What Would Liberals Do?

Note: This post is part of our League Symposium on Guns In America. You can read the introductory post for the Symposium here. To see a list of all posts in the Symposium so far, click here.

by Phillip H.

When the Newtown , Connecticut school shootings occurred, I went through a series of stages, sort of akin to grief.  First there was shock mixed with grief then a resorting to my own faith tradition to see what my real call to initial action might be.  At that point I put aside my virtual pen, as there seemed to be a flood of posts coming forth on the shooting, the topic of gun violence, and how our Nation should respond.

Over the holidays, I went to the Bob and Rocco Gun Show in Green Bay, WI with my father in-law.  He’s a gun owner and formerly active hunter and target shooter, but is now mostly a collector of ammunition and artifacts – his sarcoidosis has diminished his lung capacity, so he doesn’t shoot much anymore.  I went as much to people watch and eavesdrop as anything, but one encounter there perfectly sums up my life experience as a liberal, employed-by-the-federal-government gun owner and shooting sports enthusiast.

Several private citizens – all apparently NRA members – were circulating in the hall asking voters to sign petitions for a Milwaukee politician to get on the next state ballot for an education position.  Not being a Wisconsin registered voter, I didn’t pay much attention to their pitch.  As my FIL was being pitched, the lady doing the pitch turned to me and asked if I would sign.  I politely declined by saying I wasn’t a Wisconsin registered voter, so she wouldn’t benefit if I did.

Then she asked where I was from, and I said “Washington DC.”  That’s the answer I give when folks not terribly familiar with Capitol Geography ask such a question – it’s easier then saying I live two blocks into Maryland from DC on the Southeast corner of the diamond.  She asked what I was doing there and I replied visiting family.    She asked me what I did – prefacing the question with “I guess you’re there for work?” and when I told her I was a federal scientists, she stopped.  Cold.   And Speechless.  Apparently it had not occurred to her that a federal anything would be casually walking the halls of the Green Bay gun show.  Ever.  Sadly, we never got to my views on much – she began to rattle off the standard far right talking points about “Obama’s Deathcare” scooped up her materials, and left.

While this story is not about guns per se, it does illustrate what I think is the central conundrum at the heart of our gun debate.  There are reasonable voices on both sides of the aisle. Dennis Saunders told us  in his post how his position on guns has evolved over the years, primarily because he keeps bumping into these people.  Yet for all the reasonable people who are trying to make some sense of this tragedy, trying to fit it into a solid context, and trying to move forward on policy issues that lower violence while helping those who may, truly, need help – there are still too many people on both sides of the gun ownership issue like this woman.  People who never contemplated meeting the “opposition” face to face; never believed their opponents could be ordinary, reasonable, and rational; and thus never really thought through the conclusions of their ideology.  All they do is bury their heads in talking points from others, never taking the time to decide anything for themselves.

So what are such folks on both sides ignoring?

  • The last federal Assault Weapons Ban didn’t work, if you know how to read between the lines of scientific studies.  As a trained scientists and science policy manager, I know how to do so, and it frustrates me to no end that the hard statistics on these weapons and their use get so little accurate play in the media.  So the notion that we can enact gun bans for sales going forward and make a dent in violent gun based crimes is being solidly refuted.
  • The weapons most commonly called assault weapons are designated based on looks more so than functionality.  While in Green Bay my FIL gifted me with a Stevenson model 954 .22 caliber rifle.  It’s an unusual gun, in that it has a scope, a laser sight, and a flashlight all mounted to a rail assembly above the barrel.  It also has a 15 round magazine in it.  Based on the initial read of the current bill being proposed by Sen. Feinstein of California my new to me .22 is an assault weapon.  And while it could probably kill a person if used very carefully I would be hard pressed to see a situation where that would actually occur.
  • Part of the reason the last ban failed was because it didn’t remove existing weapons from the streets, and the current proposed ban wouldn’t do so either.  If we’re not taking them off the street, what’s the point of banning new ones?
  • Our culture has grown away from being one where guns were universally owners, universally taught, and universally respected.  I know many well educated folks who’ve never actually held a firearm, which makes me wonder how they think they know which ones should and shouldn’t be used by others.  With that loss of cultural awareness, the rise of gun based gang violence, inner city murder, and school shootings as vivid, but extremely improbable, threats has been all too easy.
  • While firearms ownership is a Constitutionally protected right, both it and our other rights are and can be circumscribed by all sorts of laws.  The right to free speech which allows me to bang out these words is constrained by libel and slander law, and the right to peaceably assemble is proscribed by laws requiring demonstration permits.  That aside, the Founding Fathers wanted citizens to own weapons for defense of the new nation (and wanted to know who had guns who might still have British sympathies and thus constitute a threat).  Since private citizens no longer need to physically defend America against invaders foreign and domestic (our armies and police have that thankless job), one can safely assume the Fathers would have been open to adjusting the relationship between guns and society.

All that said, the Newtown shootings have not moved my liberal gun control meter all that much.  I still think that gun ownership needs to be federally regulated (since it’s a federal right); I think there needs to be strict enforcement of the existing gun laws; I think we need to close the gun show loophole.  I also believe that ownership of semiautomatic rifles designed for tactical situations (regardless of styling) should be a separate class of firearms licensing, one that requires additional fees, a more thorough federal background check, instruction and initial proficiency testing, and periodic requalification and background re-checks.  I think liability insurance riders for homeowners with guns should be mandatory, and I strongly support a federal  framework for concealed carry (again with a license or tax fee and extensive training and proficiency testing).

But that lady in Green bay doesn’t know all this about me, and likely it never crossed her mind to ask.  Instead, she is probably still trying to reconcile how a federal bureaucrat – an enemy of America if ever there was one – came to be looking at Sig Sauer pistols and eating brauts in her Midwestern gun show.

A note to Readers:

The views expressed in this blog are my own. They do NOT represent the views, opinions or policy directions of ANY government agency or non-profit I have worked for or currently work for. As such, don’t write your Congressman when you and I disagree.

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228 thoughts on “What Would Liberals Do?

  1. I’ve been curious about something that keeps getting repeated throughout the symposium: The federal ban on assault rifles did not work, and therefore no gun control measures are really worth it. This seems to be taken as a given, but it makes little sense to my risk-manger brain.

    Since for whatever reason car fatalities have become the today’s gun-right’s standard bearer, I’ll use that:

    When we decided in the mid-80s that drunk driving deaths were unnecessary, we began tinkering at laws and policies to see if we might make a difference. We began testing for actual alcohol levels in the blood stream and making certain scores a felony, regardless of whether or not an accident had occurred or a life had been taken. We began to hold bars financially liable for the state of intoxication their customers showed when they left their establishments. WE created huge, multi-million dollar awareness campaigns. We came up with the idea of the “designated driver” and attempted to make it “cool.” We made a tremendously high number of arrests; in the 19902, 1 out of every 10 arrests was form a riving and alcohol related infraction. We did hundreds of things, none of which would have had the slightest impact on their own; every step we took we had to massage and tinker with over, and over again when we found it wasn’t working right. And today, people still get behind the wheel of a car, drunk as a skunk, and kill people.

    And yet I don’t think you’d find anyone that would say that our efforts have been a failure, that they didn’t work. Since 1990, drunk-driving deaths have decreased from 15,000 a year to 10,000 a year, despite the fact that both our population and number of cars on the road have actually increased. I can take any one single measure we used to decrease these deaths and make a compelling case based on statistics that that one thing didn’t do squat. (And, for that matter, I can easily make a “Cars/bars/alcohol don’t kill people…” argument.) But to what degree is it really a failure?

    So we passed an assault gun ban that was highly flawed, compromised and didn’t by itself magically fix the problem of gun violence in America. Why is our answer to that observation that we should never, ever try to curtail gun violence again through legislation, instead of wondering how we might make our efforts more effective?

    With all due respect to gun owners and gun rights folk, the difference between the success of drunk driving deaths vs. gun violence deaths is that for whatever reason, we all decided that drunk driving deaths were worth addressing. We can’t seem to get to that place with gun violence deaths.

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    • Tod:

      Careful, drunk driving *deaths* going down doesn’t mean we have less drunk driving.

      Disclaimer: this is fuzzy remembering, as I didn’t read it through carefully recently… but… ff you look at the non-drinking related fatalities in accidents, I think you’ll find a map paralleling the drop in drinking-related fatalities in accidents, nationwide.

      You’ll also find that the arrest numbers for DUIs have been (spitballing) going up slightly, at least in California, but most of that may be explained by population growth (http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/about/profile/rd/r_d_report/Section_5/S5-236.pdf).

      I put those two together, and I think most of the reduction in drinking-related accidents has come from equipment improvements, not a reduction in drunken driving. Because we still have plenty of drunken driving.

      I think it’s pretty likely that the airbag did more to reduce DUI fatalities than anything done by MADD.

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        • But regular Tod would say that of course we still have drunk driving; I said as much in my comment. In fact, like guns with 60-round mags you can make the argument that the vast number of people that drink and drive never, ever kill anybody. And yet we still don’t consider a 35% reduction in fatalities a “failure.”

          Also, and I am totally going on personal observation here since I worked in a bar in the mid-80s, but my sense is that people driving drunk doesn’t mean the same today as it did in 1983. I never see *anyone* leave a bar in the condition most people left our bar back then.

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          • The point about the difference in “being drunk” is a really good one, though.

            0.15% and 0.08% are two different critters. There’s no way to tell how many of those drunk driving numbers are at what level of inebriation from this report. It could very well be that we have as many drunk drivers now as we did in 1990, but they’re **way** less drunk when they drive. On average.

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            • Are you asserting that the presence of safety equipment makes it more likely that people will drive like dumbasses? Or that they’ll survive an accident and drive like dumbasses again?

              (I think both are kind of a stretch)

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                • There’s also pretty easy to refute with basic psychology research.

                  The problem with automobiles, generally, is that people very quickly subsume them into their non-crisis brain, and operate them by pattern matching.

                  This makes it hard for them to move into “something is wrong mode”.

                  One of the things that makes, for example, piloting a plane different from driving a car is that you hammer, hammer, hammer all the time on your paranoia meter, to keep that “something is wrong mode” part of your brain activated.

                  You typically don’t do that when you drive, especially if you drive a routine commute every day.

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              • Neither actually. Our safety regs needlessly weigh down cars, which make them less maneuverable. And it means that more fuel-efficient cars can’t be sold in this country.
                If you get into a high speed collision, you’re up against physics. That’s a bad position to be in.
                Europe has much better regs, because they don’t try and save people who are stupid.

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    • Tod – the problem isn’t new gun regulation as a general concept. It’s the AWB specificaly. A new AWB is both unneccessary and guaranteed to be ineffective. The problem is that gun-control advocated lead with that which, in the minds of most gun owners, labeled them out-of-touch (exactly the same as the NRA’s nutty proposal).

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      • Mike, I love ya, but I’m going to call BS here.

        Can you really think of any gun regulation – any, any at all – that wouldn’t be fought tooth and nail, under the banner of a fight against tyranny and the next Hitler, by the GOP? Because I seriously can’t think of one so innocuous and unobtrusive that it would get a lick of bipartisan support.

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        • Tod,

          I believe they just said on MSNBC this morning that polling shows majority support among gun owners for universal registration (looking for the link now). Of course, yes, the NRA will be a pain. Ignore them. I so very much wish that Biden had met with Ducks Unlimited instead of the NRA.

          Yes, there’s a knee-jerk reaction to any proposals for new regulations. But there’s good reason for that. The AWB is deeply flawed. The 50% tax proposed in CT is designed to reduce gun ownership. Etc.

          Look, normally I don’t ever like the idea of having to walk on eggshells when proposing policy and when people say that gun owners need to get over it, I understand their frustration. But in this case, I think that the gun control crowd needs to be very careful. Biden just recently said the President might use an executive order if Congress doesn’t do something about guns. That kind of language is guaranteed to cause problems on my side.

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          • I agree with you about the executive order; it will make things worse by far.

            You might be right that gun owners will rise to create their own self-limitting regulation, and that the GOP will rally around their bill. But it’s going to be one of those things I will wait to believe when I actually see it.

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          • Biden just recently said the President might use an executive order if Congress doesn’t do something about guns.

            Not this bit of garbage echoing around the right wing radiosphere and blogosphere today again… that sound you heard is my frustrated forehead hitting the desk for the umpteenth time.

            LINK

            Even without action by Congress, Obama could issue orders to improve background checks on gun buyers, ban certain gun imports and bolster oversight of dealers. Other executive orders could improve information sharing among law enforcement authorities about illegal gun purchases, and maintain data on gun sales for longer periods.

            Stronger background check system. Better oversight on dealers to help crack down on straw purchases. Information sharing so the FBI and ATF are on the same page faster, longer data retention to identify patterns to look for straw purchase behavior.

