When there is a dramatic event like a mass shooting, emotions run high – that’s permitted; in fact one can take comfort that Mr. Obama demonstrates such a high degree of compassion. Unfortunately, that is where my appreciation for his dialog on the issue of gun control ends. As the head of state he has an obligation to express empathy for people affected AND reflect reality in his discourse, to be responsible in representing the facts. What we witnessed in is post Roseburg talk was a demonstration in politicking and a lack of understanding OR willful blindness, to what the second amendment is all about.
Mr. Obama mentions the routine response to mass shootings in the United States and yet makes no effort at going after the cultural underpinnings of the challenge. Switzerland has as many handguns per capita and people go there for safe holidays, so it is clear the there is a cultural driver here. It may be the celebrity culture colliding with gun access or some other phenomena. The press’s inclination to sensationalize these events, their willingness to deliver the 15 minutes of fame (infamy) to the “shooter” maybe effecting a contagion.
Mr. Obama seemed to indicate an escalation in gun violence, there is, in fact a reduction – the trend has been downward since 1981.
Mr. Obama failed to contextualize the risk related to gun ownership, 11,078 or 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 is a lower risk than taking 80mgs of aspirin daily, which kills 8 in 100,000. The very same year, over 100,000 Americans died of preventable medical accidents – This article in Forbs suggests an even higher number of deaths from preventable medical accidents http://www.forbes.com/sites/leahbinder/2013/09/23/stunning-news-on-preventable-deaths-in-hospitals/ some 440,000.
Mr. Obama indicates that public opinion is supporting his call for gun control, Pew Research disagrees.
Mr. Obama it seems, is looking to England for direction on gun control, a 180 degree turn from the founders of the United States. Mr. Obama, of all people, has forgotten that the founders were eager to protect people from oppression. The primary consideration for including the second amendment in the constitution, is the ongoing assurance that people can mass, armed, to uphold their rights in the face of tyranny. Mr. Obama it seems, despite his heritage, has forgotten the lessons the founding fathers had learned so painfully from European history – by way of example, the English were able to quell Scottish independence for generations by disarming them. The founders of the United States knew, from experience, that tyranny happens when the populous has no means to enforce their will. The United States is one of the freest jurisdictions in the world, its very founding happened because people armed themselves to enforce their will. Mr. Obama extended consideration for firearm use in Hunting, Sport and self-protection – he failed to recognize the primary element for the 2nd amendment's inclusion in the constitution. It is a unique cultural and structural element of the United States government, that it retains the right of the citizenry to oppose government miss direction – and what a success it has been.
Mr. Obama sites Australia as the bastion of reason for gun control; they eventually got to central storage of long guns. Mr. Obama sites England as an example, during IRA crime activity, England had nearly as high firearm related crime. Who wants to live in a country that is so risk adverse that a 3.5 chance in 100,000 is too great – no one will be skiing any more, let alone driving a car.
Availability Heuristic Salient is a useful concept by which to understand some of the public's fear and how politicians exploit that fear. In these instances, like a mass shooting, the ease of imagining an example or the vividness and emotional impact of that example, becomes more credible than actual statistical probability. Because an example is easily brought to mind or mentally "available", the single example is considered as representative of the whole, rather than as just a single example in a range of data. Salient events tend to distort the judgement of risk.
I would urge the United States to resist the temptation to embrace nouveau social engineering, over the time tested constitution and the mass of wisdom that was brought to it by the founders of the United States; or, if you’re going to think about changing, let reason guide you.