Sunday, January 13, 2013

Confronting Human Violence

In light of recent events (specifically the rash of public shootings in the USA), I have been thinking about guns.  Here are some of my thoughts that seemed worth writing down (for future reference).  My thoughts arose in the context of conversation with several different people (whose words will be reproduced anonymously here in bold where necessary to make my ideas make sense).  If I weren't in such a hurry, I would try to save the best bits as their own essay, but time is short and I don't want to lose anything that might be useful for future reflection because I cannot think of a way to work it into a single essay.

Trying to lower armed violence by arming more people is the equivalent of a junkie who takes uppers to counter the downers.

I would qualify this statement by saying that the character of the person you arm matters a great deal. Arming me would not make anyone less safe. I would not be more violent. I would gladly register any arms I might have with the public (and the police), and receive the best training available to me. I would avoid confrontation at all cost.

Passing out guns on the subway (or a gun-show) would not be the same. As I see it, the problem with our current situation is a failure of culture (and responsibility). Guns are like cars: dangerous equipment that nobody should have unlimited access to. If you want to play the game, then you have to prove your worthiness. As someone who aspires to drive and carry weapons, I embrace that responsibility: if I use either tool improperly, I accept full liability (up to capital punishment and the seizure of all my property for the community). I am willing to give the community good faith. I think I deserve to be armed.
  By "armed" I don't mean that I want my own personal tank, or anti-aircraft guns. That used to go without saying, but these days you have to remind people of their limits.

I admire your responsibility, but the research shows that guns in the home increase the risk of child related accidents and women being killed in domestic violence.

Research also shows that death is inevitable, and that correlation is not causation.  (Don't keep loaded guns lying around. Lock stuff up, and for goodness' sake, learn to load your weapon when you need to use it: it isn't hard, and if you don't leave bullets lying around, your kid won't shoot anyone with them.Research probably also shows that inexperienced drivers cause more accidents. When my kids are old enough to learn how to drive, I will invoke this research to prevent their ever learning. Or maybe not.

Carrying a gun makes you 4 times more likely to be shot or killed by a gun. 

I currently reside in "gun-free" Chicago, Illinois, where as a good citizen I am unarmed (and plan to remain so for the foreseeable future). What do statistics say about my chances of making it home today without being shot, compared with (say) Provo, Utah (where I just spent the holidays, and ran into people carrying concealed weapons, incidentally)?

If my chief motive in life is to avoid being shot, then my best bet is to move away from civilization and keep a low profile. I am less likely to be shot in Provo than Chicago. In Nowhereville, Montana, I am even less likely to be shot. But even there, somebody with a gun might find me. There is no place on earth where my likelihood of being shot disappears entirely.

Society gets better because we begin to identify with those who are different than us, we leave patriarchy behind and equality takes root. Racism, misogyny and other "-isms" go by the wayside. As we begin to see our enemy as ourselves, increase empathy, understanding and tolerance.

As we do this as a society, violence as a whole decreases. If people's attitudes continue to remain rigid, that they must defend themselves, then we are not making progress toward egalitarianism and empathy and moving farther toward violence and an "us versus them" mentality, and this worries me.

Egalitarianism is not non-violent, historically. The most egalitarian societies we know of are hunter-gather cultures rife with murder. Social hierarchies (the opposite of egalitarianism) suppress this "low-level" violence, and channel it into "high-level" violence (the wars of conquest and defense that students of history are familiar with). There is no path away from social violence. 

I guess I don't understand the basic premise of you argument which seems to be: "Carrying a gun makes you less likely to be shot."  That doesn't follow for me. Can you walk we through the argument?  

Carrying a gun doesn't make you less likely to get shot. It gives you something to fight back with that might actually stop your attacker from doing more than wounding you. 

What about Steven Pinker, who says that violence is decreasing?  He has research behind his talks.

Of course Pinker has research behind his talks.  The problem is that his statistics lie, and because he is smart, the lie sounds really convincing (so convincing that he himself believes it). This is the great disease of our time: mistaking information for understanding.  Pinker is just another well-meaning, smart dude fooled by randomness.

