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The freedom to kill April 16, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.

With bodies of the victims of the umpteenth shooting still warm in the campus of Virginia Tech University, what does Dana Perino -spokesperson of the White House- find useful to say, to reassure americans ? Worry not my fellow citizens, your right to carry guns will not be touched. Only, make sure you obey all laws.

And she might be right – what many of her countrymen who elected her boss fear most is not the occasional shooting, which always happens to somebody else. No, they fear to lose the right to caress the silvery, shining metal of the toy they keep in the drawer, or to the pitch black finish of the rifle they polish during Easter holidays.

32 died in Virginia Tech today. Quo usque tandem abutere, NRA, patientia nostra ? How many more deaths will it take ? I think a lot more than 32. 

My thought and sorrow today goes of course to the relatives of the unfortunate students who were left on the ground, but just as much to those in America who love their country, but hate its penchant for guns, wars, violent assertion of dominance, revenge by law through death penalty, and trigger happiness.  Those wise men and women must feel just a little bit more strangers in their own land today.



1. chr - April 16, 2007

America is a great country but their definition of freedom, meaning the freedom for everyone to carry a gun, simply is antiquated. You’re right: how many more kills does this country need until they realize that we life in a world where carrying guns isn’t necessary any longer?

2. andy - April 16, 2007

Yes it’s time for gun control. This is too awful.

3. Quantoken - April 16, 2007

Gun control has nothing to do with the Virginia Tech tragedy. Blame it on the inept police. What have they done in the two hours between the initial shoting and massacre two hours later.

4. dorigo - April 16, 2007

Oh well Quantoken… People like you will never admit it. Yes, it was the police. Or the locusts. Or the aliens. Not the fact that kids in the US have access to guns.

It is really too early to hope for a change if well learned people like you continue obstinately to defend a medioeval concept of safety.


5. riqie arneberg - April 16, 2007

The problem was, obviously, too many unarmed students, otherwise the death toll would have been much lower. I fear many of my fellows will see things as you do, and with this country already headed for totalirianism we will face a fate similar to europe in the 30s. You are right, these thingss DO happen to others…..to a tiny tiny few others. Fear automobiles not guns!

6. Stuart Coleman - April 16, 2007

No one knows that gun control would have prevented this tragedy. It might have, it might not have. Guns will always be available (through the black market, much as drugs are now). If someone is determined to kill people, nothing will stop them.

Saying, “Gun control would have prevented this” is too strong of a claim, and frankly it surprises me that scientists, who should be the most trained to be reserved about judgments, are making it.

7. dorigo - April 17, 2007

Hi Stuart,

I am surprised by your misquote… I did not say what you imply. I think that the rate of incidents of this and other kinds would drop if guns were not distributed so easily in the US, and this claim is supported by comparisons with other countries. There is a graph in this blog somewhere, but I am too lazy to link it here now. Anyway, scientists are allowed to have their own beliefs, as much as non-scientists. And as Feynman used to say, “I believe that a scientist dealing with non-scientific matters is as dumb as the next guy”.


8. dorigo - April 17, 2007

…And anyways, the fact that “guns will always be available, through the black market” strikes me as a belief that fights with other common practices in the US such as preventing minors from drinking. By your token, it would be useless to do it, since they would find the way to drink alcohol anyway… (They do). Now, do you favor a liberalization of drinks to minors ?


9. Quantoken - April 17, 2007


Gun control has nothing to do with tragedy like this. Gun control would only control legal, legitimate access to guns, it does not control illegal and illegitimate access to guns. If some one wants to kill he/she could always manage to obtain the weapons or methods, be it a gun or something more dangerous.

If you consider annually the people murdered in the USA, and the total number of registered guns, you would have to agree that the odd that a gun kills a human being in its lifespan is very very low. Far lower than a lot of other things. A doctor killing a patient due to malptractice is 400 times higher than a gun kills a human. Even an automobile has a much higher odd to kill some one during the lifespan than a gun.

