So I’m walking home from the station on Friday, and I have my headphones in, grooving to some tunes (ok, I don’t groove in public, but you get the idea), when a man starts waving at me.

At first I thought, ‘do we know each other?’ However it became clear I had no idea who he was. He was pleasant enough, but it became clear as to why he’d stopped me, when he asked ‘what do you think of the world today?’

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Cue a conversation about light and darkness, good and evil, and God. I have nothing against people of the faith, but he actually walked with me without taking the hint that I wasn’t really keen to have this conversation in an underpass on the way home from a long day at work.

This is the final part of a little discussion I’ve been having regarding guns, with one ‘Virus-X’. This final part of the exchange formed my final comment to him on this matter, which firstly got put into a moderation queue (not necessarily unusual), and then disappeared. I therefore post it here, and have also archived the original post by Virus-X, as well as the entire exchange, via the Wayback Machine, for posterity and accuracy. It should be noted that I do not regard Virus-X as representing the attitudes of any and every American toward guns, and that I have no problem with gun ownership per se. I do have to wonder why the idea that virtually unregulated access to weapons is seen as somehow making society safer, when all the evidence points to the opposite.

[QUOTE]By the way, how many of those homicides were justifiable? You do realize there is a distinction between justifiable homicide, and unjustifiable homicide, right? And, previously, you were complaining about my bringing up the UK and other nations. Actually, YOU were the first one to do that. I never mentioned it anywhere in the article, and it wasn’t mentioned, until you tried using it as a justification for an argument to violate Human Rights in the United States, as they are in the UK.[/QUOTE]

This will be, for now, my final direct response to you on this issue (though I reserve the right to dissect your posts in more detail, via my own site, if I feel it a worthy use of my time).

If you’re going to claim that somehow, the vast majority of the much higher homicides in the USA are justifiable, whilst elsewhere, they’re not, then I’ll trust you to back up your claims. Meanwhile, I’ll point out (yet again), that the national comparison is one where *you* wanted to make this solely about the USA and UK, whereas I was always making a wider comparison, one that you didn’t want to acknowledge. Furthermore, anyone glancing at the comments will see that my first comment didn’t mention other nations at all – your reply on the other hand, kept mentioning how we’re apparently not free here in the UK, and after that, I brought up several other nations as a point of comparison, whilst you have fixated on a simple UK vs US comparison.

By the way, if you practice what you preach and actually *look* at the details, you’ll see that the data on homicides involves intentional homicide (in other words, murder). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

[QUOTE]And if you’ve been doing your homework, you’re not getting a passing grade. I haven’t ignored gun homicide, at all. The whole article was pointing to the fact that many unjustifiable homicides would be prevented, if more potential victims were armed. So, no, you’re wrong, again, in suggesting I’m “ignoring” it, at all. You, on the other hand, completely ignore, time and again, every answer presented in every evidentiary video, so I’m not going to present them, anymore, because you only look at what you want to look at, while accusing me of doing the same thing.[/QUOTE]

You *are* ignoring evidence, in favour of Youtube videos. Every piece of statistical data demonstrates that countries with more robust gun laws have lower homicide rates. As mentioned in my previous post (which you have must have skimmed through), the total murder rates of the UK, Japan and France are *lower* than the USA’s murder rate with guns alone. It’s not a co-incidence that all three nations have stronger gun regulations than the USA.

I asked you why the US has a DEcreasing problem with violent crime, while experiencing an INcrease in legal gun ownership. Again, you ignored the question, and continued to make comparisons to the UK, France and Canada, dodging the question.[/QUOTE]

I haven’t dodged anything. You more or less admitted that the measuring criteria between the UK and USA is different and haven’t been able to justify why we should apply different yardsticks.

I quote:

DEFINING VIOLENT CRIME ==============================

United Kingdom:

“Violent crime contains a wide range of offences, from minor assaults such as pushing and shoving that result in no physical harm through to serious incidents of wounding and murder. Around a half of violent incidents identified by both BCS and police statistics involve no injury to the victim.” (THOSB – CEW, page 17, paragraph 1.)

