Featured Post

The moral abyss that is Joe the Plumber

You almost have to admire Joe the Plumber. If what he had to say weren’t so loathsome, his honesty would be refreshingly blunt.

If you happened to miss Joe (née Samuel J. Wurzelbacher)’s appalling new grab for national attention, in a recent open letter to the UCSB shooting victims’ parents he says “As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” Mistaking moral corrosion for harshness, the 2008 McCain campaign sensation (who was quickly revealed to be the Milli Vanilli of American politics) has stated plainly the philosophy that undergirds the far-right pro-gun thinking. The untrammeled right to have unrestricted access to firearms is more important to them than protecting innocent lives.

“I intend to continue to speak out for that right, and against those who would restrict it,” says Wurzelbacher. I guess that would be me, then.

As a pediatrician, preventing the needless deaths of children is actually quite important to me. It’s the whole point of my career and those of my fellow pediatricians. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advocated for restrictions on access to firearms, efforts that have won it the unmitigated enmity of the National Rifle Association. (Knowing that the AAP is on the NRA’s enemies list is reason enough for me to keep my dues up to date.) So hellbent is the gun lobby on denying that guns are any threat to public safety that it even supported a misbegotten law in Florida that would have prevented doctors there from talking to their patients about guns in the home. Were I practicing in that state, I promise you I would have defied that law without compunction, and was relieved when a judge permanently blocked its enforcement.

Though the victims of the latest high profile massacre weren’t technically children, they were still young enough to have been my patients. But even after the slaughter of actual schoolchildren, the NRA’s only answer was to call for yet more guns. Of course, in order for this strategy to have prevented any deaths caused by a shooter in a car, we would not only need a critical mass of citizens with firearms, but we’d also have to become a nation of latter-day Annie Oakleys.

If there is to be any hope of turning the tide of gun violence in this country, Americans must finally abandon any misguided belief that it can’t happen to them, that it always happens Somewhere Else. (As someone who once faced the wrong end of a gun myself, I harbor no such illusions.) And if there is any grim silver lining in Joe the Plumber’s recent shock to the conscience, it is that it will lay bare the reality behind the NRA’s ongoing campaign to keep as many guns as possible as available as possible to as many people as possible.

And so, if Wurzelbacher can issue an open letter, I can reply with an open plea of sorts to the NRA and its ilk. Let this latest tragedy serve as a Nixon to China moment for your leadership, and work with the AAP and other public health organizations to create meaningful gun laws that will be satisfactory to everyone concerned. Help us craft restrictions that preserve Second Amendment rights while also acknowledging that the price for them cannot and need not be more dead kids. It is too late for the victims of the UCSB shooter, but it is not too late for the victims of the next preventable killing spree. Don’t let Joe the Plumber speak for you, and show the country that you’re better than what he seems to say about you.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

207 thoughts on “The moral abyss that is Joe the Plumber

  1. The strategic thinking of many 2nd Amendment advocates makes no sense. There public relations are horrible. Lecturing people about the importance of the right to bear arms in the aftermath of massacre seems very counter-productive because it never comes off well except among people who are really for the 2nd Amendment to begin with. To everybody else it just looks boorish at best or doubling-down at worse. Its real clueless. The only plausible explanation for the behavior is that 2nd Amendment advocates are so sure than gun control will never happen that they believe they can afford to swagger regardless of the situation. They aren’t necessarily wrong. More gun laws were loosened in the aftermath of Sandy than were restricted.

    Report

    • I’d hate to say it but they are winning so far and winning very well. This doesn’t mean that it will last forever but the NRA and extreme gun rights advocates do have a remarkable winning streak.

      Report

    • With the growing support for new gun control measures, it seems to me the NRA is running the risk of them reaching critical mass and forcing through more changes than are being proposed now. If people get upset enough to counter the NRA and demand something be done, why would they simply stop at things like universal background checks?

      Report

      • Perhaps but I am somewhat cynical and think that if Sandy Hook couldn’t create any new or serious regulations, I doubt why this case will. I would like to be prove wrong though.

        The numbers of homes that own guns are decreasing but it also seems like we are on the rise with the number of people pulling of successful stand your ground defenses (though there might be a push back here) and guns on the market and in the United States. I think there are about 250 million guns out and around the United States.

        Report

      • Here’s the thing: if people are supposed to take on trust that the guys at the fast food restaurant with the visible guns are non-threatening, okay-kinda people, then why can’t those same guys show some trust in people who are worried about guns and respond to their legitimate concerns? Because it’s a one-way street right now.

        Joe the Plumber is basically saying only his concerns count. And if I were an American citizen concerned about guns in American society, I’d want to know why I’m not allowed to say exactly the same thing. Seriously, America never looks so foreign to outsiders as when the discussion focuses on guns.

        Report

      • In some ways, concealed makes me more paranoid because you never know who is packing. I am very firm on the idea of guns being for the home and if you want to take them hunting or to the shooting range, you keep them in your trunk and in a container and unloaded. Ammo in a separate container.

        Report

      • It could be because law abiding citizens with guns look EXACTLY like not law abiding citizens with guns.

        You can’t tell until you’re no longer around them, and you tell by whether or not you’ve been shot at.

        See, that’s the fundamental mental error these open carry guys have — and some concealed carry guys, who can’t get why it makes people nervous. They KNOW they’re law abiding citizens who aren’t going to shoot anyone without “good reason”. (Obviously, how good their judgement is will vary, but I’m going to extend to them the basic gun safety notion of “If they have a gun, they are prepared to use it if needed”).

        But everyone else around them DOESN’T know that. We just know “That person has a gun”. That’s it. The sum total of information available to the public. Are you crazy? Sane? Criminal? Law abiding? No idea.

        People don’t freak out about cop’s openly carrying guns because, you know, the uniform answers that question pretty reliably. Odds are pretty good that the guy with the badge is not going to yank out his gun and start screaming crazy stuff while firing randomly.

        Because a cop’s uniform — or a National Guardsmen on deployment or whatnot — gives everyone further information.

        It’s something the guys toting guns — especially the guys wanting more freedom to tote guns and wanting to convince their fellow citizens that there aren’t enough people toting guns around — should keep in mind. They may realize they’re anything from good citizens to action-heroes-in-waiting in their heads, but to everyone else they’re “guy with a gun, potential threat rating: High”.

        You know, because he’s carrying a weapon. Which means if he’s not a nice happy person, he can do lots more damage than an unarmed random person.

        That’s not even getting into further factors: Race, cultural markers, social demographic markers, general demeanor…

        Report

      • Morat20:

        I’m sorry to hear that you are afraid that everyone you encounter in public may be carrying a weapon and poses a threat. Still I fail to see why your irrational fear should be a heckler’s veto preventing law abiding citizens from carrying concealed weapons to protect themselves.

        Report

      • It’s almost like you’re personally offended, if not downright terrified, that someone might have a different opinion than you on this subject. Why so delicate that you’d resort to insults to someone who did nothing more than answer your question of “Why do people seem afraid of law abiding citizens carrying guns”? I mean, goodness, I didn’t even say which way I felt — I merely explained one quite logical reason a given person might be worried about a perfectly law abiding, but armed, citizen.

        That’s so strange. Why did you ask the question if you didn’t want an answer? And why retort with insults?

        It’s almost like you don’t want a dialogue, you just want to score some rhetorical points.

        Isn’t that precious?

        Report

  2. Actually, it’s kind of refreshing to see someone say something so open and honest. You know the NRA types think exactly the same way. Why do you appeal to a sense of decency they clearly don’t possess? Here’s an article by a guy who was an ardent hunter since childhood and who enjoyed the programs they NRA sponsored but who bailed when the hunting types got replaced by the killing types: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/05/25/i-was-the-nra/

    I cannot believe your founding fathers intended for the 2nd amendment to be so interpreted by Americans. There needs to be some serious pushback against the NRA and their head wingnut Wayne LaPierre. Do Americans care enough? I seriously doubt it. I don’t think many people on this site care enough, for a start.

    Report

      • In my ideal universe, there would be more restrictions on the purchase and public carrying of firearms. But, given the political universe we live in, I’m pretty much resigned to the kind of “arms fundamentalism” we’ve been living with since the 80s. I don’t think that serious regulation of firearms is in the cards in the current culture, and it certainly won’t be worth the sturm and drang that would result from the fight.

        There are other issues, which I care about more, and have greater likelihood of impact, for which I’d rather fight.

        So, I’m one of those that don’t care “enough”.

        Report

      • Who knows? But there’s certainly some regulation that enjoys majority support and seems pretty straightforward. (Registration, for one, which seems to only upset the black helicopter crowd who seems to think their private armory will fend off the FBI).

        It’s like being up near the peak of a mountain and saying “We’re up to high, we should head downhill”. Sure, sooner or later you’re gonna wanna stop going downhill, but it’s not really a pressing concern at the moment.

        Unless you happen to fundamentally believe we’re already close or at ‘too burdensome regulation’ in which case “where do we stop” is probably pressing.

        But insofar as I’m of the opinion of “How about we actually stop and think a bit, and maybe do a few sensible things like register guns so we know whose they are and maybe require insurance or some minimum training to own one” which puts “buying a gun” at the same horrible regulatory burden as “buying a car”.

