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Contradictions Inherent in Changing Gun Laws

| 124 Comments

Gun safety and gun laws in the US are one of the most difficult things to discuss in isolation from other social problems: mass shootings that are the result of combinations of factors such as desperation, anger, inadequate mental health care, living in a country where the government and the police see human life as without value, along with backwardness, intolerance, religious fanaticism, and other signs of a decaying society.  This complexity makes it almost impossible to look at gun issues apart from their interaction with everything else. When we see supposed liberals, who up until a month ago railed against the “terrorist watch” no-fly list as racist, arbitrary, and undemocratic (which it is) now cheering wildly to increase the powers of the list, we can get a hint of how inter-related gun issues are with everything else.

Nevertheless, there are some inherent contradictions in gun issues that are worth pointing out:

The easiest targets for modifying gun laws, ie, banning semi-automatic rifles and improving background checks, will do the least to reduce the actual number of gun deaths.

Requiring demonstrated knowledge of gun safety before owning a firearm will do a great deal to reduce the worst sorts of gun violence, (children getting hold of them, or impulse suicide). But there is an inherent conflict between storing a weapon in such a way that is useful for home defense and one that is safe from children.  The question of home defense is itself contradictory, simply because, while the fear of home invasion is drastically over-stated by those who make money by peddling fear, nevertheless there is some justification for it.

There are ways around the gun-safety vs gun-access conundrum (quick-release lockboxes keyed to a thumbprint, biometric tirggers, &c), but they’re expensive. This gets into areas where things like insurance and bonding, that some have suggested, end up tying the question “may you own a firearm?” to the question, “how much money do you have?” which, for obvious reasons, I am not at all comfortable with.

Most self-defense uses of handguns are never covered by the news, because most of them never involve discharging a weapon, thus it is very hard to get numbers on them.   Part of the reason for this is that the US government won’t permit any of it’s agencies to make such a study.

What might be the biggest contradiction is this: The notion of using personal weapons to defend against a tyrannical government is nonsense, but giving the government authority to prevent personal ownership of weapons is a step toward tyranny.

Other than a complete and drastic restructuring of society, I do not see a way to resolve these contradictions.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

124 Comments

  1. And with that, we have really come to the bottom of the matter. A society that values life and liberty does not need guns. Let’s skip the guns and move straight to the structural problem of force as legitimate method to achieving an end.

  2. There’s some fascinating double-think that the left and right both do with guns and cops. The right says that there’s never any good reason to shoot a cop, but they need guns to protect them from a tyrannical government. The left says that cops are racist thugs and murderers, and we don’t need guns because they will protect us.

  3. Robert, when does the left say the police will protect us? They mostly protect what the law protects…property.

  4. skzb

    I think you make a good point, Robert, but (agreeing with Leah) I’d put “left” in quotation marks. In fact, I think attitude toward the state in general and the police in particular is a reasonable metric for determining the difference between the left and pseudo-left.

    My own attitude about cops is just what Leah said, but I don’t think guns are an effective way to protect ourselves from them on an individual basis. Mass action is a different matter.

  5. Good summary of the situation. A complete can of worms. Which is why I usually avoid discussions on gun control, especially when somebody is beating the emotional drum for a particular “solution.”

    I see the problem, as you point out, to be a social problem. The public has had access to semi-automatic weapons and dynamite for over 100 years, and fully automatic weapons soon after that. But in general, mass killings by lone gunmen were not at all common back then. Government killings were more common back then.

    So I ask myself why the difference? The idea of simple access to weapons can not be the answer as it is harder to get guns now rather than back then. That doesn’t mean that background checks and waiting periods are bad ideas. But it makes me feel like we are attacking the wrong end of the problem.

    We have literally millions of people in this country that are disenfranchised and angry, who feel hopeless and picked upon. There are bound to be people from this group who act out with violence. The big wonder is why there is so little violence, not so much violence. And then we have the FBI trying to encourage emotionally unstable people to commit violence to justify their budget. Or the BATF giving thousands of guns to drug runners to make things worse to justify their budget.

    The gun control people feel that eliminating guns (as if that was possible) will solve the problem of mass killings. Unless the underlying problems are reduced, that won’t work. Any killer worth his salt can find a way to kill lots of people. Perhaps lots more people than using a gun. Calling them “terrorists” is a misdirection. These people have no political position they are pushing. They want to get revenge on a society that they feel has treated them badly.

    Unfortunately, any real solutions will cost money to implement (and I don’t mean by hiring more cops). Social supports are needed. People need to be valued rather than being told repeatedly that they are without value. But I don’t see this happening when the oligarchs have as part of their agenda of debt slavery, to devalue everybody but themselves. Sigh.

  6. skzb

    June 25, 2016, 7:18PM CDT. I agreed with something David Hajicek said. This proves that, in this world, anything can happen.

  7. SKZB writes: “What might be the biggest contradiction is this: The notion of using personal weapons to defend against a tyrannical government is nonsense, but giving the government authority to prevent personal ownership of weapons is a step toward tyranny.”

    There are a couple of logical disconnects here. First, is anyone that should be taken seriously suggesting that personal ownership of weapons should be prevented by the gov’t? No. It’s a strawman.

    Second, if personal ownership of guns can’t prevent tyranny, then how is the gov’t banning them a step toward tyranny? To believe such one has to assert that the gov’t banning *anything* is a step toward tyranny. And this quickly leads to the absurd.

    The 2nd amendment evolved out of a completely different historical era and circumstances. It’s a vestigial limb much like the constitution’s limit on military appropriations not being longer than two years.

    That we choose to live with and work around these anachronisms rather than facing them directly says a lot about who we want to be and who we fear we are. Brexit should reinforce that question.

  8. A side point about guns and home safety: if criminals learn you have guns, your home becomes a more desirable target because those guns will get a good price on the black market.

    Hmm. I don’t know how it’d would work out if you spread the word that you have a really shitty gun that’s not worth $20.

  9. In announcing this post, you said re not allowing people with DV restraining orders to buy a gun, “That sounds reasonable, but I’m unclear on how much due process is involved in those. I fear attacks on due process.”

    This seems to contradict what you say above, that giving the government authority to prevent personal ownership of weapons is a step towards tyranny. That is, it sounds like you think the government should be trusted to apply due process rights in the case of domestic violence in order to curb gun ownership but in doing so it will become more tyrannical. It seems a little confused.

  10. One of the oddities of the gun debate is that I usually take a fairly strong view that the constitution allows the banning of guns for either personal defense or hunting. Yet, I fired a rifle for the 1st time at six: a 30-06 rifle whose recoil knocked me on my ass much to the delight of my maternal grandfather and his sons (my uncles).

    My father was a Marine. I spent 4 years in the Army and — despite being in an electronics support MOS — in basic training and each year after I qualified as an ‘Expert Marksman’ with the M16 — the Army’s highest qualification category.

    My father never owned a firearm of any type. I’ve never owned one either.

  11. skzb

    oneillsinwisconsin: I’m sorry, there’s just no way to say this politely: are you deliberately being obtuse? ” if personal ownership of guns can’t prevent tyranny, then how is the gov’t banning them a step toward tyranny” That someone can even ask this makes my jaw drop.

    Okay, pay attention, this will get complicated: If the state were to ban and confiscate pez dispensers without due process of law, it would be a step toward tyranny, even though pez dispensers are not useful (so far as I know) in fighting tyranny. It is not clear that it is possible to ban and confiscate guns (unlike pez dispensers) under law.

  12. skzb

    L. Raymond: I don’t know what is entailed in a restraining order. Is it like a terror watch list, where someone can be put on it because someone feels like it, or are there legal protections–ie, due process–built into the system? I also oppose the State’s right to ban automobiles; but I’m quite fine with a repeat drunk driver having the right to operate one removed–after due process.

  13. Brexit has screwed the financial markets, cratered our economy, and destroyed any sympathy for the UK, on the grounds we deliberately did it to ourself, and vast amounts of money is being provided by the central banks in every country in the hope of staving off Armageddon for every country.

    We don’t know if they can succeed; after over 30 years living in the City, and being, as you’ve probably noticed, not in the slightest bit humble, I have to point out that Johnson, notwithstanding his attempts to channel his inner Uriah Heep, is now absolutely silent on everything. As are the hardcore MPs who were convinced that they would wake up to find a world full of joy, and discovered otherwise.

    The thing about the global financial markets is that they are global; there is no way the US can disconnect itself from those markets, short of the US deciding to secede from all of its agreements with every country. This seems highly unlikely; but I’m not from the US so I don’t have the knowledge needed. Perhaps someone could assist with this…

  14. My apologies; there was supposed to be a connecting passage between the EU debacle and the refusal of the US to enact any gun controls.

    In future I will try to do better.

  15. Skzb, Thanks. I got a good laugh.

  16. skzb:The process of obtaining a restraining order varies from state to state, but in general, one must petition a court and present some amount of evidence. The amount of evidence is one of the things that vary. Again, in general, the amount of evidence is less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” bar needed in a criminal trial. So, basically you present evidence that the person against whom you are obtaining the restraining poses some level of threat.

    An unassailable (although unlikely) and lawful way to ban arms is to have a new constitutional amendment that does that.

  17. Stevie:At least one connection between both the general arguments for having firearms and the basis for many of the argument pro-Brexit is that at their core they are based on fear. Guns are needed to protect oneself from scary people or governments and Brexit is needed to keep out the scary foreigners and bureaucrats.
    The EU certainly has problems, but I find it interesting that one of the main things many of the Leavers seem to dislike–freedom of people to move as they wish, is one of the things I really like.

  18. Leah, Steve, fair enough. If you get way out to the libertarian right and socialist/communist left it gets more complicated. Pretty much every ‘liberal’ if you prefer that term, or any of the left-center people who want to ban guns, will say that the average person doesn’t need guns because we have police.

    Individual action, with guns or otherwise, is never the best way to protect ourselves from the government. Mass action is always better.

  19. SKZB writes:” I’m sorry, there’s just no way to say this politely: are you deliberately being obtuse? ” if personal ownership of guns can’t prevent tyranny, then how is the gov’t banning them a step toward tyranny” That someone can even ask this makes my jaw drop.”

    Then goes on to talk about banning Pez dispensers as a step toward tyranny. But I wrote, “To believe such one has to assert that the gov’t banning *anything* is a step toward tyranny. And this quickly leads to the absurd.”

    I think the Pez dispenser argument meets the one I anticipated when I put forward, “And this quickly leads to the absurd:”

    So rather than arguing that it’s not absurd, you post an absurd argument.

    Governments can never ban anything because that’s a step toward tyranny.

  20. skzb

    Robert: Yeah, I agree with that.

    Oneillsinwisconsinwhosenameissocomplicatedi’llnevermanagetospellitright: Ban AND CONFISCATE. Confiscate means to deprive one of one’s property. What that is, is unconstitutional. What that isn’t, is rocket science.

  21. The No Fly List keeps getting defeated every time it goes to court. The government adjusts it in some new untenable fashion and sets the stage for its next defeat.
    It seems to be a really bad law to base pretty much anything on–let alone gun control.

  22. skzb

    As someone on FB said, When the NRA and the ACLU are both saying, THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA, you might want to reevaluate it.

  23. There are more criminals than there are law enforcement officers. We haven’t reached a true tipping point yet, but it will come.

    (Parenthetically, as it were, are amendments generally considered to be a part of the constitution? That is, do we say that abridging free speech is unconstitutional, or do we say that it is against the bill of rights? This is a legitimate question for me today, because I’ve been sick in bed for five days and my thought processes aren’t 100% right now.)

    Controls on firearms might help decrease the rate of firearm deaths. But I think the rate of firearm deaths has gone up since e.g. the automatic weapons ban. What has changed is society at large.

