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Reflections on Gun Control

Despite the long trending decline in overall violent crime in America, including gun violence, we continue to be fed a steady stream of shooting incidents via the media. Some barely register, others hit home far too well. Gun Control Activists (GCA) press hard after every such event to “Do Something”, while Gun Rights Activists (GRA) continue to enjoy the further expansion of rights since the Heller and McDonald decisions came down, and move forward across multiple judicial and legislative fronts. The inversion of fortunes for each group over the past 20 years could not be more stark. I pick that time frame for a reason, because a little over 20 years ago, GCAs won a major victory with the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Unfortunately, it was an over-reach that has cost them a lot, as it motivated many gun owners who had generally stayed out of it to get involved. That said, I’m not actually interested in reviewing history, but rather, I want to look at what GCAs are doing poorly and what I think they could do to achieve realistic and beneficial goals in America.

(Also, I am intentionally not addressing the many faults of GRAs/the NRA/etc. I’m not interested in a game of Both Sides Suck, just take it as a given).

It’s Time To Shift Gears

For the bulk of the GCAs history, firearm ownership was not really considered a Right. They held, and largely still do, that it is a collective right and thus the government can regulate it heavily, to the point of making it practically impossible for a private citizen to own a firearm. Heller and McDonald have, for the most part, dashed that view on the rocks. This is the current legal framework, one the lower courts are beginning to apply consistently, and absent a Supreme Court decision overturning them (unlikely given how rarely the Supreme Court turns on its heel like that), or a Constitutional Amendment, they stand. GCAs should, first and foremost, accept and internalize this reality, and stop carrying on about how it is something different, or how it was wrongly decided, as if that somehow lends legitimacy to their view of firearms.1

It’s an individual right, work from within that context, because the GRAs certainly are. The fact that it is an individual right does not eliminate all options, but it does mean one has to look at their options differently. Which leads me to…

Be Honest About What The Goals Are

If the honest goal is the end of private ownership of firearms, then you have a seriously uphill battle before you. Start working on that Constitutional Amendment now. However, if the honest goal is a significant reduction in firearm injuries and deaths, then there are things that can be done. I will lay out some ideas below, but be warned…

Your Standard Ideas Aren’t Cutting It

There are many proven ways to reduce firearms violence that do not involve severe restrictions or bans on private ownership of arms. The more severe the regulation, restriction, or ban, the more it will chafe the population affected and the more readily that population will work to find a way around it, either legally or illegally. California has some of the strictest firearms regulation in the country, and yet it didn’t stop the San Bernardino shooters, or Elliot Rodger, or any of the other shootings that happen in California on an almost daily basis. This isn’t to say there should not be any regulation, but if the desired effect is not being achieved, perhaps it’s time to review those regulations and try something else. Similarly with regard to ideas like microstamping or smart guns. It’s a waste of time and resources. Look at what ACTUALLY works, instead of what you want to believe works because it aligns with your ideological preferences. Which brings me to…

Stop Vilifying Gun Owners

I know that psychologically it feels good to pretend the other side are monsters, but it’s counterproductive. Making blanket claims that Gun Owners/GRAs who oppose your ideas have low intelligence, small penises, or other deviant predilections, even if it includes a disclaimer about how not all gun owners are like this, is going to hurt the cause.2 You may never get the cooperation of the hardcore GRAs, but you can reach gun owners and their allies who are more open to the idea, but not if you are busy insulting them. My wife may not want much to do with firearms, but she damn sure wants even less to do with a person who acts as if I’m a bad guy because I support private ownership. Those kinds of deep insults don’t just land on owners, but also on the people who love them or call them friends. I have spent a lot of time in the past teaching people how to shoot firearms safely, and all those people had a great time learning, had a lot of fun, and to the best of my knowledge, think very well of me for it. How many of them will feel inclined to support a movement that unfairly insults a person they regard well?

As an added benefit, they will (hopefully) be less inclined to waste time pushing regulations that serve as little more than a legislative middle finger to gun owners.

Finally…

This is something of a sideline, because I know not every GCA Group holds this, but the overall goal/cause could be helped a lot if the GCA movement was more positive/pro-active toward enabling the right of self-defense. You’ll see why below.

So What Can Be Done? – Talking About Firearm Owners

In thinking about what we could do that would work, I try to balance the concerns of firearm owners against the desire to reduce violence, specifically firearm violence (because, if I am perfectly honest, the only legitimate concern with regard to firearms is their potential for unjust or accidental violence). So to start, what do I feel are the realistic concerns of firearm owners?

  1. Confiscation – Even if not done wholesale, there are plenty of examples of states deciding that a particular feature, model, or class of firearm is to be made illegal for political reasons*, and owners are required to surrender or destroy the now illegal item without any compensation or hope of grandfathering. It may be legal to do this, but it sucks to have it happen to you and it’s a legitimate gripe.
    1. *Reasons that have no substantial basis, such as dangerous to users, or somehow supporting enemy states, but rather are politically unpopular due to media attention or the tendency of criminal gangs to prefer them.
  2. Hostile Bureaucracy – AKA One should not have to get government permission to exercise a right, and one should not be unduly penalized for the bad acts of a minority. Again, this is a legitimate gripe. Government exists to protect rights, and thus has to get special permission to violate those rights (at least, ideally, 4th Amendment damage aside). While admittedly free speech is less immediately violent than a firearm can be, that does not suddenly change this dynamic. Regulations that are reasonable, effective, objectively applied, and not subject to the whims of elected or appointed officials are generally more tolerable. The American desire to craft Middle Finger Regs makes this all a lot harder than it needs to be.
  3. Public Obscuring – Related to the Hostile Bureaucracy is the trend of urban areas to treat gun shops, ranges, and clubs as just one step above strip clubs and brothels. Shops and indoor ranges are often targeted and denied permits to expand, or even conduct upgrades or repairs. Establishments with a long history are often forced out of business, or forced to move out of urban areas, despite the lack of any history of trouble; this is especially true of outdoor ranges where residential areas have grown up around them (and then subsequently complain about the noise and stray rounds). In my opinion, the Open Carry movement, whether it realizes it or not, it most likely a backlash to this trend. This public obscuring is counter to healthy and responsible gun ownership and is partly to blame for the rise in careless and reckless behavior with firearms.

There are other gripes, but they either fall into one of the three above, or it’s not something that is likely a realizable issue in any reasonable time frame.

For the purposes of this discussion, I think it will be instructive to classify non-LEO firearm owners into some categories, like so:

  1. Illegal Owners (Criminals and Other Prohibited Persons)
  2. Legal Owners
    1. Sport Shooters (hunters, competition shooters, etc)
    2. Collectors/Enthusiasts (often has overlap with Sport Shooters)
    3. Self-Defense (people who buy a gun for ‘reasons’ but pretty much stop there)
    4. Tactical Derp (consider themselves to be 1, 2, or 3, but really want to be a cop/soldier)

Some discussion; we are already doing most of what we can about illegal owners, who continue to represent the bulk of perpetrators of firearm violence, including many mass shooting events. We can pretty safely assume they are not going to follow any rules or regulations with regard to ownership once they’ve already crossed the hurdle of getting a firearm, except as those rules might align with whatever common sense they have. The laws are, for the most part, already in place, and to be honest there are, in many places, more in place than are truly needed. What we need is to stop aligning our incentives for law enforcement toward drug arrests and convictions. If the drug conviction is more valuable than the firearm conviction, then the firearm conviction is the first thing plead away and at best the law is little more than a bargaining chip, and not much of a deterrent. Likewise with bad dealers and straw purchases. The laws are there and can be effective if law enforcement wants to use them. I continue to fail to understand how the BATFE can know about a bad FFL and not be able to shut them down, given that the BATFE can revoke an FFL for something as minor as paperwork mistakes3. Incentivize law enforcement to go after gun violence, and they will. Scaling back or ending the Drug War would go far toward that. Finally, a national effort that would create some kind of standard for LEO data sharing would be a good idea. Dylan Roof should never have been able to buy a firearm legally. The failure there was not the 3 day limit for the hold, but the fact that LEOs still can’t share data effectively.

Regarding Legal Owners, for the most part, Sport Shooters and Collectors/Enthusiasts are not much of an issue. They tend to be very responsible owners, keeping the Four Rules Holy, having secure storage, etc. The biggest difference is that Collectors will enjoy having some pretty interesting weapons compared to Sport Shooters, who will have weapons appropriate to what they prefer to hunt/shoot with. Most accidents and incidents (not tied to other criminal activity) that involve firearms rarely involve one of these types of owners.

Self-Defense and Tactical Derp are the ones most likely to be reckless with a firearm, or have it used for suicide. Both groups also represent the largest growing segment of owners. There is nothing inherently wrong with either motivation, as such, but both groups suffer from the Public Obscuring of firearms. Sport Shooters and Collectors generally have well established, and very active communities that they belong to (think Rod and Gun Clubs, members only Sport Ranges, and Gun Shows). Groups 3 and 4 largely have other people on the internet. Now certainly people in these two groups can transition to groups 1 and/or 2, but that isn’t a given, and thanks to the Public Obscuring, these last two groups will likely find themselves unable to participate in these communities due to distance, or just flat-out ignorance of their existence.

The obvious benefit of such communities is experienced owners being able to offer advice, recommendations, and training to new owners, rather than having new owners taking to the internet and trying to sort out the good information from the Mall Ninja crap you find EVERYWHERE. The less obvious benefit is that it’s a community, and being part of a community can often interrupt a dangerous slide into anti-social violence. Keep this in mind, I’ll come back to it.

So What Can Be Done – Ideas

The primary mistakes of the GCA Movement has been the push to ban firearms and drive the culture out of sight. Nothing good ever comes of trying to ban things a significant percentage of the population wants, and likewise driving legal behavior out of sight tends to allow bad elements to fester. Therefore, my recommendation is to appropriate the Swiss model somewhat and pull it back into the light.

1) It’s About All Arms…

Remember that the 2nd Amendment is not about Firearms, but about Bearing Arms. Firearms just happen to be the most effective arm available. When it comes to self-defense, which is a club the GRA movement is using to beat the GCA, there is no requirement that carried arms be lethal, only that they be effective at halting an attack.

I’m going to diverge a bit here to discuss this, because this is one area where the GCA movement is right to focus on a technological solution, but is focused on the wrong solution (that being Smart Guns and Micro-Stamping, etc.). I’ve mentioned before in the comments of various threads that there is a new type of round available for firearms called the Multiple Impact Round. In brief, the round is a center body surrounded by three extension bodies that are connected to the center by high tensile line. As the round leaves the barrel, it uses the spin imparted by the barrel rifling to extend the three outer bodies, thus increasing the effective diameter from 0.45″ to 10″. The round was initially developed to improve the ability to hit a target. Obviously doing so reduces the effective range of the round, but since most self-defense situations happen at very short ranges anyway, this isn’t really that much of an issue. Currently, the manufacturer is producing rounds in three different load outs, lethal, semi-lethal, and less-than-lethal (LTL). The primary difference between them is the density of materials and the powder charge.

What got me thinking is that if the length of the connecting line could be increased, and perhaps fit the outer bodies with small hooks, you could have a tangle round. Hit an assailant with 3 or 4 of them, and chances are good they’d be either bound up, or at least tripped up enough to allow a person to escape and get help, or allow an officer to safely subdue a suspect. Carrying the line of thought further, such a round would not necessarily need an explosive charge to fire. I haven’t had time to run the numbers, but something like that could probably be fired from an airgun. Putting on a futurist hat, this is something that could be easily and cheaply manufactured, or printed at home and fitted with a CO2 cartridge (like the kind you get for pellet guns).

And this is where recognizing and accepting a right to self-defense comes in. Yes, most adults will never need to physically defend themselves from assault by a person not well-known to them. However, it happens, often enough as to be a legitimate, if remote, concern. How much of a concern is not for you, me, or anyone else to decide. It’s a personal decision and we have no right or place to judge it without first fully understanding all the variables that go into it. That said, most people don’t want to shoot or kill anyone, even if legally justified, even if facing down a rampage shooter. But in many parts of the country, especially at local levels, firearms are the only effective option legally available. Under the rationale that if people have less than lethal options (because apparently laws against assault don’t work, or something), they will be more inclined to use them inappropriately, thus the laws covering most forms of less than lethal defense have been crafted to largely ban or severely limit the bearing and use of such arms.

This is, honestly, nuts. It essentially says that the only people who are allowed to effectively defend themselves from attack are those physically fit and trained enough to employ martial arts, or those who are willing to kill. If you haven’t ever heard of On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, I recommend looking it up and reading it. Then perhaps you can understand the horrible choice these types of laws place on people. It isn’t “kill or be killed”, it’s “kill or be victimized”.

So, I recommend to the GCA movement, support the development of effective LTL methods of defense, and at the same time, work to expand the ability to own and carry such devices in as many places as possible. Once LTL devices are widely available, a good chunk of the Self-Defense category will largely take this option if they haven’t already transitioned to group 1 or 2.

This will also grant some room for effective regulation of handguns, since one of the key points of resistance is that many existing LTL devices have glaring weaknesses (Tasers are single shot, can’t penetrate thick clothing, and can be shrugged off by people with high electrical resistance; chemicals can blow back on the user or be shrugged off, etc.). Right now handguns are, despite being heavy and of inconsistent effectiveness, very popular. Their primary legal use is for self-defense (the old saw in the military being that a handgun is what you use until you can get to your rifle). Sure you can hunt with them, and shooting competitions with them are fun, but when it comes down to it, the primary advantage of a handgun over a rifle is portability and concealability. If there is a widely available, effective LTL option for people to use, the ownership of handguns could fall primarily to groups 1 and 2, and attaching stringent training requirements for carry permits for handguns would be more legally reasonable.

2) Build Positive Communities

As I mention up above, having the government more fully support (or at least stop opposing) the development of Gun Clubs and Ranges, especially in urban areas, would go a long way to rebuilding those communities. If private ownership is to be legal, we should encourage it to be out in the open as much as possible. Also expand programs like the CMP and Project Appleseed. Understand that, for most gun owners, there is a strong community aspect to it. It is a lot more fun to go shooting with friends, than it is to go alone. If the communities for gun owners exist and are supported, you’ll see gun owners actively participate. The communities can also offer training, education, and other services. Finally, belonging to a community of peers can help defuse people who might pop.

Now for the blasphemy. Tie ownership of firearms to such community groups. At least somewhat (remember I said I was going to borrow from the Swiss a bit). Did you read that link I had above about the gun shop in Milwaukee? If not, here it is again: Read how they cleaned up. I doubt you could pass Constitutional muster if membership was a legal requirement for any ownership of firearms, but I wonder if the argument could be made that a person can buy a single pump/lever/bolt/break action rifle or shotgun for personal use without issue, but if you want a handgun or semi-auto rifle, or if you want to have a collection of weapons, you have to belong to a club, and the club has to vouch for you (within reason).

The club acts as something of a filter. People are more willing to have peers who know them stand in judgement of their fitness than they are to have unknown government bureaucrats decide such things. Remember that ownership is still a right, and denying that right by the government should involve due process (we don’t ask permission to engage in free speech, and government (ideally) needs special permission to violate our right to privacy). Likewise, a club could not arbitrarily decline to vouch, and would have to provide a solid written reason why they feel a person should not be allowed to own X, and that decision could be reviewed, but the key here is that the government is not doing anything except following the recommendations of a jury of their peers.

How this would work, including how to deal with people who withdraw from/are not active in such clubs, I leave to discussion in comments.4

Of course, this is no proof against a person going lone wolf and shooting up a mall or their family, but I wonder how effective it could be, since one thing that a lot of mass shooters seem to have in common is that they are loners and isolated, or despondent. Another thing that is common to potential shooters is that those who were stopped without violence were stopped because someone was involved with them.5

3) Externalities

Safe storage is not a bad idea, but it is something that should largely be handled via insurance carriers.

A Final Thought

The current state of affairs of gun rights and regulation in the US is not something that happened overnight. Like most intractable issues, it’s something that has been building for decades, thus it will not resolve quickly. There is no magic law or regulation that can be passed that will suddenly make it all better. This isn’t the UK or Australia where they can just pass a law and ban ownership. But I think it can be made better. Perhaps through what I proposed above, or perhaps via something else. But one thing I know for certain, as long as the GRAs and GCAs continue to act and talk as if the other side is evil/stupid/etc, and as long as the topic is used to drag in all other manner of unrelated cultural signaling, nothing will get done and it won’t improve. I don’t expect the NRA/GOA to back down from their hyperbolic hill anytime soon, so I’m hoping the GCAs will be the bigger people.

