The Joker’s Wild: On the Ecology of Gun Violence in America | Scientific American

One of the more interesting and sophisticated articles following the Aurora shooting (and recent shootings in my former home town, Toronto), drawing from anthropology, psychology, and sociology to discuss the range of influences and factors. The biggest predictors of homicide are lack of social capital (trust) and income inequality. Well worth a read given the shallowness of much reporting.

The high level of inequality, both within the United States as well as between countries globally, was constructed through a process of social interactions. It can be deconstructed the same way. If the interpretation from social capital is correct, it suggests that building relationships through our schools, labor unions, farmers’ markets, and gun ranges, at City Hall and the State House, or through active participation in our churches, temples, and mosques, can ultimately make us all more secure. But at the same time it means collectively challenging the policies of those high-ranking members in our society whose obsession with status leaves the rest of us completely stressed out.

Remarkably, this kind of social activism is the single most important factor associated with reduced violence for any neighborhood in the world. According to University of Washington sociologists Blaine Robbins and David Pettinicchio, in the first global study to examine social capital and homicide, only social activism consistently predicts homicide at the national, neighborhood, and individual levels.

The Joker’s Wild: On the Ecology of Gun Violence in America | The Primate Diaries, Scientific American Blog Network.

And a piece by Ross Douthat, the (token?) conservative columnist of the NY Times, on a possible way to reframe the discussion on gun laws based the experience from Prohibition and the balance of risks. Quote:

This isn’t an argument that any phenomenon that’s culturally well-entrenched should be off limits to policymakers. Obviously slavery was well-entrenched, and segregation, and so on down a list of social evils that deserved (or deserve) to be combated regardless of the challenges involved. But even most pro-gun control liberals don’t think of guns and gun ownership the way the abolitionists persuaded Americans to think of slavery — as an intrinsic evil that has no justification whatsoever. They just think that the benefits, comforts, and pleasures that law-abiding, safety-conscious gun owners derive from their Second Amendment freedoms are outweighed by the dangers posed by allowing the reckless and the careless to own and carry weapons. This is not a crazy view by any means. But liberals should recognize the limits of their logic the next time they pour themselves a drink.

On Gun Control and Prohibition – NYTimes


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