        I’m comfortable saying that, if nothing else, owning a gun should probably be at least as sensibly regulated as owning a car. If I’ve got to be licensed and registered to drive a vehicle, I can’t imagine why I shouldn’t be to own a gun. (Heck, actually it’s less registration since it’s only gun owners, not people firing guns.)

        Report

    • I cannot believe your founding fathers intended for the 2nd amendment to be so interpreted by Americans.

      They didn’t. When read in its entirety, the Second Amendment was all about each individual state having a militia in which local men (Pretty much from the age they could shoot) would be able to mount a military defense of the new nation, since its leaders were deeply distrustful of standing armies. After all, they had just fought a very costly war to rid themselves of the privations of a standing army. Once that law was passed all the states passed additional laws requiring ownership be every free man of at least one military musket, requiring the registration of same, and setting out fines and confinement for those males unwilling to comply.

      Which sounds like the NRA’s worst nightmare, but I digress.

      Report

  3. Serious question for those who know more: Was the Joe the Plumber in demand as a writer, speaker, etc at events for like-minded folk prior this event.

    I have nothing to add to your piece because I agree. The most interesting thing is how he gets attention. I guess 15 minutes of fame for hot-button cultural politics allows someone to try and stay relevant forever. The media landscape (political and non-political) seem to be about third and fourth rate personalities constantly trying to stay relevant and in the news.

    Report

  4. I say let Joe and his trigger happy brethren keep their guns, but let’s starting taxing the living daylights out of them for every firearm and every clip of ammo that they currently own or purchase in the future and hike the permit fee through the roof. Sadly, hitting these clowns in their wallets appears to be the only way to effect real change anymore.

    Report

    • Yeah! And let’s institute a pay-by-the-word fee for people like Fox News! Because lying liars who publish lies should be *punished* for what they do. Oh sure, they can mewl and whinge about how they have “rights”, but with rights come responsibilities, and it’s important that people be made to act responsibly. And when they refuse to exercise their rights responsibly, well, they just don’t deserve to have those rights, I guess.

      Report

      • ….with rights come responsibilities, and it’s important that people be made to act responsibly.

        Yup. Gunnuts (or as another site called them this week: ammosexuals) don’t even the foggiest concept of responsibility to society. Back in the days when the NRA was teaching responsibility to young hunters, they used to understand that.

        Report

      • DRS:

        I’m not sure how you can say that law abiding gun owners don’t have or show a sense of responsibility towards society. Liberals seem to expect law abiding gun owners to show “responsibility” by giving up their rights. Are there any other rights that you would ask people to give up because some misuse them?

        Report

      • Notme: I’m not a liberal, I’m a conservative, and I care more about the good of society than I do about individual rights. And when I see all those idiots open-carrying and getting in people’s faces and screaming at them, then yeah, it’s pretty clear that many gun-owners are not showing responsibility to society. Before you respond, but they’re a minority, I’ll add that gunowners who don’t condemn their stunts are not being responsible either.

        Report

    • Chris Rock had a great routine: no restrictions on guns but ammo costs $5,000 per bullet. Immediate benefit: no more innocent bystanders getting hit – no one could afford it.

      Report

      • I’m curious for the lawyers amongst us ( ), would a special tax (specifically one that made it prohibitively expensive) on ammunition pass a 2nd amendment challenge? Would it be unconstitutional under any other amendments?

        Report

      • Beats me. There have been a grand total of three cases from SCOTUS meaningfully addressing the Second Amendment. One says that the Feds can tax guns. The second says you can’t ban handguns completely. The third says that cities and states also can’t ban them completely. We know that there can be “reasonable regulations,” but no guidance at all about what that phrase means.

        We’ve got a Ninth Circuit case that says that if you have an effective ban on concealed carry permits, you have to allow people to open carry. That more than the SCOTUS case suggests that a Chris Rock style tax would be unreasonable. A moderate special tax on ammo seems like it will pass muster, the way, say, cigarettes get taxed.

        What’s the difference between a reasonable tax and a ridiculous one? The case law as it stands offers zero guidance. So you are as capable as anyone of telling me where that line rests.

        Report

      • I do think, though, if it is established that the tax is imposed in order to be prohibitive–say 1,000% plus a yearly “reverification tax” of $10,0000 per firearm, for example–that tax would be unconstitutional. But as said, in real life, the line might be difficult draw.

        Report

      • Thanks and . Is ammo itself protected under the second? I’m guessing from what Burt has said here that it has never been addressed. That would seem to be a key hinge. If it isn’t considered protected under the 2nd, I assume you’d then have to look at existing case law on taxation in general.

        I reckon this would probably just strengthen the black market in arms and ammo.

        Report

      • It’d be interesting given the various ways in which the court has defined things over the year. Letter of the law versus spirit of the law and all that. Logically, it’d seem that arms should be included. But the court sometimes follows its own logic.

        Report

      • Recall that the Supreme Court has ruled that the interstate commerce clause gives Congress the authority to regulate non-interstate non-commerce. They rule as they choose, not as logic dictates, and no one has the authority to call BS.

        Report

      • FWIW, I would not support a tax on ammo (or guns) solely designed to make them prohibitively expensive. I don’t know how either are taxed now. I would be okay with taxes on them aimed at recovering costs associated with negative externalities (including deaths), but would want to see a bevy of research into that before accepting any recommendations of what those costs are and how much we should attempt to recoup through taxation.

        Report

      • There are also some Court of Appeals cases about whether misdemeanor domestic violence counts as being allowable as an ex-felon in possession. IIRC from Advanced Con Law, there is a circuit split on the issue. Some circuits said that misdemeanor domestic violence is not enough to ban someone from gun ownership and others said that it is enough.

        Report

      • Then as with other circuit splits, we await a decision from SCOTUS reconciling them. There will need to be some pretty hefty public interest money put into such a project, though, since we’re talking about misdemeanors.

        Report

    • Actually lets just tax ammunition, not guns. You can have arms but just not afford to use them. Also tax gunpowder so that home loaders have to pay. It might also take the tack of buying less than 10 bullets at a time pays no tax, but at 11 a 20% tax is incured. At that point you can have bullets to protect yourself. If you want a lot you just have to go store to store to get them (i.e. make it harder to get hundreds to thousands of rounds).

      Report

  5. As a way to curtail child death rates, what are your thoughts on limiting gun ownership to muzzle loading firearms?

    Report

  6. I mean, ole’ Joe the Plumber said it a little bluntly, but when you dig deep, that’s the basic underlying points of most people who support gun rights – their right to own a gun, for whatever reason, is more important than society’s right to limit ownership in a way that creates a safer society. If a few omelets, or elementary school students, die along the way, that’s a small price for freedom.

    Report

    • I think this is unfair. Anybody with strongly held political opinions will at some point be thinking “well it’s terrible that such and such died, but that doesn’t change my opinion because ::insert principled argument here::” Liberals would make the exact same argument if, say, conservatives were screaming about how the latest suicide bombing means we have to re-occupy Iraq, or if somebody in Colorado caused a fatal car crash because he was driving while high and this was evidence that legalization was a failure. Yes, the deaths of those people are horrible, but that can’t be the whole argument. The same is true here. Joe is being a huge asshole, but it doesn’t prove much about guns, gun control, or the respective sides of the gun debate.

      Report

  7. I don’t particularly like the gun lobby and I don’t particularly like Joe the Plumber. I don’t really like anyone who uses these sort of events to further a political agenda, but that is practically the national sport right now.

    Someone please explain to me the actual moral or legal objection to what Joe the Plumber said. Was it just that he is crass and goulish? Or do you believe that this event actually ought to trump our constitutional rights? If it’s the former, I agree, but if the latter, that’s a pretty dangerous precedent.

    Let’s say some murderer got off because the cops made procedural mistakes. Does that mean we ought to start rolling back due process? If someone gets in car drunk and kills a couple of people in an accident, is that enough to justify an increase in random traffic stops and the installation of breathalyzers in every car? Does a drug overdose justify the Drug War or does 9/11 justify the security theater of the TSA?

    Maybe the answer is yes, but in a democracy we have to ask those questions. Maybe you think that we ought not have a right to private gun ownership. And that is fine. You are entitled to your opinion, but don’t demonize people for holding the opposite opinion.

    Report

    • Partly its just that Joe is a crass jerk. More seriously though if guns and their availability lead to more gun deaths then that very much makes his, and every bodies, gun rights an issue. I’m not saying this case has any special meaning for this since, afaik, he got his gun legally and there was nothing anybody could have known to stop that. However if guns are a serious problem that leads to other people, not just the individual gun owners, getting shot, that is a clear case where some regulations may be appropriate.

      Report

    • Well, let’s see here.
      “Let’s say some murderer got off because the cops made procedural mistakes. Does that mean we ought to start rolling back due process?”

      If 10,000 murderers got off a year due to procedural mistakes, we might have to look at the training of cops or whether due process laws did indeed, have loopholes the size of Texas in them.

      “If someone gets in car drunk and kills a couple of people in an accident, is that enough to justify an increase in random traffic stops and the installation of breathalyzers in every car?”

      Actually, we did have a massive problem with drunk driving. We increased random stops, lowered the legal limit, and increased fines. Now, there’s a current argument we’ve gone too far, but drunk driving deaths have sure dropped.

      “Does a drug overdose justify the Drug War or does 9/11 justify the security theater of the TSA?”