Image by Digital Shotgun Notes:

  1. The same has to be said for governments, especially local and state governments. The fastest way to get people to stop opposing firearm regulations is the start acting as if it is a right to be protected, instead of a bad habit to be squashed. []
  2. The frustrating bit about this link is that the first half of the essay was actually trying to get somewhere interesting, and then instead of digging into it, it ended in name calling. []
  3. This harkens back to a discussion that was had regarding how needlessly difficult the background check system is, and how that difficulty hurts efforts to expand the system. []
  4. The rationale for this working (in my mind) is this: A government agency of “Fitness to Own A Firearm” has little incentive to ever find that a person is fit to own a firearm. Such a department would first have to figure out some kind of objective criteria for what defines fitness, and have enough staff to process the applications, and would then still largely default to saying no, because if they say yes, and that person goes out and shoots up a schoolyard, then the blame will fall on the agency and politicians will demand they tighten their requirements. A club, on the other hand, has to balance the needs of the membership with the need to maintain a good reputation. A club that has too many members who have trigger control issues will gain a bad reputation in the community and lose support, while a club that is unwilling to vouch for its members, or that establishes unreasonable requirements, will be unable to attract and retain membership. []
  5. Don’t let anything above disabuse you of the notion that I somehow don’t believe people should own firearms, up to and including military style arms. The military, like the police, is not the be-all, end-all of our national defense. Just as the police are merely the people we hire to focus their attention full-time on crime, the military are merely the people we hire to devote their attention full-time on national defense. The decline of the militia as a tangible thing is a mistake to my mind. Just as communities should work together with the police to make a safe community, or firemen for disaster preparedness, volunteer militias should work with the military in some fashion to secure national defense. Even if the possibility of an invasion of the US is so remote as to be beyond belief, the community building aspect of it is still valuable. []

Staff Writer

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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439 thoughts on “Reflections on Gun Control

  1. What you consider the highly restrictive gun laws of California are still extremely permissive by the standards of the rest of the developed world.

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    • The rest of the developed world does not have a right to bear arms in the constitution. I’m trying to hash out a regime that could be effective yet still respects that fact (without just nibbling about the margins) & could get buy-in from the affected populations.

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      • The United States had the First Amendment since the 18th century but public schools used to be Protestant schools in all but name well into the 20th century in large swathes of the United States and censorship of obscene materials, which raged from actual pornography to medical literature on contraceptives or even novels about divorce, for an equally long time. The Second Amendment doesn’t matter as much as how the Supreme Court and the general population interprets it. If we lived in an alternative universe where liberal Democratic Presidents got to appoint more Supreme Court justices, they could have interpreted it as giving a collective right that could be regulated freely by the government.

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        • I think the points Oscar tried to make in his post was that we have to work within our existing legal framework and also our own cultural institutions if we want to see things change. It’s great to compare California to the rest of the world if your goal is to imply we are under-developed in this area, but it certainly won’t get anyone to believe you are open to a rationale dialogue.

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        • Lee’s point is that with non-horrible Supreme Court justices -which is plausible if we have another Dem as POTUS for the next 4-8 years- the legal framework we have in place would allow for the sorts of regulations other countries deploy.

          The second amendment hasn’t been, doesn’t have to be (if we can have an even slightly more liberal court in the near future), and isn’t yet a mutual suicide pact in the social contract. The Supreme Court decisions mentioned are narrowly decided enough that they do not provide a concrete and near irrevocable precedent on all gun control like Roe does on all abortions, IMO.

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          • “concrete and near irrevocable” is certainly not how I would describe the current state of constitutional abortion rights. Perhaps “still extant, but being steadily chipped away at the edges while still very dependent upon the outcome of the 2016 Presidentail election and Ginsburg & Breyer’s health,” would work better?

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        • Yeah, the Dred Scott and Plessy decisions were wrong, but as long as the Supreme Court is just wrong about stuff we want to happen, then wrong Supreme Court decisions are ok.

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  2. I bristle at the term gun control activists. It seems like just as much as a sneer as Social Justice Warrior.

    The issue of guns might be one where American exceptionalism is really at play. I mentioned this in the Cracking Liberal Order OTC but I just got back from spending a week in Singapore with my girlfriend’s family. My girlfriend’s father is probably no one’s idea of a raging liberal or left-winger. My girlfriend will readily admit that I am more liberal than she is. Yet both of them (and probably the rest of the family) think that the gun culture in the United States is absolutely nuts.

    I would posit that the big issue is cultural divides and understandings. There are people in the United States who grow up deeply entwined in a culture that uses guns and those that don’t. Most of the people who you deride as gun control activists did not grow up around guns and have no use for guns in their daily and recreational lives. The problem I see with a lot of supporters of gun rights is that they exhibit a lot of magical thinking about gun culture. They seem to think that mandatory gun education (including requiring everyone to learn to handle and shoot guns) is going to turn everyone into a second-Amendment fanatic. What it really is about is the imposing of one culture on another. Maybe there is a right to gun ownership in the United States but this does not mean everyone should be required to own guns, learn to shoot guns, handle guns, etc. If rural America can be rural America. Portland should allowed to be Portland and dislike guns.

    But in the United States, people are for majority rule until they aren’t.

    The kill or be victimized thing is a falsehood. Crime has been on decline for decades. Yet a lot of people, especially on the right-wing, seem to think that the United States is really a Mad Max like hellhole filled with danger at every corner. Cities are safer than ever but in Republican-land, cities are just as bad and dangerous as they were in the 1970s. I think gun-right supporters should clearly acknowledge that crime is down instead of going into hyperbolic rhetoric about how dangerous and bad things are.

    Likewise, gun right supporters should clamp down on the rhetoric that happens around mass shootings when every would be cowboy and hero believes that an armed society can stop a mass shooter in his or her tracks. Shootings are inherently chaotic and messy situations. I am tired of hearing Internet Tough Guys think that they can stop a chaotic situation like the hero of an action movie. They probably imagine themselves doing it in slow-motion!

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    • If you have a better term than Gun Control Activist, I’m happy to hear it.

      I agree it is cultural, and I think the more careful & responsible parts of that culture want to do more to address the reckless parts.

      I’m specifically not addressing the issues of the GRA movement. You all are free to have a hatefest about them here in the comments, but I’ll not engage that.

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    • I agree with you that certain strains within America’s gun culture don’t live in reality with regard to actual threat assessment but your post is proving Oscar’s point. Gun control advocates are just as invested in putting the culture war part of this debate above any sort of rational policy discussion.

      Getting anywhere starts with acknowledging that it is neither the buffoon with the don’t tread on me shirt at a gun show, nor the ability to legally own a semi-automatic rifle that makes America an outlier (at least compared to other Western countries) for gun related murders. What makes America different is certain parts of cities like Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit where poverty and the war on drugs have created an incentive for violence among people without any other opportunities.

      Sometimes I think that the reason progressives are so quick to abandon reason on this issue is because deep down they know it’s the marginalized people they claim to stand for who are both most responsible for and most afflicted by gun violence in this country. Doing something about it means confronting the social and economic problems (often exacerbated if not created by bad government policy) that drive urban violence. It’s a much tougher problem, and is a lot easier to blame the whole thing on paranoid Billy-Bob and his AR-15.

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      • You want to fix inner city murders? Fix inner city hospitals. Trauma units fix a ton of stuff, and it’s the reason Pittsburgh’s murder rate is a tenth of baltimore’s, despite being half the population.

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        • You don’t need to fix the hospitals just the inner city culture that accepts gun violence as a means to settle disputes. Liberals laugh at the guy with the don’t tread on me shirt at a gun show but he isn’t the problem and liberals can’t seem to accept that.

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          • *edited*

            You haven’t been shot for the crime of getting lost on an old country road, which you weren’t able to turn around on.
            You obviously don’t walk around national forests much, it’s real easy to get shot at there.

            I know who the problem people are, and so do you. The problem people are the criminals.

            My city is FAR fucking safer than it’s surroundings. I’m kinda proud of that, actually.

            You haven’t heard of the Pagans, have you, dearie? Hells Angels ring a bell? Plenty of non inner city folk use weapons to be bastards and criminals.

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              • Got a cite on that one?
                Because I do have a damn citation for Fayettenam (A county south of here). And is being nicknamed by people who went to Vietnam. They ain’t kidding either.

                We’re talking actually ambushing people on public highways, after getting them to pull over to help out a “stranded motorist”.

                Thing about inner city violence? They mostly know better than to get legit citizens involved on purpose. Police come down like a ton of bricks.

                A friend of mine did wind up using his gun in DC, so don’t tell me I haven’t heard of inner city violence…

                P.S. I own more guns than you do.

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            • The place I’ve heard the most gunfire in the environment generally has been rural and semi-rural Tennessee. The sound of gunfire out in the hills makes sense and quickly becomes something one is accustomed to: someone is taking a deer or some other game, or chase away a nuisance varmint, or take practice in the back yard, or maybe attend to the sad duty of putting down an animal who isn’t going to be cured of some injury or ailment without incurring the expense of veterinary euthanasia. All of which are appropriate, legal, safe, and culturally appropriate things to be doing out there in the hills.

              Here in California, I walk around the Angeles National Forest near my home rather a lot, especially in the summertime. Never been shot at once (not that I was ever shot at in Tennessee or Wisconsin or Florida, either). Rarely have I ever heard so much as a gunshot in the Angeles Forest; when I have, it’s always been in geographic proximity to areas where I know there are ranges. Sadly, there are parts of the forest which are used by urban denizens for all manner of unsavory transactions that may involve weaponry; I avoid such areas at times when they are likely to be so employed.

              Now, I’ve also experienced a general lack of audible gunfire when I’m in Los Angeles, in part because the city its not nearly so dangerous as myth would have you believe. Not free from danger by any means, but L.A. is not the video-game setting that some would have you believe it is. Gunfire in the city is more out of place because if you’re going to be taking practice in the city, you find a range and pay a few dollars to rent a lane. City dwellers don’t have livestock and when their pets take incurably ill, they take the creature to the vet. There are varmints that invade trash in the city like raccoons and possums and stray dogs and cats, but these can usually be easily shooed away or ignored until animal control workers can be summoned. You don’t as often encounter predators or scavengers capable of attack in the city as you do in the hills. (Again, I didn’t say “never.”)

              So if you’re on an urban or a suburban street in most parts of the U.S., and you hear gunfire, it’s safe to assume that something is wrong somewhere kind of nearby. That isn’t nearly so reliably true as one moves into a rural area.

              To the extent your own city does not conform to this, I suspect it is because the city has for some reason absorbed a strong degree of rurality. Like Knoxville, perhaps, there may only be a relatively small urban core, and only a thin belt of suburbia surrounding it. , you live in Pittsburgh, IIRC, which has a gorgeous and sophisticated urban center right where the rivers come together; my experience there suggests that once one gets out of that urban center and the industrial zones, things start to feel like Appalachia pretty quickly. So I suspect that this city has a peculiarly high level of rurality baked into the day-to-day life of the areas surrounding the CBD.

              …Or maybe it really is a cesspool of crime and gunfire, an ideal setting for the future Grand Theft Auto VI. But I doubt that.

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      • It isn’t American liberals and progressives that are against confronting the social and economic problems that drive urban violence. We have been generally criticizing the War on Drugs, red lining, and interstate freeways that devastate cities from the get go. The bad government policies that lead to increased gun violence in cities where designed or at least enthusiastically supported by conservatives who did not want to share goodies with African-Americans and other people of color. Liberals have been protesting the militarization of police and mass incarceration from the 1960s onward. The social safety net and the welfare state cut down on crime.

        While most gun violence is on an individual level, the United States has a much greater frequency of very deadly mass shootings than other developed countries. Around the time of Sandy Hook, there was a mad man attack on an elementary school in China that the New York Times reported. The difference was that the mad man in China had to make use with knives. While getting attacked with a blade is painful, death is less instantaneous than with a gun. The kids in China managed to survive while those who suffered from the Sandy Hook massacre died. Gun control will cut down on the fatalities caused by mad men run amok.

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        • Which is why, again, I mention tangle rounds.

          1) Develop & deploy effective LTL devices for public use.
          2) Begin an effort to remove handguns from the streets while adding a community based hurdle to buying a handgun (to cut down on straw purchases just adding those lost back to the streets).
          3) Combine with social programs efforts, & hopefully realize a significant reduction in handgun violence.

          Was I not clear on this flow?

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          • I don’t think the community based hurdle would work. White trash from the middle of nowhere doesn’t care if they’re selling guns to criminally employed people in the inner city.

            Nonlethal weapons are fine… but they don’t really solve the problem. To have proper defense that outperforms offense, you can’t rely on line of sight or even having your prospective victim be awake.

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            • Again, I must have failed to explain the flow here.

              1) Gun club has to vouch (put their reputation on the line) for a member to buy a restricted item.
              2) Gun clubs that are too permissive will attract attention because their members will keep popping up in criminal investigations (either as a perpetrator, or a supplier, the BATFE still does a pretty good job tracing guns back to point of sale even without a registry).
              3) If the BATFE was moderately competent, such clubs would be targeted by law enforcement and either shut down or forced to behave in short order.

              So yeah, my community hurdle does assume a moderately competent regulatory body. The fact that we don’t actually have one of those is a big part of the problem, but beyond the scope of this essay.

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        • You won’t get any debate from me on conservatives ignoring and creating policies that exacerbate urban violence and generally not caring about the people impacted by it. Where you’re wrong is on the mainstream left (I would agree that what might be called the hard Left that operates on the margins of our outside the Democratic party has been a more consistent critic). The war on drugs was embraced by inner-city politicians, many of them of color, during the crack epidemic, just as police militarization has been a bi-partisan sport (see the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act).

          Sandy Hook was a tragedy but it was also an extremely unusual incident and extremely unrepresentative of gun violence in America. It wasn’t even very representative of mass shootings (at least as the FBI counts them) which more typically involve an individual murdering his family then committing suicide. For those reasons I don’t think it, or Columbine, or any of those similar incidents can be the basis of a policy discussion about what restrictions on firearms are appropriate, or if legal firearm ownership is even a significant cause of America’s murder rate. If we want to trade anecdotal evidence the most deadly school massacre in American history was the Bath School Bombing which only tangentially involved a firearm.

          Without getting into a more philosophical discussion about liberty and the state’s monopoly on violence I think it’s worth noting that Britain and Australia didn’t see any meaningful changes in rates of homicide when they for all intents and purposes prohibited private firearm ownership. I see no reason to think it would be different here. There are other cultural and socio-economic factors at play.

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    • “They seem to think that mandatory gun education (including requiring everyone to learn to handle and shoot guns) is going to turn everyone into a second-Amendment fanatic.”

      Does driver’s education turn everyone into a car nut? The reason why many of us (myself included) believe in basic gun safety training in all schools is that it is a public health issue. The surest way to identify someone unsure with guns is to hand them one and watch where their finger goes. 99% of the time the un-experienced gun handler will put their finger on the trigger instinctively, which is bad gun safety.

      If you teach basic gun safety (not shooting, but simply safe gun handling) you will reduce the number of accidental gun deaths. That should be a program liberals could get behind, if they weren’t worried about the spectre of NRA brainwashing.

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      • Based on how many Americans actually drive, from personal experience and the news, driver’s education seems lost or at least unlearned on lots of people. We have hundreds of thousands or millions of people who drive while intoxicated despite driver’s education, who do unofficial drag racing in cars on highways, and who drive much more aggressively than legally allowed. I’m not sure that gun education would be anymore successful in instituting mass gun safety.

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          • Isn’t it a cultural mandate though and the kind of cultural imposition and mandate that libertarians should oppose?

            I am willing to go along with the idea that the 2nd Amendment as currently interpreted, does provide a right to own guns. But I still think the idea of mandating gun education in schools is a variant of putting red-state rural culture on blue-state culture.

            A right is not a mandate. I believe that libertarians should bristle at mandatory gun ownernship and/or education just like they would bristle at the idea that the First Amendment does not protect agnostics and atheists. The whole “Freedom of Religion is not Freedom from Religion” canard.

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            • Saul,
              Enough about this “culture” nonsense.
              Let’s just put it this way: If one of your 100 friends has a gun, and your kid is over at their house, They May Find It.

              Is that NOT enough of a reason for you?

              A friend of mine (a very intelligent guy, who doesn’t keep his ordinance in his house) had a gun buried in a local park. A geocacher found it and replaced it with a Nirvana CD (apparently mistaking it for an actual geocache).

              Imagine if that geocacher was a kid.

              Criminals dispose of guns all the time, and that’s a blue state thing as much as a red state thing.

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            • I don’t recall saying anywhere that there should be a mandate that EVERYONE learn how to shoot, or own guns. I do agree with that teaching kids how to safely handle a firearm and what to do if one is found is a very good idea, and the fact that our schools seem allergic to even this basic idea is a problem.

              I also think that, given how our overall society has evolved, there is a legitimate cause for mandatory firearms safety training for those who wish to own them. In the past, this was mostly handled by families, but as we have more & more people buying guns who did not grow up in a responsible gun culture, requiring that they learn the basics is not beyond the pale (as long as the process of learning the basics is not onerous).

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              • Better yet, if nowhere else, let the cops at their shooting range hold the seminar. They get to meet the newbies, and if necessary can speak from experience about what it’s like to have a gun for self-defense or other-defense.

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                • Who said cops would be exempt from the community requirement? Hell, I’d argue that cops not only have to be involved, but that they can’t form and partake in a cops only club.

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                  • Nice one.
                    No, I wasn’t imagining that the cops would be exempt, simply that every place that has cops has a shooting range where cops go to practice (has TV led me astray? I don’t actually know any cops personally). In particular, cities where shooting ranges might otherwise be hard to find.