            THIS is what the right wing have their panties in a wad over, screaming “Obama’s gonna use an executive order to take our guns away.”

            Radio this morning was virtually unlistenable thanks to this nonsense. It’s Sailing Away To Irrelevance behavior, a complete lie made of whole cloth repeated for the sake of working the unthinking but credulous into a frothing lather of anger.

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            • Better oversight on dealers to help crack down on straw purchases.

              Bwuhahaha… It Eric Holder and the ATF who were forcing gun stores to sell assault rifles to known straw purchasers. Congress voted unanimously to make them stop, but apparently the White House feels unfettered by Congress and will insist on arming drug cartels via executive order.

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              • You should read this.

                For all the whining over “Fast & Furious”, itself really a program started under Bush that was called “Wide Receiver” at the time, there’s been so much lying and misreporting by the right wing that nobody from that side would recognize a real fact any more.

                This is the problem. The gun debate is now filled with the same sort of lies and propaganda nonsense that the right wing have been up to the entire first term of Obama, desperate to find “the big scandal that will take him down.” It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, they’ll make stuff up out of whole cloth and just keep repeating the lie. In right wing radio land, the fact that real media outlets that do things like fact-check and that actually are accountable if they print or say something untruthful aren’t “covering the story” isn’t proof that they are madder than a march hare, it’s “proof of a coverup.”

                It’s downright embarassing to our nation.

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                • Wait, so Holder didn’t do that? Or it’s okay that Obama did it because Bush did it too?

                  Given Obama, I have no idea why the left hated Bush so much.
                  Given Bush, I have no idea why the right hates Obama.

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                  • Fast and Furious was spun as some byzantine plot by Obama to seize people’s guns (if not outright treason), when in fact it was identical to activities going back to Bush. Who, presumably, did not commit treason and want to take your guns.

                    Which leaves gun-nuts both whining about Fast and Furious as the heavy hand of the liberal gun-grabbing, gun-hating, gun-controlling Obama while ignoring the fact that the whole affair was just a continuation of Bush policies.

                    It’s a perfect example of how a given policy was entirely unobjectionable (or at least not really worthy of much thought) until a Democrat did it, when it became a Plot to Seize All The Guns.

                    (Which goes back to the “No matter how sensible or widely accepted, the moment a Democrat proposes it it becomes Beyond the Pale” thought on Democrats, gun-control, the NRA, and camel’s noses. Or anything really, but guns in this case).

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                  • No — Holder “didn’t do that”. If you’d bothered to hear about the final report, everyone in the Justice Department lower than Holder was guilty of something, but the independent review board cleared Holder of all wrong-doing.

                    From the first, “Fast and Furious” struck me as as much of a scandal as”!!BENGHAZI!!”, except that Issa didn’t have a chance to expose an undercover agent.

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              • Fast and Furious was like Wide Receiver, except that Wide Receiver was designed to actually catch and prosecute gun traffickers, whereas there wasn’t even a method by which F&F could catch one even in theory. Wide Receiver also didn’t allow a single gun to make it across the border, whereas F&F flooded Mexico with thousands of guns going directly into the hands of drug cartels.

                A few weeks ago the Mexicans recovered a firearm personally owned by the second in command of the ATF Phoenix office, which was not only illegal in Mexico, but illegal for anyone in the US aside from law enforcement or the military to own or possess. He claimed he sold it on the Internet. He also violated federal law by lying about his address on the forms the rest of us peons are required to fill out.

                So, other than Fast and Furious having what seems to be the exact opposite intent and effect of Wide Receiver, it’s exactly the same…

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                • Wide Receiver as a precursor to Fast and Furious is hilariously foolish spin. Not only did F&F suffer the failures you note, but its the existence, and termination, of Wide Receiver as a massive failure that makes the initiation of F&F so odd.

                  Basically, the Feds tried X, and it failed. So then they came back and made a half-hearted attempt to, sort of, do X???? Really? That’s industrial grade incompetence right there.

                  Unless, of course, it wasn’t.

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          • And it begs the question of how “universal gun registration” would do anything to reduce homicides, since criminals don’t register their guns and a registered gun is just as deadly as any other. That would be like trying to eliminate drunk driving deaths by demanding universal car registration – which we’ve always had.

            Gun owners know that since registration is absolutely useless as a way to reduce any type of crime, the only reason people would advocate for it is if they had another goal entirely, something that would be easier with universal registration, something that has often followed gun registrations, which is a big gun round-up.

            The other little snag is that collecting personal information on gun ownership is illegal under Obamacare. ^_^

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    • Good points Tod, I’m constantly frustrated by the way people treat “regulation” as if it was some kind of generic substance you can apply to a society like it was cement or something. I see this both in pro and anti regulation people.

      Pro regulators often feel they don’t need to describe precisely what they want to regulate, resorting instead to “do something” rhetoric. Anti regulators just as often assume that if one regulation won’t work then no regulation can work.

      Let us not speak of “regulation”, instead let’s talk about what we want to regulate and then debate the merits of that specifically.

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        • I believe that most gun owners support the idea in the abstract; I am less than convinced they would support any particular piece of legislation that restricted their ability to freely and quickly purchase the firearms of their choice.

          I could be wrong, of course. But I’ll bet you a beer that if you took any proposal made by a pro-gun activist to restrict the sale of fire arms in any way, once it got to whatever state or fed legislative body it would be opposed by the NRA and the GOP, and the only way it would pass would be if it were so watered down in compromise as to make it meaningless.

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        • Mike, the other day I was thinking about making a set of dies for the quick production of 20-round AR-15 magazines, having heard what they’re currently selling for and that the supply lines are drying up (right now it’s like a license to print money). So I started to wade into a 243-page PDF of current BATF regulations to see what kind of license I would need, if any, since machining a couple dies to make them would be trivially simple.

          What I learned during that long, long wade through federal firearm regulations was that my housemate’s girlfriend may or may not be his intimate partner, and that a good lawyer could probably argue it either way. If she doesn’t currently meet the BATF requirements for an intimate partner, does she meet other federal intimate-partner definitions, and which definition would be controlling?

          Under federal firearms regulations, Britney Spears is the intimate partner of Jason Alexander, and OJ Simpson was quite possibly the intimate partner of both Kato Kaelin and Nichole Brown. I may have been intimate partners with a couple of my college roommates, and I didn’t even suspect anything!

          Also odd is that I build a chain-gun driven by an electric motor and a laptop battery, it’s not technically a semi-automatic weapon, because semi-automatic weapons have to be cycled by using some of the energy from the spent cartridge to cycle the mechanism.

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              • Totally arbitrary! I need one of those attached to my car in case some crazed russian spy carrying stolen nukular secrets goes past me on the highway! The cops and FBI and CIA aren’t going to catch guys like that themselves you know!

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              • Shaz, this… this isn’t helping. Let’s not run everything through the reducto machine, okay?

                I think it’s more than fair to assume Mike is talking about firearms that weren’t covered by the 1934 National Firearms Act

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                • But he ihas said in other threads that we shouldn’t distinguish between .50 cal anti-material (and also perfect for assasinations) rifles and hunting rifles or between semi-automatic weapons that hold a magazine of 20+ and weapons that do not.

                  Just to be clear, why do you think it is absurd to allow people (say members of the Michigan Militia) to buy 30mm Vulcan cannon, style Gatling guns. (NB: The reasons that you give may or may not be universalized to other weapons.)

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                  • I don’t think it’s completely absurd to allow people to buy a lot of things, Shaz, but I would contest that it’s also well within the legitimate power of the community to make reasonable demands upon those potential owners, and “reasonable demands” rapidly scales outside of most private ownership models for a lot of things.

                    I mean, technically, we have private ownership of dirty bomb material. The San Onofre nuclear power plant isn’t owned by the government, it’s owned by Southern California Edison. However, because of the nature of the thing, the government has the authority to crawl up SoCal Edison’s hind end with a flashlight on a routine basis. I think this is a reasonable balance between the public’s protection against externalities and not having the government own everything.

                    If you have an appropriate Federal Firearms License, you *can* own a .50 cal or a 30mm Vulcan or a 105 mm howitzer, for that matter. A flamethrower, a tank, you name it. No nuclear weapons or biological weapons, but as far as I know, those are the only things actually on the “verboten” list.

                    As a private citizen! Unless your locality has specific rules forbidding it. You need to demonstrate that you can store and secure the items and the BATF gets to crawl up your ass with a flashlight on a routine basis.

                    I know a guy in Montana who owns tanks, albeit with the guns disabled, and he doesn’t even need an FFL for that. Operational tanks and everything. They’re all displayed in a museum, but they work, and he’s the sole owner and proprietor.

                    Attempting to reducto “your premise means vulcan cannons being available to the general public” doesn’t work when vulcan cannons are already available to the general public. It’s just that the fiscal and administrative barriers to owning them means very few people own them.

                    Now, I think that’s perfectly fine, but I don’t think there is a credible, substantive societal burden to be shown for private small arms ownership that isn’t vastly outstripped by a whole bunch of other things that we allow that are arguably a hell of a lot more burdensome on society in general.

                    So, I generally probably agree with you in principle, but we disagree about what constitutes a sufficient burden on the overall society such that they can butt their noses in the private affairs of citizens.

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                    • All that is a way of saying that you agree that some things are so powerful in their ability to kill many people quickly, that they should be banned from the general public and only allowed for ownership in cases where the individual obtains an appropriately difficult-to-obtain license.

                      So it is and should be with many things, including anti-materiel rifles, 30mm cannons, chemical weapons and biological agents of various sorts, etc., etc.

                      Why don’t guns with a magazine over 20 belong in this category?

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                    • The most commonly used weapon in the commission of crimes is the 9mm, often a semi-auto pistol such as the Hi-Point 9mm, with an eight shot mag. There are lots of odd little 9mm and .38 pistols out there. They account for the overwhelming majority of gun crimes.

                      But .223 Bushmaster has a growing fan club in the mass shooter demographic. Let’s not play little statistical games with these mass shootings. Stalin once said a single death was a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic. There really is no hiding behind the statistics of the Bushmaster and its growing popularity in Crazytown.

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                    • Why don’t guns with a magazine over 20 belong in this category?

                      Make an affirmative case that they do.

                      I really don’t think that they do. On the other hand, like I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think that banning magazines over 20 rounds represents a burden on gun owners, either. On the gripping hand, anybody that wants a 35 round magazine can make on in their garage a lot easier than they can make bombs or booby traps, and most serial/spree killers are perfectly capable of this level of construction… so if somebody wants a high capacity magazine to fulfill whatever strategy-specific oddball mass killing scenario they come up with in their twisted little noggin, they’re going to be able to do so trivially.

                      So I don’t see this as doing anything other than criminalizing a largely cosmetic feature, at very little practical increase in safety.

                      Well, okay, that’s a little silly, but it’s far less silly than most of the other things that we do with our government and it’s possible… very unlikely, but possible… that in the next major spree killing this has an effect, because some nut’s homebrew magazine jams or he has to stop shooting people to reload and that moment is when there are enough people within close enough distance who aren’t wounded yet and have the presence of mind to rush the guy and maybe…. maybe… this has a chance of thwarting a death count by a couple of people. (Of course, he might just pack two guns, drop the assault rifle, and start plugging away with the pistol at that point, too).

                      On the fourth hand, outlawing high-capacity magazines will result in a very expensive buyback program (unless you’re going to say that the government isn’t going to recompense current owners, a tactic which which I’m totally *not* okay), and depending upon how illegal you make them, will result in a lot of magazine owners either being guilty of a misdemeanor (I’m okay with that) or a felony (I’m totally not okay with that).

                      This is just a mess. But again, it’s a relatively low-level mess on the liberty front and it’s very unlikely to make the next mass killing worse, either, so what the hell, I’ll give you really tepid support.

                      But I really can’t understand why this is such a huge deal for the anti-gun crowd, except for making them feel like they’re “doing something”. So, yeah, you can have it, but if you’re taking it just because you want a victory of sorts I suggest rethinking what it is you’re counting as a victory and why. If you’re taking it because you actually think it’s going to make a difference I’d suggest that you’re wildly optimistic and you best be careful, because when this happens again (and it will happen again) you’re now stuck with… doing what?

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              • It’s conflict escalation 101. The cops arm up to protect themselves from a civilian population that keeps arming up.

                And the civilian argument is that they need more weapons to oppose the cops!

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      • Pro regulators often feel they don’t need to describe precisely what they want to regulate, resorting instead to “do something” rhetoric. Anti regulators just as often assume that if one regulation won’t work then no regulation can work.

        This brought to mind a comment I read at Russel’s blog the other day, a parent dealing with a kid who’s got a drug problem,, in her words, WHAT CAN I DO WHEN MY SON IS CURRENTLY STONED OUT OF HIS MIND?!?!?