    I believe controls on firearms is merely poor treatment of one of the symptoms of our society. I’m not sure it is a waste of time to put controls on firearms, but I am sure it is not solving the larger issue.

    I’m not sure how to describe the larger issue. Unrest, perhaps. Dissatisfaction. Helplessness. All of these things, but more. It’s growing. It won’t be stopped by cake.

  24. skzb

    To your parenthetical, yes.

    “What has changed is society at large.” Yes.

    “I believe controls on firearms is merely poor treatment of one of the symptoms of our society. I’m not sure it is a waste of time to put controls on firearms, but I am sure it is not solving the larger issue.” Yeah, that’s where I am, too.

    “I’m not sure how to describe the larger issue.” Capitalism.

  25. The point of having a gun — the main point — is that you can point it at people and scare them.

    Hardly anybody really intends to have a gun to kill people with. Some people maybe fantasize about killing people, but what most gun owners really want is to point guns at people and scare them. It makes them feel powerful.

    People who are scared like to have guns so they won’t feel so scared. They think if they can point guns at scary people and scare them, they will have the upper hand. They usually prefer not to kill people, what they want is to not be scared themselves.

    The flip side is that other people can point guns at you and scare you. They might kill you. They’re real scary.

    The obvious solution is, when you think somebody might point a gun at you, to be carrying a gun and point it at them first. Then they will be scared to point their gun at you because if you think they’re about to you will shoot them. In practice, this works less than half the time. More than half the time, the other guy will point his gun first. But it might seem like it works more than half the time, because you will sometimes point guns at people who in fact were not about to point guns at you. You have no way to tell what they were really about to do, unless you wait for them to do it. Every time you point a gun at somebody first, *seems* like a success. Also, you get the chance to scare scary people who in fact don’t have guns.

    People make a lot of mistakes. Like, I make a lot of typing mistakes but I mostly just fix them, no problem. In general you can’t expect people to do a lot better than 99% efficiency, for anything they haven’t spent long hours training they will make mistakes at least 1% of the time. People with guns estimate they use them to prevent violence about two million times a year. About 10,000 times a year, somebody actually gets killed. 0.5%.

    I’m afraid the best I can do is claim there is really no problem here. A whole lot of voters feel safer owning guns. We are not going to take away their security blankets. It will not happen.

  26. Two million times a year, gun owners will point their guns at people to scare them. Is this a feature or a bug? It depends on who’s holding the gun.

    About 10,000 times a year, somebody will get shot and killed. This has to be acceptable. If you say it is unacceptable then what are you going to do about it? There isn’t much you can do. You will find yourself making symbolic gestures you hope will make you feel better. You will try to get stupid laws passed that you hope will make you feel better.

    Society can easily live with 10,000 gun homicides a year. We can live with 30,000 to 40,000 gun suicides a year. It is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that is small enough we can deal with it. Grieve for the dead and go on. What other choice is there?

    Individual people can choose not to carry a gun. Each person who does that, slightly decreases the annual death rate. Each person who does not carry a gun is one more person who will not get into a situation where due to miscommunication etc he shoots somebody. However, he does not increase his own survival much. Somebody might still shoot him. The chance is somewhat less because people are less likely to point a gun at him if they think he doesn’t have one. And if they do point a gun at him they will be less scared of him and less likely to make a mistake. But his chance of getting shot doesn’t go down much.

    The more people who make that choice, the less of a gun problem we will have. But it’s a choice we can’t force onto people. When people are scared, taking away their guns makes them more scared. It will drive them to vote.

    Politicians are not going to sacrifice their careers trying to do something effective about guns. Even if they really cared about doing good for society, guns are not a big enough problem for them to sacrifice for.

    Politicians will use the issue to get votes. Some of them will get votes by grandstanding about ineffective laws. If they get the laws passed then they will do it again next election because the problem will not be improved. Others will get votes by grandstanding against the first sort. If they prevent bad laws from being passed they will do it again next election because there will always be more bad gun control laws to oppose.

    Sometimes you just have to turn your back and walk away. The whole thing is a clusterfuck and not a particularly enjoyable one.

    (Incidentally, it is psychologically harder for most people to shoot you when you have turned your back and are walking away. Especially when there are witnesses. Of course, it’s also psychologically hard to turn your back on somebody who’s pointing a gun at you.)

  27. skzb — I notice you failed to even respond to the strawman argument charge. Is anyone worth taking seriously suggesting that all guns should be banned? No.

    Now you’re on about banned and confiscated and without due process. WTF? Where does this fit into the argument? Banning an item from personal possession does not imply lack of due process. That’s a matter of how the implementation laws are written. Yes, we currently have some on the books where due process *is* violated and this is wrong. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.

    We don’t have a law on banning guns before us. Nor do we have one for banning Pez dispensers. Why you claim that banning and confiscating either would then violate due process is purely worst-case speculative fiction.

    And let us not forget the absurdity. Of course if we ban WMDs from personal possession we are going to confiscate them if we discover them in your garage. This will happen immediately before any due process. Absurd to be otherwise.

  28. Mechaninja, Yes, Amendments are considered full-fledged parts of the Constitution.

    Not sure which automatic weapon ban you mean; the one in 1934, that put strict controls on the sale of automatic weapons, or the one in 1986 that banned sales of new automatic weapons to individuals. Or the 1994 assault weapon ban, that had nothing to do with automatic weapons but people think it did even though it only banned things like bayonet lugs and pistol grips. The latter two of those bans had a great effect on the price of pre-ban weapons, but no noticeable effect on the crime rate at all.

  29. skzb: “I don’t know what is entailed in a restraining order. Is it like a terror watch list, where someone can be put on it because someone feels like it, or are there legal protections–ie, due process–built into the system?”

    In both cases it’s the government which decides the process, the evidence needed, the result etc., although of course it’s different levels of government. And since due process is one of those terms with a specific legal definition as well as the less specific lay defintion, I wasn’t sure which one you were using. Clearly you’re using the lay interpretation. This is significant because the phrase “due process” is suddenly *everywhere*, being used by people to mean “what I consider fair” rather than what the law says it means. That matters when trying to understand their position.

    “I also oppose the State’s right to ban automobiles; but I’m quite fine with a repeat drunk driver having the right to operate one removed–after due process.”

    The loss of the the right to operate a vehicle is meaningless as long as that person has access to a vehicle. If any car to which a person barred from driving has access hasn’t been towed or slapped with a breath lock or similar device, the ban is just a paper tiger, and unless he’s pulled over for another infraction – or kills someone while driving – no one will know he’s violating the prohibition. So that’s really not a good analogy for not confiscating guns.

    I see one contradiction you’ve not mentioned yet. In the case of guns, you have full confidence in the government to put in place equitable procedures to assure people of their rights in certain property; in the case of manufacturers, you see the government as the enemy to be destroyed because it assures people of their rights in their property. While the type of property differs, the source of the rights and procedures are the same. Why do you trust it to be fair in the first case but not the second?

  30. Hey, I qualify as left rather than pseudo-left! Baller. Uh, flippancy aside, I’m always appalled at that particular contradiction, where folks who allegedly oppose state tyranny are okay with police shooting unarmed people, and those against police shootings are also against use of force as defense. I think the leftward half of that is changing as distrust in policing increases – or at least, it was increasing until Orlando, and now reflex reactions are kicking back the other way. The rightward half is what’s always annoyed me more – clearly these are exactly the sort of circumstances in which defense against tyranny can be invoked, but never is. My first instinct is to blame racism, but on second thought, I think a strain of authoritarianism in both the right and left (or pseudo-left, if we must) is more likely to blame, though it manifests itself differently on each side.

  31. skzb

    oniel: Sorry I didn’t answer the “strawman” argument, I had trouble believing you were serious about it. But, okay, who wants to ban handguns? Uh, how the New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/why-gun-control-is-not-enough/

    You are getting more disingenuous by the post. I spoke of confiscation from the beginning, and you’ve ignored it, and are still ignoring it. But let me try to explain this carefully: The difference between “ban and confiscate” in the caas of guns vs WMD is that there aren’t personal WMDs to confiscate. Can you see the subtle distinction?

    Yes, I am afraid of handguns. I am more afraid of infringements on civil rights. Nevertheless, there are things worth doing.

    L. Raymond: “The loss of the the right to operate a vehicle is meaningless as long as that person has access to a vehicle.” This turns out not to be the case. Many people have access to vehicles–a spouse, a parent, a child, a neighbor–but don’t use them because of revoked license. Of course, some do use them. But it is absurd to suggest that revoking a license doesn’t accomplish anything.

    “I see one contradiction you’ve not mentioned yet. In the case of guns, you have full confidence in the government to put in place equitable procedures to assure people of their rights in certain property; in the case of manufacturers” Not following this; where did I indicate trust in the government? My whole point is that increasing government powers to limit freedom without due process is incredibly dangerous.

    In any case, what is your proposal?

    Matt: “I think the leftward half of that is changing as distrust in policing increase” This matches my perceptions.

  32. Matt, it seems fear trumps reason (I’ll take the pun).

  33. I frequently see pro gun control arguments where they categorically state something like, “nobody wants to take your guns away and you are an idiot if you think they do.”

    Trouble is that I’ve talked to a number of gun control people who really, really, DO want to take all guns away. They have demonized guns (not entirely without evidence). So they think guns directly cause gun violence. That guns are “evil”. No, it is more a problem that the NRA says you need to carry a gun to be safe from your fears. And stupid people doing stupid things with guns.

    I can support gun control that has more modest goals. But it is disingenuous to say that there is NO desire by ANYBODY to take guns away. I guess it is an attempt to dismiss a reasonable fear of gun owners (and insult them at the same time) rather than address the fears. Probably because the people who do want to eliminate all guns given an opportunity, are not controllable by the more moderate people, so you pretend they don’t exist so you don’t have to deal with them. At the same time, you can get their support.

    Unless you want politics as usual, discussions need to be honest.

  34. What David said – six or seven years ago, i was all for repealing the second amendment, and plenty of my friends agreed. Some of them still think that way. Now, none of us were or are in power, and i do not believe those in power seek to ban all guns, or confiscate many guns – if they did, they would not have melded sufficiently with political groupthink to achieve office. there are probably exceptions, but they are voices in the wilderness, not the mainstream gun control narrative

  35. skzb – an op-ed writer that says “A prohibition of private ownership would not mean that no one could shoot guns. Guns for target shooting could be rented under security arrangements at the range. And there’s perhaps scope for debate about private possession of single chamber shotguns for hunting.”

    Obviously is calling for a complete ban on all guns. He’s an op-ed writer, not a politician, not the leader of a major political party or faction. There thousands of op-eds (and political blog posts) written every day. How is this then a serious proposal to take away all our guns? It ain’t.

  36. It is true that very few of the “Serious” people in charge are proposing any sort of ban on guns. Of course, they also happen to generally be the people who have gotten us into the myriad messes we are currently in. Maybe we should seriously consider the worthiness of traditional serious ideas.

  37. SKZB writes: “You are getting more disingenuous by the post. I spoke of confiscation from the beginning, and you’ve ignored it,”

    Wrong. The OP says nothing about confiscation. Your first use was in one of your replies to me. “You said, “If the state were to ban and confiscate pez dispensers without due process of law,

    I have addressed this in both the absurdity and the actual legal process. Any suspected illegal good is seized upon discovery. This does *not* violate due process. Due process is violated if you cannot go to court and seek its return. This becomes, as I stated previously, then a matter of how the laws implementing it are written.

    A simple example. Many states ban the personal use of fireworks of a certain type or over a certain size. If you get pulled over for a traffic ticket and the police officer sees a box of what he believes to be illegal fireworks in the backseat of your car he may write you a ticket or arrest you for them and they will be seized. Now, if you cannot go to court and prove that the fireworks are in reality stage props made to look like the real thing – then due process has been violated. It is not the seizure that violates due process (many crimes require that evidence be seized), it’s the lack of legal process to prove innocence and the return of the property. Hence, conflating confiscation with a lack of due process is incorrect.