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        • So your suggestion is that we stop offering driver’s ed because some people still drive poorly? You don’t really believe that, do you? I mean, if we’re going to cite the worst examples as proof education has failed, we should eliminate schools altogether…right?

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      • It is still imposing a culture or cultural norms on people who don’t want them. I have no desire to learn to fire guns and this is just as much a right as anything else. And I don’t want it to be a part of my kid’s education (assuming I have kids). If my kids want to learn to fire guns when they become adult, that is their right. The Second Amendment is a right, not a mandate.

        People who support mandatory gun education would bristle at any suggestion for say mandatory theatre classes.

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        • You missed my description. I’m NOT talking about firearms training i.e. learning how to shoot a gun. I’m talking about basic gun safety which means what to do if you encounter a gun. Teaching kids to assume the gun is loaded. Teaching them that guns are dangerous. Teaching them that they should immediately find an adult if someone is being unsafe with a gun. This is no different than telling them to look both ways before crossing the street, but it isn’t taught in schools.

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          • I can’t speak anyone else here, obviously, but they actually did teach us about that stuff in school; specifically, all three of the things you listed here. I’d always assumed that was more or less universal, and I’m perturbed to discover that it apparently is not.

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            • Nothing much is universal in American education for a variety of reasons. There are parts of the United States where the first day of hunting season is a day off from school because too many kids would just not show up anyway. I did not grow up in such a school district but many friends in college did. On the other hand, I did grow up in a school district that was Jewish enough that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were school holidays because a lot of students and teachers would just take off.

              There are pros and cons to localized decisions like this.

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              • I guess I’d just always assumed that, given that it was presented in much the same way as DARE and sex-ed when I went to school, and given the ubiquity of firearms in our society, it was one of the few things that the vast majority of schools taught. That’s what I get for assuming, apparently.

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    • Culture is important. Oscar nodded at a certain type of gun owner, the mall green beret or starbucks SEAL. That type isn’t going to listen to GCA’s. They might listen to other gun owners. The NRA is in a position to tell Chipotle Rambo they look like a maroon and making all gun owners look bad. But the NRA isn’t doing that.

      As with any discussion of a culture there are usually sub culture’s involved. It is the Love of Righteous Violence subculture and guns as markers of manhood culture that create most of the problems.

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    • But aren’t you guilty of some of the same sort of magical thinking here? Like it or not, gun culture does exist in the US, Heller and Macdonald were decided the way they were, and therefore European-style gun control is an extremely tough political goal to achieve. is right to be looking for ways to try to get around those obstacles.

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  3. You missed the gun smugglers, as a viable group of idiots who own guns. When the BATF can’t even be trusted to take down gun smugglers, of all people, we have a problem (someone used the Secret Service instead, and if that’s not just the stupidest thing ever, I don’t want to know what the stupidest thing ever really is).

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  4. Do you not consider the use of guns as a form of intimidation to be something that is a viable reason to consider regulating/reducing the amount of guns in the hands of occasionally inebriated people?

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  5. Loved the post and you covered a lot of ground here. The only area I really have disagreement on is the LTL rounds. I’m not convinced they have the potential to really replace a big market share for lethal rounds. It’s an interesting technology though and I am open to having my opinion changed on the subject.

    Great work here and thank you for this.

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    • Right now, no, they aren’t. The line is too short to be a tangle round. But now that the idea is out there, to me, this is just an engineering problem, and probably not even a big one, if the right engineers have at it (it’s not even my area of practice & I kinda want to buy an airgun & a 3D printer just to mess around with some ideas). Find a way to build a round that can tangle reliably, especially if more than one hit, and you’ll have an effective LTL device. It won’t be perfect for every situation, but I expect it could handle a lot of them, including mass shooters.

      And if the legal environment was more permissive toward LTL devices, there would be more incentive to design and market a variety of such things (as it stands, the market for such things is largely limited to the police).

      This is my true objection to handgun limitations. Give the public an effective, non-lethal way to defend themselves & I will happily push for handguns to go the way of fully automatic weapons.

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      • Sonic weapons make a decent defense, but the liability issues on them would be troublesome.

        Nobody likes effective defense in close-range urban situations, because it’s either “wear a ton of armor” (possible, no?) or “devise something that will take out the ambush”

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      • I guess I am wondering how you persuade the public to give up the whole, “Only the bad guys will have lethal rounds,” argument. One example: I keep zip cuffs with my self-defense guns because even in a home invasion scenario, my hope would be that I could end the situation without killing someone. When I have told coworkers about this many of them laugh and say they would just prefer to kill the bad guy. That is a hard attitude to overcome.

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        • Killing the bad guy is messy. I think if you actually showed these guys a crime scene shot or two (or even a car wreck), they might change their mind.

          The best bet is still a steel door to your upstairs (most robbers — the vast majority of people breaking into houses — will simply take the TV and anything downstairs, particularly if they hear you’re upstairs), but a backup of some guns isn’t the world’s worst idea.

          “So, um, why can’t your sister stay at your house, while you’re out?”
          “Because I’ve got a team watching my house, and it’s a lot easier if there’s not someone in the house already…”
          [They’re all true stories, seriously.]

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        • I can see this point if the LTL option is less than effective (e.g. Tasers).

          As for killing, I refer you back to the essay. Lots of folks talk the talk, but until you’ve actually killed someone, you don’t know that you can. Even cops & soldiers, more often than not, kill out of conditioned reflex as opposed to a carefree attitude about killing. I suspect that if it was available, most people would take an effective LTL option over lethal options, regardless of what the bad guys had.

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              • Please understand that I am not trying to be overly critical of your ideas because I actually really like them. I’m kind of just thinking out loud here. There is SO MUCH ammo out there right now. It just seems like a mountain to overcome without legislation forcing it. But I have also proposed microstamping and that faces the exact same hurdles.

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            • Mike Dwyer:
              Gordon
              I’d like to think you are right, but as you note, there is a non-insignificant number of tactical guys who imagine themselves killing an intruder in their homes and I daresay wish for the opportunity.

              I’m glad you brought that up, Mike, because this is the only group of people I don’t trust with firearms. We need to come up with a way to block them from getting firearms, because they are a danger to themselves and others, and make responsible gun owners look bad to boot. To be brutally frank, if the police are going to be killing anyone, it oughta be these jamokes rather than random black folks.

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  6. I read the wikipedia piece on Operation Ceasefire, but I’m still a little unclear on what exactly it was, and why it stopped. I would like to know more.

    I agree that the general strategy of shaming (the people who disagree with you whether they are gun owners or conservatives or whatever) is one I find utterly ineffective in terms of changing minds. It’s how some people behave in dominance battles, but it doesn’t scale.

    That said, I’m ok with 10 day waiting periods and background checks, both of which have goals which have nothing to do with things like stopping spree killings. The waiting period is about stopping the crime of the moment, nothing else. The background check is about stopping people who have already had their right to bear arms legitimately taken away by the state. Yes, there will be other ways for them to do it. That doesn’t make it useless.

    But none of that means I want to take people’s guns away.

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    • I read a much more in-depth piece on Project Ceasefire some time back, but couldn’t find it for this post.

      I’m hoping Greginak or someone else more dialed into the Social Sciences will be able to offer you more information.

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    • Op Ceasefire programs are interesting and as i remember generally effective. I think they stop because of diminishing returns and the high effort needed to keep them going. It takes a lot of coordination among agencies and high community involvement to push back at the small number of gangers/criminals who commit most crimes. Once that number shrinks you are getting at a baseline level of crime that is hard to go below. Those programs need a lot local PR push and outreach so that everybody hears about them and for a long time so the message sinks in. Like any ad campaign, i think at some point, it becomes less effective and the guns that remain on the street are in the hands of those that will never listen.

      Gang bangers, while often hard core violent and into a criminal life, often do have real connections to the innocent parts of their community. If that community can work with gov agencies to get rid of guns good things can come. It doesn’t fit the Pro Gun argument all that well, but in some cases reducing guns, reduces crime. Of course the street gang population is different from the rest of society. I think part of the success of PC programs is slowing the cycle of retribution that swirls in gang areas. Violence is always in response to some other violence. But if you get a few breaks of peace that can really build. Gangs usually have a few real hyper violent sociopaths, but most of the members are often dopey young men looking for excitement and structure and belonging.

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  7. What you have written is a very well reasoned argument for the complete unconditional surrender to the view of guns held by their advocates, exemplified by the Heller decision.

    Which is the very same argument made by abortion rights advocates to abortion foes. Essentially, the argument is “we won, Roe is the law of the land, get used to it”.

    Unsurprisingly, the other side was not persuaded.

    What is instructive is how they have managed to make Roe neutralized in all but name- there are vast swaths of America where abortion is virtually impossible for any but the well connected.

    Which I propose is a strategy we should emulate.

    For example, couldn’t we place increasingly onerous restrictions on gun shops and gun owners? Insurance requiremrnts, liability requirements,etc. Waiting periods, education sessions, anal probes and so forth?

    You make very good points in your 4 classifications of gun owners, but the ones we can make peace with, #2, are rapidly shrinking. The ones we find most objectionable, #3 and 4, are becoming the face and definition of gun owners. Instead of the image of gun owners being a genial uncle who hunts deer, it is becoming the drooling gun nut posing with his arsenal on Facebook.

    Which leads to another analogy, to the anti-smoking crusade.

    They won by socially ostracizing and marginalizing smokers. And yes, there was a lot of collateral damage, since this effort was based on class distinction- smoking was tied to low class behavior, so instead of the face of the smoker being Don Draper, it became a redneck hillbilly.
    This was cruel and unfair and incredibly effective.

    As politics tends to be.

    So while I appreciate your offer of generous terms of surrender, I decline.

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        • So, it seems to me, that if gun control advocates begin to ape the tactics of pro-lifers it would stand to reason that they should expect to achieve the success the pro-lifers have which is to recreation regionalization of abortion access so that those areas where they are strong will have poor access to abortion and those areas where they are weak will have acceptable access to abortion. Likewise then we could expect the gun control advocates to achieve rules where access to buying guns would be hard in liberal areas and easy in rural areas.

          Pro-lifers are unsatisfied with these results because women, who are truly motivated to get access to abortions, will travel a long way to have them if they can so abortions still happen. Likewise since guns are easily transported guns will flow from the low regulation areas into the high regulation areas. It seems to me that those of us who’d like to see gun control enacted should ponder whether that outcome is acceptable and worth the effort to us? I don’t have an answer myself, I have sympathies for gun control but most of the attempts at enforcing it have struck me as not being worth the effort and resources put into it.

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    • Gun shops already have considerable regulation heaped upon them, which you seem unaware of, so you are arguing from a position of relative ignorance on this. Also, I’ve not only expressed my disdain for Middle Finger Regs in this post, and previously, so you’ll find ZERO support from me on that front (unless you are OK with me thinking up some ways to slap you with a big ol’ legislative “Fish You”, just because one of your habits or idiosyncrasies bugs me).

      Which, of course, is most of what smoking and abortion foes rely upon (Middle Finger Regs), no matter how they dress them up.

      Finally, I absolutely agree with you that #3 & #4 are the problem, which is why I want to try & reduce their number, either by forcing them to assimilate into the #1 or #2 culture, or to just say “Fish It” and go find another thing to obsess over.

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      • I know that you were hoping to craft some sort of persuasive argument that would allow everyone to debate civilly and leave feeling good about themselves.
        I applaud that, I really do.

        But my point is that that you are asking us to accept something which is unacceptable.

        Further, political battles ARE messy and contentious, and involve a lot of collateral damage, that is, people who are only mildly on one side or the other (people like you), yet are forced to declare for one team or the other.

        You appear to want gun culture to be what it was, something enjoyed broadly by normal folks, hunters and sport shooters, and the occasional urban resident frightened by crime.

        So do I, actually. But you and I don’t get to make that choice anymore. The gun culture is much more aggressively derpish now, much more militant than in living memory. This new culture is what is wholly unacceptable and have no desire for compromise with it.

        As long as the public face of gun rights is a weirdo stalking through Kroger with an assault rifle then posts like this are well intentioned wishful thinking.

        ETA:
        “most of what smoking and abortion foes rely upon (Middle Finger Regs), no matter how they dress them up.”

        Yes, exactly! And who’s winning in those fights?

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        • The thing with responses like this is that you (& many others here) are not only not part of the larger gun culture, but also that you are effectively out of touch with it. The public face of people carrying in Kroger is public because that is what the media likes to show, the spectacle. The fact is that most gun owners find such antics irresponsible, but a handful of guys carefully shooting at targets on a range, or a guy with a concealed carry permit not scaring anyone at the store, makes for boring news and poor click-bait.

          And the ability to control the way the media chooses to portray the public face of gun ownership is about as effective as the ability to control the way the media portrays the public face of welfare recipients.

          So if your view of gun owners is largely informed by what you are offered by the media you consume, perhaps you should accept that you are ill-informed.

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          • The public face of people carrying in Kroger is public because that’s why they’re carrying in Kroger: for the publicity value. Blaming the media for showing people that are screaming “Look at me!” is weak. Maybe it’s up to responsible gun owners to police their own.

            Look, I’d also be embarrassed if Ted Nugent were on the same side as me. But he doesn’t get interviewed in the mass media; it’s the right-wing media, loving the way he’ll stop just this side of saying he’d like to shoot the Kenyan Muslim Usurper that keeps him in the public eye.

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              • Isn’t that what I am largely trying to accomplish here?

                It doesn’t really seem like it, no.

                It seems much more like you’re trying to police gun control advocacy. That is the mode of argument of the majority of the piece, and of the opening sections that lay out its primary concerns. How gun control advocates need to alter their tack so as to maybe get gun owners and gun rights people to buy in if they feel like it. Eventually.

                That’s how the piece comes off to me, and that’s how you sound when you talk about this issue pretty much generally. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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                • This.

                  The reason there is no progress on anything is not because GCAs are being rude. GCAs being ‘less rude’ is not going to fix it.

                  Anytime the complaint against a group of people with a political position is ‘they are rude’, I urge people to interpret that complaint as ‘I’ve run out of things wrong with what they’re suggesting, but I still don’t like it’.

                  Likewise, ‘some supporters on that side are arguing for thing that are way too far’ is a somewhat dubious argument to make. All sides have ‘supporters’ who are way out there. This is only relevant if those supporters are taken seriously. (Whereas, at this point, Democrats barely even take *moderate* gun control seriously.)

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            • Blaming the media for showing people that are screaming “Look at me!” is weak. Maybe it’s up to responsible gun owners to police their own.

              Out of curiosity, do you support these types of arguments when they are made by folks on the right? Is up to responsible Muslims to police their own? Is it up to responsible black folks to police their own?

              Or is there something special about guns that makes it the responsibility of all gun owners to account for a small sub-culture of loons? And it there is something special, what are the criteria by which we can decide when it is OK and not OK to hold to the idea of collective responsibility?

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                • I don’t want anything.

                  I am asking you what your criteria is for determining who should and should not be held to collectively responsibility. It seems to me that your criteria is something along the lines of people I like and agree with should be judged as individuals; people I don’t like can be all grouped together and judged by their worst. If I am wrong about this, let me know.

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                    • I’m not embarrassed by people who are not me, so that is taken care of.

                      I will just use this chance to point out that you have responded to me twice and in neither of those comments have you explained when collective responsibility is OK and when it isn’t.

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                      • Oh, Good Lord, it’s not like this is hard. Start the thread at the beginning. Oscar was complaining about the media doing stories about the dufuses who go armed to Krogers, and I responded that the dufuses do so because they enjoy the attention. If responsible gun owners like Oscar want those stories to stop, they are going to have to get the dufuses to stop.

                        Now, is it clear that I’m talking about practical solutions to a tactical problem, not about collective guilt?

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                        • Oh, Good Lord, it’s not like this is hard.

                          Histrionics aside, you are right. It’s not that hard.

                          Here is what you just said:

                          If responsible gun owners like Oscar want those stories to stop, they are going to have to get the dufuses to stop.

                          That sounds an awful lot like a lot of the arguments that I see coming from the right insinuating that moderate Muslims or law-abiding black folks don’t like being stereotyped as terrorists and criminals bear the responsibility for their stereotypes because of their inability to get the real terrorists and criminals to stop. I keep asking you what the difference is between this argument and yours and this is the third comment in which you have responded without an answer.

                          Now, is it clear that I’m talking about practical solutions to a tactical problem, not about collective guilt?

                          No. It’s not clear at all. In fact, I would say that anyone so inclined to bring up the open carry crazies in a conversation about sensible compromises on gun control was probably never an honest interlocutor in the first place. It is a tactic and not an argument.

                          But let’s say I take your statement at face value for a moment. What exactly is the practical solution?

                          I am someone who believes that private citizens have a right to gun ownership, but that jurisdictions also have a compelling interest in regulating gun ownership. I am not opposed to background checks and I am not opposed to licensing or mandatory training. I am not even opposed,in principle, to registration. So, how exactly can someone like me “get the dufuses to stop?” Those folks are not going to listen to me anymore than they are going to listen to you or anymore than a gang banger is going to stop committing crimes because some middle class black person asks him to stop or anymore than a moderate Muslim can talk sense into IS.

