Gun Control: Shut Down The Damn Pump…


From digby

Shut down the pump: a little parable for our time

Here is an interesting story for you to read today:

British doctor John Snow couldn’t convince other doctors and scientists that cholera, a deadly disease, was spread when people drank contaminated water until a mother washed her baby’s diaper in a town well in 1854 and touched off an epidemic that killed 616 people.
Dr. Snow believed sewage dumped into the river or into cesspools near town wells could contaminate the water supply, leading to a rapid spread of disease.

In August of 1854 Soho, a suburb of London, was hit hard by a terrible outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snows himself lived near Soho, and immediately went to work to prove his theory that contaminated water was the cause of the outbreak.

“Within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days,” Dr. Snow wrote “As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.”

Dr. Snow worked around the clock to track down information from hospital and public records on when the outbreak began and whether the victims drank water from the Broad Street pump. Snow suspected that those who lived or worked near the pump were the most likely to use the pump and thus, contract cholera. His pioneering medical research paid off. By using a geographical grid to chart deaths from the outbreak and investigating each case to determine access to the pump water, Snow developed what he considered positive proof the pump was the source of the epidemic… Snow was able to prove that the cholera was not a problem in Soho except among people who were in the habit of drinking water from the Broad Street pump. He also studied samples of water from the pump and found white flecks floating in it, which he believed were the source of contamination.

On 7 September 1854, Snow took his research to the town officials and convinced them to take the handle off the pump, making it impossible to draw water. The officials were reluctant to believe him, but took the handle off as a trial only to find the outbreak of cholera almost immediately trickled to a stop. Little by little, people who had left their homes and businesses in the Broad Street area out of fear of getting cholera began to return.

It took many more years before it was widely accepted that cholera came from the water. (In fact, it took a priest trying to prove that it was God’s will to finally do it!)

But here’s the relevant takeaway: they didn’t need to cure the disease to end the epidemic. What ended it was shutting down the pump.

Here’s another story for you to think about today:

From 1984 to 1996, multiple killings aroused public concern. The 1984 Milperra massacre was a major incident in a series of conflicts between various ‘outlaw motorcycle gangs’. In 1987, the Hoddle Street massacre and the Queen Street massacre took place in Melbourne. In response, several states required the registration of all guns, and restricted the availability of self-loading rifles and shotguns. In the Strathfield massacre in New South Wales, 1991, two were killed with a knife, and five more with a firearm. Tasmania passed a law in 1991 for firearm purchasers to obtain a licence, though enforcement was light. Firearm laws in Tasmania and Queensland remained relatively relaxed for longarms. In 1995, Tasmania had the second lowest rate of homicides per head of population.

The Port Arthur massacre in 1996 transformed gun control legislation in Australia. Thirty five people were killed and 21 wounded when a man with a history of violent and erratic behaviour beginning in early childhood opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two military style semi-automatic rifles. Six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, this mass killing at the notorious former convict prison at Port Arthur horrified the Australian public and had powerful political consequences.
The Port Arthur perpetrator said he bought his firearms from a gun dealer without holding the required firearms licence.

Prime Minister John Howard, then newly elected, immediately took the gun law proposals developed from the report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence and forced the states to adopt them under a National Firearms Agreement. This was necessary because the Australian Constitution does not give the Commonwealth power to enact gun laws. The proposals included a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.

Some discussion of measures to allow owners to undertake modifications to reduce the capacity of magazine-fed shotguns (“crimping”) occurred, but the government refused to permit this.

Surveys showed up to 85% of Australians supported gun control,but some farmers and sporting shooters strongly opposed the new laws.

This did not solve the problem of mental illness or end the primitive capacity of human beings to commit murder and mayhem. Those are huge problems that their society, like all societies, is still grappling with every day. But it did end the epidemic of mass shootings. They have not had even one since then.

The lesson is this: End the epidemic and then we can — and must — talk about root causes and mental health facilities and our violent culture. But first things first — shut down the damned pump.

From The AVA

COMMENT. What’s nearly as depressing as that event today in Connecticut, is how familiar all the rhetoric is, how shallow it is, how unwilling the media are to take it deep, to consider the true reasons these things happen, and are happening more and more often. At least Obama, alone in the coverage of today’s mass murder, showed some real emotion. Why do these things happen in America more than they happen in other countries? Beyond the easy availability of guns, and that horse fled the barn long ago, I’d say, in a fancy word, atomization, a dramatic social collapse that has left thousands, maybe millions of people crazy and alone, so isolated and angry that the angriest, the person most removed from human feeling, thinks his best revenge for the life he doesn’t have is to pick up a gun and shoot down kindergartners.


