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Guns and States 2: Son of a Gun

Thanks for your many excellent comments on Guns and States. I’ve made it through most of the comments thread and learned a lot. Here are some (hopefully) final thoughts on the matter:

1. In yesterday’s post, I suggested that the difference in homicide rates between America and other First World countries were about two-thirds cultural, one-third gun-related. That’s sort of true, but people have reminded me to think of it as an interaction. Without the cultural factors in place, guns are pretty harmless. That’s why Wyoming can be the highest-gun-ownership state in the country, with 60% of households having a weapon, and still have a murder rate equal to Canada’s and lower than 45 other states’. With the cultural factors in place, guns make a bad situation worse. This is why the robbery rate and the gun homicide rate correlate at about 0.9 (0.75 if DC is removed as an outlier) even though most robberies do not involve firearms.

2. But some robberies do involve firearms, making them an imperfect control. I looked at rape, a crime that sounds like it should be associated with other violent crimes but which almost never involves firearms. Unfortunately, the results were really weird:

As you can see, rape is negatively correlated with robbery and %black, insignificantly correlated with homicide and urbanness, and positively correlated with gun ownership and suicide rate (which itself is heavily correlated with gun ownership). I also added one more variable in an attempt to explain some of this: MFRatio, which is the number of men per 100 women in the state. That certainly mattered a lot, but doesn’t take away from the confusingness of the other variables. My first theory was that rape is more common in Red Tribe rural white culture, which would explain the guns and %black but really doesn’t fit with the PUrban or Southernness issues, nor the fact that the correlation with guns was much higher than the racial correlation. My second was that people bought guns to defend against rape, but that doesn’t explain the negative correlation with robbery, and surely people would buy guns based on crime in general (and since it’s mostly men doing the gun-buying, rape would be the least likely to affect the gun rate). Overall I admit I am confused.

3. Commenter eccdogg can’t replicate the Southern culture of violence thing after controlling for other factors. I acknowledge that he seems to be doing the right statistics, but can’t square that with commonsense eyeballing of the data.

4. I did a reanalysis that found that (after adjusting for confounders) the gun data from 2002 successfully predicted the murder rate in 2002, but did not successfully predict the murder rate today, even though most other relevant variables did. I’m going to attribute this to gun ownership patterns changing faster than (say) whether a state is Southern or not, and probably if I had gun ownership data from today (which I don’t) it would work, but it seemed important to mention that and get it out there.

5. I was shocked to see that between 20 to 30 percent of people in most European/Anglosphere countries owned guns, including the ones like Canada that gun control advocates hold up as an example of what they want. That makes it very strange the degree to which people expect gun control to mean “the government confiscates all your guns, after which no guns are left”. I mean, I understand why (for example) the NRA would promote that story in order to get people angry, but it’s very strange how often liberals nod along and say “Yup, that’s what we want to do!”. I wish more of the debate could be about waiting periods, required training classes, and background checks – none of which would prevent people from using guns to defend against a potentially tyrannical government. (I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny. Could you shoot the tyrants equally well with a rifle?)

6. Commenter Elias brings up this meta-analysis by Gary Kleck claiming that the 40 guns-and-states style studies he could find were split almost exactly half and half in terms of whether they found a significant guns-homicide correlation or not. He further claimed that the better the study, the less likely it was to find a significant correlation. The study I cited, plus my own analyses, passed two of Kleck’s tests – used good gun ownership numbers and controlled for confounders – but failed the third, which was distinguishing forward causation from reverse causation. I admitted this was a problem and that it would take very powerful methods beyond my abilities to solve, but I also said that I suspected forward causation since the homicide causation remained independent of robbery and I would expect people to buy guns based on a general crime rate. I stick to that suspicion. Kleck has some studies that he thinks establish reverse causation instead, and I encourage you to read them.

This reminds me a lot of my post Beware The Man Of One Study – I can at least say in my own defense that I did the analysis on my own, which should obviate exactly which studies I did or didn’t look at, but the media articles that just presented MA&H and said “Look! Here’s what Science says, discussion over!” really should have mentioned that there were also nineteen studies, 48% of the total, that disagreed with them.

On the other hand, Kleck said that only three studies met his quality standards, and all of them were his own, so take that with however much salt you feel like it deserves.

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507 Responses to Guns and States 2: Son of a Gun

  1. Geoff Greer says:

    > I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny. Could you shoot the tyrants equally well with a rifle?

    Rifles are *far* more deadly than handguns. They are more accurate, more powerful, and effective at longer ranges. Most rifle rounds can penetrate police body armor (though modern military gear has trauma plates to stop them). It’s also much easier to train people to use rifles. At ranges past 20 yards, a novice with a few hours of practice can hit targets more accurately than the best handgun marksman in the world. The only advantage handguns have is their ability to be concealed.

    Yet (as I mentioned in the previous comment thread) handguns are used to commit almost half of all homicides in the US.[1] Long guns (rifles and shotguns) are used about as often as bare hands (≈5-6% of the time). If handguns were restricted more, I’m sure some criminals would switch to sawed-off shotguns and rifles. Still, I think it would reduce the number of homicides.

    1. https://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_20.html

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    • MawBTS says:

      Rifles are *far* more deadly than handguns. They are more accurate, more powerful, and effective at greater ranges

      Yeah, when you look at the insurgency groups that actually are fighting hostile occupiers, they’re not doing it with handguns. They use rifles, IEDs, and stolen military gear.

      Apparently handguns are better than rifles in some home defense situations.

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      • John Schilling says:

        Right, but the rifles they use are military rifles, which are even higher than handguns on the list of things that American gun-control advocates explicitly want to ban and confiscate. Carrying hunting rifles in public as you go about hunting tyrants, can sometimes be arranged but usually just invites the tyrant’s men to show up with machine guns.

        So either you kill the tyrants covertly and/or by surprise, or you find a way to get hold of military rifles (and machine guns, rocket launchers, etc).

        For the former purpose, note that 75% of successful US presidential assassins have used pistols.