Pinker is not wrong although Nassim Taleb might be. Google "fooled by belligerence." 

To me, the really interesting thing in the conversation between Pinker and Taleb is not the emotion or any specific numbers, but the way the numbers are interpreted. I leave the numbers to speak for themselves (to those who know how to read them): suffice it to say that for me, angry or not, Taleb is right (maybe arrogantly, belligerently right, but arrogance doesn't make you wrong, in my experience).

A firearm is solely an offensive weapon. It offers no defense whatsoever. It can only be used for preemptive aggression.

For example if you carry around a broadsword, I can carry a shield and stop your blows if you decide to attack me. But if I point a gun at me, your gun offers you no defense whatsoever. The only way you would be able to use a gun to protect yourself from assailants is to preemptively shoot them. Which is exactly what professional gunmen, like the military, do.

Yes, and if you drew a gun on me, I would like the option of pre-emptively shooting you, exactly the way police and military do.  If you drew a knife on me at close quarters, I would also like the option of pre-emptively stabbing you (or at least hitting you with the hardest thing available). I would not pick up a block of wood and to try hide behind it while calling the police (in hopes that they arrive in time to collect something more than my dead corpse).

But you can't be pre-emptive. That is what I mean as it being only an offensive weapon. Once I make the aggressive move, there is very little chance of putting your self into the position of being an aggressor. You have to point the gun first, which means it is not a defensive weapon.

If you want to lower your chances of getting shot to death in Chicago, you would better invest in Kevlar.

Kevlar is much more expensive than a weapon, much harder to carry, and much less effective. There is nothing anywhere that makes danger go away. We are none of us ever perfectly safe. The issue at hand is how we respond to danger. Some people want to hide behind blocks of wood (or armor plate) while others shoot them. Others would prefer to fire back. I maintain that there is a place for firing back, that people like me should be allowed to cultivate the option of firing back (within limits that already exist: police and military already carry guns, store them, and even use them responsibly quite a bit). 

I believe that what you are saying is that the merely the idea that many other people might be carrying a gun would be a deterrent to offensive action. I'm not sure if there are any statistics to back this supposition up though. 

I don't make arguments about statistics (which I inherently distrust, as the ability for even the most expert of experts to misconstrue them is so high). All I maintain is that in individual hostile encounters, my ability to respond to your firing a shot at me by returning fire acts as a powerful deterrent (particularly if you are a thug whose training consists of seeing a trigger and pulling it where mine involves drilling tactics with military and police). 

I am not sure that homicidal maniacs who plan on offing themselves after offing everyone else will be dissuaded by the thought that someone else, too, might have a gun. 

I don't care about what they think. I just want the ability to shoot them dead when they show up in my vicinity. If people really want to off themselves and others in a public venue, then there is little you can do to stop them beforehand. Simple IEDs are really easy to make (even illiterate Afghanis and Iraqis manage them very well). All I ask is the right to respond aggressively when I am personally assaulted. 

Psychiatrist James Gilligan makes this statement: "the attempt to achieve and maintain justice, or to undo or prevent injustice, is the one and only universal cause of violence."

This is profound to me, and I have never considered this before. As I am listening to you saying you are willing to commit violence for the same reason, i.e. that you feel JUSTIFIED in defense, even as others in this conversation are pointing out the error of thinking that guns provide a means of defense.

What you are saying is that you want pre-preemptive justice through the use of violence, or that you want to fight violence with violence.

How do we, as a society, justify violence with violence? Isn't this really the core of the argument? People want to fight violence with violence? They want to justify this?

Is there any other way to fight violence than with violence? Historically, again, states exist as monopolies on violence. The police and military we rely on to protect us are all about violence. They fight violence with violence. You can try the method of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis (to invoke Mormonism), but that usually means that you die (a martyr and a saint perhaps, but still dead, and some of us cannot stomach the notion of dying without a struggle). 