1. Only registered gun ownership, following completion of a 3-day firearms training course with rigorous testing.

2. No firearms or magazines holding more than 6 shots.

3. 10 year jail sentence for illegal ownership of firearm or ownership of non-compliant firearm; minimum 25 year jail sentence with non-self-defense brandishing or use of any firearm involving actual or potential injury.

4. Lifetime loss of ownership privilege with conviction of any felony; 5. Registration of all ammunition and firearm identification of all fired ammunition.


If you think that you are going to control 300 million guns that are now in the hands of most Americans, you probably also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. NOT going to happen. Even if you got 99% registered, that would still leave 3 million floating around not registered, and they never will be. There is no record of most of the guns owned because they were bought, swapped, gifted, stolen long before any registration was required.

Better you look at the society that owns them. Their lives are soaked in blood. TV, Movies, Video games, wars, etc.. ALL are supported and even encouraged by the Capitalist Government in control. We are a nation founded in blood, that of the natives first and then the British later. Then we went into war for a living…a long list to date. If we did not export war and weapons, we would be a 3rd world country. That it is now coming home to American streets is becoming obvious. More will follow and it will get much much worse.

In addtition to the excellent points made by Makati1 , may I add some more to reasons we see such violence by our youth today…

Can we begin to criticize and condemn the conventional food industry that serves up such salacious crap that youths minds are jellified and distorted?

Can we begin to criticize and condemn the medical community of ever more prescriptive drugging of children for their behaviors brought on by all of the mentioned above?

Can we begin to take a hard look at the lack of parental controls to be regularly exposed to the violent movies, allow unsupervised TV/Internet viewing, buy the violent video games for them to play, let the doctors prescribe mind altering drugs to their children?

Can we begin to criticize our high schools and universities who impoverish the wallets and minds of the creative youth today and give them zero skills/zero hope to adapt to the radically changing world they/we are facing?

Can we begin to criticize our President, who was just condemned by not one but two significant investigations in Europe and the U.S. along with Bush Jr. for continuing to torture and detain human beings unconstitutionally

… and our Congressional ‘leaders’ for funding the globalists agenda of perennial war with all by fostering hate and lies as to who has, and can have WMD’s, and who is provoking who. Spending trillions while our country has the highest poverty rates of any modern nation except Romania?

Is it not a sign of the efficiency of our violent country where the military gets its top recruits now from the National Video Game Competition in Las Vegas each year?

And finally can we begin to look at ourselves for the dollars we willfully spend in taxes to fund the violence by paying our taxes to our government because we each as individuals ‘don’t want to go to jail’,

….that allows the U.S. to continue as the largest purveyor of the latest bad ass military equipment (did you see that today we just let me correct myself…are GIVING the Muslim Dictatorshipof Egypt, some 20 F-16’s??) to all parties of the world, as well as funding our own war machine that outspends all other nations combined, so that perpetual war will ever continue on and on and on….and the bankers continue to profit wildly.

Personal gun ownership is not the problem….

Mirror please.

Public health education might help. In Viet Nam toy guns are illegal and violence is off the screen until after bed time

Epidemiology is the queen of scientific medicine. Corporate role of medicine has undermined it, along with the rest of scientific medicine. The first error in the pursuit of ultimate causes is to confuse symptoms with their underlying diseases. As demonstrated fully by the eminent epidemiologists who recently wrote the book The Spirit Level, the pump handle for interpersonal violence is our radically worsening economic inequality. Even in the unlikely event that there developed a successful movement to ban guns, I would enjoy that BTW, the unresolved problem of gross inequality will continue to generateg a host of related symptoms which would rob the effort of effect. Defense against each other is based in trust. Read the book and think it through.

As a teacher of two decades, there were several instances where it was apparent that a student in my class had severe problems relating to others and the capacity for violence. It took weeks, often months, of “classroom interventions” before I was even permitted to fill out hours of paperwork (on my own time) documenting the problems and interventions to request a meeting of the student study team, who would suggest more useless classroom interventions. The school psychologist would pop in for half an hour to observe the troubled young person, and might even meet with him or her once a week for a few minutes, but no real therapy (which, I think, would have to include the whole family) occurred.

High school students who knew the shooter several years ago were interviewed and said they “weren’t surprised” at the shooter’s actions.

