The U.S. and firearms: A (patronising..) DANISH point of view..

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If Americans want to live the American dream, they should come to Denmark
( Richard Wilkinson, Co-author of “The Spirit Level“. )

One of the things I like the best about America is your FIRST Amendment, and I have pointed to it in several articles, – this, for instance: “Crimethink” – the legacy of totalitarianism..“.

On the other hand, I don’t care that much for your SECOND Amendment, but, nevertheless, I have been following some of the heated and rather hysterical debates recently. One debate I saw was on CNN, hosted by Englishman Piers Morgan, and I gotta tell you this: I totally understand all Americans who’d like to grab this extremely arrogant Brit by his… and kick him the hell out ! – I’m saying so exclusively on the basis of his patronising attitude.., – what the man actually says is another story, and I probably agree with most..

That, however, is in no way going to stop me from being somewhat patronising myself.., so now that we’ve set that straight, let us procede..

It is understandable that the debates have been circling, above all, around the correlation of gun-ownership, i.e. number and calibre of guns, and homicide rates by country, but even so it appears to me as a narrowminded and superficial approach..

In his FAQ on Violence , – ( a follow-up to his The Riddle of the Gun ), – author and Neuro-Scientist Sam Harris points out that gun-free countries are not as peaceful as many think:


Now, I am not copying this here as an argument in favour of unlimited gun-ownership (!), – I just think it would be beneficial to widen our horizons a bit, i.e. take a look at overall wellbeing, and – not least – its roots..

I could talk at length about homogeneity, race, history, culture, religion, etc., as I believe these factors all play a role, but that would lead too far, and I have chosen here to focus on social ilnesses as a function of inequality.. – I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions from these charts I am going to present. I will also tell you – in short – what I think is the right remedy for curing these ilnesses, – see below charts.

Best insurance against future troubles: Child well-being ! – Anyone who disagrees ??

The Spirit Level: Inequality and  Child Wellbeing
Improved Child well-being would, all things being equal, lower rates of Mental ilness, – right ?

The Spirit Level - Inequality and mental illness
Adversely, levels of trust are higher in more egalitarian societies..

The Spirit level: inequality and levels of trust

Apparently, that goes for the U.S. as well..

The Spirit level -Trust-levels-across-U.S.-states

No, – correlation does not prove causation, – (I thought I’d say so before you did), – but what do you make of this.. :

The Spirit level - Inequalityi and high-school-dropouts

– and this ?:

The Spirit level - Homicide-rates-across -U.S.

One more chart before I tell you what should be done..

Social mobility:
the ability of individuals or groups to move within a social hierarchy with changes in income, education, occupation, etc. )

The Spirit level - Inequality and Social Mobility
Ok folks, make your own conclusions, – call these charts Communist propaganda or anything you like, but.. assuming they get a point or two across, what should be done to cure these social illnesses, including homicides, school-massacres..

When I was interviewed by Hank Pellissier for the article: Happiness, Freedom, Equality, Rudeness: Welcome to Denmark , he asked me this question:

Hank: How would you change the United States, to make it more egalitarian like Denmark?

My answer:

First and foremost: a change of mentality—coming to terms with outdated models of who works and who cares for families. Then I would mandate, for starters: public childcare, higher minimum wage, more equal pay, more flexible work schedules for families, and redesigned family and medical work leave.

Denmark should invite over here a greater number of Americans—preferably of a Republican bent—to show those enemies of the state, extensive welfare, high taxation, etc. that there are many advantages in our system, not only for the poorest 10%, but also for the wealthy, in terms of mutual trust, lower crime rates, and so on.

I hear that these days a lot of women actually make more money than men, and I’m not sure to which extent models of who works and who cares for families are still outdated, but that would only make a stronger case for public childcare, for starters..
If you pressed me, I could no doubt be more patronising, but I think I’ll leave it at  that. How many guns – and of which calibre – you should keep in your house is entirely your own business and I will not stick my nose into that.. , but, – on the other hand, I find it interesting to look to a country like Israel..

(Note: I am Danish, and I might as well have compared to Denmark, but I think Israel is rather more interesting, for obvious reasons.. ).

I’ve spent a couple of years in Israel – in the 70’ies – and I remember how you’d see people carrying guns everywhere, – e.g. in Kibbutzes, at busstops, – soldiers on their way to / from home. Anywhere I looked really. Most of these guns however, – all, probably, were in the hands of either soldiers or civilians with a license, and here comes the interesting part: Israel has – ( surprisingly perhaps), – rather strict gun laws. Incidentally, the Homicide rate is very low: 0.83 per 100.000 population (2008 ).

