The Buffalo Massacre Illustrates the Inherent Limitations of ‘Red Flag’ Laws

“A 2012 study that the Department of Defense commissioned after the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas includes an appendix titled “Prediction: Why It Won’t Work.” The appendix observes that “low-base-rate events with high consequence pose a management challenge.” In the case of “targeted violence,” for example, “there may be pre-existing behavior markers that are specifiable.” But “while such markers may be sensitive, they are of low specificity and thus carry the baggage of an unavoidable false alarm rate, which limits feasibility of prediction-intervention strategies.” In other words, even if certain “red flags” are common among mass shooters, almost none of the people who display those signs are bent on murderous violence.

Supporters of red flag laws prefer to ignore this problem. After a mass shooting in a state that has such a law, they argue, as in this case, that it would have worked if only it had been used properly. But the problem goes deeper than that. However you weigh the risk of preventable violence against the risk of taking away innocent people’s rights, this policy has inherent limitations that mean it is bound to fail”

Smallpox used to kill millions of people every year. Here’s how humans beat it.

“More than a million Americans have died of Covid-19, and the World Health Organization estimated this Thursday that the global death toll is around 15 million — a horrifying, and largely unnecessary, tragedy.

But for all that the world has lost in the last few years, the history of infectious disease has a grim message: It could have been even worse. That appalling death toll resulted even though the coronavirus kills only about 0.7 percent of the people it infects. Imagine instead that it killed 30 percent — and that it would take centuries, instead of months, to develop a vaccine against it. And imagine that instead of being deadliest in the elderly, it was deadliest for young children.

That’s smallpox.”

“Before modern vaccine development, humans had to get creative in slowing the spread of infectious disease. It was known that people who’d survived smallpox didn’t get sick again. In China, as early as the 15th century, healthy people deliberately breathed smallpox scabs through their noses and contracted a milder version of the disease. Between 0.5 percent and 2 percent died from such self-inoculation, but this represented a significant improvement on the 30 percent mortality rate of the disease itself.

In England, in 1796, doctor Edward Jenner demonstrated that contracting cowpox — a related but much milder virus — conferred immunity against smallpox, and shortly after that, immunization efforts began in earnest across Europe. By 1813, the US Congress passed legislation to ensure the availability of a smallpox vaccine that reduced smallpox outbreaks in the country throughout the 1800s.”

“By 1900, smallpox was no longer quite as much of a scourge in the world’s richest countries. In the 1800s, about 1 in 13 deaths in London were caused by smallpox; by 1900, smallpox caused only about 1 percent of deaths. Several countries in Northern Europe had also declared the disease eradicated. Over the next few decades, more of Europe, and then the US and Canada, joined them.

But as long as smallpox ravaged other parts of the globe, continual vaccination was necessary to make sure it wasn’t reintroduced, and millions of people continued to die of it. Data is spotty — this is before there was any international authority on infectious disease statistics worldwide — but it is estimated that 10 to 15 million people caught smallpox annually, with 5 million dying of it, during the first half of the 20th century.

It was not until the 1950s that a truly global eradication effort began to appear within reach, thanks to new postwar international institutions. The World Health Organization (WHO), founded in 1948, led the charge and provided a framework for countries that were not always on friendly terms to collaborate on global health efforts.”

“A 1947 outbreak in New York City, traced back to a traveler from Mexico, resulted in a frantic effort to vaccinate 6 million people in four weeks. Europe, Henderson says, repeatedly saw the virus reintroduced by travelers from Asia, with 23 distinct importations (different occasions of someone bringing smallpox into the country) in five years.

As we face down Covid-19, with effective vaccinations finally in hand, we’re encountering the same challenge that the world faced with smallpox in the 1950s: It doesn’t matter if a vaccine exists unless there also exists the international will and creativity to get it to all the people who need it, many of whom will be reluctant and skeptical.”

“features of smallpox made it easier to eradicate than many other diseases. For one thing, it didn’t have animal reservoirs; that is, unlike diseases like Ebola, smallpox doesn’t live in animal populations that can reintroduce the disease in humans. That meant that once it was destroyed in humans, it would be gone forever. And, once a person has survived it, they are immune for life. Only one vaccine is needed for immunity in almost all cases.

Additionally, it largely doesn’t have asymptomatic transmission and has a fairly long incubation period of about a week. That made it possible for public health officials to stay on top of the disease with a strategy of “ring vaccination” — whenever a case was reported, vaccinating every single person who may have come into contact with the affected person, and ideally everyone in the community could keep the disease at bay.”

“Humanity’s triumph over smallpox should stand out as one of our proudest moments. It called on scientists and researchers from around the world, including collaborations between rival countries in the middle of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, we’ve never replicated that success against another virus that affects humans. With some, such as polio, we’re drawing close. Wild polio has been eradicated in Africa and remains only in conflict-torn regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Ring vaccination,” as practiced in the smallpox battle, has been successfully used in public health efforts against other diseases, most recently with the new Ebola vaccine, used against outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But in other cases, like HIV and Covid-19, we’ve let new diseases grow to pandemic proportions. And while those diseases have had devastating effects, it’s worth keeping in mind that they could have been even worse. Some viruses with the potential to escape laboratories or make the jump from animals to humans are as deadly and transmissible as smallpox, and Covid-19 has made it clear that we’re not prepared to handle them.”

