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Everything We've Heard About Columbine is Wrong?

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the wearing-black-doesn't-make-you-a-goth dept.

The Media 656

wtpooh writes "There ia a story over at Salon magazine about the continuing investigation into the Columbine killings. Pretty much everything we've been told by the media about the killers is wrong: They were probably not gay, they were not anti-jock, anti-god, or anti-black, and they were certainly not part of the Trench Coat Mafia, which was almost nonexistent at the time of the shooting. Essentially, the confused memories of the eyewitnesses and the overzealous reporting of the media fed off each other, turning rumors into facts." Considering the number of Slashdot pixels that have already been devoted to the Columbine massacre, this story is well worth a look. Quite an interesting perspective, not only on the massacre, but on the way the news media covered it. Updates: a story at apbnews.com refutes much of the Salon story above; Salon runs excerpts from Harris's diary.

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Media (5)

CormacJ (64984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665373)

I've seen this happen a lot as reporters come under pressure from thier editors to get something that none of the other papers have. In this instance rumour and conjecture equates fact and gets published, which is then referred to by other articles and so on.

You can see instances of this in the reporting of the Olymic bombing and several other occasions where there are lots of intrest but limited facts to print.

The days of investigative reporters like Woodward and Bernstien have long since passed. These days reports seem to want to reformat a press release and publish.

Reactions to Katz's articles (2)

axolotl (1659) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665374)

It's interesting, assuming this to be true, that so many people could empathise with the distorted, incorrect version of events, to the extent that he got thousands of e-mails saying "we were bullied like this too". I wonder whether there would have been half as much fuss if it had just been some madman with no motive killing people.

axolotl

Trenchcoat Mafia (5)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665375)

I had the pleasure of working in the States for a month, just after the Columbine shootings. This would have been great, except for the fact that I have long black hair and wear black clothes - yup, I'm a goth, and have been for ten years.

The downside to this was that every day I had passers by crossing the road to avoid me, and verbal abuse from jerks in muscle cars or pickups. Even some of the people where I was working were a little bit aprehensive about talking to me ...

Meanwhile on CNN and other stations, much was being made of the alleged musical and fashion tastes of the Columbine gunmen. I decided to read up on the incident, and was struck by the fact that the killers looked nothing like goths, didn't appear to like what Americans consider to be goth bands, and nor did their friends (the so called `Trenchcoat Mafia').

I started to watch the TV shows, and was struck by the warped logic displayed by many of the commentators. While the actions of the killers was indefensible, the arguments being put forward as to why they acted the way they did was disturbing. Clean cut, rent a quote, god fearing teens were stating that the killers and their friends were outcasts. The conclusion that was drawn was that anyone that looked different or didn't listen to pop music was a potential menace to society.

At no point did anyone ask whether the avaliablility of guns was a factor. The fact is that most teens have felt like killing someone on the spur of the moment, but the availability of such effective means to do it is the key. I'm sure there are as many messed up kids (and adults) in the UK as there are in the US, but incidents like Columbine simply cannot happen with such alarming regularity because access to firearms is so limited.

So, please don't attack a music scene or fashion that you don't like or don't understand. Look further and ask whether it's time to stop the dubious right to bear arms. This isn't the wild west anymore, there aren't any bears, Indians or bandits waiting to ambush your wagon train. Guns simply don't have a place in a modern society.


Chris Wareham

The Media Sucks (tm) (3)

MeAtHereDotCom (1511) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665376)

I hate the media. Who do I blame for these incidents? I blame the media. If you tell someone something often enough, they begin to believe it. The media has been focusing on the fact of 'how bad the teens are today' for the past 30 years. Eventually people begin to believe that they are. And, of course, todays teens act accordingly. I also detest the fact that the media spreads so much FUD about something. Yeah. Lets go out and find something that happens to 1 in 10,000,000 people. Make it sound like a big deal, and blow it WAY out of proportion. Instead of focusing on someone doing good things, helping out their fellow man, they focus on the negative things in society. Unfortunatly, it seems, that many people don't want to see the good in society. I'm not saying that the negative shouldn't be brought out, i'm just saying that they focus on the negative. Watch the nightly news. I assure you the first 5 stories are about someone killing someone, some political scandal, or someone dying. Too bad at least one of those 5 lead ins couldn't be about the person that helped someone out. Anyhoo. Me.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

MeAtHereDotCom (1511) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665377)

"Guns simply don't have a place in a modern society"

Yeah, but rocks can kill people too. The problem is much bigger than just the guns. Yes, guns are easiest, but not the only method of killing people. Make guns illegal, and they'll use knives. Make knives illegal and they'll use...

Hey Katz, I told you so! (4)

pingouin (783) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665378)

We made much ado about this stuff, missing out on the sheer cussedness of the assailants. They weren't firing the first salvos of some Geek Revolution; it wasn't some White Power Trip; it wasn't fill-in-the-blank with your own little pet advocacy topic. Even Pat Robertson tried to hype Cassie Bernall into Great Christian Martyr status. We all overreacted: me, you, the media, school administrators, my cat, and even Linus and Elvis.

Harris and Klebold were simply illustrating a truism uttered by H. Rap Brown back in the 1960s: "Violence is as American as Cherry Pie." (Katz, you're old enough to remember that one). Violence (literal, threatened, or figurative) is the all-purpose "solution" to problems, whether a non-compliant kid, a non-compliant foreign country, a non-compliant workforce, or whatever.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then Americans (and I myself am occasionally one) are the village idiots who helped raise Harris and Klebold.

Have a nice day.

--

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665395)

And a second followup
Chris, remember the triggering incident of the American revolution. The battle of Lexington/Concorde was because a bunch of people from England decide to try to take away American arms. We didn't like Brits telling us what to do then, and we don't like it NOW. Want to ban firearms in Britan, go right ahead, that's YOUR business.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

revnight (8980) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665396)

i rather agree with Robert Heinlein on this...if everyone in the country were armed, this would be the politest damned society you ever did see.

Excuse me but... (1)

ChrisGoodwin (24375) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665397)

So, please don't attack a music scene or fashion that you don't like or don't understand. Look further and ask whether it's time to stop the dubious right to bear arms. This isn't the wild west anymore, there aren't any bears, Indians or bandits waiting to ambush your wagon train. Guns simply don't have a place in a modern society.

And kiddie porn is available on the Internet.

Therefore, we should ban the Internet.

Same logic, same reasoning.
--

That must be wrong, Goths are scary... (2)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665398)

You mean the overwhelming fear I've had of trench-coated goths for the last 6 months is wholly unneccessary, and I can go back to ignoring them?

I'm sure they will all be disappointed at their loss in distance-from-mainstream-society and notoriety points. Oh, well. I still blame it all on Marilyn Manson...

The Media et al. (2)

puppet (27092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665399)

I lost my blind faith that the media *had* to report the truth at an early age. I had been watching an unedited speech by some forgotten politician and after it was over I switched to a national news program. It had only been seconds since the live broadcast and the reporter had taken every conceivable controversial word and turned it into a scandelous statement. I found myself yelling to my TV, "That's not what he said!" but it fell on deaf ears. I'm not sure when it happened but all media, with the 'net being a last bastion of hope for me, seems to have turned into "Hard Copy" style tabloids. I now seek my news from many varied sources and prefer international sites where the reporting is at least more interesting.

It was just an excuse to..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665400)

persecute geeks, nerds, goths, etc. It is exactly the kind of thing you see in police states.... they declare a state of emergency and then use it to strip away any of remaining rights that the people might have had. The only difference is that this time people actually go with it. I for one would like to see some militancy the next time something like columbine happens. We geeks, nerds, goths, punks, etc need to tell these fascists that we won't let them trample on our rights like they did last time. It is time that we reminded them that we are Americans too and have the same rights they have.

Giving people who hate the world a bad name... (1)

Dast (10275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665401)

Okay, so, they hated the world. Great. Now those of use who hate the world are going to get a bad name. ;)

your imasges make me want to kill ... (4)

cthonious (5222) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665402)

(Found on a bathroom wall somewhere in the U.S.A.)

You've taken over my mind. You've raped my thoughts with your image viruses then sold me fake cures for your own disease. Your words and pictures scream orders at me like angry prison wardens. When I cover my ears, your voices echo in my head. I hate you. When I see your billboards, your talk shows, your rock concerts and your factories, when I see the work of your twisted libidos, I want to kill you. I want to set fires, plant bombs, derail trains. I want to smash your buildings and tear at your bodies until the skin of my hands is worn to the bone. I am filled with a rage that burns my eyes.