    BTW, if there are no personal WMDs how exactly is nerve gas, anthrax, Sarin, etc used by individuals? Have you already forgotten the 2001 anthrax attacks? With already existing tech this could have been thousands killed – instead of 5.

  38. I have a friend in Canada who used to be a gunsmith. When they changed the gun laws there, he retired from that profession. Apparently the laws and license fees are so odious that it effectively prevents most people from having a gun. Pistols in particular seem to be affected.

    Since my friend and his wife like to walk in the woods or ride their motorcycles on the trails, this means he has to have a shotgun on his back while they do this. There are plenty of bears and moose in their neck of the woods so some armament is needed. A large caliber pistol would be more convenient than a shotgun.

    Many years back, while my kids were young, we had an escaped prisoner in the general neighborhood. My wife (not big on guns) requested a loaded pistol for her while I went to work. That day, the escapee broke into an older couples house maybe a half mile away, and tied up the couple and stole their car.

    So there are legitimate uses for guns besides target shooting.

  39. skzb: “Not following this; where did I indicate trust in the government? My whole point is that increasing government powers to limit freedom without due process is incredibly dangerous.”

    Due process is a legal construct. It exists because the government has laid out the laws and procedures that have to followed by judicial and law enforcement officials. By placing your faith in due process, you’re accepting the government’s position as to what constitutes the proper safeguarding of the rights which they have created and spelled out in our laws. In other words, you trust the government to abide by its own rules.

    “In any case, what is your proposal?”

    I don’t have a philosophical problem with the very existence of this particular government, so I face no contradiction when I say I mostly have confidence in it.

  40. David Hajicek:Your examples don’t actually support your conclusions as much as you may think. In the inmate example, it is easy to see how a gun could lead to a far worse outcome. And, of course society already failed by the existence of the convict.
    The shotgun may or may not help against an enraged bear. Perhaps not walking in bear infested woods is a better idea in general.

  41. skzb

    L. Raymond: Still very confused about what contradiction you’re seeing. Due process provides certain hard-won protections against governmental abuse; I want more protection, not less. Faith in due process? No. I have no faith in seat belts to keep me safe in an auto accident, but that doesn’t mean I’m going drive without my seat belt on. The people made certain important gains in protection from the government; is it having faith in the government to not want those protections removed even if I consider them insufficient in under many conditions? Or else I’m still misunderstanding your point.

    No, I mean, what is your proposal for dealing with the problem of gun violence?

  42. Steve H, I find it interesting how you make assumptions to support your conclusions and then say, “see my conclusions are correct.”

    My wife, despite not liking guns in particular, is actually quite competent with guns and an excellent shot. With babies in the house, she is not going to allow somebody to break in.

    My friend in Canada lives in the woods. Literally. 200 miles NNE of Toronto. Even my sister in Duluth gets bears in her back yard in the city. Your suggestion that my friend find woods without bears is not realistic. PS, they get cougars too. PPS, a shotgun with 00 buckshot is an amazingly effective weapon.

  43. David:I did not make assumptions. I am sure your wife is wonderful with guns. I note that the escapee did not break into your house and so your immediate assertion is untested (thankfully so) and that according to your report the other couple were not killed and so the ancillary assertion is also untested.
    Also, note that while I am sure that you are a fine fellow, a number of studies indicate that it isn’t the rare escaped felon that a women needs to be worried about when having a gun in the house, but rather their immediate partner–for example https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/199710.pdf.

    There have only been 12 bear attacks in Minnesota since 1987–none within the city limits of Duluth. Hopefully your sister is not frantically pacing her house armed to the teeth.

    As for your friend, I would just note that even in Canada bear attacks are very rare vs the number of times people are walking around. Also note that he is intruding in the bear’s woods and not the other way around. I merely suggest that if bear attack are that much of a concern to your friend then maybe he should move. Also, note that your argument also lends itself readily to any sort of weapon. There might be angry bears in those woods that I want to walk through, therefore I need helicopter gunships to circle above me. There might be cougars–we should probably use nerve gas just to be safe.

  44. skzb: Due process is itself defined by the government, alterable by legislative action and administrative procedings. So in trusting in due process rights, you’re trusting the government to apply its own law about due process to its others laws – watch lists, restraining orders etc. Which, as I say, seems odd for someone who does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the government to begin with.

    To quote from the Cornell Legal Information Institute’s article on due process:

    “Probably the hardest of the analytic questions arising under the procedural aspect of ‘due process’ is this one, just what procedures are constitutionally due. This is a question that has to be answered for criminal trials (where the Bill of Rights provides many explicit answers), for civil trials (where the long history of English practice provides some landmarks), and for administrative proceedings, which did not appear on the legal landscape until a century or so after the Due Process Clause was first adopted.”

    and when discussing the factors to be considered when it’s a question of due process as laid out in Matthews v. Eldridge (424 U.S. 319 [1976]):

    “First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Government’s interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail.”

    In other words, due process when used in conjunction with legal matters like watch lists or gun registries isn’t just a random phrase that means someone is treated fairly.

    “No, I mean, what is your proposal for dealing with the problem of gun violence?”

    I feel that “gun” is an unnecessary qualifier. I think we mostly agree violence, whatever form it takes in a society, is cultural. So with that in mind, I don’t think any law at all will make much of a dent until we as a people stop thinking violence is a perfectly acceptable means of getting what we want, whether it’s street cred, respect, material goods, or even a new economic system. To be explicit about that last, yes, I think the ugly, hatefilled rhetoric of any party advocating violent overthrow of the government is both a symptom of our acceptance of violence and a cause of further violence. Violence, not “gun” violence. (I assume you’ve heard about Sacramento and the 10 people who were stabbed and slashed at a rally, two of whom were in ICU when I read the last update on abc10.com.)

    I said elsewhere an intensive campaign of PR managed to take smoking from a perfectly acceptable activity to one that’s been virtually banned in public within two generations. I believe a similar multipronged approach would have to be used against violence before we could even begin to make a dent in the problem.

  45. Steve H, are you married? No mother will not defend her babies just because some stranger argues statistics. Just because the odds of that person breaking in and harming (say hold hostage) her babies is unlikely, doesn’t mean she is going to trust in fate. The escapee was reported as dangerous on the news and it was in OUR neighborhood, for goodness sake. We are not talking about studies here. Sheesh.

    No, my sister need not worry about a bear attack, she could call the police if necessary (and she has). If she sees a bear, she doesn’t go outside. If the bear is not causing harm, she ignores it. The comment is to show that bears are ubiquitous. It would be stupid (and illegal) to deliberately confront a bear where she lives.

    People have been killed by animal attacks where my friend lives in Canada. It isn’t a fantasy or a matter to be sarcastic about. He simply wants to be prepared if the need arises. He also carries bear spray as the first resort. So you feel he should move to the city and stop going into the woods because you don’t like him having to carry a gun? He has no problem with the situation.

  46. skzb

    This “trusting to government” really seems to be a thing to you, doesn’t it? It’s not that complicated, and I can’t see why you’re trying to make it so. I thought my seat belt analogy was clear enough, but I’ll try another. I do not trust the police, because I think they commit murder and get away with it. However, a change in the law to prevent prosecution of any policeman, would make it worse, and I would oppose that. How is this hard to comprehend? I do not trust due process to protect the working class, but I recognize that giving the government the right to *ignore* due process would make things worse. As to the details of what exactly constitutes due process in a given place and time, as I see those change, I take positions. The recent supreme court decision changed the definition in certain cases and I find it appalling. That still doesn’t mean I want to throw out the protections we’ve won.

    “Due process” does not mean someone is treated fairly. However, “lack of due process” means there is greater potential for people to be treated UNfairly.

    Thank you for answering my question about fun laws &c.

  47. David H:Yes, I am married. I invite you to complete whatever chain of logic led you to ask that. I’ll just note that many people raise children without any guns at all.
    In general, what we are seeing in our (your and my) discussion here is a rather classic example of security analysis. You are giving specific hypothetical scenarios in which a gun may have been helpful.
    I respond with the fact that tens of thousands of people are killed or injured by guns every year.

  48. “tens of thousands of people are killed or injured by guns every year”

    People keep saying that as if it means something. So what? Lots of things kill or injure tens of thousands of people every year. 42,000 people died in 2014 in the US from accidental poisoning or overdose. About 4,000 people drown. About 600,000 people die from heart disease. Falling down kills about 30,000. Motor vehicle accidents kill about 33,000, about 4,000 of whom are pedestrians.

    Changing one little law would immediately save tens of thousands of lives, but no one at all has the slightest interest in dropping the nationwide, all roads, speed limit to 20mph. Why not? Why don’t those lives matter more than saving a few minutes of time when driving? By hurtling your metal death machine around the public roads you are slaughtering nearly a thousand little children every year. Will no one think of the children? If it saves even one life, it’s worth doing, right?

  49. Robert:”People keep saying that as if it means something.” Each of those items is a separate problem and all need worked on and are being worked on. Gun control should be worked on like all of the others.

  50. Then why aren’t we working on all the others? Some of those could save a lot more lives, with a lot less effort, than gun control, and without any Constitutional issues. Where are the sit-ins and protests for a safe, reasonable, common sense speed limit? Have you written your representatives asking that the speed limit be reduced to a safe and sensible 20mph?

  51. Robert:By every measure the number of traffic deaths has been coming down steadily–total, per capita and per miles driven. These are generally as a result of increased safety features in automobiles and seat-belt laws.
    Please give examples of where you think the various other items you mentioned are not being worked upon. For example, are you claiming heart disease isn’t being worked on?

    One difference between all of the things you list and gun control is that there are a number of rules and regulations that actually prevent gun control being worked on.
    By the way, since you are an anonymous “Robert” and I don’t recall seeing you around here–have some popcorn, introduce yourself if you are so inclined.

  52. It is interesting how fast this conversation dissolved into mutual incomprehension, as opposed to the last one. Is it just that this was an attempt to approach the problem from a more practical stance, rather than looking at generalities? Is that what triggers obstinancy?

    There are so many posts already here that makes points I’m tempted to address. I don’t have all day to write, though, and in most cases, I am sure I would just trigger more reflexive denial, which seems pointless. I mean, David, I could start talking about the many ways to avoid bear attack that don’t involve guns, but I’m not going to convince your gunsmith friend by telling you, so, why? I will say you are missing or ignoring Steve’s point about having a gun in home for protection rather than an aluminum baseball bat. However skilled and conscientious you and your wife are, statistics say that your gun will be far more likely to shoot a family member than to ever even be pointed at an intruder. If an anecdote makes it more concrete, I’ll just ask you to Google “shoots mistaken intruder”. The results are heartbreaking. And that are just the cases of people using their gun for, as they thought, self defense. I cast no aspersions on your relationship, but the number of domestic arguments that end in death when there is a gun in the house are staggering.

    So, yes, oneill, I think I am a serious person, and I would love to ban all gun ownership, both for citizens and for the majority of police. If I don’t recommend it too often, it is because I don’t like to waste my time tilting at windmills. Baby steps are fine by me. Anything that would slow to rate of gun ownership I am willing to try. Like our host, I often worry about empowering the authorities, but in this case, I am equally fearful of the power wielded by my fellow citizens.

    I fully confess, I am certain that part of my philosophy on this issue comes from personal prejudice as much as from analysis of statistics. I don’t like guns. I know how to use one, I’m even a decent shot, but I do not care for them. They are too damn easy. One moment of inattention, of loss of control, or just bad luck and life changing injuries or death result. I don’t want that responsibility. I won’t take it. So I’ll never carry or even own.