      Again, if we were having dozens of terrorist attacks daily or thousands of drug overdoses due to legally accessible drugs, then yeah, maybe we need to look at the laws.

      None of us in favor of stricter gun control in this thread are saying, “we need to limit laws because of this incident.” We’re saying, “this is more evidence of a larger problem.”

      Look, I’d love there be a time when things could cool off and we could talk about gun control without a shadow of a tragedy looming over us. But, if they keep on happening, to quote somebody else, “it’s never a good time to talk about gun control.”

      Report

      • I would not at all be surprised if more people were acquitted of crimes on technicalities than their are gun homicides in this country, so I’m not sure that example serves your ends.

        I think the last paragraph of my comment addresses what you are saying here. If you support an actual meaningful conversation on what measures might help reduce gun violence, as opposed to a status competition in which each side tries to throw shade on the other, then we are not necessarily in disagreement.

        Report

      • This point needs to be emphasized. It was more than mere crassness- Joe’s central premise needs to be defeated.

        Laws are written to produce a purpose, that of improving our lives and creating an order that reflects what we hold sacred.

        The absurdly strict legalism of Joe Plumber’s statement, is ironically, the sort of blithe indifference towards outcomes that conservatives lampooned in the 70’s. I know, I was one of them. The sterotypical liberal lawyer saw only procedure, and if a few murderers got off, well, such was the price of constitutional fealty.

        If the Constitution, or any framwork of laws, create an outcome of injustice or moral horror, then yes, the dead bodies DO count for more than the Constitution.

        Report

      • We’re saying, “this is more evidence of a larger problem.”

        How so? Would it be sensible for a tragic lightning-strike death to be used as evidence of a larger problem of weather-related damage? It seems to be that linking rare, highly unique incidents to a larger causes of which they are not representative would only cloud the issue. Spree-killings, while awful in their direct impact, are insignificant in terms of national gun violence. And they’re basically the worst kind of issue to legislate: minuscule sample size (a dozen per year, at most), highly diverse causes (mental health, gun type, procurement of gun, target, etc.), and a huge false-positive risk (the vast majority of gun-owners that are sensible). Moreover, the gun regulations that are typically proposed (and popular) would not have stopped this spree killing and (for the previously stated reasons) generally have nothing to do with spree killings at all. So what’s the purpose of tying the two issues together if not emotional manipulation?

        “it’s never a good time to talk about gun control.”

        I think this would be a fair defense if the pro-regulation people were having an ongoing conversation about guns that did not change in pitch or focus after a spree killing occurred, but that’s clearly not the case. Pro-regulation groups immediately spring into action to publicize the tragedy and tie it into their long-standing positions, emphasizing families of the victims, and making highly dubious promises about how such incidents could have been prevented (see http://thinkprogress.org/progress-report/the-right-to-live/ for the first UCSB example I could find). Should we stop talking about gun control? No, gun violence is a serious issue in America and it deserves debate. But does it make any sense to use isolated, highly emotional incidents that have little relation to the proposed laws to motivate this debate?

        Report

      • But does it make any sense to use isolated, highly emotional incidents that have little relation to the proposed laws to motivate this debate?

        Sure. I don’t see why it doesn’t, if it motivates a debate about these issues. Further, I think there clearly is a relation between incidents like this and some of the proposed laws, like background checks.

        Report

    • “Someone please explain to me the actual moral or legal objection to what Joe the Plumber said.”

      It’s a combination of content and timing.

      When you use the phrase “your dead kids” about murder victims, you’re not speaking truth to power. You’re directly addressing people whose children have just been violently killed, which might well be the most horrific event any human being can suffer through. And in this case, the guy did it before the bodies are ever in the ground — probably before any of the families have had enough time to make funeral arrangements. That isn’t being blunt, it’s being an asshole — worse, it’s being an asshole for no good reason other than to be one, since I suspect that Joe has never met any of these people.

      There are a million ways that people can say they still support the Constitution after a tragedy like this, regardless of how they feel about the second amendment, that don’t do any of these things.

      Report

    • I’m in line with Tod’s answer. It’s not that his words are legally wrong, and it’s not that he’s necessarily wrong that gun murders trump the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But that point can be made without being so callous to people who’ve just suffered the worst thing a parent can experience. “Your dead kid” manages to simultaneously depersonalize the victims, emphasize to the parents what they’ve lost, and trivialize that loss.

      It’s so completely uncompromising, treating the people affected by this strategy as opponents and deserving of no consideration or sympathy, that it’s perfectly emblematic of our politics today, and a good indicator of how unnecessarily ugly it’s become.

      Report

    • I don’t really like anyone who uses these sort of events to further a political agenda, but that is practically the national sport right now.

      There’s some industrial strength BSDI.

      Report

    • ““As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.””

      The whole theme of the Bush administration was that ‘security’ (as defined by them, based on secret data) *did* trump Constitutional rights. And there weren’t thousands of Tea Partiers protesting that.

      Report

      • Jaybird – Your takeaway is the logical conclusion that Tea Partiers, and any other conservatives who didn’t oppose Bush’s security state measures, don’t give a damn about constitutional rights. So when they’re yelling about guns, it’s about something other than the constitution.

        Report

      • Your takeaway is the logical conclusion that Tea Partiers, and any other conservatives who didn’t oppose Bush’s security state measures, don’t give a damn about constitutional rights. So when they’re yelling about guns, it’s about something other than the constitution.

        I thought the Tea Party was focused primarily on economic tax/spend issues (Crony capitalism, TARP, O-Care, etc.) Not civil liberty/security state questions.

        Is there an “official” TP platform position on guns?

        Or does Joe the Plumber, Tea Partier, insensitive loudmouth, and eerie Michael Chiklis lookalike, just happen to also have an opinion on guns and the Constitutional right to them?

        (Also, Jaybird, I got your actual point. Well done.)

        Report

      • Didn’t the Tea Party thing start with a rant about homeowner’s getting bailouts and how horrible that was, right as every financial institution dying under the weight of mortgage based CDO’s was getting bailed out so we wouldn’t all die under fiscal Armageddon?

        Report

      • IIRC the Tea Party was all about the bank bailouts at the start (which is why I said crony capitalism and TARP). Wikipedia seems to corroborate this. Though for all I know Joe the Plumber is a Wikipedia editor.

        Whether you think the bank bailouts were necessary or not doesn’t change the fact that the TP was basically about tax/spend issues (as their chosen historical moniker implies). For the most part it was my understanding that they tried, at least at first, to stay away from social issues, because they thought that’d be unnecessarily divisive.

        So is J the P speaking for the Tea Party? Or for J the P?

        Report

    • The absurdly strict legalism of Joe Plumber’s statement, is ironically, the sort of blithe indifference towards outcomes that conservatives lampooned in the 70?s.

      The whole theme of the Bush administration was that ‘security’ (as defined by them, based on secret data) *did* trump Constitutional rights. And there weren’t thousands of Tea Partiers protesting that.

      An argument about conservative hypocrisy is not the same thing as an argument for the progressive position. If you want to talk about gun control then let’s talk about actual measures, how they would be enacted, and what effect they might have. All the rest is posturing.

      Report

      • Actual measures like, asking why the 2nd Amendment exists?

        Or measures like forcing prospective gun owners to show cause why they need one?
        Or bullet signatures, registration, or any of the other dozen gun control measures that have been brought out and discussed for decades?

        Or maybe you are looking for an argument like “30,000 dead people is a tad too many, to balance out the benefits of gun ownership”

        Because we really, really do want to have this discussion.

        Report

      • I’m not sure that “asking why the 2nd Amendment exists” is an actual measure. It sounds a lot more like plaintive hand wringing.

        Is your suggestion that we repeal the 2nd Amendment and outlaw private gun ownership? That’s a possibility, but you can’t just wave a magic wand and make all the guns disappear. Are you going to grandfather in the people who currently own weapons? If you do that, then a whole lot of people are going to run out and get guns and you may end up with an increase in gun ownership.

        If you don’t allow people to keep the guns that they already have, how are you going to get all of the guns out there out of circulation? I imagine that some percentage of people will willingly surrender their weapons. What about those who won’t? Are you going to go door-to-door confiscating guns? Are you going to send in SWAT teams on those people who resist.

        I am not necessarily opposed to registration, but I would rather see it left to states and municipalities. In other words, it makes sense that a place New York City should have tougher regulations than a place like Montana. However, to get to reasonable compromise, it means that places like New York should make legal gun ownership less onerous and some places like Montana should increase regulation.

        Also, registration or bullet signatures might (and I say might because we don’t know) help with some forms of violent crime (which by the way is at 20-year low), but how does it help with spree killings? A guy who plans to go out in a blaze of glory doesn’t care that the police can trace the weapon or the bullets back to him.

        Report

      • At the end of the day, it seems to me that if we were to hold a Constitutional Convention, rewrite the Constitution from the ground up, and show it off proudly… well, I reckon that the 2nd Amendment would still be in there.

        As for repeal, I can probably come up with 13 states off the top of my head that would oppose tooth and nail and probably 20ish that would oppose on general principle. I might even be able to reach 25 states.

        If we want to get rid of the 2nd Amendment, it’ll have to be extra-constitutionally.