        Just imagine, for a moment, that you’re the parent of this kid. You try one thing. If it doesn’t work, do you stop trying? It may backfire, making the drug abuse problem worse. So do you give up? Or do you study the problem, seek advice, and try something else?

        How is gun violence any different? As a liberal, when I look to regulation, I’m looking to change the climate of the problem. I realize I’m probably not going to make it go away, but as in drunk-driving deaths, I might be able to bend the curve down a bit. And I understand the risks of making things worse exist. But you try; and you evaluate, and then you adjust and try something else.

        All regulation has unintended consequences. Doing nothing has unintended consequences, too. I really reject the notion that trying and getting it wrong is bad; trying and getting it wrong and then giving up is bad.

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        • All regulation has unintended consequences. Doing nothing has unintended consequences, too. I really reject the notion that trying and getting it wrong is bad; trying and getting it wrong and then giving up is bad.

          Megh; trying and getting it wrong is bad, but it’s as bad as all that in all cases… if you learn something from it and try something better the next time around.

          A measured approach to public policy can be more loosey-goosey than medical practice. “First, do no harm” is important when your “harm” is “maybe we just killed this guy”.

          When “harm” is “oh, that didn’t work and we cost a segment of our population an unfair amount of money”, you can fix both of those things.

          As long as you fix both of those things before moving on, I’m okay with that.

          On both sides of the aisle, though, “full speed ahead” seems to be the default approach to a legislative victory. “Get as much ground as we can, now that we’ve opened the gate”. That sort of thing.

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          • But the problem you’re describing — On both sides of the aisle, though, “full speed ahead” seems to be the default approach to a legislative victory. “Get as much ground as we can, now that we’ve opened the gate”. That sort of thing. — is a problem of dysfunctional legislation; a problem of sides battling instead of deliberating. It’s not a that regulation is necessarily good or bad, but that two sides abuse the process.

            It’s within our power to change that.

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            • It’s not a that regulation is necessarily good or bad, but that two sides abuse the process.

              Hi-yup.

              It’s within our power to change that.

              I’m not convinced, but I’m giving it the old college try. It’s a windmill worth tilting at, that’s for certain.

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              • I have noticed in my state’s workers safety regulations, the best work is actually done by (gasp!) bureaucrats.

                In Oregon, the two parties take ridiculous extreme stances on any kind of regulation proposal, and nothing good ever happens. And then behind the scenes, bureaucrats meet with labor and industry safety people, who all have the same objectives in terms of wanting people to be safe but not make things a mess with red tape, and they quickly work something out that’s usually pretty effective. In fact, the only time things get really fished up is when the people’s representatives get directly involved.

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                • This is one reason why I’m kind of irritated that the two batches of groups getting invites to the White House over the guns thing are “The Brady Campaign” (and the like) and “The NRA” (and the like).

                  How about “the public policy research community”? Or “representatives from each state’s bureau of statistics”. You know, since Obama gave stump speeches about wanting to craft policy based upon science and all.

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                  • Tod & Patrick,

                    What a remarkable exchange. Thank you.

                    I spent a lot of time researching and writing about the paper industry; and discovered a regulator and industry working together to manage a highly polluting process that results in a very valuable commodity. They did not view each other as enemies, but as part of the team working to do great good with minimal harm.

                    And I was really disappointed in that research to discover an environmental community that viewed this as suspect, that actually repeatedly lied to me about numbers and status of things, in an ongoing effort to gin up contributions and outrage necessary to fund their important work.

                    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our lives depend on government research and information and numbers. Collecting information, comprehending that information, and making it available to the public goes unappreciated. Yet without that collection and study, we live and make decisions in a dark age of ignorance. At the end of the day, bureaucrats are often the real heros that help make our lives better.

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                    • That actually repeatedly lied to me about numbers and status of things, in an ongoing effort to gin up contributions and outrage necessary to fund their important work.

                      The lying part is bad. More of a pervasive problem is the obfuscation… that gets to me. It’s incredibly easy to see what you want to see. Advocacy groups are hotbeds of confirmation bias; they seize upon the reports that they like and downplay the ones that they don’t (or they never see them in the first place). They make a lot of the errors that James K talked about in this most excellent post.

                      This doesn’t make them necessarily nefarious; it’s perfectly normal behavior in an advocacy group, and to be expected. And, in some ways, it’s okay in our public policy debates because people don’t know about research unless it’s publicized. I just wish it was more properly publicized. But even that’s not an agenda thing, it’s a problem with the way science is reported in the media (which is a worn out drum I keep beating, but hey…)

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                  • Generally I think these sorts of people are already within the federal agencies doing that sort of work. It’s actually been one of those underreported facts that the Obama Administration’s hiring practices for federal bureaucratic jobs has been a substantial improvement.

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        • Zic,

          I am a big fan of experimenting, but with some important caveats…

          1) the experiment needs to be temporary and reversible if not successful. Thus it needs to be positioned as a potential solution with a limited lifespan which can be renewed if and only if it meets the predisclosed level of cost/benefit. Too many regulations are permanent and virtually irreversible.

          2) experiments need to be careful about who gets the feedback. It is dangerous to build experiments where the party making the decision is different than the one feeling the good and bad effects. See mortgage crisis for examples. fathers can be trusted to experiment with rehabilitations of their sons partly because they tend to love their sons. Bureaucrats rarely love their test subjects.

          3) the experiments need to have benchmarks and controls. Thus they should be done locally in an organized fashion where those receiving the regulation are clearly comparable to those not receiving.

          Agreed?

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          • In principal, perhaps. But I do have some concerns.

            First, I think setting out objectives is good; but in evaluating the cost/benefits, those objectives should be set aside while the evaluation is done, and then the results compared to the desired outcomes. That we we understand better the gains and the losses, which are often unrelated to our initial objectives.

            Second, I seriously dislike the bigotry of Bureaucrats rarely love their test subjects. That’s so loaded, it presumes something of people simply because they work for government. I’ve worked with (and was) a bureaucrat, I’ve interviewed hundreds of bureaucrats. And the presumption in you statement has very little to do with the people I’ve known. It’s every bit as bad as suggesting all libertarians hate authority figures or are anarchists.

            Third, I absolutely agree with the notion of bench marks and controls. I disagree that they should be done locally, but rather, they should be done in a manner that provides the data necessary to actually evaluate; sometimes, that might be local, others not. My biggest complaint about government is that in the efforts to minimize its cost burden, we shortchange gathering data and evaluating and revamping what doesn’t work because it’s expensive to do that.

            I agree full heartedly that adopting a law and leaving it on the books forever is bad policy. But sunsetting laws without review is also bad. And failing to renew good policy because it’s politically convenient for making points is also bad policy.

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            • Zic,

              Lots of areas of agreement then.

              On the bureaucrat topic, I am not sure why the emotional rejection of what is pretty clearly a true statement. Officials and administrators do not love their subjects like a father loves a son. This isn’t a startling revelation or a subtle dig. It is an undisputed, yet important, truth which if properly acknowledged can lead to important ramifications in good experimentation. Namely, when an experiment divides those who benefit from those paying the cost and or those making the decision, you are establishing a situation that is open to exploitation and “rent seeking.”

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            • Second, I seriously dislike the bigotry of Bureaucrats rarely love their test subjects.

              I think he was saying that bureaucrats don’t love their test subject the same way that fathers love their sons. They don’t have the same vested interest.

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          • The most sensible route to experimenting is to start with a spectrum analysis, using a technique I’ve always called Draining the Lake.

            Take a universe of ten problems. Which occurs most frequently? There’s benefit in looking at that problem first: mostly because it gives you the most data. We can look at causality: we can prevent crime by putting a cop close to where it’s most likely to occur, given that data. That’s how NYC attenuated a good deal of violent crime. It wasn’t an experiment. It was application of statistics and probability. Solve the most glaring problem first. Drain the lake, one problem at a time.

            The NRA has waged open warfare on the collection of data. They already know it’s a problem of perception: if actual, peer-reviewed statistics were presented, they know they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

            So what’s the point of experimenting at this point? There’s no consensus on how to drain the lake. While all this obfuscation continues, there will be no consensus.

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            • This is a pretty good example of how good information to evaluate policy, and how it’s implemented into programs, can produce better results:

              http://www.npr.org/2012/10/02/162149431/million-dollar-blocks-map-incarcerations-costs

              “No one had ever actually sat down and gotten the home street address of everyone going into prison and jail, as well as all the background information about their age and their employment status, etc. And when you have all that data, it tells you a lot about what’s going on on the block.

              “When we look at the million-dollar blocks that we mapped almost a decade ago, it’s a highly concentrated group of public housing and smaller apartment housing all grouped together in a very concentrated manner — each of which we were spending more than $1 million a year for.

              “But today when … we see those blocks, things have changed quite a bit. There has been a real investment by the city and the state, and particularly the Department of Probation, to engage with local organizations around the community and strengthen what they’re doing.”

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          • If we applied all of the above to HMOs (which indeed they were created with the idea of being temporary and measured), they would have dead a LONG time back.

            Off topic, but just sayin’.

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    • Well, I’m not sure I like to make this argument, I’m not sure I want to make this argument.
      But… (other than the constitutional reasons)… why not just get rid of handguns?

      They’re poor at everything good that a weapon can do:
      1) Deterrence (use a knife, or fire. this is psyops, remember?)
      2) actually being used defensively. awake, aware of threat, unidirectional… ayiyi.

      Give people something that works!

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      • A sawed off shotgun seems like a lot better home defense weapon than a handgun to me.

        You don’t really have to aim it so much as point it in the general direction and it will stop someone without necessarily killing them.

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      • A sawed off shotgun is illegal (well, you have to pay a tax to saw the barrel down), but I’m pretty sure that a blunderbuss is what you need. Blunderbuss kit – one and a half inch breech, two inch muzzle, and load it with anything you want: tacks, coins, nails, rocks, little Monopoly pieces. You know you want one. ^_^

        In the 1600 or 1700’s it was the go-to home defense weapon. It’s also useful against pirates.

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    • Thanks for this, Tod. That’s one thing about the symposium that sort of bothered me. It seemed like there were several anti-gun control talking points that were just assumed to be gospel truth and hardly anyone saw fit to challenge them. I would have liked to but, frankly, I don’t have the time, resources, or investigative talent to do the kind research necessary to a serious job of it. So instead I wrote up my “personal experience” essay. (Thanks for publishing it, BTW.)

      I’m not convinced that the AWB, setting aside the political difficulties, is actually as silly and pointless as the gun-rights crowd would have us believe. I think it’s telling that LaPierre made a big point of placing blame on the media and culture in general, given that these “assault” weapons are precisely the weapon of choice for both heroes and anti-heroes in the violent movies, tv shows, and video games that he seemed to want to point to as the root of the problem. As if somehow a fictional depiction of these weapons was somehow worse than the actual physical reality of their availability. And then GRA’s would essentially mock GCA’s for wanting to ban these weapons because they were “scary,” as if that isn’t a big part of the appeal of these weapons to a certain crowd.

      I’m left with the impression that one side really, really wants to have them for precisely the same reason that the other side wants to get rid of them.

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      • Rod, so that I understand what you’re saying here:

        And then GRA’s would essentially mock GCA’s for wanting to ban these weapons because they were “scary,” as if that isn’t a big part of the appeal of these weapons to a certain crowd.

        Are you of the mind that, with these scary guns being unavailable, if they were so, that the dangerous people would not choose the less scary-looking gun sitting next to it with the same capabilities? Does making it scary looking actually make it more dangerous? Or do you consider dangerousness to be beside the point?

        What makes me personally uneasy about banning Gun A but not Gun B even though they are not functionally distinct or the functional difference between them is minor, is that the banning of Gun A can then be used as a rationale to ban Gun B. Because how can you oppose banning Gun B when we already have banned Gun A and they are not functionally distinct?

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        • I suspect that I’m older than you, Will. Because I remember a time when America’s gun culture looked and felt a lot different than it does now. I remember when people like our Mike D. more or less defined that culture around hunting and other sport activities.

          It feels different now. A lot more dangerous. A lot more in your face and deliberately provocative. You probably disagree, but then you likely don’t really have the perspective to do so. This seems to have gotten it’s legs starting in the ’80s and has really taken off in the ’90s going forward.

          It all feels like one cross-fertilizing, self-reinforcing… thing in a kind of positive feedback loop. The movies, TV, video games (especially), the militarization of the police, and the rise in popularity of the military style hardware for civilians.

          What I’m saying is that I understand the impetus behind the AWB. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the right answer or that I personally support it. But I do feel like there’s something ugly and dangerous here that as a society we would be wise to short-circuit if we can.

          The gun rights crowd is just in a pearl-clutching panic over the thought of not having access to their favored toys when, as you readily admit, there exist plenty of other weapons that are functionally equivalent. It seems that there is a segment of the gun crowd that is really in love with the “scary” styling and they’re willing to pay premium prices for that “irrelevant” styling. I think it’s worth asking, if it’s so damn irrelevant, then why is that soooo important to them? And is that an indication of something genuinely dangerous in our society?