    Where does that leave me, though, in a country with more guns than people? J Thomas is quite right, I think, that most gun owners (like George Zimmerman) suffer under the magic wand delusion, that they can point a gun and get their way. I know that wouldn’t work with me and I am certain that is the personal motive behind my stance. I am thought a generally affable guy, easy to get along with, hard to stir to resentment. That is because I know that my temper, when I let it slip, makes me completely irrational. Being threatened? I’ve never reacted intelligently to that. Every time a cop or armed secuity guard sets their hand on their weapon while talking to me, I get a buzzing in my ears and a terrible urge to do something stupid. I’ve seen it recognized in more than one pair of eyes, and if I didn’t reek of white privilege? I’m not sure but it wouldn’t have gone badly for me. If anyone ever actually pointed a gun at me? I’m fairly certain I’d try to rip off the arm holding it and try to beat them to death with it, and the results would not be happy ones.

    So, should we all support banning guns because they make me crazy? I suppose not. It would be a kindness to me, though, and there might be some side benefits for the rest of society.

  53. @skzb: “No, I mean, what is your proposal for dealing with the problem of gun violence?”

    I will answer this again.

    People mostly have guns because they want to intimidate each other. They don’t much wanot to shoot each other, they want people to do what they say because they have guns. They do this millions of times a year and usually when somebody gets shot it’s because things have gone wrong.

    In any particular example, is it a criminal trying to intimidate people so he can accomplish a crime, or is it an honest citizen trying to prevent a criminal from committing a crime, or is it two honest citizens who have gotten into something stupid? The authorities will decide who the criminal is later. MY point is that people want to intimidate each other with guns and if it never led to shooting then guns would not be intimidating.

    I see only two ways to reduce the gun deaths. One is to reduce the number of guns. If people who want to intimidate can’t get guns, then they can’t intimidate people with guns and things won’t go wrong and get people shot. The trouble with this approach is that a whole lot of people want to intimidate other people with guns, and if the government does things to reduce the number of guns they will vote. We cannot reduce the number of guns except by sneaky methods.

    The second approach is widespread teaching about gun safety. The instruction people get about that now is utterly insufficient. What people need to get taught is how to point guns at people to intimidate them, while actually shooting them only when it’s entirely appropriate. Also they should get taught what to do when somebody points a gun at them. Develop customs for exactly how to deal with all this, better than what viewers see on TV.

    It’s a potentially complex negotiation. First, teach people how to look like they aren’t going to attack somebody who is holding a gun on them. This seems simple and obvious, but a surprising number of gun deaths come when somebody does look like they are about to attack — particularly police. I don’t know why people so often look like they are about to attack a policeman who is already holding a gun on them, but….

    Then there’s the art of looking like you really will shoot somebody who does the wrong thing. You don’t want to bluff about that, and you definitely don’t want to look like you’re bluffing. The teaching probably ought to include something like actually shooting somebody with a taser and torturing them some, knowing that you will be tased yourself because of it. Anybody who refuses to go through with it fails that part of the course and should be advised never to point a gun at anybody unless they are shooting them.

    Pointing guns at people without shooting them involves a lot of negotiation.

    “Get in your car. I’ll tell you where to drive.”
    “No, you might take me someplace it’s save and convenient to kill me and hide my body.”
    “Do it or I’ll shoot you.”
    “Why should I trust you not to shoot me when we get there? You better shoot me right here if you’re going to.”

    He can shoot you, but you still have some negotiating power. You don’t know how much. He’d rather not shoot you — you know that because he hasn’t shot you yet. How much negotiating will he put up with before he accepts whatever problems he gets by shooting you now? You just don’t know.

    If everybody gets a clearer idea what the society thinks is reasonable — for example you don’t get in somebody’s car because they point a gun at you, if they want you there they have to shoot you or wrestle you first — then we will get fewer gun deaths from miscommunication. Probably that will come out to fewer gun deaths total.

  54. J Thomas, do you know the four rules of gun safety?

  55. skzb: “This ‘trusting to government’ really seems to be a thing to you, doesn’t it?”

    Not really. I find your position contradictory, but you don’t, and as long as we’ve each made clear why we think that, and I think we have, that’s enough, surely? *smile*

    And on a related note, SCOTUS just upheld the ban on gun ownership for those convicted of domestic violence.

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-10154_19m1.pdf

  56. Pingback: Excellent insight into the contradictions inherent in the guns problem – Mitch Wagner

  57. skzb

    L. Raymond: Cool.

  58. Steve H, you don’t get it. You don’t get it about how a woman can feel about protecting her children. That’s why I ask if you are married as your are so far away from understanding that I thought you must be single.

    Also, you don’t get it, my examples are NOT hypotheticals. They are specific examples of why someone might want a gun handy for protection. You have determined in your own mind that the odds, being only one in a thousands or so, are not sufficiently high to justify having a gun. That is YOUR calculation and you are fine to not have a gun. But you are out of line to try to impose your prejudices on others who are actually in the position where they feel that a gun could be useful or at least better than nothing.

    By calling them “hypotheticals”, you summarily dismiss any possibility for the reasons for a gun being useful or legitimate. Your statistics (in your own mind) overrule the reality on the ground. Instead, you put the examples (in your mind) into the “gun nut” category and demonstrate your (in your own mind) mental superiority.

    Statistics are useful, I know because I am an engineer and scientist. But I also know that statistics have little predictive use in the individual case.

    Let’s look at the bear example a bit. What are the chances of my friend and his wife seeing a bear or cougar in their walks in the woods. Maybe one in 500. They will respond rationally and back off from the bear. That probably works in 98 out of 100 cases. So not a problem. It’s that 2% that is the problem. What are the odds of outrunning a bear or cougar? Basically zero. So your position is that because the odds are that there is only a 1:25,000 chance of being killed or mauled, they should not carry any protection.

    What a fabulous ego you have. You feel your “analysis” should trump how they live their lives.

    Every person needs to make the decisions for their lives as best they can. Those choices may not agree with the choices that you would make, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad choices. Just not your choices. People who don’t agree with you are not idiots.

  59. larswyrdson: “It is interesting how fast this conversation dissolved into mutual incomprehension, as opposed to the last one. Is it just that this was an attempt to approach the problem from a more practical stance, rather than looking at generalities?”

    I mostly agree with this. That is, it does seem a little more heated as the question drifts towards solving rather than just discussing. Part of it, I think, is because people have assumptions about problem solving in general which they forget they have, so that when asked about a specific case, they’re already at loggerheads. Are we discussing hand guns, assault weapons, WMDs, all of them? Legal, economic and/or social solutions? Hard science with no humanity or all empathy? And what about pertinent defintions & terms? Use them how the average person on the street understands them, military experts, well read lay persons?

    For myself, I tend to avoid abstract exchanges online for all those reasons, unless there is a specific point to ask about or I’m asked a direct question, and even then I figure three rounds addressing one point is enough. After that, frustration can make it too easy to start taking things personally, with the concomitant loss of perspective. I hate when I lose perspective.

  60. David H:I do understand how people can feel. I’ll note that not all people feel that way.

    All evidence I see points towards guns being essentially a public health issue–think of gun control laws as being analogous to vaccines. There are a number of people who are afraid of vaccines. Their fears are largely the result of misunderstandings on their part and really can’t be allowed to stand in the way of their children receiving vaccinations.

    Your examples are, of course, actual examples of why you felt like you needed guns and are clearly important to you. They are also hypothetical in that in none of the examples did you encounter a situation in which your belief that a gun would be helpful was actually tested. I am glad it wasn’t tested because the most common result runs against your expected outcome.

    Here’s an actual example from my past. A number of years ago I was attending a conference in Vancouver. My hotel was a few blocks away from the main convention center. One night ran rather late and as I was returning I was walking past an area of construction. I was dressed as a typical engineering conference attendee.
    A man stepped out in front of me and another stepped out from behind me, clearly blocking my path. This was rather concerning and so I reached into my pocket and pulled out some loonies and gave each man a couple. We all nodded to each other, they said thanks and stepped aside. I’ve always felt that if any of us had a gun, the scenario could have gone much differently. Does my feeling that way prove anything? No, of course not.

  61. skzb

    Matt: Okay, that one’s gonna fester.

  62. I mean, I *specifically* meant the officer pointing out “you could run into a bear literally anywhere in this area,” but yeah.

  63. J Thomas–

    I agree with you that it seems many people want to carry a gun so they can point it at someone to scare them. In my work, I run into situations frequently where the gun-carrying person appears to be going out of his way to find a dispute that pulling the gun will solve. I thought you were invoking this principle to criticize the currently lax gun laws of the U.S., but it appears you are actually using it as an argument in favor of it. I don’t agree with you but I would want you on the jury when my next client whips out his blaster on bare provocation, then has to stand trial.

  64. L. Raymond:Yes, perspective is important. I think people here generally do a fairly good job of at least coming back to perspective. It is almost certainly good that the internet doesn’t come with a “make the other guy blow up button.”

  65. Because it’s now cycled back into relevance in the conversation, the four rules of gun safety are:

    1) Every gun is always loaded, even those you know to be nonfunctional.
    2) Do not let your muzzle cover anything you are unwilling to destroy.
    3) Do not let your finger inside the trigger guard if you are not willing to fire.
    4) Always be aware of what is behind, beside, above, and below your target.

    So: there is no possible situation in which one can discuss teaching people how to brandish firearms for intimidation purposes, and be talking about gun safety. The two are immiscible. There is no safe way to intimidate someone with a deadly weapon; nor should there be. And if there was, then realistic prop guns would be interchangeable with real guns – a target who cannot verify the threat is equally intimidated. But no gun owner I know would accept the idea they swap their sidearms for replicas. I don’t agree with them about the efficacy of open or concealed carry in self-defense, but pretty much every gun owner I know treats the above tenets with the same sanctity as religion. Which also puts paid to the notion that intimidation is the primary purpose of carrying.

  66. Hm. My comments keep going into the “awaiting moderation” queue when I post logged in.

  67. J Thomas, I understand what you are getting at about using a gun for intimidation. It is one of the reasons I do not carry a gun. If you point a gun at somebody, you had damn well be willing to shoot them. I can see myself getting into a position of having to use a gun if I carried one (e.g., road rage). So I will not put myself in a position of temptation.

    Steve H, I have avoided violence a number of times. I have studied martial arts, and the first rule is to avoid violence whenever possible. So we are in agreement there.

    Robert, You are right that lots of things are dangerous and can cause deaths. I have dangerous tools like a chain saw. I can see that somebody living in the heart of the city might think chainsaws should be outlawed or severely restricted because they are loud and dangerous. We have a country where people say, “it doesn’t make sense to me, therefore it should be outlawed.” We could come up with a lot of examples, from fireworks to motorcycles. People seem to feel that they should live a life without risk or inconvenience to them. That we should all live in cages where everything is controlled for our own good.

    I reject that thinking, of course. I think the default position should be toward things being legal as long as it doesn’t harm others.

  68. skzb

    Matt: Yeah, I was going to comment on that; I have no idea why the thing keeps sending you into moderation. It’s weird.

    I’ve always had a problem with “The gun is always loaded.” When the weapon is sitting around, is stored in its box, is in a case, it is loaded.

    When it is holstered or in a situation where you may need to use deadly force, it is UNloaded until proven otherwise.

  69. The “every gun is loaded” is for safety. Lots of people have been shot with “unloaded” guns. If you really want to be safe, remove the clip, eject the shell and verify that there is no bullet in the chamber.

    If the function is to shoot, then it makes sense to verify that the gun is loaded. This is the opposite of safety.