I don't want to feel this way. You have done this to me. These feelings are the fruits of your multi-billion dollar sowing. And I am not alone. There are others like me out here. Every suicide, every madman, every man and woman who gets a gun and just starts shooting -- these are your illegitimate children. They don't all know what they are doing. All they know is hate for the invisible walls which you have raised around them, hate for the narrow path you have tried to make them walk. And the innocent pay in blood for your negligence.

Remember this: My mind is big. The more you try to push me down and make me small, the greater the pressure inside me becomes. The greater the pressure, the greater the chance of an explosion. There was once a time when I felt love, but now I feel only hate and anger, and fear at what I might do. And you can tell me to "BE HAPPY," but I know that you really mean "BE QUIET". Believe me, I want to be happy. You stand in my way.

Sound trite? Maybe.

No, I'm not a whacko and I didn't write this. However, I just thought I'd throw that out for a different perspective. I found that at abrupt.org [abrupt.org] . I think there is quite of bit of insight into our system and the twisted minds it produces there. take a look.

Our cultural maliase runs very deep. Guns are not the problem, nor is TV violence, nor is jocks or high school cliques. These things have been going on since civilization began.

I believe the causes run much deeper; our obsession with amusement is a great part of it. If you understand that everything (from the drug wars to the daily news to our political campaigns) is being presented to us in the form of entertainment, I think you will see at least the beginning of the problem. Would ritalin have "cured" these kids? Maybe, but ritalin is the problem. Armed guards in schools is ludicrous - one is reminded (sorry) of all the ad hoc patches and crap that makes up our least favorite OS. At some point one needs to start over.

If you want to understand our deep cutural sickness you need to read. I'm suggesting a few books and I'll leave it at that:

  • Nieztsche: The Portable Nietzsche (an honest reading of Nietzsche is, I think, key to our illness)
  • Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind
  • Niel Postman: Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

So in other words .... (1)

opencode (28152) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665403)

Instead of focusing on a "duet" of misfits, the media had chosen to focus on a "gang" that they had belonged to months prior to the shootings.

I'm not saying the mainstream media did a GOOD JOB reporting the events last Spring, but I'm not sure what has changed, notwithstanding the "fear of geeks" that they created.

In the name of comic relief, and NOT to suggest a cheap joke, I suggest this: ABC-TV's "Freaks and Geeks" will have a wider audience because of the tragedy.

A reply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665405)

I live in Boulder,Colorado, and close to certain large media event crimes. I am so sick of this story (and others !!) I could PUKE. Pardon me while I VOMIT.......l

No big surprise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665587)

And people wonder why I don't believe a damm
thing I see on tv or read in a paper or magazine.

They are either creating there own facts or just
or on the rare ocasion they get the facts right
they putt such a ditrotion on them and f*ck
things around.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (3)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665590)

At no point did anyone ask whether the avaliablility of guns was a factor.

Guns simply don't have a place in a modern society.
Actually, the story suggests that the availability of guns led to less people being killed. If guns were truly unavailable (if we delude ourselves for a moment into thinking that black markets don't exist), I believe they would have retreived the bombs and made sure they went off another day.

Regarding guns having no place in a modern society, I strongly disagree with you. Guns equalize people so that people can't use superior physical prowess to overpower victims. For instance, carrying concealed firearms has been demonstrated to cut rape rates dramatically in Florida. Beyond that, though, is the basic human right to self-defense. There are plenty of ways to kill people (run them down with cars, make bombs, poison, etc) but, firearms have the unique capability of being useful for self-defense.

If we take a more realistic view - that someone capable of maliciously killing someone else would also not have a problem with breaking anti-gun laws, we can see that trying to ban guns in a society such as the United States has will only make the problem of violent crime worse. (Which Washington, D.C.'s crime statistics illustrate quite well) And, that even after many years of the United States' war on drugs, the fact that they remain readily available shows that simply outlawing something doesn't mean it goes away.

Perhaps you're ok with the idea of a policeman coming to fill out a report once you've been stabbed to death. Personally, I value my life more than that.

Who Cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665595)

I thought this was a site about geek news. What in the hell do the shootings at Columbine have to do with geeks?

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665599)

The big problem with trying to ban guns is the mentality of the people from whom they are being banned. If you try and ban them in America then there will probably be outrage and people will probably buy guns on the black market and still be no different... it's a culture thing... they've had them too long...
And anyone who comes up with the argument of if there weren't guns then people would use knives etc, just needs to look at Britain. The policemen and women don't carry fire arms, guns are difficult to get hold of (for joe public) and knives are easy to get hold of... but there aren't many murders involving knives in england... so go figure

Knives are far less effective ... (2)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665602)

It is far more difficult to go on an indiscriminate killing spree with a knife than it is with a gun. The actual physical act of stabbing someone is also far more difficult than pulling a trigger - films give the impression tha stabbing someone is quite easy, but in most cases it takes a lot of exertion to push a knife into a body.

At the end of the day a gun has one purpose - killing. Knives have a domestic purpose, and to outlaw them is obviously ludicrous. Please don't defend firearms by comapring them to potentially dangerous objects that *do* have a place in civilised, modern society.


Chris Wareham

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (3)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665609)

Regarding guns having no place in a modern society, I strongly disagree with you. Guns equalize people so that people can't use superior physical prowess to overpower victims.

So rather than look at the reasons why someone wants to attack you, just blow them away? The police are there to stop the kind of abuse you describe, when individuals use your excuse it simply becomes vigilante tactics.

Charlton Heston, the mouthpiece of the NRA, argued that the way to prevent Columbine like tragedies was to post armed guards in schools. What the hell does this teach children? That it's OK to bear arms, because if you abuse them you'll get shot?

I'm sorry but that's an insane notion. Remove the guns, and you don't have a problem. As someone else has commented, in the UK we don't have a problem with stabbings in schools (one incident this decade), so people arent going to make a switch to alternative weapons.

With regard to the bombs, I will agree that Klebold and Harris were determined to cause mayhem. However, in the vast majority of cases where someone goes `postal' they simply use a gun. I am sure it is a bogus notion to insist that anyone considering a killing spree will automatically use pipebombs if guns are unavailable. In the UK and Europe I cannot recall a single incident involving non-politically motivated killers and pipebombs.


Chris Wareham

Re:The Media Sucks (tm) (2)

Falsch Freiheit (7780) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665615)

But the media is that way largely because that's what the average person wants.

All that violence is in the media because when it's in the media people seek it out. If one TV station suddenly stopped covering violence, except the actually important stuff, suddenly nobody would flip to that station to watch the news, their ratings would plummit, they'd get the message and start conforming again. (or go under)

Somebody helping somebody out? Sheesh, who wants to watch *that* on TV?

And, of course, who cares about the verity or verifiability of a news story anymore? Especially if a decent rumour that something might be true is so much more interesting?

Non-lethal defenses. (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665631)

Hmmm..
There's a little thing known as reasonable force.
to defend yourself from someone out to either break your bones, or otherwise make your life thoroughly miserable, I don't think a gun is of much use. If you use it, then the chances of causeing a fatality (much worse than the original crime) is significant.
I wouldn't carry one. Now, one of those stun guns (high voltage charge), or mace, or similar (also illegal in lots of places) seem much more reasonable. There is a chance of damage, and maybe in the extreme cases, a chance of fatality, but it seems more in keeping with a counter to the original force.
Anyhow, this thread is goin' way off topic.. And it's done to death elsewhere..
Back to the show, folks,

Malk

Guns and You (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665633)

89 people died in the Happyland Night Club fire in New York, when a Cuban dude showed up with a chip on his shoulder and a couple gallons of Exxon Super Unleaded.

168 people died at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, thanks to the efforts by one Timothy McVeigh at improvising novel uses for fertilizer that Farmer Brown never dreamed of.

Harris and Klebold took out, what, 13 people with all those big evil nasty guns you're so fixated upon? Lam3rz by comparison, I'd say.

So, tell me again how your own version of a sociopathic weapons fixation (i.e., your apparent "gun-grabbing" mentality) is going to help us get to the heart of the real problem(s), whatever they may be, and fix them?

Guns don't kill people.
People kill people.
And the very worst of those killers -- the ones we all should fear the most -- seem to be less fixated on guns than you are.
Does that sound smart to you?

Geeks are perceived as outsiders (2)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665639)

Following the Columbine shootings, and the comments made in many media organs, `outsiders' were branded potential murderers. This included goths like myself, and stereotypical computer nerds. Basically anyone who didn't play a lot of sport, wear ordinary clothes or listen to pop music were labelled `ousiders'.

