The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Orlando and the Need to Talk About It Anyway

| 113 Comments

Let’s see if I can manage to say this right.
 
Orlando was a horror. We’re shocked, disgusted, angry. Moreover, many of us believe we understand an important piece of why it happened and what should be done (I’m not pointing fingers, me too), and we don’t agree, and the disagreement gets angry and frustration grows and we just want to scream at our computer WHY DON’T YOU IDIOTS GET IT?
 
Of course that’s what happens. Because it matters.  We’re horrified, and we want it not to happen any more. And it matters. Our usual, general feeling of, “I want to convince you I’m right” is suddenly three octaves higher, because people are dead, and it is so very ugly and wrong and the need to find a solution is suddenly acute. It matters.
 
Yes, now is when it is hard to try to be patient, to try to explain your position, because (if you’re like me) you’re furious and upset, and because the person you’re trying to explain it to (if he or she is like me) is also furious and upset. And you want to say, “I don’t want to talk about this any more.” And, hey, maybe that’s the right call, I’m not saying to force yourself into anything.
 
I will continue trying convince you that I’m right (and you’re wrong) about how to look at this, and I will try my best to be patient and to explain as clearly as I can, and I understand if you get angry and want to shut down the conversation, and maybe I will get angry and try to shut down the conversation. But I’ll remind myself that the reason this is hard to talk about is exactly why it is important we try to do so. Because it matters.
skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

113 Comments

  1. Okay, you ignored the elephant: what’s your solution?

  2. Are there ground rules here? (I mean, beyond the usual stuff, not being an utter nincompoop and/or pointlessly ad hominesque.) Topics off-limits? Marquis of Queensbury style of discourse? Or just straight for the ‘nads and orbits?

  3. What’s the elephant in question Will?

  4. “Yes, now is when it is hard to try to be patient, to try to explain your position, because (if you’re like me) you’re furious and upset, and because the person you’re trying to explain it to (if he or she is like me) is also furious and upset.”

    How literally is one supposed to take this sentiment? Do you truly have a position? I’m curious to know what it is, and what it’s based on, if you don’t mind sharing.

  5. skzb

    Medicmsh: Naw, that’s about it. I’m very slow to ban or censor, but, yeah, like you said. Free for all, and the usual caveats.

  6. Jason: I haven’t seen Steve offer his solution to the problem of gun violence in the US. Seems to me as the host, he should go first, or at least, be among the first.

  7. skzb

    Blerg. How did I not see this coming? Now we’re going off on my position, and…well, fine. Practice what you preach, asshole. *cough*

    It seems to me that we live in a society of increasing desperation and hopelessness. And one in which the President of the United States meets every Tuesday to decide which non-combatants to murder this week. That bombs civilians and tortures and jails without remorse merely to advance its position. And one in which the authorities–that is, the police–are getting more and more blatant and open about their willingness to murder when not treated with what they think is proper respect. And one in which money is seen by the dominant culture as of higher value than human life. I see no way to understand these killings except by seeing it as part of the the entire context of a violent, backward society. Combine that with inadequate care for emotional and mental disorders, and with a tradition (mostly artificial, but that doesn’t matter) of a particularly toxic brand of individualism, and this is what you get.

    I see no solution short of a drastic reworking of society.

  8. Step 1) Ban assault weapons. Bolt action or lower tech hunting rifles are more than sufficient for hunting purposes.

    Step 2) Dismantle the military machine which relies on Mars rules and killing to solve to every problem.

    Step 3) Use that ‘peace dividend’ to create an equal and just economic system that puts people and love above profits to make the entire world one community.

  9. Oddly, while I agree with the vast majority of your “macro” positions, my response is “micro” — MORE guns (in the hands of citizens), and FEWER laws (so that if I’m in a school, or a nightclub, or a library, or some other “gun-free zone”, and some armed psychopath {in or out of uniform} decides that it’s a good day for me {& everybody around me} to die, MY SIDEARM IS NOT IN A LOCK-BOX IN MY CAR IN THE PARKING LOT).

  10. Okay, I like the way skzb put it better. What is he, some kind of professional writer?

  11. skzb

    Actually, Kragar, I pretty much agree with yours, but I’d put #3 at the top, and the trouble with #1 is defining it. I’m pro-gun, but I have no trouble with the idea of seeing some more regulation if we can get Smart People Who Know Stuff to agree on what. My trouble with it is, I’m inclined to think that the stuff we can enforce won’t help, and the stuff that would help we can’t enforce. But, still, I’m fine with reasonable restrictions.

  12. skzb

    (And that was to you as well, medicmsh. I think.)

  13. Since the 2nd Amendment talks about a well-regulated militia, I think we should create one and regulate it well, using Switzerland as a model. You want a gun? Prove you wouldn’t create problems in the militia, and you can have one.

  14. It is horrible and horrifying and I have no solution – unless we can all be born into some period in future-history when we recognize that kind of whole-sale hatred of others as mental illness long before it gets to the point of action, and we know how to heal the illness and rescue the perpetrator before he becomes one.

  15. Eh. I come at this from a non-standard perspective. I see ~all~ laws as very analogous to the locks on most people’s front doors — the only thing they do is keep “honest” people “honest”. Consequently I believe that MORE laws that reinforce the state’s desired monopoly on the use of deadly force will NOT make incidents like Orlando ~less~ likely; they’ll only make it more likely that “honest” citizens will voluntarily disarm themselves… Honestly, the law enforcement ~response~ to the Pulse massacre was nothing short of ~incompetent~ — responding to an active-shooter incident as though it were a hostage-negotiation scenario. Statistically? Maybe a THIRD of those 49 people (~16~) were dead when they hit the floor. The REST in all probability died over the course of the ~3 hours from time-of-incident to time-of-breach. “That’s a problem” — and we (by we I mean ~people~; no politics, no parties, no gender or color or -isms, just ~people~) — we ~survive~ by ~anticipating~ problems and ~practicing~ ways to solve them. Tornados in Oklahoma. Earthquakes in California. [Ahem] in [Redacted]. And, like it or not, psychopaths, with bombs (as at the Boston Marathon or Brussels Airport), or guns (as in Paris or Orlando). There are ABSOLUTELY root causes of these problems (the “macro” stuff skzb referenced at the opener, and touched on by Naomi in passing as well). The weird thing is, we’re frankly very lucky in many respects — if we’ve got enough bandwidth to be in this conversation, we are probably not going to get eaten by dire wolves or die of cholera in the near future. But/and, events like the shooting in Orlando (arising from from VERY macro root causes) are ALSO a feature of this wide-bandwidth existence. I believe very passionately that we can and should be working on the root causes. I also believe that in the meantime, we ALSO can and should be (individually, as small groups, as networks and associations and societies) doing contingency planning. That doesn’t mean “live in fear” (anymore than having a tornado shelter and practicing touchdown drills in Kansas means “living every waking moment in fear of the Funnel Clouds”). But we CAN ~individually~ do (relatively) simple things to decrease casualties and ~take care of each other~ when things like this happen.

  16. Having seen in this thread already a request to ban assault weapons, may I link to a post I wrote on misused terminology? I’m a gun control agnostic who believes we need accurate language to accurately argue about these ideas.

  17. My definition of assault weapons is roughly the same as the federal definition and the traditional military definition. Lightweight long guns with large magazines and relatively short ranges that fire small caliber shells at a high rate of speed–automatic or semi-automatic. They are fairly simple to operate with little or no formal training, and have zero legitimate hunting or recreational application.

  18. skzb

    Please do, Matt.

    Thanks, Kragar.

  19. medicmsh, just wondering: do you lock your front door?

  20. https://bluefargo.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/misused-firearms-terminology-a-primer/

    Fact-checked by three well-informed gentlemen whose politics differ with mine, and so, I hope, accurate.