  70. Here’s a link to the ACLU on the No Fly List and its use for gun control:
    https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/until-no-fly-list-fixed-it-shouldnt-be-used-restrict-peoples-freedoms

    The ACLU has been leading the fight against the No Fly List in general.
    One point they make is that if the list were completely redone so that it did conform to due process and various other laws (all of which it currently fails) it would make a fine tool. Of course actual terrorists shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns. Currently the No Fly List bears about as much resemblance to a list of actual terrorists as a phone book does. (Presumably, of course, since no one is actually allowed to see it.)

  71. David “I reject that thinking, of course. I think the default position should be toward things being legal as long as it doesn’t harm others.”

    That is kind of the point of this discussion, isn’t it? You feel safer when you have a gun. I feel less safe when you have a gun. Whose feelings win?

    Or, to address the issue as an engineer should, who cares how anyone feels? What are the facts? How does the system work IRL rather than hypothetically? If it can be established that the firearms you are calling on to make you safer actually increase your danger, should you listen to your gut or the numbers? When driving across a bridge, do you prefer one designed scientifically or emotionally?

  72. @Matt Doyle: “So: there is no possible situation in which one can discuss teaching people how to brandish firearms for intimidation purposes, and be talking about gun safety.”

    Agreed. Except — I claim that most people who want guns, want them to intimidate people more than to shoot them. I have one piece of weak evidence for that — in various polls, a fraction of gun owners say they have successfully prevented violence using a gun in the last year or two years or three years. If they are a random sample and if they are telling the truth, people use guns to intimidate other people a couple million times a year. Far, far more than they use guns to actually shoot at people. I believe this is what’s happening, but my evidence is weak. I could be wrong.

    If that’s what they actually use guns for, then they need training in how to intimidate people with guns in maximum safety. When you intimidate somebody with a loaded gun it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk that you will shoot them. But there are things people can do — both the intimidators and the intimidated — that will reduce the risk of shootings by accident or misunderstanding. This is the training that people actually need. Training that does not teach them how to competently intimidate people (and how to respond to intimidation) does not supply their needs. Current training leaves them intimidating people in an entirely untrained way.

    “I don’t agree with them about the efficacy of open or concealed carry in self-defense, but pretty much every gun owner I know treats the above tenets with the same sanctity as religion.”

    It’s possible that your sample is strongly biased. You look like an unusually sensible person, and it’s possible that you surround yourself with unusually sensible gun owners.

    Or maybe your friends treat the rules like religion — like Christians in general treat Jesus’s rules, things to agree with and aspire to and maybe preach but not to actually practice in real life. I wouldn’t know, since I’ve probably never seen any of your friends use a gun or choose not to.

  73. J Thomas–

    You seem to be yearning for a world where gun owners can intimidate others efficiently and safely. I yearn for a world at peace where such tactics are unnecessary and rightfully scorned. skzb is correct when he says we need to radically overhaul our entire society to get there. Some moderate and responsible gun control laws are one small step in the right direction.

  74. J Thomas: the training they need is not how to do that more safely, but why they should not do that.

    In a last resort, perhaps it’s like sex ed, and teaching the distasteful and risky is necessary to moderate misbehavior in an informed fashion, rather than push “abstinence only” for intimidation. I can see that as a possibility – but I’d want numbers to show me, definitively, that teaching people lower-risk intimidation prevented more shootings than teaching DON’T FUCKING DO THAT.

    Or perhaps, gun control laws that strip carry privileges for those caught brandishing. I have no idea if we already do that or not, but I think we should. “Whip it out like that and you lose it” could be the tagline of a very memorable safety campaign, I should think.

  75. @Kragar “I agree with you that it seems many people want to carry a gun so they can point it at someone to scare them.”

    I’m sure there are a fraction of people who don’t do that. I think most of the shootings are done by people who do.

    “I thought you were invoking this principle to criticize the currently lax gun laws of the U.S., but it appears you are actually using it as an argument in favor of it.”

    My argument is that while we have a large number of voters who *want* to intimidate other people with guns a couple million times a year, we are not going to get gun laws that are effective at reducing the rate of gun violence.

    We can for example pass laws that people who are getting psychotherapy can’t buy guns, and I doubt it will help much with gun violence. (How do you decide who is psychologically unfit to have a gun? Do you give everybody standardized psychological tests? Hahaha. Do you look at people who have been involuntarily locked up for psychological problems? (Not very many of those.) Do you get a list of everybody who’s getting psychotherapy, and ask their therapists whether they’re willing to swear in blood that this particularly patient will never shoot anybody?)

    When we have tens of millions (a hundred million or more) people who want to intimidate others with guns, and we aren’t willing to take their guns away, thousands of people will get shot.

    Pass any feel-good laws you want, it won’t help.

    Two things can help.

    1. Take away the guns and people won’t shoot each other with them. That works. But the voters won’t let it happen any time soon.

    2. Train people in ways to intimidate others with guns, and ways to respond to intimidation with guns, so they will have a clearer sense how to avoid actual shooting. That’s a lot of training for pretty much the whole population. It will reduce the thousands of deaths some. Possibly as much as half. Maybe when people think it out better, more of them will decide they don’t actually want to intimidate people with guns as much as they thought they did. Maybe.

  76. @Matt Doyle: “the training they need is not how to do that more safely, but why they should not do that.”

    If you can actually teach that to the large majority of gun owners, then I think it would go a very long way toward solving the problem of gun violence.

    My uninformed opinion is that they want what they want and they aren’t going to listen to people tell them why they can’t have it. That it’s like teaching teenagers why they should never have sex. But I would be overjoyed to be wrong.

    (Overjoyed. Is that a word? It popped into my head, but when I look at it, it looks wrong. Like too much joy or something. Having too much joy seems stranger than too much chocolate or too much wealth.)

    I’m not sure it makes sense to punish people for not shooting people. Somebody threatens you. You pull out your gun and get them to back off. If you waited, they’d pull out their gun and then it would be highly unsafe to reach for yours. But you get punished because you persuaded them to stop threatening you, instead of shoot them?

    But then, maybe it doesn’t have to make sense. If we could make it illegal to intimidate people with guns without shooting them, maybe a lot of people would decide they didn’t want to go through with it.

    That would certainly change the dynamic. If you get punished for pointing a gun at somebody without shooting them, maybe people would actually follow the rule and only draw the gun when they intend to shoot immediately. It might be a good thing. Could a law like that get passed? I’ve never heard it discussed before.

  77. J Thomas – it IS illegal to point a gun at someone without shooting them. It’s called brandishing, and in most states it is a felony.

  78. Depending on the circumstances, pointing a gun at someone could also result in a conviction for felony assault with a deadly weapon. Prison time, yo.

  79. I don’t think J Thomas is saying he actually wants people to be pointing guns at each other but rather that his perception is that most people have a vague idea that a gun is a magic wand that will protect them (through intimidation) if they wave it around at people. Given that, he is saying (I think), those people should at least be trained in the proper waving about of guns.
    If that is the conclusion, I would disagree and say that rather (if there have to be guns), then people should have to pass an extensive safety course before they are allowed to have them.

  80. skzb

    “Brandishing” when done under the correct circumstances is exactly the right move. When threatened, pull and point, finger OFF trigger; usually the attacker will leave before matters escalate. I’m told this happens much more than any other use of handguns. I wish to hell we could get actual statistics to verify or disprove this claim.

  81. Larswyrdson, It gets down to you determining how I should behave when I am no threat to you. I would feel much better if you were forced to wear a full body pink leotard and wear a tinfoil hat. Therefore that is what you should do. Statistics show that people feel happier when you do that.

    You or anybody else, wouldn’t even know I have a gun unless I told you. For all you know, I lied. So the problem is entirely in your perception, not in my gun ownership.

    Yes, there are stupid people doing stupid shit with guns (and often getting injured in the process). Or malevolent people doing bad things with guns. That is what needs to be addressed rationally.

    It is insulting (deliberately so?) to assume that anybody who wants to own a gun is either stupid or malevolent or irrational.

  82. David H:Guns are not leotards. Many people who own guns are perfectly fine people. Is the burgler who steals their gun? Is their 5 year old? Ar
    People can plummet into depression and find that all too convenient gun.
    All of these things are shown to have more incidences of fatality in the presence of guns than in their absence.
    Leotards do not contribute to fatality. Guns do.

  83. The math suggests lowering the speed limit to 60 could save ten thousand people a year. Strictly enforcing the limit via traffic cameras or radar detectors could save another 10K. Yet there is no serious outrage and no public movement agitating for these twenty thousand lives. We col-bloodedly accept that risk as the price of doing business in modern society at the pace and with the freedom from scrutiny we find most convenient. Cars sure as Hell up the incidence of fatality. Why are guns different?

    I ask this, by the way, utterly non rhetorically, because I have lost too many acquaintances to crashes. Crashes and cancer are the leading causes of death for folks I know, way ahead of their time. Better traffic control regulation is a pet passion of mine. I explain this because otherwise I see the car parallel treated as a sophist posture, an empty hypothetical, and I want to be clear that isn’t the case here.

  84. Matt:Because most people are really bad at evaluating security decisions. Fear of airplanes is more prevalent than fear of autos even though autos are wildly more dangerous.

  85. Steve H, apparently you haven’t seen “Killer Clowns from Outer Space.” ;>)

    It still gets down to you, in your lofty wisdom, have deemed that others should not have guns because of your analysis. Stick to saying that guns make you uncomfortable.

    If we use the argument of potential for harm, we would outlaw lots of things. Cars, motorcycles, chainsaws, smoking, alcohol, personal airplanes, ladders, ropes, knives, machetes, axes, etc. They can all cause death or harm to others, especially when not used appropriately. You choose to focus on guns because you feel that guns are scary, risky and of little real use. This is your personal perspective and that is fine for you. But you want to impose that on others.

    It gets down to you imposing restrictions on others because of what makes you feel uncomfortable. That is the bottom line. No different than the GOP with preventing abortion and birth control. You don’t like it, so make it illegal.

  86. Steve H, you are right about people’s inability to properly assess odds and risks.

    With cars, it is often not thought of as a risk (making it a higher risk). I have raced motorcycles, driven in road rallies, driven in very bad weather, so I am aware of the limitations of a person’s control. But all you need do is view some U-tube to see people killing themselves because they were unaware of bad possibilities.

  87. @Matt Doyle: “Cars sure as Hell up the incidence of fatality. Why are guns different?”

    Are you asking this as an exercise in logic? I can show there are some differences, and then the question becomes whether those differences are important.

    But in practice the important thing is that they are very different in the public imagination. A car is a tool whose purpose is to transport you places. People occasionally make mistakes that get somebody killed, and those are almost always mistakes. There’s the occasional suicide by car, and the very occasional use of cars as weapons — typically as a complicated conspiracy, maybe by agents of some government, since it’s hard to arrange that a particular victim be available to hit with a car. But many people believe that most guns are intended primarily to kill people. (Although I believe that most guns are intended to intimidate people.)

    So it’s like cars have a good purpose and accidents are an issue, but gun deaths are the purpose they are intended for in the first place. To some people that means there is no redeeming value to guns. But to others that purpose is just fine.

    It doesn’t matter whether this is true. What matters is that a large number of voters believe it. They push for gun control because getting rid of guns is the only effective way to prevent gun deaths, and they do not see that gun deaths are justified. Then when they can’t get rid of guns they push for ineffective substitutes because they have to settle for what they can get.

    The important difference between guns and cars in their minds is that cars have a legitimate use and killing people is an unfortunate side effect, while guns are intended only to kill people in the first place and have no legitimate use.

    The fundamental argument is about who should have the right to shoot people. The public disagrees about that. They are deadlocked and I expect nothing much will happen on that front until public opinion changes.