        Report

      • As with literally every other law, we would have to balance logistical problems with enforcement vs. how much we care about the outcome of the law. For example: everyone agrees that theft should be illegal, but that doesn’t mean we institute a 7pm curfew immediately and shoot on sight anyone who’s out late. Instead, we strive to minimize the level of theft while still recognizing that enforcing this law creates some problems as well (but not nearly enough to justify making theft legal).

        So we’d have to study how to best treat guns. For instance, banning public carry (concealed or open) would be easier than banning having a gun in your home, and might lead to fewer problems. Requiring all gun owners to register their guns, and maintaining a database tracking them as they change possession, would also be helpful. Others on this thread have discussed mandatory licensing, training, and insurance requirements (all of which already exist for cars, which hasn’t caused us to become a fascist state yet).

        You might object to any or all of these measures. But it’s an incredible strawman to claim that people who are pro-gun-control are going to break into grandpa’s house with a SWAT team tomorrow because they got an anonymous tip saying he owns a hunting rifle.

        Report

  8. “As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”

    This is about the most abysmal way of phrasing the argument as I could concoct, timed in about the worst imaginable sort of way.

    I mean, the argument that because Criminal “X” has abused a constitutionally-protected right does not mean legally restricting that same right for Law-Abiding Citizen “Y” is a weighty one. Burt Likko defames Russell Saunders; this does not mean that Saul DeGraw must submit to a prior restraint on his speech. Jim Heffman demands a jury trial when changed with an offense for which he has no evidence even suggesting reasonable doubt; this does not mean that Jesse Ewiak must later show a court why he wants a jury trial before he will be allowed one. That’s what rights are.

    You can make this argument in a way that doesn’t dismiss the impact and importance of parents burying their children after being senselessly murdered. You can say “There needs to be better mental health treatment available,” for instance, or “Your legitimate concerns about how this awful incident happened should be aimed at the Sheriff whose deputies failed to protect the public.”

    But if it’s my kid who’s dead less than a week, I kind of don’t give a rat’s lice-ridden ass about your Constitutional rights, you insensitive and inarticulate intermeddling interloper. Who the f— asked you, anyway? Go to the dustbin of indecent scoundrels insisting upon their Constitutional rights in the face of overwhelming human tragedy and I hope you get seated next to the Westboro Baptist Church who insists on talking to you about the importance of freedom of speech.

    Report

    • This, I agree with without reservation. If we are judging Joe the Plumber on his rhetoric and his mode of expression, I concur in condemning him. However, the post implies that it is the underlying guns rights position that Russel finds odious and not just the timing of Joe’s utterance.

      Report

  9. Russell:

    What would you prefer Joe say? Would you prefer the he agree with liberals or say nothing to defend his civil rights? His response is to the father that blames politicians and the NRA for this tragedy despite Cal’s strong anti guns laws. The liberal answer is always to take away the rights of law abiding gun owners whenever there is a tragedy. When will liberals stop blaming objects for the actions of people? Oh, and don’t forget that three of the six victims were stabbed, a fact which the liberals ignore

    Report

  10. I’m just curious why we care what this guy says… now or ever.

    (Which isn’t to question Russell responding. For whatever reason, his words have some traction and upon reaching a certain critical mass of influence and/or support, a response is warranted. But why the hell do his words have any traction?)

    Report

    • Fame 2.0, or whatever they’re calling it these days. Policy wonks speaking of nuance and with caveats don’t pull eyeballs to the cable channels or Web news services. Blunt-spoken individuals with a compelling back story (factual or not) do. The news services care because he’s famous. And he’s famous because he managed to initially catch the attention of some news service.

      The writers, commenters, and readers at OT are really atypical.

      Report

      • Wonks, if they’re wise, find ways to inject nuance into folks without it.
        Power of the purse strings does wonders to lend an air of intellectual credibility to one’s arguments.

        Report

  11. You know, I’d agree that what he said was pretty crass. That being said, reading the “playbook” from the gun control groups who put out talking points on how to use tragedies like this one to advance their agenda drives me to conclude: 1) BSDI and 2) Both sides can be assholes.

    That being said. I agree with him. Allow me to explain as my example is not directly on point, but is applicable: I receive a consumer rights magazine in the mail and it often talks about how some product or industry needs new regulations because X people died or were injured. When you look at the stats, especially the numbers of products made vs injuries and fatalities, often times the percentages of injury/deaths are microscopic. Do we really need regulation for this particular issue? Yes, according to them because everyone is precious and because !safety!. Sorry, but you can’t protect everyone all the time. There must exist some element of risk in life.

    So, this shooter, in one of the most difficult states to purchase and own weapons, got some guns. A mentally ill guy, who was broadcasting his illness and his intent for quite some time slips through the cracks. The cops who interviewed him missed it. How did this take place? For the same reason a airplane crashes: a series of errors/mistakes/failures that, where they singular, would not have resulted in a failure, but combined, in the right time and circumstances, leads to this rare event. The failure of complex systems. It happens. Stuff like this is a bad time to be making policy.

    Report

    • Like I said above, “stuff like this is a bad time to be making policy” would be reasonable if this happened every couple years or even once a year. But, when this happens every few months, the issue is, it becomes never a good time to make policy because the counter on, ‘days since somebody shot a whole bunch of innocent people for seemingly no good reason’ resets to zero far more often in the US than in any other part of the industrialized world.

      Report

    • Damon:

      Liberals don’t want to admit this incident shows that gun control failed in CA. They can’t blame a person for their actions just an object. As for this being a bad time to make policy, don’t you know that Dems never want to waste a good crisis to get suckers to vote with their heart and not with their head? It is right of out of the Dem, Rahmbo “Dead Fish” Emmanuel ‘s playbook.

      Report

      • UM . . .
        This gun owning liberal often says exactly that, because so called gun control law is really about looks (e.g. the assault weapons ban) and not about which types of guns actually do the most harm (stolen handguns). That aside, weren’t three of the victims stabbed? With a knife? They are still dead and still mourned, and still the victim of a mentally unstable white man who took his misogyny to a lethal extreme using legally available lethal weapons. That requires a policy debate no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.

        Unless you are a shrill, thoughtless moron, but I digress.

        Report

      • Philip,
        the libertarian solution is to take down the names of all the crazy gun nuts…. just in case. [How do you get the names of crazy gun nuts? You sell them ammo. Quite profitable, really.]

        Report

      • mentally unstable white man

        Biracial, actually.

        who took his misogyny to a lethal extreme

        …and managed to kill more men than women.

        Can we just agree to leave it at “mentally unstable man”? I realize he put a bunch of racist and misogynist stuff in his rambling manifesto, but really, it could have been lizard people he was after. Dude was bonkers. Bonkers is equal-opportunity (though men who go bonkers are seemingly more likely to blow up and take others with them).

        Report

      • The one problem I have with that Jezebel article is that it dismisses mental illness. The dude was supposed to be on anti-psychotics. That is not dismissible. Did rabid misogyny feed his paranoia? Obviously. But the mental illness clearly played a huge role, and dismissing it (and the brief mention of his race, which has not been handled well pretty much anywhere) is problematic on many levels.

        Report

      • At Ed Brayton’s blog, I criticized him for referring to Rodger as “bitter misogynistic rich kid,” or some such phrase, and pointed out that the evidence suggests serious mental illness. I got some pushback on that, but the one person who chimed into support me was Dr. X, who is a practicing psychologist/psychiatrist (I’m not sure of his precise credentialing).

        Even Shazbot, for all his careless long-distance diagnosing, at least agreed that the guy was mentally ill. On this casual observation, it appears that a lot (not all, of course) of people who don’t know much about psychology are eager to dismiss severe mental illness, so they can blame something else (the kid himself, or groups he associated with), while those who do know something about psychology (which doesn’t include me) are more certain that this was a deeper mental disorder.

        Report

      • — I’m sure he had an issue (but I cannot diagnose what that was). So, true. And I bet some of those other guys do as well. And maybe some don’t, or a little yes, a little no, to varying degrees.

        Most of the guys in that chat room won’t kill anyone. Probably none of them will. (I surely hope.) But they were encouraging each other to do so, along with lesser terrible things. And this will have an effect.

        This is a culture of deep misogyny, and guys like Elliot are drawn to it and collectively sustain it, and it is horrible and a certain number will do horrible things.

        Some will just be shitty people. But isn’t that bad enough?

        I’ve heard a number say, “If he had not done this, it would have been sometime else,” as if murder is an unavoidable outcome for someone like him. I don’t believe that. Environment matters.

        By the way, I happened across this decidedly non-feminist take on the event. I think it’s mega-insightful, despite its dudely tone.

        http://politicalomnivore.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-to-read-elliot-rodgers-manifesto.html

        Report

      • – Two separate (but related) questions.

        I talked, on this post, about the fact that it seems obvious to me that some degree of copycatting DOES occur. That applies to ALL rampage killings (misogynist ones, racist ones, Jew/lizard people ones, post office/asshole bosses ones, etc., etc.).

        I also posited, yesterday, that a sick mind finds the materials that appeal to it – assuming the Jezebel piece is 100% accurate and at least some of those forum participants are both serious and dangerous, let’s amend that to “sick minds find the materials or other sick minds that appeal to them.”

        So can we meet in the middle, and posit that the internet forum Jezebel is monitoring is yet another potential vector for copycatting (mutually reinforcing delusions/potentially priming future killers). Does that work for you?

