Questions about the gun conversation

So it happened again this week: Some nutcase with a gun killed a bunch of people he’d never met before. Three weeks ago, it was 12 dead in Aurora, Colo.; on Sunday, six died in Oak Creek, Wisc.

Stylized close-up of cover art from George Pelecanos’s “The Sweet Forever,” an excellent detective novel that involves a great many guns.

(Disclosure, part 1: I started writing this post after Aurora, got distracted and set it aside, figuring that news would make it relevant again eventually. I didn’t know the wait would be so short.)

(Disclosure, part 2: I have shot guns a few times at targets, once including popping off a few rounds with an M16, and I enjoyed those experiences. I have also had a gun put to my head during a mugging. I did not enjoy that.)

For the second time in three weeks, we are talking about firearms regulation and the Second Amendment with few expectations of things changing. I have some questions about this unproductive conversation.

Could we have a little more context about the relative scope of the problem? Violent crime overall is down, way down, even as we’ve steadily loosened gun regulation; you face a higher risk of death from a car than a gun, and the majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted. (Mass shootings, however, have remained stubbornly steady; why is that?)

Can we agree that, NRA-engineered paranoia aside, nobody is going to confiscate everybody’s guns in the United States? (I will strikethrough the preceding sentence when Democrats launch a serious campaign to repeal the Second Amendment.)

Can we also agree that the Second Amendment permits reasonable limits on who can own a gun, what kinds of guns they can own and where they can take them? Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller striking down D.C.’s handgun ban is clear about that. So can we move on to debate Second Amendment-compliant limits from a public-health perspective, assuming we ever get conclusive data?

Do news stories provide an accurate picture of what most gun owners are like? (One of my neighbors is a competitive target shooter and Navy vet; he and his wife are the people we trust with a spare key to our house.)

To those who have written, sometimes convincingly, that no current or politically plausible gun regulations would prevent an Aurora or an Oak Creek: Are these just unavoidable random tragedies, much like the far higher casualties we tolerate on our roads? Or do you have suggestions for a more effective response by government–like, say, better mental-health care?

If those suggestions instead boil down to “more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens in more places”–well, don’t we have enough in circulation already? We are already the most heavily armed country in the world. Should I not regard the idea that security lies in individual citizens packing heat on their daily errands, staying in a state of perpetual alertness, as a confession of a failure of civilization?

If a post like this counts as “politicizing the tragedy,” when would be a better time? Is there a mandatory waiting period for this sort of thing?

Weekly output: Nokia 900, podcast, Fuji FinePix XP170, Web chat, This Week in Law, Reddit

Lest this list give too generous an idea of my recent productivity, remember that I filed the first two items earlier.

7/17/2012: Review: Nokia’s Lumia 900 already feels outdated, CNNMoney.com

In my second long-term evaluation for CNNMoney after May’s reassessment of the Kindle Fire, I took a look at Nokia’s Lumia 900 and what it’s done for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. The biggest difference between this piece and the review I did for Discovery News when the phone debuted in April: Microsoft’s announcement that the phone would not get an update to Windows Phone 8, which made Nokia’s “beta test” ads look dumb overnight.

7/17/2012: Rob’s “June” Podcast: Getting Silicon Valley To Talk To Washington, CEA Digital Dialogue

The quotes are required because this interview with Engine Advocacy’s Michael McGeary got held up by, in succession, travel, technical problems trying to record a Skype interview on my laptop, the derecho and the general scheduling chaos of the July 4 week. Then it got lost in the shuffle at CEA. But anyway… Mike’s one of the tech-policy types I enjoy talking shop with, and I think you can tell that from the interview.

7/18/2012: How A Shockproof Camera Knocked Itself Out, Discovery News

Surprise, surprise: yet another dismal review of a digital camera. This time around, I liked this Fuji’s rugged nature–the photo that leads off the review shows the camera immersed in my kitchen sink, with one of my daughter’s rubber duckies floating above it–but did not appreciate its clumsy WiFi Direct photo-transfer feature. I was further annoyed by the sloppiness on display in its interface and design, like having it beep by default every time you touch a button or including yet another proprietary USB cable. And this one did not take exceptional pictures, as you can see in the Flickr set of its output.

7/20/2012: Live Chat Today: Travel Talk, CEA Digital Dialogue

We opted for ScribbleLive for the chat, mostly for a reason I hadn’t thought of when I discussed our chat options on Monday: A large chunk of the potential readership would be at work and not in the best position to play video or run a webcam, which weighed against doing a Google+ Hangout On Air. The chat got off to a slow start, thanks in part to some rookie configuration errors on our end, but I did have fun and think we can work with this software.

7/20/2012: #171: Printing Friends and Influencing People, This Week in Law

I returned to TWiT.tv’s “TWiL” a month after my debut there to discuss a grab-bag of tech-policy topics: the prospects for cheap, widespread 3-D printing; a new intellectual-property bill that is not the second coming of SOPA; who much data the Feds have been collecting from wireless carriers; and the new face-blurring option on YouTube intended to protect dissidents. My conversation with hosts Denise Howell and Evan Brown and Public Knowledge attorney Michael Weinberg was briefly interrupted by a Skype dropout; I’m not sure if I should blame Skype or the increasingly erratic Actiontec router that came with my Verizon Fios connection.

7/20/2012: Redditors Bear Witness To Aurora Shooting, Discovery News

After reading an arresting firsthand account of Friday morning’s horrific shootings in Aurora, Colo., on Reddit, I quickly accepted an editor’s invitation to write about that. As i started putting together this post, I remembered my first mention of that site: a Post column that noted how it had become an interesting place for people to discuss news posted elsewhere. At that time, I had no idea that Reddit could become a new journalistic outlet in its own right.

Afterwards, I wanted to write a personal follow-up here noting the oddity of steadily loosening gun regulations while these mass shootings keep happening, but I ran out of time on Friday. Fair warning: You may yet read a post like that here.