        For the latter, often the best way to do that is to covertly and/or by surprise attack one of the tyrant’s men with a military weapon. Note that the United States airdropped about a hundred thousand cheap pistols over Nazi- and Japanese-occupied territories during WWII with instructions to find someone with a Real Gun, shoot him, and take his weapon. Mostly too late to do any good, but it’s the thought that counts.

        And the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began with a few thousand righteously pissed-off Jews sharing a hundred or so pistols, seventeen rifles, and one submachine gun.

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        • ad says:

          And the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ended with the last few survivors being shipped off to the nearest death camp. It would have been useless if the only point had not been to die fighting. No one wins a war with pistols. Rifles and heavy weapons are what you need.

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          • John Schilling says:

            If I ever get hold of a time machine, I’ll be sure to go back and let them know “ad” says to go quietly to the ovens in the first place; no sense making a fuss over it.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            …How we burned in the prison camps later thinking: what would things have been like if every security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if during periods of mass arrests people had simply not sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand… The Organs [police] would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and the cursed machine would have ground to a halt.
            -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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      • Moebius Street says:

        Apparently handguns are better than rifles in some home defense situations.

        It seems to me like a primary requirement for home defense must be to hold the weapon on an attacker, while simultaneously calling the police for help.

        Doing this effectively requires the ability to hold and discharge the weapon with one hand. And this requires either a pistol, or at least a pistol grip on a long gun. So it’s a little ironic that one of the key differentiators for so-called “assault weapons” is that it has a pistol grip.

        If you don’t have a pistol or a pistol grip, you can hold the weapon steady on an attacker while simultaneously pulling the trigger should the need arise. The attacker can see this, so as soon as you pick up the phone, they’re going to be on you.

        On the topic of misguided “assault weapon” criteria… Other aspects of the definition are counterproductive as well. For example, the ban on so-called silencers is wrong-headed, and probably based entirely on Hollywood. These devices don’t make guns silent, or even particularly quiet. They only decrease the sound to the point where it’s not dangerous to your hearing – a benefit. If somebody uses a gun with a “silencer” in your house, or even in your backyard, it’s still going to wake you up and you’ll know something’s afoot.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      That was my thought too. It sounds like unless the defense against tyranny involves a lot of sudden assassination attempts using concealed weapons, there should be a natural alliance between anti-tyranny-defenders and gun-controllers in encouraging a switch from handguns to rifles.

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      • keranih says:

        there should be a natural alliance between anti-tyranny-defenders and gun-controllers

        I’m trying to come up with a better way to phrase this, but…

        I wish people were less worked up over controlling guns, and more focused at, say, controlling murder. The emphasis on the physical tool rather than the harmful action seems like a distraction.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          I think the theory is that guns are low-hanging fruit in murder control? We did remember to make murder illegal.

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          • That seems about right. One theory is that people with poor impulse control are more likely to commit or attempt murder more-or-less unintentionally if it is too darn easy. This seems sort of reasonable to me, because I remember that on at least one occasion I’ve quite literally walked off from an altercation with the intention of finding a weapon with which to attack someone, and calmed down enough within three or four paces to come to my senses. If I’d been carrying a weapon on me I don’t know what would have happened.

            The other theory points right at something that you dismissed out of hand in the earlier post: “Unless guns are exerting some kind of malign pro-murder influence” … and I don’t really understand why that seems unlikely, though given your chosen profession I’m inclined to assume you know something I don’t. But from my position of ignorance, it stands to reason that if it is legally and socially acceptable to carry around a tool whose primary purpose (in this context!) is killing people, you’ll be less inclined to think of killing people as inherently wrong. No?

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          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            But did we remember to stop the war on drugs, which encourages gang violence? If there’s “low hanging fruit” in the fight against violent crime, it’s that.

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          • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

            because I remember that on at least one occasion I’ve quite literally walked off from an altercation with the intention of finding a weapon with which to attack someone

            Really?

            I have quite literally never ever had that experience: walking away from an “altercation” with the intent of coming back and physically escalating it. Not even for the time of three paces. Maybe I’ve been too good at avoiding altercations.

            This supports one of my hypotheses about gun-fearers: that their fear is powered by them looking into themselves, seeing what kinds of horrible things they think they would do with a weapon, and then thinking everyone else is like them.

            At least one of us is committing the typical mind fallacy here.

            But from my position of ignorance, it stands to reason that if it is legally and socially acceptable to carry around a tool whose primary purpose (in this context!) is killing people, you’ll be less inclined to think of killing people as inherently wrong. No?

            No.

            Actually, quite literally the exact opposite happens: holding and carrying a gun makes one stop and think and consider and decide about the moral and ethical implications of killing someone.

            When one carries a gun, ones avoids situations where there may be “altercations”. If an altercation happens, one tries to talk it down, defuse it, walk away, because you will judge yourself at fault, and the courts will also judge you at fault, for escalating it.

            Maybe some people can see in themselves they are unwilling or unable to think hard about the practical ethics of being able to kill. Such people should be wise, and not carry a weapon. But they should also understand, not everyone is like them.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Walked Away:
            Just because you’ve never had the experience doesn’t make someone else’s self-report illegitimate. That’s typical mind plus confirmation bias staring you in the face.

            The fact that there exists a cohort of people who can get “hopped up” on some combination of adrenaline, youth and living in a sub-culture where status games sometimes involve physical violence isn’t really a novel or far-fetched idea.

            Take those people. Put a gun in their pocket. Then put them in an altercation. Some percentage of those altercations will end up with a shooting.

            Just because you wouldn’t find yourself in that situation doesn’t mean that it’s not an issue that may require mitigation.

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          • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

            The fact that there exists a cohort of people who can get “hopped up” on some combination of adrenaline, youth and living in a sub-culture where status games sometimes involve physical violence isn’t really a novel or far-fetched idea.

            True.

            I guess my surprise really is that someone with such a background is posting *here*.

            Also this supports one of my key reasons for rejecting the Strong Form of the Theory of Cultural Relativity.

            There are, in fact, cultures that are better than others. This is one of the most significant way that the cultures I am from and that I am a member of are better: status games do not involve violence.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Walked away:
            “I guess my surprise really is that someone with such a background is posting *here*.”

            Honestly, that’s offensive.