        Now what? What do we do about that, beyond what Jezebel is doing?

        This post is about gun control (well, it’s more about insensitivity I guess, but also gun control); more broadly than gun control, I take the whole conversation at the League to be “what, if anything, can we do”?

        Given the First, I don’t know that these internet forums can be shut down, unless specific and credible threats are being made (=not just 13-year-old boys talking s**t) even though I believe they are a possible vector of future violence – as is, frankly, even *this* forum, or any forum in which people are broadcasting the events.

        Given the Second, I don’t know that we can do (much) about the guns part, though we can tinker at the edges, even though guns are often used in these rampages and may make them more deadly on average.

        So, what? Anything? I was really serious about the epidemiological approach – can you or anyone think of something there?

        This particular nut picked up a flavor of nuttiness that you, personally, may find more odious than the other flavors.

        But I’m trying to tackle things at the nut level, not the flavor level.

        Next time it’ll be someone who has a paranoid fixation on the Jews, or the Muslims, or the Illuminati.

        Report

      • Veronica, that those PUAHaters are virulently misogynistic is undeniable. That misogyny, and misogynistic rhetoric, fed Rogers’ paranoia and rage also seems pretty undeniable. That he was mentally ill, and seriously so, to the point that his behavior had become even more disturbing to all around him than it had been since he was 7 or 8 years old (8!) is also undeniable. Throwing out the last part is no more valid than throwing out the other parts.

        Report

      • Glyph,
        Yeah, welcome to the real world, where the US Government can shut down Syria’s website (Sanctions, bitches!), but they can’t shut down forums where people post the location of dead bodies [I really don’t believe they actually killed anyone, truly. It’s one thing to post about seeing some guys with shovels, and get a GPS for that… it takes a whole nother level of stupidity to post if you did the deed].

        Report

      • I think trying to use The Government to regulate the internet is stupid. The End.

        In general, I agree. But if anyone wants to put forth a proposal, I’d be willing to at least look at it. Like Road’s gun proposals. Let’s get specific. I admit to being doubtful that there’s much we *can* do (at least without the cure being as problematic as the disease) but I haven’t checked out of the conversation just yet. I understand why people are upset, it’s terrible, but rather than go to our usual bugbears (guns! misogyny! racism! or my personal favorite, the void at the center of all things!) are there any other avenues that we haven’t explored as thoroughly and/or that we have some hope of ameliorating before the sun burns out?

        Report

      • Also, I apologize to anyone who is offended by my use of more colorful/blunt terms for “mentally ill” (bonkers, nuts, crazy). I know it’s a sensitive topic for some.

        But if we can’t call someone who’d kill a bunch of acquaintances (not sure Rodger had “friends”) strangers, or family “crazy”, we can’t call anybody “crazy”.

        Report

      • — Causality is a lattice not a chain.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lattice_(order)

        Yes, this guy was (almost certainly) mentally ill.

        But consider, there were people in his life. His parents — they had not given up on him, his therapists — I want to believe they were doing their professional best. But there were others in his life — the bullies who taunted him, the “alphas” who got all the women, the “betas” who got women also, which drove him into rage.

        And another group — the beautiful women who failed to notice him at all.

        But there was a final group who affected him, the incel scene, where he found his home.

        I assure you; that Jezebel article is not even slightly exaggerated.

        These were the voices in his ear, on one side his parents and therapist, on the other voices of intense hate. And, yeah, as a woman I kinda wanna shine a light on that latter group.

        And not just because of this guy. Think of the harm the “incel” scene does, to women, obviously, but also to men. Think of the harm it did to Elliot.

        Yes, it harmed him. It filled his mind with toxic bullshit. A different scene, had he found another home, would have filled his mind with maybe something better. Maybe enough better that his therapist could find something to engage.

        Maybe. We’ll never know.

        All those other boys in incel spaces, lonely and frustrated and feeding back on each other, echoing their destructive beliefs. I want to talk about this stuff.

        This is not the first time this has happened.

        Report

      • — Oh, and you asked, “Now what? What do we do about that, beyond what Jezebel is doing?”

        I have an answer. First, that article is useless if no one reads it. So read it, share it, enter the conversation.

        Second, understand this from a feminist perspective. A few core tenants of feminism are as follows:

        1. Our culture associates masculinity with dominance and femininity with submission.

        2. We police gender expression, punish that which moves outside a narrow range. We punish both women and men.

        3. We treat our romantic partners as status objects. Both sexes do this, but given the power of socially dominant men, this hurts women more.

        These are present throughout our culture. Their effects are usually pretty obvious. However, they become very obvious when observing the MRAs. Think about what we know of this Elliot Rogers, what he said in his videos, what he wrote. Look at what other “incels” write. Look at how Rogers was treated by “macho” men, the bullying he received, the messages he internalized. Google the terms “Elliot Rogers” and “manlet.”

        It’s really gross.

        What we can do is this: understand how the “manosphere” fits within the larger context of patriarchy; for although the MRA scene is the collective brainfart of some very terrible men (and a few women), it is to a large degree a distillation of social forces found throughout our society.

        The forces suck. We should understand and oppose them.

        Report

      • Glyph and v,
        Does no one see “business opportunity” here? Because, yes, these guys think they’ve been fooled by men writing self-help books… But they haven’t actually paid Women for Advice about how to get chicks.

        Glyph,
        The government imposing some sort of liability on servers that hold sites like this one is the only thing I can really think of (dovetails with the Syria example above). Even a relatively minor culpability… (this will mostly cause the folks to come up with code words, and otherwise create a market for “find the homicidal idiot” — but, hell, folks haven’t finished writing the “find the porn” bot, so…it could take a while)

        Report

    • in this particular instance, a parent of one of the victims spoke out and requested a grass-roots postcard campaign to congress critters. That’s probably what perturbed Joe who’s neither a Joe or a plumber to speak out about the balance of dead children and gun rights.

      But after Sandyhook and the derailing of any type of control, even closing the gun-show loophole, I think most pro-regulation Americans got a pretty clear picture that it doesn’t matter how horrific the crime is, gun nuts don’t care about the loss of innocents enough to sit down at the table and talk or to shut down the methods of getting around background checks.

      So I’d guess that it’s pretty likely that every horror will become a political tool because from my pro-regulation perspective, the pro-gun side thinks shutting down the conversation is the answer.

      For me, it’s not the actions of a crazy person, disturbing as they are, that drive me to regulation, it’s the conversations I’ve had with battered women, describing how their husbands and boyfriends would take their guns out and clean them in complete silence as a threat to these women. It’s the horrifying number of women who live in homes where the gun is a cosntant threat to their lives.

      Report

      • How exactly would you address that problem? Assuming a man has the legal right to own a firearm, what is the trigger for rescinding that right? A felony conviction is an obvious one. You could say anyone indicted for a violent crime cannot legally posses firearms and must turn in any guns they own, only to get them back if they are acquitted.

        How far would you go?

        Report

      • In 2013 Colorado passed a law that requires anyone under a court restraining order due to domestic violence to surrender guns and ammunition they own for the duration of the order. If I remember the numbers correctly, in the few years before that passed there were 13 cases of women or children being shot by someone under such an order, typically the first time that the shooter was violating the order. Enforcement will be problematic, as the state constitution does not allow any of the state, counties, or cities to run a gun registration program. Republican members of the General Assembly from the urban corridor tried to hedge their bets by stating that they supported the goal of the law, but that the mechanism was somehow flawed.

        Report

      • If we want better numbers, we should pass laws that primarily affect demonstrated law-abiding people.
        I’m not sure of your point there.

        It sounds a bit in the vein of “If you outlaw X, only outlaws will have X” — which is to say, outlawing X does not get rid of the problem of those scuffy outlaws, as they won’t give up their X’s.

        But that’s easy to render absurd — why bother making murder illegal, since murderers obviously aren’t stopped by the law and most people wouldn’t kill anyways?

        Report

      • Getting a protection order varies by state. In the state’s I’ve lived in, you can call the cops and get one immediately; but it’s very temporary, and will have to be made more permanent by a judge, who will apply a higher standard. Given that scenario, my preferred policy:

        1) all guns should have a title registered if they are in functional condition, just as a car has a title that is registered with the state;
        2) every gun purchase, including private sale, inheritance, gifts, and gun-show trade should include a background check;
        3) when purchasing a new weapon, it is not considered a legal weapon until the title is transferred, and the title cannot be transferred without a background check.
        3) Upon Issuing a temporary restraining, law officers should include a check for legally owned guns and ask the abuse victim if the alleged abuser owns guns;
        4) when the temporary restraining order is served, the police should confiscate the alleged abusers guns, and explain that they will be kept in evidence storage until a judge reviews the order; if it’s overturned, the guns will be returned, if the judge finds reason to extend it, the weapons will be kept pending further legal proceedings or release of the restraining order;
        5) When the judge extends a restraining order, it should flag the person to fail a background checks (and check to assure a gun hasn’t been purchased since the temporary order was issued);
        6) if someone is convicted of a Domestic assault, it should be considered a felony, and they should lose their gun rights.
        6) If someone violates their restraining order, (violating their restraining order would include using or purchasing a gun while they’re under restraint) should also be considered a felony (after a trial); and result in a loss of gun rights.