United States:

“In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.”   (FBI – CUS – Violent Crime)

So in the UK there is a much broader definition of violent crime, covering a wider range of incidents.

When the numbers are looked into more thoroughly (I suggest you read this link – https://dispellingthemythukvsusguns.wordpress.com/), it appears you are in fact more likely to be a victim of rape in the US, more likely to be raped, much more likely to be murdered, and more likely to be a victim of aggravated assault. This rather rubbishes the implication that the UK is a more dangerous place than the USA. Even if we accept as fact that the UK’s rate of violence is rising and the USA’s is decreasing, it doesn’t change the fact that the US remains more dangerous in several aspects, and to just to make sure it sinks in, those aspects are murder, rape, and aggravated assault.

[QUOTE]“So the presence of more guns doesn’t necessarily reduce the rate of robbery, though it does increase the likelihood of a fatal incident during a robbery.” That’s the POINT. If someone’s trying to rob you, or commit some other violent crime against you, that’s the point of firearm ownership.[quote]

Then it’s a pretty lousy point. The risk of serious injury or even death is dramatically reduced in nations with more robust gun control measures – firearms were used in 40% of robberies in the USA, and fatalities are three times as likely during a robbery with a firearm than without. If the same level of robbery is taking place, with or without guns, yet with guns they are far more likely to turn deadly, I fail to see how this demonstrates guns somehow reduce the problem, or make the situation better.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/2579469

[QUOTE]You also ignored your own point that the violent crime is concentrated in major cities (of which the US has far more than the entirety of the UK). This means more people, with the possibility of more criminality. It also shows that the per capita rates are skewed, thanks to those cities, which have political structures and gun laws more closely matched to your own, instead of what is legal and just. One of the first videos I posted addressed that, and showed what the crime rate would actually be, minus those cities. Those facts were ignored, too. Again, you’ve ignored the evidence the crime is dropping in the US, but not in the UK, and, again, your arguments have amounted to nothing more than European extreme Hoplophobia.[/QUOTE]

The fact that you wish to move the goalposts is in itself an act of dishonesty. Let’s compare several major cities and their crime rates, as well as their policies regarding deadly weapons…

New York: New York has been one of the best examples of how to reduce crime levels, and funnily enough has some pretty reasonable laws on guns. However, as of 2012, there were 5.6 homicides per 100,000 people. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/nov/30/deadliest-cities-worldwide-murder-rates-interactive

Tokyo had just 0.4 in 2012, London just 1.6 and Seoul 2.6. Berlin had 1.8 and Mumbai 1.3.

Tokyo follows the same strict gun control laws as the rest of Japan, and 78% of Japan’s population live in urban areas. This is only slightly smaller than the US figure of 80%. Tokyo’s murder rate was fourteen times lower than New York’s in 2012.

Around 80% of South Korea’s population also live in urban areas and South Korea has strict gun laws. Seoul follows the same laws as the rest of the country.

So the idea that greater urban populations somehow skews figures has been thoroughly debunked. It gets scorned still further – the UK urban population is similar to the USA’s, standing at around 81%. The same is true for Germany (75%). The only country to buck this trend out of the ones compared is India.

With that in mind, the conclusions are pretty clear – greater urbanisation does not lead to greater homicide rates, at least in countries where robust gun control laws exist.

On the Freedom Argument

This is, frankly, an absurdity that flies in the face of common sense. It must have escaped your attention that we held a general election in this country earlier on this year, as we have on many occasions. Last year we held a referendum on leaving the EU. We can protest our government and criticise our political leaders (I’ve done that myself, on a few occasions). We are not so lacking in confidence and faith in our sense of freedom that we need a prop, a crutch, in the form of a lethal weapon, to uphold it.