  21. Will — Yes, because the doorknob is squirrelly, and if I don’t use the deadbolt, the cats wind up on the front lawn and it requires Tuna to get them all back inside.
    Matt — thanks for the link (& the attention to precision in language).

  22. @Kragar “Step 1) Ban assault weapons. Bolt action or lower tech hunting rifles are more than sufficient for hunting purposes.”

    Generally speaking, I get irritable when I encounter arguments of the form “no one has any legitimate need to own/do this thing.” That’s partly because I’ve experienced multiple instances of excrutiating, all-day pain with no access to effective pain-killers (kidney stones combined with poverty). So let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. Even though I’m neither a hunter nor a gun enthusiast, just off the top of my head I can think of an instance where a “military style” rifle might be the best tool for a hunt.

    In some parts of the country, wild boars (feral swine) are considered invasive pests which are harmful both to crops and the environment, and potentially to people. Boars were historically considered to be very dangerous game, and retain this reputation even to people armed with guns. They breed rapidly, are intelligent, aggressive and hard to kill. They can weigh several hundred pounds with sharp tusks over six inches in length, and are prone to hiding in thick underbrush.

    In light of these facts, a light, compact, semi-auto rifle with high stopping power might be the ideal gun to use for hunting this animal, at least if your purpose is pest control rather than “sport”. You might even want a high capacity magazine, as feral swine usually travel in groups — better safe than sorry. Military-style weapons are also easy to equip with scopes, flashlights or night-vision (boars are semi-nocturnal).

  23. Kragar:

    The .223 class of rifles is illegal to use in some states for hunting because it is cruelty to animals to attempt to kill them with such an anemic round.

    Police departments nationwide carry .223 rifles for the same reason ranchers, boaters, homeowners and rural residents own them — for self defense.

    The military definition of an “assault rifle” is a select fire (automatic) rifle intended for use while closing contact with the enemy (thus ‘assault’) at limited ranges, typically 300m or less. There is no military definition of ‘assault weapon’ – it is a political term, like ‘large capacity’ magazines and ‘legitimate’ uses.

    As automatic weapons have been de facto banned in civilian ownership in the US since 1986, to conflate them with some of the most popular semi-automatic rifles in civilian ownership is like saying “flame producing weapons, such as Zippo lighters and military flamethrowers.”

  24. I agree here with both Kagar Skzb that the Macro causes need to be addressed in such a way that those on the right an left can agree and actually work together instead of this constant form of obstructionism we are currently living in, since the days of Newt Gingrich created the situation we find ourselves facing today.

  25. My only quibble with the bluefargo primer would be with respect to “high powered.”

    As applied to ballistics, wounding capability and potential for misuse, a “high powered” rifle would be capable of defeating helmets and armor, piercing an engine block, or assuring a kill on a ‘big game’ animal. A 7.62×54, .30-06 or .303 would be ‘high powered.’ These are typical sniper, hunting and deer rifle calibers.

    An anti-tank or anti-material rifle, such as the .50 Barrett, is in its own even higher category – and often enough is lawful for private ownership, has special uses for law enforcement tactics teams, but is most often owned and used as an expensive hobbyist piece.

    The .223 is a wounding round, intended as such, where the .22 LR is a ‘plinking’ round. The difference is the amount of powder behind the projectile, not the diameter of the bullet.

  26. (PaintedJaguar — excellent point re swine. Also, if kidney stones are still a recurring problem, and you have access to urgent/emergent medical care, ~lidocaine~ {IM or IV} often gives complete relief without the issues around opioids…)

  27. Drew- my panel of three discussed that with me, and came up with differing suggestions on what high power should mean. they agreed there was no single technical definition, but several ways to describe high power. by any of them, the AR-15 failed to classify, which was most relevant to the immediate discussion.

  28. skzb

    Thanks Matt, that’s useful stuff.

  29. Maybe come at this from another angle…
    Steve, assuming your basic premise is correct, the shootings in Orlando could be viewed as a horrible yet accurate reflection of the increasing desperation and hopelessness in society at large.
    So, is there “an” action (a type of action; a way of looking at other people) that redirects that societal course (I guess towards peace and hope)?
    To put it differently, if you could tell 330 million people “F’CRYIN’OUT’LOUD, IF YOU CAN ONLY DO ONE THING, DO [x]!!!”, what would “x” be (at this particular moment)?

  30. Whenever I see assertions like, “No one needs X, so it should be banned,” I twitch a little. Is that really how we want to do things, with the government deciding what we ‘need’ and outlawing anything that it determines we don’t?

    Every time there’s a slaughter like this I am dismayed by how almost all the talk is about the implement used. (Not just guns; 20 years ago there was a lot of fuss over fertilizer.) It’s like the TSA, focusing on bottles and shoes, because if they can just filter out all the bad things, nothing bad will ever happen. But people who want to do harm will always find a way. There’s always an implement. In some other countries knives and molotov cocktails are popular tools of political expression and there’s not a single reason in the world to think that they wouldn’t be here in the US too if we somehow made every gun in the country disappear.

    To me the why is much more important than the with what. If we want the massacres to stop, we have to fix the things that make people want to massacre. The intense focus on one narrow aspect of the event–an aspect that we _know_ won’t prevent future massacres, because we’ve tried it and it didn’t–is so consistent that it’s almost like a deliberate distraction.

  31. When we live in a society whose media promotes stories of violence and conflict, always looking for the most sensational means to convey whatever particular story or agenda it wants to get across, it is easy for me to understand the underlying anger that buzzes in most people I see around me. I don’t like it. At all.

    Gun control is always discussed after a tragedy like this. It should be. I, however, do not think taking away all, or even some, guns would change anything – violence is still going to happen and people who want to do violence will find a way to commit acts of outrage until an underlying cause is addressed.

    I believe wholeheartedly that the study of ethics is critical to the health of a society. Morals and ethics are not a focus anymore unless it comes from parents. How could they be when we let our leaders get away with terrible things? When those terrible things are barely paid lip service before we move on to the next days’ crises, fictional or otherwise? Our focus on sensationalism and capitalism has gone to such an extreme that materialism trumps compassion any and every day of the week.

    I wish I had solution to this issue. I wish I could say that better gun control is the answer, or that getting rid of Glenn Beck would solve things. I can’t. I wish that I could say that paying our teachers better, attracting great teachers back to public schools to promote a healthy moral code and a focus on ethics would fix everything tomorrow. It won’t. But I do think that, over time, that might actually help.

    Ultimately though everything I’ve just said is a vast oversimplification of the issue. Trying to state what this society’s problem is and how to solve it is too big for me, harder and more complex than I can comprehend or choose to comprehend. I just know in my heart that something is very wrong with the way we are living.

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Steve. Short of a systemic overhaul of our political, legal and economic system, top to bottom, I don’t see a solution for our society. Ironically, I also don’t see that drastic change happening without violence. Life’s a bitch, isn’t it?

  32. I could construct a scenario where having a crew-served .50 Browning on a tripod in my front yard would be useful (vicious wolfpack 1500 yards away and closing fast?) But making that legal is still not a good idea.

  33. I’ve said this in another discussion, that if you take away people’s guns, (assuming you can get the bad guys to give them up too) people are going to fall back on sticks and stones, or, a combination of both as a means to kill one another.

    The gun, reguardless if it be a pistol, rifle, shotgun, cannon, or, a formally used earlier version, being a muzzle loader type of Flintlock, matchlock, percussion cap, etc., Is nothing more that an inert object and a tool that one uses to do the deed.

    Furthermore, this person also made the argument that guns were invented to kill people. Not to hunt with, just to kill people.

    Of which I replied in kind by saying that then so were bows, and sharpened lengths of metal, and stones attached to sticks and let’s not for get just the tempered, sharpened stick. All ment to be used to kill. Be it offensive or defensive. The end result is to kill.

    So, with that said, I’m not seeing a gun of any kind as the problem. The problem is with the human. Evolution has made us all killers.