        In other words: if you are under suspicion of abuse, you will surrender your gun rights for a few days. If there is reason to suspect the victim needs further protection, you will surrender your gun rights as a legal process unfolds. If you violate the victims rights while under a restraining order, you will lose your gun rights. Your right to carry a gun is dependent on maintaining a violence-free relationship with others.

        And I might point out that you do not need to be an intimate partner to get a restraining order against someone; you just need some evidence that someone has threatened you and you reasonably feel ongoing threat.

        Report

      • note: what zic is suggesting is about what rigamarole most people have to go through to buy and sell stocks (roughly similar waiting periods, revert back if the buyer doesn’t have the money to actually buy the stock). [daytraders have different rules.]

        Report

    • “It happens.”

      If you want to convince the pro-regulation side to give up, you will need a better answer to the problem of spree-killers than a shrug and “It happens.”

      Report

  12. Doc- as someone with medical training, could I get your take on my question here:

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2014/05/24/the-song-remains-the-same-2#comment-834349

    I would ask you to accept the following assumptions (note that I don’t think they are all definitely true, and you probably don’t either, and that’s fine) when formulating an answer, since my question sort of depends on them.

    1). Rampage killings are on the rise
    2). There does appear to be a follow-on or copycat effect (that is, one such event appears to signal further events in the near future – an outbreak or epidemic).
    3). This follow-on or cluster effect is presumably vectored at least in part by communications tech and media (or, if you see another vector of transmission, feel free to name it).

    Given those assumptions (which as I say, you may not agree with), what prophylactics would you propose to break vectors?

    We know people won’t stop having sex, so we give them rubbers.

    Are there any rubbers we can put between people who are “infected” (a sick mind who would shoot up the place) and those who aren’t yet infected (or at least aren’t presenting symptoms yet)?

    Bonus points if this rubber doesn’t contravene the First instead of the Second.

    Report

    • Actually, there’s real evidence that copy-cat killings (and other illegal activities, such as product tampering) can be reduced with responsible media coverage: http://www.parkdietzassociates.com/httpscoutmagazine-ca20121215foreign-intelligence-brief-411-turning-murderous-twats-into-nihilistic-pin-up-boys/

      Also he’s got a long Youtube interview that goes into the same thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VDLrlihjlc but here’s a short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EjwYc6CwY0 too.

      Report

      • This is sort of what I was thinking, but of course “responsible” media coverage can’t really be legislated, per the First. Even if we could (or wanted to) control the traditional outlets, every person with a blog or a Twitter account is “the media” now, and that’s *mostly*, IMO, to the good, but not always.

        Still, we didn’t *force* people to use rubbers or clean needles when attempting to get a handle on AIDS, we just publicized that it was the smart thing to do, so I wonder about a public health campaign simply asking media outlets/everyday people to think before they post?

        Though even THAT sounds Orwellian and would likely meet resistance.

        Probably from ppl like me who are free-speech near-absolutists. :-(

        Report

      • Glyph,
        you’d be surprised what a little liability will do. they’ll censor themselves, I swear to god, they will. (no more knives in cartoons,you noticed that one? Now they use nuclear weapons!!)

        Report

      • “of course “responsible” media coverage can’t really be legislated, per the First.”

        We are having a discussion here about how “responsible” gun ownership can totally be legislated, despite the Second.

        Sooooo bring on the D-notices! After all, it’s important to use our Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms responsibly, right?

        Report

      • – My point was to try to poke around the edges to A.). See if there is anything that can be reasonably, effectively and legally done via another avenue and B.). Highlight, from another angle, the same basic point you are making. People who would (rightly, IMO) be aghast at abridging the First are comfortable doing the same to the Second, even though it’s likely to me that sensational media coverage exacerbates these things as much as gun ownership does.

        Report

      • If you listen to the long interview, it’s clear that what Dietz is advocating is not legislation but rather the press taking a more responsible stand on how it covers a tragedy.

        Report

      • Well, that sounds like something I could get behind, though as I said I don’t know how effective it would ultimately be since all “official” media could cover such an event responsibly, but then some yahoo like me could get on the web and start yelling sensationally about the event (and people would read me, because there’s a market for yahoos yelling sensationally).

        I wonder if anyone has produced actual A/B examples of what the news reports would look like done “right” vs. what they typically look like.

        Report

      • Glyph: again, if you listen to the long interview, he does discuss this briefly. Basically, it would mean that the media cover the tragedy as news – the first day. Then drop the microphone up everyone’s nose for the next three weeks as every funeral gets attended, the event is described over and over on the slightest pretext (“Killer’s babysitter gets married tomorrow – a rehash of the mass murder follows”), using awestruck terminology to describe the act (“most violent killing in town’s history since, like, forever” “Sheriff says: Never seen such carnage”). Basically trying to lower the temperature rather than constantly setting the pot to boil over multiple times a day.

        And even an obsessed blogger will lack the resources to provide new videos and photographs every day with breathless commentary by onscreen newsreaders. Short video clips of the killer doing mundane tasks, provided by misguided friends or family, that are not justifiable in terms of news. In short: don’t make the killer into a celebrity.

        Here’s another Youtube video (which is quite long, sorry) with a lot more detail. Dietz is a guy who’s practically invented this particular area of criminal mental health, and he’s well worth watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXlxTm2FirU

        And he cites examples of how coverage changed and the resulting drop-off in copy-cat activity.

        Report

  13. Serious question from a non-American: let’s say the 2nd amendment didn’t exist and the constitution was completely silent on the issue. Would the current situation exist or would there be more regulation or – my preference – would societal norms make it clear that gun owners had responsibilities to act in a mature manner or face social opprobrium?

    Report

  14. A couple of things strike me while reading this thread.

    One is the need to pathologize gun owners, which seems much more about status signaling than it does about working towards any sort of compromise. Yes, there is a radical fringe of people who might correctly be called gun nuts and yes the NRA is at times absurd, but that does not mean that there is not a significant population of people who responsible exercise their gun rights and who would be amenable to increased regulation if they were assured that they would retain their gun rights. My guess is that there are as many people who want to completely eliminate private gun ownership as there are people who are paranoid about the government taking their guns.

    The other thing is that lots of people seem to believe that America is some sort of wild west where everyone is walking around armed and you can buy guns from a vending machine. If you look at a breakdown of which states have the most permissive gun laws, they are mostly the rural ones. Considering that 80 percent of the country lives in an urban location, the majority of Americans likely live somewhere with pretty significant restrictions on gun ownership. Florida and Texas stand out as two states with large populations and urban centers that have lax gun laws. Considering the gun laws in places like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, a significant number of Americans live in a place where they are effectively barred from gun ownership.

    Report

    • I can hunt in Pittsburgh. It is street legal to take a gun and hunt a deer in a local park, provided i’m far enough from houses. (yes, our parks are that big).

      Report

      • Your point being?

        I think you’re making some sort of “We should be able to do it without licenses!” point, but since that runs smack into the whole classic commons problems (like, say, the way overfishing decimated fish stocks along the coasts) that I’m hard pressed to think that’s what you mean.

        Every fishing license I’ve ever owned the fees have gone to managing, you know, fish. Making sure they were there. For me to catch. Instead of sitting on an empty lake, pointlessly. Heck, even the private lakes do the same thing — pay for stocking, monitoring, and the like — and limits to keep it from being overfished.

        Report

      • Got no idea. Statistics on that sort of thing are very crude, because Congress flat-out refuses to fund it. Only reason I know the “fewer Americans own more guns” is some private surveys that found the number of households with a gun are down (IIRC) double-digit percentages over the last 30 or so years, coupled with the fact that the number of guns per person hasn’t dropped. Ergo, people who HAVE guns must have more of them. Only way the math works. :)

        But again, Congress won’t allocate money for ANY sort of gun research outside of “make better ones”, which puts a serious crimp in research on it because of the way universities and such actually work. (Like, say you got private money to, say, do a large study to see if owning a gun made you more or less likely to die by violence. To do that, you’d have to be firewalled off from ANYTHING involving federal money — which means maybe you can’t use your PC, because it was part of a grant or your interns because they’re partially paid off another grant, etc. The paperwork gets enormous because the university has to be able to show you didn’t receive federal funding, directly or indirectly, and it’s just a huge hassle for them. Which means you’re probably not going to annoy them by doing the research).

        Report

    • What kind of assurances would suffice? I can’t think of a single thing that would convince those folks, if their constant string of political victories can’t.

      Report

      • That is a good question and I do not know that I have an answer. One of the problems, as I stated above, is that a lot of the policy seems secondary to the politics. I just Googled the gun control bill that failed earlier this year to see exactly what was in it. Just about every story that I can find is pitched towards a narrative of pro-gun vs. anti-gun, with a description of the measures in the bill buried way down in the story.

        As long as the This Team vs. That Team narrative subsumes all willingness to actually come to common understanding, I’m not sure that there will be an answer.

        Report

      • “What kind of assurances would suffice? ”

        What kind of assurances would suffice to convince someone that the NSA had only the country’s best interests in mind and wasn’t going to use its metadata collection for anything other than combating terrorism and espionage?

        Report

  15. “If what he had to say weren’t so loathsome, his honesty would be refreshingly blunt.”