            Less likely (for a host of reasons) is not the same thing as “should be expected not to occur.” This is why songs like “Okie from Miskogee” get written. When people think stereotypes are determinative, bad things are the result.

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          • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

            Honestly, that’s offensive.

            “Offended on behalf of someone else.” Check.

            You really are a reification of your own stereotype.

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          • @Walked, @HeelBearCub: not cultural, at least in my case. Some people can just get very angry when provoked. I’ve had at least one blackout due to anger – I literally don’t remember anything for a period of perhaps 15 seconds. (Apparently I was running flat out towards the kids who were attacking my friend, screaming incomprehensibly at the top of my voice. All I remember is seeing them and then the next thing I knew they were running away.)

            Possibly an aspect of my generalized anxiety disorder.

            that their fear is powered by […] thinking everyone else is like them

            It isn’t necessary to assume that everybody else is the same, just that some non-trivial fraction of the population is. In the absence of strong evidence that such conditions are extremely rare (or perhaps some reliable way to screen for them) I think it a legitimate concern.

            holding and carrying a gun makes one stop and think and consider and decide about the moral and ethical implications of killing someone.

            And you’re sure it has that effect on everyone?

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          • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

            And you’re sure it has that effect on everyone?

            Nope.

            It’s a very common effect on people who regular CCW, but as noticed, that’s a highly selected cohort.

            I’m sure there are people for whom that it’s not the case. Fortunately, such people tend to select themselves out of legal CCW, for one reason or another.

            Honest curiosity here: have you ever picked up and held a loaded gun? If so, how did it make you feel.

            I still remember the first time I was handed a loaded rifle, the psychic weight of the thing, that had nothing to do with the mass of the metal. The feeling of awesome responsibility to be responsible for what I was doing and to be responsible for anything that I may feel and think and do. I was seven years old, and it’s still one of my clearest childhood memories.

            I admit now it’s very unfair of me, but it really is hard to respect people who feel that they cannot bear that feeling of responsibility of self control, even when I know it’s a better thing all around for everyone if they decide that they are not someone who should be armed.

            It’s now over five decades later, and I still get that same feeling when I pick up one of my guns, and strap it to my belt. If I ever stop getting that feeling, it will be time to stop CCWing.

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          • @Walked:

            Nope.

            Doesn’t it kind of have to, if you’re to use it as an argument against gun regulation? (I should add at this point that I’m agnostic on US gun control, since there are too many cultural and practical differences for me to hold a meaningful opinion. However, I would likely be opposed to any relaxation of the existing regulations here in New Zealand.)

            Fortunately, such people tend to select themselves out of legal CCW, for one reason or another.

            Hmmm. Not sure what you mean by this, but it sounds like exactly the sort of gun regulation that you and others seemed to be opposing. Shouldn’t everyone be able to carry, bar those with serious criminal convictions or severe disabilities?

            Honest curiosity here: have you ever picked up and held a loaded gun? If so, how did it make you feel.

            Yes, but that was over 25 years ago. To the best of my recollection I had no particular emotional reaction. I was aware of the need to be careful, of course.

            I still remember the first time I was handed a loaded rifle, the psychic weight of the thing, that had nothing to do with the mass of the metal.

            My guess is that this has at least as much to do with your cultural background as your personal characteristics. I may be wrong.

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          • William O. B'Livion says:

            We also made Cocaine, Meth and Pot illegal.

            And no, that’s not orthogonal.

            Most murders/shootings in this country (not most that make the news because “dog bites man”) are by folks who are already prohibited from owning firearms.

            If you ban them completely, and by that I mean you mass military and police troops and go county by county door by door prohibiting movement out of of the area you *might* get 80% of the guns in this country rounded up.

            MIGHT.

            But let’s all move to Utopia where the King Of The United States decides that “Guns are Bad you should turn them in” and every single legal gun owner in America does so.

            And THEN they go door to door, house to house and get every single illegal gun in the country. And lock up every single person they found with these illegal guns. For life.

            Then what?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FinRqCocwGE
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4qwK1KgL_s (Man, running metal working tools in flipflops and t-shirts, no eye protection, no ear protection. What WOULD OSHA say…)

            You haven’t changed human nature, you haven’t fixed either the moral, psychiatric/psychological, or “structural economic imbalances” that cause violent crime.

            Note that those videos are either from the 90s, or show operations that are decades old. Modern cad-cam systems can build a marginal (this is from the perspective of someone whose used to rifles that can shoot better than he can) firearm in a few hours from a few different bits of steel (including spring steel, but that’s easy to find).

            It’s like the argument that we have to keep Abortion legal–that if we make it a crime many “young girls” will just visit back-alley abortionists.

            Within *hours* of rounding up all the illegal firearms in America there will be guys with maker-bots, guys with machine shops, guys with a decent back-yard “shop” building illegal, untraceable guns for sale.

            Back in the real world *no* gun control scheme will do anything significant to change the rates of gun violence in the US. There are already too many guns in circulation, and you will start a MOST uncivil war before you will change that.

            Oh, and civil wars? Never make the number of guns in circulation go *down*.

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          • Within *hours* of rounding up all the illegal firearms in America there will be guys with maker-bots, guys with machine shops, guys with a decent back-yard “shop” building illegal, untraceable guns for sale.

            William, I’m not disagreeing with you here, but do have a theory as to why this doesn’t happen much in many other parts of the world where guns are controlled?

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          • William O. B'Livion says:
            Fortunately, such people tend to select themselves out of legal CCW, for one reason or another.

            Hmmm. Not sure what you mean by this, but it sounds like exactly the sort of gun regulation that you and others seemed to be opposing.

            What he means is that generally people like you are self-aware of there tendencies and of their own volition opt out of carrying a firearm.

            Unlike Mr. Back, I don’t feel any psychic weight with a firearm. To me it’s no different than a rock, a hammer, a nuclear bomb or a power drill. Just a tool for extending my will.

            Shouldn’t everyone be able to carry, bar those with serious criminal convictions or severe disabilities?

            In an ideal world we would know beforehand if someone was the sort who would engage in illegal violence, or who would use a firearm inappropriately, and then we would fix it so they would not be harmful. However we don’t yet have those tools, and many of us wouldn’t trust the sorts of people who would claim to have them anyway.

