Saturday, September 21, 2013

Three Deaths in Danville Because There Was a Gun

Witnessed by the nine-year-old and 14-month-old children of two of the victims, in one of Kentucky's quietest and most civilized small cities.

Greg Kocher and Valerie Honeycutt-Spears at the Herald:
Police learned about a triple homicide Friday morning when a 9-year-old boy called 911 shortly after 9 a.m. from the ABC Gold, Games and More pawn shop, Danville police Chief Tony Gray said.

Gray identified two of the victims as Michael Hockensmith, 35, and his wife Angela Hockensmith, 38, both of Lincoln County. Michael Hockensmith was a co-owner of the pawn shop and ran it on a day-to-day basis, and his wife often helped out, friends said.

Gray identified the third person as Daniel P. Smith, 60, of Richmond, who media reports have described as a customer.


Gray said police are looking for a heavyset white man, 40 to 50 years old, with a pot belly. He was wearing a green camouflage jacket. No one was in custody as of Friday night, Gray said.
Danville is the home of Centre College and 16,000 residents.  Friday's three murders equal the total number of homicides in the town in the past 10 years.

Regardless of the motive for the killings, Michael and Angela Hockensmith and Daniel Smith died for one reason: because the killer had a gun.

David Atkins at Hullabaloo:
Gun lovers will say that knives and hammers kill just as effectively as guns do. If someone means to kill someone else, they can and will. While this isn't actually the case, most arguments along this line tend to devolve toward the relative efficiency of guns versus other weapons.

While the efficiency and simplicity of the gun is certainly greater than for other weapons, that's not actually what makes the gun so pernicious and dangerous. What makes it dangerous is the fact that the gun gets in the way of our moral reasoning in a way that the knife does not. For most of us, if we are in a heated argument with a cheating spouse or a friend who betrayed us, there is something deep-seated in our psyches that won't let us actually hurt that person up close with kinetic force, much less strike them repeatedly as it usually requires to kill someone with the first dangerous object we can get our hands on. Our monkey brains say "no, this is bad. No matter how angry you are, this is not acceptable." Even if we want to, most of us can't push that man onto the tracks. Better to let the five on the trolley die through inaction.

But the gun is different. It's easier. The gun is that switch that we pull to intentionally doom the man on the tracks with an action. It bypasses the moral circuitry that usually prevents us from taking the actions it would have required for us to kill another human being through countless generations, giving us a significant remove from the moral consequences of our actions. Rationally it's still the same. Emotionally it isn't.

That's not to say that people don't kill one another by hand all the time. Many people are psychopaths, many become so enraged or greedy that even instinct is overwhelmed, and many people would push the man off the bridge onto the tracks in any case. But it's a numbers game. Statistically speaking, there are a great many people who, even if their chance of killing their victim were 100% with either a knife or a gun and did not fear failing in their attack, would stop short of using the knife for reasons of evolutionary psychology alone. Tens of thousands of victims are dead who should not be, and tens of thousands become murderers when they could have gone to their graves as productive members of society, simply because a gun was available when it should not have been.

In the story of human society and evolution, the gun itself is a villain that robs us of our own finely tuned instinctual morality. A society that makes guns harder to acquire is a society that not only allows more of us to continue to live, but also allows us to be more fully human in those rare moments that threaten to turn fatal.

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