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Guns in the U.S.
We’re Better at Killing Americans Than Our Enemies Are

by Michael Shermer

If your gut tells you that mass public shootings are alarmingly common, your gut’s right.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a mass murder as four or more deaths during a single incident with no distinct time period between killings. By this definition, according to Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, between 1980 and 2010 there were an average of 20 mass murders per year, or an average of one every 2.6 weeks.

Now it looks like that interval is shrinking. According to shootingtracker.com, there were 30 mass public shootings with four or more dead in 2014, and there have been 31 this year through the Oct. 1 tragedy in Roseburg, Ore., or one every 1.6 weeks.

No wonder President Obama feels like he’s repeating himself with sullen regularity in his post-shooting speeches.

Our gun problem of course extends beyond mass violence. In 2014 alone, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 11,208 people shot to death, 33,636 injured by gunfire and 21,175 who killed themselves with a gun. That’s a total of 66,019 people who were killed or injured by a gun, which comes out to 1,269 per week, 180 a day or 7.5 per hour.

Add up all the gun fatalities since 1970 (approximate annual average of 30,000, according to the CDC) and you get the staggering figure of 1.35 million dead, which is disturbingly close to the figure of 1.39 million Americans who have died in all wars since the American Revolution.

Perhaps this is the gruesome price of freedom. The 2nd Amendment guarantees us the right to own a gun, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that right in two recent cases. But should you, dear reader, choose to own a gun? …

Continue reading the article


When Cops Kill:
An Insider’s Perspective

by Daniel DeLeon

Daniel DeLeon was inspired to write this article after reading Michael Shermer’s July, 2015 column in Scientific American titled “Outrageous: Why Cops Kill.” DeLeon thought readers might gain some insight hearing an answer to the question of why cops kill from a cop himself. He begins with some background, and then considers the many circumstances in which cops find themselves that can lead an incident to escalate into violence.

I am a white male 34 years old and grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles area for most of my life. I served in the U.S. Army with 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. I did a tour in Afghanistan, finished my time in the Army and went on to obtain my college degree. Finally, at the age of 26, I became a police officer with what I consider the greatest department in the world—the Los Angeles Police Department.

One of my earliest memories as a child was of my grandfather’s answer to my question about what I should be when I grow up. His response: “Son, do what makes you happy. So long as it keeps a roof over your head and food on the table, do it.” My immediate response was, “I want to be a police officer.”

Why? I don’t know, and I cannot remember any experiences with law enforcement at that time that would have led me to want this. I guess you could say it was a “calling” for me. I geared my entire life toward the goal of becoming a police officer.

As I grew older in my childhood, I always had this strong desire to want to protect others who were being harmed. Even though I was a skinny little kid growing up, I never hesitated to start a fight with a bully who was picking on someone. I always played scenarios in my head of what I would do to help if I ever saw someone in a life-threatening distress.

I did my best to stay out of trouble, never doing drugs and never committing any crimes short of a traffic violation or using Napster. I knew a tour in the military would instill within me the disciplined mindset, and it surely did. I knew education would benefit in giving me the writing and legal skills needed to survive in my chosen career.

The Los Angeles Police Department was my only choice. Growing up as a kid and seeing the LAPD’s uniform always impressed me—it seemed like there was no other like it. Seeing how the officers of the department carried themselves motivated me to be that officer some day. Most of all, a personal experience with a single LAPD officer set it all in stone…

Continue reading the article

Daniel Loxton
The 10 Percent Brain Myth

Have you heard that we only use 10 percent of our brains? Imagine what we could accomplish if we could discover how to use that other 90 percent! There’s only one problem: none of that is true. Humans use every part of our brains.