            But to answer your question, yes, anyone *should* be able to carry the tools they feel necessary to defend themselves modulo extreme mental illness or demonstrated tendency towards felonious behavior.

            However if an individual *chooses* to not carry because the believe they can’t control themselves (as you seem to believe of yourself), then that also is their right.

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          • “Take those people. Put a gun in their pocket. Then put them in an altercation. Some percentage of those altercations will end up with a shooting.”

            How common that is ought to show up in homicide statistics. If, as repeatedly claimed here, concealed carry permit holders have a very low murder rate, that suggests that the pattern you describe is very uncommon.

            One ought to be able to get other tests out of other statistics on homicide, some measure of how many cases seem to fit the pattern you imagine.

            At a mild tangent … . Back when it was common for gentlemen to wear swords, how common was it for someone to draw his sword and stab his opponent–as distinguished from challenging him to a duel and then having a duel according the the then current conventions?

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          • What he means is that generally people like you are self-aware of there tendencies and of their own volition opt out of carrying a firearm.

            But I’m not sure that I was, or at least I’m doubtful I’d have realized it in time to avoid risking a disaster. Especially if I felt that I needed to carry a gun, either for self-defense or because I thought of it as some kind of status symbol.

            (I mean, the guy was an asshole, and I don’t think I’d have actually shot him anyway. But for me, at least, living where I do, it still seems like it would have been an unnecessary risk.)

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          • How common that is ought to show up in homicide statistics. If, as repeatedly claimed here, concealed carry permit holders have a very low murder rate, that suggests that the pattern you describe is very uncommon.

            I speak in ignorance, but might it not instead mean (for example) that people willing to go to the trouble of getting a CCP, and able to meet the criteria for doing so, are safer than average?

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          • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

            Especially if I felt that I needed to carry a gun, either for self-defense or because I thought of it as some kind of status symbol.

            I’ve met young guys who considered CCW as a “status symbol”. I never was all that concerned about them, because using it as a “status symbol” leads to them want to “show it off”. Such “showing off” to bystanders is itself a gun crime, which gets one’s CCW revoked. And “showing off” to more responsible CCW guys does not increase status, it decreases it. Walking into a range with that mindset gets cold angry eyes from the other guys there, and eventually one of the range masters takes him aside for a quiet “shape up or dont come back” talk.

            What I have seen happen in practice is he realized that he was carrying around an annoying chunk of weight that spoiled the line of his jeans and tight shirt, which he wears to “show off” his gym-bod, and he stops carrying.

            (I keep saying “guys” and “he” because this particular kind of stupid is a guy thing. I’ve never seen or even heard of a lady doing it.)

            And if you were at all serious about “self defense”, you’re going to go take a armed self defense class, and your instructor is going to short circuit this whole process, especially since every instructor I’ve met starts the first class with a very serious talk about the risks and responsibilities, and how this is a shitty status symbol and a really useless way of dealing with any upcoming violent conflicts you are expecting to have. (Very short form: if you are already thinking of the person you are thinking you are going to have to shoot, that’s called “premeditation”, and that’s a whole new world of Don’t Go There.)

            So, yeah, in theory, guys like you legally getting a gun and walking around with it could be a problem. In practice, it hasn’t been.

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          • Such “showing off” to bystanders is itself a gun crime, which gets one’s CCW revoked.

            Huh. This seems like exactly the sort of regulation that I’d always heard organizations like the NRA were trying to eliminate. Well there you go.

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          • Will says:

            >William, I’m not disagreeing with you here, but do have a theory as to why this doesn’t happen much in many other parts of the world where guns are controlled?

            Harry, I’m a different William, but if I may offer some ideas:

            I would say it doesn’t show up much in certain countries for a lot of reasons. For one, cultural reasons — if guns weren’t ever a big part of your life, you’re probably not going to be too driven to get them black-market. Similarly, Japan has a problem with illegal drugs, but nothing like you see in the U.S., and I would wager that has very little to do with either nation’s laws.

            For two, ease of policing. In a place like the U.K. or New Zealand, I think it would be harder to smuggle, manufacture, use, and sell guns illegally than in a very large country with long and porous borders, a large population, and a lot of other high-priority crime.

            For three, I believe we do see this happen, but because it tends to happen in regions without a large international presence and without good record-keeping and reporting (and with media not often translated), we get a disproportionate view of how well gun control works. That is, can you think of a lot of large nations with a history of prevalent gun crime and recent restrictive gun laws? I can’t, but the few examples I can think of, mostly in South America and Africa (e.g. Brazil and South Africa, let alone places like DRC or Honduras), suggest that the “only outlaws will have guns” saw is not always far from the mark. I can’t remember exact numbers, but if I’m not too lazy I can try to find where I saved the links and get back to you.

            So I’m not at all certain that I have the right of it here, and it could be that the hypothetical “take all the guns!”-type legislation would work pretty well in the U.S., or that none of these factors are the real reasons behind why it doesn’t always work so well; but, that said, I think they’re at least plausible.

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          • Leit says:

            @Will

            South Africa is not terribly comparable. See, before the virtual miracle that was peaceful handover of the government, Umkhonto we Sizwe had been tooling up for decades with the aim of a full-scale armed conflict, with some support from other African states and, allegedly, from Soviet interests back when that was a thing. SA had also been running a shooting war in Angola until barely half a decade before our first democratic elections, among other adventures, so there were arms flowing on both sides of the border that could be opportunistically diverted.

            A lot of the weapons that would have been used in the liberation struggle ended up eventually being unearthed to be sold to taxi drivers for “protection”, or to plain criminals, or just being used by the folks who buried them when said folks realised that being able to vote didn’t immediately mean a Mercedes and a mansion in Sandton – or indeed anything better than the same shantytowns that they’d been living in anyway.

            As a result, while the government does like to parrot the standard anti-gun line of “civilian firearms cause crime”, the pictures that show up on the news tend to showcase a remarkable number of select-fire AK-47s, R4 and R5 rifles, and similar gear that is not and has never been legal for civilians to own. Which isn’t to say that handgun crime isn’t a thing here, but when you hear about malls being assaulted in broad daylight, or armoured vans being robbed, or taxis shooting at each other again, what you’re seeing is the effect of criminals having better access to actual military (and sometimes police) hardware.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Walked Away:

            “Offended on behalf of someone else.” Check.

