found was ironically an op-ed attack on gun regulation, purporting to reveal five mythical causes to mass shootings.
That ridiculous rant ended up being far more interesting than a violence obsessed militia hiding under the cover political advocacy. The first "myth" isn't even a myth, it's just an argument that gun regulation "won’t stop shootings any more than banning marijuana will stop people from smoking", based on claim that Israel has virtually no gun violence because "soldiers walk around with guns everywhere."
Is that true?
It wasn't likely just by a roll of the dice. Very few countries have gun laws as liberal as the United States, and Israelis in particular have no great fear of strong government regulation and intervention in the interest of public safety and health. The fact that Israel has a universal health care program with a legal requirement to carry insurance should have been a hint for other things.
A moment's research lead me to this article in The Jerusalem Post by Ben Hartman. If Hartman's description of things in Israel are anything close to accurate, and I have no reason to doubt him, Israel looks to be the perfect role model for strict and effective gun regulation. While private firearm ownership is allowed, the requirements to legally own a gun are many and comprehensive.
* You must be at least 21 to own a firearm
* Be a resident for at least three years
* Pass a physical and mental health exam
* Take courses and pass an exam at a licensed range
* Pass a criminal background check
* Pass further exams once every three years
* Beginning in 2013, must affirmatively prove that the firearm is safely stored at home
After that, you get 50 rounds of personal ammunition for life. If you use it up, that's it. You can get some for practice at a range but that's separate from personal ammunition and you can't take it home. Concealed carry permits exist, but hardly anyone has one. Same deal with hunting permits.
Israel has never had a non-religious or non-political rampage killing involving firearms. The total number of gun deaths in Israel in 2008 (most recent figures) was 143, or 1.96 per 100,000 people. Gun homicides in 2008 were 61, or 0.83 per 100,000.
For comparison, gun homicides in the United States in 2008 was 9,484, or 3.12 per 100,000.
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Megan McArdle believes there's absolutely nothing we can do to prevent these rampage killings, even though most countries have far fewer and some don't have any at all. Her suggestion is to have people rush the shooter, because having a classroom full of toddlers to run at a man spraying them with a semi-automatic assault rifle sounds like a great idea.
The Republican-controlled Michigan legislature passed a bill the day before the Sandy Hook massacre to allow anyone to carry a gun into hospitals, public schools, and churches. The state's Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, vetoed it this afternoon.
Speaking of Snyder, his job approval rating has plummeted with the people he was elected to serve after signing an anti-middle class "right to work" law. PPP tested four potential democratic opponents against Snyder -- his term expires in 2014 -- and he lost to all of them. Snyder's approval rating "has sunk to 38 percent, down a net 28 points since November." This shouldn't come as a surprise, it's what happens when arrogant and out of touch politicians shove their personal political agenda down the throats of their constituents instead of doing what they were elected to do:
A majority of Michigan voters feel favorably toward labor unions and oppose the right-to-work law, PPP found, and a referendum on the law would lose, 40-to-49.