                          The nature of an extreme position on almost any issue is that the person holding that extreme position tends to think of anyone with an insufficiently extreme position as either the enemy or as an enemy sympathizer. And one of the surest ways to keep from making meaningful compromises on any issue is to make the taming of extremists a pre-condition for discourse, which is exactly what you are doing.

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                          • Do a little work:

                            1 Who brought up the crazies first?
                            2. Who complained that they’re giving other gun owners a bad name?
                            3. Who said that taming them is necessary for discourse?

                            If you can read carefully enough to answer those questions, it might be worth continuing this conversation.

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                            • You know what, is right, moderate GRAs do tell the open carry extremists to stop it, that they aren’t helping, that while they can respect their position, their actions are currently very damaging to the more immediate strategic goals.

                              And the extremists largely tell the more moderate elements to go fish themselves.

                              Right now, that is the best that can be done. I mean, what would you have people do, show up at a Chipotle and have an armed standoff with the extremists in an effort to get them to go away?

                              The primary reason for my desire to compel membership in a community, despite my normative response against such compulsion, is in an effort to tamp down such behavior through peer interaction. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than yelling at them on the internet.

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                          • I’ll try to explain it.

                            Members of the outgroup are members of the outgroup.
                            Members of the ingroup, however, are members of the ingroup.
                            The outgroup of the outgroup may not necessarily be my ingroup, but they may make for a useful temporary alliance based on common interests.
                            As a member of the ingroup, we pride ourselves on how we don’t have different standards for the ingroup and the outgroup (like those outgroup bastards do), but sometimes you just can’t help but notice that the outliers of the outgroup indicate a deeper poetic truth about the outgroup while the non-representative excesses of the ingroup are used manipulatively by some of the more clever members of the outgroup to play “gotcha” “both sides do it” games.

                            Which ingroup members know are just attempts to make ingroup members prove their bona fides to outgroup members who don’t even live up to their own shabby outgroup standards, let alone the high ingroup ones.

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                                  • I don’t think that you are looking for any answer, . I think that the open carry extremists make for a convenient excuse not to focus on the policy issues and to continue making this about culture war.

                                    Here is another question that you likely won’t answer? If the reason for more gun control laws and regulations is to reduce gun violence, why do we need to bring the open carry folks into the conversation at all? They are a side show. Make them go away and you won’t get any reduction in spree killings or suicides or ordinary street crime.

                                    From where I sit, the overarching long term strategy of most of what falls under the rubric of gun control activism is to reduce the social status of gun owners until it one day becomes politically feasible to severely restrict the right to private gun ownership.

                                    Maybe there is a legitimate case to be made for severely restricting private gun ownership. I am open to hearing that case. Let’s have that discussion. Let’s stop pretending that this is about open carry activists or simple “common sense” gun regulations.

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                                      • Well, it seems to me that even tho a moderate GRA would perhaps be politically (or even socially) opposed to folks walking armed into Kroger’s, the principles and policies he supports are consistent with the principles and policies they advocate for. So one question is whether moderate GRAs view Krogering as only tactically wrong, or socially inappropriate? Another, given that the policy preferences moderates and extremists largely align, is whether opposing those folks on tactical grounds would even make tactical sense, since doing so might obfuscate what appears to be a pretty clear cut binary issue: GR absolutism on one side and CONFISCATION!!! on the other.

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                                          • Right, my comments are inane and I have poor reading comprehension, that must be it.

                                            It couldn’t possibly be that you made multiple arguments based on the premise of collective responsibility that you refuse to back up.

                                            Blaming the media for showing people that are screaming “Look at me!” is weak. Maybe it’s up to responsible gun owners to police their own… Look, I’d also be embarrassed if Ted Nugent were on the same side as me…

                                            Very wrong. By “police” I meant “Prevail upon to stop embarrassing you in public…”

                                            If responsible gun owners like Oscar want those stories to stop, they are going to have to get the dufuses to stop.

                                            Nothing to see here, I guess.

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                                            • Yes, those are all the same observation: the exhibitionists are going to get media coverage, so if responsible guns owners want those stories gone they’ll have to persuade the Chipotle Brigsdes that being stupid in public is not a good tactic. You’ve somehow confused that with “collective responsibility”.

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                                    • I don’t want to get involved in this nastiness, but given the pattern of legislation in several states over the last few years, it is a mistake to call the extremists a side show. It is even more of a mistake for those who favor more restrictive gun laws to treat them as such. They have actual political power, in many places much more than even the most moderate gun control advocates.

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                                      • It is a persistent public policy dilemma that the folks with the most skin in the game and the folks with the most consistent views on any issue will be the ones most motivated to seek political action.

                                        That said, I don’t buy your characterization. As I said the other day, most Americans likely live in a jurisdiction that places significant restrictions on the ownership of firearms. Are there problems with enforcement that could be ameliorated with better policies? Absolutely. However, it is unclear to me how the crazies bringing rifles to public places are the ones standing in the way of politicians on either side of this issue coming to some kind of compromise.

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                                        • New York is a bad example, because, while not all that restrictive in global terms, it is more so than most urban areas, and is certainly more so than any urban area in, say, the second largest state in the union. And the trend in legislation at state levels is unmistakable.

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                                          • while not all that restrictive in global terms

                                            Looking at the licencing restrictions in place in NYC and at the number of licensed firearms and permitholders, it is pretty difficult how NYC could be any more restrictive short of banning all private firearm ownership. Here is a description:

                                            Getting a handgun legally in New York is a two-step process. First, applicants must obtain a license, which costs $340, takes about 12 weeks to process, is good for three years and requires a background check by the New York Police Department. In addition, fingerprinting costs about $100.

                                            Those who pass that hurdle then must get a purchase authorization from the police for the particular weapon they intend to buy. One handgun license may list up to 25 weapons (so far, no one has tried to register more than that, officials said), but buyers must wait 90 days between purchases.

                                            That comes from this NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/nyregion/20guns.html?_r=0. And one thing that the article makes clear is that the ranks of NYC permitholders are stacked with the wealthy and the connected. Maybe that isn’t proof that the system is weighted against ordinary folks, but certainly there are lots of people for whom $440 every few years and having to walk into a police station is a significant hurdle.

                                            From what I can find online, there 40,000 permitholders in NYC, out of a population of 8 million; that’s 0.5%. Compare that with Sweden, where 6.5% of the population have a gun license.

                                            The same article states that there are 41k handguns and about 52k long guns legally registered in NYC. That makes for a per capita rate of 1.6 guns per 100 New Yorkers. Compare that with rates of 31.6 in Sweden or 30.3 in Germany. If New York were a country, it would have one of the lowest rates of legal gun ownership in the world.

                                            We can go back and forth about whether NYC’s gun regulations are too strict or not strict enough and likely we won’t come to agreement, because that’s a subjective question. But by all objective measures, NYC has one of the most restrictive set of gun laws and regulations in the world. And most other big, dense, U.S. cities have similar, although not quite as strict, gun laws. So again, it is simply empirically false to say that there is presently no gun control in the United Stats.

                                            Maybe there is a trend in the other direction, but we’ll have to see how that shakes out.

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                                            • That’s a somewhat misleading figure for NYC, because of the number of illegal guns (which may outnumber the number of residents).

                                              It is expensive to own a gun in NYC, I will give you that, but you’ve also shown that it is an outlier here, which was my other point. Gun ownership in the U.S. Is high because for most of us, it’s not hard to get one legally. And the trend is toward (and to some extent driven by) extremists. The moderate gun rights folks, at least relative to the extremists, aren’t silencing the extremists because the extremists are increasingly running the show, and for the most part it appears, achieving policy that the “moderates” don’t oppose.

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                                              • But we are not talking about illegal guns or even the total number of guns. We are talking about whether gun regulations in NYC are strict or not by global standards, which they most definitely are. Even in New York state, outside of NYC, gun permits take about two months to process.

                                                You are absolutely right, that lots of Americans live in a place where gun regulations are light by global standards, but lots more don’t. If you look at the places where most Americans live, you find exactly the sorts of restrictions already in place that the proponents of common sense gun regulation want.

                                                So, if we are going to speak meaningfully about what constitutes a moderate and what constitutes an extremist, we first have to anchor ourselves in the reality of what present gun regulation looks like. Otherwise extremists becomes a completely subjective term.

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                                                • If you look at the places where most Americans live, you find exactly the sorts of restrictions already in place that the proponents of common sense gun regulation want.

                                                  In New York City, perhaps, but again, by your own numbers, New York is extreme for the U.S. (and even New York state which has a gun ownership rate of ~10% despite the fact that most of its population lives in a place with less than 1% (by your numbers). Most people don’t live in a New York City, and gun laws are only getting looser nationwide.

                                                  Also, I mention the illegal guns because they make international comparisons of ownership rates difficult.

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                                            • So again, it is simply empirically false to say that there is presently no gun control in the United Stats.

                                              When did Chris say that? Or anyone else for that matter?

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          • You bring up an important point about being part of the culture or at least making the more benign elements of it more visible. The average person in a gun culture heavy area is probably a gun owner has friends who are mostly gun owners. When they hear “gun owner” it sounds like “car owner” and carries no real baggage. People from more urban areas with less public gun culture tend not to own guns and when they hear about somebody with a gun, it’s a criminal or a kook. When they hear “gun owner” that’s who they picture.

            I hadn’t thought of it until you posted it, but making the non-crazy non-criminal majority more visible in those areas might make a real difference in the culture clash aspect of the debate.

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            • The average person in a gun culture heavy area is probably a gun owner has friends who are mostly gun owners. When they hear “gun owner” it sounds like “car owner” and carries no real baggage. People from more urban areas with less public gun culture tend not to own guns and when they hear about somebody with a gun, it’s a criminal or a kook. When they hear “gun owner” that’s who they picture.

              Yes. (Incidentally, there are a few places where ‘car owner’ sounds weird.)

              See, I live in a rural area with a lot of guns, and I don’t particularly attach any negative connotations to gun ownership, despite the fact I’m in favor of various forms of gun control. Probably one out of five people own a long gun of some kind or another.

              And then we get articles from people who own gun, or are just against gun control, who are in areas *without* a lot of guns, where there is a negative connotation, and they’re complaining about that connotation, and I have to remind myself that what they are talking about is real for where they are. Although they’ve probably missed the fact it only applies to certain areas.

              What is really really odd is that you’d expect there to be some sort of anti-gun-control thing going on here, just like there’s an anti-gun thing going on in urban places, so *I*’d be the odd-man out here. Logically, I should be complaining about how everyone perceived people proposing reasonable gun control laws as Nazis.

              Except…that’s not how it works(1), because most gun owners have no problem with many kinds of gun control! In fact, if you ask, most gun owners have a few specific people they’re pretty clear shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun, because those people are dangerous idiots with a gun and/or paranoid lunatics.

              I think I’ve already mentioned here that, after Sandy Hook, I literally couldn’t find a single person, even asking plenty of gun owners, who wasn’t with me in limiting clip size. (Or is that magazine size? I had like three people explain the difference, and I’ve forgotten, and today I’m too lazy to Google it again.) They’re like ‘If you can’t take down what you’re aiming at, either an animal when hunting or a person in self-defense, in 10 bullets, you shouldn’t be firing your damn gun at it.’

              1) In real life, I mean. On most of the internet, the only people opposed to gun control and post about it do appear to think everyone in favor of it is a Nazi. Or a communist, or a communazi.

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        • “The gun culture is much more aggressively derpish now, much more militant than in living memory. This new culture is what is wholly unacceptable and have no desire for compromise with it.”

          I think ‘militant’ is a poor choice of words there. Tactical rifles are very popular, but that doesn’t mean most of their owners are looking to stage a coup. It’s much more about preparedness than militancy.

          “As long as the public face of gun rights is a weirdo stalking through Kroger with an assault rifle…”

          Seriously? I think you probably know this isn’t true.

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          • In some ways, the media is caught in a tough position. I know lots of people who own guns, but they’re all reasonable people with reasonable purposes [1] and none of them get covered by the media. The people who get covered are those who belong to self-styled militias, or whose position is that the country has become so dangerous that everyone should carry all the time. They’re visually interesting — much more so than most people whose position is that all civilian guns ought to be taken away — so they play well on TV. The militia types are interesting in light of Oscar’s footnote #5. They’re not interested in community building or being supervised, most of them believe that the government(s) are on the verge of imposing some sort of permanent martial law.

            [1] One of them is a woman who spent some years doing computer forensics to put child pornographers in jail. At some point, the local police chief approached her and said words to the effect of “We’d be more comfortable if you got a good handgun and learned to use it. Some of the people you helped put in jail are finishing their sentences and have mental health issues. We can’t escort you all the time, so we’d like there to be a plan B.”

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          • The public face of gun owners isn’t for me or you to determine- how many times do we need Facebook pictures of weirdos pointing their guns at the camera, guys walking through schools and grocery stores with guns, activists gathering together with their arsenals, before it sticks, and washes away the old image of Uncle Billy with his deer rifle?

            I know that guys like you and Oscar are what I am terming the collateral damage of this fight- you are the sensible and reasonable gun owners the NRA wishes it had and at one time did have.

            But guys like you are not on the leading edge of the gun control battles. Its the guys demanding to carry guns into churches who have the upper hand, and are setting the agenda and dictating the terms of engagement.

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            • The public face of gun owners isn’t for me or you to determine- how many times do we need Facebook pictures of weirdos pointing their guns at the camera, guys walking through schools and grocery stores with guns, activists gathering together with their arsenals, before it sticks, and washes away the old image of Uncle Billy with his deer rifle?

              Well, if you saw it in Facebook, then it must be accurate…

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    • Medical clinics are very easy to regulate. They’re already tracked, there are relatively few of them, creating new ones is hard, they’re hard to move and they’re licensed like crazy. Guns are small objects that can be carried around and transferred easily, there are hundreds of millions of them in the country, and nobody knows where most of them are.

      I think that any attempt to go after guns the way the right has gone after abortion will look a lot less like the War on Abortion and a lot more like the War on Drugs. Just an expensive mess with substantially more collateral damage than actual effect.

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    • The difference between the anti-abortion and anti-gun movements is that the former is focused on directly reducing the number of abortions, whereas the latter is focused on indirectly reducing the amount of gun violence. So if a law-abiding woman wants an abortion but bureaucratic hoops prevent her from getting one, that’s a win for movement A. If the same law-abiding woman wants a gun and bureaucratic hoops prevent her from getting one, that’s not necessarily a win for movement B as – gun or not – she is unlikely to be the cause of gun violence.

      This may be a fine distinction but it completely changes the policy calculus: anti-abortion advocates can work at the state or county level to reduce access to abortion and achieve their goal of fewer abortions; when anti-gun advocates try to do the same they typically have no impact on gun-violence (excluding suicide). If we accept the fact that state-level gun-reduction initiatives have had little impact on gun-violence, and we accept the fact that our primarily goal should be violence reduction not gun reduction, then I think Oscar’s position is very persuasive.

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      • For some gun control advocates, it is exactly as you suggest, about reducing the level of gun violence.

        For others, such as me, it is broader.

        The open carry movement, the guns everywhere, the constant message of “we need to arm up to defend ourself, even at Starbucks” has provoked a resultant maximalist attitude in me.

        I don’t want to live in a world where everyone feels the need to carry a gun into church, even if gun deaths decline.

        I honestly see a straight line between open carry and racism, where a white man can carry a gun anywhere, but a black man will be shot dead just for holding one.

        I see a straight line between the pervasive fear and paranoia behind gun carry, and the abrasion and destruction of any sense of community and trust.

        And it isn’t just me. There is a reason why the other groups- Moms Demand Action, Everytown For Gun Safety- have used the pictures of gun nuts stalking through Krogers, and the small posses of gun nuts posing in public with their guns to drum up support.

        A lot of people other than me see these connections, the line between guns and the destruction of the sort of society we want to live in.

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        • Sadly the folks you rail against arent causing the problem. The open catty folks arent the ones that are making chicago the US murder capital. If you really care about violence you should fix those people.

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          • For some gun control advocates, it is exactly as you suggest, about reducing the level of gun violence.

            For others, such as me, it is broader.

            Wait, this seems oddly familiar…

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          • You aren’t wrong that gun violence is a problem in Chicago and other big cities. Pretending that is the only place where gun crime takes place or even that the majority of gun crime takes place there, is no better than a liberal blaming it all on tactical guys. Until you acknowledge both sides of the debate, you aren’t really engaging in a good faith discussion.

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  8. Counter-offer:

    Set up gun laws in such a way that suburban, rural, and moderately wealthy urban whites aren’t affected by them and the laws, as enforced, will fall heaviest on the urban poor.

    Stuff like Tamir Rice, only cleaned up a little bit. Maybe wait a full 10 seconds before shooting the perp.

    This will have the benefit of keeping the prisons more or less full with more or less the same people filling them now, keep prison guards employed, *AND* we’ll be able to point to the people arrested as honestly and seriously endangering children by virtue of their gun ownership. (“What if the gun was stolen by a child?” “What if he fired the gun and it went through the apartment wall and shot a child?” “What if someone stole the gun, fired the gun, it went through the wall of an apartment and shot a child?”)

    This will keep the status quo, more or less, as with the war on drugs but have the added benefit of not changing much of anything anywhere else.