This is why an article like this has some relevance to Slashdot. I try hard to disprove the `nerd' myth. I am a self taught computer programmer who earns a good salary. Simply because I don't meet the society norms in terms of appearance, people whho meet me outside of work assume I'm a drug addled drop-out who exists on welfare.


Chris Wareham

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

dennisp (66527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665642)

Actually, I'm led to believe that it's the mentality that is causing all these problems. There are plenty of other countries that have lots of guns where crime rates are far lower and mass murder suicides just don't occur. Americans, on the other hand think that they should be able to shoot someone who is trying to violate their property and possessions. For some reason, the fact that these types of acts are accepted feeds people who do such things.

There are also examples where harsher gun control can work. In canada, no on carries a gun for protection. Our crime rates are far lower. There may be other factors as to why, but I'm sick of the fear mongers advocating guns as vigilante self-defence weapons.

The truth, however, is that the mentality has to change.
----------

Shut up! (4)

flamingdog (16938) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665645)

Frankly, I'm getting sick of hearing about this. I didn't even bother reading the article. Why does there have to be a clearly defined reason everything happens? Why can't people just accept that sometimes things happen that we don't expect? This whole ordeal sickens me. It sickens me that kids would do things like that. It sickens me how much the media feeds off of them, and probably go home and pray that someone else will go on a murderous rampage. It sickens me how much people are willing to accept stereotypes and how the media propogates them. In the end of last school year and the beginning of this new one, I've been through so much hell because of the way the media just keeps feeding everyone this garbage. I listen to "satanic" music, I have a demented sense of humor, I'm a non-conformist, I am disruptive and rude to people who deserve it. Its never gotten me into serious trouble before. Now my parents think I'm a satanist, as do my teachers. My fellow students are afraid Im going to kill them. And I've been offered therapy more times than I can count this year. All this because I'm just a bit different. Imagine how bad the goths and such are getting it right now?


I hope I never see another one of these damned "why kids kill" or "this is what really happened" articles or anything even remotely related to them ever again.

---------------------------
"I'm not gonna say anything inspirational, I'm just gonna fucking swear a lot"

Re:Slashdot's ongoing decline (3)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665648)

I realize that I'm responding to what appears to be flamebait, but going back and saying "some of our coverage has been demonstrated wrong" is a good thing rather than a bad thing.

Of course, some of the coverage was right, too. A large part of the Jon Katz series on the matter was about how people were being unfairly targeted as potential killers because of distorted media coverage at the time. And, iirc, some of it was about how things such as what's illustrated in the Carrie movies can happen if people are pushed too far (which they're saying now was not the case this time, but imho, is still is a valid point)

Re:Reactions to Katz's articles (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665651)

The reaction weren't to the distorted, incorrect version of events, but to what followed: Outcasts everywhere being treated like potential killers for no good reason. This article even strengthens the power of those responses... It shows that not only did the media generalize, but they started a witchhunt on groups of people who didn't even belong to the same subcultures as the killers.

In fact, I'd go so far as saying that this article in many ways validate much of Katz' articles on it, and the responses he got.

The article also strengthen my belief that this is an issue with the way outsiders are treated. Just take a look at the descriptions on how lots of the "myths" about Columbine started. For instance how the rumours that the killers were gay started: One member of the Trench Coat Mafia from two years back, which they had little to do with, was apparently gay. And that marked the entire group, and outsiders like Harris and Klebold as gay for no reason.

In an environment like that, where even remote association with someone that is treated as an outcast marks you as an outcast too, it is no surprise that some kids go crazy and kill... I'm just surprised it doesn't happen more often.

Re:Guns and You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665654)

That is really a very poor point to make... the notion you have to consider is the balance of risk... ok people got killed when the guy used petrol... totally impractical to ban petrol as it is used by 99.999999% of the world for non lethal uses such as powering your car... fertiliser to make crops better to feed people... there is no other use for a gun than killing (be it humans or animals) so to compare the use of guns with other tragedies such as you mention is really rather contrived.

Re:Knives are far less effective ... (1)

doomicon (5310) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665657)

I think you are missing his point, I seem to
remember an incident where quite a few people in
a government building located in Okelahoma lost
their lives due to a truckload of fertilizer.

Re:Guns and You (2)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665659)

tell me again how your ... gun-grabbing mentality ... is going to help us get to the heart of the real problem

It wont solve the problem. There are always going to be determined sociopaths who will go to any ends to cause mayhem. The examples you state are proof of this. What removal of guns would accomplish is bringing to an end the spur of the moment killings - the sacked employee who quickly resorts to shooting colleauges for instance.

The examples of non-gun related killings you give are dwarfed by the *total* numbers killed by guns every year in the US. Don't use a small number of isolated non-gun incidents to justify the right to bear arms.

Anyway, as we're starting to go around in circles, and I know full well that some parts of American society will *never* part with their personal arsenals, I'm going to do some work.

Yours, without animosity,


Chris Wareham

Quit blaming the media (3)

Myriad (89793) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665671)

It's very easy to sit back, after the fact, and trash the media. But if you think about it they're not completely to blame.

If you've ever been at the scene of an accident you'll know that each witness has a different story on what happened. Well, the same applies here.

The days of investigative reporting are mostly gone. Why? Because we're an instant gratification society, one that doesn't allow the time to do proper research on a story like this. Everyone wants to know what's happening RIGHT NOW. As such, the only things that come out are theories and conjecture, the (dubious) accounts of so-called eyewitnesses - the same witnesses who have varying ideas of what happened.

Because properly sorting out what actually went on takes time, and the legal process often requires that evidence be kept quiet until the investigation is complete, few 'real' facts come out until quite some time after the event. That doesn't stop people screaming for answers.

What happens? Unlike the police, the media does not have access to all the evidence. So the same stories keep getting repeated, over and over, with only the occasional fact being added in. And, as with any story retold without being checked, it morphs into something even further from the truth.

We are as much to blame as the media are. I bet virtually every last one of you now blaming the media were, at the time, glued to your screens. Afterwards you probably went off and talked with friends, doing exactly what the media was doing, theorizing and making you're own interpretation of events.

If people had a little more patience to wait until information has been gathered, instead of screaming for information to be pieced together, what is being reported would be far more accurate. Unfortunately, few have patience anymore.


However, I must admit such horrid coverage like 20/20's story leaves no one to blame but themselves. Sensationalism at its worst.

Quite a predicament, it seems (1)

whm (67844) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665674)

I think you make a very thoughtful point here, which I've seen reiterated in a lot of foreign (er..I guess that means non-US :> ) posts on various Slashdot forums.

What I haven't seen are any reliable statistics from either side of the matter backing up either position.

Granted, no statistic is really reliable, it would be nice to see some sort of numbers comparing crime in the US to crime in a place such as the UK...but more specifically a certain city in the UK that scales well to a city in the US. Anybody have any data, or know a good source for solid statistical data?

Setting proof aside, its a tough problem to look at. It really just makes more sense that guns should be eliminated from society as much as possible. It makes sense from an idealistic sort of view. We shouldn't have to fight violence with violence!

But, I have fears that fighting violence with violence is more realistic than one would hope. For instance, look at our situation with nuclear weapons (or so we hope). Everybody has them, so everybody is afraid to bomb everybody else. This appears to be working.

The problem I have with this much more realistic position, is that it really doesn't feel like it can last forever! What are the chances that one day somebody doesn't bomb somebody else? Its almost like we're riding on a hope that nothing goes wrong.

Hmm. I feel that though one standpoint may be much more realistic than another, it still doesn't solve the problem.

Thoughts? :>


Re:Guns and You (1)

doomicon (5310) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665678)

I disagree his point is that Killers Kill, and
will use anything to do so.

Therefore the concept of outlawing guns will put
us in a Its a Small World Fantasyland is ignorant.

Also, whether I agree with it or not. It is a
Constitutional Right to bear arms in the U.S.

I am so amazed how so many Defenders of the
Constitution, and Individual Rights, just pick
and choose which ones are important and to whom.

There is a use for a gun, I want to own one.

This is the Tipical Media... (2)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665682)

... What Do you guys expect, the media has allways made news when it has suted them, and then the polotitions twisted it for their own use, like all thows anti-gun laws, they dont enforce anything that is on the books, They just want more power, they want their finger in your life.

A Great example of when guns are good
NYC,Washington DC -- Hand Guns are banned, The Crime Rate is sky high, because the criminials don't fear being shot by the person who their robbing or raping.
But in small towns in Texas, there is almost no crime, when everybody has a gun, because the crinimals value their life.

