In an Economic Hole, Americans Still Clinging to Guns

In a nation of easy guns, it's not a huge surprise that robust gun sales follow a rise in crime. But with the economy inspiring a new vogue for petty thievery, the United States might become a more armed nation that it has been in a long time.

Florida State University College of Criminology researcher Gary Kleck says the public will often stock up on firearms in economic downtimes. This has been the general meme in every slump since the 1950's. Police would corroborate Kleck's assessment.

At a recent Police Executive Research Forum gathering in Washington, law enforcement said they have noted a 44% jump in recession associated crime like robberies, burglaries and vehicle theft, and this is at a time when 63% are facing funding and staffing cuts.

Hard data on the public armed response comes from the FBI's Instant Criminal Background Check System. The computer system which clears or denies gun buyers in minutes noted 8.4 million background checks from January to September 2008 compared with 7.7 million in the same period in 2007.

There's also a fear in the gun community--many of whom voted for Obama--that newly emboldened Democrats will enact more restrictive legislation along the lines of another Brady Bill.

A gun-toting populous, a great portion of whom charged themselves with protecting the public good, was a founding group of the early United States. Without question, there was much reason to pack heat in the 18th century after a long war with an imperial power. Whole Foods had not arrived yet either and Americans shot their dinner.

But the right to bear arms never goes out of style. It's in the mission statement of the contemporary vigilante groups holed up in Idaho farmhouses and standing sentry along the border with Mexico that protect the public good by keeping immigrants in their crosshairs.

What is it about the mythology of the  armed citizen that we find so appealing? And what does the recession foretell for citizen armed response in the United States? Are we coming apart at the seams or just getting back to our roots?

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less