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    • Is that to me, or Chip? Because a big part of my whole premise is that the public needs to be permitted an effective means of self defense, and the cheaper the better. In urban settings, LTL devices could be a better solution, since they won’t pass through walls, or fly for hundreds of yards, etc. Nothing I outlined would stop the poor from buying a shotgun or simple rifle for home defense, and if you are suggesting that membership in a gun club is too high a barrier to owning a handgun or semi-auto rifle, note that I specifically said that part of this involves making it easier for such clubs to form & exist, especially in urban areas (where they are largely forced out). Hell, IIRC the courts just slapped Chicago for having a requirement that people get trained if they want to own a gun, and then working to drive all such facilities from the city.

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      • LOL. They ought to slap Chicago for that.

        I don’t think most people really want the public using effective means of self-defense. As it is, most self-defense of a structure is “accidentally legal” (aka: “No, officer, I didn’t know that it was wired wrong and might zap someone stupid enough to do XYZ…” or “Hmph. Didn’t realize that might collapse if something more than 50lbs stood on top of it”)

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      • I was more putting forward the scenario that *IS* going to happen.

        While it’s true that Prohibition didn’t work.
        And the War on Drugs didn’t work.
        And we know that trying to crack down on immigration won’t work…

        For some reason, we have these ideas that we just need to pass the right magic law and muster enough willpower to enforce it in order to turn our society into Europe/Canada.

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    • This is actually pretty close to what I think British/Australian style laws would result in if we were to implement them here. Another excuse to incarcerate poor people, new and more interesting ways for the state to violate the 4th amendment, relative impunity for violations by the wealthy and well connected, resources thrown into the criminal justice system that would be better spent elsewhere…

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          • Time to drop a fact-bomb: http://www.citylab.com/crime/2012/12/geography-us-gun-violence/4171/

            Money quote: “It is commonly thought that gun violence is higher in bigger cities and metros. But that is not what we find. Population size is negatively associated with suicide-related gun deaths (-.46) and not significantly associated with either total gun deaths or murder by gun at the metro level. Population density is not significantly associated murder by gun and negatively and significantly associated with gun-related suicides (-.67) and the overall rate of death by gun (-.46).”

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              • Yes, Chicago had a lot of murders and shootings. Look at the entire country though and you will see far more gun crime happening outside of big cities. By only comparing murder rates for big cities you are ignoring the places where the majority of our population lives.

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              • Those neighborhoods are shaped by decades, if not centuries, of deeply racist government and economic policies. If you force racial minorities to all live in one part of town, consistently impede their ability to build careers or businesses or accumulate wealth in their communities, send police to constantly harass and beat and imprison them, and all the while blame them for their inability to pull themselves out of it, places like Chiraq are what result. To paraphrase Ta-Nehisi Coates, it’s like stabbing a man a dozen times and then telling him he should walk it off because, hey, you’re not stabbing him anymore.

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                  • Of course they’re responsible. But if you take the toilet-paper roll away from your eye and instead look at the entire context, you can see that society has created an environment in which resorting to violence has become as much a matter of practical survival as anything else.

                    Tell me, notme, have you ever lived in one of these neighborhoods? Do you have friends who grew up in them? Or are you, as usual, just throwing out pointless gotcha questions to feed into your unearned sense of superiority?

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                  • No, they’re responsible. But there’s a good argument to be made that if you want to reduce murder, holding people “more responsible” for it might not be as effective as addressing other root causes. I mean, there’s only so much “responsibility” you can apply to murderers and still reduce the murder rate. After that, you might have to try something else.

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            • Time to drop a fact-bomb:

              These facts don’t show what you think that they do.

              Money quote: “It is commonly thought that gun violence is higher in bigger cities and metros.

              Who thinks this exactly? Show me someone making an argument that bigger cities have more gun violence. If you asked me to guess which cities have the most violent crime per capita, I wouldn’t think to name New York, LA and Chicago. I would guess New Orleans, Detroit, Camden, Newark, Gary, etc., precisely because those are smaller cities struggling with lots of economic and social problems.

              Florida shows that population size among cities does not determine the level of gun violence, but he is not saying anything about the relative occurrence of gun violence between cities and suburbs and rural area. As points out below, once you remove suicides, gun violence is absolutely more prevalent in urban areas.

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          • This struck me as somewhat non-controversial.

            So I did some quick googling…

            I found this and, depending on what you want to see, you can pick one of the following two paragraphs.

            Compared with urban settings, rural areas had a higher percentage of gun deaths from shotguns and rifles and a higher percentage from suicides and accidents (P < .01). Two similarities, however, stand out as more important than the confirmed hypothesized differences: handguns accounted for more than 50% of gun deaths, and suicides accounted for nearly 70% of gun deaths in both urban and rural areas.

            In general, homicide gun deaths in the United States are more of an urban than a rural problem. “Half of all homicides occurred in 63 cities with 16% of the nation’s population; within those cities, homicides were largely clustered in certain neighborhoods.”[7] For example, in Milwaukee, two inner-city zip codes, 53204 and 53215, have homicide rates of 89.1 per 100,000 and 38.8 per 100,000, respectively, compared with a homicide rate of 10.5 per 100,000 for the state in general.

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  9. Heller and McDonald have, for the most part, dashed that view on the rocks.

    Both 5-4 decisions willing to override centuries of precedent. There’s a word for that; I think it starts with “a”.

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  10. Great post

    I mostly agree with everything you have written here, with one exception and one additional thought.

    Exception- The club idea is interesting, but I think it lets the gov’t off to easy for bad behavior. I see where you are coming from and in general I support the idea, but as a libertarian and someone who used to believe that the G was a force for good, it is issues like that (among others) which haved affirmed my belife that the G is becoming a force of negative. And while that is not really a part of your excellent post, I do think it is something that needs be stated, as it is (in my opinion) a good part of why this conversation (and others on the left/right divide) have gone bad.

    Thought- I don’t particularly care about gun violence, I care about lessening violence altogether. And in that vein, I don’t really care what other countries do regarding guns. Looking at what other countries have done with guns holds no interest to me for the simple fact that all of those other countries have different cultural assumptions with regard to state powers, different levels of cutural cohesion, different economics, legal systems etc. They aren’t the US, and the US is going to have to find its own solutions to its problems.

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      • As Kolohe says, we wouldn’t want to only allow someone who is registered on a blog to comment on the internet, because that is not how rights work. One of the most important things (in my view) for an effective government is for all people to feel that they are treated fairly underneath it’s umbrella. If we feel that we need to go to a third party to enable us to unlock our rights, then in my eyes, the gov’t has failed to secure our liberty. Someone shouldn’t have to join Planned Parenthood to get an abortion, nor join a blog to comment on the internet.

        When one group feels that the gov’t doesn’t treat them fairly under the rights that are assumed everyone has, if indeed they feel that they are expressly deniged those rights, well, they loose faith in gov’t. See BLM for details.

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        • First, see my reply to Kolohe re: militias.

          Second, even if you do feel the basic right is separate from a community requirement, then I have to ask how far does the right extend? I allowed for the owning of arms absent such membership, but in a limited sense (& I’m perfectly willing to discuss details). Very few people seriously question the right of the public to own explosives or greater absent some kind of oversight/regulation, so there is an established limit, what I’m doing is questioning if the current limits are optimal? Can we contract them in a reasonable way to try and address a specific issue? Assuming such a regime was put in place, what obvious weaknesses/failings do you think would emerge? Etc.

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          • Well, I feel that has the right of it bellow, in that it does create a sort of “community service” requirement. I am with you 100% on the idea of creating more of a community involvement in the shooting community, especally in the more urban areas such as Seattle and the greater Bay Area. But requiring a third party system is not the ideal. I am with you on the idea of greater levels of licensing, so to speak, for different classifications of weapons. But that is where I feel that the gov’t cannot pick winners and loosers of the May Issue sort. Place clear requirements to the licensing and let the chips fall where they may, no thumb on the scale, so to speak. As that is what amounts to Red Lining.

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            • You do get that the requirement is only for owning higher tier weapons, right? I’m not proposing any impediment to owning a basic tier weapon, and even less to owning LTL options.

              Think of it this way, AFAIK, both IL & MA (& possibly other states) have some kind of Firearm permit which is little more than government permission to own a firearm, and these have not been found to be unconstitutional. So we already have a system that is, in my mind, worse than a peer community system, and it passes muster.

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          • I suspect — but am willing to be convinced otherwise — that one of your horses has already left the barn. There are now more handguns than rifles in the US. The number of handguns sold now exceeds the number of all other firearms combined. Maybe this should be unsurprising. The number of hunters has been declining for years, and the urban/suburban population continues to grow relative to the rural population. If we’ve reached the point where the “basic” use for firearms is urban/suburban self-protection, and the “basic” firearm is a semi-automatic (in some way) handgun, you’ve set yourself a tough task.

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            • Which is why the first point I addressed was finding a way to offer a real alternative to the handgun for self-defense/protection. Absent that, it’ll never fly. That narrative is too entrenched. Without a viable alternative, the willingness to replace a handgun with a LTL option will never materialize.

              Also, I recognize that none of this is a magic bullet, so to speak, and any of it would require a significant amount of time effect positive change.

              “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
              To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

              – R. Buckminster Fuller

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  11. I’m not passionate about guns either way, but to the extent I’m passionate about rights, I’m skeptical about the mandate to be part of a club to use them. To me, it’s like declaring you need to be part of someone’s blog roll or masthead to comment on the internet.

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    • Membership would not be required to own basic firearms, just handguns & semi-auto rifles.

      I think this would pass constitutional muster, even if not anyone’s ideal state of affairs.

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          • Yeah, but then we’re talking property rights. At the risk of torturing this analogy such that the Hague swears out an arrest warrant, the difference is that I could just start my own blog if I really want to exercise my first ammendment rights.

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            • I guess it all depends on how much weight the militia clause actually has on the 2A. Militias as they existed at the birth of the country no longer exist, per se, but they did, at the time, serve as something of a community (from my understanding). Militia has something of a negative value in certain political circles, so I just relabeled the idea as a gun club and relaxed the militant aspect of it.

              If you feel the right to own is utterly divorced from the community requirement, then this concept will fail to appeal.

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              • I’ve been to places where militias exist. Hell, I’ve even known people with the honor of being driven out of places because of militias.

                Plenty of places where police for all intents and purposes don’t exist.

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              • IIRC, the first time the militias were called up was Washington and the Whisky Rebellion, the regular Army being otherwise busy. It was so popular that the states where the call went out had to impose drafts, and people spent money to get out of serving. A handful of states have state guards separate from the National Guard. The Texas State Guard is the only approved militia in that state, has just over 2,000 members, and is an explicitly unarmed organization.

                I think you’re trying to create something entirely different that comes dangerously close to being a poll-tax-like infringement, as in “Community service is a requirement for handgun ownership.”

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                • the only approved militia in that state

                  Pretty sure the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Aid National Guard are still ‘approved militia’ there also, even while part of the US National Guard.

                  I’ve always wondered how people would respond if the Federal government nationalized the state militias *again*, which would merge all those state defense forces like the Texas State Guard into the National Guard. (This is what happened in 1933 to form the original National Guard.)

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        • Along those lines, the very folks who would be the target of such a proposal (ie., the folks who wouldn’t voluntarily get some training) are the folks who’d most vehemently oppose it. And prolly on exactly the grounds you just outlined. Rights!!

          Which leads right into my problem with the post: seems to me there’s a correlation between pro-GR activism and anti-gummintism such that lotsa folks would resist any reasonable regulation as confirming evidence of precisely what they most fear.

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            • You keep saying that, but I’m not at all convinced that’s true. I’m sure there are some folks out there who want Complete Confiscation, but those folks – by my own subjective calculus! – seem to constitute a tiny fraction of the number of folks clamoring that any regulation whatsoever is inconstitutional. Eg, I’ve never met anyone who thinks guns for sport hunting ought to be banned (tho I’m sure such people exist) while I’ve met literally dozens of people who oppose things like registration or background checks or magazine size restrictions.

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              • And as such, the more radical elements of the GRA movement are a minority. The fact that they’ve captured the leadership of the 800lbs gorilla is less a reflection on the viable political possibilities and more a reflection on an unwillingness to rock the boat while victories are being won*. Put forth an idea that is not just a rehashing of failed ideas from the past 20 years and you might get enough of the NRA membership to listen to make a difference.

                *The fact that the NRA is not actually winning any real victories, or is at best just a hanger-on to the SAF, is lost on most people, because the NRA sucks up all the media attention while the SAF does most of the legal work.

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              • To date, most of what I’ve seen coming from the Gun Control side is in the vein of “This is what we want, we don’t care that you don’t like it!”. See Chip’s comments, for example. Of course such things are going to met with fierce resistance. And Chip is right, in the game of politics, this is the common way of things. I resist that it is the only way, or even the proper way.

                Offer something that makes the majority shut up and think, and you’ll probably see a compromise.

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                • I view it the other way Oscar: that the GRAs are immovable regarding any policy proposal since they all lead to confiscation! rights violations! Slippery slopes! So in that sense, in my opinion, you’ve got the causal conditions reversed.

                  Which is to say, the “even if you don’t like it” part drops outa the equation almost instantly, leaving the arguments in favor of each side’s views. And GRAs are opposed to any proposal that “restricts” their (perceived) rights. Which is every proposal, in my experience.

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                • Thinking about this a bit more, it occurred to me that what you’re interested in – or what I tend to think you’re interested in – is defending gun rights and pro-gun culture from spurious attacks. I think that’s good, myself, and totally agree with that goal. And I think that distinction is important because it can, and most likely does, put you at odds with the broader gun rights activist community which is kindasorta fundamentally interested in expanding/preventing restrictions of gun rights. And I think that cultural divide is where communication between folks really breaks down. Some folks think more guns and easier access to them is a solution to certain types of problems (perhaps just their own personal desire for unfettered access and carry).

                  Eg., remember that Esquire article about the Texan who advocated open carry of rifles and a return to completely unregulated Constitutional gun rights (I think that was the term)? I would have a hard time engaging in useful dialogue with that guy. We’re miles apart regarding what we view as an optimal social arrangement.

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                  • I’d say you are right. My view is that as long as spurious attacks gain political traction (even if they ultimately fail), then the status quo will remain, and the more radical GRA will hold sway.

                    Stop attacking the right itself, maybe roll back the most egregious Middle Finger Regs in certain states, and there’ll be breathing room for moving forward something more effective in the long run.

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                    • Well… I dunno about that. I think GRAism gains its own traction and momentum in various demographics for reasons that are only tangentially related to actual or proposed gun policy. Personally speaking, I think The Fear which ostensibly drives the GRA bus is illusory, and derives primarily from other psychological properties in folks. {{I won’t get into what I think they are. :) }}

                      I would also say the same thing about the GRAs as you have about GCAs: if the lunatics who appear to be driving the GR bus would tone it down, rhetorically as well as in practive, there’d be lots less talk about What To Do About Guns?.

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                      • I don’t disagree, but I believe that,amongst gun owners, there is a relatively silent majority out there that allows the loud mouths their lead because they are getting things done.

                        It’s like having two tough guys bumping chests & spoiling for a fight over something minor. Everything could be resolved well enough, if everyone would take a deep breath.

                        I can’t tell you how incensed I see people get over any mention of trying to renew the AWB. People who normally couldn’t care less, who don’t own anything that would be covered under such a ban, and who aren’t even interested in owning such a rifle. But the very idea is, quite literally, incredibly insulting to them, and every time it’s trotted out, it sucks all the oxygen out of the room.

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                        • For me, the AWB is emblematic of everything wrong with the gun control movement. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t appear to ever have existed. Instead of clearly stating practical goals and arguing how the law would achieve those goals using real data, they pushed for a law that outlawed scary types of guns because those guns most offend their aesthetic preferences and represent the things about guns that upset them most.

                          It’s what I like to call, “Solving the werewolf problem.” It’s amazing how far we get down the road before anybody asks if there’s any data on werewolf attacks and whether our resources might be better spent elsewhere.

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                          • For me, the AWB is emblematic of everything wrong with the gun control movement. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t appear to ever have existed.

                            Yeah. The law is near nonsensical. For example, I find myself baffled that somehow we needed to make sure guns didn’t have *bayonets*. Who the hell has a bayonet on their gun? Had *anyone* been killed via bayonet? Was this a problem at all?

                            Hell, wouldn’t we *want* people putting bayonets on their ‘assault weapons’ and using them in mass shootings? I mean, sucks to be the guy that gets stabbed, but now the shooter has stupidly tangled their gun up in him. (Yes, a *trained* user can avoid that…are we assuming this guys would be trained?)

                            Someone here, don’t remeber who and too lazy to look, claim the AWB actually *caused* a lot of the paranoid lunacy infecting the vocal GRAs. I don’t doubt it when I look at just how dumbass that law was.

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      • By “basic firearms,” you mean a weapon with a barrel of longer than X inches (absent end-user modification which we need to think about too), with some sort of manual action, ammunition feed restriction, caliber-size maximum? We’re talking pump-action shotguns and bolt-action hunting rifles here?