Re:Guns and You (1)

The Happy Disciple (12824) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665687)

> And the very worst of those killers -- the ones we all should fear the most -- seem to be less
> fixated on guns than you are.
> Does that sound smart to you?

And what do you consider to be the smarter option: ranking the badness of groups of killers based on

- the average number of people they kill

or

- the average number of people times the number of killers?

Remember, if a car hits a tree it will kill something like 3 people. If a plane crashes it can easily kill 200 or more people. Still, more people die in car crashes than in plane crashes.

The Happy Disciple
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.
Meaning that J. Innocent Person cannot snap, grab a gun and go out on a killing spree, which is a good thing.

Uhh. . . (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665690)

I don't know if anyone else noticed, but Rollingstone did a couple of articles on all of this media stuff being wrong and presenting a better view of the facts back in some June and July issues. . .

Re:Knives are far less effective ... (2)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665692)

I think you are missing his point, I seem to remember an incident where quite a few people in a government building located in Okelahoma lost their lives due to a truckload of fertilizer.
That's true. And what happens now when the feds get wind of anyone buying up a (pardon) shitload of fertilizer? They jump on them, hard. "Shit doesn't kill people, people kill people" is an argument I haven't heard; but then unlike guns there aren't a lot of people who mistakenly believe the individual has a constitutional right to bear arms.
Why is it that I, a foreigner, know this when so many Americans don't?

Re:The Media Sucks (tm) (1)

lordsutch (14777) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665694)

I think it's part of a broader problem with mass-media: the best phrase I've come up with is the nationalization of the error term, which explains what it is (but hardly is catchy enough). The basic concept is that at the fringes of society, "weird behavior" takes place; the mass-communications technology encourages the propogation of knowledge about instances of this "weird behavior" well out of proportion with its occurrence in nature. (For example: more children have been killed by airbags than in school shootings since 1996.)

The necessary corrective is to assume that if it isn't frequent enough to be non-newsworthy, it's not a real problem. Liquor stores being robbed is a real problem (witness the complete and utter lack of blaring headlines about it); Columbinesque behavior isn't.

Re:Media (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665697)

I think there may just be a distortion due to timing. The reformaters of press releases will always get their stuff out first. The serious investigative reporters will come along later.

Re:Quite a predicament, it seems (1)

Hobbex (41473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665698)


Who needs statistics, go for a walk for Christs sakes. You'll find slums here- yes, gangland - no...

-
/. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.

Re:Guns and You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665723)

No, it is most certainly not contrived. You're missing the whole point (or maybe I need more than a couple of shopworn examples to get my point across at this late hour. :)

You, and those who agree with your argument, seem to believe that if they hadn't had access to guns, Harris and Klebold would have taken out their frustrations with civilization in less harmful ways. Playing a little too much Quake, maybe -- or stealing some spray paint and vandalizing the school building. Maybe keying a few cars in the parking lot.

The cases I cited should serve to illustrate that this belief is irrational in the extreme.

I brought up the two infamous examples of mass murders in New York and OKC to make a tragic point. Chairman Mao said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, but those 168 deceased Okies could tell you that a single disturbed individual's hatred is the mother of invention.

It's entirely possible that literally dozens of Columbine students are alive and well today precisely _because_ Harris and Klebold focused some of their after-school playtime energy on target practice, when they could have been honing their skills at bomb-making instead.

If you still honestly believe that taking away Harris and Klebold's firearms would have taken away both their motives and their opportunities to strike at society, there's probably not much I can say to change your mind.

All I'm trying to point out is that the "gun fixation" that's evident in America's (and indeed, the world's) media is about as well-targeted as a Pat Robertson sermon when it comes to identifying and dealing with the social problems at hand.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665729)

They may have cut rape rates (I've seen no proof of that), but at what cost? How many RAPE VICTIMS are getting killed with their own weapons? How many percent of the police officers that are killed are killed with their own weapon? How many families have seen members die because someone else in the family mistook them for an intruder?

The point isn't just outlawing guns, but making guns harder to get. Yes, there will always be someone that manage to get guns, but realisticly: Do you really believe that a hardened criminal with a gun will be more dangerous than thousands of citizens that can't handle it properly?

Countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, etc. have strict gun laws. Even the police normally doesn't carry guns in these countries. Guns aren't that hard to come by - in Norway for instance, there are hundreds of thousands of AG-3's in private homes - yet there are few gun related crimes.

Also, there are few other violent crimes as well. Maybe because the criminals know they're not likely to meet someone armed with a gun, and thus don't need to protect themselves with one, and at the same time know they risc a lot tougher sentencing if they commit a crime using a weapon than without?

Of course, this isn't the only answer, but the argument about having guns for protection simply doesn't hold: If you're unarmed in a society where everyone has guns, sure, it might be wise to have one yourself. But a society with few guns would be safer yet. Sure, someone WILL get in a situation where having a gun could have saved them. But a lot fewer will get in a situation where they die because someone else have a gun.

It's comparable to people criticizing seat belts because you can get killed by them. Yes, it's true, in some cases you can. But you're more likely to get killed without them. The same holds true for restrictive gun laws (provided they're enforced properly): There may be cases where someone would save their life without those laws, but there's more cases where having them will save people.

Of course there's other issues too. One of problems in the US is a society that seems to worship violence, and with high poverty rates, high unemployment in many areas, and in many ways lack of tolerance. Couple that with huge amounts of guns, and you have a recipe for disaster. That's not something gun control laws can fix. Gun control laws have to be part of a package, and that package must at the very least also include making guns hard to get for EVERYONE.

Interesting mainstream prejudices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665734)

If there is one thing that this whole business is good for, its exposing mainstream prejudices which run deeper than colour or sex! If the gunmen had been jocks or 'popular' types and had gone after nerds and geeks the same way, probably very little would have been said in the mainstream media about the motives of the gunmen, and it would have been put down as another 'shooting without apparent motive'.

Re:Slashdot's ongoing decline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665735)

No, I'm sorry. I was not trying to offer flamebait. Yes I remember the feeling of teenage alienation. I'm a middle aged guy and my teenage years were not particularly happy. Any deviation from the norm was treated much more harshly than it is now.

But Slashdot has been beating this drum too long. Thousands of comments have been posted. Nothing has been learned. Slashdot is too predictable anymore. I think the moderation system has dulled things too much. Everyone sits on pins and needles because any provocative comment is likely to be marked down, while politically correct "feel good" comments are likely to be marked up. Do your own informal survey, and you will come to the same conclusion.

And why does Andover need an IPO? Looks questionable to me. Maybe not a loser, but ho-hum like BeOS stock. Why does /. need all the bucks? One reason: make Roblimo an instant multimillionaire. A year from now when Slashdot stock is trading at $2 per share, who will be left holding the bag? Not Roblimo and others who have cashed in, but the average Joe who thought he was going to make some bucks. Slashdot doesn't produce anything. The fact is that the users of Slashdot produce most of the content.

Re:apathy and skepticism. (1)

Synic (14430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665738)

Political apathy -- 'American', just like apple pie! (too bad apple pie wasn't invented in the US!)

Actually the reason why I don't give a fuck about these incidents like Littleton is because the media always blows them way out of proportion in an effort to gain ratings. Wake up and smell the coffee people! CNN goes for the headline shocking stories too! Its a business!

Mass media brainwashes the masses.

Re:apathy and skepticism. (1)

Synic (14430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665740)

... and no, guns kill people when people have guns. Guns make it REALLY REALLY EASY to kill. Why the hell do you think they were created? To replace the longbow and crossbow with a miniature/handheld cannon concept! I don't see people walking around modern times with a longbow or crossbow (unless they're in the SCA or at a RenFair) and I don't see people sporting cannons in their hall closet as a measure to thwart intruders in their house.

In the olden days (dark ages to the renn period) only people with money owned swords, probably paid some outlandish sword tax, and used them for two things. Keeping bandits after their money at bay, who would likely be armed with daggers or something similar, and dueling to "defend my lady's honor".

I find it ironic that today its harder to get a permit to carry a bladed weapon than it is to carry a gun. (Hello all you Texans!)