Yes, there is a better way to fight violence than with violence. When we understand that the core of violence is to seek justice, then we must educate people that it is maladaptive to seek justice through violence-- negotiation, the justice system, communication, these are all appropriate alternatives to violence. As we educate people, as we increase empathy, then people will seek justice through appropriate means and not through violence.

The person committing violence often has a warped idea of justice and will often take the violence out on someone other than the person they are angry with.  This not rational.  Education will help them.

I do not agree that the core of violence is to seek justice. People are violent animals. Why do puppies fight? Why do my two sons, whom we have not abused or raised to be commandos, instinctively fight (especially with other males)? People are violent. Justice is something we invent to explain this fact: it comes after violence, not before.

My kids are already violent (and cute and nice and sweet, too). They are not just (and have no coherent theory of justice: what little they have and are conscious of is less developed than their idea of, "Get the other guy! In the nuts!"). 

Also, where is the "warped idea of justice" in the dark alley where a woman is being raped and responds by shooting her attacker dead?  How would education make this outcome different?  How is it bad?  

People are becoming more and more civilized and finding non-violent ways to solve their problems. Although your kids (and mine too) have a natural tendency to fight, we teach them that it's not right, that they need to talk about how to solve their problems and not hit. I believe that a reduction in poverty and an increase in education will allow more parents access to these methods of problem solving and that from that we will see a reduction in violent crime.

When did I say that a woman being raped in an ally has a warped idea of justice?
It may be true that people are becoming more civilized and less violent overall (leaving aside that this is probably just a statistical illusion, as pointed out above), but it is patently obvious that individual members of the species are not equally responsible (or educable). In order to survive, I need to know how to speak the language not only of cultured elites, but also of evil thugs.
You keep returning to this notion that violence arises out of a misconstrual of justice, as though the solution to social violence were a better theory of justice (or more Platonic dialogue with a master like Socrates). I merely cited an instance of social violence as it typically occurs (a woman is assaulted in an alley somewhere, despite all her efforts to avoid confrontation, and responds by shooting her assailant). I think it is a good thing that she shoot the would-be rapist. I don't see her owning and using a gun as any kind of threat (or to be more accurate, any danger she creates is more than balanced by her ability to turn it back against those who must be stopped if we are to go on living well, individually and collectively). What are you telling her to do? Drop her gun and attempt to reason Socratically with her attacker, persuading him that he only wants to hurt her because he has been brainwashed by the patriarchy? In my eyes, even if that were true (let's assume there is a patriarchy and he was brainwashed), invoking it would not change anything. People who care about those kinds of arguments aren't rapists. You don't treat them the way you treat someone with depression (vel sim): you shoot them dead, preferably before they maim or kill you.
I disagree. As a woman who has been a victim of domestic abuse as well as a rape victim, I am intimately familiar with violence and its trauma. My home has also been broken into--not once, but twice.

Not only does my personal experience not make me want to own a gun for personal protection, but it has made me want to understand why people, who have never experienced what I have experience feel so threatened by this world.

I have experienced the horrors of this world and yet I do not wish to lash out at at. I do not wish to go on a rampage and kill the people who have harmed me. I do not wish to own a gun and kill.

I do wish to change the world for better and make this world a less violent place. I wish to be better and help others to be better.

I am perfectly willing to let you be who you want to be. Unlike some, I don't think that all people in positions of social authority should always be armed. If you don't want to carry a weapon, then you should never have to. You can be an Anti-Nephi-Lehi if you want, but I reserve the right to be different. I am going to play Ammon, and I think that option should be available to good guys (as it is and always will be to outlaws).

Don't force me to live your life, please. I would never force you to live mine.

But, you see, we have a world filled with guns.  That makes me feel unsafe.  People want to put guns in schools. I work in a school. I do not want guns in my work environment.

I do not want people carrying guns in the streets.  This does not make me feel safe. When we have these discussions, all of this must be discussed, not just your desire to have guns in your home.