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          • ” This seems to have gotten it’s legs starting in the ’80s and has really taken off in the ’90s going forward.” The 80’s is about when the Brady campaign took off in earnest, and to many gun owners, the demonization of what until then was a common and normal hobby. The 90’s is when the AWB went into effect, and at that time many gun owners felt they were pushed into a corner.

            ” It seems that there is a segment of the gun crowd that is really in love with the “scary” styling and they’re willing to pay premium prices for that “irrelevant” styling.” Does it become a 1st amendment issue at that point? One man’s Piss Christ and all that…

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          • I hear you, and it’s something that I tried to allude to in other threads about the unique place of gun ownership and usage in America as opposed to other countries that also have guns but not a “gun attitude”.

            I think the NRA taps into this feeling when it sponsors music concerts “to celebraet our values”. The Canadian NRA would never do that, because everyone would look at them and say “Huh?” But obviously there are gun owners in America who can relate to that.

            For these people, does gun ownership imply a feeling of control over their personal space? “I can protect my family and home because I have a gun and anyone who threatens in any way my ownership of a gun is threatening my family and home”? Is that how it works?

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          • Rod,

            I guess I can sort of understand the impulse, but it doesn’t stand up to much mental scrutiny in my mind. It makes me think of violent video games as much as anything. That’s another thing that’s changed a lot in the intervening years, from Duck Hunt to Call of Duty, I think the more recent iterations are tugging at certain impulses more than others. But I think it requires a lot more than that to make something illegal without posing a significant and, to some extent, unique threat.

            (Yeah, a would-be-banned assault weapon can actually kill. But, if we’re letting the thing next to it which can kill with roughly the same efficiency pass, that’s not the reasons we’d be banning it.)

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            • It’s like the legal concept of an “attractive nuisance”. Like there’s nothing wrong with having a pool in your backyard, unless it attracts neighborhood kids who might fall in and drown when you’re not around. Then you have an obligation to put up a fence.

              I believe that the sexy, scary, dangerous-looking styling attracts a certain kind of owner that is more likely to use the thing in an illegal or irresponsible way. Can I prove that hypothesis? No. But it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

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          • You say that our culture “feels…a lot more dangerous” and that we as a society are now dealing with “something ugly and dangerous”. But any claim that new developments or cultural changes are particularly dangerous has to overcome the fact that, as Mr. Kuznicki pointed out earlier in the symposium, the rate of violence has fallen significantly over the last few decades.

            There are, of course, plenty of possible explanations for that, and it’s certainly possible that an unrelated cause (like lead abatement) is causing that drop, and even that that unrelated development is masking the danger of the new gun culture and/or videogames and/or whatever else. Still, forgive me if I ask you for something more than a feeling.

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            • You’re forgiven. As long as I can ask hunters to base their arguments on more than the good “feelings” they get in the woods, and as long as I can ask self-defense types to base their arguments on more than the gun making them “feel” safer despite statistics to the contrary, and as long as I can ask defense-from-tyranny types for more than their “feelings” of paranoia about a government that’s more conservative and friendlier to their sentiments than any I’ve known in my lifetime.

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          • It seems pretty straightforward to me. There are three basic reasons for people to own guns.
            1) Self defense.
            2) Collectors (aka, like stamp collecting. Figure these people are pretty rare — true collectors, not people calling their armory a collection)
            3) Hunting and/or target shooting.

            Collectors will aim for unique, rare, or important guns — the same gun as famous gun X, or rare Gun Y, or unusual feature Z, or historical example W. They might want them in working order, or perhaps settle for disabled versions of others in order to keep them, but the urge is towards uniqueness and personal worth.

            Hunters and target shooters want guns that are designed for hunting or target shooting. Accurate, rugged, easy to maintain, efficient for what they want to do. So standard rifles with limited magazines, shotguns with limited capacity (hunting laws and the notion that you’re a pretty crap hunter if you need 20 bullets to take a deer), or pistols noted for accuracy, comfort for regular and long-term firing, adaptability to your own grip, whatever.

            Self-defense people, well — they want scary guns. They want guns with big bullets, in designs and colors that scream “lethal to humans”. They tend towards guns with descriptions like “military” or “tactical”, or with big, heavy bullets. Because they have guns because they plan to shoot people with them — hence wanting guns that look and feel like what militaries have, because obviously when it comes to killing people, soldiers are where you look not deer hunters. Same general urge for massive calibers over smaller ones, and for bigger and bigger magazines. It’s for DEFENSE, and the last thing they want is a gun that doesn’t put someone down instantly or runs out of bullets. (if it looks scary or intimidating or more threatening, even better. That way bad guys will KNOW how screwed they are. Pyschological comfort, basically, to the owner.)

            Hunters and collectors don’t buy guns with the thought “One day, I’m gonna kill a man with this”. Self-defense buyers, at best, buy with the thought “One day I might have to kill a man with this”. Many, at least in my experience, seem to buy out of fear (generally unwarranted) and paranoia (generally unwarranted) and purchase a very lethal security blanket, designed and sold as a man-killer to people who bought it because they’re very, very certain that sooner or later they’re gonna have to shoot someone.

            Now, if I had to guess — it’s the self-defense people that are the bulk of the problem. Collectors safeguard their collections, hunters and sports shooters tend to be very safety concious (since they’re routinely firing their guns around other people, and not always on a clear range). But self-defenders? They didn’t buy their guns to use regularly. They bought their gun to use “in emergencies” and I suspect for many it’s treated like I treat my first-aid kit. I might carry it around in my car, but it’s not like I routinely recertify with the Red Cross or practice tourniquets.

            They deliberately seek out — and are very deliberately sold — highly efficient weapons for designed for killing people, not deer or quail or putting very accurate holes in paper. They’re sold this by an industry that stokes their fear and paranoid, because it’s great for sales, and that in turn makes for greater and greater demand for more dangerous weapons. Bigger magazines, more stopping power, more lethal. More military. More tactical.

            Because fear sells guns.

            And who can object to ‘self-defense’? (Not me! I’m all for defending yourself against an attacker). Self-defense is a very obvious, very basic concept that pretty much the entire world agrees on. You can and should be able to defend yourself from attack. And that gets twisted up in this whole mess, because to say “Dude, you really don’t need all those guns and you really don’t need giant magazines you’re not a soldier and really, have you seem the stats? You’re more likely to have the phrase “tragic accident” or “suicide” attached to that gun than “self defense”, so maybe you should at least put some thought into this” is apparently to say “You should roll over and die/get raped when the Evil Does Come”.

            Because to them Guns = Self Defense. No Guns = Victim. And the scarier the guns out there, the more scary their guns have to be to protect them.

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            • Morat,

              While you describe the groups pretty well you make the mistake of assuming there is no overlap. A LOT of people who like tactical rifles mainly get them because they are fun to shoot and the self-defense part is a bonus. One of my hunting guns is also the I keep under the bed for intruders. Collectors also target shoot. Not acknowledging that overlap is where gun control folks make their mistake. They assume hunters and target shooters will support a grab for tactical rifles because they don’t use them. Big mistake…

              There are only two things that make tactical rifles specifically dangerous: rate of fire and magazine capacity. So here’s the question: Would you feel safer around someone with a 30-round bolt action or around someone with a 10-round semi-auto?

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              • I’d just go to a range that has those guns and pay to shoot them. (Which I have!). It was far cheaper than buying the gun, after all. Perhaps over my entire life the cost might become more than the gun, but I get to shoot any of their guns I want and I don’t have to care for the things.

                Works out pretty darn well for me.

                Frankly, I don’t think there IS that much overlap. The people I know with guns that aren’t for hunting boil down to two groups: Group A, which tends to have a single handgun gathering dust somewhere (and probably not stored safely) for ‘safety’ — and those people honestly seem to be getting rid of the things — and Group B, who has a collection of handguns, rifles, and shotguns and detailed plans about how they’re gonna defend themselves. (They also tend to have CCW permits).

                Mind you, the absolute biggest proponent of this I know has never been stolen from or assaulted, has never had his house broken into, and lives in a very, very low crime area. (Hint: The biggest crime in the last six months? Sign vandalism by teenagers). Yet he owns at least half a dozen handguns, kept loaded in various parts of his house, and a number or rifles and shotguns, all for ‘home defense’.

                Why? I don’t know. He’s terrified of SOMETHING and he’s got a whole group of similarly armed people that are also similarly terrified. Yet as far as he can tell (I asked) none of them have ever been the victim of a violent crime. He’s not even sure if anyone’s so much as had their car broken into. They all know a guy who knows a guy, though, who defended his wife from rapists or himself from muggers.

                And, like my friend, they’re always focused on their ‘next’ gun. Because what they have is never enough to make them safe.

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                • “Frankly, I don’t think there IS that much overlap. The people I know with guns that aren’t for hunting boil down to two groups…”

                  Obviously we’re both citing anecdotal data here but I probably know 30 shooters and they do not fall neatly into the two categories you mentioned. I’m a perfect example of that as I fit into all three groups.

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                  • You’re quite an outlier in my experience. Perhaps Texas, being the culture it is, is merely in a different place on the curve.

                    However, I know people with a single gun are very different then people with a lot of guns. (And the number with just one is dying. Most just get rid of it, usually when they get a kid. The rest seem to start collecting. I only know of one peer — mid thirties — who has gone from no-gun to gun, and entirely because his new brother-in-law target shoots and it’s something to do together. His gun is kept locked in a case, with ammo stored in a seperate locked container. He does not consider it a self-defense weapon).

                    The people with lots of guns seem to be either hunters — with few to no handguns, mostly bolt action or limited magazine stuff, the kind you’d, you know, hunt with.

                    The rest? Are building an armory to protect themselves from dangers they can never really explain, but are certain exist.

                    I don’t know any hunters with giant collections of self-defense guns, or any of the self-defense guys who hunt. Neither of them seem to be collectors for collector’s sake (although I suppose one hunter counts, because part of his inherited collection is antique or replica stuff from his father.)

                    There seems to be a clear split between “I use my guns to hunt” and “I’ve gotta protect myself” and, well, the hunters DO hunt. And the protect themselves people live in nice neighborhoods with no crime, for the most part.

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                    • Mike’s from Kentucky.

                      For the record, I suspect that this is highly geographically distributed. I hear far more tales of “I’m surrounded by really borderline crazy gun people” from friends in certain geographical areas, and less in others.

                      Sometimes, the boundary is pretty small. Most of Montana has a lot of guns, but most of the people who are tagged as “borderline crazy” aren’t your average Montanan.

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                    • *shrug*. It’s a bit different in more rural areas. More hunters, for one. And frankly most people with a rifle and experience shooting it really don’t bother collecting a lot of guns for ‘self-defense’ because if their shotgun or deer rifle doesn’t do it, they’re screwed anyways.

                      Most of the, well, crazies seem to be from the suburbs. Or moved OUT to rural areas with their entire gun collection, again out of fear.

                      Which is really weird is you can see how drastically crime rates have dropped over the last 20 years, and yet people seem far more afraid.

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                    • Morat20,
                      I’m not sure but that some of these folks aren’t living in fear so much as anticipation. What I mean is they’re not afraid of an intruder so much as eagerly looking forward to having an excuse to shoot someone.

                      I’m beginning to think the only people who really should be trusted with a CC permit are those that really don’t want one in particular but need one for their job or something. Sort of the same way I feel about politicians.

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            • +1.

              And that gets twisted up in this whole mess, because to say “Dude, you really don’t need all those guns and you really don’t need giant magazines you’re not a soldier and really, have you seem the stats? You’re more likely to have the phrase “tragic accident” or “suicide” attached to that gun than “self defense”, so maybe you should at least put some thought into this” is apparently to say “You should roll over and die/get raped when the Evil Does Come”.

              A friend of mine (army veteran with some PTSD issues, not 100% the sort of person I think should have weapons in arm’s reach for other reasons but…) is this way.

              We’ve had the arguments over sane restrictions an a friend brought up limiting semi-auto handguns to small magazines. He countered with a 5-minute tirade about “my rights”, “what if I have to defend myself”, and a conjectured scenario that involved 15 people breaking into his suburban household at 3 AM and his needing to singlehandedly kill them all.

              There’s been one reported burglary in his neighborhood in the past decade and it turned out to be a neighbor’s kid trying to get inside to bone his girlfriend without her parents finding out.

              I like my friend, he’s a really good person most of the time, but there are times you just want to say to these people’s face that they are NUTS.

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              • The guy I know with the biggest gun collection? Kinda practical guy. Doesn’t keep a gun on the property. Has only one gun in the state. Pays someone to keep track of the rest of ’em.