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (3)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665744)

So rather than look at the reasons why someone wants to attack you, just blow them away? The police are there to stop the kind of abuse you describe, when individuals use your excuse it simply becomes vigilante tactics.
The police's responsibility is to protect the public at large, not individuals. They don't have the responsibility or the capability to protect each and every person. Regarding the reason someone wants to attack you, what if it's "Because you're female, and I get my jollies by raping and killing females". Is transferring the blame of this sort of attack to the victims really a decent approach to the problem? The reason could also be "I wanted some money to get high, so I'll try my luck at robbing you". (and recently, England has had more robbery per-capita than the United States - modern society, even in England, still has crime)
Charlton Heston, the mouthpiece of the NRA, argued that the way to prevent Columbine like tragedies was to post armed guards in schools. What the hell does this teach children? That it's OK to bear arms, because if you abuse them you'll get shot?
I suppose it teaches them the same thing that an armed police force and populace does.. If you decide to start killing people, someone will be there to stop you.
I'm sorry but that's an insane notion. Remove the guns, and you don't have a problem. As someone else has commented, in the UK we don't have a problem with stabbings in schools (one incident this decade), so people arent going to make a switch to alternative weapons.
One of the problems with your suggestion is that "remove the guns" (from the society) is easier said than done. Also, due to what I've already stated (equalization offered by guns, human right to self defense, etc), outlawing guns in the United States at large is not the answer. Tightly controlled access to schools in particular (like we do with airports and courtrooms) is a possible step that could be taken. I won't argue with that.
With regard to the bombs, I will agree that Klebold and Harris were determined to cause mayhem. However, in the vast majority of cases where someone goes `postal' they simply use a gun. I am sure it is a bogus notion to insist that anyone considering a killing spree will automatically use pipebombs if guns are unavailable. In the UK and Europe I cannot recall a single incident involving non-politically motivated killers and pipebombs.
This is a complex issue which has more to do with societies than with particular weapon choices. In Switzerland, all adult males are required to have firearms as part of their military program. Yet, the murder rate in Switzerland is much lower than in England. In Sweden, firearms are essentially banned, and the murder rate is also lower than England's. The idea in the United States is that individuals have the right to protect themselves. That your country's crime rate tends to be low is not a very comforting thought if your safety is immediately or imminently threatened and the police say "We can only do something *after* a crime has been committed"

Re:Guns and You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665746)

Nice to see you using totally irrelevant statistics to support your unsupportable stance there.

Hint - compare like for like, i.e. the TOITAL number of people killed by guns in a year compared with the TOTAL number of people killed via bombs, THEN come back and we'll talk.

Re:Guns and You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665767)

Your points have validity, for the most part. However:

"It wont solve the problem. There are always going to be determined sociopaths who will go to any ends to cause mayhem. The examples you state are proof of this. What removal of guns would accomplish is bringing to an end the spur of the moment killings - the sacked employee who quickly resorts to shooting colleauges for instance."

You're aware, in this particular instance, that evidence exists to the effect that Harris and Klebold planned their assault for at least a year. Right?

I agree, "spur of the moment" killings are typically an awful lot harder without a gun. But they're a long, long way from impossible. And they're not, in any event, what's being discussed here.

"The examples of non-gun related killings you give are dwarfed by the *total* numbers killed by guns every year in the US. Don't use a small number of isolated non-gun incidents to justify the right to bear arms."

Okay, just to veer further off-topic: how about thirty million dead Russians, slaughtered in the Gulag Archipelago by their own (gun-grabbing, among other civilized attributes) government?

History tells me I should be much more fearful of an armed government of a disarmed populace, than of any particular weapons (be they guns, gasoline, or explosives) in the hands of private citizens. Personally I'm not exactly thrilled with that state of affairs, but they didn't ask me what I thought when they wrote the history books. Consequently, I'm a lot more fearful of the next Josef Stalin than I am of the next Dylan Klebold.

"Yours, without animosity,"

Likewise!

A.C.

Re:Slashdot's ongoing decline (1)

drwiii (434) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665769)

Thousands of comments have been posted.

That's at least four banner ad impressions per comment posted, do the math.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

Synic (14430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665773)

One of the problems with your suggestion is that "remove the guns" (from the society) is easier said than done. Also, due to what I've already stated (equalization offered by guns, human right to self defense, etc), outlawing guns in the United States at large is not the answer. Tightly controlled access to schools in particular (like we do with airports and courtrooms) is a possible step that could be taken. I won't argue with that.

What are you proposing? Metal detectors at the playground entrance?

I find it ironic that "God fearing" citizens wield weapons. Praise Jesus! Lets all shoot us some deer! Oops, didn't mean to shoot you, Jed!

Now son, guns aren't meant to be played with. When you turn 16, I'll get you that 12 gauge shotgun you've been wanting all these years!

You people make me sick.

Remember the Boston Strangler! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665779)

"At no point did anyone ask whether the availability of guns was a factor."

Of course not. Hundreds of the kids in that school had guns in their houses. Hunting is quite popular. Unfortunately most of them didn't have any of their guns at school when they needed them for non-hunting purposes.

Actually, the worst mass U.S. killing was at a school many decades ago. By an idiot with a huge bomb. Not a gun.

For that matter, we heard a lot recently about the losing day-trader who shot at some people. But do you remember that he killed five people at home before going downtown? He killed them with a hammer.

Remember Lizzy Borden! Remember the Boston Strangler! Remember the Ripper!

d00d (1)

crayz (1056) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665782)

If you like BackStreet Boys, you're already a menace to society.

You can substitute out BackStreet Boys and put in any other "minute made band".

Anyone who doesn't listen to that crap has at least one thing going for them.

Re:Guns and You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665783)

"Hint - compare like for like, i.e. the TOITAL number of people killed by guns in a year compared with the TOTAL number of people killed via bombs, THEN come back and we'll talk."

You seem to be afflicted with reading comprehension problems. We don't know how many red-blooded American nutcases would be setting off bombs, burning down buildings, and hoarding surplus Russian Pu-239 in their basements if firearms weren't out there.

If you want to minimize the amount of damage an intelligent sociopath can do, you can give him a way to indulge his latent Rambo fantasies, make a lot of noise, and do his killing one victim at a time. A gun'll do the trick.

oh damnit (1)

crayz (1056) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665786)

I knew I couldn't get italics to just be on one word, I suck that much. Shoulda used preview :(

Re:Knives are far less effective ... (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665788)

You can't eliminate guns. They're too easy to make. You never heard of a "zip gun"?

Re:Guns and You (1)

Quark (6774) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665789)

Also, whether I agree with it or not. It is a Constitutional Right to bear arms in the U.S.

Are Americans unable to grasp the concept of constitutional reform? If you don't agree with something in the constitution, campaign to get it changed. Of course with the NRA, it would be nearly impossible to remove the 2nd amendment.

Quark
--

The Onion (3)

m3000 (46427) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665808)

The Onion did a little thing about Columbine recently, which you can read here [theonion.com] . It's pretty funny, except that it's also very true. The media has talked about how everyone should love one another, and that there should be no little "groups", but I see no sign that is happening. In my opinion, that article is more truth than fiction.

The Mirror of Columbine. (5)

Paul Johnson (33553) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665811)

This is fascinating. The human brain is the best machine ever created for spotting patterns in noisy data. The downside of this is that if you hand it random noise it finds its own patterns. Columbine is a classic example.

What we saw after Columbine turns out to have been the high-speed creation of a collection of Urban Legends. What seems to happen is that the same story gets filtered through a series of minds as it is transmitted from one person to the next. Each mind forgets some "irrelevant" details and infers some new "facts", because that is how memory works (a number of psychology experiments show how easy it is to induce people to remember things that never were, especially details). In other words you are dealing with an iterated function in a kind of "story space". What comes out of this process is not the original data but a kind of attractor in this space. It is what people feel is the "right" story to have happened.

So, what kinds of stories come out: Well we get a bunch of them, reflecting the concerns of different groups.

  • The Christian Right get a new Martyr.
  • Middle America gets a tale about the dangers of [X], for various values of X. Gays, D&D games, violent video games, goths.
  • Slashdotters get a tale about the Revenge of the Geeks. This last one is the most interesting. We all thought that we were so clever, spotting the real cause of the Columbine Massacre, while all the Media, Middle Americans and Christian Right had missed it. But exactly the same group dynamic was at work. The Christian Right saw teenagers driven to evil by bad music, bad films and bad games. Meanwhile we (yes, that includes me) saw teenagers driven to madness by the social exclusion and everyday violence we suffered at school. The Christian Right argued for more restrictions on films and games, while we argued for more restrictions on jocks and teachers.

    This is pretty humbling. Every so often something comes up to remind us that we are not so superior after all.

    Paul.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (2)

Jungleland (65157) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665813)

>> Charlton Heston, the mouthpiece of the NRA, argued that the way to prevent Columbine like tragedies was to post armed guards in schools. What the hell does this teach children? That it's OK to bear arms, because if you abuse them you'll get shot?

