Tag Archives: mental

Smart Guns Don’t Kill People

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Technologist and New York Times columnist Nick Bilton explores the development of ‘smart guns‘ designed only to work with the owner’s grip or palmprint. These biometric devices are not entirely new, but are still unable to make it into the marketplace. Smart gun tech may have appeased the most idealogical contenders of either side of the debate on Sandy Hook and other gun massacres: they would not have prevented the killers from being able to use any of the firearms in question, but allowed the original owners to keep them without any infringement of their rights.

Nick Bilton via the NYT’s Bits Blog:

For example, the iGun, made by Mossberg Group, cannot be fired unless its owner is wearing a ring with a chip that activates the gun.

But you would be hard pressed to find this technology on many weapons sold in stores. “The gun industry has no interest in making smart-guns. There is no incentive for them,” said Robert J. Spitzer, a professor of political science at SUNY Cortland and the author of four books on gun policy. “There is also no appetite by the government to press ahead with any kind of regulation requiring smart-guns. These safety options exist today.”

But gun advocates are staunchly against these technologies, partly because so many guns are bought not in gun shops, but in private sales. “Many guns are bought and sold on the secondary market without background checks, and that kind of sale would be inhibited with fingerprinting-safety technologies in guns,” he said.

I called several major gun makers and the National Rifle Association. No one thinks a smart-gun will stop a determined killer. But I thought Smith & Wesson and Remington, for instance, would want to discuss how technology might help reduce accidental shootings, which killed 600 people and injured more than 14,000 in the United States in 2010. The gunmakers did not respond, and neither did the N.R.A.

A Wired magazine article from 2002 gives a glimpse of the N.R.A.’s thinking. “Mere mention of ‘smart-gun’ technology elicited sneers and snickers faster than a speeding bullet,” the magazine wrote. It quoted the N.R.A.’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, as saying, “Tragic victims couldn’t have been saved by trigger locks or magazine bans or ‘smart-gun’ technology, or some new government commission running our firearms companies.”

TriggerSmart, an Irish company, has patented a childproof smart-gun. One feature is a “safe zone” that can be installed in schools and acts as a force field, disabling any TriggerSmart gun that enters a designated area. Robert McNamara, the company’s founder, has been trying to persuade gun makers to adopt the technology. He isn’t having much luck. “One gun manufacturer told us if we put this technology in one particular gun and some kid gets shot with another gun, then they will have to put them in all guns,” he said.

“We believe we could have helped prevent the Newtown massacre.”

You’ll notice how quickly the NRA equates reasonable proposals like smart gun technology with outright bans and government seizure. The impediments reveal the true, insidious nature of despicable groups like the NRA, who don’t care about human beings unless they have a large pocketbook. They don’t lobby for gun owners, but for large gun manufacturers; gun owners are the window dressing, support for them is incidental, tertiary, and superficial.

This is not the sole solution in a)the rampant problem with hundreds of thousands of unregistered guns, b)the irresponsibility of gun policy in this country, which can be well-regulated without violation of rights, or c)search of a problem, depending on your stance. Obviously ‘smart guns’ would not do anything about illegal guns or second sale or heirloom firearms, which account for a large percentage of sales and crime. This is the problem with most of the proposed legislation and ‘fixes’ from the left; they disproportionately affect responsible gun owners and not criminal use of guns.

Wayne LaPierre, no better than Diane Feinstein, used the tragedy as a pulpit to distract towards everything else besides his own moneyed lobby. It was the culture. It was vidyuh games (thanks, Jack Thompson). It wasHollywood. It was Jon Stewart. It was *as always* the atheists and gays. It was those damn mentally infirm. Hold! For a moment, my heart skipped a beat, would the NRA take an official and humanitarian position on our crumbling mental health care infrastructure? Would they promise millions in direly needed aid to prevent tragedies wrought by unfortunately afflicted people (and not their guns)? No, of course, the NRA’s position is that the mentally unfit should be registered, locked down, locked up, controlled, banned, pushed, filed,stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. So the people themselves can be infringed upon and violated, but a material possession like guns cannot? Riiiight.

They are unforgivable hypocrites at best, and monstrous profiteers at worst; they have done their part to arm the mentally illAnd in 2007, the NRA fought to allow suspected terrorists of having guns.

My eyes began to glaze over and drool formed around the zombified corners of my mouths as gun advocates praised ideas like putting more guns in schools, more armed guards in our police state children’s vicinity, arm the teachers and principals, FUCK IT, ARM THE KIDS THEMSELVES! None of this makes any goddamned sense, of course, when we look at instances of armed people (including cops) who make shootings even worse by playing hero and spraying more bullets in our combat zones public spaces, often getting themselves and others injured or killed.

And while I don’t believe that there is any NWO scheme to take the guns out of our cold dead hands, I do think that Democrats view it as an easy P.R. win. Another insincere and empty gesture, fully knowing that the final legislation will be watered down, ineffective, meaningless and probably contain a few provisions for special interests and corporations. It might even contain a payout for the NRA, if they play their cards right. Whatever bill is passed will expire or be struck down a few years later, and the whole dance can begin again. The whole hysteria, you’ll notice, is great for gun sales.

Neither LaPierre, Feinstein, nor any other mainstream pundit is proposing any combination of rational and evidence-based approaches to guns or mental health. Even Obama’s statements about making mental health care more easily accessible were lacking any resolution, detail or conviction. They are all knee-jerk reactions based on ideological bias and false, dystopic views of how the world really works.