    While I wouldn’t have said anything at the present time and I definitely wouldn’t have put it that way, there’s a kernel of truth in what he said. Rights are listed in the Constitution to protect them even though the result may not be pleasant. An example would be the National Socialist Party of America having the right to march through Skokie, Illinois. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that there’s a policy without a downside. There are negative consequences to every position.

    “The untrammeled right to have unrestricted access to firearms is more important to them than protecting innocent lives.”

    It’s a matter of perspective. For many, protection of themselves and their families (including the lives of their innocent children) is a reason for having firearms. I can’t imagine many things worse than being unable to protect my loved one if the need arose.

    “So hellbent is the gun lobby on denying that guns are any threat to public safety that it even supported a misbegotten law in Florida that would have prevented doctors there from talking to their patients about guns in the home.”

    I’m opposed to the government telling doctors what they can or can’t say to patients. But if my kids’ pediatrician asks about guns in the house or starts lecturing me about the dangers of guns I’m going to tell him to pound sand.

    Doctors see the aftermath of shootings. I suspect that that tends to bias them against guns. And being an expert in the medical field does not carry over into other areas, like criminology.

    There are times when it is necessary to shoot someone to prevent harm to innocents or to prevent a larger tragedy. There are even times when is may be necessary to shoot two people to prevent harm to one even though it could result in a net increase of one death. I’m concerned about the victim, not the aggressor. The number of one versus the other doesn’t matter.

    “If there is to be any hope of turning the tide of gun violence in this country, Americans must finally abandon any misguided belief that it can’t happen to them, that it always happens Somewhere Else.”

    You have it backwards. One reason so many want guns is because they know it can happen to them.

    “Work with the AAP and other public health organizations to create meaningful gun laws that will be satisfactory to everyone concerned. Help us craft restrictions that preserve Second Amendment rights while also acknowledging that the price for them cannot and need not be more dead kids.”

    I looked at AAP’s federal advocacy proposals. If you think that those proposals preserve Second Amendment rights then there’s no chance that there can be an outcome that is satisfactory to everyone concerned. That’s a gun controller’s dream list. Most of them are already law in California and none of them would have prevented the latest tragedy at UCSB.

    I have no desire to see more dead kids, I just disagree about the best way to prevent it.

    Report

    • It’s a matter of perspective. For many, protection of themselves and their families (including the lives of their innocent children) is a reason for having firearms. I can’t imagine many things worse than being unable to protect my loved one if the need arose.

      I know this is a dearly held sentiment.

      I also think it is just so much bs. Totally delusional. If people were ‘protecting’ themselves with firearms, we would hear the stories of people protecting themselves. We don’t.

      And the statistics of firearms (what little we have) do not show they keep you and your family safer; they show they increase your danger, they increase rates of successful suicide, for instance. Women who live in a house where there is a gun are also more likely to be victims of domestic abuse. And on and on.

      So I know gun owners like to comfort themselves with the visions of sugar canes when it comes to guns and protecting thee and thine; but mostly, it’s lumps of coal.

      Report

      • I know this is a dearly held sentiment.

        I also think it is just so much bs. Totally delusional. If people were ‘protecting’ themselves with firearms, we would hear the stories of people protecting themselves. We don’t.

        Just because you don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. The report “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence” released by the National Academies of Science in 2013 contains this:

        “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million.”

        And the statistics of firearms (what little we have) do not show they keep you and your family safer; they show they increase your danger.

        Cites please. All the studies that I’m aware of that make that type of claim have methodological flaws that render them unreliable.

        So I know gun owners like to comfort themselves with the visions of sugar canes when it comes to guns and protecting thee and thine; but mostly, it’s lumps of coal.

        Also from the report:

        “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

        Report

      • Zic:

        That is really funny. So by your logic, if things don’t appear in the news they don’t exist? Have you considered the fact that news organizations choose what events they cover or not to cover? Every month my NRA magazine has an entire column, The Armed Citizen, dedicated to instances of folks that use weapons to defend themselves and others. You can read it on line at http://www.nrapublications.org.

        Report

      • ,

        I can go home tonight and have a dozen stories that appeared in various newspapers all over the country about someone defending their home/family/themselves/someone else using a firearm in about 5 minutes. Where would you like me to mail the citations to?

        I read these types of reports every month.

        Report

      • If it was true that people regularly defend themselves, their families, and their homes with guns, Republicans in Congress would not have banned research.
        Most of the existing research comes from the 1990’s, before that ban was in place.

        Here’s a good review of the topic: http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/the-self-defense-self-delusion/

        Again: the gun someone wants to defend hearth and home is much, much more likely to be used to intimidate or shoot someone who lives in that home.

        Report

      • Republicans in Congress would not have banned research.

        Sure they would have. They don’t trust these agencies, and are sure any research they do is driven by an ideological bias.

        Most legislators are themselves driven by ideological bias, and have little background in how real research is done, so that’s how they expect others to act as well. And the researchers in the agencies being human, ocassionally they do let their biases get the better of their methods or data, so there are anecdata to buttress the legislators’ beliefs.

        Report

      • Again: the gun someone wants to defend hearth and home is much, much more likely to be used to intimidate or shoot someone who lives in that home.

        This is a weird sentence and not a particularly accurate one either. You are unduly conflating two separate statistical concepts. It may well be that across some population of households guns will be used more often against their owners than to protect their owners. It doesn’t follow from that, however, that guns are more likely to be used one way or the other. The phrase “more likely to” denotes a prediction. And you can’t use descriptive statistics to make predictions.

        To make any sort of meaningful prediction, you need to be able to account for all the confounding factors that affect likeliness. So, if Bob, the ex-con who has an alcohol problem and a violent relationship with his girlfriend, brings a gun into his house, there may be a good chance that gun will end up as part of a homicide, suicide or assault. However, without more proof, you can make no such claim of Tom, the law-abiding citizen who has a happy family and abides by the rules of safe gun handling and storage.

        Report

      • Well, thankfully, Kongress Kritters didn’t outlaw studying domestic violence:

        Compared to homes without guns, the presence of guns in the home is associated with a 3-fold increased homicide risk within the home. The risk connected to gun ownership increases to 8-fold when the offender is an intimate partner or relative of the victim and is 20 times higher when previous domestic violence exists.

        A study of risk factors for violent death of women in the home found that women living in homes with 1 or more guns were more than 3 times more likely to be killed in their homes. The same study concluded that women killed by a spouse, intimate acquaintance, or close relative were 7 times more likely to live in homes with 1 or more guns and 14 times more likely to have a history of prior domestic violence compared to women killed by non-intimate acquaintances.

        (snip)

        A study of women physically abused by current or former intimate partners revealed a 5-fold increased risk of the partner murdering the woman when the partner owned a firearm. In fact, homicide risks were found to be 50% higher for female handgun purchasers in California compared with licensed drivers matched by sex, race, and age group.10 Among the women handgun purchasers who were murdered, 45% were killed by an intimate partner using a gun. In
        contrast, 20% of all women murdered in California during the study period were killed with a gun by an intimate partner.

        Source: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/IPV_Guns.pdf

        Report

      • ,
        Agreed, most husbands aren’t wife beaters, just like most gun owners aren’t mass killing prone deviants who simply need to have their guns taken away so they won’t kill. Hence new gun laws other then true universal background checks and better information sharing from the mental health professions are indeed an infringement on a right that is in the U.S. Constitution.

        And yes, I still claim my liberal card after having typed that.

        Report

      • I’ve got no issue with the dudes who aren’t wife beaters.

        You agree that the wife beaters don’t get a gun, that once you cross that line, you lose the right, and I’m happy.

        But that message is sorely lacking, particularly amongst the crowd of dudes that think it’s okay to beat her down whenever she gets out of line. They feel entitled to a gun.

        Report

      • “I’ve got no issue with the dudes who aren’t wife beaters. ”

        This is like someone saying that they’ve got no issue with the blacks who aren’t criminals.

        Report


      • “If it was true that people regularly defend themselves, their families, and their homes with guns, Republicans in Congress would not have banned research.”

        Oh please. My ancedotes from newpapers around the country do not research make. I never claimed so. This stuff goes on all the time, just because you don’t read it or its not reported in the “newspaper of record” don’t mean it don’t happen.

        Report

  16. If it was true that people regularly defend themselves, their families, and their homes with guns, Republicans in Congress would not have banned research.
    Most of the existing research comes from the 1990?s, before that ban was in place.

    Perhaps it was because the methodological flaws in the “medical” research were consistently biased against guns. It’s almost like there was an agenda. Or perhaps it’s because NEJM and JAMA editorial policies were and are extremely anti-gun. Or perhaps it was because of people like Dr. David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, who wants to treat guns like cigarettes, with taxes on firearms and ammunition and an anti-gun public awareness campaign.

    Medical research treats guns as a disease to be eradicated. The goal is not an objective study of gun injuries, but the restriction or elimination of guns. That attitude is exemplified by Arther Kellermann’s 1993 article in Atlanta Medicine article. One of the sections of the article is titled “The Bullet as Pathogen.”

    Again: the gun someone wants to defend hearth and home is much, much more likely to be used to intimidate or shoot someone who lives in that home.

    Again, cites please? Vague, free-floating factoids don’t count for much.

    Report

    • Or perhaps it’s because NEJM and JAMA editorial policies were and are extremely anti-gun

      Or perhaps they became extremely anti-gun because of data they saw?