Being alive means that you are unsafe. I am sorry if that makes things unpleasant, but it is true. You will never be perfectly safe, ever, no matter who does what. Even if you did manage to keep guns out of your environment, you would not be safe.

cannot build a society that excludes all things that make you (or me or others like us) feel safe. What feels safe is not always safe, for one thing, and for another life is inherently fragile (and unsafe!). Please don't force us to live in a fantasy land where nothing bad ever happens to good people. I have already spent too much time living in that web of sweet, well-meaning lies--and I am never going back. Ever.

I also work in a school. Every time I step into class, I am fully aware that some student could walk in and start blowing things up. I go in unarmed. I feel people's pain, but I also know that banning guns unilaterally (with no provision for people like me to qualify for exceptions) will do precisely nothing to make anybody safer.

Guns are not the only dangerous machines that kill people.  Consider cars.  They might even kill more people than guns (outside of wars, if I remember somebody's statistics right and those statistics weren't lying). The real problem here, as I see it, is fear, which you want to handle one way (your way). This is fine, until your way becomes the only way, and I am supposed to pretend to be you. I am not you. I refuse to react to fear the way you would. I do not expect you to be me. Please stop trying to make me be you. 

So it seems like we're looking at this problem from two different angles--the world as it currently is, and the world as is should be. My opposition to arming more people as a deterrent to violence is that I don't feel that it moves us closer to the world we want. It reinforces the idea that the only solution to violence is more violence. Do I want to take away guns from people who currently own them? No. People can make their own evaluations on whether a gun will make them feel more safe given their current situation. But I don't want to encourage the idea that more people owning guns makes the population as a whole more safe--that moves us away from the direction I believe society should go.  

I personally think that the deepest problems here are inside people's heads. People are afraid. We are afraid because the world is actually dangerous (regardless of what guys like Steven Pinker say: he sounds nice, so we want to believe him, but I just don't live in his world, which frankly reminds me of a certain religious daydream into which I was born and from which I have spent the past few years extricating myself). We are always going to be afraid, because the world is always going to be dangerous (or unpredictable, which amounts to the same thing). Confronted with the uncertain, with our raw fear of it, we all must react. We don't react the same. We never did. We never will. Society is about negotiating our different responses so that we are minimally harmful to one another. I think we can negotiate a situation in which the possession of guns is treated like the possession of other dangerous tools (like cars and mortgages: guns are not the only things that kill people).

Give people responsibility for their own actions. Make them liable, and guys like me will step up to the plate and succeed (the way many police and military already do: in fact, many of my friends who get my point of view and put it into practice in their own lives are police and military; talk to them, and they will not tell you to rely on them for protection from all the bad guys; they don't trust themselves as much as you trust them). Don't make us face fear in a way that turns us into helpless cowards. If you back us into a corner, then we will be that much more likely to do what cornered animals do.

It doesn't matter when you tell us that you are putting us in a straitjacket for our own good. We get that you act out of the best of intentions. We see your life, and we honor your choice to live in a way that demonstrates your integrity. Please give us the same option, the same respect, the same responsibility that you so nobly bear for yourself. Please let us be heroes, too. Please recognize that yours is not the only heroism, the only truth to which all others must bow (or what? are you going to come to my house and take away all my weapons? are you going to send the police to put me down as though I were mafia? am I mafia to you? I don't know, but I do get the feeling that many people like you have very little human empathy for people like me).
On your right to "shoot dead" whatever you perceive as a hostile threat: I support in principle such a right, but in fact there is a tremendous difficulty. Someone firing a shotgun in a movie theatre is an obvious threat where a gun response would be justified, but other threats are not always so obvious. You might mistake me in a dark alley, for example, as a hostile threat and so shoot me in the face--but what about my right not to be shot in the face by paranoid vigilante types? Or do you believe that the death of Trayvon Martin was justifiable homicide?  