 

 

 

Following a recent discussion over the pros and cons of gun control measures (and the wider question of whether guns actually make a location safer), I feel compelled to offer up a few facts…

Homicide Rates

Data collected from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC for short) reveals that the USA had the highest homicide rate per 100,000 people of developed nations, circa 2015, with a figure of 4.88 homicides. How does this compare to other developed nations? We’ll look at a set of countries for a fair comparison.

2. Belgium: 1.95 homicides per 100,000 people (again, circa 2015, which will be the case unless stated).

3. Canada: (2012) 1.68 per 100,000.

4. France: 1.58.

5. Romania: 1.49.

6. Sweden: 1.15.

7. Denmark: 0.99.

8. Australia: 0.98.

9. United Kingdom (2014): 0.92

10. Germany: 0.85.

11. Italy: 0.78.

12. South Korea (2014): 0.74.

13. Spain: 0.66.

14. Republic of Ireland: 0.64.

15. Japan (2014): 0.31.

So the homicide in the USA is nearly three times higher than that of Canada’s, more than five times higher than in the UK, and fifteen times higher than Japan’s.

Of course, it’s not necessarily as simple as ‘more guns = more homicides’. With that in mind, what percentage of homicides in these countries are carried out by firearms?

Well, as of 2014, the USA had 3.6 firearm homicides per 100,000 people. Granted, the total figure for homicides is from 2015, however, as the FBI’s own data shows, firearm homicides have consistently remained by far the highest percentage of total homicides. 3.6 is approximately 74% of 4.88 – it is actually more likely that the percentage is closer to 65%, accounting for a direct comparison of total homicides in 2014, versus firearm homicides in 2014. Nevertheless, a clear majority of US homicides are carried out with a firearm.

The second country on the list is Belgium. Belgium recorded 1.95 homicides per 100,000 in 2015, as of 2010 guns could be attributed to 0.33 homicides per 100,000 people.

In Canada (though we must again allow for a margin of error, as the homicide by gun figures are from 2013), the figure stands at 0.38 of 1.68. This is around 22%. Therefore, Canada has not only a much lower homicide rate, but also a much lower homicide rate involving guns. Canada, co-incidentally, has more stringent laws surrounding guns than the USA does.

Up next is France. France is yet another nation to put into place more rigid gun control measures. 0.21 firearm homicides in France in 2012, meaning just over 13% of homicides involved guns.

Romania is next on that list and has some of the strictest laws on gun ownership of anywhere in the world. In 2012 0.04 per 100,000 people were killed in homicides by guns. Again, there is likely to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, as we’re comparing different years, but this is also likely to be nominal. With these figures, 2.7% of homicides in Romania involved firearms.

Is a pattern emerging yet? Canada, France and Romania all have tighter laws regarding firearms, all have lower overall homicide rates and all have lower homicide rates involving firearms. Let’s pick a few more countries shall we?

Contrary to popular belief and misconceptions, firearms can be owned in the UK. There are are however, tight rules on what sort of firearms are available and how to go about obtaining a licence for them. As of 2011 (we must again allow a small fudge factor) 0.06 homicides involved guns – meaning roughly 6.5% of homicides in the UK involved guns.

The data from Japan is from 2008 and so somewhat dated compared to other nations, but shows a homicide from guns as zero. In reality there will be a small number, but if Japan’s recent record is anything to go by, it may well not even make double digits. Japan has incredibly strict laws on guns, amounting to more or less a complete ban.

By now the pattern is clear. Countries with stronger gun control laws have fewer homicides with or without guns. In fact, with 3.66 per 100,000 homicides involving guns in the USA, there are less homicides in total in the UK, France and Japan combined.

What about other forms of Violence?

One popular piece of misdirection is to distract from the homicide figures to focus on other crimes. ‘Guns reduce incidences of robbery, assault, rape etc.’ Quite why homicide is ignored when it is arguably the most serious of all violent crimes is beyond me, but nevertheless, is there any truth to this claim?