So it’s not that there aren’t warning signs, often for years, that someone is severely troubled, it is that we lack the will or ability to help people before they snap.

Add to that the thousands of hours many kids play extremely violent video games, shooting and killing people on their TV and computer screens, until they become desensitized to the horror of taking another’s life.

And to that add the knowledge that the entire country will be inundated for days by news of a massacre every time the television, radio, or computer is turned on, and you have the perfect recipe for someone who wants to say, “I’ll show them.”

Denial is the only succor for the afflicted. We all live near by very unstable characters. From my years of work with incarcerated and violently mentally disturbed youth, I can guarantee that many such folks are walking around, many with signs seen in the retrospectroscope but denied in the living moment. I have also lived in many rural areas of the US. The situation tends to be worse in small towns that are being gutted economically and culturally. Out of the large group of folks under such stresses a few will blow up and surprise everyone who had known them for years. A story retold so frequently in the news as to induce fatigue. Personally, I live next to someone who is confidently diagnosed as violently mentally ill. Multiple assaults and batteries on local people. He has weapons and a vicious pit bull that he sids on people he does not like. I have seen him chase a disabled elder into fast traffic on 128. Why is this allowed to go on unmolested by police and animal control? This is part of the problem. We have moved on from “protect and serve” to “control as economically as possible with maximum incarceration for the least advantaged and a free pass for the uber-wealthy. Depraved plutocracy is always like this regardless of the aggressive society it rules.

Look around the world at places where interpersonal gun violence is inordinate.

Country Total firearm-related death rate Homicides Suicides Unintentional Undetermined Year Sources and notes (key)
El Salvador 50.36 50.36 NA NA NA 2009 OAS 2011[1]
Jamaica 47.44 47.44 NA NA NA 2009 OAS 2011[1]
Honduras 46.70 46.70 NA NA NA 2007 OAS 2011[1]
Guatemala 38.52 38.52 NA NA NA 2009 OAS 2011[1]
Swaziland 37.16 37.16 NA NA NA 2004 UNODC 2006[1]
Colombia 28.11 27.10 0.87 0.14 NA 2009 UNODC 2011 [2]
Brazil 19.01 18.10 0.73 0.18 NA 2008 UNODC 2011[3]
Panama 12.92 12.92 NA NA NA 2010 OAS 2011[1]
Mexico 11.14 10.00 0.67 0.47 NA 2010 UNODC 2011[4]
Philippines 9.46 9.46 NA NA NA 2002 UNODC 2002[5]
South Africa 9.41 NA NA NA NA 2012 UNODC 2012[6] & Stats SA[7]
United States 9.00 2.98 5.75 0.27 NA 2008-2010 OAS 2011[8]

Note that the ratio of homicide to suicide in the US is radically different that other countries. Other populations kill themselves with guns at about the same rate but in the US it is three homicides to each suicide.

Prevention show that 3,042 children and teens died from gunfire in the United States in 2007—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 58 every week.

2,161 were homicide victims
683 committed suicide
198 died in accidental or undetermined circumstances
2,665 were boys
377 were girls
397 were under age 15
154 were under age 10
85 were under age 5
1,499 were Black
1,460 were White
611 were Latino*
43 were Asian or Pacific Islander
40 were American Indian or Alaska Native

Almost six times as many children and teens — 17,523 — suffered non-fatal gun injuries.
* Persons of Hispanic/Latino origin can be of any race; these 611 deaths are included in the four race categories.” (

About a third of gun shot victims are children in the US.

More revealing is this chart analyzing chid gun deaths from the CDC.


Compared to all other gun violent countries, the US is especially hard on children.

The problem, my friends is in our fevered fearful fantasies and a lack of social capital attributable, as it is in other grossly unequal economic conditions.

The symptom is that the US far outdistances other country in killing children. The is a symptom of a general social problem, the loss of social capital and trust. If we want this to start changing we have to come together and learn to trust each other and build social capital.

The primary goal of any society has to be the effective nurture of children to allow them to achieve their potential. At this point the evidence, in violence, in education, in medicine, in safety shows that the US is failing on a massive scale with its children. The guns are just a side show really. A window into the tortured, terrorized violent fantasies of our population that increasingly will become acted out in overstressed and mentally damaged people. Never say it could not get worse. The call I hear is for everyone to strap on heavy metal and let fly when they feel scared.

We have definitely been born in the most interesting of times.