> I suppose it teaches them the same thing that an armed police force and populace does.. If you decide to start killing people, someone will be there to stop you.

At what stage would it be ok for Armed teachers to shoot a child? Before they pull a gun? After X number of pupils have been Killed?

I can just imagine the outcry after a teacher blows away a child who was playing up, only to find it was a Mars Bar in his hand!!

Inter-net! Inter-fuckin-net! (2)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665816)

Walking back from the goth club one night:

"what the FUCK is that?"
"Hey, Marylin! Marylin Manson!"
and best of all:
"Inter-net! Inter-fuckin-net!"

A hundred yards further up the road, an enterprising schemie [1] decided to throw a handy rubbish bin full of glass bottles at my head. I felt drips from the bottles hit my face as it whistled past. *Crash*. I didn't look.

Sadly, they didn't seem in the least worried that I might pull a gun on them and shoot them. But then, if I'd been allowed a gun, they would have been too. I live in Edinburgh, UK.
--

You're overlooking something critical. (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665819)

The mass murders you're talking about is
way more seldom than the act of killing _one_
or _two_ other people with guns.

"Guns don't kill people"
and "people kill people"
are catchy sentences that seem very sensible.
But carrying guns actually makes it more likely
that you end up a murder victim at the end of the
day. How many times do you think "playing hero"
gets someone killed?
Carrying guns very often makes a simple fight
into deadly force.

"The very worst of those killers"..
I'm not afraid of the worst killers, it's probably
easier to get struck by lightning than being killed by one of those.
"The punk kid" that kills someone he doesn't like because he snaps and happens to have
a gun is far more likely.. as is guns that go off
by mistake.
I find it quite probable that a lot of killings
wouldn't have happened if the murderer or victim
didn't carry guns, but had to resort to knives
or fists instead.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665820)

> "We can only do something *after* a crime has been committed"

Isn't that how police work everywhere though?

(Forgetting about entrapment, and the like)

I think that in the UK you are not as likely to need the gun in the first place, what you're saying is that if somebody was to attempt to mug you with a gun - you could pull out yours and be okay, _before_ the police arrived.

Over not so many people have guns, so its much less likely that somebody would ever threaten you with one.

Perhaps you could still get mugged, but you'd be unlikely to get killed.

I think its much too easy to kill somebody with a gun, self-defence to a lot of Americans seems to equate to killing your attacker -> I think that's wrong, self-defence should be just that.
Be it shooting in the leg, or Tai Chi ..

Steve

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (3)

legoboy (39651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665824)

One of the problems with your suggestion is that "remove the guns" (from the society) is easier said than done. Also, due to what I've already stated (equalization offered by guns, human right to self defense, etc), outlawing guns in the United States at large is not the answer. Tightly controlled access to schools in particular (like we do with airports and courtrooms) is a possible step that could be taken. I won't argue with that.

Sir... Would -you- like to step through a metal detector each and every time you enter a restaurant, a library, a supermarket, a shopping mall, etc?

I don't understand why people who defend the *American* contitutional right to bear arms do not consider for one moment what would happen if every single American was armed.

Parents in large cities are afraid to let their children walk to school, for fear that they might be kidnapped. This fear isn't justified, but that is not my point. My point is that with every person on the streets carrying a gun, would you TRULY feel safe anywhere but inside your own home?

"But if someone shoots and kills me, they'll get shot and killed too!"

Maybe so. Not like it'll do you a hell of a lot of good, will it?

"They wouldn't shoot me in the first place because they know they'll get shot!" (or at the very least caught)

That sure stopped the Columbine killers, didn't it?

"They could have used bombs instead! Then hundreds would have died!"

You almost sound like you would enjoy that... Proof that you were right... Yes, they could have built bombs. Someone present as they detonate them could have shot them. Wow. Both the bomber and shooter are still dead. However, it's a lot harder to conceal a powerful bomb than it is a gun.

If someone feels so strongly that these people are determined to kill, then there's quite the underlying social problem in the US.

A fun analogy:

You are carrying a lot of cash.. Say, at least 4 digit's worth. You have a gun, it's in a shoulder holster. Some guy jumps out of an alley, and attempts to mug you. He is armed with a gun. You are *not* going to be able to get your own out, and you are *not* going to try to run or fight him off. Bye-bye cash. Or...

You are not armed. You are mugged by a fellow with a knife. (Or, for fun.. A pipe bomb. Call the fellow's bluff). You are being mugged by a fellow with a knife. Dare you flee with your thousands of dollars? Or fight him off? I think I would rather be stabbed once or twice than shot once or twice in an attempt to get away. Wouldn't you?

------

Moderate that one UP (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665826)

The "Guns for protection" argument has perhaps saved some lives, but it's probably killed more
than it has saved.
You need only look at societies with strict gun
laws, and you'll se that deadly force is much
less normal.
But banning guns in an already violent society
is unprecendented. I don't really know.
You need something in addition.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (2)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665828)

(and recently, England has had more robbery per-capita than the United States - modern society, even in England, still has crime)

That would be "Britain" -- England has much lower rates, but Scotland drags up the average. (I state this merely as a criminological "fact", and an unchecked one at that, not out of any anti-Scottishism -- I'm Welsh myself).

If one wants to make comparisons between the UK and US, you have to take into account the population density of the UK, which is much greater. Given the number of people we pack onto this island, the crime rates are incredibly low -- if you put rats at the same density, they'd be tearing each others' throats out.

jsm

Interesting Slashdot prejudices (1)

pingouin (783) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665829)

If there is one thing that this whole business is good for, its exposing mainstream prejudices which run deeper than colour or sex! If the gunmen had been jocks or 'popular' types and had gone after nerds and geeks the same way, probably very little would have been said in the mainstream media about the motives of the gunmen, and it would have been put down as another 'shooting without apparent motive'.

But look at the attention that we gave it here, just because the "outsiders" involved were perceived as "geeks". American history, past and present, is rife with outsiders, from Indians and slaves to immigrants, hippies, communists, and geeks. To have gone singularly overboard about Columbine (and geekdom) on /. was just as prejudiced as the mainstream's biases. There was all this rampant sympathy over the slights suffered by "us", while the slights suffered by other us-es probably don't even register on our respective radars.

An outsider killed a bunch of folks in Fort Worth last week. Was he really any different from Harris and Klebold, other than being a generation older? I don't think so.

outsider != geek

--

That wasn't the point! (1)

Bothari (34939) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665856)

The whole point of the Katz articles was never wether they were a sad bunch of outcasts or not! It was allways about hte reaction that people had to it. The fact that everyone assumed that they were Goths, satanists, gay, etc. and then proceeded to step all over the rights of anyone even remotly 'diferent'.
IMHO Katz's article now has even *more* relevancy since all those reactions have been shown to based on untruths.
No, I can't spell!
-"Run to that wall until I tell you to stop"
(tagadum,tagadum,tagadum .... *CRUNCH*)
-"stop...."

Bowhunters, and Skill... (3)

Chemical Serenity (1324) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665858)

Actually, there is a healthy community of bowhunters out there... so many so that magazines have sprung up to support 'em. Crossbows and composite longbows are both quite popular, and I can attest to the skill required in order to successfully hunt anything using them (skills you don't know how badly you lack until you try, I promise you ;)

Perhaps that's the point right there... to kill someone with a sword, or a bow, or any of the more traditional weapons you needed skill in order to ensure your victory. Sure, luck and physical superiority helped, but skill, training and experience was usually the most important aspect. Firearms basically require no skill to kill or permanently injure at the range they're most often (ie: within meters)... children literally can, and have, picked up Daddy's saturday night special and blown away thier best buddy with no more training than watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

This is not to say that one can't become skilled in guns... obviously, the better trained you are with a rifle, the more effective you'll be at hitting your target at a distance. The non-skill I'm talking about here is shotgun usage at distances between your hand and the head of the poor grade 11 bastard across the hallway from you.

There's also a BIG difference between using a projectile weapon (gun, bow, or whatever) and going hand-to-hand with sword, knife or kudgel. It's not quite so easy to acheive that 'disconnection' from reality when you're looking into your victim's eyes while stabbing them/running them through.

--
rickf@transpect.SPAM-B-GONE.net (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665862)

I think the US stayed into the far-west mentality, still thinking that everybody's against them (including the governement, the communist and aliens) and stockpiling guns so that they are ready to shoot at the first problem that shows up. Obviously this type of mentality doesn't fit in a modern society where people have to cooperate and trust each others to keep things going smoothly.