Let’s start with robbery. In 2014 the USA actually scored better than several of the other nations listed, but also much worse than several others. The USA had nearly double the robbery rate per 100,000 people of the UK and Germany, 40% more than Canada, and far more than Japan. It fared better than Belgium, France and Spain. In 2016, 41% of all robberies in the USA involved firearms. In the UK, the broad trend of robbery with firearms shows a decline. In Canada, the percentage of robberies with guns is roughly 20%, or half that of the USA.

It has long been regarded by people who have studied the crime of robbery that, even if removing guns from the equation did not reduce the number of robberies, it would almost certainly reduce the number of fatal incidents when robberies do occur. The presence of guns as a deterrent is an idea which is clearly not working.

Which brings up an interesting point. The pro-gun side (or, more precisely, the anti-regulation side, as you can be pro-gun but also in favour of stronger regulations) often argues that easier access to guns can save lives. Statistically speaking, this is not true of the USA, as the earlier link demonstrates. There’s no evidence to suggest an increased presence of guns on the streets reduces violent crime, and plenty to suggest that ease of access to guns plays a massive part in the homicide rate – itself the most serious and violent of all crimes.

For instance, when considering another violent, serious crime – rape – is the USA better or worse than the other comparison nations? As per 2010, the answer was generally worse. The USA had a marginally lower rape rate than Australia (27.3 compared to 28.6) and a much higher rate than Germany (9.4), Spain (3.4) and Japan (1.0).

Conclusions

Guns clearly contribute to higher homicide rates, and countries that have taken steps to introduce stricter controls have lower homicide rates. As already mentioned, the combined rate of total homicides across several nations is lower than the homicide rate with only firearms in the USA. The rate of robbery is, by and large, an inconsistent mixture of results, with some countries with tighter gun controls faring worse than the USA, and some faring better. However, there is a much higher likelihood of a robbery turning deadly where guns are involved. The USA also has a bigger problem with rape.

Freedoms and Rights

One argument I have been presented with, more than once, is the idea that a gun offers freedom, and that living in countries with tougher gun laws equates to not being free. To me, this is reflective of a very different mind set when it comes to guns, based on history. As you will see, the weaponry available during the time of the American Revolution was very different to the weapons of today. It was felt that an armed populace would keep the government in check, but back then, the weaponry available to both the armed forces and the civilian population was very similar. Flash forward to today, and the armed forces of the USA have access not only to superior weaponry, but vastly superior training, and are far more disciplined than the average citizen when it comes to using these weapons. This is to say nothing of the presence of tanks, warplanes and drones.

If the US government decided to become a tyrannical dictatorship tomorrow, complete with the backing of the police and military, would the presence of a semi-armed population, many of whom would lack the training and discipline of the average soldier, really make a difference (even with the generous assumption that every US citizen with a gun would take up arms against their government)?

The equation of guns = freedom is, in my humble opinion, a dangerous one. It has moved from a healthy respect for a deadly weapon, to one that borders on worship. It has reached a level where to even hint at tightening laws is seen as blasphemy, just as daring to suggest the Constitution (written to reflect different types of weapons) is fallible is treated as blasphemy. The irony is, the Constitution has been amended before, to reflect changing political, social and cultural forces.

Meanwhile, to suggest we are not free here in the UK is to commit a very obvious fallacy. We can and do hold local and general elections on a regular basis. We can hold protests. We can criticise our government and political parties. We can hold referendums. It’s my suggestion to those who think that the gun is the only mean to uphold freedom, to stop and consider that freedom cannot be defined by the barrel of a deadly weapon.

Back to What I Think

The final trailer for The Last Jedi has dropped, and after a few days of deliberation and thought, it’s time to offer my impressions of the trailer and what it might mean.

The First Order is going to bring the big guns. They’re pissed at the loss of Starkiller Base and want revenge. Their walkers are said to be much bigger than the AT-ATs that terrorised the Rebellion in The Empire Strikes Back, and it looks like we’re going to get a substantial ground combat sequence as a result.