                He’ll tell you stories that’ll make your hair white, though. He’s been through a lot, and his friends through worse (armed civil wars…)

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        • You’re correct: banning/restricting semi-auto Gun A will lead in all probability to a ban/restrict on semi-auto Gun B. My question might be: what’s the problem with banning/restricting both of them? Yesterday we had yet another school shootup, this time with a 12 gauge shotgun. The shooter got off two rounds: one hit and one miss. The shooter’s pockets were full of shells.

          Notice what’s different between this story and the Sandy Hook story. Two shots, not hundreds. Pockets full of shells, not magazines. There are semi-automatic shotguns but this incident doesn’t seem to feature one.

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          • The other thing in this story: the shooter wasn’t “stopped by a good guy with a gun.” He was stopped by caring and empathetic school administrators who talked a disturbed, bullied youth down from the ledge of suicide.

            The NRA are a bunch of gun-happy bastards who’d rather shoot kids than solve the issues that harm kids.

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          • Yesterday’s incident was different from Sandy Hook for another reason. The shooter admitted that he was targeting only two students, and did not intend to shoot anyone else.

            I recall reading an article yesterday quoting the teacher who talked the shooter down. He relayed that the shooter said something along the lines of , “I wasn’t aiming for you, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

            There is a distinct difference in the mentality and actions of a shooter who is interested in an indiscriminate body count (Sandy Hook), or a shooter who is targeting a specific individual.

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            • The first sitreps are always wrong. I said so when the Sandy Hook shooting went down and I was right then. This kid has just been captured, probably hasn’t even been arraigned yet. Let’s not indulge in hearsay and speculation around here. But let’s just moot the proposition this kid was only after a few bullies. Let’s also moot the proposition that this kid was understood to be a danger to others.

              In the domain of mass shootings, semi-automatic weapons have figured large. But it’s these same semi-auto weapons which figure large in the commission of garden-variety crimes such as rapes and robberies and non-mass-murders. Any attempt to manila-folder all these crimes into separate little categories is pretty much nonsense.

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                • I wouldn’t put words in the NRA’s mouth, not while they’re uttering all this nonsense just now. When your enemy is shooting himself in the foot, keep hauling in the ammunition, I say.

                  My guess is, the NRA will keep real quiet about this incident: how did that kid get that shotgun? That’s not a question they want to answer just now.

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                  • “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Those aren’t putting words in their mouth, those are the NRA’s own words from their press conference.

                    And yet, in this case, the thing that stopped the bad guy was… a good guy armed with words but no gun.

                    The NRA have their heads up their collective neolithic rear ends.

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                    • Oh sure. Let them go on babbling and frothing. They’ve run out of credibility, even among legit gun owners. There comes a time, as with when Welch cut Joe McCarthy down to size:

                      “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness …Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

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                    • “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

                      See, this is where the NRA just flat out loses the PR war. I read the sentence and think that goes the other way, too, right? It depends on how a person defines “good” and “bad”. But the sentence is also vacuous, until those terms are defined. I mean, the opposite is just as true: that the only thing that stops a good guy with a gun is a bad guy with a gun. It’s just nonsense, really.

                      But that sentence captures exactly the sentiment of the Patriot community, and explains why they think they need unrestricted access to guns. Cuz they’re the good guys. By definition!

                      I mean, it’s effing vacuous.

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                    • Patrick, the claim is that the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. For you to understand the sentence as implying anything about spree killers means you’re doing a lot of interpretative work. Work that isn’t justified by anything implied by the claim.

                      But as usual, you missed my point completely. My point was that the terms “good guy” and “bad guy” aren’t objectively defined. I mean, everyone subjectively believes there a good guy, right? That they’re actions are subjectively justified? So all the sentence means is that if a person with a gun is doing stuff you don’t like, then the only way to stop them – from doing stuff you don’t like – is with a gun.

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                    • I don’t find it terribly difficult to infer what they mean by “good guy” and “bad guy” without the aid of a diagram. You can do it a couple of ways, I guess, but I have no trouble discerning what they mean. I think it takes more mental gymnastics not to.

                      Patrick makes a better point, which is that the comment is factually wrong. I might even say that MA has a point, for once, that it’s a dangerous attitude. But it’s only vacuous if you really want it to be.

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                    • Blue:

                      The issue goes back to basic social contract theory. The reason why the state of nature is bad is not just because people will selfishly use violence to take advantage of others. The real danger is people using violence to do what they believe is the right thing to do. The state of nature arises even when people are morally motivated and conscientious. So, because people are flawed reasoners and have imperfect information, if everyone insists on fully exercising their “right” to use violence for ends that they think are morally justified*, life will tend to become nasty brutish and short. Any solution to the war of all against all in a situation where there is a vast plurality of moral conceptions is going to curtail this right for at least some people to some extent.

                      *This includes self defence. In fact, it especially includes self defence. As a purely conceptual matter, even the minimal state involves a regulation of people’s exercising of their rights to self defence. My point is not to defend the minimal state, but to point out one of the basic implications. Any situation in which people enjoy an unconstrained right to self defence can be described as anarachy. Now, we may from this say that anarchy is justified, but if we don’t want to say this, then we have to say that the right to self defence is not absolute. i.e. the formation of the state (even a just one) is going to involve giving up some self defence in favour of mutual defence.

                      None of this needs to involve taking away people’s guns. However, there is a plausible argument to be made that restricting access to certain kinds of weapons is going to be part and parcel of any state’s policies. How else would it be able to exert an effective and possibly even legitimate moonoply on the use of force in a geographic area.

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                    • Murali, I can agree with most of that. There is a danger in a lot of people out there with guns who are a danger to others because they’re acting on incomplete information or skewing the lifedata they receive into bad info.

                      At the same time, the war of all against all isn’t really going anywhere despite anyone’s best efforts. You’d have to guide everyone into a unified people, or else provide such a rock-solid infrastructure that everyone can expect the system to take care of it. Hard to do.

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                    • Some places keep a better lid on the war of all against all than others.

                      I live in Singapore which has a resident population of 5.5 million. The annual homicide rate is in the single digits. The number of homicides due to firearms is at about once every two years. Singapore is a pluralistic society with people from many dfferent ethnic groups. We have a large population of lower income migrant workers from poorer and more violent neighbouring countries.

                      I don’t know that the safe situation in Singapore is due to gun control, but it would seem that at least some if not more of the non-lethal violent crimes would have turned lethal if the criminal had been carrying a gun. It seems that at least some of our more violent offenders would have had more opportunities to commit crimes if they had been armed with a gun. It is difficult to hold up a bank or a 7-11 with a kitchen knife.

                      Our police are nowhere near as militarised as yours are. Our police carry 0.38 revolvers with 5 shots.

                      I’m pretty sure that the arming of civillians would lead to an arms race between civillians and the police as well as an increase in police aggression. It is probably the case that Singapore will still be safer than the US even if gun control were relaxed, but it is unlikely to be any safer than it is now, and probably also unlikely to be just as safe as it is now.

                      I think that this is the right trade-off at least for Singapore. I don’t know whether this means that I have to hand in my libertarian decoder ring. Singapore is a nightmare if you care about the second amendment. But whatever problems singapore does have (and it has its share of them) violent crime is not it.

                      To be clear, there is no outright ban of firearms. What Singapore has is a verys stringent permit and registration regime.

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                    • Murali, I think it’s great that Singapore has found a system that works for it. My response was pretty US-centric. To be honest, I think we could cut down on deadly violence a great deal with very stringent gun control measures. We’re just not willing to do them Very few people here, even among the gun control supporting liberals, are even advocating it.

                      Even if we did, we would still have the war of everybody; it would simply be occurring by different – and less fatal – means. That’s what I was driving towards in my comment. It’s because we can’t get rid of the war of everybody that we would have to take away the weapons used to actually lessen the fatality of the violence.

                      I might have taken the war you referred to as being more abstract and less literal than you meant it. [Ed note, this was posted by proxy and initially appeared under the wrong name.]

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                    • Interesting conversation going on down here. Two forces are always at work in human society: the Hobbesian state of nature is countered by the equally-human urge to dwell in peace with one’s neighbours.

                      Hobbes was a bad sociologist and an even worse criminologist. We know how people behave in the face of chaos and they do not break down to the atomic individual structure. Even looters operate in packs.

                      The concept of the individual and his rights is a luxury arising from peace and the rule of law. Chaos drives people into society’s most natural structure: the clan and the village, led by a malik and his gang of enforcers. These form larger coalitions: examine the historical record. The Japanese Civil War, the Chinese Warring States period, the Thirty Years War — the darkest parts of Europe’s Dark Ages featured more hierarchy and binding social contract than any other such period. Feudalism is the apotheosis of loyalty and obligation.

                      Every culture seeks to be ultimately ruled by law and not by men: even the most authoritarian regimes impose the myth of the tian ming, the inscrutable Will of Heaven which gives authority all mandate. Even the most brutal tyrant must govern in accordance with the Will of Heaven or his authority will be taken from him.

                      As society trends toward dystopia, the Bad Guy becomes a plural, the Bad Guys. As society rises toward the rule of law, the Good Guy operates in the name of the people and under the rule of law. The Mad Shooter, armed to the teeth, is an crazed artifact of a free society, flaking off from that society, taking vengeance on that society, going out in a blaze of gunfire. You won’t find such maniacs in a dystopia: the individual is the weakest of all possible structures.

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          • Blaise, I actually understand the justification for banning all semi-automatics than I do for banning Gun A but not Gun B. I can’t quite get on board with the idea, but it at least makes sense to me. If we could find a good functional way to distinguish between these semi-automatics and those semi-automatics, I am open ears. But it needs to be a functional distinction, in my view.

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            • Banning is the worst possible rhetorical position. Think about all the nonsense surrounding Prohibition and the 18th Amendment. Regulations don’t accomplish much either, not without enforcement.

              The Liberals have played their hand stupidly. We’ve been led astray by the red herring of Sexy Guns. I no longer call them Assault Rifles: it’s a dumb description. At short range, a semi-auto handgun is every bit as deadly and crops up with more frequency than a Sexy Gun in every category of gun violence.

              If we Liberals had an ounce of common sense, we’d go straight to the crime labs and determine which weapons are most likely to be used in the commission of a crime. We work back to determine the stats and prob on who these shooters are and how and where they got their weapons. Most importantly, we quit yammering about Sexy Guns. We wage open warfare on the NRA and their continuing efforts to obfuscate the data. No data, no problem.

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              • Blaise,
                This makes sense (!):

                If we Liberals had an ounce of common sense, we’d go straight to the crime labs and determine which weapons are most likely to be used in the commission of a crime. We work back to determine the stats and prob on who these shooters are and how and where they got their weapons. Most importantly, we quit yammering about Sexy Guns. We wage open warfare on the NRA and their continuing efforts to obfuscate the data. No data, no problem.

                And wage war it would be, since Congress has successfully defunded every program of federally sponsored research that tried to do just what you advocate. Under administrations of both parties. And that’s one of the things that, as a data guy and a liberal – most galls me. When I wrote this I cited the one real, statistically valid study I could find on the effect of the assault weapons ban – and I added it in precisely because it documents (like your references to prohibition) no link to the assault weapons ban (which I again argue is a cosmetic classification not a tactical one) and changes in violent, gun based crime statistics.

                Problem is – it’s only one study. In science we generally want 3 points to determine a straight line, hundreds of points to determine a pattern.

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                • The data’s all there in the crime labs. It’s just a question of integrating it into a composite picture.

                  What I can’t figure out is this: why is the NRA opposed to such an effort? If their stated aim is to protect the rights of legit gun owners, especially when it comes to self-defence, why don’t they give a damn about the guns in the crooks’ hands? The legit gun owners have nothing to fear from such a database: hell, we’ve already got the data in the hands of law enforcement.

                  I have a theory on this subject: we already know most crooks get their guns via straw purchases. Only a small fraction, maybe ten, fifteen percent are stolen. It’s the crooked gun dealers who stand to lose the most from such statistics, them and the crap-o Saturday Night Special gun makers.

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    • With all due respect to gun owners and gun rights folk, the difference between the success of drunk driving deaths vs. gun violence deaths is that for whatever reason, we all decided that drunk driving deaths were worth addressing. We can’t seem to get to that place with gun violence deaths.

      Agreed. And Kudos to you for clearly saying what I’ve been trying to say, apparently unsuccessfully, throughout this whole symposium.

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      • From 1995 to 2005 the number of drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher in fatal crashes dropped from 12,366 to 11,921, while the total number of drivers in fatal crashes rose from 56,164 to 59,104.

        table

        And to accomplish that we’re arresting about 1.4 million people a year. link – with stats by year

        So the focus on drunk driving from 1995 to 2005 produced about a 10% drop in the drunk driving fatalities, but a 5% increase in overall fatalities. In the same time frame, as state after state passed concealed carry laws, the homicide rate dropped from 8.2 per 100,000 to 4.7 per 100,000, 57% of its earlier value.

        There are a couple of conclusions to draw.