Finally.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665866)

Well I'm glad.
Maybe now the school will give me back my rights..
Let me wear a jackeyt during the winter..

Idiots..
I knew it all along.

But this just makes it easier.
They were all lies?
Makes more sense than "They were all an isolated case"

Re:Guns and You (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665869)

> Harris and Klebold took out, what, 13 people with all those big evil nasty guns you're so fixated upon? Lam3rz by comparison, I'd say.

I think theres a big difference here ... and that is they killed children.

Here in the UK we had a guy run rampent for a while in Hungerford, he killed a few people and we were all shocked - but nothing was done about it.

Then we have the killings at the school in Dunblane - that was shocking, and that directly prompted the UK gun ban.

Its a lot easier to get media attention when children are killed - and its a lot worse for society too.

Steve

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (3)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665870)

Guns equalize people so that people can't use superior physical prowess to overpower victims.

Actually, guns don't equalize people -- they just change the grounds of competition from physical strength to "aggresssion", or "willingness to use a gun". So they would select for a society of the short-tempered, rather than the merely strong.

I think that this is the root of the problem with guns in America -- it's basically an aggression problem rather than a gun problem. A society which developed in the pioneer days has a set of social norms which are appropriate when everyone has 400 acres to let off steam in, and a number of very real natural and manmade threats to defend against. If you then try to transport those norms to an urban society, where everyone has to live on top of each other, then you're bound to get trouble.

I don't know what the solution is, but I doubt it will involve banning guns -- they have such an important role as symbols of individual identity and freedom that any attempt to curtail them would definitely have bad consequences.

jsm

Re:Knives are far less effective ... (1)

techt (87303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665873)

Zip guns are typically one shot only. Which is fine if one intends to shoot one victim then use the gun to club the rest.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (5)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665876)

the US stayed into the far-west mentality

Yeah, and the Brits have the Empire mentality, the Germans have the after-war mentality, the Africans have the slavery mentality, the Australians have the convict mentality, the Swedes have the Viking mentality, the Irish have the most-oppressed-people-ever mentality and the French have God knows what kind of mentality.

Every nation has its own hang-ups, and I think it's a bit poor for we Euros and Anglos to talk about the "Wild West Mentality" as if it were some sort of disease or, worse, some sort of moral failing. It's how Americans are, and Europe has had cause to be grateful for that Wild West mentality on several occasions. They have to solve their own problems in their own society, and suggesting that they copy a society as amazingly homogeneous as Sweden (or Switzerland, for that matter), is just wrong.

This isn't a flame -- I actually agree with your statement:

Obviously this type of mentality doesn't fit in a modern society where people have to cooperate and trust each others to keep things going smoothly

which is as good sense as I've read on this issue. But the "far-west" tag seems to me like an unanalysed assumption.

jsm

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665878)

The source of my "England has higher rates of robbery than the US" was the pdf file linked at this page (which states it as "England and Wales" - which I'm assuming have similar approaches regarding gun control):

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cjusew96.h tm

Another source that corroborates that is here:
http://public-policy.org/~ncpa/pi/crime/oct98a.h tml

Also, a generally interesting analysis regarding gun control its relation to crime rates is here:
http://teapot.usask.ca/cdn-firearms/Cramer/us.ca nada.html

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

Steve B (42864) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665902)

At no point did anyone ask whether the avaliablility of guns was a factor.

Why bother to post an article explaining how the media gets it wrong when the respondents are going to parrot illogical media-driven cliches?

Forty years ago, guns were sold by mail order with no questions asked, schools routinely taught marksmanship as a sport -- and incidents such as Columbine were unheard of. So much for that theory.
/.

Re:Guns and You (1)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665905)

If you read the Salon article, you would have seen that Harris and Klebold tried to set of propane bombs before going on the shooting spree, but that the bombs didn't explode. If they had, they would have killed hundreds too.

See further down the page (1)

pingouin (783) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665908)

The whole point of the Katz articles was never wether they were a sad bunch of outcasts or not! It was allways about hte reaction that people had to it. The fact that everyone assumed that they were Goths, satanists, gay, etc. and then proceeded to step all over the rights of anyone even remotly 'diferent'. IMHO Katz's article now has even *more* relevancy since all those reactions have been shown to based on untruths.

It has more relevancy because the reactions here were equally based on untruths. See further down, subjects: "Interesting Slashdot prejudices" and "The Mirror of Columbine". The bottom line for me was: American violence-as-usual at Columbine, and a bit of hypocrisy here at /., amongst other places. YMMV. The dead remain dead, no matter how much gasbagging we do.

--

All of this goes to show (2)

tilly (7530) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665910)

What gets reported in the media has more to do with our prejudices than with the prejudices of those present or the actual facts.

This is similar to how rumors spread. Rumors don't spread based on how much factual basis there is for them. Instead they spread based on how much they resonate. People want to believe that the criminals are part of marginalized groups. So the coincidence of clothing makes them "trench coat mafia". It makes them gay. People want to believe that they are bad people, out to target a group. But they hit a lot of different people so they are targeting blacks, Christians, and jocks. (Hmmm...between those groups you can "explain" a *lot* of deaths.)

And people don't want to ask questions. So articles to the contrary (for instance the Rolling Stones article that someone mentioned) get ignored. This one will as well - it does not make good copy.

These are phenomena familiar to all members of disliked minorities. But people really don't want to think about that. And so we accumulate a few more urban legends [urbanlegends.com] ...

Regards,
Ben

Stats (1)

Martian Moon Landing (18084) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665912)

I have some statistics, this compares the "uniform Crime Report" from the FBI for 1997 (the last I could get) and the same statistics for 1998 from the Metropolitan Police in London.

This compares two cities, New York and London, with similar populations, Ethnic diversity and, to a lesser extent, social deprivation - we have proper social welfare.

Murder:
New York 770 London 52

Rape:
NY: 2,157 L: 602

Robbery:
NY: 44,707 L: 8,331

GBH/Aggrivated Assault:
NY: 45,229 L: 1,429

Burglary:
NY: 54,099 L:31,172

The rest the Met doesn't provide information about.

God took a while, hope somebody reads it.

Mark.

References NY: http://www.fbi.gov.uc.htm
Met: http://www.met.police.uk/mps/mps/press/stats.htm

They both use NT, ain't that special!

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665913)

Well, you can call it the "wild capitalism" too. After all capitalism is a system where the stronger kills the weakers and where competition is encouraged as much as possible. This shows up as presure in the workplace (produce more, work longer) or in school (get a better diploma) or in society as a whole (be popular, show your success, etc...).

Putting people under pressure always create things such as Colombine.

I agree that "far-west" in US is a cliché, yet there are plenty of americans (not only rednecks) who keep this mentality.

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

seeken (10107) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665915)

The truely ideal situation would be if every american citezen was armed, and every american criminal was in prison. Unfortunately we don't play that way.

If one kid in the library had a gun, and the balls to use it, many lives may have been saved. We're too afraid of guns to trust 'children' with them, but not all children are messed up like 'we' were.

With muggers it may be a better choice to give up your money than to fight. For other crimes, such as kidnapping, it is never a better choice to give in to your attacker's demands. An armed female who is the object of an abduction is much better off than an unarmed one.

You also ignore the peripheral benefits of an armed populace. It doesn't have to be YOU who has a gun to thwart crime, just someone around you, or the populace at large that can dissuade a potential criminal.

Finally, these two managed to place two large bombs in the school before anybody had any clue what they were doing. Had they been more skilled with their bombmaking they would have done much more damage. I don't think it's hard to believe that a high school kid could become a competent bombmaker. Had they placed the bombs in a car and driven into the cafeteria and manually exploded them, how many would have died? 169? In any event, more.

How does one defend one's self against a bomb? By not being there when it goes off-prety hard when it's a surprise attack. I am inclined to believe that we're lucky that most of these attacks aren't made by bombs rather than guns.

Surfing the net and other cliches...

Re:The Media Sucks (tm) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665916)

And that leads conveniently to the question of what kind of news do you want?

I happen to live in country where national broadcasting company is funded by taxpayers. Of course we have commercial channels as well but national TV has managed to keep its publicity. I personally really dig the way our national TV makes documentaries and handles news in general.
There is no sign of pleasing advertisers or anything.

One could argue that this kind of thinking leads to police state or something and that is why free press and free media is needed as well.

It's all about balance.


'Professional' journalism and /. (1)

Taurine (15678) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665917)

I have seen a number of posts recently slating /. for lack of professional journalism. In this case, professional journalism has suckered /. along with the rest of the media.