And finally, guns are way much safer consider that physicists worked to put nukes in the hands of kids who doesn’t know how to prevent human race from being annihilated.

10. Fred - April 17, 2007

Yep. Now, we finally know … it’s the physicists.

11. Quantoken - April 17, 2007


Comparing gun control with alcohol is invalid. Alcohol could only do harm to minors. But guns can do good thing or bad thing, depends on whose hands are holding them. Gun control deprives law abiding citizens the right and option to defend themselves.

In this particular incident, according to Virginia state law, students and faculties would have been allowed to carry consealed guns to campus with a state issued permit. The Virginia Tech school authority overrule the sate law and prohibit any personel carrying guns to campus.

The result is this gun man then enters a zone where he can kill arbitrarily anyway he wants. And the police stay behind their cars 500 feet away and waited hours until all dust settle before entering the building to count the bodies. Had any of the students carry weapons and shot back things could be totally different. We have to thank the gunman for his mercy to stop at body count #32 and kill himself to end the misery. He could have killed many many many more if he continued on, with police just waiting outside the building.

Don’t you wish you can self-defense if you were in that building?

12. Carl Brannen - April 17, 2007

The ownership of guns in the US dates to the separation from Great Britain. In the US, everyone was considered a gentleman (well, every adult white male, more or less), and therefore was entitled to carry any weapon.

But that’s not what is at fault here. The school did not have a gun culture. If it did, someone would have shot back. Instead, the problem is gun ownership by people who later turn out to be crazy.

Other places where guns are harder to get have somewhat similar problems with knives.

As far as disarming the American public now, forget about it. The whole world is awash with the things. The criminal element will always have them. The lives saved by guns don’t show up on the national news.

The purpose of the police (among a free people) is to apply the law to people who break it, not to prevent people from breaking it in advance.

13. chr - April 17, 2007

How many lives are saved by guns? Would be interesting to know.

14. starrynight - April 17, 2007

Oddly enough I read an interview with Kurt Russell a while ago who, being the excellent patriot that he is, said with a straight face that every undesirable firearm death is but part of the price you have to
pay for the unique freedom of the USA.

The unfortunate truth for these ostriches are that there do exist countries with more civil liberties, press freedom etc. and simultaneously far less firearms carnage (and homicides in general, per capita) than the USA.

I’m surprised the old ‘Hitler advocated gun control’ one hasn’t been wheeled out yet!

15. dorigo - April 17, 2007


by saying “If some one wants to kill he/she could always manage to obtain the weapons” you willfully seem to ignore the fact that most of these “incidents” happen because somebody loses his or her marbles. The human mind is a complicated thing. If these individuals have a gun at free reach they create a problem, if they don’t, they are forced back into a thinking state in order to get one.

And no, I do not wish to self-defend, for sure not with a gun. Killing a person is beyond my disgust. Moreover, in those cases escape is the best solution. And, even in the free US, please find out what is the fraction of cases when a guy going postal was stopped before harming individuals by somebody “self-defending” with a gun. You will come out with a very small fraction.

Finally, “alcohol can only harm minors” ???? At 16 they can drive a truck into your car under the effect of the substance, in free America…


16. dorigo - April 17, 2007

… But you raise a good point, which allows me to explain why I am ultimately against free ownership of guns:

“If you consider annually the people murdered in the USA, and the total number of registered guns, you would have to agree that the odd that a gun kills a human being in its lifespan is very very low.”

True! In fact, I am not advocating gun control because it would reduce appreciably the overall rate of non-natural deaths in the US. I am advocating a gun-free society because of the principle that guns are a hindrance to the development of a better society. They are an encouragement to violence.


17. Chris Oakley - April 17, 2007

Tommaso’s excellent post about gun control last October is right here:


The graph demonstrates everything that one needs to know about gun control legislation and the moronic crackpots who bleat on about their “constitutional right” to pack heat should study it carefully.