        One is that instead of pursuing drunk drivers, we need a way for them to drive “stealthed”, kind of like concealed carry for cars.

        The second is hidden in this table of drunk driving statistics, where taking 2005 for an example, 26,558 persons were killed in crashes that had a highest blood alcohol of 0.00 in the car, 14,539 people were killed with someone in the car with a blood alcohol of 0.08 or above , but only 2,346 people were killed when there was a blood alcohol of 0.01 to 0.08 in the car. Obviously we need to encourage people to have at least a few drinks before they get behind the wheel, or drive someone who’s had a few drinks, because those people don’t seem to have hardly any wrecks at all.

        More seriously, here is an interesting post on what it would be like if we regulated cars like we regulated guns. Sample:

        To buy a sports car, you will have to be 21. A “Sports car” will be defined as any combination of any two of the following: 2 doors instead of 4, spoked rims not requiring hubcaps, aerodynamic effects such as spoilers or air dams, a wheelbase under 100 inches, a manual transmission, a curb weight under 3000 lbs, fiberglass or other non-metal construction, or painted logos.

        For every purchase, you will have to fill out a questionnaire confirming you’re a US citizen, do not use drugs or abuse alcohol, have never had a conviction for alcohol related incidents or reckless driving. Lying on this form will be punishable by 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

        It goes on and on. The BATF regulations I needed the other day were 243 pages. I learned that my housemate might or might not be his girlfriend’s intimate partner according to BATF guidelines. I informed him of the vague nature of his relationship status, which could perhaps be clarified if he found the right lawyer, but that it otherwise did not meet the required federal firearm criteria for intimacy. I don’t think it upset him very much, but I’m not sure how she’ll take it.

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  2. 1. Libel and Slander law exist in the United States but they have been largely gutted of force by various Supreme Court decisions since New York Times v. Sullivan. The really short and messy version is that if you are speaking about a matter of public concern and/or about a public person (and the Supreme Court defines public person very liberally), First Amendment protections kick in. In these cases, the plaintiff needs to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant spoke/libeled with “actual malice”. If the plaintiff wins, the appeals court does an entire review of the evidence (this is not often how it works). As a lawyer, I am always surprised and amused that many non-lawyers have concepts of the law that are out of date. I’ve known lots of non-lawyer liberals who did not know that Lawrence v. Texas happened. This makes me think that many people would rather be outraged than being up to date and correct.

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    • The really short and messy version is that if you are speaking about a matter of public concern and/or about a public person (and the Supreme Court defines public person very liberally), First Amendment protections kick in. In these cases, the plaintiff needs to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant spoke/libeled with “actual malice”. If the plaintiff wins, the appeals court does an entire review of the evidence (this is not often how it works).

      How does that work against large corporations, which seem to silence all sorts of people without ever reaching the bar you describe?

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  3. And more on guns,

    What it seems to me is that there is a rural v. urban divide on what guns are for and how they are used.

    I have lived in or near major cities for my entire life. To me, guns are more likely to be used as tools for violence. I did not know hunters growing up. I did not know hobby shooters. The hobbies adults had when I were a kid were largely tennis and a bit of golf. Nor do I know hunters and target shooters now because people who live in New York and San Francisco tend not to do those things except in a game of buckshot at the ironic dive bar that is designed to look like a hunting lodge.

    However, I do know gun violence. I have walked by drive-by shootings and smelled the distinct smell of gunpowder. I live in a neighborhood where I still see posters for unsolved drive-bys that happened right before I moved in to the neighborhood. I know people who have had guns pulled on them in robberies/muggings. A friend was cold-cocked with a gun during my sophomore year of college (my college was in a dying Industrial town. The immediate area around the college was nice, the rest of the town was a bit sketchy. We tended to stay on campus.)

    So this is where I think the split happens. Liberals/Democratic people tend to live in urban areas where guns are primarily used for violence and very few people hunt regularly or at all (though some hipsters are changing this). The NRA crowd tends to distrust city dwellers as you say and know more about guns as recreation. This is a hard divide to overcome.

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    • The divide isn’t hard to overcome at all.
      it just takes people willing to be nosy,
      and self interested enough to protect their guns by rooting out the bad apples.

      No, this isn’t a governmental solution.
      Guess my libertarian blood is showing.

      Gun smuggling/running is bad juju.
      Getting people to stop it is an absolute necessity, if people want to keep their guns.

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  4. The heart of the problem is that Liberals are pussies. Every time the NRA and the gun owners snarl, we’ve run away and let them win by default. We, along with the Libertarians, have never once stood with the chiefs of police or any other responsible law enforcement entity to condemn the Civilian Arms Race. We have always backed the Weeping Willies who seem to emerge in the wake of these horrible mass murders and their weak arguments.

    The power of the state is so routinely condemned by all and sundry it’s beyond reasonable debate in polite society. If this country actually got serious about the massive trade in illegal weapons and began to act on it, we’d never hear the end of the ranting and babbling about Jack Booted Thugs and the perennial falsetto screeching about “They’re coming to take our guns away.”

    We have laws and enough. They simply aren’t being enforced. Would that the Liberals raised as much of a stink about this Civilian Arms Race as the piggy-eyed Conservatives are raising about Fast and Furious.

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    • The heart of the problem is that Liberals are pussies.

      Do you mean, maybe, that they’re cowards?

      Would that the Liberals raised as much of a stink about this Civilian Arms Race as the piggy-eyed Conservatives are raising about Fast and Furious.

      It helps when you get to make your own facts up and live in an alternate reality. There’s less complications. Until someone’s pointing the gun at you. Or at your six year old.

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      • Do you mean, maybe, that they’re cowards?

        What it means is that liberals will actually engage in good faith so long as the other side is too, and often will continue to try to engage in good faith long after it’s been shown that the other side isn’t.

        Conservatives have meanwhile spent the past 40+ years perfecting the art of not acting in good faith. The alternative media echo chamber, originating with talk radio and moving outwards from there has ensured that they don’t have to. They can instead scream louder and louder, lie more and more, and the liberals have dutifully kept up trying to engage in good faith and bolstering the illusion that the conservatives are still engaging in good faith.

        When a few liberals finally have had it, and are willing to call the conservatives out for lying? We’re told we are “needlessly provoking” the conservatives.

        There’s no needlessly provoking a rabid animal, it works into a frothing mouthed lather on its own.

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        • The previous comment is not meant to imply that all conservatives are “rabid animals.” However, it is the closest analogue I can come up with to explain how the echo chamber process of most of the right wing radio shows work – host comes in with whole-cloth fabrication, and selected callers proceed to reinforce the “you’re right, we should all be mad” attitude and push the envelope, causing the irateness of the atmosphere to intensify and the accusations to get more and more divorced from reality.

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      • Well, yes. We’ve compromised enough on this issue. Every time one of these mass murders goes down, here we come to yowl and screech about Reg’latin’ Sexy Guns with Pistol Grips. The fact that so many semi-automatic weapons are sold in this country, pistols mostly, somehow escapes our attention.

        When I got back from the military, I drove a cab in Chicago. It let me take a few classes at U of C and make some money. I was held up once, in the middle of Rush Street, in broad daylight, with the very sort of pistol I had been issued in the Army, an M1911 .45. Now as luck would have it, I’d taken most of my cash out of my bag and put it in the trunk, leaving myself 50 dollars in change. So I gave him the 50 dollars and counted myself lucky that he got out of the cab and merged into the crowd. I reported the robbery but nothing was ever done about it.

        Nobody gives a shit about a cabbie being robbed or some gang banger getting whacked. What Liberals get all excited about is Sexy Guns shooting up theatres and schoolrooms. Of course, the Gun Crowd gets to correctly point out these incidents, while increasingly common, are still statistical outliers.

        What Liberals have never done, not once in all this foofaraw, is to demand some accountability from the gun owners about the sheer numbers of guns entering the life pool. Huey Long, one of the most interesting populists who ever lived, had a famous saying “Every Man a King.” Well, once we’ve armed everyone, everyone will be a king, making his own laws in the context of his own life.

        Liberals really are such pussies. We’re endlessly bending over backward, twisting ourselves into rhetorical pretzels, nodding gravely as these morons beguile us with tales of Noble Hunters Pursuing the Stag and suchlike fables. At some point, the Liberals have to stand up and laugh at these assholes. While crime has gone down, gun-related incidents have not gone down. Some while back I tried to point this out, only to be regaled with mendacious nonsense about Goalpost Moving.

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        • Liberals really are such pussies.

          Ooops. You did it again. I know you mean cowards. It’s a perfectly good word; even has a Lion on it’s side. Dorothy, on the other hand, was the girl who defended her friends. She was brave.

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          • How did that Lion put it:

            Yeah, it’s sad, believe me, Missy,
            When you’re born to be a sissy,

            I’ll refrain from that word. I just don’t see Liberals as cowardly lions. The Cowardly Lion knew he was a coward. The Liberals don’t yet know this about themselves. Look at all this pissypants Gun Debate going on around here: Dwyer says I can’t sit at his table any more. The one person around here who’s actually hunted people and as far as I can tell, the only one who’s been robbed at gunpoint, and he gets to tell me I can’t sit at his Mad Hatter table. Any compromising to be done will be done by the Gun Control crowd, it seems. First as tragedy, next as farce. It’s happened so many times now, this endless Cowardly Lion iteration of this debate after every massacre: the Liberals aren’t going to call bullshit on this because they still think, dumbasses that they are, that they’re going to get so much as twenty logical words in a row from these people.

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            • Thank you.

              Otherwise, I mostly agree, though I might put it differently. I’m sorry if I’m perceived as a downer feminist, but given the amount of violence women face in this sorry world, they are anything but cowardly.

              Gabriel Giffords is no coward for starting a PAC to counter idiocy we hear from the NRA; I fear her activism will garner her new rounds of threats and violence. I’m equally sure that there are 20 mothers out there who, with time and healing, will consider joining their voices to Giffords; that there are thousands of other mothers and wives and daughters. Demeaning their courage out of habit, for the comparison seems forceful and emasculating, hinders. Better to empower those women by recognizing their courage in a fight to curtail our civilian arms race.

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              • We’ll see how all this goes down, Zic. I predict a repetition of the same feckless response the nation gave to James Brady, who’s basically sustained the same brain injury as Gabby Giffords. The Brady Bill means bupkis. Almost nobody’s prosecuted. It hasn’t stopped crooks from getting guns, though it has led to quite a few folks being denied.

                But then, Adam Lanza was denied his request to purchase weapons. We see how well that prevented the Sandy Hook situation. Nobody’s going to shut down the gun show loophole. We might see some cosmetics applied, restricting magazine capacity. But the Liberals won’t push very hard on this. They’re such nice people. They want to be liked. They want to seem reasonable.

                Don’t get me started on Gabby Giffords. Back in 2008, she filed an amicus brief opposing the Wash. DC. handgun ban. Well, having a bullet go through your brain does change your mind about gun control, I suppose. We are the sum of all that’s happened to us in this life. I’m shaped by what’s happened to me and what I’ve seen. Liberals are just too wimpy on this issue and seem perfectly incapable of making an argument.

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            • the Liberals aren’t going to call bullshit on this because

              …because when we do, we’re told we are, in your words, “sorely and unnecessarily provoking”, the conservatives / gun enthusiasts. By writers and speakers a lot like you.

              Either we can call bullshit, or we can’t. Make up your mind.

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    • This article points out the problem of black-and-white thinking, of assuming that the other side matches the nastiest caricature you’ve ever heard of him. Personally, I think that’s a bit of a truism. But a comment like Blaise’s is a perfect example of the problem. It says, essentially, “the problem with ‘them’ is that ‘they’re’ always wrong but ‘we’ let ‘them’ get away with it.” What are the chances of that being a prelude to an actual conversation?

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      • The title of this essay is “What Would Liberals Do?” The answer from the author is pretty clear: nothing serious. A few cosmetic fixes here and there.

        So you won’t mind if I observe this essay is not exactly what Liberals would actually do, you know, in the sense that physics defines work. Platitudes all. Now the Conservatives have answers: Moah Guns. And Moah Legend-mongering.

        The Liberals are exactly what I say they are, a collection of do-nothings, wringing their hands and trying not to offend anyone.

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    • Blaise,
      I have to agree that Liberals are generally . . . well you used the correct term. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. But as a liberal who raises a stink now and again, I have to say my ability and willingness todo is often circumscribed by the real evidence that said stink is generally more of a problem looking for a solution then anything. Serious enforcement of existing laws requires all sorts of resources, not the least of which is a public willing to comply with same said laws. With firearms, as with many other things, we lack even that.

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      • Here’s the deal, Philip: we have allies in odd places, especially in law enforcement and the victims of crime communities. I’m starting to use the phrase Civilian Arms Race and I think it sums up the problem in a nice, short bumper sticker-y way.