Again, make your own conclusions, but  consider also the following, quoted from article in Jerusalem Post: Israeli gun control regulations ‘opposite of US’ :

Yaakov Amit, head of the Public Security Ministry’s Firearms Licensing Department:

“There is an essential difference between the two. In America the right to bear arms is written in the law, here it’s the opposite… only those who have a license can bear arms and not everyone can get a license.”

“- gun licenses are only given out to those who have a reason because they work in security or law enforcement, or those who live in settlements, where the state has an interest in them being armed”

Some facts:

  • Anyone who fits the requirements, is over age 21 and an Israeli resident for more than three years, must go through a mental and physical health exam, then pass shooting exams and courses at a licensed gun range, as well as background checks by the Public Security Ministry.
  • Once they order their firearm from a gun store, they are allowed to take it home with a one-time supply of 50 bullets.
  • The gun owner must retake his license exam and testing at the gun range every three years.
  • As of January, (2013),  a new law will go into effect requiring gun owners to prove that they have a safe at home to keep their weapon in.
  • there are about 170,000 privately-owned firearms in Israel, or enough for around one out of every 50 Israelis.
  • approximately 2,500 people in the country have gun licenses for hunting, and they must first get approval from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Apart from Israel’s strict gun-laws, what other reasons might explain the low Homicide-rate ?

Yaakov Amit says:

“the lack of mass shootings can be attributed to the country’s closely knit family structure, small size and intimacy and informality between strangers or the universal health care which makes mental health services available for all”.

Lahav gun store - Tel Aviv - Israel

There is no full-auto Friday or Ladies night at the “Lahav” gun store in Tel Aviv, a store that bears little resemblance to its US counterparts“…

So, all is rose-red then.. ?

Not quite, according to gun-store owner (…) Yiftach Ben-Yehuda, 30, whose grandfather Yisrael opened the store – Israel’s oldest – with two friends in 1949:

“The problem is that the law makes it very difficult for the good people to get guns. The number of legal guns in recent years has gone to around 170,000, but there are a half a million illegal guns floating around the Arab sector, no one knows how many. There’s no reason someone who was a fighter pilot shouldn’t be able to get a license to carry a gun.”

So do I personally support strict gun-laws ? – You bet ! – Yet I’d say this:

It amounts to no more than treating the symptoms, and does not cure the disease !

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4 responses to “The U.S. and firearms: A (patronising..) DANISH point of view..

  1. Frans: Good superficial review (speaking of patronizing).

    I am always interested in what’s missing . In a piece as ambitious as this, there is a lot missing, of necessity.
    First of all: I did not chose the title, you did. TItle says explicitly: “The US and….” Given the American reference, it would make sense to mention that the reason for the existence of the Second Amendment (guaranteeing Americans the right to bear arms) is expressly self-defense against tyranny, that is , against government. The habit of discussing gun ownership only in terms of safety is straight out of the liberal agenda. Conservatives like me who are quite willing to discuss safety do not want this primary concern of resistance to tyranny eliminated from the discussion. Americans who do this are always in bad faith, I think. And, as I wrote recently) right now is especially a bad time to sweep this matter under the rug.

    Frans, don’t be concerned about being called a “fascist” That would just be a facile and gratuitous insult. Fascism is not an individual trait, it’s an ideology and it’s a program. There is a hard core of Obama’s constituency that is classically fascist. It is so although Obama was re-elected legitimately (There are short essays on this on my blog

    Aside from your adopting the American liberal agenda to guide your discussion, I have trouble with your use of data. First things first: As a rule, people who say “correlation is not causation” say this merely to gain the right to use correlations as if they actually demonstrated causation. You don’t escape that rule.. Second consideration regarding your use of data: the neat graphs yon present conceal muddled thinking and a striking lack of criticality. I will take one example. (I could easily use three or four others but my old fingers hurt.) One table indicates that rape is twice more likely in Sweden than in the US and three times more likely in Australia. As a Dane, would you use this information to send Swedish social planners to the US to study American policies that contain rape? Well, would you? Don’t try to wiggle out of it.

    Or, wouldn’t ii be better to check the measures? Is it possible that what’s called “rape” in Sweden is not directly comparable to what is called “rape” in the US?. Once you demonstrate this lack of criticality, in my book ( in MY book) all your pretty graphs become suspect or worse (What do you think is worse?) This happens although your good faith is not in question.