18. jeff - April 17, 2007

I will be devils advocate here. Correlation is not cause-and-effect.

Story: a sea-side town statistitian collects data that includes deaths from drowning and sales of ice cream. He bins the data according to week and discovers a tight positive correlation. More deaths, more ice-cream consumption. He concludes that eating ice-cream increases chances of drowning.

Or how about this anti-correlation exmaple. The very same statistitian looks at sales of woolen sweaters and discovers a tight anti-correlation. More sweaters are sold, the less deaths. Ah ha! If you wear a sweater when you swim then there are less chances of drowning.

19. dorigo - April 17, 2007

Hi Jeff,

yes, I remember that example, it is a classic. Only, you should explain it better to make your point: the correlation, in the first case, is not casual, but due to a common cause which is hidden from the data. That is, the relationship is cause(0)->effect(1) plus cause(0)->effect(2), and not simply cause(1)->effect(2).
In the symbology above, (1) is ice cream consumption, (2) is deaths from drowning. And cause(0), of course, is the hot weather that attracts more to the ice creamery and to a refreshing swim.

In the case of sweaters, of course the anti-correlation is due to sweaters -/-> hot weather.

I think what the example teaches best is that it is wrong to jump at conclusions from observed correlations. In the case of gun possession, one could well say that cause(0) is the violence of the US society, which both causes a higher sale of guns and a high gun death frequency.

So, if that were the case, would it be wrong to ban guns ? NO. Because societies have to base their inner workings on the right principles. And the principle that you should leave it to citizens to defend themselves, Jeff, is wrong. The principle one should elect as a guideline to build a country’s legislation is that a country is not the jungle or the far west: you have to leave it to the authorities.


20. honestpoet - April 17, 2007

What amazes me is how many of my fellow Americans care more about the 2nd amendment than the 1st, which not only grants us freedom of speech, but also mandates an absolute separation of church and state, which the theocrats have done their best to erode over the past 30 or so years.

I guess the free-thinking lobby doesn’t have the $$ of the NRA.

21. jeff - April 18, 2007

Hi guys. The famous (infamous) “Bowling in Columbine” should be seen a few times. I think one the most profound aspects of the movie is that the exlanation that weapons be sold too much in the US does NOT explain what happens! Yes my friends. Watch the movie again without preconceptions, especially if you are european. The case against NRA and the american culture is more subtle and it goes to extanding the critiscm well beyond the notion that is all due to some $-strong pressure group. Watch the movie to very end and pay special attention to the ending. I don’t like Roger Moore but he does strike a chord with me at the end of the movie. What really impressed me was impressed by how superficial most european lefties interpreted the movie.

22. dorigo - April 18, 2007

Hi Jeff,

I saw the movie, but do not remember the Roger Moore part. Since I doubt we have a chance to see it again in the near future, can you summarize what is in it ?


23. jeff - April 18, 2007

Sorry, I ment Micheal Moore not ROGER Moore! Ciao

24. jeff - April 18, 2007

In essence Moore ends up concluding that easy access to guns is not enough to explain the violence in the US. He considers Canada where there are many guns too, not as many as in the US but still many. But in Canada the numbers of gun-victims is insignificant respect to those of the US. To ban guns is too simplistic a cure. He seems surprised and you should be too. He even suggests that the violence levels in the US is actually fueled by the press and TV news as violent crimes are always treated with great hype and focus and this fuels the levels of paranoia. It is interesting that he points his fingers to the press and TV-news, and not to violent movies and TV shows. Indeed canadians see the same movies and the same TV serials. The press coverage is the main suspect. The whole way americans speak and discuss violence in the cities and backyards reaches high levels of paranoia and the paranoia keeps fueling itself. The NRA, the gun industry are symptoms, not the cause of violence, unless you assume they have the power to force the shapes and styles of headlines and TV-news. So to confuse symptons with causes is just a way to waste time and money in passing and trying to enforce laws that cann’t be enforced unless the levels of paranoia are reduced by other means. Remember Prohibition against alcohol. Making laws to ban guns would simply start off underground market.