        Nobody has a problem with the legit gun owners. Truth is, with the exception of the suicides and accidental deaths and injuries and the occasional rage-filled intramural family shooting or the Adam Lanzas who get access to these weapons, they just don’t figure large in the problem we face as Liberals. They’re more a danger to themselves and the people they love than anyone else.

        We know where the problem lies: in Scalia’s argument in Heller.

        We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns, see supra, at 54–55, and n. 26. But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibi­tion of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amend­ment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

        We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

        Here, Scalia has begged the question of gun ownership. DC’s law only said handguns should be secured. The Gun Crowd has always attempted to conflate regulation with prohibition.

        Perhaps debatable. That’s where the Gun Crowd always Eats Cheeze.

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  5. thumbs up for stating bans do not work, form a federal statistical scientist nonetheless… especially for stating “culture has grown away from being one where guns were universally owners, universally taught, and universally respected” as a encompassing problem..

    don’t necessarily agree on the level of licensing based on type, maybe single licensing coarse similar to CCP and Hunter Safety for anything other than Class III (which separate licensing is already established. Insurance is another can worms for the same reasons as AWB..

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  6. Again, here’s a guy who two weeks ago would’ve been hailed as a “responsible gun owner who is showing other Americans how to be responsible gun owners” or something like that.

    I mean, how many President’s of pro-environmental NGO’s or gay rights organizations talk about armed rebellion when a politician pushes ideas they don’t like (I know, I know, the ELP or whatever group. Whose biggest crime has been setting some SUV’s on fire. And don’t ya’ know, have the backing of likely millions of gun owners.)

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/james-yeager-start-killing-people-obama-gun-policy_n_2448751.html

    “One CEO says he’s willing to go to outrageous lengths to protect his right to use a gun.

    James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, claimed in a video posted on YouTube and Facebook that he would “start killing people” if President Barack Obama decides to take executive action to pass further gun control policies, Raw Story reports.

    In a frenetic address to the camera, Yeager puts a call out to other gun rights advocates to “load your damn mags” and “get ready to fight” in what he claims will turn into a “civil war” if gun control measures in the country get any stricter.”

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    • I know! Let’s start a petition to exile him to Somalia or something of that sort…. like the gun crowd did with Piers Morgan. Heh, heh.

      Just wait… soon enough, someone’s gonna turn up to tell us about James Yeager’s First Amendment rights. It’s okay to foment rebellion and murder and civil war, it’s all good. This isn’t yelling Fire in a crowded theatre or anything of that sort.

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        • Not flexible enough:

          Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

          Being an enemy combatant, though, leaves much room for interpretation.

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          • If treason arrests became a common thing, who do you think would generally catch the charge? People like James Yeager?

            Nope. The friends of a certain League blogger would probably feel even less…safe…though. As well as some of my compatriots.

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            • Funny about that Feeling of Safety, I’m not feeling particularly safe with lunatics like Yeager running around with anything sharper than a rubber ball. But speaking of rubber, I think Yeager needs to be put in a rubber room.

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            • Some realities are a little different. Yelling FIRE in a theater down here would result in 20 bullet wounds and the lingering smell of gunpowder in the air.

              Obligation buckets are about the only way I have found to explain this. There is fuel and fire. Putting Executive order in the same sentence as Gun Ban leaves the thinnest sliver of daylight between the two. Still, I’m the wacko nutter saying we might have a problem with the house burning down. Grapeshot is generous.

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  7. “Part of the reason the last ban failed was because it didn’t remove existing weapons from the streets, and the current proposed ban wouldn’t do so either. If we’re not taking them off the street, what’s the point of banning new ones?”

    The idea is to slowly dry up the supply of guns (especially handguns) after you’ve cut off the firehose-like inflow of new guns, at least until you’ve got the number down to a small few who have proven safe ownership and safe storage.

    The old non-conforming guns will either a.) appear in crimes and crime scenes and slowly be bled out of the country, or b.) be well hidden by owners who will effectively reduce the risk that they are used in crimes by hiding them.

    —-

    “As a trained scientists and science policy manager, I know how to do so, and it frustrates me to no end that the hard statistics on these weapons and their use get so little accurate play in the media. So the notion that we can enact gun bans for sales going forward and make a dent in violent gun based crimes is being solidly refuted.”

    Can you link to the research that shows that bans don’t work? I’m interested. Thelink you gave concerns only the AWB.

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    • Shaz:

      I have been dredging through the first 15 pages of citations in ISI Web of Science for you. It’s taking a while, but I’ll give you direct citations to the papers people are talking about.

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      • As a side note, most of the papers I’ve found so far (and the conclusions I’m reaching by reading them) are largely redundant confirmations of my own non-systemic reading of the literature up to date.

        Also, I came across this: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10881&page=R1

        The National Research Council of the National Academies. And, no surprise to me (but a nice little confirmation that I’ve not been crazily off base), their systemic review of firearms and public policy literature dovetails pretty much spot on with all the stuff I’ve said on the blog over the last two weeks, and their major findings section lists pretty well the criticisms I’ve mentioned as well, including the criticisms I leveled at the Cook paper you pointed at several times. For example:

        The committee cannot determine whether these associations demonstrate causal relationships. There are three key problems. First, as noted above, these studies do not adequately address the problem of self-selection. Second, these studies must rely on proxy measures of ownership that are certain to create biases of unknown magnitude and direction. Third, because the ecological correlations are at a higher geographic level of aggregation, there is no way of knowing whether the homicides or suicides occurred in the same areas in which the firearms are owned.

        In summary, the committee concludes that existing research studies and data include a wealth of descriptive information on homicide, suicide, and firearms, but, because of the limitations of existing data and methods, do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide. The issue of substitution (of the means of committing homicide or suicide) has been almost entirely ignored in the literature. What sort of data and what sort of studies and improved models would be needed in order to advance understanding of the association between firearms and suicide? Although some knowledge may be gained from further ecological studies, the most important priority appears to the committee to be individual-level studies of the association between gun ownership and violence. Currently, no national surveys on ownership designed to examine the relationship exist. The committee recommends support of further individual-level studies of the link between firearms and both lethal and nonlethal suicidal behavior.

        Believe it or not, I hadn’t read this report prior to today (still going through it) and certainly not two weeks ago. I swear, I didn’t plagiarize all my commentary directly from this.

        The whole “major conclusions” section can be boiled down to: We can’t say much of anything with any reasonable degree of certainty, because all the existing methodologies require proxy measurements of dubious rigor. Basically, our data sets suck and we need better ones if we want to say anything with reasonable predictive value.

        Which is kind of what I’ve been saying.

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        • @Patrick: The whole “major conclusions” section can be boiled down to: We can’t say much of anything with any reasonable degree of certainty, because all the existing methodologies require proxy measurements of dubious rigor. Basically, our data sets suck and we need better ones if we want to say anything with reasonable predictive value.

          Too bad I didn’t have this quote from you when we were discussing climate science. Reread your words now with fresh eyes to understand where I’m coming from on this.

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          • There is an important difference, Ward… in that the National Research Council of the National Academies has an entirely different conclusion when it comes to AGW.

            Maybe you should read them, it might change your mind.

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        • I’ll go back to the library where I have access to the pay walled stuff to let you know more, but for now I’ll point out something that Hemenway agrees with here:

          “I do have some points of disagreement. Of concern, for example, was their conclusion about the connection between guns and suicide. They do not discuss the literature that finds that many suicides appear to be impulsive acts; the risk period is transient. While they agree that “all of the (case?control) studies that the committee reviewed have found a positive association between household gun ownership and suicide risk” (p 173) and that “there also appears to be a cross?sectional association between rates of household gun ownership and overall rates of suicide, reported by investigators on both sides of the gun policy debate” (p 193), their weak conclusion is that “the committee cannot determine whether these associations demonstrate causal relationships” (p 6). The committee’s claim that “the issue of substitution has been almost entirely ignored in the literature of guns and suicide” (p 194) is a complete misreading of the literature.1

          Part of the problem—and a warning to the reader—is that although the report was released at the end of 2004 with a 2005 publication date, most of the book was completed by 2002. The book misses many published articles from 2003 and 2004. The committee rightly argues for the regular inclusion of gun ownership questions on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, but seems unaware that such questions were, in fact, included in the 2001 and 2002 surveys. Using these actual survey measures, there is a robust association between ownership levels and suicide: in states where there are more guns, there is more suicide, because there are more firearm suicides. This relationship remains true after accounting for urbanization, unemployment, alcohol consumption, divorce rates, and other potential confounders.

          I suspect something similar is true of homicide and gun prevalence, that the post 2002 data shows causation, as is shown with suicide and gun ownership.

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          • I haven’t gotten to the suicide stuff yet, so I’m unable to provide an opinion.

            The homicide stuff, though; they would likely critique Cook on the same basis I did. Again, not that he’s wrong, just that suicide prevalence doesn’t account for some other gun purchasing drivers (like, say, Obama getting elected). It also doesn’t necessarily generalize the way Cook uses it (FFS might be a great measure for some states, that doesn’t mean it would work for all of them).

            If you ever want to save yourself a trip to the library, you can create an anonymous email address (foo@yahoo.com or something) and fire me off an email. I’ll send you copies of stuff and save you the trip.

            I have access to both Caltech and CGU’s library; the first is stellar for the physical sciences and engineering but a little weak on the social sciences, the second is the reverse.

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    • The AWB is the only ban in recent history for firearms. Thus it’s the only extant case for which statistics are available.

      I had thought about drawing some parallels to the statistics on alcohol se during prohibition, but I didn’t think that would meet th etest of the point I was trying to make – that what have here, at it’s heart, is a classic failure to communicate.

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      • Not… well, yes and no.

        California has an assault weapons ban, at the state level, that wasn’t time-limited. The nation had an assault weapons ban, at the national level, that was time-limited and was not renewed. Other first world nations have gun bans, but their conditions don’t map 1-1 to ours so looking at a gun ban in the UK will only be useful in informing us about what gun bans would result in here in the US if we correct properly for confounding factors (which is… well, certainly not impossible but unlikely).

        We could compare California to other states, but California doesn’t generalize to all the other states in the nation… on the other hand, California is a fairly diverse state in subdemographics (the coast vs. the inland, the ag communities vs. the big cities, vs. the deeply rural areas in the Sierras, etc)… so it’s not entirely improbable that we can find communities in California that compare to any one given community in some other state, entirely.

        Pick a random town in Arizona, you can probably find a non-random town in California that is quite a bit like that random town in Arizona.

        This isn’t trivial, but it’s a better measure of comparison than most.

        In the social sciences, it’s hard to make middle projections.

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  8. While firearms ownership is a Constitutionally protected right, both it and our other rights are and can be circumscribed by all sorts of laws.

    This. No set of rights is absolute. It’s pretty clear from the wording of the Second Amendment that the right to own a firearm came along with the responsibility to use in protection of the country.

    A gun is a deadly weapon. If you want to own one, you should be well educated on its use and its power, and licensed to own and use it. Your other suggestions are equally common sensical.

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  9. The latest scoop:

    “Vice President Biden said Thursday he sees an emerging consensus around “universal background checks” for all gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines as he completes the Obama administration’s broad study of ways to curb the nation’s gun violence.”

    So allow people to have tactical rifles but limit capacity. I’m reasonably okay with that. Of course, there are millions of magazines already floating around. What to do about those?

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    • There are over a hundred million new high capacity magazines floating around just from the expiration of the old AWB. Since they’re disposable, everyone stocked up. By now we probably have a 200-year supply, since nobody ever actually disposes of them.

      Here’s something even more recent. Washington Examiner Article.

      In short, it looks like Wyoming will declare any federal firearms legislation passed from now on as null and void in the state of Wyoming, and any federal official trying to enforce such a law will spend one to five years in jail and face a $2000 to $5000 fine. The state of Wyoming will also defend any Wyoming citizen charged under any new new federal law. About seven states have passed somewhat similar measures in the recent past.

      It’s the flip side of the marijuana legalization measures several states have passed.

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      • Yes he would. With liberal states nullifying federal marijuana laws, it doesn’t leave much political room for the federal government to fight the firearms nullification of Wyoming and other states without simultaneously revoking the medical marijuana laws in California, Washington, Oregan, Colorado, and elsewhere.

        And of course with Obamacare outlawing the collection of personal firearms ownership information by the federal government, they’ve really tied their own hands.

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        • Fed laws are nullified….ummm sadly no. There is a whole bunch of figuring in those states how to make the laws mesh. And certainly there is some official expression of prioritizing enforcement..but again, nullification…no.

          Its funny and sad that you think collecting gun info by the feds was really a part of HCR. As i remember it was actually about the of docs to talk with people about safe homes. Like pediatricians do with dozens of things like nutrition, child safety, discipline, poisons, etc etc.