Snoke is speaking at the start, to someone, about finding them and their power – and how they are truly special. During this scene we see Kylo Ren, but right at the end the scene cuts to Rey igniting a lightsaber, leading to a lot of speculation that Snoke is talking to her. I wonder though, if he is talking to Ren, about finding Rey, or at least, about learning of a pivotal point in the Force, that Ren would lead Snoke to – in this case, that point being Rey. This also implies a connection between Ren and Rey.

Luke is afraid, and with good reason, from his point of view. He didn’t respect Ben Solo’s raw power and in the end, that mistake led to the destruction of his new Jedi Order. It seems like he starts to train Rey, but upon learning of her natural strength in the Force he changes his mind. Will he compound his original mistake, or resolve to correct it?

Will he or won’t he?! The most… intense moment from the new trailer features Kylo Ren blasting away at enemy ships in his TIE Silencer, then lining up the shot that would kill General Leia (who is, of course, his mother). The scene cuts back and forth between Ren and Leia, representing the internalised struggle Ren faces, between who he thinks he wants to be, and his family ties/history. His finger hovers over the trigger…

Tense!

Emotions will run high when The Last Jedi is released. This is Carrie Fisher’s final film, the final chance to see General Leia, and the trailer poignantly sees her remain silent throughout.

‘We are the spark, that will light the fire, that will burn the First Order down.’ Poe is a fighter and from his brief appearance in the trailer, he is taking the fight to the bad guys. 

Finn is seen in First Order garb, heavily implying he’ll be going undercover. Finn has a score to settle with the First Order, and this is dramatically personified in the next image…

Finn faces off against Captain Phasma as a base or facility goes up in smoke. This is easily one of the most exciting moments from the trailer.

Supreme Leader Snoke didn’t really do a lot in The Force Awakens and we never saw him up close. Is he powerful in the Force or just astute as a leader? He’s clearly a disciple of the Dark Side, but didn’t cut an intimidating figure last time. Here, he might well be more dangerous, judging from the next picture, but will we learn anything more about him?!


It appears from the way the trailer flows that Snoke is torturing Rey. Quite how Rey ends up in Snoke’s presence is anyone’s guess.


A frenetic space battle will grace the screen (something we’re shown a number of times), which makes sense as this is Star Wars


Finally, Rey asks, ‘I need someone to show me my place in all this’, and the trailer cuts to Ren, holding out his hand. Is this clever editing, or do they end up on the same side (whatever side that might be!)? 

All in all, the trailer does a great job of teasing a tremendous amount of drama and  a raw, tense film. If The Force Awakens was the new trilogy’s A New Hope, The Last Jedi is shaping up to have a lot of the tone of The Empire Strikes Back. The film looks astounding, amazing and utterly brilliant.

MyLittlePonyDrink

Ok, that’s a little unfair. As a matter of fact, I am going to ‘fess up – I enjoyed this movie. Judge me, don’t judge me, I don’t care. The film (and in fact the show) is not the standard sort of fare for this sort of movie.

A lot of kids’ shows and films (especially the shows) will talk down to their target audience. My Little Pony doesn’t do that and yet consistently manages to convey messages to children about honesty, loyalty, kindness and friendship. My Little Pony also manages to carry a positive message to young girls – pretty much all the lead characters are female, and they define themselves not by the company or attention of male characters, but rather by their abilities, their friendships with one another and their strength of character. The story of the film is predictable but the humour is pretty good and the film manages to avoid feeling simply like a longer episode. The animation has also been taken up a notch.

All in all, it’s a colourful, musical adventure that moves outside the confines of the show and carries a positive message to the youngsters watching it. It’s also wittier than it might first appear. 8/10.

I am not a lover of early starts, but I am prepared to put myself through it for Formula 1, so I was up at 5.40am, for a 6am race start in Suzuka. Could I have stayed in bed and spared myself a potentially dull race? Well, in hindsight, maybe I should have, for it wasn’t riveting to watch, even if Japan might prove the decisive blow in the world championship race. The key moment happened arguably before the race even began (as was the case in Malaysia last Sunday) when Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari developed a problem with a spark plug. Despite frantic efforts to fix the problem and despite starting the race, Vettel would be down on power and retiring after a few laps.

