Maybe it is an editorial oversight but the NY Times provides a useful guest piece on an important aspect of the debate on violence in America:
Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia
By PAUL STEINBERG
TOO many pendulums have swung in the wrong directions in the United States. I am not referring only to the bizarre all-or-nothing rhetoric around gun control, but to the swing in mental health care over the past 50 years: too little institutionalizing of teenagers and young adults (particularly men, generally more prone to violence) who have had a recent onset of schizophrenia; too little education about the public health impact of untreated mental illness; too few psychiatrists to talk about and treat severe mental disorders — even though the medications available in the past 15 to 20 years can be remarkably effective.
Instead we have too much concern about privacy, labeling and stereotyping, about the civil liberties of people who have horrifically distorted thinking. In our concern for the rights of people with mental illness, we have come to neglect the rights of ordinary Americans to be safe from the fear of being shot — at home and at schools, in movie theaters, houses of worship and shopping malls.
And he goes on. An interesting sidebar is this:
I write this despite the so-called Goldwater Rule, an ethical standard the American Psychiatric Association adopted in the 1970s that directs psychiatrists not to comment on someone’s mental state if they have not examined him and gotten permission to discuss his case. It has had a chilling effect. After mass murders, our airwaves are filled with unfounded speculations about video games, our culture of hedonism and our loss of religious faith, while psychiatrists, the ones who know the most about severe mental illness, are largely marginalized.
Marginalizing the experts? That is pretty much the entire point of the gun control debate.
HMMM... If we are tallking about of gun control and separation from reality, these two guest pieces in the NY Times could be Exhibits A1 and A2 for the peril of growing up in an intellectual echo chamber.
Rather than note my every objection to these two pieces offered by deep-thinking teachers of philospohy, let me pick a few highlights. Let's start with Jeff McMahan:, who is assessing the 'more guns, less crime' view:
One would think that if widespread gun ownership had the robust deterrent effects that gun advocates claim it has, our country would be freer of crime than other developed societies. But it’s not.
Is that what I would think? Maybe if I thought the US had the same history, culture, civil liberties, borders, ethnic/religious mix and associated ethinic/religious tensions as other countries than the level of violence would be comparable. It doesn't, so where is my baseline?
McMahan dismisses the argument that Americans need their weapons as protection against an oppressive government; I am not going to interfere with anyone's rich fantasy life by presenting his arguments, but he is right. However, he quickly runs off the rails again when the subject turns to self-defense:
For the police to remain effective in a society in which most of those they must confront or arrest are armed, they must, like criminals, become better armed, more numerous, and readier to fire. But if they do that, guns won’t have produced a net reduction in the power of the government but will only have generated enormous private and public expenditures, leaving the balance of power between armed citizens and the state as it was before, the unarmed conspicuously worse off, and everyone poorer except the gun industry. The alternative to maintaining the balance of power is to allow it to shift in favor of the armed citizenry and away from the police, again making unarmed citizens — including those who refuse on principle to contribute to the erosion of collective security by getting a gun — the greatest losers overall.
The logic is inexorable: as more private individuals acquire guns, the power of the police declines, personal security becomes more a matter of self-help, and the unarmed have an increasing incentive to get guns, until everyone is armed. When most citizens then have the ability to kill anyone in their vicinity in an instant, everyone is less secure than they would be if no one had guns other than the members of a democratically accountable police force.
Following a ludicrous and flawed analogy to the nuclear amrs race he reiterates his theme that if no one had guns we would all be more secure than if everyone had guns:
But while gun control can do a little to restrict access to guns by potential criminals, it can’t do much when guns are to be found in every other household. Either criminals and non-criminals will have them or neither will. Gun advocates prefer for both rather than neither to have them.But, as with nuclear weapons, we would all be safer if no one had guns — or, rather, no one other than trained and legally constrained police officers.
I infer that Mr. McMahan is young, hale and hearty, and good luck to him. But from my perspective, if two aggressive twenty-five year old thugs broke into my house, I would not have liked my odds in hand to hand combat back when I was a twenty-five year old physical specimen pumping iron and running marathons. I should add that knowing my wife could join in on my side would not have impressed anyone handicapping such a fight. And this was quite a while ago; in the ensuing years my specimen-hood has diminished a bit.