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        • Actually, one argument I’ve floated out there why Obama has been harder on marijuana legalization efforts is that he realizes that if he gives the go ahead of marijuana legalization, he’s giving the go ahead to things like SB1080 in Arizona and wackaloon gun laws in Wyoming.

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        • There is no way to make the laws mesh. The federal government says marijuana is illegal to possess, sell, or grow for any purpose. The state laws say you can smoke up.

          The HCR amendment addressed the collection of information on guns in the home (the lawful ownership, use, and storage of firearms and ammunition), which was forbidden in the HCR under the section titled “Protection of Second Amendment Rights.”

          However, it looks like the collection of such information was only forbidden to health care providers and the government’s health care apparatus, not the government in general.

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          • George- the entire issue about discussing guns was as i described it. It was put in the HCR as a concession to R’s. There was nothing in docs asking about guns that affected 2nd amendment rights. Docs would discuss guns only in terms of safety like they do with many other things. There was not secret database or any other conspiracy stuff.

            The states are trying to figure out how to make their laws work given the fed laws. There is no nullification going on since that was settled long ago.

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          • Quite frequently the feds step in, arrest, try, and jail a person who was obeying all state marijuana laws. California is full of such stories, with growers aware that no matter what their state tells them, they can still get sent to federal prison.

            Undoubtedly that’s why Montana went further and made if a felony to try to enforce any new federal firearm regulations, so that instead of having the feds arrest someone in Montana, Montana will arrest the feds trying to do the arresting.

            And some things are beyond the purview of a doctor’s specialty, which is why US Army doctors don’t disarm all the forward deployed infantry units in the name of “safety and health.”

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      • It will be interesting to see what happens the first time a Fed is arrested. Judging from the last time there was a major dispute between a state and the Feds (Little Rock, 1957), it didn’t end so well for the state.

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        • Feds get arrested all the time for violating state law, usually drunk-and-disorderly conduct or DUI, and sometimes for much worse things.

          One of the things that the feds have to keep in mind regarding places like Wyoming is that if they try to play rough, all cooperation with them by the legal gun owners (which in Wyoming is just about everyone) will cease, making their job infinitely harder. It puts them in the position of trying to police a hostile, occupied territory. Is that the coming together that Obama promised us?

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          • Obama tried the whole coming together thing. The only thing he got for it was being called a Kenyan Muslim Marxist handing out free abortions and turning the Army into the Castro. Large portions of Wyoming were always going to hate Obama, no matter if he had the same policies as Reagan.

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          • We must’ve missed where he actually tried it, instead of talking about it like an irate ex-wife who insists we “come together” on a divorce settlement. As I recall, he started with “I won. Shut up.”

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            • The various states have their own gun control statutes. Look for Obama to start using BATF to crack down on cross-state purchases: this goes back well into the 1960s, pretty sure it was 1968. This is one area where the Feds have been working with the states to good effect. I don’t foresee the Feds going after the gun owners so much as the gun smugglers who are currently selling their wares out of the trunks of cars.

              Here’s the thing: law enforcement is seizing beaucoup weapons all the time. They turn up in the course of abandonment after crimes, parole violations, arrests, hell, the TSA seized 1500+ plus weapons last year from dumbasses trying to get them on board aircraft — that sort of thing. All right and proper, I don’t think you’ll have any problem with such seizures.

              Here’s my theory: crooks, despite their reputations, aren’t as smart as all that. BATF already deal with cross-border smuggling of cigarettes, it’s a substantial problem and these crooks do get caught. Mostly it’s a tax evasion issue. FBI and BATF have been working this cross-border gun smuggling angle for a long time, backing up the various state laws. What we need, more than anything else, is a crackdown on the export of weapons from state to state.

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    • Honestly Mike, unless they are paying full retail for them – which no one did under the AWB – the market (your favorite) will dictate that only old, broken and mangled magazines will be turned in. You know this – I know this – so let’s move on.

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  10. While there is to a great extent the rural/urban experience divide, not every advocate of preserving private firearms ownership is a stereotypical white conservative country boy. There are those with a different reason: populations all too used to enduring threats and assault simply for having the audacity to exist. People for whom the underlying assumption behind “gun control” advocates calling the opposition paranoid when it comes to the self-defense rationale — “we can just trust the police, they are there to protect us” — sounds like a cruel joke.

    You know, the type of people who fit the stereotype anti-gun folks have in mind of pro-gun people imagine in their sights during target practice.

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    • That’d be a good argument, and I could be proven wrong, but from every poll I remember seeing, Hispanics and African-American’s are far more in favor of gun control than your average white Republican. Probably something about seeing what easy access to guns brings to their doorsteps.

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        • Republican minorities may be gun owners, but there aren’t that many of them. Generally, nonwhites are more in favor of gun control, which is what you’d expect from a more Democratic and more urban group. Source.

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          • I wonder if anybody has indeed done a study of the violent (and nonviolent) criminal population to verify this.

            I could see it both ways. They’d probably prefer unarmed victims, but they’d also prefer not to be in jail for packing a gun, either.

            I would hazard a guess… just by looking at the crime rates per state with and without gun control… that most criminals really don’t think too much on whether or not their target is likely to be armed.

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          • There have been tons of prison surveys which found that a criminal’s greatest fear is an armed victim, because it’s something they can’t control for. Looser gun controls wouldn’t affect the criminal’s own position by very much, since the majority of them wouldn’t be allowed to possess a firearm under any proposed changes, much less possess one while committing a crime. However, it would make lethal-force resistance from victims and bystanders much less likely, allowing the criminal to act with less worry, reducing the pool of likely counter-threats to off-duty cops.

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            • I used to read quite a bit on criminology (I lived with a sociopath for two years in college, who of course tried to frame me for attempted rape and murder when he realized I wouldn’t go to work for him as a computer programmer).

              Some of the convict data is here, talking about the DOJ-sponsored Wright-Rossi survey of 1,874 convicts.

              74% agreed that “One reason burglars avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot.”

              A 57% majority agreed that “Most criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.”

              A very short review of the Wright and Rossi survey is here.

              It studied where criminals get firearms, what kind they use, what they would switch to if handguns were less available (sawed-off shotguns), and how legal gun owners and stiffer sentencing laws affected their activities and risk perceptions.

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              • Wait –

                who of course tried to frame me for attempted rape and murder when he realized I wouldn’t go to work for him as a computer programmer).

                Am I the only one who wants to hear this story about psychotic IT recruiters?

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              • DAMN is that study old!
                OUT OF DATE.
                People have cellphones now. Calling the cops and having a decent response time is a whole hell of a lot easier. can’t cut the lines no more.

                The whole strategic planning of burglary, deterrence, etc is different now.

                Say they switch to sawed off shotguns, but most of the ammo available is salt or other nonlethal weapons? Have we done good?

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  11. The author’s story from the gun show person is something I find myself running into myself. I have a thick Chicano accent. I appear white until I open my mouth.

    I am in the middle as my Spanish is as bad as my English. I have gotten many stares and even been picked up by cops because I sound different. Once in the Navy, I got stuck in jail over a few days because the cops said my ids were fake.

    I am sadden by how Americans can divide and judge each other so much. It is true all over the world (in Germany I look like Turk, in France I look like Algerian…China I was just a white person). No one wants to think of each other as fellow humans. Everyone just yells louder than the next person.

    It becomes the normal or I think the rational people who do not yell who have the best ideas that get lost in the yelling. Everyone just watches the freaks.

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    • What I’d like to know if if the canvasser/volunteers tried to sign up the few Asians or African Americans in the crowd. Based on comments about one neighborhood in Milwaukee “turning brown” I suspect they didn’t. More’s the pitty.

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  12. Continuing with the theme I got at above, here’s example of some more people who can’t trust the cops: “Drunk D.C. Cop Gets Off Easy After Shooting 3 Transgender Women

    Basically that was a case of “yeah, the cop shouldn’t have done that, but those people are weird*, so fish their justice”.

    (* – I am strictly “to each their own” on the matter of transgenders, as with everything else. This is whoever the hell decided this wasn’t a big deal saying they are “weird”)

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  13. Rod,

    This:

    “I’m not sure but that some of these folks aren’t living in fear so much as anticipation. What I mean is they’re not afraid of an intruder so much as eagerly looking forward to having an excuse to shoot someone.”

    If someone keeps a baseball bat behind their bedroom door, would you say they are hoping to have to club someone with it, or is it simply a precaution?

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    • Notice what I actually said, Mike…

      I’m not sure but that some of these folks…

      some
      /s?m/
      Adjective
      An unspecified amount or number of: “I made some money”.

      I didn’t say “all,” because that would have changed the meaning of my sentence. Neither did I imply “all” by totally omitting the adjective. I was pretty specific that my comment applied to a subset of those who purchase firearms for the purpose of self-defense.

      Methinks you’re getting a bit tribal with your defense here.

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      • Rod,

        I don’t quite follow the need for the ‘all’ vs. ‘some’ defense. I actually said someone so I realize you weren’t talking about all gun owners. The question still holds though. Are there some people who might keep a baseball bat behind their bedroom door in hopes of being able to thump an intruder?

        What I am geting at is this: If the desire to harm an intruder could be called ‘vigilante disease’ are guns a symptom of the disease or the cause?

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        • A Moment:
          The desire to harm someone who wants to Take My Stuff (TM) is a real disease. It stems from an authoritarian sense of My Space (territoriality if you will), AND a real desire to control everything around you.

          Occasionally, this disease extends into “stopping someone who’s out to hurt my family” (those are the people who won’t listen to my “steel door” idea… I have to STOP him! is how the thinking goes).

          But, in general, the person who understands that property isn’t really worth defending? He seems to be generally sane and sober.

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        • I don’t quite follow the need for the ‘all’ vs. ‘some’ defense.

          Because of what is implied by the question:Are there some people who might keep a baseball bat behind their bedroom door in hopes of being able to thump an intruder?

          The logic goes that if the idea of keeping a baseball bat handy in hopes of thumping an intruder is whacky, and since we all know a gun is exactly the same as a baseball bat, then we can conclude that no one would keep a gun in hopes of having to use it. This is where we part company. A gun is psychologically a lot different than a bat in this situation. I’ll walk back the “hoping to shoot someone” bit but I’m going to stand fast on “needing to use it sometime” to “prove a point” about “needing a gun for protection.”

          I wouldn’t characterize it as ‘vigilante disease’ so much as the ‘Popular Mechanics’ syndrome. We all know ‘that guy’, right? Everybody has a friend or neighbor that’s ‘that guy’. One of my brothers is ‘that guy’. This is guy that who, if you’re tackling some mechanical work on your car, has that special tool that has only one possible use. A normal person would try to rent one, but he has to own it and he loves nothing more than being the ‘neighborhood hero’ because of it. He lives in the suburbs and works in the city and would have to drive for an hour to find an unpaved road. But he drives a four-wheel drive truck or SUV. His driveway is 40 feet long and he has a thousand-dollar snow-plow attachment for that truck. On the one or two occasions when it snows, instead of using the 4wd to get to work, he hooks up the plow and takes care of everyone’s driveways and won’t accept more than a cup of coffee for the trouble. Hero.

          My point isn’t that he’s a bad sort to have as a neighbor, obviously. Rather, to this guy it’s all about capabilities. It makes him feel good to have the means at his disposal to be able to take care of situations. But the flip-side of that is that it’s kind of disappointing to have the means and not have the situations come up. What’s the fun of having toys if you can’t play with them?

          So this kind of guy is going to go out and buy a gun to protect his home. And it’s going to be a good one and it’s going to be expensive. And then what? If no one ever threatens his home it’s like having that nice snow-plow in the garage and it never fishin’ snows! Just sorta disappointing and maybe a bit frustrating.

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          • Rod,

            “Rather, to this guy it’s all about capabilities. It makes him feel good to have the means at his disposal to be able to take care of situations. But the flip-side of that is that it’s kind of disappointing to have the means and not have the situations come up. What’s the fun of having toys if you can’t play with them?”

            There’s another school of thought on this: Be Prepared. I was a Boy Scout. That was the most important lesson I took from my time in the organization. Perfect example, the other day we went to visit a museum and my wife accidentally locked us out of the car. Luckily I had a spare key hidden in the undercarriage for just such an occasion. Not using it for the last year didn’t make me feel like it wasn’t living up to its potential. I simply took comfort in knowing it was there. IMO the overwhelming majority of people who buy guns for self-defense fall into this camp. Maybe as a bonus they get o take their gun to the range and shoot for fun once in a while (which makes them better than snowplows).

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            • “Be Prepared” means being prepared for the things that are likely to happen.

              Accidental lockout from the car? Great, you had a spare key. I have an auto club, can call and have a lockout service present within 20 minutes or so.

              The number of instances where you’d “need” the gun, AND have it ready enough to use? That’s not “be prepared.” That’s “be fishing paranoid.”

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  14. No such thing as a *federal right* in the Bill of rights…..

    Second amendment is just a plain old right not to be infringed

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