To add to the disappointment, Vettel had started second on the grid (bumped up after Valtteri Bottas took a five-place grid penalty), and might have been a threaten to Lewis Hamilton at some stage during the race. Instead, Vettel had to watch from the sidelines and hope that someone could take points off Hamilton. That person was most likely to be Max Verstappen, who moved up to second as Vettel dropped back.

The race became somewhat pedestrian, with only a handful of incidents to provide talking points. Carlos Sainz, in his final race for Toro Rosso (before he replaces Joylen Palmer at Renault) crashed out on the opening lap, whilst Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber joined him not too long after. Lance Stroll had a fairly dramatic late exit from the race when his tyre popped on the fast ‘Ss’ section of the track, nearly collecting Daniel Ricciardo in the process.

Ferrari suffered, not only with Vettel’s exit but a bit of first-lap hijinks between Kimi Raikkonen and Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, who stuck to the inside line around the Spoon and thus left Raikkonen with no choice but to run wide. Raikkonen (who had also taken a five-place grid penalty, and like Bottas, this was due to a gearbox change) did climb up the field quite swiftly, highlighting the good pace of the Ferrari, and for the third race in a row, leaving them to wonder what might have been. Up front, the tyre stops (switching from supersofts to softs in most cases) yielded better performances from Verstappen, who began to chip away at Hamilton’s lead. Hamilton was reporting problems with his rear tyres and later on, vibrations (not a driver’s best friend) in the car. Could Verstappen claim a second consecutive win?

Down the field there were a couple of potential duels between teammates that didn’t quite bear fruit, which would have come as a relief for Force India (Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have had a couple of accidents and with both cars in the points, the team didn’t want to risk another collision, denying Perez the opportunity to attack Ocon), and a similar situation developed as the Haas’ of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean trailed Felipe Massa’s Williams. In the end Massa, struggling with his tyres, slipped wide and got messy into turn 1, and both Haas were able to force their way through.

The biggest moment of excitement (from Hamilton’s point of view) came very late on, as Verstappen began to creep toward DRS range and the pair came across a battling Massa and Fernando Alonso. Alonso was seeking to put his McLaren into the last points position but his charge to get past Massa was interrupted by Hamilton lapping him, and Alonso in turn disrupted Verstappen’s chase of Hamilton. It was enough for Hamilton to stay clear and win, an outcome that sees him put one hand on the championship.

He is now 59 points clear with only 100 remaining. Unless he has two or three very poor races, it is highly likely Hamilton will become the first British driver to win four world championships, and he could even make this happen next time out, in Austin, USA.

Is freedom the right to have one of these?

wpid-wp-1444030168901.jpg

Or the right to do this…

MusicConcert

… without fear?

Some (and I must emphasise, only some) of the Americans I know insist that the Constitution be treated as sacrosanct, their right to bear arms immutable. Is it morally correct to regard the right to have virtually unrestricted access to a lethal weapon as being superior to the right of people to be able to enjoy a music festival, or go to work, or even school, without the potential threat of being killed?

Some might argue – ‘someone could pick up a knife and use that as a weapon’. ‘A car or a truck is a weapon in the wrong hands’. True, on both counts, but could the Las Vegas killer have killed 59 people with a knife? Would he have been able to kill 59 people with a car? Knifes and vehicles are not designed as deadly weapons – a gun’s sole purpose is to kill. It is far more effective at this than a knife.

Case in point, in 2014 just over 33,000 people were killed by firearms in the USA – the same number killed in motor vehicle accidents. You might be thinking, ‘how does this help your argument?’ Well, bear with me.

The USA has an estimated population of 323,127,513. 85% (274,658,386) own or have access to a car. As of 2016 36% of Americans (116,325,904) own at least one gun. Therefore, you are more than twice as likely to be killed by a gun in the USA than by a car. Let that sink in for a moment – less than half of US citizens actually have a gun, yet guns are responsible for as many deaths per year as cars, which nearly every American owns or has access to.