Jon Katz did what professional journalists do in a hype situation: proliferate and legitimise the hype. When this thing went down, I learnt the value of the author exclusion user preferences. I couldn't take any more self-righteous commentary or me-too posts. Jon's work is the only thing I filter, and that keeps me happy.

I had a rough time at school, and I would guess that most /. regulars did too. We all know this, but we don't all feel the need to vent about it whenever the chance arises, even exploiting tragic events for the purpose.

Jon is a serious media man, and the only 'professional' journalist writing for /. AFAIK. Which for me makes his reportage less credible - the raw, almost candid reports posted 'from the field' have more real substance, and less media agenda.

Mmmm ... and see the dubious comment below yours (2)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665918)

I know the feeling. I grew up in the 'home of the British army' - Aldershot. And anyone without a buzz cut, blue stonewashed jeans and a white t-shirt sticks out like a sore thumb there.

In fact, the newspapers were suprised when the locals weren't upset about the Paratroop regiment being barracked elsewhere. After years of fights, vandalism and falling house prices I wonder why.

Chris Wareham

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

Steve B (42864) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665942)

What this analysis ignores is the fact that most violent street crime is committed by a core group of habitual criminals. Even if the chance of being shot or captured by an armed citizen is relatively low for each crime attempt, perhaps one in ten, that still represents a large reduction in total crime, because each time it happens several dozen future crimes are prevented on average.
/.

Guns and where to draw the line... (maybe: OT) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665945)

Disclaimer: I don't live in the US, I live in Sweden. We instances of madmen killing people too (I think we had two of those in the last 10 years perhaps), so banning guns isn't a total solution. (The guns were stolen military equipment)

I just want to point out that this is a matter of where you draw the line. For example, should I be allowed to buy nerve-gas for personal protection ? Why not ? I would be a mighty deterrant. "If I shoot that one, maybe his nervegas pods explodes".

Most countries have decided to not allow firearms, and I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that you are not allowed to have some types of weapons even in the most gun-liberal places in the US.

Finally I would like to say that personally I don't want to include handguns in what should be legal to have in your house. The arguments "if the criminals think they might get shot they wont rob & rape", "the constition allows guns" and guns as an "equalizer" between people are about as convincing to mee as those claiming "drinking is good for you" (French wine-growers), "smoking isn't THAT bad" (tobacco industry).

Re:Quit blaming the media (1)

Hast (24833) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665947)

Naturally a lot of people like to read sensational news. (Personally I never buy those types of newspapers, but naturally I read them if I have one nearby.) I don't agree with you that the readers are to be blamed for what the papers print. It's the editor that does the *editing* not Joe Blow, construction worker. Joe Blow may think it's a lot of fun to read sensational news, but that's his problem. And if there were no such news available he wouldn't read it.

I just think it's pathetic when editors are defended because "there is a market". Does that make selling drugs morally right? No? Why not? It's not the dealer's fault that there are a lot of junkies afterall. If no-one could take drugs you wouldn't have any junkies. But there would still be people that would use drugs, if they could. The market would still be there.

And I'm not saying that the editors need to throw all news away because they are new. What they need to do is to stop spinning every story in the way they believe will cause most hysteria. That's what sells papers naturally, and money is God after all.

When I was studying for a year in the states I remember my publishing teacher telling us that when we put "opinions" in the school paper we had to clearly mark it as such. How often do you see an "opinions" section in TV news? They are almost always weaved into the story quite transparently. And then people understandably mistakes them for "facts". Perhaps this is the watchers fault, they are not thinking critically, but isn't that the point with TV? That what is shown is accepted for the truth. I mean, they couldn't broadcast it if it weren't true, could they?

I'm not saying that people that fail to think critically are stupid. It's extremely easy to forget that, I do it myself at times. But the reason we do that is because the headlines are made in order to provoke. Some fail, because they are so obviously provocative that you can't mistake them for anything else. But often you first tend to agree with it, before you start thinking.

Newspaper editors know this. That's why they make articles and headlines like they do. And if we don't blame them for that who should we blame?

Oh I forgot: Joe Blow, construction worker.

Oppression Inc. (1)

Chemical Serenity (1324) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665949)

Not to dis the Irish, but I think the grand high poobahs of the oppressed would have to be Jewish. There's a loooong history there.

The Ukrainians have been getting the short end of the stick over the last few centuries too, IMHO.

--
rickf@transpect.SPAM-B-GONE.net (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

Humbling? Then the reactions.... (4)

Bothari (34939) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665951)

of everybody were right?
Has everyone forgotten the treatment that every 'different' person got after those killings?
Has everyone forgotten the schoolkids which were beaten, arrested, interrogated and barred from school because they were 'just thos trenchcoat-mafia murderers'?
Now it seems there was even less reason for this treatment. This wasn't a revenge of the geeks , but the geeks were still acused and *very* victimised about this whole thing. If anything there is more reason to scream out loud 'Innocent until proven guilty' as well as pointing out to people how much of their prejudices they were following.

No, I can't spell!
-"Run to that wall until I tell you to stop"
(tagadum,tagadum,tagadum .... *CRUNCH*)
-"stop...."

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665954)

I find it ironic that "God fearing" citizens wield weapons. Praise Jesus! Lets all shoot us some deer!

But Christ was in favor of self defense.

"...But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a sack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one" (Luke 22:36)

A story of cowards (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1665955)

Everybody involved acted like cowards.

Let's start with both sets of parents. The Klebold kid was running around with Nazi regalia, but his Jewish mother (daughter of a famous Ohio philanthropist) was too chicken to set him straight. She feared she would damage his self esteem. The other clown was into bomb making for years. What did his daddy do? Essentially, nothing, except that he talked about his feelings.

The kids were in and out to reform school. To hear what the judges had to say about them was sickening. They basically enabled kids who were mean, destructive bullies that tortured animals.

The act itself was cowardly. What could be less brave than pointing a gun at a person without a gun?

The police were despicable. For all there vaunted assualt training, all they did was stay outside, hiding behind their squad cars until hours after the shooting was over. They did pour thousands of rounds of ammunition into the school building, randomly, long after these two jokers killed themselves.

Which brings us to the fifth set of cowards, the press. How many of these kids were killed by friendly fire? The autopsies are sealed, "for privacy." I'll bet. I'll bet half the deaths were the result of police bullets. You think I'm wrong? Half of all shootings of police are done by their partners.

Swiss and NZ gun laws/ownership (3)

twinpot (40956) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665956)

Two countries that are often touted by the pro-gun lobby as reasons to keep the free availability of guns in the US: Switzerland and NZ, because both have high gun ownership. However, what they all fail to mention, is that if you carry a gun in a public place (say in the city or suburb) you WILL get arrested and you will be facing down the barrel of a few dozen specialised aremd police. You cannot carry a loaded (or even unloaded really) gun in public (I'm excluding hunting in the forest/bush/farmland).

And just try carrying a pistol/handgun in a public place.....

Both countries may have a lot of guns, but they are HEAVILY controlled. In NZ the gun must be kept locked in an approved gun safe/cabinet. The firing mechanism must be kept separate and have an approved lock, and the ammunition must also be stored separately and locked.

(Note: I am not commenting on the correctness or otherwise of the US gun policies)

Re:Trenchcoat Mafia (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665957)

It has nothing to do with bears, Indians or bandits (But it does seem to me, with bear intrusions on houses up over 100% the last decade we still have bears, and tell my insurance company we have no bandits). It's about freedom and your responsibility to protect yourself. From many things, including people who would repress you.

Want an opinion other than mine? ESR puts it well:

http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/guns/

Slashdot is Far From Declining... (2)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 14 years ago | (#1665958)

I mean, come on. You have Dateline NBC and trucks (don't tell me you forgot _that_ one) and 20/20. In general, the media does seem less interested in style over substance. This is typical of professional media.
Slashdot _ISN'T_ professional media. It is a running commentary on life. It is a bunch of geeks/techies who comment on various things. At no time have I heard anyone in the slashdot org claim to be channeling Woodward or Bernstien or even Ed Murrow.
The problem is people who pontificate without regard to reality, fact finding, or any other attempt to verify. No doubt the final report on Columbine will be reported in the media, and will spark a lot of media "debate" (not that they will even get close to navel examining).
Besides, do we really trust the media? If you are smart, you haven't since Vietnam and Cronkite, who had a penchant for taping the most horrific scenes and calling it news. Liberal Media trying _hard_ to sway America.
I guess I can sum up my moment on the soap box by saying it this way. I'm not surprised by the Salon story, why are you?
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