    Human society is the problem.

    Improve the human condition on a global level and we might solve the problem.

  34. Jason Jones, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be in a group of 50 people who are being attacked by a guy with some sticks and stones.

    No one is claiming gun regulation will end murder. But I do wonder sometimes about people who say, “This will not completely eliminate the problem, so let’s not do anything.”

    Has anyone mentioned mental health in this discussion? The guy’s wife thought he was bipolar. This country does not do what it should to help people with mental health issues. And, no, that does not mean we should ignore gun regulation and focus on mental health issues instead–a sensible part of gun regulation is restricting the sale of guns to people with mental health issues. States that do that show a reduction in violence.

    Anticipating another kneejerk reaction: Yes, people with mental health issues are more likely than the general population to be victims of violence. But they’re also more likely to be perpetrators.

  35. There is no easy answer. No answer that can be summed up in less than a Paarfi-worthy dissertation because, in my opinion, the issue is far too complex.

    I made reference at one point about social contracts. We all have them, either consciously or unconsciously acknowledged, and we expect everyone we encounter to abide by them. The “Macro” version of those contracts are the laws of the land. The micro version is the societal expectations that vary by our geographical location and choice of Tribe. Often, those contracts can and do come into conflict, a good example would be 1970 Mississippi. Racial segregation, racial bias and hatred was the norm and accepted in many of the communities while the law of the land was that “Racial bias” was illegal. That difference in expectation led to violence, and in many ways that conflict still exists in a violent way today, sixty years later.

    What we are seeing in our society in general is an increasing friction where the expectations of those contracts are creating resentment and outrage within the souls of the people. Road rage, where does that come from? It comes from two (or more) people who have differing expectations of behavior coming into the same place at the same time and the resentment generated by the behaviors creates an anger response. When the anger becomes great enough, it will degenerate into violence.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dONyv-Cwkoo

    In the above, the expectation of safety on the road became a fear response when evasive maneuvers were necessary. That Fear then quickly escalated into anger and that anger became violence. Both individuals felt they were in the right in that situation. From the outsiders point of view, that’s likely not the case and we have a clear violation of the Macro contract of Traffic laws. However, at that point, it didn’t matter, all that was important was the fear response.

    In the aftermath of Orlando, we are seeing a similar thing, fear becoming rage. To the point of what you’re saying above, Mr. Brust, I believe that is exactly what is happening. Fear of the same thing happening again and again and again. That fear is being whipped up and the flames fanned by the media writing sensational article after sensational article designed to “get viewers” but using the tactic of emotional manipulation to do it. That manipulation is causing fear to become anger.

    That anger needs to have an outlet. It has to have a direction. We want to DO something! Our Leaders, and pretty much anyone that can speak to an audience and get ears, will put forth a target to blame. Mr. Trump is giving us a racial and religious scape goat. President Obama is giving us a firearms scapegoat. Everyone is pointing to something simple, something easy, something or someone we can blame so we have a target for the rage and anger. They do that *because* of the psychology of the reaction. Anger fades, we are not able to maintain that physically as creatures, it rips us apart. So when we start to analyze a situation to look for the complex solution, those still in the throes of “we must DO SOMETHING” rage become even more angry because their simple solution is being dismissed, and in their minds, they are becoming less safe because “that thing that will fix the problem” isn’t going to be implemented and therefore they are less safe, and then they experience more fear.

    Mr. Brust, you mentioned recently that you felt that the cause for the issues the left sees and the right denies is Society itself, our surrender to the Overlords and the Class hierarchy. (brutally paraphrased.) The issue of the reaction to Orlando is the same thing. We are so accustomed to being ignored as individuals that we must become extraordinarily persuasive. Most people resort to volume, language and non-cooperative communication to do so. Others resort to violence. That, far less eloquently, is my perspective and belief on the *why* regarding the reactions to Orlando.

    What is the fix? There isn’t one. We, as a society are simply too big, there are too many people with too many agendas with too many core beliefs of right and wrong to coexist. My core beliefs would (and do) create a visceral negative response with many. I am accepting of alternate living, I do not believe in sin as a religious tenet and I do believe that we as creatures should be working for the benefit of us all. I also am a victim of violence, I understand the meaning of Institutional oppression, and that makes ‘the comfortable ones’ in my world uncomfortable because I believe their status quo needs to change.

    I believe the core issue is society itself, and to fix the problem that allows Orlando to happen we need to tear it down and start over where fairness and true equality are the normal expectations.

    But it’s easier to blame the gun or the gay or the muslim or the arab..because we can do THAT without harming our comfortable place, so most are going to advocate doing that instead.

  36. Will, I believe that mental health is part of the human condition. As is the lack of addressing it.

    So we are in agreement on this. But I thought I was running out of room. So I just abridged it.

  37. In the short term, passing much stricter gun control laws will be useful.
    In the medium term, addressing mental health issues, poverty and doing a much better job of educating the populace will do more good.
    As Krager list from above mentions, the funds for doing this are amply available through the dismantling of large portions of the military machine.
    A restructuring of the socio-economic model away from the current capital accumulation rent based sink hole will also help greatly to achieve the above goals.

  38. Every time I read these arguments, I am reminded of the now-officially-discredited “War on Drugs” By all means, let us point fingers at the hunters, those who feel unsafe, those whose mental illness makes them an easy target for bullying and blame, yes, even those who need drugs to survive their pain. This way we can ignore the real source of drugs and assault weapons in our cities — it wasn’t any of these folks, friends, it was your friendly US government, its war industries, and the violent culture they have created.

  39. A quote from Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) on Twitter:
    “Regulating firearms is not about keeping bad people from doing bad things. It is about mitigating the amount of damage they can cause.”

  40. Drew–

    The M-16 and the AR-15 are literally the same gun, the latter being a version modified for civilian use. The word ‘conflating’ might not be the best one to use for criticizing quite reasonable comparisons of the two weapons.

    Jason Jones–

    I suggest you read about the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996, and the Australian government’s response to it. Very instructive on this point.

  41. Krager, if the AR-15 is ‘modified’ then it’s not “literally the same gun” is it?

  42. How about we allow the CDC to study these incidents and work towards finding an effective solution(s) to the problem. How did it ever become illegal for them to study this anyways?

  43. skzb

    Derek: “Short of a systemic overhaul of our political, legal and economic system, top to bottom, I don’t see a solution for our society. Ironically, I also don’t see that drastic change happening without violence. Life’s a bitch, isn’t it?”

    Yep. Valid observation. That irony is built into the situation.

  44. I’m wondering why no-one has mentioned homophobia, or the vicious ‘othering’ that is necessary to maintain the inequality we have in our society? I know that things have come out after the initial reports – that the shooter may have been attracted AND repelled by gay folks – but to talk about this without mentioning that the targets were gay and not just an average ‘standard most likely hetero’ nightclub seems to be missing a point. That the shooter came from a fundamentalist Islamic tradition rather than a fundamentalist Christian tradition gives it a little twist, but most fundamentalisms hate women, gay folks, trans folks, etc. They have some common ground there.
    There’s no one thing going on here. But easy access to efficient mass killing tools seems to be an important part to me, as does the outsider status of the targets, as well as the acceptance of violence as a solution at all levels. My family was a hunting family and guns were around – I own a couple of shotguns passed down from my dad – and I’m not a reflexive liberal. But I appreciate Will’s comments that we should perhaps organize a well regulated militia, one that is in the democratic pluralistic tradition rather than the white nationalist ones that seem to be the vogue nowadays.

  45. Oh, this is a question! It is so hard to have a rational conversation about reducing mass killing or gun violence, two related but not identical problems.