It doesn’t stop there. There are claims that locations with stricter gun controls have higher incidents of gun crime. Is this true, and if so, is it as simple as suggested?

Chicago is often cited as an example of where strict gun control laws cause an increase in crime. The situation is actually more complicated than that, and at any rate, the problem of gun violence in the USA as a whole is unique to America’s fascination to these deadly weapons. Entire countries have enacted tougher gun laws and these countries have correspondingly lower homicide rates. Take for example, the UK.

After the Dunblane tragedy, strict new laws were drafted to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. So far, 21 years on, we have not seen a repeat of that horrible event. Overall, Britain has a lower homicide rate than the USA – 0.92 per 100,000 people, compared to 4.88 per 100,000, whilst the rate with a gun is 0.06 in the UK, versus 3.60 in the USA. This also means that gun homicides account for more than half of homicides in the USA.

In Japan, where gun laws are extremely strict, homicides by gun are so low they are measured in single digit figures, and the overall homicide rate is just 0.31 per 100,000. In countries such as Germany (where guns are in fact quite prevalent) the homicide rate with guns is 0.07 – Germany’s laws on guns are robust with plenty of checks in place. Their total homicide rate is 0.85.

So the UK, Japan and Germany have all taken different approaches to gun control, and all have not only lower homicide rates with guns, but lower homicide rates overall. This seems pretty conclusive, so why do Americans remain unwilling to make any changes to their gun laws? The problem appears to be cultural more than anything – the right to bear arms reflects the right, in part at least, to resist the government in the event that they tried to develop into a totalitarian regime. This might have held true in an era with a smaller population and a relatively level playing field in terms of the weaponry, but today? Could comparatively untrained ‘militias’ hold off a well-trained army with access to tanks and warplanes? This scenario also applies to foreign invasions.

‘What about the right to defend property?’

It’s true that people want to be able to defend their homes in the event of a burglary or home invasion. However, there is every chance, under the current trends of US society, for the would-be burglar to also be armed. Is that a preferable scenario to one where no one is armed?

More importantly, is the right to bear arms more important than the right to life?

 

wpid-wp-1421964661354.pngFormula 1 returns to the land of the Rising Sun to a venue that has provided many a dramatic race and many a title decider. I’ve written before about the occasions this fast Suzuka circuit has seen – from 1987-1991 (among other times) the title was settled here, including all three of Ayrton Senna’s titles. A track tinged with tragedy too (Forza Jules), Suzuka is famous for being fast. The sequence from turns 3 through 6 is a testing set of snappy left-right curves that drivers enjoy, not least of all because they require the racers to hang on at high speed through them. With the faster cars of 2017 we should expect to see some very quick drives through this section.

Some parts of the track are deceptive – turn 13 for example, is slower than it appears, and turn 14, whilst being pretty high speed, might still prompt a gentle application of the brakes. Another variable here is the weather – it is not uncommon for rain to add a new dimension to the race.

In fact, for 2nd practice for this year’s Grand Prix, it did rain, enough to lead most drivers – whose supplies of wet weather tyres are limited – to not go out. In those circumstances Hamilton’s Mercedes was fastest – but in dry conditions in FP1, it was Sebastian Vettel who was narrowly quicker than Lewis. This was unexpected – the general belief was that Mercedes would be quicker around here.

What this adds up to are the conditions for a fascinating race. Vettel must win to keep his title hopes alive, and ideally he’d want Raikkonen to slot into second and help him out. If Vettel were to win all the remaining races he’d win the title regardless, but it’s bold to assume he’d win them all, therefore he must maximise every opportunity, starting here.