            You really are a reification of your own stereotype.

            You made a bad argument based on bad thinking then made another bad argument. Just because I point out that everyone who posts here actually posts here, regardless of how similar they are to the other people here, doesn’t mean you should start in to even more bad argument.

            @David Friedman:
            The CCW license process is a barrier to overcome. You can’t assume that cohort looks like the population.

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          • Psmith says:

            “The CCW license process is a barrier to overcome.”

            Not in Arizona, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, Vermont, or Wyoming it ain’t. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_carry

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          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Huh. This seems like exactly the sort of regulation that I’d always heard organizations like the NRA were trying to eliminate. Well there you go.”

            Only if you’re operating off of a cartoon version of gun rights advocates you’ve constructed in your head. In the real world, organizations such as the NRA and most concealed weapons permits holders are amenable to most of the licensing restrictions and background checks that exist today, as long as they aren’t obviously designed to eliminate the possibility of such permits being issued.

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          • Will says:

            >South Africa is not terribly comparable.

            Leit, thanks for the context! It’s good to see an explanation from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about — I didn’t know most of that, and it’s very interesting. Certainly, it’s not exactly the situation we have here in the U.S., heh.

            However, if I may defend the relevance of the example in one small way: the government has [i]not[/i] had a lot of success in getting these guns out of the hands of the populace, AFAIK. I don’t think it’s quite a “if you outlaw guns, only outlaws have guns” situation, as you say, but it does show that when you have a lot of hardware already it can be difficult to change.

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          • OK, so I realized overnight I was still missing something. I wrote:

            Especially if I felt that I needed to carry a gun, either for self-defense or because I thought of it as some kind of status symbol.

            And then (with only quiet skepticism) accepted an argument that neither of these motivated people to carry guns. So, obvious question: what does?

            every instructor I’ve met starts the first class with a very serious talk about the risks and responsibilities

            I don’t know. That’s also true of driving instructors, but people still speed, organize illegal street races, and drive drunk.

            Only if you’re operating off of a cartoon version of gun rights advocates you’ve constructed in your head.

            I’m sure I’ve seen people argue against the need for permits. It may well be atypical, but that isn’t obvious from the outside. (I can’t say I’d be happy either if lots of people around me were allowed to carry a gun and I wasn’t. But then I don’t even want the police to have them.)

            Edit: also this, thanks Psmith.

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          • Moebius Street says:

            Doubling our dataset by adding one more datapoint similar to Walked.

            I’m licensed for CCW, and occasionally do carry. It may seem counterintuitive, but the sentiment that Walked describes matches my own. While the weapon does make you much better prepared for that ultimate SHTF, every time I strap the holster on my belt, I feel at the same time the added weight tightening in my chest. Even though you know you’re better protected, it does somehow profoundly remind you that you’d damned well better do everything possible to avoid that eventuality.

            That’s also true of driving instructors, but people still speed, organize illegal street races, and drive drunk.

            When I was daydreaming in driver’s ed, I was 15 years old. I took my self defense firearms class at more than double that age. The wisdom of years may explain some of that difference. Also, it ought to be obvious to anyone that ignoring traffic rules increases one’s chance of injury, but using a firearm will, directly and unambiguously, lead to injury.

            BTW, I’ve never felt the need to unholster my gun, and I really hope that I never do. But I’m glad that it’s there just in case. And I’m glad that bad guys have the abstract understanding that some number of us that are otherwise potential marks, will be armed as I (sometimes) am.

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          • Leit says:

            @Will

            Well, if there’s a comparison to be made between the US and a potential warzone, I suppose it’s comforting that it’s one that turned out not to become an actual battleground.

            That said, SA’s murder and particularly rape statistics are nothing to be proud of. Some of our cities are more deadly than actual warzones, or so the news insists on breathlessly telling me.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Any journalist who tells you that American cities are as deadly as actual warzones, ought to be parachuted into, hmm, maybe Aleppo this week.

            With a camera team, because that would be a reality TV show I might actually watch.

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          • Leit says:

            @John

            If you’re replying to me, please note that I’m not American. That said, I have the same reaction to even the more violent SA cities being declared as dangerous as warzones.

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          • John Schilling says:

            @Leit: Sorry, I misread your post somehow the first time, but it’s clear now. And yes, comparing anyone’s cities to a war zone, unless there is a literal war being fought there, is an effective way to signal that a reporter has nothing interesting or informative to say.

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      • Seth says:

        It doesn’t work because the “moderates” on both sides who would like to have such an alliance, will lose power within their own communities to the “extremists” who will demonize everyone on the other side. That is, the same-side “extremists” will gain internal status by stigmatizing their “moderates” as (our-side)-in-name-only, while those “moderates” will not be able to do a deal with other-side “moderates” because of the same dynamics going on the other-side. Also, in terms of alliances, even you’re a “moderate”, you’re still an other-sider, and that means there are very different ways of looking at the world.

        I’ve lived through this situation, though not on the gun topic in specific. It’s much harder in terms of practical politics than might be apparent from a theoretical estimation.

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        • There aren’t a lot of “moderates” left in the gun culture, if you define “moderate” as a person generally accepting of what gun control advocates describe as “reasonable, common sense” regulation (mag limits, “assault weapon” bans, etc).

          There used to be – I was one of them – back in more innocent times.
          We got polarized and radicalized by decades of bad faith from the other side. At each turn of the gun-grabbers’ incrementalist ratchet, the no-compromisers got another “We told you so!” It turned out even they couldn’t be paranoid enough to keep up with reality.

          So it’s almost a relief that the Democratic Party and their stenographers in the major media now openly talk of total confiscation. It means the phony-baloney debates with people who say “Nobody wants to take away your guns, but…” are over.

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          • You may already be aware of this resource: David L. Burkhead has been maintaining at http://thewriterinblack.blogspot.com/2014/09/nobody-wants-to-take-your-guns.html a list of quotes from pundits, wonks, politicians, and similar [censored] who have let slip what they actually want.