    Can we agree that the US sees too many of its people shot? Our rate of gun homicide beats every other “first world” nation. Mexico and El Salvador are a bit higher, just about no European country even comes close. Mass shootings like Orlando are horrible, but they barely figure into the count. You are as likely to die gunshot in the US as you are to die in a car accident. That’s just homicide… count in suicide and the rate more than doubles.

    Do people kill each other in countries where people own fewer guns? Sure. Do they kill themselves? Yes. Is it as easy for them as it is here? No.

    Omar Mateen might have been bipolar. His father seems like a domineering loon, so that probably didn’t help him. He, for sure, was gay and conflicted about it, so that was a big factor. If someone had given him decent counselling somewhere along the way, maybe he wouldn’t have done it. If bigots and demagogues hadn’t filled him with self hatred, maybe he wouldn’t have done it. But if he had walked into the nightclub with a machette instead of an automatic weapon? The body count would have been a lot lower, and maybe he wouldn’t have dared to try at all.

    I have some sympathy for people who want to own a gun, for whatever reason they may have. I know that some sort of right to do so is written into the Constitution. But practically? Just like alcohol is a lubricant for bad decisions of many kinds, guns are a lubricant for homicide. That’s not a value judgement, its just an examination of facts. Impulses to kill come to almost everyone at some time in their life. A moment of anger, a feeling of betrayal, violence is in most people. If you have a gun ready to hand when that feeling comes, it only takes a few seconds and a few foot-pounds of force to turn anger into death. If you don’t have a gun, it takes a lot more effort. Enough to give you time to reconsider, maybe?

    I honestly don’t think America would ever become gun free, not in my lifetime or my child’s. More than one gun for every person, so how would you even start? The logistics are beyond daunting. But, again, purely as a numbers game, every gun gone lowers my odds of getting shot. Any barrier to gun ownership that gets passed, I’ll celebrate.

    Sorry responsible gun owners! I’m not out to get you. I’m sure you can manage to jump through any hoops that Congress would dare to pass. But I just want the bar set a little higher, please. Year after year of the rules getting looser and looser are years travelling in the wrong direction.

  46. Just to inject a bit of Devil’s Advocacy, people like to talk about how Europe has gun laws that are much stricter than in the US, and much lower rates of violence. But do you know what else is much more strictly regulated than in the US? Speech. Here’s a story where a couple of people in Spain are facing 7 years in prison for a puppet show, just as one example. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/europe/spain-europe-protest-free-speech.html?_r=0

    Maybe that’s the European model we need to emulate? Start proscribing churches that advocate hatred, putting their members on terror watch lists, pass hate speech laws with some real bite in them. Ban violence in entertainment.

    Right now the push is to keep letting people spread hateful ideas, but try to take away their means of doing anything about them. Maybe we should try to take away spreading hateful ideas.

    How many people are you willing to see die just so some preacher has the right to say that God Hates Fags?

  47. Robert, can you explain how free speech and gun regulation are linked in Europe and would therefore be linked in the US? Because right now, it sounds like you’re arguing that if we want gun regulation, we all have to learn Dutch.

    I am among the fiercest defenders of free speech. But if I ever need a gun to defend free speech, I will be the first to admit my cause is lost.

    ETA: That said, I hadn’t seen that link. Thanks!

  48. Will, I didn’t say they were _linked_, I said they had both, controls on guns and speech. People who point to Europe’s gun laws ignore their speech laws. But what if the speech matters too?

    People in Europe are appalled that we can say whatever hateful things we want as well as that we can buy guns.

  49. I think Robert is claiming that maybe — maybe — the lower rate of violence in europe is because they don’t have free speech more than because they don’t have legal guns.

    It’s a defensible idea. Maybe without the free speech they found it easier to regulate guns.

    Maybe without free speech there are fewer overtly crazy people running around.

    Maybe without free speech people didn’t hear as much stuff that made them feel like they needed guns.

    There are all sorts of ways it could possibly go.

    Scientific method helps a lot but people can’t help but start with unexamined assumptions that it doesn’t help with. Sometimes the unexamined assumptions don’t get in the way.

  50. John Slade, we’re not talking about homophobia specifically because the list of targets that mass shooters attack is long. Yes, we would not have any problems if everyone loved everyone, and I wish that were the case, but it isn’t, and while we’re trying to make that society, it would be nice to figure out some ways to make it harder for haters to kill.

    Robert, when I point to Europe, I also ignore the fact that the Dutch once wore wooden shoes. So far, much as I appreciate the link you shared, you haven’t made the case that free speech is relevant in this discussion.

  51. Will, if you can’t see a connection between people freely advocating violence, and people committing violence, I don’t really know what more I can say.

    Europeans see a connection, which is why they have laws against certain sorts of speech, but…wooden shoes…something? I guess?

  52. I suppose I should ask some Europeans if they think these issues are linked. I’m an American. I do not think they are linked. Free speech is about what you say; unregulated firearms are about who you shoot.

  53. As long as we are comparing the U.S. way of doing things to the way they are done in other places, I’ll mention the Port Arthur massacre again.

    Quick synopsis for those of you are not familiar with it. 1996, a lunatic armed with an AR-15 drives to a busy tourist spot and starts shooting people in the head. He murders 35 people over a span of several hours, ending up in a hostage situation at a nearby house. Lunatic eventually surrenders and is convicted of 35 murders and sentenced to life in prison. Almost immediately afterwards, Australia bans AR-15’s and similar assault weapons and they haven’t had a mass-shooting since.

  54. At the time of the shooting, homicides in Australia were on the decline. The ban did not increase the rate of that decline, and the decline in firearm and non-firearm homicides was proportional. The ban on semiautomatics in Australia has only one inarguable effect – that of a 50% drop in firearm-related suicides, which was NOT matched by a decline in non-firearm suicides.

    Do I think that Australia is safer now? Actually yes, I think they are. But although I suspect the firearms ban did a lot of good, I cannot prove it by the numbers.

  55. Yes, Will, and if someone is saying, for example, “These people deserve to die,” there just might possibly be some connection in someone going out and killing them. By all means, ask some Europeans about it and let us know what they say.

    Even without guns Americans kill each other at a higher rate than Europeans do. It’s not just that Europeans don’t have the means to kill each other–they certainly do–they also don’t _want_ to kill each other like we do. How can we be certain that their restrictions on free speech don’t have something to do with that?

  56. If we’re doing Australian suicide rates: “In 1988, the national male suicide rate per 100 000 males per annum was 21.0. The most common methods were shooting (5.93), hanging (5.14), gassing (4.43) and poisoning (2.56). Less common methods were jumping from a height (0.84), drowning (0.43) and suicide by sharp implement (0.43). Other methods, including electrocution, immolation and jumping in front of moving vehicles, accounted for a total of less than 1.17 per 100 000 per annum.

    “In the following 10 years, there was a trend towards an increase in suicide by males, to a peak in 1998 when the national suicide rate was 28.3 per 100 000. This peak was associated with a near doubling of the rate of hanging, and occurred despite a 60% fall in firearm suicides between 1988 and 1998.”

    In other words, people just found another way of killing themselves. Treating a symptom without treating the cause is of limited value.

    https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/192/8/suicide-australia-meta-analysis-rates-and-methods-suicide-between-1988-and-2007

  57. Robert, I’ll bow out now because you are insisting on a connection between speech and deeds that I do not see and know of no evidence for. Frankly, I think the biggest difference is Europe’s more socialistic: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/a-modest-proposal-for-curbing-homicides-socialism/

    But I also think sensible gun regulation along the lines of the Canadian model makes sense, and I’d be fine with the Australian model too.

  58. As someone said, there used to be a problem with fertilizer, hydrogen peroxide and other bomb making components being trivially available to the point they were used in mass killings by disorganized individuals.

    I guess the hydrogen peroxide manufacturers lobby group isn’t that influential, because now systems are in place that if you were, without contacts or preparation, to go buy 20 liters of something out the anarchists handbook, someone would come and find out why.