I suppose this film was inevitable. The prevalence of smartphones and their huge array of apps was, sooner or later, going to be a bankable movie product, and I dare say the film actually starts out surprisingly clever, with some notable observations about the pace of life these days, and the way in which we socialise (or don’t) thanks to our phones. The theme of the film is expression, so maybe, just maybe, in a subtle way, it’s trying to encourage its target audience (kids) to put the phones down and talk to each other. I’m not actually sure if that’s what’s going on, as the film is quite ‘meh’.

That’s actually quite ironic, given what the film is going for about expressing one’s self. Instead of being confined to a set role in life, this film is all about being different and not letting societal norms rule you. One character actually makes this point quite strongly regarding expectations for girls (only to send a confused message about this later, but I’ll come back to that). The trouble for the movie is, it just isn’t all that interesting, despite the flashy scenes and up-to-date pop music score (which is frankly more grating than great). Since the film is about apps that seem to encourage short attention spans, it’s not a surprise to see the film jump around in the same manner. This makes it quite disjointed.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t funny moments. Sir Patrick Stewart as the ‘Poop’ emoji proves to be quite entertaining, if underused (there is also one ‘red alert’ moment that had me laughing out loud). The trouble is, none of the characters are particularly interesting or engaging, and you don’t feel invested in what happens to them. Maybe kids would relate more, I don’t know.

Coming back to the feminist angle, we get a character trying to shrug off female stereotypes, only to embrace one of them in order to save the day. Maybe that can be interpreted as ‘you can still be feminine and tough’, but given how the film sets up this character, it’s a bit of a weird ‘about-face’ on that one.

All in all, there are better kids’ films out there, so I wouldn’t waste time on this one. 6/10.

Back in October 2015, I wrote an article regarding gun crime and American attitudes to these weapons. Among the details, I talked about how gun crime in the US compared to other countries, circa 2012. In the wake of the terrible events that unfolded in Las Vegas yesterday, and despite claims by certain parties that this matter should not be discussed yet (when is a good time to discuss it, one wonders?), I’m going to once again tackle the attitudes that Americans (and I must stress, not all Americans) have toward guns.

It’s an historical relationship, enshrined in the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, a document written centuries ago, during a very different era. It came into being in December 1791, and followed on from the Declaration of Independence and the tensions leading up to the Revolutionary War. As a matter of note, the 2nd Amendment took inspiration from an English Bill of Rights, one that spoke of the right to self-defense, the right to resist invaders and resistance to oppression. During the turbulent times of the Revolution and the formative years of the USA, the right to bear arms (perhaps even a need) would have proven important to the protection of one’s family, from both thieves/raiders, and the possibility of a tyrannical government/government forces. Taking up arms to repel invaders would have been seen as a patriotic duty.

These documents were drawn up to reflect weapons that bear little resemblance to the firearms of today. Unwieldy, inaccurate and slow to reload, these were nothing like the rifles and pistols and machine guns of today. As time has gone by, the US has developed a police force and a military to take over civic duties and national defence. The original right to bear arms in the 2nd Amendment is not reflective of these changes. Instead, some 55 million Americans have firearms, and access to them is made easy. You don’t even need a permit in many US states.

Despite the popular claim from pro-gun lobbies, the prevalence of guns in US society does not make people safer – in fact, quite the opposite. States with more guns have more gun-related deaths. This also pans out on a national level – with the USA leading the way on this by a considerable margin – just check out the statistics from this page.

This isn’t just about murders and mass shootings – it is far easier to commit suicide with a gun, and this is also reflected in the link above.

I can’t advocate banning guns completely from US society – I don’t understand the love affair with a deadly weapon, but it’s something that’s deeply engrained into US culture and not about to change. However, as I have said elsewhere, the definition of insanity (or stupidity) is repeating the same thing over and over again, whilst expecting a different outcome. Every time a mass shooting happens, we hear that it’s not the right time to talk about gun control, and every time a mass shooting happens, nothing changes. Access to these deadly weapons remains very easy. Other countries have taken steps to introduce much tighter regulations and have seen sharp reductions in death rates from guns, and a drop in homicide rates overall. These are not co-incidences.