  88. @Steve Halter: “I don’t think J Thomas is saying he actually wants people to be pointing guns at each other but rather that his perception is that most people have a vague idea that a gun is a magic wand that will protect them (through intimidation) if they wave it around at people. Given that, he is saying (I think), those people should at least be trained in the proper waving about of guns.”

    Yes, that’s almost exactly what I’m saying! The only difference is that rather than a vague idea most people have, I say it is a WISH and a HOPE that large numbers of gun owners have. I claim that most gun owners don’t own guns because they hope to kill somebody. They own guns because they hope to stop somebody from doing something they don’t want. I give them the benefit of the doubt, I say almost all of them know that they might actually have to kill somebody. But the hope is that they can use their guns to keep something terrible from happening.

    “If that is the conclusion, I would disagree and say that rather (if there have to be guns), then people should have to pass an extensive safety course before they are allowed to have them.”

    I don’t exactly disagree with you. An extensive safety course would be a good thing. It might be good to require it of everybody who buys a gun. It might be good to teach it in the high schools along with driver’s ed and sex ed.

    However, if the safety course mostly tells them not to use guns the way they in fact intend to use guns, it will not work. They will learn the officially approved words and will say them when prompted, and then when circumstances arrive they will do what they bought the guns for.

    How effective is it to have a course that tells teens not to have sex?

    How effective would it be to have a course that tells voters not to vote for Republicans?

    If you want people not to do something, at a minimum you have to actually convince them of the bad consequences. At a minimum!

  89. @Matt Doyle: “it IS illegal to point a gun at someone without shooting them. It’s called brandishing, and in most states it is a felony.”

    I have the idea it happens a couple million times a year. I could be wrong, my statistics are pretty uncertain. I’ll repeat the reasoning again — gun owners believe they prevent bad things from happening millions of times a year, bad things that would have happened if they didn’t have guns. It’s possible that a lot of the time they believe that bad people backed off just from believing that the gun owners were carrying a concealed weapon. And maybe sometimes they displayed the weapon without actually pointing it at anybody, and that was enough. So my claim is weak. There is a sort of slippery slope to it. If you point a gun at somebody and don’t shoot them, you’re threatening to shoot. If you have a gun in your hand and don’t point it at them, but they know they’re the one you pulled it out for, you’re threatening to point it at them and shoot them. If you’re having a dispute and you show them you have a gun, you’re threatening to draw it and point it at them and shoot them.

    I think it might be a good thing if the “brandishing” laws were enforced effectively. If we convicted even a million people a year of that felony, in ten years it could reduce the number of gun-owning voters by 10 million. That isn’t enough to get gun control but it’s a good start.

    It suggests a technological band-aid. Say we had a cheap effective way to detect gun use. Like, you keep the gun in a holster, and if you draw it, it marks your hand with a dye. If you put your finger inside the trigger guard then it marks it with a different dye. And we already have ways to tell whether you’ve shot a gun recently. Of course in practice there would be complications and expenses and such. But imagine it — if it actually worked right would it help? Any time you draw, or violate the trigger guard, or shoot, you need to explain it to the police. Very likely they accept your explanation if you are a citizen in good standing, but you at least have to explain. Maybe that would reduce how often it happens?

  90. David H:”If we use the argument of potential for harm, we would outlaw lots of things. Cars, motorcycles, chainsaws, smoking, alcohol, personal airplanes, ladders, ropes, knives, machetes, axes, etc. They can all cause death or harm to others, especially when not used appropriately. You choose to focus on guns because you feel that guns are scary, risky and of little real use. This is your personal perspective and that is fine for you. But you want to impose that on others.”

    Yes, I do find guns to be somewhat scary, risky and of little real use. In point of fact, they have only one use–killing things. The secondary use of making people afraid by brandishment derives from the primary use. All of the other things in your list have other actual uses and most have more restrictions on them than guns.
    Most other things whose only purpose is killing also have many restrictions on them.
    Nuclear weapons — illegal for personal use and most state actors.
    Chemical weapons — illegal for personal use and state actors (although some have them anyway)
    Biological weapons — illegal for personal use and state actors (although some have them anyway)
    Explosives — Heavily regulated for personal use. State actors have them abundantly.

    I also find all of the above list scary, risky and of little real use (explosives are useful for demolition purposes). There are, no doubt, many individuals who would like to own many of these and are quite bitter that other people are restraining them. How do you feel about the list David? As near as I can tell, all of your arguments thus far could have any of these substituted in place of guns.

    How do you feel about tighter gun regulations such as better background checks and waiting periods? How about mandatory training? From your list, cars, motorcycles and personal airplanes all require mandatory training and periodic licensing. They have more uses than killing things. Why don’t guns have similar restrictions?

    While I would prefer even more restriction, as Kragar said above, “Some moderate and responsible gun control laws are one small step in the right direction.”

  91. Here’s some food for thought from an article by a criminal defense lawyer who brings up an important thing to keep in mind when talking about any form of gun control. Namely, who will be doing it:

    “Getting back to the gun control debate…. I don’t bother taking a position on any of this because, as much as I might love a lot of the ideas people are throwing around in theory, I know the only mechanism we have for accomplishing any of it is the giant, bureaucratic [justice system].

    Our system is racist. It’s classist. More importantly, expanding its use to involve even more confiscation, something to which it is very poorly suited, makes it worse in every respect. Few things have served to erode our rights more than the loosening of the justice system that’s had to happen to accommodate its increased use as a confiscation tool. It seems the worst cases for our civil liberties for decades have all been to help the government more easily search its citizens for things they aren’t allowed to have, whether it’s drugs, guns, money, or alcohol in their blood. Any massive new criminalization effort would do even more damage.” [<a href="http://mimesislaw.com/fault-lines/why-the-gun-control-conversation-isnt-going-anywhere-productive/10910&quot; target=_blankSource]

  92. J Thomas: “The important difference between guns and cars in their minds is that cars have a legitimate use and killing people is an unfortunate side effect, while guns are intended only to kill people in the first place and have no legitimate use.”

    Serious question–is the argument that firearms ‘have no legitimate use’ meant in the context of an ideal world/society?

  93. L. Raymond:Yes, that brings us back around to the fundamental changes are needed in order to make other changes effective.

  94. Steve H, Guns can be used for other things than killing people. Personal protection, hunting and target practice, for example. So they are not useless. For those of us with a mechanical interest, they are also a very good example of form follows function and can be interesting to analyze even if they are never fired. Of course one need not own a gun to appreciate that. There are some nice videos on U-Tube which explain details of historical weapons.

    As for your scary list, no I don’t feel anybody needs any of those things with the possible exception of the last. My cousin blew a very nice duck pond on some marsh on his farm. Farmers also blow up stumps. I have a stump in my back yard, I’m not stupid enough to want to blow it up. ;>)

    I got gun training in the Boy Scouts, when I was a kid. They don’t seem to do that any more. I agree that everybody who wants to own a gun should have gun training. I wouldn’t be opposed to having a license to buy a gun, where you have to show some minimum competency and pass a written test. The license would be needed to purchase a gun. But that probably is never going to happen.

    Since guns are ubiquitous, I think everyone should be taught gun safety in school. That would also reduce some of the hysteria on both sides of the gun control argument.

    “While I would prefer even more restriction, as Kragar said above, “Some moderate and responsible gun control laws are one small step in the right direction.”” I read that as saying the ultimate goal is NOT gun control or education, but gun elimination.

    So, if the goal is gun elimination, and you try to talk reasonable gun control as a wedge, I can see some gun owners telling you to go f**k off, and rightly so.

    We have reached a point of hysteria in this country, where in some schools any vague representation of a gun (pointing your finger and saying bang) will get you expelled or even put in jail. At the same time they want armed guards walking the halls. This sounds more like prison than school.

  95. Society is evolving, but people’s emotions are not keeping up. People in the city often don’t have the imagination to understand the reality that people in the country live with. And maybe vice versa. What is appropriate for one may not be for the other. Yet we try to get everybody to fit in the same box. It used to be that city people had relatives in the country. Not so much anymore.

    I live in the city, on the edge of the city and have/had farmer relatives. So I can appreciate both environments. But part of the gun “problem” is this difference. People in the nice part of the city telling farmers that they may not own a gun. That is just insane. And most of the anti-gun crowd haven’t a clue how insane this sounds to those in the country.

    My personal opinion is that by focusing only on guns, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The problem of why crazy shit happens. As I said earlier, when I was young, many people had guns, but guns were not considered a problem. What has caught everybody’s attention are things like mass killings, drive-by shootings and suicide bombers. Things where innocent and un-involved people are killed. Because we could be one of those innocents.

    None of the gun control measures will solve those problems. It took 50 years for our government to create an environment where some people would rather die violently than to continue on. Or in which the only power that they feel they have is by having a gun. Or in which our government does false flag operations to keep people in fear and justify their budgets.

    We are an empire where the government feels that they create “reality”, which serves the purposes of big money rather than the people.

  96. David H:I didn’t say killing people, I said killing things and as a corollary scaring things. If you want to target practice at an approved target range, I’m fine with that. You can watch all the YouTube videos you want, of course.
    I grew up on a farm and understand farmers very well, thank you. Less than 2% of the population are farmers, by the way.
    I don’t want armed guards or teachers or students in schools. That’s the NRA and various congressmen you are thinking of, not anyone here.

    There are, of course, bigger problems related to the base socio-economic problems inherent in a late stage capitalist society. If we manage to avoid a dead planet, post-apocalyptic hell hole, or perpetual fascist police state and emerge into a post-capitalist society in which class distinctions, poverty, health issues and other problems have been removed, then there would again seem to be very little need for firearms beyond an occasional hobbyist.

  97. I shouldn’t have limited it to farmers. All rural people is the group.

    Yes, the capitalist economic model is collapsing as we watch. But focusing on capitalism as the fault, is focusing on the tool of the elite ultra rich, not on the people who are causing the problem. It is possible to use capitalism in a benign manner, and it was pretty much in the 50s. The forever war, empire, austerity, neoliberal, neoconservative, corporatocracy, world bank groups are trying to strangle people. As long as you allow them to hide behind their organizations, they will continue their theft.

    They wave the red cape in front of you and you attack the cape. You need to attack the Matador. Once the .1% realize that they are vulnerable, things might change. Nah.

  98. David H:OK, I grew up on a farm in a rural area–I understand both quite well. In case you hadn’t noticed, first you assumed I wasn’t married as I couldn’t possibly understand women. Then you assumed I couldn’t possibly understand rural people and I must have only ever talked with city people. All your assumptions have been incorrect. You might want to mull that over.

    Capitalism isn’t the tool–it is the framework in which the wealth of the ultra rich holds its shape. Take away that framework and the very term ultra rich becomes meaningless.

    Many in the .1% think they are very vulnerable–hence the various reactionary processes we see being instituted and promulgated.

  99. Well, you don’t understand women, sorry. You don’t seem to understand walking in the woods, or bears or the effectivity of shotguns. Maybe you are just argumentative?

    It is unclear what your position is about rural people being justified in owning guns. That remains a mystery. Though you do like to talk down to people who disagree with you. I talked about city people not understanding rural people, not you specifically. Though your arguments sound like a purely middle class city person regarding guns.

    Everything someone else says is a “hypothetical”, but your hypotheticals are reality.

    You have trouble discerning the symptom from the disease. These big money people are comfortable in nearly all political systems. Greed is everywhere. So you think a socialist or communist political society will solve that problem all by itself? Dream on.

    Please expand on what “reactionary processes” are going on that makes you think the .1% feel personally vulnerable and how it benefits them? There is austerity, but that is backfiring and making them more vulnerable.

  100. If you look at economic history, lately the uber people have gotten something like 80% of all financial gains. Trouble is that the rest of the people are actually losing ground when you count inflation. But that wasn’t enough for the super-wealthy.