So today, my first choice would be that no thugs break in; hence my location in a safe community. My second choice would be that I have a gun and the intruders have knives, a baseball bat, or whatever thugs sport these days. My third choice would be that we all have guns and shoot it out (they have the element of surprise but I know the house). And my last choice would be their bats against me and my daughter's field hockey stick - I know who will win that fight and I don't know whether their victory celebration will include rape and arson. [Science, circa 1995, backs me. Well, social science; see UPDATE]
And that's just me. I seriously wonder whether writers such as Mr. McMahan ever read the news or are even aware of life in flyover country. Here is the story of a nineteen year old Oklahoma woman living with a three-month old in a trailer while a couple of local meth-heads tried to break in. She was on the line with a 911 dispatcher for twenry minutes but the cops were too far away to help. A Mahatma Gandhi style passive, non-violent approach may have been effective, but we will never know, since she went with Plan A, the shotgun.
Well, If his assumption that we are all safer when no one has guns is false his argument takes on water.
Let's switch to the other contributor, Michael Boylan, who no doubt imnpressed some sopomore somewhere with this dazzling logic:
Weapons control is a given. No one can logically claim that everyone should be able to possess nuclear weapons. Thus everyone must agree to the concept of weapons control somewhere on the continuum. This point is logically necessary.
Well, he sure got the NRA there. So if I don't favor nukes for everyone the next logical step is to allow nothing more potent than my Louisville Slugger? Let's press on:
The only question is where on the continuum of weapons do we begin banning weapons? And though, as we see in the case of state nuclear proliferation, the fact that rogue countries may develop nuclear weapons does not deter us from trying to stop each new potential member in the ultimate annihilation club.
This blurring of the line between states and individuals doesn't seem to bother the writer. Nor does the lack of historical perspective - at one time we had serious negotiators trying to limit the size and power of battleships. How well did that work at containing powerful weapons systems? The fact that we seem to have effective treaties limiting chemical, biological and nuclear weapons (where state sponsorship once seemed necessary for production and deployment) does not encourage me greatly on lesser weapons.
Among citizens of any country, the fact that weapons bans are hard to enforce is not an argument against trying to enforce them. Moral “oughts” (in a deontological sense) are not determined by what is easy but by what is right.
Actually, his position on moral "oughts" is, for practical purposes, nonsense, for the simple reason that "oughts' often collide. For example, I think we have roughly 99.99% of the country behind the notion that child abuse ought not to be tolerated. Yet it occurs, in part because we also think we ought not to execute any convicted child abusers and we ought to allow people a certain privacy as they live their lives, surf the web, and so on. (Yes, Hollywood also endorses certain types of pedophilia, so go figure.)
So actually, anyone who favors civil liberties and privacy rights favors child abuse, yes? Maybe not.
To take a second example closer to the gun argument, maybe we "ought" to provide much greater supervision of the mentally ill, as argued above. Or maybe not, since that conflicts with other "oughts". Well, much as I hate to leave a dead horse behind, unbeaten, I will press on:
Second, we have the “minimal force dictum,” which says that instead of the escalating scenario set out above, individuals should always employ the minimum force necessary to deter a threat, and that they should first depend upon law enforcement (in developed societies) to protect them.
Depending on law enforcement for protection? Again, does he read the news? Has he looked at a map - this is a big country, and many, many people live a long way from prompt police protection. And we don't need to be talking about flyover country - has this Times contributor reflected on the fact that in faraway Newtown, Connecticut it took the local police twenty minutes to respond to reports of a school shooting? Twenty minutes? At a school? During the day, no storms, no trees blown down, no heavy snow blocking roads.
Where is the Times finding these people?
This leads to the second condition: people should first depend upon law enforcement to protect themselves. What stands behind this provision is very important: the real good of having a social structure in which individuals give up certain individual liberties in order to become citizens of a society. When one leaves the state of nature, then one relinquishes the right personally to inflict punishment upon wrongdoers.
Well, has this contributor read "Heller", or any relevant law on self-defense? The state monopoly on legitmate violence does not extend into my home, where I am allowed to drop the gloves, as it where.
UPDATE: From a study of armed self-defense:
Previous research has consistently indicated that victims who resist with a gun or other weapon are less likely than other victims to lose their property in robberies  and in burglaries.  Consistently, research also has [Page 152] indicated that victims who resist by using guns or other weapons are less likely to be injured compared to victims who do not resist or to those who resist without weapons. This is true whether the research relied on victim surveys or on police records, and whether the data analysis consisted of simple cross-tabulations or more complex multivariate analyses. These findings have been obtained with respect to robberies  and to assaults.  Cook  offers his unsupported personal opinion concerning robbery victims that resisting with a gun is only prudent if the robber does not have a gun. The primary data source on which Cook relies flatly contradicts this opinion. National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data indicate that even in the very disadvantageous situation where the robber has a gun, victims who resist with guns are still substantially less likely to be injured than those who resist in other ways, and even slightly less likely to be hurt than those who do not resist at all.