A round-up of this week's long-form good reads include Britain's gun laws, the burden of lottery winners, online courses vs. the college experience, and sensory developments in high-tech.
The Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut brought a deluge of media attention to gun control. One useful perspective came from the Lexington’s Notebook column in The Economist magazine. Britain’s gun-related homicide rate is drastically lower than that of the United States not only because guns are harder to purchase, but because ammunition is scarce, the writer points out. In one recent incident in a crime-plagued British neighborhood, for example, “the gang had had to make its own bullets, which did not work well....”
In one recent year England and Wales experienced 39 fatalities from crimes involving firearms; the US had 12,000. In Britain, “The firearms-ownership rules are onerous, involving hours of paperwork. You must provide a referee who has to answer nosy questions about the applicant’s mental state, home life (including family or domestic tensions) and their attitude towards guns. In addition to criminal-record checks, the police talk to applicants’ family doctors and ask about any histories of alcohol or drug abuse or personality disorders.”
Some US gun owners argue that they might need firearms to fight a tyrannical government. But “I don’t think America is remotely close to becoming a tyranny, and to suggest that it is is both irrational and a bit offensive to people who actually do live under tyrannical rule,” the writer responds.
Are you eager to win the next big lottery? BloombergBusinessWeek writer David Samuels offers the cautionary tale of Jack Whittaker, a contractor in Scott Depot, W. Va., who 10 years ago found that his $1 Powerball lottery ticket had won him a $93 million payout after taxes.
Mr. Whittaker tried to do good with his bonanza, giving away a good portion to charitable groups, especially churches. But he still descended into alcohol addiction; was divorced by his wife; became tied up (by his own count) in some 460 legal actions; and lost his beloved granddaughter, on whom he had lavished piles of cash, to drug addiction. Before his lottery “win,” Whittaker’s contracting business had afforded him a comfortable life. “Nobody knew I had any money,” Whittaker said. “All they knew was my good works.” His life back then, he notes sadly, “was a lot easier.”