As FactCheck.org points out, it is a complicated issue with seemingly contradictory statistics and no clear answers. There is academic disagreement and dubious causation for what is happening in America, where gun manufacturing and sales are up, but violent crime and crimes committed with guns are down. However, “non-fatal gun injuries from assaults increased last year for the third straight year“, so there are other factors. We don’t know if there are more gun owners, or more of the same people buying more guns. And still the maniacal massacres continue. Include suicides in the number of gun deaths, and the whole story changes. Gun deaths may outstrip falling rates of automobile deaths by 2015.

I’m not an advocate for any sort of ban at this point, but conflating handguns to assault rifles is like apples to oranges. Or comparing guns to fists and hammers. Or small businesses to multinational corporations. Or fracking done in the 50′s to fracking done today. Ad nauseam. It’s absurd. Guns still account for over double all other murder weapons in the US combined.

I’m sure to ruffle feathers on both sides of the aisle whenever I talk about guns, but I just don’t see the problem with treating them like automobiles. Responsible people register them, irresponsible people don’t. If you want to keep it in your garage and not use it, don’t register it and don’t take it out. If you want to take it out and not pay a hefty fine or punishment, then register it. They only get banned when they get used irresponsibly.

So guns don’t kill people. Smart guns don’t kill people. Sane and insane people use guns to kill lots of people (more people than other weapons can in a single shot), including themselves. And those in power each have vested interests in not being reasonable.

Perhaps the best coverage of the shootings in 2012 was summed up in The Onion’s headline: Fuck Everything.

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Soulless Machine Gods

I do not claim that the Big Bads in charge of Wall Street and their psychotic, narcissistic, solipsism are entirely to blame for all of this. Corporations, as Cenk Uygur put it, are profit-creating robots. They were constructed of the same bent morality and depraved decadence of an insulated minority of powerful elites, but how could they be expected to do anything else, gone unchecked and unregulated? Fault might be better placed with our public officials and policy-makers… but if we’re extending the graces of ambivalence and blissful ignorance to cash-hungry machines, should we not do the same for the lying legislators, brutal police forces, lawyers, judges, bill collectors and heck, just about every one of us that let it get to this point because we sold out the American dream for false promises of greed?

It has been shown that those in the top 1% do not even know they are in the top 1%. And gaffes like Mitt Romney‘s numerous attempts at populism backfiring and revealing his alienating elitism serve to illustrate what little his perception of reality has to do with the ‘average American.’ However, who’s to say that any of us would be any different, given the chance? How the money is obtained seems of little matter; examples can be found in both the nouveau riche and old money of the corrupting, power-mongering miser or the socially-aware, generous philanthropist. Religious leaders with piles of cash turn out on both sides of the spectrum as well, brainwashing new cult members or funding community service organizations.

There are many philosophies of mind, but we are still at the forefront of scientific research into the most important organ of our functioning body, from which our identity and sense of being, our very abilities of self-awareness and understanding arise. It’s possible that we all have the capacity for evil, or that at the edges of a psychopathic diagnosis, we’re all capable of some form of psychopathic behavior or thought! The startling results from such famous and controversial psychological studies as Stanley Milgram’s authority experiment or Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment may support this idea. This is perhaps similar to theories that we’re all a little dyslexic or attention deficit, we all may be somewhere on a scale of autism, that we all have an inherent amount of racism and sexism, we have all have a dose of psychosis, about half of all our time is spent daydreaming, all brains have different levels of focus, consciousness and multi-tasking, we all find coping mechanisms and adapt to sleep routines that work for us, we all react differently to psychedelics within a certain range, and we all may naturally hallucinate.

Our brains are all the same, and our brains are all different.

Evolution produces a range of functionality in organisms at any randomly given time in their history… our genetic variance may provide examples of many different levels of psychopathy. The same temptation to steal a pittance at your place of business (relative to the hefty sums they take in overall) is the same corrupted thinking that allows executives to routinely embezzle ridiculous sums (relative to the corporation’s ludicrous profits overall). If we strip a thing of all identity, any personal connection, we lose our innate and rational empathy which might otherwise prevent us from acts of malice.

Furthermore, if it’s true that most of the world is related to Ghengis Kahn, Alexander the Great and Charlemagne (psychotic conquerers all), then the genes are most likely inalterably embedded in all of us. Psychopaths, it has been shown, are more prolific maters. Most of us alive today are the descendants of those nefarious winners, not the losers.

It seems obvious to our understanding in this era that old modalities of ‘inherent good’ or ‘original sin’ are fallacious presumptions not rooted in biology. We’ve known for some time that we’re all a little angelic and a little devilish, to varying degree. True psychopaths, however, have a particular knack and tenacity for weaseling their way to the top. At a rate of four times the general population, in fact.

Scott.net interviewed Dr. Lobaczewski about psychopathy and political ponerology (the study of evil), posted by Harrison Koehli at the Ponerology blog:

This field of study is difficult, and relatively new. What was once in the realm of theology is now being understood in the terms of brain activity and genetics. Perhaps a deeper understanding will lead to the elimination of serial murderers, corrupt executives, and man’s predilection towards war and rape.

So lately I find myself wondering what will happen in the future when we have more reliable technology and methodology for identifying the psychopaths (or levels of psychopathy) among us. Do we root them out, treat them as pariahs, lock them up, force them into rehabilitation, or continue to vote them into office, hire them as CEOs, and revere them as gods?