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  12. I haven’t read the comments (but I will later), but great post! I especially agree with this:

    Making blanket claims that Gun Owners/GRAs who oppose your ideas have low intelligence, small penises, or other deviant predilections, even if it includes a disclaimer about how not all gun owners are like this, is going to hurt the cause.2 You may never get the cooperation of the hardcore GRAs, but you can reach gun owners and their allies who are more open to the idea, but not if you are busy insulting them. My wife may not want much to do with firearms, but she damn sure wants even less to do with a person who acts as if I’m a bad guy because I support private ownership. Those kinds of deep insults don’t just land on owners, but also on the people who love them or call them friends. I have spent a lot of time in the past teaching people how to shoot firearms safely, and all those people had a great time learning, had a lot of fun, and to the best of my knowledge, think very well of me for it. How many of them will feel inclined to support a movement that unfairly insults a person they regard well?

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  13. I wonder how much arming the “right” people would work for getting guns rights advocates to support gun control. Supposedly it happened in 1967 in California.

    I imagine armed, black youths across the country, shutting down roadways and protesting cops would makes some people nervous (not least of which are the cops).

    Likewise, with all the anti-Muslim rhetoric lately as well as the reported increase in violence, a national campaign to make sure all American Muslims are exercising their 2nd Amendment rights isn’t likely to sit well with some folks. In addition, you could counter the gun stores and ranges declaring themselves “Muslim-free zones” by opening some with some nice, large Arabic writing clearly visible on the outside.

    Tactics such as these, however, would likely carry a great risk of escalating violence as well as using unsavory means (bigotry) to achieve your ends.

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    • It’s news to me that police are averse to the concept of gun control. All of my interactions with police concerning the subject of weapons has involved the idea that only law enforcement officers should be armed; civilians with weapons are dangers to cops and other civilians, and a principal focus of interaction between law enforcement officers and the subjects of their activities is separation of potentially dangerous people from access to weapons. For the more heads-up officers, this does not just mean “guns,” as nearly anything can become an improvised melee weapon. But it’s the superior power that being armed gives an officer which backs up the social authority that the officer uses to assert control over a situation.

      I realize as I write this that it sounds somewhat sinister. But this is not a particularly bad thing: asserting such authority is what law enforcement is supposed to do. Breaking up domestic disputes, for instance, is an activity that officers are called upon to do with dreary and alarming regularity, and isolating people from weapons in such instances is critical to maintaining public safety. An officer acting in the utmost of good faith and professionalism is going to, and should, put a high priority on being the only armed person in the room.

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      • No policeman who shows up 3 hours after the 911 call is going to say “I should be the only one with a gun” — that’s simply impractical.
        The people I know with guns tend to treat them as “what to use if the police have already failed.”

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      • I imagine that these things depend on the state you’re in.

        The Colorado Police with whom I’ve interacted find gun ownership to be a lot closer to trivial than I imagine California Police would. (Attempts to have questions answered about how to register my guns, for example, got a response from the folks at the police station that was closer to annoyance at interrupting them with something that they didn’t need to be bothered with than anything even approaching alarm, for example.)

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      • Sorry, poor wording on my part. I didn’t mean that cops are necessarily against gun control, just that they would be nervous at the prospect of armed protesters, especially when they are the target of the protest itself.

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  14. Here’s some things to chew on from Section III of the majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller:

    Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts rou­tinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. … For exam­ple, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. … Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. … We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradi­tion of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

    Which is a reminder that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep and bear arms is, like every other right in the Constitution, one that its balanced against other competing interests of similar high importance. So maybe we ought not to dismiss, out of hand, the idea in the OP that perhaps membership in some sort of a club or other informal association as a condition for certain degrees of private ownership or control of a firearm is not necessarily contrary to the Constitution. We don’t really know yet because we’ve not put such a thing to the test.

    We permit all sorts of reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on the rights of expression. This is not thought to violate the Constitution. We work both politically and legally to find the right level of such restrictions consistent with ordered liberty.

    We permit a variety of exceptions to the requirements of securing a search warrant. We may debate, as the OP hints in an aside, whether we’ve gone too far in this respect. But requiring a warrant in all cases is probably not a reasonable interpretation of the Constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Even due process, the right which I consider paramount to the political and legal raison d’etre of the United States of America, is not absolute in all cases, such as wartime. Again, perhaps we have given the notion too short of shrift in recent times, but this does not mean that any arrest not pursuant to a warrant is an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty or that zoning laws are unconstitutional deprivations of property.

    The right to keep and bear firearms need be no different than these. A willingness to experiment and seek mechanisms to explore public policies that are aimed at realizing important governmental objectives and preserving the meaningful nature of the right ought to be encouraged and welcomed. In my experience, it is usually those who insist on the broadest interpretations of gun ownership rights who blanch in fear and distrust at words like “reasonable” and “meaningful,” fearing the chiseling-away of gun rights in words like this.

    They are, to a degree, right. Such danger exists. Roe v. Wade provided, as does D.C. v. Heller, that the individuall right it affirmed was constitutionally guaranteed was nevertheless subject to a greater-than-trivial but not-so-great-as-to-be-a-prohibition level of restriction and regulation. And since then, we have had more than a generation’s worth of legislative and judicial dialogue about where those balance points lie, and no end of political wrangling about it.

    So I fully expect that fate of abortion rights are the now-inevitable cognate of what gun ownership rights will be in the public policy arena for at least the remainder of my lifetime, and likely much longer.

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      • I’m not a lawyer and obviously don’t know, but I would assume, given the passage Burt quoted, the trend probably won’t go into strict scrutiny, but perhaps something like intermediate, or maybe even rational scrutiny.

        Of course, that opinion is worth exactly as much as you paid to hear it.

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      • This will probably be the most interesting question I answer all day.

        My gut tells me to ultimately expect the standard, when it is announced, to be intermediate rather than strict scrutiny. But right now, I see four votes on the court for a strict scrutiny standard. I’m not so sure about Kennedy, though, because Kennedy is pro law enforcement, and I read most law enforcement advocacy as pushing for the most relaxed standard they can achieve.

        Add that to four other votes that would also be pushing for the most relaxed standard that they can achieve, combined with a likelihood that they would accept the good rather than the perfect (from their perspective), and I think that leaves us with a court that would give us an intermediate scrutiny standard.

        But this is indeed the million dollar question in this arena. While I’ve stated my bet, I’d also like to find a way to hedge it.

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  15. I think you might want to make a further post on self-defense in general.

    Not the mechanisms, but the current laws in place and how they work in society.Castle doctrines, stand your ground, duty to retreat, the general lines that separate “Self-defense” from “manslaughter”.

    Because right now, it seems there’s a swing towards loosening the definitions of ‘self-defense’ to the point where the old South Park joke of “He was coming right at us” is becoming an acceptable legal defense. Offhand, my favorite example was a group shoot-out, in which bystanders were killed. Nobody was judged legally culpable for those bystander’s deaths, because both sides were standing their ground against the other.

    When it comes to balancing Second Amendment rights against the rest of the Constitution, I’d think there’s a lengthy conversation about ‘responsibility’ (legally or civilly) for gun use and ownership that needs to be touched on.

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    • Oh man that would be a rats nest of a post. I agree it would be a good idea, but it would require a lot of research.

      But I recognize it’s an issue, which is why I’ve soured on the idea of Kill or Be Victimized (and no , it is not a falsehood, it’s just something most middle class & up people have little direct experience with). Most people don’t want to kill, they just want to escape to safety, or make their attacker leave. Most attackers will flee when faced with even half-hearted opposition. We should not require lethal force to be the default opposition people have to employ.

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    • ” Offhand, my favorite example was a group shoot-out, in which bystanders were killed. Nobody was judged legally culpable for those bystander’s deaths, because both sides were standing their ground against the other.”

      Was this an actual event, @morat20? I don’t recall anything like that and would be curious to learn more. But overall I think that would be an excellent and facinating post. Though I am not sure that would be the best person to put it together, seems rather more the scope of one of our legal beagels.

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      • I went digging, and I think I conflated a judge’s remark about the potential problems (he used an example like that) with an actual premeditated shoot-out that resulted in no charges, despite the fact that both parties agreed to meet and, well, duel.

        Although just doing the quick googling was disturbing. People in the middle of a drug deal, chasing down the dealer and shooting him, etc — perfectly in the clear. Removing duty to retreat was a bad idea.

        And I’m not saying Gordon needs to make a legal case — I think a more philosophical case might actually be better. Not analyze the law “as it stands”, but what the law should aim for as an ideal.

        If I leave my gun lying out on my table, and a child or toddler accidentally fires it — should I have legal or civil liability there? If I escalate a fight and it ends in me shooting my opponent, do I have any responsibility in that death? What does self-defense really mean, in a world where one party might have a gun and the other be unarmed?

        If someone assaults me, then runs away — do I have a right to chase him and assault him back, even kill him, in self defense?

        If I’m minding my business and two people get into a gun-fight, and I get hit — is there any responsible party?

        In a nutshell, we seem to be rapidly expanding gun rights while also loosening the penalties for ‘poor’ use, for lack of a better term.

        I really thinking having someone pretty pro-gun sit down and muse on responsibility, liability, legality of self defense, and in general how the law ought to work from an owner’s perspective.

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        • This hits at the ideal/pragmatic divide.

          Ideally, a reasonable person standard should be sufficient to settle self defense claims.

          Pragmatically, enough DAs have put enough sympathetic people through the ringer that the narrative could be sold that we need some kind of laws to permit people to defend themselves without fear of a trial. So of course we have people pushing those limits now.

          (This is why we can’t have nice things…)

          So again, I fall back to the position that we probably can create effective LTL self defense solutions, so we should focus some resources on that, and alter the legal landscape such that those can be used more readily than firearms.

          Beyond that, the rules for assault apply.

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        • OK, got you

          I think those are all good questions, and need to both be asked and answered. And from both sides of the debate. I think you are right that the rights have expanded without the consequences having been thought through in all cases. I am not sure how busy I am going to be over the next few days (I am picking up my son in a few minutes) but I will think them over and at least give you my thoughts on them.

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          • I suspect one problem is, well, ALEC. We didn’t have ’50 laboratories of Democracy’ wherein a dozen or so fiddled with some changes to laws on guns and self-defense and other states adopting what works and avoiding what doesn’t..

            We had a dozen or so states just try the same experiment, designed by a third party with an agenda that didn’t include good governance.

            ALEC wrote the changes to the law, and lobbied a dozen states to enact it. It wasn’t really organic, there wasn’t much variation, and honestly I’d be surprised to find out there was even a lot of desire to get rid of duty to retreat, for example.

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            • Not to defend ALEC, but the model the used, of creating a policy/law & lobbying states to do it is a pretty normal lobbying strategy used by everyone. I was just listening to an interview of a group that is working to change child marriage laws in the US (18 & up, no exceptions), and that is the exact process they are using.

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  16. I’ll add the idea I always add:

    Let’s just make gun owners (to be clear: the last registered gun owner) responsible for harm caused by their gun (civilly, not criminally). Unless they both (1) stored it safely (which would require some regulation, but I suspect not a whole lot) and (2) reported it stolen BEFORE it caused harm.

    So, if you’re a responsible gun owner nothing changes. But if my kid goes to your house, finds your gun loaded in a drawer, and shoots someone: that’s strict liability to you.

    The benefit is that the free market can then punish irresponsibility with relatively low legal costs (strict liability being easy to prove), and someone takes the fall for tragedies. The harm is that this isn’t directly preventative and doesn’t help when the gun owner is judgment proof.

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    • Is this seriously not the case? I mean, I know not everywhere has a stolen gun clause, but if some kid finds an unsecured firearm in a house, it seems the owner would be liable.

      The tricky bit about stolen gun reporting laws is the timer has to start from when the owner found out it was stolen or lost, not when it actually was. That can be tricky to prove. Sometimes it’ll be obvious the owner could not have known, (like when I was in Hawaii for a week – quite possible someone could have broken in and cracked my safe and I would not have known until I got home), but I can imagine cases on the margin where it won’t be so clear cut. Still, making it a civil matter rather than a criminal one turns it into an insurance issue, so I’m less inclined to object to that.

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      • Is this seriously not the case? I mean, I know not everywhere has a stolen gun clause, but if some kid finds an unsecured firearm in a house, it seems the owner would be liable.

        Dick Cheney shot a gun in the face, and that guy apologized to him. That’s the America we live in now.

        *sigh*. I remember when gun safety was a thing, and not something to be mouthed before you shoved your loaded weapon into a drawer, safety off.

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      • I favor making it a civil/insurance matter, but would support some limited criminal penalties, not so much that someone is guilty of murder if their stolen gun is used to commit murder, but some form of criminal punishment, maybe a misdemeanor of some sort. I’d want some distinction between when the owner knew it was stolen and when it was stolen, but there should be some limit. If the gun is stolen and the owner only realizes it 3 months later, that’s a different issue from your Hawaii example (and you acknowledge as much by talking about cases on the margin).

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        • *shrug*. I’d be pretty happy to have owning a gun require carrying insurance for it. Let those actuaries sort things out. Maybe they can offer discounts for owning proper storage, completing yearly training, allowing random inspections on storage and handling.

          It’d solve a lot of my objections, honestly, in a very free market way. I mean not all, but quite a few.

          I’d absolutely love to see what the numbers settled down to, after a few years. Would hunting rifles be cheaper to cover than handguns? 22s cheaper than 45s? Was there a critical number of guns wherein the likelihood of a viable claim occurring change — either become more or less likely? (Perhaps collectors tended towards fewer accidents and better security, so less thefts. Or perhaps the more guns you had, the more likely one of them was to go off. Who knows?)

          Mandatory insurance covers one of my primary complaints about gun ownership — that of requiring responsibility. I have to carry liability on my car, don’t see why I shouldn’t be required to carry it on my gun. (And no the “shall not be infringed” part wouldn’t prevent that. Felons aren’t allowed to own guns in some states. If you can’t afford a gun, the government has no responsibility to give you one, etc).

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          • Insurance only works if there is liability to ensure, which is what I’m setting up.

            The big difference is taking away any defense based on lack of intention, accident, or whatever else. Your gun hurts someone = you pay.

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          • I have no issue with insurance, I just wonder if it is a problem? Or perhaps, how is it enforced?

            If a kid does find a gun & shoots someone, and the gun owner has a homeowner or rental policy, is liability insurance for such things not part of the policy? What happens if the gun owner fails to carry such a policy? Do we treat it like auto insurance then?

            Honest questions here. I own guns so I always make sure my liability coverage will handle shootings, among other things.

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            • I’d do a separate rider for guns, not covered under homeowners. (Now your homeowners would cover your house for damages in a way similar to no-fault or uninsured motorist coverage does. Your medical should work no-fault with gunshot injuries, paying as usual then billing the gun’s owner, etc).

              Failure to show financial responsibility (ie, insurance) should result in a hefty fine at the very least. For every gun uninsured. I’m not sure how I feel about confiscation, but I think that’s a possibility as is outright ban for continuing to violate the law.

              Punishments are something I’m in the air about. Fine, yes. A heavy one, big enough to discourage ignoring the law. More than that? I don’t know. I’d like to see how the fine worked first, honestly.

              Problem is, the system would likely require universal registration which is entirely a non-starter for GRAs. I’m not talking “random audits of people’s guns and their insurance” needs, I mean literally “We’ve got a shot-out window, I have the gun in my hand, and Bob says it’s his and insured, is it really the Glock he owns? Or is he claiming it’s his ’cause Tim doesn’t have coverage on his Glock and doesn’t want the fine on top of the ticket for discharging his weapon?”.

              If a gun is discharged and damages occur, you sort of have to prove whose gun it is. And whether it’s a federal DB or an insurance one, they’re gonna want to be able to prove whose gun it is — or isn’t.

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              • Are we insuring the gun, or the owner? I can see insuring the gun against damage, loss, or theft, but the owner is the one who is liable.

                I would suspect in this kind of setup, the insurance company would have a database of who owns what, which in my mind is fine, as long as LE can’t access it without a warrant.

                Honestly, when it comes to a database/registry, that is my one requirement. Legal access requires a warrant, and only for the specific incident in question. I know that is a pretty thin limitation in many ways, but it’s the best one we got, and it is one that can theoretically be strengthened again if the public demands it.

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                • Both, actually. Mostly insuring the gun — specifically damages caused by the gun — but if you’re going to do that, you might as well cover theft of the gun and just make it a blanket policy.

                  Insurance aside, I think a gun registry is inevitably going to be required — you can’t make common-sense, minimally invasive laws without it. Insurance can’t cover guns without it, you can’t enforce liability, you can’t track where guns ended up in hands that shouldn’t have them.

                  But there’s a huge paranoia about gun registries, despite the high support (it polls really well, but the NRA whips up the hysteria).

                  Even you fall prey — your recommendations down-thread about how to build one that’s “safe”? It’s not safe. It’s not secure. You literally can’t build what you’re asking for. DB’s don’t work that way. What you can do is write into law the requirements for proper warrants into the mix, but what you’re doing is legislatively ensuring the whole “tainted fruit” (or whatever the legal metaphor is) if it involves gun.

                  That is, they’ll get the warrant because the prosecutors will find cases falling apart if they didn’t — not because of some techno-magic prevention.