My impression, when I say Moore’s movie, was of this obnoxious right-wing guy (not very left!) that wanted to prove an apriori simplistic theory. It started off getting on my nerves, but the more the movie went on the more I was intrigued by what others did’t notice: he ends up raising more interesting questions than his original pet theory could answer and seems to conclude that things are far more complicated than what he thought. He ends with a very deep question: Why is the US a violent society? This question needs a different approach than what he started out with (Moore seems to realize it) and, in my opinion begs for a deeper solution than to simply pass gun regulation laws.

A devil’s advocate could say that if there had been more guns on the campus (professors, students, armed guards,…) then maybe the madman would have been stopped before killing so many. Another lawyer would then say that if there absolutely had been no guns then the madman could not have killed so many. Another lawyer would then say that, even if there had been no legal guns at all, then a determined madman would have obtained them anyway. The fellow was mad. Why was he mad? We will never know. How do you filter out dangerously mad people? Why was this fellow not spotted earlier by his familty, his teachers, his friends,…

25. honestpoet - April 18, 2007

These are all very good questions, of course.

As far as the media hyping violence, that’s certainly true. The paranoia is good for ratings. In the end, it still all comes down to money.

And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the NRA and the large media outlets have some financial connections. You scratch my back and all that.

26. dorigo - April 18, 2007

Hi Jeff, Honestpoet,

I think we are somewhat converging to an agreement on this… Which is alarming to me, because agreement kills discussions ! 🙂

Jokes aside, I think the points Jeff makes are meaningful. The only thing I don’t agree with him on is that he was the only one to notice that the movie raised interesting questions. I do remember thinking the issue with violence on TV and that the conclusions on free gun sales were not so clear, despite I did not remember Roger Moore nor Henry Moore in it 😉

I still believe that a culture of non-violence passes through a general consensus among reasonable citizens on the fact that guns should not be legal, because their purpose is the opposite of what societies are for – the peaceful and profitful living of their members together.

Now, whether or not just banning guns is the right recipe, in a society such as the US where there are deeper roots of violent behavior, and where the importance of guns, armies, and wars in determine the power of human beings is felt by all in their bones, is a tough question to answer. But I stay with my view: a ban on free distribution of guns would be a step in the right direction, just as much as retreating from Iraq with excuses or banning death penalty.


27. jeff - April 18, 2007


Everyone I hear bla-bla-bla about the Micheal Moore movie are the NRA and gun industries.

Iraq and death penalty are different issues, between themselves and with regards to the shootings in Virginia. You shouldn’t mix them here just to liven up a dying thread.

28. dorigo - April 18, 2007

Hi Jeff,

let this thread die then… But the issues I quoted above were part of the original post when I said “who love their country, but hate its penchant for guns, wars, violent assertion of dominance, revenge by law through death penalty, and trigger happiness.”…


29. jeff - April 18, 2007

Whatever you wrote at first still doesn’t make it right. I think you made a “minestrone” (vegetable soup). I like real minestrones, but the metaphoric one you cooked up in listing the things you hate about america is not good “cuisine”. For me this thread is DEAD, killed!

30. honestpoet - April 18, 2007

Nice metaphor there, Jeff. A dead thread. Who says American’s aren’t violent, now?

Dorigo, I’m one of those Americans who does love my country: I love it’s ideal of democracy and freedom, I love the landscape, and I even love quite a few of the people here.

But I despise the penchant for violence, I despise the imperialist tendencies of our government (and I’m not just talking about the current regime, though it’s taken it farther than ever), and I hate our punitive, intrusive criminal justice system. I despise the hypocrisy and sanctimony of our leaders, both political and religious. I despise the superficiality of most of our culture, the willful ignorance of so many of its citizens, the obsession with consumerism and “progress” to the neglect of the natural world and those less fortunate.