    So that doesn’t really happen any more. Which also means it doesn’t get reported in the papers, so it doesn’t get read about by those who are in the market for an answer to the question ‘what shall I do this weekend?’

    For guns, not so much, for all the reasons the gun lobby will no doubt explain in expensively researched and well-presented detail.

  59. The 2nd Amendment, at least as currently interpreted, is clearly a horrible mistake. Fix it to address its’ horrific shortcomings or repeal it altogether.

  60. Between posting at the end of the day yesterday and sitting here at the end of the work day today, I’m mostly talked out concerning Orlando. Also, it looks like sides have already been taken.

    skzb: “…and with a tradition (mostly artificial, but that doesn’t matter) of a particularly toxic brand of individualism, and this is what you get.”

    Would it be too much of a tangent to ask about this? In what way do you think our tradition of individualism is artificial? I assume you’re not talking about recent years, say 1950+, but earlier than that.

  61. skzb wrote: “…money is seen by the dominant culture as of higher value than human life.”

    While this may not be relevant to the Orlando shootings, I see this as the general problem with homicides in the USA. Yet it should not be forgotten that gun-related homicides fell by half between 1993 and 2013. Any explanation of why our homicide statistics are out of whack with the rest of the industrialized world should also seek to explain why the numbers have decreased in recent decades.

  62. skzb

    L Raymond: By artificial I mean created by popular culture. The “wild west” that the cultural of individualism takes as its starting point was less about individualism than anonymity (go west, reinvent yourself). The original source of “the rugged individualist” myth is complex and fascinating and not something I feel like going into now. In any case, I believe it is toxic.

  63. skzb: “The original source of “the rugged individualist” myth is complex and fascinating and not something I feel like going into now”

    Yeah, I felt it was a stretch to ask, but just that little bit gives me a good idea what you mean.

    There’s an interesting book called “No Duty to Retreat: Violence and Values in American History and Society” by Richard Maxwell Brown which you might like. I was a little disappointed in it since the review I had read suggested it would go into certain areas of study I’m interested in and didn’t, but his examination of gunslingers and the reality of walk downs had a lot of material that was new to me.

  64. This has gone by, once, but I do think that there is a useful thing to be done: authorize the CDC to collect and evaluate data. One of the frustrating factors in these conversations is that the actual facts of the issue are not known. Additionally, public health has a large tool-kit of statistical methodology and analysis that could help find a way forwards.

  65. skzb

    L. Raymond: Thanks for the rec.
    Lydy: I can’t think of a situation where more data is bad thing.

  66. oneillsinwisconsin:The falling rate of violent crime since 1993 has had a number of proposed hypothesis. I am rather fond of the correlations between the discontinuance of lead additives in gasoline and the drop in violent crime.

    Lydy Nickerson:Large scale studies would be great.

  67. What a civilised conversation. Magnificent work.
    I think Malcolm has hit a few worthy points – particularly the sense in which both the actions and the responses are coming from similar places.

    As someone that was born in the US, lived for a long time in Australia, and spent a very short time in Europe, the idea that people want to kill each other less in these places is resonant.

    Australia is not a place where violence does not occur, but there is a heavy element of conformity to Australian culture that discourages violent speech, disagreements more generally, and boat rocking. Things move by spontaneous critical mass or not at all. Killing people is a bit over the top for the Aussies…too much effort and unpleasantness.

    Europe is a small place, and people live very close to each other. Public spaces in a lot of places are like common areas rather than ‘no man’s land’. My love of European cities like Florence is all about the street culture that makes those public spaces a very different beast. It’s difficult to feel isolated and easy to take part in the city’s social life.

    My feeling on being in Europe for the first time was that the ‘new world’ is young, brash, and a bit overwhelmed by an urge to demonstrate that it deserves the attention of the old world. A big chip on our shoulders…and this might relate to SKZB’s sense of the problem as a particular brand of ‘individualism’. An example of this was my shock and surprise when my dear old, homicidal, dad declared that he was an anarchist during my last visit with him before his death. As an anarchist from the British tradition, his view of individual freedom (or self-governance, if you will) was pretty odd to me. My anarchist tribe works via a lot of community value formation – it’s highly collective and our interactions a place of constant negotiation. It abjures force.

  68. Will, you honestly do not see any slightest connection whatsoever between the spread of ideas and people acting on those ideas? Okay, fair enough. We’ll leave it at that.

  69. Robert, words are not deeds. Insert almost any quote from here: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech

    ETA: Yes, there are connections between words and deeds–that’s why I do not think freedom of speech is a right to knowingly lie to cause harm, or to threaten. But those connections do not have anything to do with regulating firearms.

  70. The premise of the importance and inviolability of Freedom of Speech is recognizing that the fundamental need to communicate and express ideas, even distasteful or unacceptable ideas, is a part of shaping our identities as human beings, and is necessary for the operation of a state which represents its people rather than represses them (which is not to say that Free Speech makes repression impossible. Patently they can coexist).

    But thinking about that premise, Robert may have a point in that it endorses a mind-body duality between thought and action which does not exist. The power of words to shape, persuade, motivate certainly does not force any person to action – except that I can think of forms of deception or coercion where it does. Of course, for those we do have laws defining limits to Free Speech in cases of fraud, blackmail, etc. I suppose a question is, are those laws sufficient as they stand now, and does further regulation of harmful, coercive, or inciting speech serve to restrict freedom, or reflect a reality in which ideas can, in fact, work measurable and certain, if indirect, damage on minds and lives?

  71. I hope Steve doesn’t think this free speech tangent is off topic, because it is one of my favorite subjects. It’s late, so I’ll just drop one of my favorite quotes on the subject for now:

    “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” – Frederick Douglass

    And I’ll add this: if humans are too fragile for free speech, they’re too fragile for democracy.

  72. I agree with you, Will – and yet, I’m finding your arguments here unpersuasive. Given that I agree with your stance, this is very puzzling to me.

  73. Matt, the reason may be that I haven’t tried to argue. I’ve simply disagreed, stated my position, and quoted a few people on my side. I’ve reluctantly come to believe that you can’t convince people of many things because humans just aren’t rational. One of those is the notion that speech shouldn’t be regulated. This may be related to sheepdog theory: some people think it’s very easy to persuade people, and therefore free speech makes them nervous.

    I haven’t found it easy to persuade people of much at all, so I reject sheepdog theory and see no danger in free speech. Another quote I like:

    “It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” -Mark Twain

    Most people restrain their speech because they know that the only likely effect is inspiring their opponents to try to hurt them or their family or their friends. Hmm, another quote:

    “Sometimes my feelings are so hot that I have to take to the pen and pour them out on paper to keep them from setting me afire inside; then all that ink and labor are wasted, becaue I can’t print the result. I have just finished an article of this kind, and it satisfies me entirely. It does my weather-beaten soul good to read it, and admire the trouble it would make for me and the family. I will leave it behind, and utter it from the grave. There is free speech there, and no harm to the family.” -Mark Twain

    There are only a few of us who’re such damn fools that we need to promote free speech in the hope we won’t end up like Socrates or Servetus. I was very disappointed when much of the left gave up free speech and much of the right took it up. I take a little comfort from knowing that it just means our culture is moving left. Free speech has always been a cause for idealists who want it always, and opportunists who want it so long as it serves them.

  74. Robert: if people kill because overly free speech put “bad ideas” in their head, then they are probably going to fall into some sort of trap regardless. I won’t give up free speech just to remove one of many potential pitfalls from their path. And that’s if I accept the premise of your argument in the first place, which frankly I don’t.

    Europe possesses its own features and bugs. We can learn from them, but we cannot be them even if we wanted to. As the Bard from Barking said: you can borrow ideas, but not situations.

