Sunday, January 15, 2023

Not quite so many bullets

Shooting arcade in Kissimmee, Florida (photo by Carol Highsmith; Library of Congress)

     First the good news.
     Someday soon — this month, maybe, this year, certainly — someone in Illinois is going to be mad about something. Doesn't matter what: girls won't date him, a coworker cracked a joke, just learned that Biden faked the moon landing. Whatever, this unnamed person is doing to want to kill a bunch of people, He'll — and it's always a guy — head to the local gun shop. These shops always seem to be on bleak expanses of industrial nowhere. And he'll want to buy an assault rifle with which to spray their school or store or whatever.
     And they won't be able to. Because of the new law signed in Illinois last week.
     Not that we should have the big Problem Solved Party quite yet. There's less good news. Unless they're stopped because of the law beefing up the ability of the state to keep guns away from known crazies, they'll still be able to buy a gun. (After the mandatory 72 hour waiting period in Illinois, to allow for a background check and perhaps let a person intent on murder cool off). Just not one holding as many rounds. Ten will have to do, instead of 30. Which isn't the vast improvement it seems if you get one of those first 10 bullets. But if someone cold-cocks him while he's swapping out magazines, then, heck yeah, the law works!
     How much of a victory is that? Well, it's a start. Ten rounds is still a lot. Just the bill becoming law — it also bans "switches" that can permit guns to fire in full automatic mode, and makes extends the ability of courts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous persons — is a reminder that we are still a nation of laws, despite the tough talk of would-be frontiersmen. We aren't all shooting out our differences. Yet.

     Bottom line: it's realistic to hope that there will be some group of persons who are only alive because this new law saved them, even though they'll never know.
     That's the good part. And honestly, my first impulse is to celebrate that progress — passing laws about guns! Who would imagine? But then the candid moderate in me has to observe that we're really taking aim — ooh, wrong metaphor, it really is embedded in the culture — we're really addressing only a tiny fraction of the problem.
     In 2020, the most recent year full stats are available, 45,222 Americans were killed by guns, more than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
     Of those, most — 24,292, or 54 percent — were suicides. Another 19,384, or 43 percent were murders, and of those murders, mass shootings accounted for ... 38 people, using the FBI definition of a mass shooting. If you use the looser Gun Violence Archive definition, 513 people, or a little more than 1 percent of the fatalities.
     So while, yes, bans on assault rifles, whatever they are, and high capacity magazines are fine, and if I could press a button and have every state follow suit, I would , it's also the low hanging fruit.
     A tougher nut is to make people understand that the guns they buy to indulge in some Clint Eastwood, get-the-drop-on-the-bad-guy fantasy is actually the gun they're going to stick in their own mouth at some dark night of the soul, or that their 6-year-old is going to take to school one day to shoot his teacher. (A bad, example, because so rare). That his teenager is going to use to kill himself with — guns are the leading cause of death in children in the United States, 4,357 in 2020. No other developed country comes close.
     But then, there's a direct relationship between gun ownership and gun death. Not of bad guys coming in the windows. Of the owners. For all the sneering and shade throwing our fellow citizens in the backwater areas of the country, the gun death rate in Illinois are less than half what they are in Wyoming or Mississippi. If liberals were bad people, like conservatives, we'd push for more guns, because red states are predominantly the people killing themselves and each other. But we're not. So we cheer for even the most limited progress. Like the Illinois law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week.


  1. The one change I would've like to see to the Safe T Act was to make no bail possible for anyone caught with a gun, who didn't have a FOID Card or if on the street, no bail if they don't have a Concealed Weapons Permit. And also limit Time Served in the county jail to just 120 days, as that's how much time they have under the Speedy Trial Laws.
    That alone would go a long way to end the gun violence in Chicago!

  2. Hello. Just to let you know, the waiting period to take possession after buying a gun in Illinois is now 72 hours for any firearm. It used to be 24 hours for rifles and shotguns and 72 hours for handguns, but they changed it in 2018, when they enacted the state's "red flag" law. "Rauner on Monday also signed legislation that would extend the 72-hour waiting period to buy a gun to all firearms," it says here:

  3. Certainly any step toward limiting guns is a step in the right direction, as small as it may be. Unfortunately, here in Florida we are taking bigger steps in the wrong direction as the legislature will soon pass a “Constitutional Carry” law allowing anyone to carry a weapon without the need of a license (not that that did much good).
    Regarding shooting ranges in industrial areas, not so here in Melbourne. On a major thoroughfare in the downtown area is a store called Frogbones Family Shooting center.
    I’m not kidding about the name. Not only can you buy guns and practice shooting there, a restaurant is attached that serves alcohol.
    It gives me the creeps… Family shooting. Sounds more like a headline (or now maybe third page story) than the name of an establishment.
    I’d leave this crappy state in a heartbeat but my wife can’t take cold weather and doesn’t want to leave friends. I get some of that.

    1. I'm in the same boat as you are, but I'm in cold, cloudy, crappy Ohio. I'd leave tomorrow, but my wife is a fifth-generation Buckeye and has a big family up here, and close friends in Michigan. Up until recently, I said I would die in Cleveland, with a snow shovel in my hand, but my doctor has put the kibosh on that. Which means I'll croak from something else. Dead is dead.

      Ohio is tolerable, except in the wintertime, but it's gone from blue to purple to deep red in my three decades here, and that totally sucks. I lived in Florida for a while, in the mid-70s, and I wanted to move back there for years. But not anymore. The Florida I knew is long gone. And I still miss it.

      Hell, I also miss a lot of things about my native Chicago, but after thirty years, the Chicago I knew is also gone. More traffic, more expensive, more gentrification, and the violence and criminal activity is more widespread. Cleveland's a lot less congested, and a lot more affordable for retirees. Far fewer gun crimes, too...or so it seems. Sometimes, smaller is better.

    2. I miss the old Florida too but I know enough about Illinois in general and Chicago more specifically and would much prefer living there, warts and all.

  4. “…and it’s always a guy.” It is? Check out Jennifer San Marco, Tashfeen Malik, Latina Williams, Brenda Spencer (inspiration for “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats), Amy Bishop, and Laurie Dann, to name but a few who weren’t.

    1. A very few. I guess I should have tucked in an "almost" for the overly literal.


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