“The devastation of Covid-19 has hopefully made us aware of the work public health experts and epidemiologists do, the crucial role of worldwide coordination and disease surveillance programs (which are still underfunded), and the horrors that diseases can wreak when we can’t control them.

We have to do better. The history of the fight against smallpox proves that we’re capable of it.”

The major blind spot in Bill Gates’s pandemic prevention plan

“Over 1 million Americans have now died from Covid-19. It isn’t a random group of people: one preprint paper found that working-class Americans were five times more likely to die from Covid-19 than college-educated Americans. Working-class Hispanic men had a mortality rate 27 times higher than white college-educated women. Another study analyzed Covid-19 mortality rates in over 219 million American adults and found that if racial and ethnic minorities between 25 to 64 years old had faced the same mortality rate as college-educated white Americans, there would have been 89 percent fewer deaths.”

How many people have died from the Covid-19 crisis?

“The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday released its estimate of global mortality from the Covid-19 pandemic: 14.9 million deaths, from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2021.
That tally is the number of “excess deaths” compared to a baseline of expected deaths in a world without Covid-19. This number includes not just the people who died from the virus, but also those who passed away in the ensuing chaos as hospitals filled up and workplaces shut down.

It’s a stunning snapshot of the sweeping devastation the Covid-19 pandemic unleashed around the world, showing that the virus wreaked havoc far beyond the infections it caused. The WHO attributed about 5.4 million deaths to the virus itself.”

America’s unique, enduring gun problem, explained

“In 2008, the Supreme Court effectively wrote NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s “good guy with a gun” theory into the Constitution. The Court’s 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) was the first Supreme Court decision in American history to hold that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm. But it also went much further than that.
Heller held that one of the primary purposes of the Second Amendment is to protect the right of individuals — good guys with a gun, in LaPierre’s framework — to use firearms to stop bad guys with guns. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in Heller, an “inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right.”

As a matter of textual interpretation, this holding makes no sense. The Second Amendment provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

We don’t need to guess why the Second Amendment protects a right to firearms because it is right there in the Constitution. The Second Amendment’s purpose is to preserve “a well-regulated Militia,” not to allow individuals to use their weapons for personal self-defense.

For many years, the Supreme Court took the first 13 words of the Second Amendment seriously. As the Court said in United States v. Miller (1939), the “obvious purpose” of the Second Amendment was to “render possible the effectiveness” of militias. And thus the amendment must be “interpreted and applied with that end in view.” Heller abandoned that approach.

Heller also reached another important policy conclusion. Handguns, according to Scalia, are “overwhelmingly chosen” by gun owners who wish to carry a firearm for self-defense. For this reason, he wrote, handguns enjoy a kind of super-legal status. Lawmakers are not allowed to ban what Scalia described as “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family.”

This declaration regarding handguns matters because this easily concealed weapon is responsible for far more deaths than any other weapon in the United States — and it isn’t close. In 2019, for example, a total of 13,927 people were murdered in the US, according to the FBI. Of these murder victims, at least 6,368 — just over 45 percent — were killed by handguns.”

“It is likely, moreover, that the Supreme Court is going to make it even harder for federal and state lawmakers to combat gun violence very soon.”

“The future of firearm regulation looks grim for anyone who believes that the government should help protect us from gun violence.”

This Indian Family Froze to Death Trying To Reach America. Our Immigration System Should Have Saved Them.

“Their case is an unfortunate example of what some people resort to when their immigration options are limited. Often, they are willing to take on extremely risky journeys for the chance of a better life. The Patels’ story is proof that an inaccessible immigration system won’t deter migrants whose minds are made up but will instead push them toward unsafe passages.

Local media reported that the Patels, who had worked as schoolteachers in the west Indian state of Gujarat, hoped to create a “new life” in the U.S. Jagdish made just $120 per month working in a local factory, and his wife Vaishaliben dreamed of working in a beauty salon in America. NBC News noted in January that Jagdish “wanted a better education for his kids, as well as better job opportunities and higher pay for himself and his wife, none of which he felt he could find in India.” He looked to one of many advertisements in his town marketing easy passage to the U.S. Thus began the journey that would prove fatal.

For people like the Patels, immigration pathways are limited. Most Indian legal permanent residents of the U.S. have received family-based or employment-based green cards—amounting to 98 percent of visa holders as of 2018. Employment-based channels largely bring in Indian migrants with higher skills and better education than the Patels, and the family did not seem to have relatives in the U.S. who could have sponsored them. Being Indian, they were ineligible for the Diversity Visa that caters to migrants in countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. They likely would not have been eligible for refugee or asylum pathways, given that their reasons for migrating were more rooted in economic reasons than safety concerns.

“These people effectively had no legal options that allowed them to safely travel to the U.S. and work,” says Sam Peak, an immigration policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity, a free market think tank.”

“Multiple factors prevented the Patels from reaching the better life they dreamed of having in the U.S. The American immigration system should welcome people who are seeking better opportunities and can improve the economies of their new communities. It may be too late for the Patels, but visa reforms can help prevent future migrant deaths on our borders.”