  75. The free speech angle is interesting and esoteric. I think the short answer is that the elites have deliberately been trying to get groups that should be working together to hate one another instead, since at least the late 60s, probably longer. The primary tool they have used is the corporate-owned media. It’s a toxic brew as skzb says but useful for maintaining elite control and forestalling effective activism.

    More practically, the gun control issue is a great example of why capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with putting together a decent society worth living in. The issue of gun ownership has been intensely studied in the past, but the results have all been bad for profits. Go look for links, I don’t like including them, but the short answer is households where guns are present are FAR more likely to have suicides, the gun used to intimidate, wound or kill an intimate partner, or be discharged accidentally by a child than to be used to stop an intruder. As a result, the firearms industry through their oddly powerful yet completely wacko lobbying arm the NRA, have successfully prevented further studies from being performed.

  76. RE: mass shootings

    This should be of general interest. The FBI has a department dedicated to tracking mass shooting incidents, and they’ve just released a report breaking them down 2000-2015.

    This is a short 11 page report; the 2013 one is a much more detailed 47 page examination.

    Will Shetterly: “Free speech has always been a cause for idealists who want it always, and opportunists who want it so long as it serves them.”

    They’re only idealists if they yap a lot without doing anything. There are plenty of lawyers out there slugging away at prior restraint, SLAPPs and countless attempts to restrict speech, often pro bono because they’re just that angry. Plenty of activists who are in the trenches, keeping an eye on legislatures, heading off restrictive legistlation when they can and passing the word to other groups to handle it if they can’t.

    skzb: I was tired yesterday. I should have mentioned that book focuses on the myth of western individualists as exemplified by gunfighters and their legends.

  77. Thanks L. Raymond. Those contain a lot of interesting information.

  78. L. Raymond, yep, I’ve been an admirer of the ACLU since I was a child.

    Kragar, the racial division to benefit the rich goes back to around 1680—”race” was developed in response to Bacon’s Rebellion. http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-08.htm

  79. L. Raymond, useful links, but I was surprised they didn’t include race in their breakdown, so here’s another useful link: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/06/are_most_mass_murderers_really_white.html#ixzz3spntMHbZ

    tldr: Mass murderers pretty much “look like America”, with the odd exception of Asian Americans, who are generally more peaceful than other races, yet seem to have a higher percentage of mass murderers.

  80. Not to derail the conversation, but just for the record, I’ll say that I fall into the militia part of the second amendment means just that and so I’m not opposed to gun control on those grounds at all.
    In general, I don’t see guns as being particularly useful for self defense from either individuals or a government. For the former they are very often not situationally useful and for the later are going to very rapidly fall into the fighting the next war with the tools of the last (- 200 years) war problem.
    Opinions, of course, differ on this.

  81. skzb: Please forgive the lengthy quoting here, but where to draw the line when it comes to weapons in private hands seems pertinent.

    Steve Halter: One of the 1st amendment lawyers whose work I follow has addressed the idea of militias, too:

    “Fallacy Number Two – The Second Amendment Will Preserve Our Right to Revolt…

    So, you, me, all our neighbors, hell our entire city builds a perimeter around it. We fill sandbags, we all have ammunition, we all have food, water, supplies, and most importantly, we are all unified and in complete solidarity….And then they fly over with one jet, dropping one FAE bomb, and roll in with three tanks, and in about 12 hours, our ‘resistance’ is reduced to a few smoking holes…as long range artillery rains down on our town, as we get carpet bombed from 35,000 feet, and as the sky goes black with drones and cruise missiles. ”

    He goes on to make the point that “… if the 2nd Amendment’s ‘right to revolution’ implication is real, both practically and legally, it must also include a right to possess tanks, jets, rocket launchers, etc. Your puny AK-47 is useless.” And then takes the idea of a well-armed citizenry to the logical limit: “Do you think for a moment that you, living in some apartment in Salt Lake City, or a house in Wyoming, or a condo in Boca Raton, would be ready to go to war with the Federal Government over the same shit that would get the Koch Brothers to fuel up their private stock of A10 Warthogs?”

    In other words, he points out the idea of 2nd amendment as pro-rebellion is only for the billionaires: “So the next time you see some fool cheering the Second Amendment as the text that protects us from tyranny, ask them to play all four quarters of the mental game. It isn’t romantic pictures of regular guys crossing the Delaware in rowboats. The endgame is Ancient Rome meets The Terminator.”

    Marc Randazza, “You Are Not Going to Resist the Government With Your Guns

  82. L. Raymond:Yep. (Although, I’ll mention, that all of those things are also soon to become weapons for fighting the last war.)

  83. skzb

    Of all the idiotic arguments against gun control, the two stupidest are: We need guns to keep the government in check, and guns in the hands of the potential victims will save lives in the case of mass shootings.

    That said, there are also idiotic arguments FOR gun control, such as the claim that having a gun will be of no use in the case of individual threats of violence.

  84. skzb:I think I agree with all three of those statements–with the slight caveat that of course individual cases are individual. A gun may help or a gun may hurt in any given case. In general, if neither party has a gun, studies seem to show that fatal interactions decrease.

  85. Ban ‘assault’ weapons, but reduce gun-free zones. Fewer bullet hoses, more armed individuals. Even the playing field.

  86. Maybe the NRA would be prepared to accept some compromise like smart guns that would not let you reload after you had fired off a magazine in a public place?

    Mass midstream, or even mass murder fantasists, can’t be that big a part of their market, surely?

  87. 1soru1–

    Mass murderers are not the target market, but sales do spike dramatically after ever event like Orlando. The sales surge is likely from those who were thinking about buying an AR-15 and want to make their purchase before any ban gets enacted.

    As for your “shut-off” device, I don’t know if it is technically feasible, most likely it is not. Even if it were, the NRA and 2nd amendment wingnuts would howl if “the government” had the ability to disable their weapon.

  88. The NRA has already declared itself firmly against the idea of smart guns that only fire for their owners. Not only do they not like them, they have organized campaigns to drive manufacturers of them out of business for daring to try to sell them in the “free market”.

    Given that, I am fairly sure they would be against context dependent weaponry as well. Any attempt to make the world even a fraction safer is contrary to their ideals.

  89. A couple of thoughts:

    “I can’t think of a situation where more data is bad thing.”-SKZB

    Oh, I can think of so many…. For example, bad data can be misleading, and lots of mediocre data often obscures good data. Or if you already have enough data, more data can delay analysis and interpretation indefinitely (a common tactic of anti-science types “you need more data before you can say that for sure, so keep gathering data and never do anything”). Whenever the data rate outruns the reduction and analysis rate, spending more resources on gathering data at the expense of proper analysis is a bad thing (despite knowing this, I am, of course, simultaneously requesting more data while wondering how am I ever going to finish analyzing the data I already have, much less publish it).

    Not that more data by the CDC on this topic would be a bad thing, but, as a general rule, just getting more and more data is not always a good idea.

    L. Raymond (and SKZB) — the current military situation in much of the middle east (and just about every conflict since WWII) gives the lie to Marc Randazza. Lots of guns among the general populace can keep a conflict going in the face of overwhelming military superiority nearly indefinitely. They won’t win outright, and millions of people may die, but if enough people are willing to both cause and endure enough misery, they can eventually make oppression unprofitable for the ones with the more expensive hardware having to pay the professional soldiers. I believe the main point of democracy is to avoid the need for such armed resistance. But saying that armed resistance with light weaponry is always an unrealistic defense against the superior armament of a government is just being blind to much of history.

    Not that I am pro-gun in any sense (much prefer the more civilized hacking at each other with swords), I just don’t think that argument is as idiotic as most others.

  90. MSER: “The current military situation in much of the middle east (and just about every conflict since WWII) gives the lie to Marc Randazza.”

    Not at all. The argument is aimed at people in the US, self-styled patriots who honestly believe the government will eventually attempt to forcibly sieze their weapons and their land. He points out that if the government were as tyrannical as they preach, they’d be toast. Instead, in cases such as with the Bundy dust ups, the government at all levels has been trying to draw the line between what they’re doing that’s illegal (occupying government buildings) and what’s stupid (waving big honking guns around in front of cops).