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          • Furslid says:

            Not a gun nut, but the phrase “reasonable, common sense gun control” really pisses me off as dishonest rhetoric.

            Reasonable and common sense are both glittering generalities used to frame the debate. After that phrase has been uttered, the opponent is implied to be unreasonable or opposed to common sense with no argument.

            How is it common sense when the two sides on gun control obviously don’t hold there sense of what is appropriate in common? It seems pretty obvious that the typical big city liberal and typical redneck won’t agree on what’s common sense.

            If it’s reasonable, then we should be able to see and investigate the reasoning process. I can see the reasoning behind why civilians shouldn’t be allowed to own hand grenades. I can’t see the reasoning why civilians should be allowed to own a rifle without bayonet mountings, but forbidden from owning a rifle with bayonet mountings. Don’t ask me to take on faith that something is reasonable.

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        • Seth says:

          Case in point. I imagine the other side would say something like:

          “There aren’t a lot of “moderates” left for gun safety. We got polarized and radicalized from decades of bad faith from the other side. Every time we proposed the smallest regulation – background checks, registration, training – they’d rant we were gun-grabbers trying to turn them into sheeple and prevent them from doing their duty as a man. Now that their mask is off, it’s almost a relief to have them openly declaring that they’ll never accept anything.” [etc]

          The dynamics are visible in these threads, which are fairly nice and atypical of such discussions. When things get nastier, it doesn’t take much to e.g. have some gun-defenders get into racist-sounding statements that’ll make the average liberal’s skin crawl. Even granting them as unrepresentative of the broad population, it only takes a single one doing something like that to put great stress on an attempt to have an alliance between different sides.

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          • Jiro says:

            Gun control opponents oppose “reasonable” controls because the “reasonable” controls are a step towards banning all guns. In order to make the comparison that you make, we would have to have gun control proponents who oppose “reasonable” permissions because gun control opponents use the “reasonable” permissions as a step towards permitting all guns. This doesn’t make any sense.

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          • Psmith says:

            “we would have to have gun control proponents who oppose “reasonable” permissions because gun control opponents use the “reasonable” permissions as a step towards permitting all guns. ”

            Not to scare the normies or anything, but there are a good number of us who want to see nationwide Constitutional carry and repeal of every gun control law (i.e., permitting all guns), but who realize that it’s more politically expedient to start by opposing AWBs and mag limits and such (i.e., “reasonable” permissions). (Edit: I also think it’s good to have a few guys openly advocating repeal of all gun laws, etc. Helps shift the Overton window. But it’s a tricky business.).

            Talk of “oh, let’s just ban some stuff, we’ll let you have these other things” as a compromise on gun safety is nonsense. As has been pointed out elsewhere ITT, pro-gun organizations have always been a good deal more active in promoting gun safety than anti-gun ditto. The four rules are Jeff Cooper’s, not Sarah Brady’s, and organizations like the NRA and Project Appleseed do more to teach gun safety than anything funded by Michael Bloomberg.

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      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Scott Alexander – “It sounds like unless the defense against tyranny involves a lot of sudden assassination attempts using concealed weapons, there should be a natural alliance between anti-tyranny-defenders and gun-controllers in encouraging a switch from handguns to rifles.”

        To my understanding, there’s serious concern that some fraction of the criminal population would resort to longarms instead:

        Indeed, the explanation we develop infra—that fatal accidents have decreased because of displacement of the deadlier long gun by the safer handgun—has an important implication for homicide as well, though health advocates assiduously ignore that implication. That implication, which criminologists studying the subject have emphasized, is that handguns should not be regulated more strictly than long guns, lest criminals be diverted to the latter from the less deadly handgun. To understand that point, remember that the primary argument for banning handguns is to save lives by forcing attackers to rely on large knives, which only kill about 2.4 percent of those they wound, rather than handguns, which are 1.31 to 3 times deadlier. But what if banning handguns led some attackers to rely on rifles, weapons which are 15 times more lethal than knives and, therefore, 5 to 11.4 times deadlier than handguns? Or shotguns, weapons so much deadlier that in medical studies they are not to be “compared with other bullet wounds…. [A]t close range they are as deadly as a cannon”? Of course long guns could not be used in all the circumstances in which handgun woundings now occur since long guns are much less concealable (unless sawed off). But, based on a combination of medical studies and gross ballistic comparisons, I have estimated that if a handgun ban caused only 50 percent of the wounds now inflicted with handguns to be inflicted with long guns instead, the number of dead would double—even if not one victim died in the other 50 percent of the cases in which (hypothetically) knives would be substituted!

        That long guns could be substituted in 50 percent of homicidal attacks is evident from Kleck’s finding that “anywhere from 54 percent to about 80 percent of homicides occur in circumstances that would easily permit the use of a long gun.” Indeed if a handgun ban actually did disarm criminals long guns might be substituted in far more than 50 percent of gun crimes. In a recent National Institute of Justice survey of about 2,000 felons in ten prisons across the country 82 percent answered that “If a criminal wants a handgun but can’t get one he can always saw off a long gun.” That would be “easy” according to 87 percent of those felons who had often used handguns in crime and 89 percent of those who had often used shotguns. Based on these responses, Lizotte calculates that, far from saving lives, the current handgun death toll could more than triple if a handgun ban led to long gun substitution at the rates indicated. [Under the Gun, emphasis in original] suggests somewhat facetiously that If someone intends to open fire on the authors of this study, our strong preference is that they open fire with a handgun…. The possibility that even a fraction of the predators who now walk the streets armed with handguns would, in the face of a handgun ban, prowl with sawed-off shotguns instead causes one to tremble.”
        http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/58tenn.pdf – footnote 179

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        • Lambert says:

          If rifles are so great at killing people, why are criminals still using handguns? If we controlled handguns more tightly, and criminals switched to rifles and shotguns, that woould still come with the same caveats in terms of concealment and portability that it does already.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Lambert – “If rifles are so great at killing people, why are criminals still using handguns?”