                  Tangentially, I think a real problem with gun rights and gun control in America is, well, it’s like there’s two realities competing. In one (the one I happen to view), I see a proliferation of open carry laws, concealed carry access, a reversal of a century of SCOTUS precedent on gun rights (a massive shift in favor of individual owners) and a relaxation of the requirements of self-defense to an absurd degree — coupled with exactly zero real gun restriction legislation, to the point where even existing gun legislation died quietly rather than be renewed.

                  In the other, as I’ve been told on this very board, America has “never been closer to full gun confiscation”. Which strikes me as, well, Bizarro America obviously.

                  So to me, in light of all the victories the GRA have gained, the mild — and majority supported! — idea of universal gun registration to track things like “How did this criminal get this gun” and “Who owns this gun that shot this guy” seems, well, a small common sense thing. I have a freaking SSN. My car has a VIN, the government keeps track of the VIN. My property is registered with the state, my car is registered with the state, I’m registered with the state.

                  Why my gun shouldn’t be is…odd.

                  I can intellectually understand why, if you are of the belief that we’re on the cusp of all the guns being seized, while universal registration is a terrifying prospect. I just can’t see that world from here, you know?

                  And frankly, I think that world is really convenient for gun makers and their lobby, the NRA. I’ve watched “Obama’s coming for your guns!” spike sales routinely for the last 8 years, despite Obama…not coming for anyone’s guns. It wasn’t a platform he ran on, it wasn’t anything the Democrats did anything with when they controlled Congress as well, I don’t think a single piece of legislation has even come up for a vote, and even after mass school shootings the Democrat’s biggest series proposal was….to keep the AWB. To maintain the status quo.

                  To me? The GRA have won the war. We’re just quibbling over the surrender conditions.

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        • That is the logical answer, but someone will surely report it stolen right after the police are nice enough to come by their house to tell them they found their gun.

          This is the margin that police, DAs, and law makers don’t actually want to have to sort out, and would rather have a clear cut statute that makes the decisions for them.

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          • To be clear: I mean the date on which they report the theft, not the (prior) date they say the theft happened.

            To accomodate the Hawaii example, maybe you can have a high-burden of proof available to rebut the presumption of liability if you show affirmatively that you could not have known of the theft before it was reported.

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  17. Now that I’ve read (almost) all of the comments, I’ll reprise some people’s reservations about the gun club plan, not that it’s a bad idea, just that I’m not sure of the nuts and bolts of putting it into place, and it kind relies a little too much on developing the LTL technology you’re talking about and that gun clubs might, under the wrong circumstances, become the de facto requirement for owning a firearm.

    That probably falls under the “make everybody mad, and you’re doing something right” point you’ve been making. That said, I think bringing up an idea like the gun clubs is a step in the right direction, and it’s probably worth a try. And the LTL technology–which is completely new to me–seems promising.

    I’ll just repeat that I think this was a good, constructive post. Thanks for writing it.

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    • Thanks.

      My biggest weakness is that a lot hinges on an effective and affordable LTL solution coming on the market, and the existence of a legal framework to allow it.

      Strangely, this part of it all, and the effects I would hope to see cascade from it, are not really being engaged upon (except by Mike Dwyer).

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      • I’m skeptical of the following:

        1. That an advertised “LTL” method actually proves not to be lethal (or, at least, lethal in some cases)

        2. That people would be better off if it did, as I think I’ve seen that police are quicker to go for their tasers than they were to go for guns before the technology, so you’d presumably have more uses of these guns.

        3. That GRA would actually be satisfied in any way by the proposal. These are people who fought to keep using lead shot long after it was clear the lead polluted the area.

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        • 1-2) A punch can be lethal in some cases. This is why the use of such a device absent justification would still constitute assault. Police are quicker to use Tasers over guns because it generally involves less trouble versus a shooting. Private citizens would still face a police investigation for using a LTL device and would have to articulate a justification that is allowed under the law.

          3) Again, the goal is not to appease the GRA, it is to weaken the support that they enjoy from people who would probably not otherwise do so.

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          • Great, so someone gets shot with one of these things and dies. Then what?

            Manufacturer shrugs and says “shit happens”
            Shooter says “I’m a responsible gun owner and tried my gosh darnedest not to kill him”
            NRA starts yelling about politicizing an issue.

            And all we’ve done is create another excuse for continuing gun violence that it will be considered rude to complain about in the near future.

            3) Have you seen any sign of anything in the past 20 years that would actually have that effect (vs. something you’d like to have that effect)? I mean, they get popular support going against bans on guns IN BARS AND SCHOOLS.

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            • Great, so someone gets shot with one of these things and dies. Then what?

              Maybe a better way to look at it is, say, 10 people get shot with an LTL and 1 dies where in a similar shooting 3 would die. At least that’s what I understand the appeal would be.

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              • Doesn’t really answer my “then what” question, except by providing exactly the kind of NRA talking point I envision: “yes, we are sad that #1 died, and certainly no one meant for it to happen or could have foreseen it happening, but if you look at it another way TWO LIVES WERE SAVED TODAY so we should all be proud of our nation’s gun owners”

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                • The counterfactual is critical, though. It can’t just be dismissed as a talking point.

                  We discussed something like this in an engineering ethics class in college. If an automotive engineer makes an adjustment to a car that prevents 10 people per year from burning to death but it causes 1 person per year to be decapitated, has the engineer done something wrong? The decapitation victim would have survived but for that change in the design.

                  The problem is looking at individual cases instead of aggregate results. Maybe one person killed by the LTL weapon wouldn’t have died because if the person had had a gun instead, he would have been more restrained. But if the aggregate number of deaths goes down because in general, the LTL weapon kills fewer people than guns did, that seems like a win.

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                  • Last comment, then I must debug… (puts on Engineer’s Hat)

                    When I first started thinking about this problem, I began to poke around with regard to advances in certain fields. We’ve been making very interesting progress in finding very easy, inexpensive ways to mass produce micro & nanostructures on the surface of existing macro structures. We are also making small things incredibly strong.

                    So imagine a thin length of fishing line with enough tensile strength to be able to resist normal human strength, and sections of its surface coated with micro or nano barbs. Lay the line out and you can safely pull it along a surface in one direction, but it will snag like crazy in the other. Now load that into a multiple impact round, but with a very light charge, or in an airgun, then shoot it. Range will be very short (<50'), and it won't hit very hard, so impact trauma would be light except at contact range, but if one of the strands makes contact with cloth or skin, it'll have a good chance to grab and pull the rest of the round back around the target. One hit might not subdue a target, but three or four could, at least enough to run away, or close the range and put on handcuffs. I'd say for something like that, 99+% of the time, he worst injury from the round will be some torn clothing or skin abrasions, maybe minor fall injury from losing balance and falling over.

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                  • That’s different (and basically a restatement of the classic trolley problem (which, for my ethics, is pretty easy: if you’re saving lives on net you win).

                    The issue here is that you’re both increasing the number of uses of force (which troubles me) and reducing consequences for uses of force that result in death (which also troubles me). It seems like the wrong solution to the problems that primarily interest me in the use-of-force realm.

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            • You’ll have to clarify your question. Is the issue that one person might kill another while engaging in justified self defense? Or do you object to people engaging in any manner of self defense? Or are you objecting to the fact that an organization you find disagreeable would politicize such an event?

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  18. The problem in trying to find some sort of logical middle ground is that, once again, one side absolutely refuses to cede any ground *at all*.

    For example, here’s something that the GCAs and GRAs should, in theory , both be behind: Cracking down on straw purchases. They are *already* illegal, at the Federal level and usually at the state also, and they are fairly easy to catch people at…

    …unless, of course, you deliberately underfund the agency in charge of catching them.

    Likewise, how about the complete and utter paranoia that the NRA has stoked about registering guns?

    I can’t speak for most GCAs, but I, personally, would be okay with a lot less restrictions on firearms if people had to register guns, and actually got in trouble for distributing them to other people. If guns were, to be a bit cliche, treated like cars, and if someone used one of yours in a bank robbery you better have a good excuse…especially when you’re a car dealer and it’s the tenth time cars have mysteriously disappeared from your lot and been used in crimes before you reported it ‘stolen’ after the fact.

    If we lived in *that* world, I’d be a hell of a lot less active about restricting *other* aspects of guns. Give me that, make all firearms *trackable*, and when they’re used in a crime by someone not allowed to possess one(1), track them backwards and figure out *who* transferred the gun illegally and now *that* person is convicted of a felony or at least not allowed to own a gun, and we’re 90% done with gun laws, as far as I’m concerned.

    Why? Because there is a direct pipeline in this country from the manufacturers of weapons to illegal owners. It’s not guns falling through cracks or stolen or people tricking gun shop owners. There is someone near you, right now, that is *legally* buying guns and deliberately selling them to people not allowed to own guns. Probably a gun shop owner, possible some guy who knows a gun shop that looks the other way with his strange constant gun buying. And there is almost *nothing* the government is doing about that.

    So put a damn serial number on them, start tracking them from manufacture and make every ownership change require paperwork, and when an gun is found with an illegal owner, track it *forwards*, instead of what they do now, which is try to track it backwards through criminals.

    Hell, I’d be okay even if the paperwork didn’t have to be *turned in* to the government unless they got a warrant for it, aka, until the gun was in the possession of someone not allowed to own a gun. ‘Hey, firearm manufacturer, we have firearm AL923-7-859293 here, who did you sell it to? Okay, thanks.’ ‘Hey, firearm whole seller, we have firearm AL923-7-859293 here, who did you sell it to? Okay, thanks.’ ‘Hey, Pete’s Gun shop, we have firearm AL923-7-859293 here, who did you sell it to? You have no record of that sale? Well, then you’re under arrest, obviously.'(2)

    But the NRA has, as far as I can tell, rendered that impossible. Probably for two reasons: 1) It’s a nice way to make people paranoid about, which makes them buy more guns, and 2) If it actually happened, we’d realize *just how few* gun owners there are, and how many guns they have, and realize that some people are, to put it bluntly, batshit insane, and 3) It would cut into the profits of gun sales.

    And it’s easy to say ‘The other side has not ceded any ground either’, except, well, they have. There’s all sorts of regulations that just keep falling off the books. Likewise, while admittedly I don’t know anything about Boston governance in the 90s, I suspect Operation Ceasefire was *liberal* social engineering, not some sort of alternative to gun control by GRAs.

    1) Which, frankly, is most criminals.

    2) Of course, if we live in a world where the government asking for documentation of something and you not having it can get you *arrested*, you either should turn the documentation over to the government as soon as possible even if it’s not ‘required’, or you should make *damn sure* such documentation can’t get lost or destroyed via some sort of document retention service. So pick one.

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    • Give me that, make all firearms *trackable*, and when they’re used in a crime by someone not allowed to possess one(1), track them backwards and figure out *who* transferred the gun illegally

      I don’t know why I said ‘backwards’ there where I said forwards elsewhere. I mean, of course, what I said in that post…tracking it from manufacture until you hit either an illegal transfer, or a dead end. (Which is presumably hiding an illegal transfer.)

      I guess whether that is ‘backwards’ or ‘forwards’ tracking is up for debate, but obviously I should be consistent in my own damn post.

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      • That’s *not* how it works today.

        First, this information is only required to be kept track of until the first sale to private individuals. And note that ‘private individuals’ are everyone selling guns at every gun show. And often it’s the owners of gun shops, which mysteriously sell guns to themselves, because they actually want to sell it to someone without any paperwork, so sell it to themselves first. And, of course, often it’s straw buyers, who then just claim they sold it later to some guy.

        Second, notice when gun shop ‘misplace’ this information, in huge chunks, the apparent response from the government is ‘Hey, we’re going to fine you, maybe’, instead of ‘Holy fuck, you’re under arrest, and you’ll be charged with something that renders you unable to own a firearm, much less operate a gun shop.’

        Now, to be fair, at this point gun shops *can’t* turn that information over to the government instead of keeping it themselves. (Thanks to the NRA and their paranoia lunacy.) And the stuff they’re having to keep is physical paper forms (Again, thanks to the NRA) and the electronic background checks that they run past the government, which would be the perfect place to store this info, are erased after a few days (Thanks to, yup, the NRA.). So,yes, that information can *legitimately* get lost by sellers, so the law has to work with that possibility.

        But that works how it works because of the NRA…there’s no reason that running a successful background check of someone couldn’t return a form where they can say ‘I just sold them the gun with the serial number ###’, and, hey, most sellers fill that out and are done. (And give everyone access to that and make it required for *all* gun sales, and, hey, problem solved.) And legally, if you’re a paranoia person, you wouldn’t *have* to fill that out, but if you *don’t*, and then lose the info, you’re, uh, screwed, and you better hope the government offers the plea deal of ‘never being allowed to own a gun or work in a gun shop, much less own one’ instead of prison time.

        But there is exactly one entity stopping this from happening. I think we can all figure it out by now.

        So, to recap my point: The entire point of what I said is to track them until the point that they were sold to someone illegally. But the only way the current system ‘catches’ that is if the gun shop *itself* sells them to someone illegally, which is easy enough to structure around with straw buyers and gun show proxies and whatnot. But even if it doesn’t structure things like that, even if the gun shop just illegally sold a gun for cash on the table to some random guy…assuming the gun shop doesn’t insanely fill out paperwork documenting their illegal actions(!), what happens is the gun shop merely claims it *lost* the information and gets fined. (Or, occasionally, they claim the gun was stolen.) That is no real penalty at all!

        Third…from what I understand, not all firearms have this serial number. There are guns from before that requirement still floating around, and I believe that the rule that guns that are imported must have a serial number put on them only applies if the number must be recorded, aka, if they aren’t already owned by a ‘private individual’.

        But I am not sure to what extent this is actually a problem. I suspect there are a lot of ‘grandpa’s old rifle’ sitting around, but handguns are the real problem with crime, and I do not know how many people are using 50 year old handguns.

        And, honestly, I was thinking this was a more recent law, but it’s from 68, so I guess most of the firearms owned illegally do have serial numbers at this point, so my bad. Now if we’d only *track* them from person to person.

        Aside from outdated information tech, I suspect part of why straw dealers are allowed to stick around is the drug war has priorities all skewed.

        I’m not sure how the drug war could skew the priorities of BATFE away from guns. Unless the idea that it’s skewed law enforcing funding on the whole.

        And while I dislike the drug war as much as most reasonable people, I think it’s bit unfair to blame it for this. Funding is where it is for the BATFE because GRAs do not like it very much.

        Also, not sure what you mean by ‘outdated information tech’. We have a perfectly functional electronic background check system, which could rather easily notice people buying (Or at least getting authorization to buy) guns constantly, so we could at least notice the ‘professional’ straw buyers, and gun shops that mysteriously keep selling to them despite the fact they are obvious straw buyers, and go with a sting to catch them. Of course, thanks to the NRA, the government can’t keep those background check records or do anything with them. (Meanwhile, as has hilariously been pointed out, the NRA run around buying this personal information about buyers from gun dealers all the time, so the NRA actually has a better database of gun owners than the government.)

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        • Outdated Information tech -> storing everything on microfiche and searching by hand & eye, instead of having it all databased.

          I agree the paranoia about a gun registry is overblown, especially since there is a simple technical solution (that we’ve talked about before) to the problem that can be easily spelled out in legislation.

          Gun registry database is encrypted and can only be queried for ownership data by serial number or other weapon specific identifier (queries for anonymous statistical data should also be allowed).

          If the fear, legitimate or not, is that a registry would allow the government to search for all gun owners and begin mass confiscation, then don’t allow the registry to be able to list out all gun owners. There isn’t a compelling reason for the government to know who in general owns a gun, only who owns a specific gun that has come into their possession via an investigation.

          Something like this has never been proposed, that I’m aware of. GCAs want a registry that is akin to sex offender registry. GRAs, despite a desire to help criminal investigations, are not keen on having such a thing (for a number of reasons, including the real possibility that such a list would be used to target them for theft if it got hacked, or by the police who like to use SWAT tactics on the thinnest of pretenses) and have no incentive to find a middle ground (they are, after all, winning the fight at the moment).

          Regarding the BATFE, that is an agency that the NRA & gun owners have been demanding congress reform & clean up for years, and dissolve the enforcement arm and move that functionality & budget to the FBI. There are serious, legitimate gripes with the organizational culture and their penchant for regulatory capriciousness, and cowboy style enforcement. Why the Fast & Furious scandal did not motivate congress to take significant action to enact reform is beyond me.

          Let’s see, FFLs selling themselves a gun – yes it can be done, but only after they have owned it personally for more than a year. So you are saying that FFLs will take a gun from their inventory, “buy it”, then sit on it for 366 days, then sell it off book to a prohibited person. I suppose it is possible this is done, but how much of a problem is this? A dealer who does it often is going to raise flags, and put his FFL at risk. You got any numbers showing it’s a major issue?