    We could wipe out daesh in one afternoon *if* the west were as evil as they like to say we are. A few well-placed nuclear bombs would irradiate anyone they didn’t kill outright. We could easily round up all civilians in any area they’ve operated and demand they identify terrorists or die, or we could kill everyone just to be safe. But Mr. Randazza’s argument wasn’t aimed at all would-be soldiers everywhere, it was aimed at those who think the US is capable of following that more vicious route, that they need guns in order to prtect the US from its own government. They’re idiots, and his argument was aimed at them.

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere the US “patriot” movement is a subject of special study of mine, and I assure you there are a large swath of them who think like this. Mr. Randazza’s response is simply the pithiest article I’ve seen addressing that particularly silly argument.

    “But saying that armed resistance with light weaponry is always an unrealistic defense against the superior armament of a government is just being blind to much of history. ”

    If you re-read the article while keeping in mind he refers to the 2nd amendment in his first sentence, you’ll notice it’s not a treatise on guerilla warfare but rather an American lawyer’s opinion on the idiocy of American people who think they’ll successfully stand up to the American army if that army is really out to get them.

    I don’t think I’ve ever made a statement about the 2nd amendment. My opinion is that if people want the right to keep & bear arms, they also have to bear the concomitant responsibility of being a part of a well-regulated militia.

  91. MSER: In addition to L. Raymond thoughts above and in particular, the current military situation in much of the middle east is also much more complex than you make it out to be. Just one element of which is that it is not a matter of a few people with rifles doing guerilla warfare but often fully military units that found themselves either suddenly without a boss (in the case of former Iraqi military units) and/or the recipients of external state sponsored support.

  92. It’s nice to see relatively rational conversation about this issue. That said, the focus on assault rifles tends to ignore the facts/numbers, as well as to ignore completely the costs, in terms of both personal freedom (which people can argue about all day and not get anywhere) and finance. There’s an incredibly persuasive numerical argument that more people die from tyrannical governments than from rifles, but let’s leave that aside for a bit and just tackle the money problem.

    248 people were killed in 2014 by rifles (and probably another ~20% in the *unstated* category were rifles, for about 300). 300 people out of 300 MILLION die due to all kinds of rifle deaths/yr. Some significant fraction of those deaths were due to weapons that would fall outside a semi-auto ban, an even bigger chunk would still get the weapons illegally, and an even more significant fraction of what’s left would still occur from substitute weapons. Still, let’s assume we eliminate assault rifles and also eliminate every single death by rifle. There are approximately 3.2M assault rifles. A buyback would cost between $1500-3k each; let’s assume government is amazingly efficient at this process. You’re talking about $5 billion (with a B) in cost to save 300 lives per year. – approximately $16.7M per person that will be killed this year. To put that in perspective, NIH spends about $2k per person that will die of lung cancer each year.

    Before someone knee-jerks to “you can’t put a price on human life,” please realize that we do it all the time. Lots of people, including me, question the effectiveness of government policy/spending in general, but let’s presume we have the same amount of money to spend and all agree we’re going to spend it. A buyback would be expensive, even without considering administrative costs, but responsible government should weigh different choices against each other, and if we really care about people, we should think about what else that money could go to.

    Why aren’t these the types of discussions we’re having nationally? I’d argue that at best people are reacting emotionally to what the media says instead of rationally to what the data says. Even worse, perhaps some people are more concerned with winning an argument and imposing their views on others than they really are about preserving human life. More importantly, why are the politicians we elect to make these types of decisions encouraging us to ignore rational discussions of cost vs. benefit in favor of chasing emotionally charged red-herrings with arguments about freedom vs. human life? Could it be because polarizing citizens around party lines is an easy way to keep us from asking why they’re doing such a terrible job?

  93. Jeremy Foster:Yes, rifles account for a small total of firearms deaths. According to the CDC, for 2014, the total was 33,636 deaths by firearms. 11,208 of those were homicides with the rest being either accidental or suicide.
    I would have no problem in getting rid of the vast majority of firearms in the US (both civilian and police).
    In 2014, between 7 and 18 people were killed by terrorist attacks–most if not all right wing. The US spends about 16 billion (that’s a b there also) annually on counter-terrorism activities.
    If there is a monetary concern, it would seem that some large portion of that 16B could be better applied against gun deaths in general. Much more bang for your buck if you want a cost-benefit analysis.

  94. Jeremy- the scale of a problem is daunting, but that doesn’t mean that any attempt to address it is useless. Yes, there are way too many guns already in circulation. Yes, any attempt to recall them all would be prohibitively expensive, even if there were the political will to do any such thing. But…

    Anything, anything at all, that makes it even a tiny bit harder to buy the means to fire 30-50 rounds into a crowd in the space of a minute will save lives. People are lazy and easily overwhelmed by bureaucratic obstacles, even potential hate crime committers. Drop a long gun and a handful of extended clips in the lap of a man whose mind has been twisted by fundamentalism and he might crawl off his couch and shoot up a Planned Parenthood center. Make him fill out 20 forms, wait two weeks and pay an exhorbitant tax and he might decide it is too much trouble. Even one less mass shooting a year would be worth it.

    Steve- your odds of being killed in an act of terrorism are far lower than your chances of being hit by lightning or winning the lottery, even if you begin your data collection with 2001. From an economics viewpoint, every penny spent on counter-terrorism is a penny wasted. From a civil rights stand point, every penny spent on counter-terrorism is a tragedy.

  95. L. Raymond & Steve Halter: While a few small groups of “patriots” would easily be wiped out by the government, 100 million “patriots” armed with military style weaponry would not be able to be subdued, and that is what I think they are thinking… that a fully armed populace can keep a government in check. In principle, that is not a crazy thing to believe. Winning battles against an armed populace is easy for our modern military. Keeping control of a population is nearly impossible if they, as a whole, resist. The Iraqi, Afghani, Syrian, Libyan etc. populations were not nearly as well equipped as our army was (and you can go back to Vietnam and Korea as well), and while we succeeded in completely destabilizing their societies with our military might, they successfully resisted our control in the long run with fanaticism, small arms and IEDs, after costing us trillions, with a T, of dollars. The nuclear option is just not a realistic option for a whole host of reasons, starting with the fact that we are not the only nuclear power, and the amount of nuclear bombing you are suggesting could not go without a response from other nuclear nations.

    With a government, it is not a matter of whether their army can overwhelm short term resistance. It is a matter of whether the people who run the government have more to gain than lose through violence on its own or other populations. Many military style guns can change the equation.

    Large caliber handguns, on the other hand, are a different matter. They are not all that useful to a militia, well regulated or not, and large calibers are not needed for crime deterrent… a small caliber or a rifle will do. But large caliber, concealable handguns are by far the favorite guns for committing homicide and other crimes. Such unjustifiable guns seem to me to be the place to focus gun control efforts first.

  96. skzb

    Larswyrdson: “From an economics viewpoint, every penny spent on counter-terrorism is a penny wasted. From a civil rights stand point, every penny spent on counter-terrorism is a tragedy.”

    That just went up on my quotes page.

  97. Quite an honor! Thank you, sir.

  98. Agree on cutting counterterrorism spending, but that still doesn’t make the case for spending on AR control. Not to hit the numbers again, but to riff off larswyrdson’s point about being hit by lightning…your odds of being hit by lightning are also greater than your odds of being killed by a rifle. Certainly, there are more effective (in terms of lives and dollars) ways to limit mass shootings that DO warrant discussion…but the left would rather polarize people around scary guns than propose something logical and the right would rather blame Muslims than do anything.