    The bad general US numbers you show don’t surprise anyone in the US. To a surprising extent, we are a third world country.( I have hired illegal Mexican immigrants who were illiterate in Spanish.) The question that comes to my mind and not to your (for which I do not blame you) are crucial, questions that have become forbidden in the US. They turn around this topic: If your removed from the statistics the bad half of the 14% of the population who are black, where would the US rank on any dimension of social pathology? About 7% of the US population is comprised of people who murder one another at prodigious rates and whose children are all born to single and unsupported very young, uneducated mothers . That will mess up your numbers any time! (The 50% of black as a ‘bad half’ is just guesswork but it’s good guesswork. It takes into good account the fact that half of African Americans are probably regularly employed and living in conventional families.) And please, don’t try to engage me in a historical discussion. Where the high incidence of black pathology comes from has become irrelevant. The practical point is this: Whatever can be done to stop young black from massacring one another and to make babies they have no intention of supporting whatever, is going to have no effect on my own propensity to homicide and on my family’s out of wedlock experience.

    For my taste, you are trying to do too much at one sitting. The size of gthe endeavor seems to undermine criticality.

    • Note: I first posted this reply twice by mistake, then deleted one, and both disappeared, apparently, so posting it again.

      Thanks delacroixjacques, -- you will be pleased to hear I find all points you are making highly valid. With your razor-sharp analytical capabilities I am of course not one bit surprised ! -- Not only are your points valid, they are also relevant, and I might very well have included everything you say is missing, but I figured the article was long enough as it is, and I also like to think of readers as intelligent enough to be aware of those “missing” points. If I am wrong I am overly pleased to have you take readers by their hands and show them.

      Your write:

      Given the American reference, it would make sense to mention that the reason for the existence of the Second Amendment (guaranteeing Americans the right to bear arms) is expressly self-defense against tyranny

      You are right, I might have mentioned that, if not for any other reason, then to show you Americans that I am aware of history, but at least I did make an effort not to be (too) annoying, which is also why I added (patronising..) to the title. -- On the other hand.., dare I suggest the time has come for Americans to let go of the past.. -- I mean, does anyone in their right minds seriously believe an armed struggle might be necessary anytime soon ? -- Yes, -- I know there are Americans who are armed to their teeth who seriously think so, but.. call me naive.. such a scenario is beyond my imagination. -- Anyway, -- it was certainly not my intention to sweep anything under the rug, and thanks again for bringing it up. I have the deepest respect for Freedom-loving people, and I admire the determination of Americans to fight totalitarianism anywhere / anytime, including at home..

      Re: As a rule, people who say “correlation is not causation” say this merely to gain the right to use correlations as if they actually demonstrated causation.

      Of course I am convinced personally that all these correlations, taken together, are more that just correlations, and yes, I am convinced that inequality is at the roots of many of these ilnesses, but I still mean it when I say it is up to readers to draw their own conclusions. All I can do is provide some material for people to think about, which is basically what I’ve done here.

      Re: Is it possible that what’s called “rape” in Sweden is not directly comparable to what is called “rape” in the US?

      It is not only possible, it is true, so again you are making a valid point, but again also, it would lead too far for me to go into details about that, and again, I have to trust readers themselves are critical / sceptical, and anyone interested in those figures are free to check for themselves. I happen to know Swedish crime-statistics in great detail actually, and I could write a whole essay about that, but the reason why I included these figures, -- copied from Sam Harris, -- was to make this point: Let us not be blinded by guns and homicide rates, -- let us try to see beyond the symptoms.

      Re: As a Dane, would you use this information to send Swedish social planners to the US to study American policies that contain rape?

      The answer is no, and here’s why, in short: The Swedish rape epidemic is a problem with roots in multiculturalism. I know you are acutely aware of the risk of being perceived as a racist yourself when daring to point to this obvious fact, so.. let me be quite frank here: The great majority of rapes are committed by Muslim immigrants, and Sweden today has massive problems with integrating hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers. That of course is another discussion, -- a very important discussion, but irrelevant to what I wanted to say in this article.

      Re: If your removed from the statistics the bad half of the 14% of the population who are black, where would the US rank on any dimension of social pathology?

      Absolutely, -again a very valid point, and between you and me, we are getting closer here to what we should be discussing much more openly. Unfortunately, political correctness -- or simple cowardice.. prevents it. Of course it is explosive issues and highly emotional stuff, not easy to talk about in a rational way at all..

      At the end of the day I believe there is a very strong case for pointing to inequality as being at the root of many of these social illnesses. I don’t mean to say it is the ONLY problem, and as I have written: I could talk at lengh about homogeneity, culture, history, religion and what have we, but.. I’d end up writing a whole book, so that, and nothing else, is why I have not mentioned all what you are saying I ought to have mentioned. -- Again: Thanks for making up for it, -- I very much appreciate it !

      Considering you say I am trying to do too much at one sitting, it seems to me I had good reasons to leave those “missing” points out..

  2. PS This is Jacques Delacroix again: I tried to correct my own mistakes after posting but I was unable to figure how to do it. Sorry.

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