“We Don’t Benefit From Ignorance”

President Obama’s remarks today on the “common sense” things that need to be done “to help prevent mass shootings” and “reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country” included simple quotations from selected kids, followed by these declarative statements:

This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.

This generation, of course, will be judged for what it does or, more likely, for what it doesn’t do, in response to what we have seen so many times, most recently in Newtown, Connecticut.

Only the most unrepentant reactionary would reject the idea that we need to change, to change our approach, to change our thinking, to ultimately change our laws to confront the violent reality we see.

Not only did President Obama propose legislation — “a universal background check”; “a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines” — he also signed directives that will help professionals make us a little safer.

All good, all necessary. But what may have the most long-term effect, in terms of reducing the violence we have seen, and what I have yet to hear anyone discuss, is found in these remarks by the President:

And while year after year those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to de-fund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it.

And Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.

We don’t benefit from ignorance.” No, as a society, we don’t benefit from ignorance. But some among us do benefit from it, like, say, manufacturers of assault weapons sold to the public or purveyors of ridiculously violent video games. And that’s why some oppose using science — the only reliable guide we have to problem solving — to try to find out what causes so much of the violence we see in our culture.

As a civilization, science is our friend, ignorance our enemy. But as we shall soon see when Congress takes up legislation to make us a more sane, more civil society, ignorance has many friends.



  1. Duane,

    Just read where Missouri State Representative Casey Guernsey, with 61 co-sponsors, has introduced the “Missouri 2nd Amendment Preservation Act.” House Bill 170 (HB170) would “nullify any and all federal acts, orders, laws, statutes, rules, or regulations of the federal government on personal firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition.”

    The bill states, in part: “Any official, agent, or employee of the federal government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statute, rule, or regulation of the federal government upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in the state of Missouri and that remains exclusively within the borders of the state of Missouri shall be guilty of a class D felony.”

    So, if enacted into law, Missouri’s elected officials will have decided that gun ownership is more important than public safety. (Of course, the state is trying to assert what it believes is it’s 10th amendment right to ignore those parts of the constitution it doesn’t like. But, they too are history-impaired. States’ rights, along with the 10th amendment, ended at Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865.)


    • Wow. Thanks, Herb. Hadn’t heard that. Unbleepingbelievable.

      By the way, the kind of states’ rights proposed in that Missouri gun legislation actually ended in 1787 when the Constitution was ratified, a Constitution that contained this language in Article VI:

      This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

      Even this present ridiculously reactionary Supreme Court majority can’t undo this clause.



    • writer89

       /  January 16, 2013

      The “Nullification” controversy goes back to before the Civil War. I’ll just reference Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullification_Crisis


      • Thanks for the link. It’s sad that we have to re-litigate so much of this stuff. The reactionaries have a grip on the GOP that keeps us from moving on and meeting the challenges of the future. They’d rather fight old battles.


  2. Anonymous

     /  January 16, 2013

    A few Wikipedia quotes and a video.

    “The Port Arthur massacre in 1996 transformed gun control legislation in Australia. Thirty five people were killed and 21 wounded when a man with a history of violent and erratic behaviour beginning in early childhood opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two military style semi-automatic rifles. Six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland,[9] this mass killing at the notorious former convict prison at Port Arthur horrified the Australian public and had powerful political consequences.”

    Apparently our gun fanatics

    “While surveys showed up to 85% of Australians ‘supported gun control’, many people strongly opposed the new laws. Concern was raised within the Coalition Government that fringe groups such as the ‘Ausi Freedom Scouts’, the Australian League of Rights and the Citizen Initiated Referendum Party, were exploiting voter anger to gain support. After discovering that the Christian Coalition and US National Rifle Association were supporting the gun lobby, the Government and media cited their support, along with the moral outrage of the community to discredit the gun lobby as extremists.

    Now what business is it of the US National Rifle Association to be tinkering with the laws of Australia?

    “Under federal government co-ordination all states and territories of Australia banned and heavily restricted the legal ownership and use of self-loading rifles, self-loading and pump-action shotguns, and heavily tightened controls on their legal use. The government initiated a “buy-back” scheme with the owners paid according to a table of valuations. Some 643,000 firearms were handed in (and destroyed) at a cost of $350 million which was funded by a temporary increase in the Medicare levy which raised $500 million.”

    From The Washington Post

    ” Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. That provides strong circumstantial evidence for the law’s effectiveness.”