            Because the goal of the vast majority of armed criminal activity is to secure the victim’s compliance, not to wrack up a body count, and pistols are both readily available and highly suited to the tactics necessary. Most of the killing happens when things go badly wrong, and the weapon at hand is the one that’s used.

            “If we controlled handguns more tightly, and criminals switched to rifles and shotguns, that woould still come with the same caveats in terms of concealment and portability that it does already.”

            A hacksaw and twenty minutes will turn a regular bolt-action hunting rifle into one of these:

            http://imgur.com/gallery/SpVXDk2

            likewise, shotguns turn into these:

            http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/10/04/article-0-0E3864CD00000578-554_634x474.jpg
            http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/10/21/article-2470101-18E0CAC400000578-228_634x286.jpg

            …All of the above are concealable and portable enough for criminal purposes. All of the above are significantly more lethal than normal handguns. If criminals switch over to them, you will likely see an increase in the fatality rates, as more victims die on average due to the more severe wounds.

            [Edit] – In the paper I quoted from, it’s discussed how one of the massive decreases in accidental fatalities due to firearms came when the general population switched from longarms to handguns for self defense purposes. Handguns being a great deal less lethal than rifles, accidental fatalities plummeted immediately. By removing handguns from the criminal population, you’re running the risk of moving them from a weapon with a ~5-10% mortality rate to a weapon with a ~30-50% mortality rate.

            Note also that rifles and shotguns are, in many cases, already significantly cheaper than handguns, and the cheapest ones are the ones most easily chopped down.

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          • malpollyon says:

            All of those pictures of cut down weapons still look significantly larger and harder to conceal than a typical handgun to me.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            They are in fact somewhat larger than the average handgun. The pump-action shotgun pictured actually has another three inches of barrel that could be removed, but would still be the largest of the three at maybe 14-18 inches all-up. None of them are too large to conceal easily for criminal purposes.

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        • TrivialGravitas says:

          This really really strikes me as an argument founded in not understanding the technical aspects of guns. You can’t just saw off most longarms and get a concealable weapon. Here ( http://imgur.com/MF6DcGo ) is a pic of a short barreled rifle (though by design not sawed off, take off the stock and you have essentially the smallest weapon for the caliber, though a 5.56 would be a bit smaller) as an example of what I mean. There’s both a lot of stuff in rifles, and a minimum length to the barrel for the ammunition to be functional.

          The only type of weapon that might be made concealable would be a pistol grip breech loading shotgun… I’m not actually sure those exists, though you could also modify it with a pistol grip.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @TrivialGravitas – “This really really strikes me as an argument founded in not understanding the technical aspects of guns.”

            …That is an interesting position to take, given that I linked to several real-world examples.

            You are correct that autoloading rifles require more effort than ten minutes with a hacksaw to convert to a pseudo-handgun, and that generally you get a less-compact weapon. On the other hand, removing an AK’s stock and all of the barrel past the gas block would result in a weapon roughly as compact as the pump-action example. With a bit more effort, you get one of these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEftC4P5W9c

            Breech-loading, pump-action, and bolt-action weapons are both numerous, relatively inexpensive, and can be cut down the furthest.

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      • Tibor says:

        It is interesting to note that in both Texas and Switzerland, you don’t need a license for a rifle or a shotgun (or at least some kinds of them), the Czech law basically makes the legal age for rifles 18 and for handguns 21 (more precisely, a gun license for sport and hunting can be obtained at the age of 18, but they won’t give you a buying permission for most handguns with just that one, you need the one for personal defence for that). I think that in Switzerland this might actually have something to do with protecting the country from both tyranny and more importantly foreign invasion. The Swiss defence strategy is keeping a large part of the population armed – because if government-issued rifles are included, then over 40% of households are armed and relatively well-trained at shooting – and while a small country such as Switzerland would not be able to actually repel a sufficiently dedicated invader, they could make him bleed a lot – which is a good deterrent, at least it worked well in both WW1 and WW2. Of course, the mountains also help.

        I think that one thing to include is an estimate on how much concealed carry weapons prevent assault outside. It is certainly a significant disincentive for a would-be assailant if say every tenth would-be victim carries a hidden gun and it is hard to guess who’s who. You cannot do that with rifles or without legal concealed carry. I would guess that otherwise you can use rifles for self-defence just as well, you should be able to defend your home with a shotgun kept at home and it is probably more menacing (since it is more deadly) and so an even bigger deterrent to an invader than a handgun.

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      • Mikk Salu says:

        Yes, but rifles look scary and handguns not (so much). Even in my country where gun ownership is low and gun violence too, has erupted a small gun control debate. And arguments start simply: do you really need this (followed by a picture of rifle)?

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        • onyomi says:

          See, I just hate seeing a policy debate framed in terms of what the citizen “needs.” The question should be, “is there a really good reason to restrict a citizen’s presumptive right to buy whatever he wants in this particular case?” rather than “do you need this?” If you want it, are willing to pay for it, and there’s no very pressing reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to have it, then you should be allowed to have it. The question of “need” shouldn’t even arise.

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        • William O. B'Livion says:

          What sorts of political discussions you wish you have in your country, are, of course, your prerogative

          As far as I am concerned as soon as you start letting the jackass use “need” as a requirement for something then it’s a spiral all the way back into the caves.

          Does anyone “need” high speed internet access? Do you “need” your own private house? Do you “need” more than 2 pairs of shoes (two good pair of boots ought to let you do everything you “need” to do, right?)

          Heck, do old people *really* need to go on living after they stop being productive?

          Anyone who uses “need” as a criteria in a debate needs to get it shoved right back down their throat.

          I don’t “need” 3 bicycles. I don’t “need” 3 bicycles. I don’t “need” 5 computers, a three bedroom house, another car.

          Doesn’t matter what I need, I want and I can pay for.

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          • Apples and oranges, it seems to me – none of those things present an inherent risk to your life and the lives of others. Even if we ignore murders (which may well be reasonable) there is always going to be a non-zero accident rate.

            (Which is not to say that “nobody needs rifles” is a slam-dunk argument, or even a particularly good one. But I don’t think that’s the right way to counter it.)