If I venture into a dark alley where a woman is being raped and she mistakenly shoots me as an attacker, then I consider myself justly shot (and would not begrudge her the right to respond, even if she shoots me dead). 

Do you believe it is justified to use lethal force to stop a property crime?

I am not sure how I feel. On the one hand, I would not respond violently without assessing the situation. I think there is a real difference between a stick-up in the street, say, and waking up to find some guy breaking into your house. In the first situation, I would be inclined to hand over my wallet and walk away (especially if the robber got really close to me, and certainly if there were several of them, as there often are in these situations). In the second, on the other hand, I would be inclined to use deadly force (and feel perfectly justified: if you come crashing into my house while my family is sleeping, then you just signed your own death warrant; how am I supposed to know whether you are a starving bum desperate for a meal or some crazed serial killer out for our blood? I cannot know this, so I cannot be criminally liable for treating you as a direct threat on my life). 

Even with all the horrid things that have happened to me--the domestic abuse, the rape, the home invasions--I choose to live my life not in fear, but in hope. Hope for a better life; hope that humans can change; hope that we do have the capacity to change our environment, our beliefs and our situations. It is with that hope that I live. Not in fear but in peace. 

I applaud your choice to embrace hope. However, please know that when your hope means that I have to give up mine, it becomes very bitter to me. Think about how you would feel if I made you own a weapon, train with it regularly, and take it to school every day, along with all your colleagues (including the creepy janitor who might be a pedophile, or the principal who is a sadistic bastard that beats his wife and leers at you). How would you feel? That is how I feel when you tell me that there is no way I can ever carry a weapon in Chicago. What makes you feel safe (and hopeful) makes me feel unsafe (and hopeless). The heaven on earth that you imagine (in which we all move forward together in lockstep towards a society devoid of all violence) is hell for me (as I confront armed criminals in Chicago with my fists).

As long as your safety requires me to run unnecessary risks (from my perspective: I understand that yours is different, but I have to live with mine), there will never really be peace between us. Festering distrust, mutual recrimination and suspicion, perhaps (the best option) a respectful hostility (I see your sainthood and salute you as a foe worth having). But you do not persuade me, and I doubt you ever will. I have been led too many times into the lion's den by prophets of peace whose only real skill is in making others fight their wars.

Auferre, trucidare, rapere falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. And the response from me will always be to raise an arm, discharge it, and shout: "Sic semper tyrannis!" (I am aware that those words were desecrated by idiots before me, and that they will probably appear in the mouths of worse criminals yet, but from my tongue they are honest, as honest and heartfelt as any words I might ever say. If that offends you beyond all hope of repair, then you should wage war against me and kill me quickly, rather than ask me to suffer a slow death by living somebody else's life.) 

I am asking society to collectively be better, to do better.  

I am wondering who "society" is, and how they can ever hope to be better when they have no integrity (as a collective). People talk about "the American people" as though there were such a thing. There is not. I reject any implication that I must live my life in lockstep with some collective culture that has no regard for my existence, no respect for the sanctity of my self-determination, no place for my personal responsibility.

Who are you referring to as your society? Mass-murderers? Is that your society?

My society are my friends, my family, my neighbors. They also include the children in my school; some of them have troubled lives and troubled families and I consider it m
y responsibility to reach out to them and improve their lives, if only by listening to them and letting them know they are cared about.

Yes, my society has also included the man who tried to strangle me and the teen boys who broke into my home. I am helping the police in each case to help them get help; as I want them to become better so they do not make the same mistakes.

My society includes my wonderful children, whom I have sacrificed for to get a great education so they can make a difference in their communities/societies. They are activists and work to change the world for the better.

My society includes children with disabilities and their families and I work to improve their lives; children that the world discards. My society includes people here, that have left the mormon church and are in need of community and support.

I choose to see good and happiness and hope. You do not. It is all perspective. We live in the same community.

The city of Provo, where I was just in company with various armed individuals, is not a city of mass murderers (the tragedy of Mountain Meadows occurred in the past, in a different part of Utah). I was not taking part in serial killings over the holidays.