    Rather than simply allowing people to do the best they could, the oligarchs have interfered deliberately to try to prevent things like living wages and social security. The austerity movement makes that worse and basically says that the banks get all the money before anybody else.

    The Middle-East is (predictabley) a fucked up mess of our creation. It harks back to after WWI and WWII when the Arab lands were divided up by the British into nations with built in internal conflicts (to keep them weak). I guess the US and Briton felt it was time to invade and do a smash and grab on resources. We know how well that turned out. Now the Mideast is destabilized and it is spreading.

    The oligarchs are hoping that they can buy up resources at 10 cents on the dollar after causing collapses. You can call that capitalism, but it would happen under any political system you impose. Which is why I am saying we need to look at the bigger picture.

  101. David H:If you could give me an example of the talking down, that could be useful.

    The non understanding of females argument seems to be “My wife wanted a gun–therefore all women want guns.” I asserted that the gun did not necessarily make her safer. Therefore I don’t understand any women. Is that the gist there? I’ll also note that you might want to look up the word hysteria–you use it a lot and arguing that you have a full understanding of women while doing that may not be the best approach.

    I have walked in many woods. In fact, I have been shot at by hunters while I was walking in the woods. I was in a state park at the time and it seemed to me to be reasonable to expect to not be shot at.
    —–
    I am all for looking at the bigger picture. The bigger picture I would look at does not include oligarchs and would prevent the growth of such rubbish.

  102. Steve H, your talking down is more in the manner of your arguments and little off hand comments suggesting that people who disagree with you are stupid. I suggest you read your own posts and see if you can see what I am talking about.

    Re women, that is one way of looking at it, but it wasn’t. The point was that a mother, nearly any mother, will become viscous in defending her babies (lots of examples exist). Maybe some mothers could use a baseball bat effectively, many could not (such as my wife). Still, you want to dictate the method by which a mother is allowed to protect her children in her own house. That shows a lack of understanding of women in my mind.

    Hysteria: “exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people.”the mass hysteria that characterizes the week before Christmas”.”

    It would be sexist to think the term hysteria only applies to women.

    “Please expand on what “reactionary processes” are going on that makes you think the .1% feel personally vulnerable and how it benefits them? There is austerity, but that is backfiring and making them more vulnerable.” Would you please reply.

    Also, what is your position on rural people being able to own guns? You seem to like to argue rather than answer questions.

    “Capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

    True enough. But that means that the farmer selling his wheat is a capitalist as he does it for profit. In fact, nearly everybody works to make a profit even if all he is selling is his labor. So where does it stop being the individual trying to make a living and become “Capitalism” with a capital C? Eliminating the profit motive does not seem to work very well.

    Maybe it is cutting it a bit fine, but it seems that the runaway corporatism in this country, while tied to capitalism, is the primary source of problems. We have given corporations super human powers (NAFTA, corporate donations and bribery, mergers), which they promptly abused. If the corporate superpowers were taken away, that would help a lot.

    International banking is another problem. In some ways, they exist outside any political system and don’t seem to be answerable to anybody. They are corporations and operate under the profit motive, so I guess that makes them capitalists (own capital). But they act more like sovereign countries that play by their own rules. Countries are afraid to hold these banks responsible because nearly all countries owe these banks more money than they can pay back*. So if you could magically turn the US into a socialist state, this would have little effect on the banks. You could default on the bank debt, which would affect the value of the dollar. That might be worth the pain.

    *Plus countries use these banks to launder dirty money. It would be very embarrassing if the banks exposed the dirty laundry.

  103. @Corcoran “Serious question–is the argument that firearms ‘have no legitimate use’ meant in the context of an ideal world/society?”

    It’s in the context of an esthetic judgement. Not mine, I’m trying to channel people who think that we can and should much-reduce the number of guns the public owns.

    I say that the primary use for guns is to intimidate people, and the secondary use for guns is to shoot people who are not properly intimidated. When you are stopping people from doing awful things they shouldn’t, that’s a plus. When you are stopping people from doing things they have every right to do, it’s a minus.

    When I imagine an alternative, it comes out like this — you wear a camera system. There’s a video camera facing wherever you look, and one that faces behind you, and maybe one to each side and up and down. When your heartrate gets fast or you say so, it uploads what it sees now plus a stream heading back in time right then. So if something happens to the cameras as much as possible of the video gets out anyway.

    Then if anything happens that the legal system gets interested in, the judge and jury get to see what you saw and hear what you heard. They get a sense about who did the wrong things.

    This is not exactly a substitute for guns. It won’t stop people from doing bad things. But if people who do bad things can expect to face consequences later, that’s better than killing somebody in the hope that you will be the only witness to report what happened.

    The alternative we have to shooting each other is taking our disputes to court and getting justice. I complain about our “justice”, but still that is the alternative. If we had cheap ways to get reliable video when it mattered, then we could get better justice than depending only on human witnesses etc.

    People are less likely to commit crimes when they think they can’t get away with it, than when they think they can win by being the first to pull out a gun, or by being the quickest draw.

    If I have that I don’t so much mind you having a gun. If you pull a gun on me and the court will not think you’re justified, you don’t win by it. If you shoot me and they think you shouldn’t that’s still very bad for me, but you don’t get away clean. We all have an incentive to be civil and explain our stands clearly, knowing it might show up in court. If we both have guns and there’s one survivor, that one gets a fair trial. I hope.

    It doesn’t help poor people because poor people don’t get fair trials. It isn’t perfect at all. but it’s our alternative to the extent we have one.

  104. @David Hajicek “So, if the goal is gun elimination, and you try to talk reasonable gun control as a wedge, I can see some gun owners telling you to go f**k off, and rightly so.”

    I know I’m asking a lot, but I want people to go along with what’s right even if their enemies want to use it as a stepping-stone to stuff that’s wrong.

    If reasonable gun control is the right thing to do, then do it. Then when people want something unreasonable oppose them.

    If you have to oppose your enemy on everything, even when they’re right, it weakens you in the long run.

    Cooperate with them when they’re right and fight them when they’re wrong. That way we get to have a society and not just a perpetual war.

  105. @David Hajicek “My personal opinion is that by focusing only on guns, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The problem of why crazy shit happens.”

    This is central. Thank you.

  106. J Thomas: I’m willing to go along with some gun control laws. I’ve said that all along.

    The point is that if one is being disingenuous and the other person knows it, they don’t want to waste their time on considering your opinion as you have disqualified yourself from rational discussion.

  107. Here’s an interesting article on Brexit, by Matt Tabbi.

    http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/37708-focus-the-reaction-to-brexit-is-the-reason-brexit-happened

    This caught my eye as appropriate to this discussion:
    “As a rule, people resent being saved from themselves. And if you think depriving people of their right to make mistakes makes sense, you probably never had respect for their right to make decisions at all.”

  108. David H:I don’t think that people who disagree with me are stupid, but by definition I think they are wrong (otherwise we would be in agreement).
    I think you are overgeneralizing women and underestimating their intelligence. I also think that you should read a bit more on the history of the word hysteria. I know a number of women who strongly object to its use. I don’t generalize this to all women.

    I think I have been very consistent and clear on my personal desire with respect to guns. I would like to see them largely eliminated. I’ve said that a few times here. Of course, that seems to be unlikely without a number of changes, so I have also mentioned some short term compromises I would be willing to be happy with. You may not agree with this, but I have been clear, I believe.

    Austerity is a terrible idea, of course. You can’t shrink your way out of a monetary crisis. Wild amounts of evidence supports this.

    One example of a reactionary stance by the .1% is their use of police forces by proxy. The police often act to suppress elements of the public who threaten those they see (either directly or indirectly) as their masters. This is instead of acting to “Serve and Protect” the public as a whole as an often used motto would imply they should be doing. We have seen a lot of this behavior recently.

    As for banks, a traditional method of dealing with that problem is to seize and nationalize them. “All your assets are belong to us”, so to speak. There are a number of levels and approaches that this can be done at. Completely, allow small local banks, etc.
    In history, we can see repeatedly that eventually the oligarchs push too far and the public rises up against them (see the French Revolution as an example of what happens to the oligarchs). Unfortunately, the cycle then repeats. What would be useful is a method for breaking out of this cycle. A few have been proposed.

    As to the full nature of Capitalism and eliminating the profit motive, I’ll refer you to a few years worth of discussion here.

  109. “The point is that if one is being disingenuous and the other person knows it, they don’t want to waste their time on considering your opinion as you have disqualified yourself from rational discussion.”

    If your side is strong enough that you can ignore the people with another point of view, then I guess that’s fine.

    I find myself continually discussing things with people who have hidden agendas and secret strategies. It just comes with the territory when you discuss politics. So I try to change the context to something that they ought to agree with if they actually believe what they say they do, but that doesn’t fit their hidden goal, and they get upset.

    Their getting upset doesn’t have to come from their secret goals, though. They could just be upset that they are trying to discuss practical politics and reach a consensus about real issues, while I bring up irrelevant ideas that cannot get a consensus and that people don’t want anyway.

  110. Steve H, I am aware of the origin of the word hysteria, as describing a “female problem.” But as my reference shows, that is not how the word is used today. So stop going for a “gotcha.”

    When this discussion started, I missed the part where you said, “I am against guns and all of them should be eliminated.” That would have simplified the discussion rather than my having to figure out by your saying gun control is a good start, you meant you were pretty much totally against guns.

    Well, let’s seize the banks and nationalize them. Even if it amounted to writing off all the national debt, that would be worthwhile. It worked for Iceland.

    If I were a bank, I would find a way to instantly transfer all my assets to a different branch which you could not touch. I suspect international banks have some kind of action plan. It is possible that some large banks actually have little in the way of assets other than the debts that they are owed. Any banking experts out there?

    J Thomas: Strength doesn’t matter. It is a matter of emotion. For a lot of people, once you are on their shit list, you stay on the list. I think a lot of anti-gun people have burned bridges this way. I know I don’t like hidden agendas. But you are right to say most politics is run this way.

  111. David H:I see the source of confusion–it was in the preceding post I mentioned that I see no need for guns. I don’t typically restate all my belief systems each time.
    On the word hysteria, I wanted to make sure you knew that some people find it offensive. Now I know that you are aware it is offensive.

    On banks hiding their money, I’ll mention that you are thinking too locally. At the end of a successful revamping of society there won’t be any place for them to go. Note Trotsky on the need for permanent and moving revolution.

  112. @David Hajicek: “If I were a bank, I would find a way to instantly transfer all my assets to a different branch which you could not touch. I suspect international banks have some kind of action plan. It is possible that some large banks actually have little in the way of assets other than the debts that they are owed.”

    I’m not exactly an expert, but I could play one on TV.

    Here’s a quick recap of old-style banking:

    The bank has reserves in the form of, say, gold coins. Mostly people don’t withdraw many coins, and when some people withdraw coins others will deposit about the same amount. So most of the time it doesn’t matter how many coins the bank actually has.

    The bank can lend coins to people who will pay them back. They leave their coins in the bank. They write checks, and when the checks get deposited the bank changes its records to say the new person owns those coins and not the old person. The bank records can easily have 20 times as many gold dollars as it actually has gold. But everybody’s happy. There’s plenty of money in circulation, and most of it is loans that will be paid off at interest.

    Rarely there was some incident where people lost faith in their bank and tried to withdraw their money all at once. Only the first 5% could get their money and the rest had none. Great hardship. The government tried to make rules to regulate banking, like they decided a bank should not owe more than 5 times as many gold coins as it actually had, so it would be less likely to run into problems.

    Here’s new-style banking:

    Banks no longer have reserves. They keep enough cash on hand to dole it out to people who want cash. Officially they have deposits in the form of T-bonds that they can collect interest on, which they can keep with the Fed. They don’t need reserves because any time people want to withdraw a lot of money, the Fed can lend the bank all the money it needs.