    Link to study: http://andrewleigh.org/pdf/GunBuyback_Panel.pdf


    • HLG,

      Thanks so much for that information and the report. The guest got it exactly right by saying that the gun laws in America are based on maximizing sales of guns. And he said, “The great majority of Americans want sane gun laws.” We shall soon see, won’t we?

      And by the way, that stat comparing U.S. and Australian gun homicides per year—9,146 versus 30—is rather depressing. It is amazing to observe how the Australian host was genuinely perplexed that our society tolerates such things.

      Finally, there is this from the segment:

      gun homicides




  3. Duane, Sorry about the Anonymous
    post above. I don’t remember being able to post without personal details being required.


  4. Jane Reaction

     /  January 16, 2013

    Good post and commentary.

    Especially liked the blog recently that reminded us that the cowboys in the Wild West had to turn in their guns to the marshal or sheriff when they got into town.

    BTW, a semi-automatic rifle is sufficient for anything that might be crossing your path unless you piss off some polar bears.


  5. hlgaskins

     /  January 28, 2013

    “The guest got it exactly right by saying that the gun laws in America are based on maximizing sales of guns.”

    After a little personal research I’ve become convinced that the NRA is working on more than just maximizing gun sales. They’re working on maximizing their personal incomes. Consider this!

    “The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is an American nonprofit organization founded in 1871. The NRA is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and its lobbying branch is a 501(c)(4) organization.” Link to 501(c) (3) and (4). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/501(c)(3)

    Up until around the late 1970’s the NRA used to support gun control laws. Here are a few slices of a decent article on the subject (link will be included). http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/winkler-the-nra-used-to-support-gun-control-1.3865217

    “The first major federal gun control laws were passed in the 1930s in response to the mob violence of the Prohibition Era. Invented for use in the trenches of World War I, the Tommy gun — the first easily portable machine gun — quickly became the weapon of choice for Al Capone’s gang and notorious desperadoes like Bonnie and Clyde.
    “Appearing before Congress, Karl Frederick, the NRA’s president, was asked whether the Second Amendment imposed any limits on gun control. Remarkably, he answered that he had “not given it any study from that point of view.” Indeed, the NRA at that time supported restrictive gun control laws, even drafting and promoting in state after state laws curtailing the concealed carry of firearms.”

    “The change in the organization came in the 1970s. Considerable credit for that, surprisingly, belongs to the Black Panther Party. In the late 1960s, civil rights radicals took up arms as part of the “by any means necessary” philosophy. In an often forgotten incident, 30 armed Panthers invaded the California state capital building to protest enactment of new gun laws. This, coupled with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, spurred a wave of gun restrictions. Social order seemed to be breaking down.

    Ironically, these laws, which were designed in part to restrict access to guns by black, left-leading, urban radicals sparked a backlash among rural, white conservatives. As gun bans spread from D.C. to Chicago, conservative whites began to worry that the government was coming to take away their guns next. Gun control, they thought, was just another example of failed big government.”

    In short, with gun controls laws loosened partly with the help of the Black Panther Party, conservative white folks became paranoid that they would have mobs of black people running through their neighborhoods shouting with guns over their heads like crazed Central American revolutionaries (modest exaggeration).

    So who really runs the NRA? I’ve listed their names and incomes below, just follow the money. I do have one question, how many people reading this would be more than happy with the least of those “nonprofit” incomes?

    Kayne Robinson Executive Director of General Operations; Compensation: $1,027,217
    Wayne LaPierre CEO and Executive Vice President; Compensation: $845,469
    Chris Cox Executive Director, Institute for Legislative Action; Compensation: $588,412
    Tyler Schropp Executive Director, Office of Advancement; Compensation: $442,476
    Wilson H. Phillips, Jr. Treasurer; Compensation: $519,338
    Edward Land, Jr. Secretary; Compensation: $412,527
    Michael Marcellin Managing Director, Office of the Treasurer; Compensation: $345,102
    Joseph Graham Director of Publications; Compensation: $352,474

    Edward Land, Jr. Secretary; Compensation: $412,527
    Mary Corrigan Chief of Staff; Compensation: $329,168
    Robert Marcario Director of Membership; Compensation: $250,757
    Marion Hammer Former NRA President, Current Lobbyist; Compensation: $190,000

    David Butz Director; Compensation: $150,000


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