My society are my friends and family, including many who have guns. I love and care about these people, and they use their guns to do good in the world (the same way they use their cars, their mortgages, their computers, their books, their toasters).

My society includes children too. They aren't always the most intelligent, in my experience. They don't get justice (until they punch their brother and he bites them back: then you can see the dim hint of a dawning realization cross their little faces).

My society includes some disabled, too. You are right to note that they find ways to contribute that make them valuable to the rest of us. I wouldn't let them get in over their heads (with any of the dangerous machinery lying around our house or anyone else's).

I do choose to see good and happiness and hope. You do too. But my happiness is not your happiness. My hope is not your hope. My safety is not your safety. I never knew that you even existed until this morning, when it came it my notice that we share a virtual friend (whom I have only interacted with online, alas, though he is probably justly grateful at this point in our conversation). We do not live in the same community.

Serious question: when a celebrity, politician, or rich person hires an armed bodyguard for protection, is this an example of someone using violence to prevent violence?  Also, I notice that some people get all up in arms about how sacred life is when they want to protect unborn fetuses, but then suddenly start talking about things more important than life when the debate turns to gun control, or hawkish attitudes to war. So which is it? Is life sacred or not? 

If those silly "gun-free zones" really worked as advertised, then the White House would be one, and the Secret Service would be Japanese samurai with no training in firearms.

All I know is that if life is sacred then death must be too. You cannot worship life without worshipping death, and to my (admittedly limited) knowledge, nobody has lived (or ever will live) without dying. In my experience, the same is true of violence: as far as I know, nobody has ever lived without violence. Not all violence is equal, of course, but there is no way to eliminate it (short of killing everyone: see the quote from Tacitus that I provided above).

Please note too that I support a woman's right to abort. Unlike many who wear the badge "conservative" these days in the USA, I don't believe in letting outside agencies make that decision for a person. In my utopia, you get to decide which children you bear, and what tools they inherit (including guns).

It's true that nobody has lived without dying. It's also true that human technology and medicine has extended the time that we all can live. We see this as a good thing. This is how we can worship life and not death--we continue to push death away from us, welcoming life and working to prevent death as long as possible.

We can do the same with violence, cultivating a society in which violent solutions are ostracized as "uncivilized." It's already happening (when was the last time someone was challenged to "pistols at dawn?"). You will retain your rights to keep your guns, and to pass your guns to children and grandchildren, who will have an increasingly diminishing need for them, until gun collectors are seen as quaint as civil war reenactors, and the second amendment has as much validity in our lives as the third. This is the world that I'm working for.

I have no problem with people like you going for your dreams, and I admire your motivation. My only concern arises when you try to force me to do things your way or die (as you have been particularly careful not to do in this thread, in contrast with some: thank you). I have no problem with the idea that I might be (or become) obsolete. I know it and embrace it.

I agree with you that things work better since we moved away from settling conflicts by single-combat (in some arenas: I actually sometimes wish they would bring back the custom of letting people challenge politicians to duels; it would make some of them think more clearly before they tried to force us all to do things their way). I'm all about enabling people to pursue productive ways of pursuing conflict that don't involve unnecessary and/or inappropriate violence. I support the right to be violent in certain circumstances: it is OK to squash mosquitoes now and then, when they bite you, but there are always limits; it is not OK to bomb the neighborhood with DDT because you don't like mosquitoes. I think my position is as fair and reasonable as anyone can expect somebody like me to have.
I am open to screening and training standards being raised for the legal possession of firearms in the USA.  I think that social responsibility is important, and that gun-owners could use more of it.

(Also, as long as we are talking about medecine, remember that it is not an unqualified good, historically.  Iatrogenics.) 