Read the Insight

7 Comments »

7 Comments

  1. Yahya says:

    t’s not the price of freedom Michael; it’s the price of greed. I’m so annoyed that political system of US is failing so gravely. Since acquiring money for the political campaigns is crucially necessary, politicians have to affiliate themselves with various companies and firms. It is where the politician’s ignorance about several issues comes from. They have to stubbornly deny the role of human in global warming to retain their financial support from oil companies, they have to support gun ownership to endear themselves to the wealthy gun manufacturing companies, they have to unconditionally support Israel despite all their unthinkable deeds just to obtain money from powerful Jewish lobbies.

    No wonder why US politics is failing, no wonder why people are progressively getting fed up with their political system, and no wonder why these people come to support a clown like Donald Trump out of desperation, only because he is a little different from other politicians.

  2. Tzindaro says:

    The largest percentage of gun-related deaths involve alcohol or drugs, but the focus is always on the gun, not the drug. I favor the right to carry a gun, but would welcome a ban on carrying one while under the influence. This is seldom proposed by the anti-gun crowd. I suspect most of them drink and do not see anything wrong with drinking. Maybe we should revisit the idea of prohibition and make another attempt to outlaw alcohol. Contrary to the obsolete notion that prohibition was a failure and therefore alcohol must be allowed, if done properly, it could be made to work and spare this country a lot of problems, including many gun deaths.

    The same goes for cops who shoot people. The first thing to do in any case of a cop shooting someone, regardless of circumstances, should be to test the cop for steroids. That would be quick and easy. If no steroid use is found, then the other circumstances of the shooting can be investigated. And all cops should be routinely subject to random testing for steroid use. I suspect the police unions would set up a howl at that suggestion, but I since I was told by a senior police officer in San Francisco that nearly all street-level cops in that city use steroids, I think any other effort to solve the issue of police killings is pointless until that one is addressed.

    I also was told by a British police officer than statistics from the US are the reason he and his collegues do not want to carry guns. He said slightly over half of all American cops shot on duty are shot with their own gun that someone got away from them during an attempted arrest. He said that statistic makes him feel safer without a gun because of someone gets his stick away from him he will probably survive, but if he had a gun and someone got hold of it he probably wouldn’t.

  3. John Hodge says:

    I notice the place of the mass murders you cite was missing. As I remember the reporting of the incidents, they ALL seem to take place in gun free zones. This data would argue against gun free zones. If sopping mass murder is the goal, make gun free zones illegal.
    That significant data is ignored makes this a propaganda article rather than an article in the tradition of a skeptic.

    • James says:

      I believe a “gun-free zone” is for people who would observe it, as well as allowing for prosecution of someone violating the rule; its not going to stop the other types anymore than drunk driving laws will stop drunks from driving. Why are you visiting a “propaganda” site?

  4. John says:

    “Contrary to the obsolete notion that prohibition was a failure and therefore alcohol must be allowed, if done properly, it could be made to work…”

    How’s that working out with marijuana? Or are they just doing it wrong?

  5. Tzindaro says:

    Instead of an outright ban from the start, a more effective way to ban alcohol would be to gradually phase it out over a 20 year period by simultaneously reducing the permissible alcohol content by 10% each year, while increasing the price by a tax increase of the same amount each year. After 20 years of this, the cost of a drink would be so high and the alcoholic content so low that nobody would bother drinking. But since it would sneak up on them inch by inch, there would be no great demand for bootleg drinks. And while this was happening, the money taken in by the tax on alcohol would be used for treatment programs and anti-drink propaganda.

    Marijuana is relatively harmless, but the answer to your question is, yes. If marajuana was treated as a medical matter instead of a criminal matter, as it is in some countries, and if healthy natural teen-age sex was encouraged instead of being fought by adult society, very few adolescents would start to use it. Drug and alcohol use is a substitute for sex or, what amounts to the same thing, a means to indulge in impersonal sex while avoiding real emotional intimacy in the vast majority of cases. A sex-positive culture would not have a substance-abuse problem. Or a gun problem, for that matter.

  6. Dennis Wilkinson says:

    Drug and alcohol use is a substitute for sex? Really? If that is true, shouldn’t one see a negative correlation between the two? Just off the top of my head, I’ll bet you don’t.

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