  99. MSER: “L. Raymond & Steve Halter: While a few small groups of ‘patriots’ would easily be wiped out by the government, 100 million ‘patriots’ armed with military style weaponry would not be able to be subdued, and that is what I think they are thinking…”

    No, that’s not what they’re thinking. Many “patriots” call themselves the 3 percenters, because it’s a well known fact in their circle that if 3% of the population revolts, the entire country will fall into their hands. So that’s only 9.7 million people needed to defeat the entire US government. After all, as they’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, Washington never had more than 3 percent of the colonists in the field at any time during the Revolution.

    “Keeping control of a population is nearly impossible if they, as a whole, resist.”

    You have so thoroughly mixed the idea of gun control in the US with guerilla warfare and thoughts of revolt that I’m not sure what point you’re making here. Are you suggesting that if everyone in the US were armed, the government would be cowed? What happens next?

  100. MSER:”if they, as a whole, resist”-If everyone in the US agreed to do the same thing at the same time, they could just elect a new government. And, also perform miracles as complete agreement is unlikely.

  101. S Halter: The whole premise of defending yourself against the government assumes democracy has broken down, and the federal government has turned into a military dictatorship or other organization unaccountable to the electorate. Which, to be honest, is not much of a stretch considering the things our government is now doing or the technical ease with which an election could be rigged by a small number of people. So no, they couldn’t just elect a new government. And it is not crazy to think that taking the guns away from the general populace can be a preliminary step towards a military dictatorship.

    L. Raymond: First, just because there are some small groups who have some specific ideas like “3%” does not mean that applies to everybody who thinks the second amendment should be defended because it is about keeping the federal government in check. Second, 9.7 million people spread out over the vast expanse of the US would be virtually impossible to defeat militarily without huge resources, which would be difficult to wring from a presumably unwilling, oppressed populace yearning to be free.

    The whole point here is not to dismiss ideas as fundamentally “crazy” just because you don’t like the people who have these ideas, or you think the people are stupid. Especially if the people holding them are fanatic about the idea. Fanatics can do amazing things. Usually horrible, but amazing. It is also to say that, despite events like Orlando, handguns are killing far more people, by a factor of about 100, than military style weaponry. The second amendment does have that militia clause, and so the militia types are more in the legal and moral right based on history and actual wording than those who want to have the right to carry a concealed .357 magnum. 49 people are killed about every 1.5 days in the US by such handguns, and an assault rifle ban would do absolutely nothing about that.

  102. MSER- honestly, if you think we could ban and destroy all semi-automatic handguns and all handguns over .22 caliber, but let people keep assault rifles, I’d be good with that. Any action that reduces the number of weapons available will reduce the level of destruction they cause, whether when used in deliberate crime or accidental mayhem. If Jamie Gilt had only had long guns and not a pistol, I bet her 4 year old wouldn’t have been able to shoot her from the back seat of her car, just as an example..

    But, you don’t really think that is possible either, do you? Is this just a rhetorical ploy to shift the conversation from one goal you don’t want discussed to another that is even less likely? Or would an America without concealable weapons be OK with you? What freedom is it that the 2nd Amendment was written to protect? The right of every citizen to join the military, to prevent the creation of a hereditary military class that exerts undue control over society, something the Founding Fathers had just fought? Or the right to threaten your fellow citizens with deadly force any time you disagree with them, which seems to be the default stance of so many 2nd Amendment advocates?

    If we don’t see the goal, it is so much harder to reach. There is nothing intrinsic in owning a gun that makes you free. Its just another tool. What do you want to do with it? Once we can agree on a legitimate use for firearms, one that enhances more lives than it destroys, then we can agree on some effective guidelines on how to reduce the more harmful uses they are put to.

  103. larswyrdson: I am talking about trying to reach out to people to make common cause on a bigger problem by giving in on a lesser problem. I grew up where a lot of people think that guns keep them free and safe, and I think it might actually work to say to them “I acknowledge you as having a potentially valid point on the roll of guns for home defense, hunting and states rights, but large caliber handguns are mainly good for criminal activity and are dangerous to everybody, so maybe we can agree to work to stop manufacturing and selling those.” The gun manufacturers who support the NRA of course want to keep making and selling all types of guns, but the rank and file supporters I don’t believe would be so hardcore on high caliber handguns if the gun control crowd would talk to them like intelligent human beings with valid concerns.

    Personally, I am a vegan who abhors hunting and I don’t think anybody is really responsible enough to own any sort of gun. However, I also read death statistics avidly, and the fact is, statistically it is not the guns the commando type week-end warriors out in the country use (and the occasional mass murderer) that are doing the vast majority of the killing. Most of the killing is done by guns that are ideal for criminal activity (as attested to by surveys of violent criminals in prison) and good for little else. There just might be a slight chance to get enough people to agree those are bad to counter the weapons manufacturers control of politicians. Unlikely, yes, but perhaps not impossible.

  104. MSER:I would be good with removing handguns as a start rather than rifles. As you say, handguns are involved in by far the larger percentage of gun violence.
    I acknowledge that people traditionally use rifles and shotguns for hunting although I don’t really see the point. If we get rid of guns entirely, the home defense part is moot. I am not at all a defender of states rights so I wouldn’t concede any points on that front.

    Of course, currently, the NRA is unwilling to concede anything–even though polls show the majority of their members are willing to accept at least tighter background checks.

    It seems like this is a tension point in the system that will require changes in the system.

  105. The system doesn’t need to change if enough people do. Look how radically society’s opinion changed on smoking. In two generations it went from something everyone does to something that can make a person a pariah. If as a society we could somehow alter the way people think of guns, which means the ideas of machismo, rugged individualism and respect that are associated with them, that would do more good towards ending gun violence than attempting to seize weapons people aren’t willing to give up. No, I have no idea how that would be done.

  106. Yes, to change the system you have to change the people. The people are the system — they often forget that.

  107. I’d disagree with that. As I see it, the “system” is the form of government a society has adopted, or more specifically the mechanism in place to pass laws. If that mechanism is robust enough, it can change even the organic law of a nation without the nation’s suffering any turmoil. Right now, though, that’s not a good option. A lot of legal & political commentators who are positively in favor of strong gun control measures fear any suggestion involving changes to the bill of rights because they’re afraid of what might come next.

  108. The system is the form of government that people have agreed to abide by at any given point in time. Without the people the system does not exist. Imagine, for example, a sudden plague that kills all the people. No more people, no more system.

    “All” the people have to do is realize that a given system is no longer useful and then pick another system. The details of this picking can, of course, be met with opposition from people who oppose the change or desire a different change.

    Systems are simply artificial rules that are agreed upon for some period of time. From within a system, it may seem that it is the system that is maintaining control of the people and that the system will go on forever. People will adapt systems to meet their needs until a particular system has either outrun its usefulness and has to be exchanged for something entirely new, collapses into chaos, is changed by outside forces or some combination of all of these.

  109. If that’s the definition you’re using then I agree your earlier statement certainly fits.

  110. On a different note, but speaking of political change, we now get to observe the results of Brexit. Wow. The directions of movement from this point are vast and somewhat unpredictable. If they don’t choke and somehow say, “Sorry, didn’t really mean that.”, it would seem to herald the end of the UK proper as Scotland will be voting about leaving almost certainly and Northern Ireland will be a mess.
    From a socioeconomic standpoint, it will provide an interesting experiment. Hopefully the experiment won’t burst into flames.

  111. Flames are already nibbling away the pound…

  112. “Many “patriots” call themselves the 3 percenters, because it’s a well known fact in their circle that if 3% of the population revolts, the entire country will fall into their hands.”

    This is absurd. Why can’t everybody see this is obviously absurd?

    Southern Baptists are about 5% of the population. If they revolt they can take over the government?

    But then, the AARP has 11% of the population. If a third of the AARP revolts they can take the government away from the Southern Baptists?

    There are about 20 million felons in the USA, half of them could take over the government from the AARP?

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