[A] Well, sure, if people could have guns and self control we wouldn't be having this conversation. It's a matter of degree. I believe we could all agree that nobody should be allowed to own nuclear weapons--that we should strongly regulate them, in spite of the second amendment. The same argument can be used with regard to high capacity firearms: extended magazines, fully automatic rifles, and the like. Some people have no self-control, and will attempt to solve their problems with guns in ways that prove unacceptably catastrophic. No amount of counter escalation will fix that. We need sensible gun regulation, akin to the UK, Canada and Japan. Anything else is just wishful thinking.

[B] But this conversation suggests that restrictions don't solve those problems. Gun control doesn't work. 

I would say that gun control does work: it makes me (the person determined to keep the law) a sitting duck in a hunting preserve for criminals. Every society has predators and prey. Gun control works to make sure that people like me (polite, civilized people determined to play by the rules) are always prey.

I am supposed to watch TV. I am supposed to believe that nothing ever happens unless somebody paid somebody something for some product. "Safety" is supposed to be a product I purchase from politicians (if I am a good little boy), or from a gun store (if I am an inbred, redneck cretin). If the product doesn't work as advertised ("I bought safety from my local schoolboard and people died anyway!"), I am supposed to weep, wail, and gnash my teeth in protest on TV (again) until somebody "does something" (i.e. re-arranges the deck chairs on the Titanic so that we can all go back to business as usual). From beginning to end, the thing is a stage-managed farce, on TV, in which idiot journalists drag me from one peak of emotion to another willy-nilly, milking me for money the whole way, selling me a bunch of lies and even more dangerous truths whose real-life value is almost completely worthless.

Stand back for a minute and consider that people die of drone attacks all the time in the Middle East--people no less innocent and helpless than the school children who perished in Connecticut--and the media couldn't care less. We all couldn't care less. We all keep fighting the stupid war that is killing them. We all keep using cowards' technology to deliver more firepower to those innocents than Adam Lanza ever had. Bastard that he was, at least he walked into that school himself. He didn't send a robot to do his killing for him, and then try to claim that all the innocent deaths were excusable collateral damage. He killed himself because he knew he was a guilty son of a bitch, and he wanted to die.

The price for my refusal to face the reality that my life costs others' lives (as it does, every day) is that I become complicit in what somebody else does to defend me. I refuse to see the people my government kills (not always quickly or humanely) so that I can be "safe" (and I retain hopelessly naive views of what safety really is, in the real world, where I do not live). I rely on somebody else to decide how violence gets done. I delegate that responsibility (the responsibility to exert some will to decide who dies so that I might live). If I surrender myself completely to the lies on TV, I become unaware that it is mine. I make no heroic choice (to stand down and be martyred like Jesus in the New Testament or fight to the death like Hector in the Iliad). I become a passive bit of chattel, making money for those journalists (so that they can continue to spread their poisonous lies, so that people will continue to wring their hands over one death as they ignore twenty others, so that politicians can continue to get elected on platforms and promises that make no sense, so that I remain a victim instead of an agent all my life). Fuck that.

Regarding comparisons between the USA and other nation-states.  The USA is not a small island. The USA is not a small country. American culture is not homogenous (see my comments about "the American people" above). We are not Singapore, not Britain, not Japan, not Switzerland, not Australia (even, thought that might be more like us). It is hopelessly naive to assume that you can govern us (all 300 million or so) with a single policy that works well in another group that isn't us. The death rates for places that are not America are just more lying statistics (a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing meaningful, until they somehow mean that I am supposed to delegate all my integrity to somebody else, usually somebody who needs to get elected to public office or who relies on milking my emotions for profit; I mistrust both individuals). 

You might get somewhere telling the government of Chicago to think seriously about making their town more like Singapore (and/or less like Mogadishu). That kind of thinking at least shows some promise of making sense (and even maybe leading to some real insights, after some effort and experimentation). The kind of apples-to-oranges claptrap that journalists always trot out is just garbage, even when they try to make it sound smart by using math. 
Comparisons that presume the equality of variables not really equal strike me as fundamentally ridiculous, more likely to lead to unexpected bad results than expected good ones when we take what works great in one environment and try to implement it where it might not work well at all.  

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