Monday, January 7, 2013

Dialogue on Guns is Growing Quiet

As is the American Way our attention span is short. It's a new year now, new priorities, yes, dog love us... but please, don't ask too much of us.
Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game

I can only slightly imagine how the families of all the fallen, innocent children, from Sandy Hook to Columbine must feel. But I doubt that their loss has lessened much with the passage of time. Aren't we the 'lucky' ones to be able to move on to more important issues...

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Both Sides Have Something to Fear

David Ropeik
David Ropeik, a consultant in risk perception and risk management, is the author of “How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts.”
UPDATED JANUARY 7, 2013, 2:30 PM
Lots of statistics are being thrown around in the debate about whether guns make society safer or more dangerous. But the gun control argument is intensely emotional because it is about so much more than public safety. Guns have become symbols in our polarized society, figurative weapons in a war of conflicting cultural values that is compelled by deep and ancient instincts.
Humans are social animals. We have evolved to depend on our group, our tribe, for our health and safety. So we adopt views and positions that align with those of our group, in order to be accepted and supported — and protected — as a member in good standing. Agreeing with the group also helps protect us because social unity helps our tribe prevail in the competition with other tribes for control of society in general. So we see and interpret the facts about guns, or any issue, through these deep lenses.
This fight isn’t about guns or safety. It is a much more profound and ancient conflict over how society should work, and who decides.
This adaptive sort of reasoning is known as cultural cognition. (Research in this field has specifically investigated the roots of our powerful emotions about gun control. See “More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions.”) It turns out that some of us are “hierarchists,” a tribe that prefers a society operating under a fixed and unchanging hierarchy of social and economic class. Politically, hierarchists tend to be conservative. They bristle whenever government imposes rules and regulations that change the status quo in the name of broad social equity and protection, as with gun control.
Some of us are “individualists,” politically libertarian, who prefer a society that maximizes personal independence and individual choice. Charlton Heston’s rallying cry to the N.R.A. in 2000 (“from my cold, dead hands”) perfectly captures how the prospect of gun control threatens an individualist’s preferred society: “When loss of liberty is looming, as it is now, the siren sounds first in the hearts of freedom’s vanguard” — meaning the individualists.
Gun control supporters belong to two other groups: “egalitarians,” who prefer a flexible, fair society not set in a rigid hierarchical status quo, and thus support government intervention in the name of social equity and protection, and “communitarians,” who prefer a “we’re all in it together” society in which some personal freedoms, like ownership of assault weapons and magazines that hold 100 rounds, are sacrificed for the greater common good.
Such deep roots make the emotional stakes in the gun fight really high, especially for individualists, because having any individual freedom curtailed directly threatens the kind of world they want to live in, the world in which they feel safest. Such a profound threat helps explain the absolutist passion of the N.R.A., which with a membership of just four million has had a disproportionate impact on gun policy.
This fight isn’t about guns as weapons, nor about public safety. It is about guns as symbols, of a much more profound and ancient conflict over how society should work, and who decides. It’s just one more surface manifestation of deeper trends that have divided America into warring camps, each group retreating to the protection of its own circled wagons, looking down the sights of the tribal guns at those outside the circle. Other ideologies are the enemy, a threat. Until that deeper conflict softens, little is likely to change about gun control.


  1. You are correct (once again):

    "The behavior of lemmings is much the same as that of many other rodents which have periodic population booms and then disperse in all directions, seeking the food and shelter their natural habitats cannot provide. It is unknown why lemming populations fluctuate with such great variance roughly every four years, before plummeting to near extinction."