      Seems just as plausible, at least. I mean, if bad data’s what we’re worried about, notme’s NRA link, above, is where we should start the finger-pointing.

      Report

    • I have given facts:

      In our analysis of the DA risk factors, 15 of the 17 items distinguished intimate partner homicide victims from abused women (see exhibit 1). The factor with the strongest risk (highest odds ratio) was use (or threatened use) of a weapon. Those women were 20 times more likely to be killed as other abused women. Women who had been threatened with being killed were almost 15 times more likely to be among the homicide victims rather than among the abused controls.

      Perpetrator drug abuse and serious alcohol abuse (drunkenness every day or almost every day) (Sharps, Campbell, Campbell, et al., 2001) also differentiated batterers who killed from those who did not, as did prior gun ownership. One item on the DA asks about the presence of a gun in the house when perhaps the more important risk factor is whether or not the perpetrator owns a gun or, if he is separated from the victim, has access to a gun. Exhibit 2 demonstrates the difference between perpetrator and victim gun ownership between cases and controls. Gun access became even more dangerous when the partners were living apart (Campbell, Webster, Koziol-Mclain, et al., 2003).

      Here’s some more

      It is not my fault if you don’t want to avail yourself of those facts.

      Report

      • I have given facts:

        Both of the papers you cite deal with intimate partner abuse. That’s a serious problem that needs to be dealt with, but it’s only a subset of the overall statistics. The overall numbers are considerably different.

        And the Johns Hopkins paper turns out to be a pretty lousy source to base an argument on.

        The first part of your quote from the referenced Johns Hopkins paper cites a Kellermann paper that turns out to have serious methodological flaws and is not reliable. The last paragraph of your quote from the Johns Hopkins paper talks about a 50% higher homicide risk for female handgun purchasers in California based on a comparison with licensed drivers matched by sex, race, and age group. Unfortunately, the referenced paper doesn’t mention that comparison. Oops.

        Report

      • Waving a gun at kids on the lawn does not rise to the level of ‘protecting the home’ unless it shows some significant improvement over non-gun-wavers yelling, “Get off my lawn.”

        We could, you know, study this stuff, right?

        Report

      • zic,
        I have known people who have done such. While I highly doubt that his fellow apartment dwellers would have vacated the lawn if he had simply shouted at them, drawing a gun certainly did the trick. (in all fairness to him, they were shooting fireworks off. )

        Report

      • And while we’re at it:

        it’s estimated that approx. 5 million women experience domestic assault each year.

        Best guess on the protecting hearth-and-home with a gun is (high) 2 mill, by the NRA, and realistic guesses are at about 100,000. Just pregnant women who experience abuse, is 3X greater.

        1,100 women die every year from intimate-partner murder.

        Simply put: for every time a gun in or around the home was used in self-defense, or in a legally justified shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

        That’s one self-defense shooting for 22 accidental, suicidal or criminal shootings — hardly support for the notion that having a gun handy makes people safer.

        Other studies show that women and children are disproportionately the victims of such gunshots, and that when children commit suicide, guns in their home or at their friends or relatives’ homes are used.

        source: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/purple-wisconsin/184209741.html

        Report

      • I’m sure some people do drive others off their lawns. My great grandfather did, but he shot rock salt, or so he said.

        But that’s really not the point, either: the point is that the comfort of protecting your home and family with a gun mostly a myth. Your more likely to have someone in your family harmed by that gun then you are to be able to protect them.

        That’s reality. It seems sick and perverse to me that people who pride themselves on their responsibility and ability to protect their families so willfully delude themselves. Yet they do. And I have little tolerance for how that self-deceit gives cover to people who basically think it’s okay to terrorize other members of their family. Domestic violence is what you live with, every single day, it’s not the random stranger invading your home.

        Report

      • That’s one self-defense shooting for 22 accidental, suicidal or criminal shootings — hardly support for the notion that having a gun handy makes people safer.

        Another methodologically flawed Kellermann study. Most defensive gun uses don’t result in a shot being fired and he’s not counting those.

        Researchers reached this conclusion by studying hospital admissions, emergency medical technician reports, police and medical examiner files in 626 shootings in or around a residence in three cities: Galveston, Texas; Seattle, Wash.; and Memphis, Tenn., for between 12 and 18 months.

        The paper itself is paywalled so I can’t see what it actually said, but “in or around a residence” is really vague. How many involved an non-criminal homeowner with his own gun? How many involved a non-criminal homeowner with his gun and a gun brought to the home by someone else? How many involved a non-criminal homeowner without a gun? How many were gang shootings? How many were drug deals gone bad?

        The only cases that matter are those where the non-criminal homeowner had his own gun. The other cases say nothing about the effectiveness of a gun for defensive purposes. Kellermann tends to select sample sets that give the result he’s looking for. That’s not a study, that’s propaganda.

        The guy’s also a hypocrite. In an interview in US News & World Report he said that if his wife were threatened, he’d want her to be armed.

        Other studies show that women and children are disproportionately the victims of such gunshots, and that when children commit suicide, guns in their home or at their friends or relatives’ homes are used.

        Sorry, a quote from a newspaper article stating an unattributed factoid doesn’t cut it.

        Report

      • Logicus,
        The example I cited above didn’t involve a gun being shot. If it had, the shooter would have been charged. And if you call removing someone off a lawn they had a perfect right to be on “self-defense”… well… now you’re just being silly.

        Report

      • Zic, I love you madly and all that, but it’s pretty clear that nothing you say is going to be taken seriously (or even courteously) by this guy. He’s going to keep moving the goalposts and claiming “flawed” studies until the cows come home. Just drop it and enjoy the weekend.

        Report

      • Yes, he’s going to keep moving the goal posts.

        It sort of cracks me up to watch, too. Nice work being the defender of people who would terrorize their family members.

        Report

      • Zic, I love you madly and all that, but it’s pretty clear that nothing you say is going to be taken seriously (or even courteously) by this guy.

        I take what she says seriously. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother commenting on it. I’m just saying that the studies she’s using to prove her case are bogus.

        And where have I been discourteous? Examples please. And remember, in her first reply to me she called my beliefs BS and totally delusional. It goes both ways.

        He’s going to keep moving the goalposts and claiming “flawed” studies until the cows come home.

        I am moving no goalposts. I have consistently addressed the topic of the overall effectiveness of defensive gun use, starting from the AAP advocacy position. I’m not the one who tried to sidetrack the conversation by focusing only on intimate relationship violence. And yes, those studies are flawed. I call them what they are. If you don’t like it find better studies.

        Report

      • Nice work being the defender of people who would terrorize their family members.

        When the best you can do is lie about the person you’re arguing with you’ve gone about as low as you can go.

        Report

      • Nice work being the defender of people who would terrorize their family members.

        That is a bit like calling someone who opposes the death penalty a defender of murderers or someone who questions the war on terror as a defender of terrorists.

        And Logicus Prime is not moving the goal posts. You guys are just speaking past each other. Comparing the number of instances of successful self defense to the number of instances of guns being used in occurrences of domestic violence is an apples to oranges comparison. None of the studies that you cited demonstrate a causal link.

        Personally, as long as we are mindful of due process, I am all for getting guns out of violent homes and out of the hands of irresponsible and unsafe users.

        Report

      • Personally, as long as we are mindful of due process, I am all for getting guns out of violent homes and out of the hands of irresponsible and unsafe users.

        That’s refreshing to hear.

        I’ve been trying to make a very important point here: defending your home from someone is a very rare and occasional event.

        Domestic violence is ongoing, daily terror. Numbers are still on the higher incidence of DV; but it’s crucial to remember that DV happens in homes. People live in it, every damned day.

        That’s why they’re apples to orange comparisons.

        Report

      • DRS:

        Get a grip, no one is moving the goal posts on Zic. She is arguing the incidents of self defense don’t exist since she doesn’t read about them in the news. That logic escapes me anyway. Since she can’t explain her faulty logic she changes the subject and starts talking about her favorite subject, men threatening women with guns which does exist because she reads about is the news. I even offered a link to the NRA magazine which records instances of folks protecting themselves with guns, http://www.nrapublications.org/index.php/armed-citizen/

        Here is one I copied just for Zic

        “Christy Vasilakos got into a heated argument with her boyfriend early one morning prior to kicking him out just before 6 a.m. He returned soon thereafter, however, and demanded to be let in. He broke several windows and banged on the front door. The fight moved outside to the sidewalk where the couple continued to argue. The noise woke neighbors, including Vickie Rock, who was staying at her boyfriend’s apartment upstairs. Rock, 50, went outside and tried to intercede when she saw Vasilako’s boyfriend beating her with a metal object. When he turned on her, Rock pulled out her .45-cal. handgun and fired. He staggered away and was later found dead in a nearby parking lot. (Tampa Bay Times, Riverview, Fla., 8/17/13)”

        Report

      • Zic:

        “We do not have 3 salvations of this nature a day.”

        How do you know this is true? Can you cite you source please? Or does your liberalism make you omniscient?

        Report

      • I’ve cited lots of sources on this topic.

        Why don’t you cite yours? Reputable studies that show how many people defend hearth and home successfully with their guns?

        (Like I said up thread, some comparison to rates of old dudes yelling ‘get off my lawn’ required.)

        Report

Comments are closed.