    It used to be, a bank could lend the gold coins it had on hand, and lend them over and over. Now it can still lend its deposits but that’s kind of unimportant. When a bank wants to make a loan, the Fed will lend them the money and they tack on their additional interest. They don’t really need deposits, it’s just something left over from the old days.

    People talk like the Fed gets its money by accepting deposits from banks, and then it lends banks money just like banks lend to their customers. So it can have some multiple of the amount the banks deposited with it. A banker’s bank. But there is no necessary relationship between the amount of money the banks officially deposit with the Fed and the amount the Fed lends. Nobody gets to audit the Fed’s books. It can create as much money as it wants out of nothing and lend it out.

    The Fed is not there to maximise the Fed’s profits, though. The Fed is there to regulate the money supply, independent of political influence. They intend to keep inflation within reasonable bounds. So when the economy is expanding they lend enough money to keep prices from rising, and then when the economy contracts they retire loans to keep prices from falling. Or something like that. They have multiple goals and they have to choose among them. They set interest rates and also they can choose to lend less money without raising the rate. They can’t lend more than banks want to borrow, though.

    Sometimes when the Treasury wants to sell bonds and nobody wants to buy at a decent price, the Fed steps in and buys. I’m not sure anybody knows how much of the federal deficit is owned by the Fed.

    So banks basicly lend as much money as they think is safe, up to the limit the Fed wants. All the money is owed by somebody to banks. Every dollar in circulation started out as a bank loan, and then the debtor spent it, and it circulates. Banks have tremendous power because they are the ones who decide who gets loans and who doesn’t, and businesses that have lots of capital can generally outcompete businesses that don’t. At least until the loans come due. But a bank that makes too many bad loans will go under. The Fed will come in and distribute its liabilities (customer deposits) and its assets (loans that they hope will be paid) to successful banks that can withstand the burden of cleaning up after the failure. Perhaps sometimes the successful banks get special favors for doing that. It seems plausible.

    As I understand it, all the bank records are supposed to be backed up by the federal government. During the Cold War there was a concern that an EMP blast could destroy banking records and leave everybody unclear who owned what. They built an installation under a mountain in central Virginia to store all the bank records, so that after a nuclear war we would know who owned what. (Seriously. I’m not joking.)

    If banks tried to hide their money, the records are right there to catch them. It’s only a small matter of complexity. It wouldn’t take much to prove that bankers had done wrong and jail them provided they did not escape the country.

  113. Maybe the bigger problem is shadow banks. The banking concept works for lots of things other than banks.

    So for example, if you are a stock market broker, your customers leave their stocks with you, and your computer system tells them how much stock they own. You can sell their stock any time you want to, and buy it back later. If you’re good at playing the market you have a whole lot of stock to play with. If you’re sure you know what you’re doing, you can sell short. You see a bunch of fools bidding up a stock price, so you sell them as much stock as they want at the going rate. Then you start selling more than they want at falling prices, and they get worried and sell, and you buy it back cheap. It’s exactly what banks do, but with stock.

    If you sell gold to speculators, they leave the gold with you while they wait to sell it. You can sell their gold yourself if you think you can buy it back again. You can buy and sell lots of gold that only exists in people’s imagination, provided too many people don’t try to cash in. But gold speculators mostly never cash in their gold for inflating money, not until they are going broke and have to. They know it’s the best investment they can make. So every month you send them updates about how much their gold is worth now, and they’re happy.

    Any time you are supposedly keeping a warehouse full of stuff waiting for the time people need it, you can keep just enough to satisfy the immediate needs and sell the rest. Then if there’s a shortage and people need your stored stuff you have to try to find some for sale which is a pain and might drive you bankrupt. But until then you’re profitable.

    Any organization that people leave their money with can act as an unchartered, unregulated bank. Some of them get regulated some, and others don’t. In theory they should be audited by accounting firms that will announce there is a problem if it doesn’t add up. Get by that and you’re golden.

    A lot of the time it could be argued that what is being bought and sold is risk. But the customers don’t actually know how risky the deal is. You might not know that yourself. It’s a living for awhile.

  114. J Thomas:Thanks I should have mentioned that aspect also but the Trotsky refernce was too sweet to pass up and I was cooking supper. For more information along these lines, see bank leverage (decent article: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100880857) and money multiplier (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_multiplier).

  115. J Thomas: Thank you for the explanation about banks. Pretty much what I expected.

    Steve H: I didn’t realize that the banks were leveraged so much.

    So the banks probably don’t have much (if any) assets. They probably cheat on the reserve amounts too.

    Hysterical is offensive only when applied to women as it harks back to the bad old days and the GOP.

    You trot out Trotsky (I like that) as if that explains everything. Just another attempt at a zinger.

    So we break into the vault at the world bank and find there is no gold (or a trivial amount). But as I said, erasing the national debt to the banks would be a good thing.

  116. The Trotsky reference is relevant in that it is necessary to reform everything.

    The national debt isn’t a particularly big deal. Right now (with interest at essentially zero) would be an excellent time to spend on infrastructure.

  117. You’re right about the national debt. So why the huge push for austerity? All I can figure is that the banks want economic collapse so they can buy assets cheap. Also the debt is used as an excuse to cut social programs while giving more money to the already wealthy.

    Hoping to get everything to reform sounds like wishful thinking unless you are talking a continued process of reform (like Sanders). It took 50 years to make this mess. It is going to take a while to clean it up.

  118. Austerity derives from the narrative of the right. It goes like this. The poor (people or countries) are poor because they are lazy and they are immoral. They need to work harder and be punished for their immorality. Hence, we should not provide support. If they were hard working and pure of heart, then they will become rich like me. I am hard working and pure of heart and I am rich–see how everything is wonderful. Further, we can get some economists to show some graphs that show how our methods will work wonderfully.
    There are a great many problems with this. The root assumption is false. There is no evidence the poor are either lazy or immoral–they’re just poor. Usually poverty springs from the crime of being born poor or falling prey to random circumstances. Being rich springs from being born rich or being the recipient of a number of fortunate random outcomes. There are many hard working poor people and there are many lazy rich people.
    When you mix/mistake economic circumstances for a morality play, things don’t happen as you expect.

  119. Everything is a continual process–until a large discontinuous change takes place. At that point we have to see where we are on the other side. The increasing rate of technological change coupled with negative drivers such as climate change and income disparity are poising us for a number of potential discontinuous events. What will they be and when will they be. That part is impossible to predict with precision.

  120. Steve H: Good summary. Here’s an article talking about Brexit. It talks about the working people being fed up with elite corporate policies that are robbing them. Also about how the elites haven’t a clue why the vote went against their interests. Something like 72% of voters turned out for this vote.

    http://www.nationalmemo.com/brexit-vote-shocking-global-elites/?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sd&utm_medium=email

    The refugees are disrupting Europe pretty well. Yeah, the shit could hit the fan at any time.

  121. “So why the huge push for austerity?”

    This has multiple answers depending on who wants it. Here’s another long explanation.

    People used to observe a “business cycle”. Sometimes the economy boomed and other times it was hard to find jobs. They believed the economy consisted of many feedback loops that were supposed to regulate things. Why didn’t the feedback loops stabilize it all on a steady keel? Why the ups and downs?

    They believed that since there were feedback loops the feedback loops ought to optimize the economy. They made up stories to explain how each inexplicable event they saw was the economy being somehow optimized. But really, feedback loops usually settle into limit cycles. They don’t approach an optimum, they orbit around it. This is obvious when you consider predator-prey cycles. The theory is that the predators limit the number of prey, and lack of prey limits the number or predators. But often they show giant booms and busts. You can’t expect random feedback systems to optimize what you want to optimize.

    I don’t know how the old-style feedback systems worked. People guess. Here’s one possibility — the amount of money in circulation was determined by the banks who created virtual money. When people wanted to invest, banks lent out the money to do it. But at some point they lacked reserves to lend more, and they tried to lend more anyway. Banks started failing, and when they did people lost money. Suddenly there was not enough money in circulation to maintain the amount of business that was happening, and it all unraveled.

    Here’s a second story. Bankers and others kept investing in new businesses and new kinds of businesses, hoping to profit. But at some point they noticed that there just weren’t any good business opportunities left. Everything they looked at, they could expect to lose money on. So they stopped investing in new business. But they don’t consume with the money they used to invest. If anything they consume more because they know to live off the interest and not spend away their capital. But the economy depended on them investing, a fraction of the economy was devoted to starting new businesses. When they threw those people out of work it started a chain of un-growth which spread.

    Here’s a third story. A growing economy will eventually hit a limit. For example if they have to keep hiring more people, eventually there will be nobody left who’s worth hiring. Employers have to try to hire away good workers from each other at increasing wages, but for every good worker hired away there’s one lost who must be replaced…. The growth stalls. And then it goes negative. Similarly if they use all the available oil, or whatever they need that’s in shortest supply.

    There’s no reason to expect feedback systems which happen by accident to accidentally optimize anything you want them to. They will create a degree of random feedback.

    But many people, particularly economists, had a religious belief that the economy had to optimize what they wanted it to. So they came up with theories. For example, it can take a long time for a marginal business to fail. In the meantime it uses up resources — labor and materials etc — which could be put to better use. In a depression it will fail fast, and then those resources are freed up for the surviving businesses to use. So it’s optimal to have occasional depressions. This doesn’t really make sense. In a boom when the value of a critical resource gets high, the marginal businesses can’t compete for that resource and will fail and the resources they use will be immediately sent to better uses. In steady growth it makes sense for the marginal comic book store manager to go get a better job, because there are better jobs. In an optimal steady-state system, marginal businesses would be removed at an optimal rate.

    Sorry to go on about that. But this is one of the explanations for austerity. Back when people couldn’t do anything about it, they created a myth that times of austerity were good for us. They came to believe that if austerity gets put off it will inevitably come hit us even harder when it can’t be put off any more. Debts must be paid. And people who believe that have some influence.

    More later.

  122. A second reason for austerity. There really are some limited resources. The amount of platinum for sale in the world is strictly limited. It’s a by-product of other mining, Similarly with all the rare earth metals. Gold is exceptional — there’s almost unlimited demand because people think of it as a security blanket. So it’s profitable to mine gold when the ore has less than one ounce of gold per ton. This is not a rational use of resources, but people aren’t rational about what they want to buy.

    If the economy depends on a limited resource, then the economy can’t grow any faster than the rate that resource can be obtained. If there isn’t enough of that resource to go around, somebody will have austerity. Do we pinch everybody equally, or do some get it worse? Silly question. Who gets it worse? How about the people who owe money and can’t pay it back? Say for example foreign governments that owe money and can’t pay it back….

    This dates back to the old days. Say you were a banker, you got the big bucks because you were good at picking who to lend money to, you instinctively knew who could pay it back. But then things went wrong and a lot of people couldn’t pay back the money. So you owed it. You aren’t going to make a lot of loans until you’ve recovered your losses. Luckily interest rates are high. You pick only the very best debtors to lend to at high rates, and eventually you make up the losses, and then you can start the economy growing again. Somebody owes you for your losses, and why should you let the economy grow until you’ve been paid back?

    Anyway if you lend people money and they lose it and then you lend them more, it’s a moral hazard. You don’t want them to think they can just keep borrowing and not pay it back.

    Wouldn’t it be better if you let them do profitable work so they could pay you back faster? Sure, but when there’s only so much profitable work to go around, you’re better off lending to the businesses that are proven successes. If you prop up failing companies to compete with them, it only drives down profits for everybody and more of them can’t pay you back.

    So there’s two more angles. When the economy is limited, let your friends run the businesses and make money and not just anybody, particularly people who have failed before. And second, punish people who fail, or else people won’t try hard.

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