It does no good to turn our backs on what’s wrong with our country. As good citizens, it’s our duty to point it out, and to do our best to fix it.

31. Chris Oakley - April 18, 2007


Your belief that gun control would not change anything in the U.S. flies in the face of the experience of other countries. One of the things contained in the report linked to earlier is some comparisons between gun death statistics before and after extra legislation was enacted in Canada and Australia. Their findings? Amazingly, fewer people are killed by firearms when there aren’t so many of them around! Who would have thought it!? Though, of course, one must be careful in reading cause and effect in here…

And by the way, I don’t buy the argument, which you seem to be inferring from Michael Moore’s film, that Americans are any different from anyone else. Guns kill people. The more guns you have around, the more people will be killed. Why should it be more complicated than that?

As for “Constitutional Right” argument – which I know you did not raise, but many do – “Right to bear arms in a well-ordered militia” I think is the exact phrasing. Since when was a depressive college kid with a grudge a “well ordered militia” ?

32. jeff - April 18, 2007

Alive again! Now how’s that for a real american metaphor!! And good for you for loving the US!

Another metphor. A healthy body is not germ free, but it has a good immune system that recognizes diseases and fends them off, and learns from the past (antibodies). It is a continual fight. Germs exist and evolve, evil exists and as society evolves it evolves too, and worse cancers can develop and some are mortal. Its a fight and every generation has to discover what is worth fighting for. I still think the US sets a good example. I live in europe and I feel the immune system here sucks. I truely fear most educated people here are very confused. Europe has a terrible recent history and maybe there is a form of collective denial in the ex Western block (the East is more down to earth. I wonder why). Certainly many of the educated (the non-ignorant), many with terrible pedigrees, are automatically anti-US, either because of a fascist or nazi past or comunist past. So many youngsters are ignorant of the recent past and are confused about what is important to fight. But this is maybe a characteristic of youths of all ages. The younsters and the elderly here are also consumers. You want to see a population that consumes? Come to Italy!

Superficiality? Neglect of the natural world? Of the less fortunate? Why do the less forunate try to go to the US? Never forget that. The day they start trying to go elsewhere is the day you should fear as an american.

33. honestpoet - April 18, 2007

Lordy, Jeff, I never said Europe was better! Our European ancestors brought most of the bad ideas over here (I have both European — going back before the revolution — and native ancestry, as well as more recent immigrants — in my family tree). I know Europe was more or less deforested before the pilgrims ever landed on Plymouth rock, and as far as war goes, y’all have been at it forever. (I have to laugh at the French who pretend to be all peaceful, now, but they sure bent over for the Nazis, and what about their history with the English?)

But making it harder to get guns here just makes sense, and it’s the folks who sell them who blatantly buy off congress to make it as easy as possible.

Nice metaphor, btw, with the body thing. And I do think our immune system is pretty strong, which is based on our constitution. But the current regime is doing its best to erode it. It’s my hope that it will prove stronger than they. But it simply won’t be if it’s not alive in the hearts of our people, and I’m afraid most have no idea what it says.

34. Chris Oakley - April 18, 2007

Er, Jeff, I don’t know whether you’re implying it, but I’m not anti-American. In fact, my view on America is pretty much the same as my Prime Minster’s. Remember this speech –


… ? Well – I agree with almost all of it.

The reason I go on about gun control in the U.S. is because (i) I like America (ii) I visit America frequently & have a lot of American relatives and friends (iii) America leads the world in so many areas and yet has a blind spot on this particular issue. Should I remain silent? I think not.

35. riqie arneberg - April 22, 2007

1930s germany was nearly free of random murders. The mob has guns in present day Italy, but not the law-abiding.


I regret only that she shot the tires and not the thief!

36. Juan - June 1, 2007

It would be interesting to see what percentage of these crimes committed with guns were done by individuals possessing Concealed Carry Permits. Wouldn’t it?

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