          As for the drug war, it’s a question of politics & priorities. Law enforcement gets federal money for every drug arrest & conviction. AFAIK, they don’t get the same for gun arrests/convictions. So if the BATFE wants to shut down a gun shop they suspect is supplying weapons, and it’s linked to a drug investigation (or multiple investigations), I can see the drug investigation taking priority & the DEA requesting the BATFE hold off. Similarly with terrorism investigations & the FBI. I could be wrong, but from what I’ve read, the BATFE doesn’t need much to apply fines or pull an FFL, or at least to suspend it long enough to drive a dealer out of business or into bankruptcy through fines & legal fees, and they have a very good idea which dealers are shady, so if they aren’t actively shutting such people down, I have to assume there is something else happening. I mean, I read about law enforcement and DAs destroying people over the weakest of suspicions, so why do shady dealers get a pass. Every week I hear about some traffic cop using CAF to take thousands of dollars in cash & property from everyday people because the police “suspect” it’s linked to a drug crime. Seems to me a shady dealer selling to known drug gangs is much stronger pretense to seize a dealers inventory under CAF & force them to fight for it or shut down. (Not that I approve of CAF, I’m just saying that these tools exist, so if the BATFE is not employing them, I’m curious as to why)

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          • If the fear, legitimate or not, is that a registry would allow the government to search for all gun owners and begin mass confiscation, then don’t allow the registry to be able to list out all gun owners. There isn’t a compelling reason for the government to know who in general owns a gun, only who owns a specific gun that has come into their possession via an investigation.

            There isn’t a compelling reason for the government to *not* know who owns a gun in general either.

            Something like this has never been proposed, that I’m aware of. GCAs want a registry that is akin to sex offender registry.

            Or like a car ownership registry, or a real estate registry, or a ham radio operator registry.

            However, the reason it has not been proposed is, again, the NRA, which has managed to terrify Republicans and half the Democrats away from *any* sort of proposals *at all* about gun control, much less any sort of registry

            The Democrats who do propose it, like Hillary Clinton did a few years ago, rarely are allowed to get past the words ‘national firearm registry’ before being shouted down.

            For politicians to be debating how the registry would operate would requite that such a registry was *within allowed political bounds*, and it is not.

            Meanwhile, I feel I should point out that what you are talking about, technically speaking, does not make a lot of sense. The registry would be *programmically* limited in what could be searched for, but if this ‘confiscation’ happened that paranoid people keep harping on, it could easily be *reprogrammed* to just dump out everything.

            And, hell, even if the government has a magical database that can only return the name and address of a gun owner if fed in gun serial numbers, and that somehow *can’t* be reprogrammed…that doesn’t mean anything because the government also has a list of *all gun serial numbers* that it gets from all gun manufacturers, and could just feed that entire thing in.

            Let’s see, FFLs selling themselves a gun – yes it can be done, but only after they have owned it personally for more than a year. So you are saying that FFLs will take a gun from their inventory, “buy it”, then sit on it for 366 days, then sell it off book to a prohibited person. I suppose it is possible this is done, but how much of a problem is this? A dealer who does it often is going to raise flags, and put his FFL at risk. You got any numbers showing it’s a major issue?

            First, no, I’m saying that FFLs will take guns, plural, from their inventory, buy them, keep them around, and now they *have guns they can sell under the table*. Even if the ‘supply line’ takes a year, that’s a pretty easy problem to work around by just keeping some ‘in stock’.

            Second, there is literally no way that anyone *knows* how soon the gun owner resells it because *no one has to keep track of that*. As long as it’s not actually used in a crime before that year expired, how would anyone know when the gun shop owner sold his guns in a private sell? (And if it is used before the year is up…oh, that gun must have been stolen from his private collection!)

            Third, as always, no, there are no numbers showing it’s a problem, because this is something the government can’t keep track of.

            But I don’t understand what you mean ‘raise flags’?

            Do you mean that a dealer who sells a bunch of guns to himself will raise flags? How do you think BATFE would learn that information? They can’t learn it via background checks because those are not stored and not looked at. (And aren’t background checks good for a certain amount of time? And couldn’t he just do it one, and then sell himself thirty guns? Also, do gun shop owners even have to background check themselves?)

            I guess the BATFE could learn it via audit, but we’re talking something that could take years before one happens, and now the gun shop knows that BATFE is suspicious, so probably is going to back off selling guns under the table for a bit, so a sting won’t work.

            Not that I approve of CAF, I’m just saying that these tools exist, so if the BATFE is not employing them, I’m curious as to why

            The answer is ‘the BATFE is very underfunded, especially the regulating-gun-shops part of it’.

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            • The BATFE can audit an FFL once a year, without warning. They can also do an audit any time a gun traces back to the dealer (which it will, since the initial trace is always manufacturer to dealer). During an audit, the ATF will see that an FFL has sold himself X many arms, and the ATF can demand to see any weapon that was sold less than a year ago.

              Since an FFL has to keep 20 years of purchase records, including his own, an audit will show that, over the years, a dealer has sold himself X arms, and can inquire as to the current location of such arms. If they don’t like the answer, they can usually get a search warrant and demand to see all the weapons the dealer owns. It’s pretty easy to count the number of weapons a dealer has sold himself & the number he currently possesses and conclude that the dealer is dealing under the table.

              So if a dealer is running under the table, he’d be an idiot to do it with anything he gets from a manufacturer. Ergo, if he is running, he’s doing it with stock he bought under the table to begin with, unless he likes getting audited.

              According to this, there are about 50K FFL-1 holders, and in 2013, the ATF conducted more than 13K audits of those dealers, so they seem to be able to audit at least 25% of the current FFLs in a given year (which is pretty good audit rate, so budget & resources don’t seem to be an issue), and the ATF claims than only about 1% of the FFLs are responsible for the bulk of sales to criminals, so those 1% must be very, very good at gaming the system to protect themselves.

              But, all of this is very much tangent to the main OP.

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            • that doesn’t mean anything because the government also has a list of *all gun serial numbers* that it gets from all gun manufacturers, and could just feed that entire thing in.

              The government might not even need that. ‘Serial numbers’ generally are sequential numbers, especially if they have to be machined onto metal.

              Actually, let me expand a bit why a protected database like this can’t work: The only feasible way to keep a database like this protected from the *operators* of said database, would be to encrypt each record individually.

              And there is only one possible key: The gun serial number. Knowing just the serial number, we need to be able to access the record, so that, by itself, has to be the key.

              First, this requires the serial number is a *random* number, instead of just a sequential number with the manufacturer and model on the end. But let’s assume that’s true.

              But, one, that key is still way too short, short enough that the NSA could decrypt each record in a second, and two, to look things up in the database, we have to try using that key to decrypt *every single record*, to see if that record decrypts it.

              We can’t just select the record we want and decrypt that, because to do that, we’d have to be able search the database for just that record, which would mean that ‘serial number’ would have to to be an unencrypted field…but, duh, if we can see that in each record, we now know how to decrypt each record!

              So we either have a database where the records have so short a key that the government could very very quickly decrypt the entire thing if it decided to turn on gun owners…or we could make gun ‘serial numbers’ be really really long, which means that the government couldn’t decrypt them without the key…and render the entire database so slow it can’t possible be usable.

              I dunno, maybe you could put two things on a gun: A sequential serial number which would let the records of that gun be found, *and* a specific, long, encryption key, which could be used to decrypt just that record. But now we’re getting complicated.

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              • As I said before, encryption is only to safeguard against outside hackers.

                You limit the ability to search the database by law/statute. If it is fished in (i.e. sequential lots; without a warrant), then that is an illegal act, and assuming the legal system is not entirely corrupt, can be fought in court. If the law is changed, then it will happen in the open and that too can be fought.

                The NRA, etc. doesn’t want to have to worry about that fight. If the database doesn’t exist, then they don’t.

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                • You limit the ability to search the database by law/statute. If it is fished in (i.e. sequential lots; without a warrant), then that is an illegal act, and assuming the legal system is not entirely corrupt, can be fought in court. If the law is changed, then it will happen in the open and that too can be fought.

                  Uh, wait. I was responding to:

                  If the fear, legitimate or not, is that a registry would allow the government to search for all gun owners and begin mass confiscation, then don’t allow the registry to be able to list out all gun owners.

                  If the fear is that the government will start confiscating guns from registered owners despite being barred by law from doing so, I hardly see what a *law* is going to do to stop that.

                  If the fear is that the government will change the law to allow it to start confiscating guns from registered owners, I *also* don’t see what a law is going to do to stop that.

                  The idea that the government saying ‘We really really promise we won’t use this to confiscate guns’ is going to mean *anything* to the people opposing gun registry is a bit silly. So I don’t really understand why you’re saying ‘I wish the gun control people would do this, then we might get somewhere!’.

                  No. No, we wouldn’t.

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                  • Also, the idea that ‘how they looked up that information’ would be relevant to a court battle about the government illegally seizing property outside the law is a bit odd.

                    Victim: ‘The government came in and stole my guns without any sort of due process or compensation. I assume they looking up my gun ownership record in violation of the law!’

                    Government: ‘Nope. We followed him home from a gun store we had under surveillance, and saw him carry a gun into his house. So our knowledge of one of the guns was perfectly legal, and the rest were in Plain Sight during our illegal seizure of that gun.’

                    Judge: ‘Well, if *that’s* how the government learned about the perfectly legal weapons they seized in violation of the law, case dismissed! Because it’s perfectly fine to break all laws *except* that database one.’

                    …seems to me it might be smarter arguing against ‘the government taking guns in violation of the law’ on 2nd or due process or illegal seizure or *anything* besides ‘They peeked at a database!’

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                • As I said before, encryption is only to safeguard against outside hackers.

                  For one thing, any hacker is going to have a number of really useful pieces of information to break the encryption (like predictable serial numbers, the names of various models of guns, etc).

                  By and large, any database you create needs to be usable, and the usual trade-offs of security versus usability apply. Sufficient encryption to render it ‘unbreakable’ is going to make it worthless to use.

                  You’re better off investing in firewalls and standard security for stuff like criminal records, background checks, etc. There’s a reason really sensitive stuff is kept off networks entirely.

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                  • Admittedly, I’m not well versed on database encryption (since I don’t administer such things anymore, and haven’t for a long time), but if I can encrypt my whole hard drive and my machine runs without a noticeable lag, why can’t a database be encrypted such that if the database itself was stolen, it would be useless?

                    I’m not talking about encrypting each entry separately, just preventing the whole thing from being useful if copied.

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                    • Encrypting entire machines is actually pretty common in laptop world, I’m typing on one right now. If someone steals the laptop, they’ve just got the laptop and not any of the data.

                      The problem is, that’s not how databases get stolen. No one runs off with the server. Servers are, obviously, sitting secure in data centers. (I keep waiting for heist movies to figure this out.) Databases get stolen two ways:

                      1) Someone finding a flaw in an end-user program (This ‘program’ is usually a web site.) that already accesses the database server program, and sends a database command telling it dump the entire thing back them. (Which often means, as the web page is not expecting that, it get dumped randomly to the screen.) This the most common method of attack, using something called an SQL injection.

                      Encryption won’t help there, because the attacker isn’t looking at the database file…they’re using the ‘correct’ interface (A program already logged into the database server program.) to run DB queries. Of course, there’s a database username and password the end-user program needs to access the interface, but obviously the program already knows that! If a program can access the database normally, it can…access the database when it’s hacked.

                      (Please note I’ve simplified some of this a bit, if other knowledge people are reading. I know SQL injections are not normally used to dump the entire database to a web page.)

                      2) The machine itself has a security hole that allows an attacker to log in as an actual remote user and copy the database file on disk. Now, it *is* possible to encrypt databases where you need to supply a password to the database server program when that is started, in theory to protect someone from doing that.

                      But no one does that for two reasons…it makes automated startup and restarts impossible, requiring manual password entry. And it doesn’t really provide any security, because the physical database files on disks are generally only readable by the database server program itself and the superuser anyway! As the database server account itself is usually pretty secure (Usually you can’t even login as them.), that means the attacker *probably* has superuser if they’re able to copy the file.

                      This is, uh, bad. An attacker with superuser can literally do anything, like deliberately shutting down the database server program and installing something to monitor the password when it’s restarted…or just grabbing the *access* password from the web site, assuming that’s the same machine…or just *read all of memory* and grab the database from there. So there is not a lot of point in trying to secure the database file from them!

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                      • OK, that makes sense.

                        I was wondering because with all the recent hacks of corporate & government databases, I’ve heard a lot of talk about encrypting said databases (and how the owners of the databases don’t face enough consequences to be incentivized to do so), but not a lot of technical detail.

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              • We can’t just select the record we want and decrypt that, because to do that, we’d have to be able search the database for just that record, which would mean that ‘serial number’ would have to to be an unencrypted field…but, duh, if we can see that in each record, we now know how to decrypt each record!

                I think the way this is typically handled is that the key is stored in the database in it’s encrypted form, on your end you encrypt the query key (which can be slow because it’s one operation) and then search it against the encrypted keys in the database. Once you’ve find a matching entry, you go through the (slow) decryption process on the associated data. This works as long as the encryption is one-to-one (that is, different keys cannot give you the same encrypted key) which modern encryption algorithms can guarantee. That’s why Google can’t give you back your lost password (it’s encrypted) but they can still log you in (by encrypting what you type and comparing it to what they have stored).

                As for length, I’m sure there are encryption algorithms that do not depend on the length of the key, but this could still be dealt with by appending some descriptive characteristics of the gun to the serial number to make the final key. There would have to be a protocol for how to do this so that it could be recreated when the gun is found (i.e. [serial] + [make] + [calibre] + …) but I imagine guns have enough standard distinguishing features. This would also deal with the sequential serial # problem, because a malicious user would have to try each serial number by every combination of distinguishing features.

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                • I think the way this is typically handled is that the key is stored in the database in it’s encrypted form, on your end you encrypt the query key (which can be slow because it’s one operation) and then search it against the encrypted keys in the database. Once you’ve find a matching entry, you go through the (slow) decryption process on the associated data. This works as long as the encryption is one-to-one (that is, different keys cannot give you the same encrypted key) which modern encryption algorithms can guarantee. That’s why Google can’t give you back your lost password (it’s encrypted) but they can still log you in (by encrypting what you type and comparing it to what they have stored).

                  Well, that’s an interesting idea, and it could work in theory if serial numbers actually were random.

                  Except it wouldn’t protect anything. The problem is that generating a dictionary of hashes is incredibly easy.

                  This is why modern programming techniques use something called a salt, which is a random string created when I set my password. The way a salt works is that I type in my name and password, it looks up my record in the database, see a salt record stored there, appends that to the password, and *then* hashes it and compares it to the hash in the database.

                  This is because there are *giant* dictionaries of pre-hashed password out there, and without a salt, they can be compared trivially to the hashed passwords. (With a salt…you’d need a different dictionary of each possible salt, and that’s usually a random eight character string.)

                  The problem of course, is that if you’re using the hashed value to look the record up in the first place, you can’t have a per-user salt you append when making the hash!

                  And we’re talking serial numbers, which are already pretty short…and modern computers can hash stuff a about 100 megs a second. And I have no idea how fast the NSA can do it.

                  Ha, ha, just kidding. The NSA doesn’t have to do it. The NSA already has a big database with MD5 and SHA-1 hashes for all letter and numeric strings under 20 characters. (I have no evidence of this, but it’s *exactly* the sort of thing they’d have.)

                  There would have to be a protocol for how to do this so that it could be recreated when the gun is found (i.e. [serial] + [make] + [calibre] + …) but I imagine guns have enough standard distinguishing features. This would also deal with the sequential serial # problem, because a malicious user would have to try each serial number by every combination of distinguishing features.

                  You’re assuming that serial numbers are literally assigned in order across guns. In reality, sequential serial numbers usually have a start number indicating manufacturer, the model, some zeros, and then an incrementing number *for that specific model*. E.g, for a specific gun, it might be 2320250029535, where the manufacturer uses 232, the specific model of the gun is given 025, and the rest is a number that just goes up. Or it’s even something like MN-MOD-0029535! (I actually have no idea how *gun* serial numbers work…but that’s how serial numbers work generally.)

                  Appending the make to that isn’t going to add any entropy. (And I’m not sure what the calibre is supposed to do anyway. Don’t all makes of a gun use the same calibre?)

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        • Also, private sales, as I mention in the footnotes, we’ve talked about that. If what I was reading is correct, the reason for the outdated background check system seems to be your favorite 3 letter agency as well.

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    • This is kind of what has been ticking the back of my mind all day. The call for consensus basically pits the extreme GCA position against the moderate GRA position – which is going to be a winner, since very few people will argue that splitting that baby wouldn’t be reasonable.

      But then the consensus that is proposed basically pits the extreme GRA position against the moderate GCA position. I don’t think the OP intended to move the goalposts, and it’s possible that he didn’t and that I am just misreading him. I retain my doubts, though. Others seriously committed to the GRA position have shown no interest to compromise in the past, or present for that matter – so a serious, or possibly even extreme, amount of suspicion is not to my mind understandable but even prudent.

      When wolves and sheep are seriously compromising, lamb chops should be off the table.

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      • Ideally, I’d like the moderate GCA & the moderate GRA positions to find a quiet room, order some pizza, and hash this all out, but the extremists control the national orgs, and enough politicians, that even if they did, it probably wouldn’t go anywhere.

        Still, when people of moderate positions can talk, ideas can form & spread.

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        • The problem, speaking as someone who is actually a GCA extremist, is that even moderate GRA paint moderate gun control proposals as extremist, or at the very least, don’t fight very much against the painting of such proposals as the Road to Confiscation, again, speaking as somebody who wants to walk down that road.

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