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            His car is much more likely to kill someone than his gun. His oversized house is using more energy than it “needs” to and contributing to global warming and fossil fuel exhaustion and wealth disparity. Once you get into “need,” and/or defining things as “inherently” harmful to others, it’s not so much a slippery slope as a reasonably fast escalator.

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          • @Marc, but his car is necessary, and it isn’t his fault that the US power grid runs off fossil fuels.

            And a “slippery slope” argument against law-making sounds to me like a slippery slope to anarchy. 🙂

            Edit: outside of the US, that is. The huge impact of the US constitutional on US law perhaps changes things in some cases. [Ugh. OK, I’m thinking of a TV show again: West Wing, I think, claiming that charging people with murder for beating pregnant women until they miscarry would be too risky, because it could weaken the constitutional protection for abortion. Nonsense, perhaps?]

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          • Urstoff says:

            People talk about “need”, and then they soon slip into nonsense metaphysical arguments about how guns were “designed” to kill and somehow that matters to whether we can put legal restrictions on them, actual consequences be damned.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Harry Johnston: He already said it was an additional car. He may “need” a car – although by the level of “need” required by most gun-control advocates to “need” a gun, he surely doesn’t – but he doesn’t need ANOTHER car. And he doesn’t need a house that BIG. And so on, and so forth.

            However, you’re not wrong in that there have been some “crimes against fetuses” laws that many people have suspected, with varying degrees of reasonableness, were meant to be used against abortion performers and/or women seeking same.

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          • Well, I need “another” car. Don’t know about anyone else. 🙂

            (And a family having two cars rather than one reduces the risk, because it means travelling fewer miles. An individual having two cars rather than one is neutral.)

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        • Richard says:

          Rifles are an essential tool for wildlife population control. It’s just that people who don’t live where starving and diseased deer is the alternative have a problem realising this.

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          • anonymous says:

            That’s a rather circular argument. If you guys would quit shooting the wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears then we wouldn’t need you to go out an shoot the deer.

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          • keranih says:

            If you guys would quit shooting the wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears then we wouldn’t need you to go out an shoot the deer.

            Nobody wants to live in an area where there are enough wolves and cougars to keep the deer in check. These are apex predators, they are not stupid, and they are very capable of figuring out that the humans are slower than the deer.

            (Bears don’t eat enough deer to make a difference, but nobody wants that number of bears about, either. Even the fuzzy cute black ones that come in three colors.)

            (And no one with small dogs, cats of any size, or goats and sheep want tons of coyotes. All of those things are easier for a coyote to eat than deer.)

            Humans don’t really hunt predators just because the hunters are ignant chest thumping savages who want a trophy on the wall and a chance to drunkenly boast about that time they killed another living thing with their penis substitute.

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          • Richard says:

            @anonymous
            Your statement rather proves my point about city dwellers being clueless.

            If you can come up with a way to eliminate population pressure-related ailments like the rather horrible scabies epidemic we got around here now as well as keeping deer hit by cars from slowly dying from gangrene, I would be thrilled; it would give me more time to sit here by the fire reading SSC and less time out in the great cold&wet trying to limit suffering.

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          • I’m fairly sure this guy was joking.

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          • Richard says:

            @Harry Johnston

            Fair enough, and if so, sorry for blowing my lid off. This is a not infrequent argument though, hence the knee-jerk reaction.

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      • Tarrou says:

        Scott, there was such an alliance lasting from the ’70s through to the assault weapon ban in the ’90s. People forget, Reagan pioneered gun control measures as governor of california (in response to armed groups of Black Panthers). So long as there was political trust that long guns were sacrosanct, there was bipartisan support for heavily restricting handguns. Furthermore, at the time, even strict constructionists figured it was constitutional.

        Then the left showed their hand…and decided to abandon crime mitigation and go after “assault weapons” as a way to stick it to the militant hicks of the militia movement. And instead of slicing the pie, they lost the whole thing. Meanwhile, concealed carry, once quite rare, had come to be part of the 2A community as a crime mitigation response to the very violent 70s and 80s.

        Now, with the Heller decision, self defense is enshrined constitutionally and handguns are the best method for that. Think of it as swords. No one fought with swords on the battlefield back in the day, it was mostly spears, bows and the like. Swords were a secondary, backup weapon. But they were one you could carry all the time, and so became a social and cultural totem in a way spears never were.

        And, as I noted in the last thread, 2A folks know that if we cooperated on a handgun ban, the gun control folks would just use that legal precedent to come after further categories of weapons later on. We have to defend everything, because there is no political trust. We cooperated with gun control schemes for eighty years. No longer. We can see the endgame, and we are rolling it back.

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        • Psmith says:

          The Black Panthers carried longarms, and the Mulford Act prohibited open carry of any loaded firearm rather than going after handguns in particular, so I don’t think Reagan is a good example of a bipartisan consensus on opposition to handguns.

          The Gun Control Act of 1968 did go after cheap imported pistols, though. But it appears to have been opposed by quite a lot of prominent figures in the gun community (https://books.google.com/books?id=dA3pGSYG2yIC&pg=PA51&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false). And, since cheap pistols are also the weapons most likely to be purchased by law-abiding poor folks for self-defense (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday_night_special), it also brings up the issue of whether a policy of disarming the poor and leaving the rich alone is effective, let alone just.

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          • roystgnr says:

            “just” – obviously not. However, the same category of injustice applies to any form of gun control other than “we’ll disarm the police and military first and hope the criminals follow our example”. If we’re creating a caste system where some castes get guns and others don’t, then tautologically the question of whether only some castes should get guns is on the table.

            “effective” – maybe, by the correlational/consequentialist reasoning used in these posts.

            http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/hpnvv0812.pdf

            Rates of violent crime victimization are far higher among poorer populations. I suppose this might be because wealthy robbers want their assaults to be as unprofitable as possible, but the more likely explanation is that poor people really are at least three times more likely to commit violent crimes.

            As an aside: the conservative “people who make bad decisions are more likely to commit crimes and more likely to become poor” hypothesis seems to soundly defeat the liberal “poor people are driven to crime” hypothesis as soon as you look at the rape statistics here. Not exactly the legacy of Robin Hood.

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      • hlynkacg says:

        As others have noted, such an alliance did exist from Prohibition up through the early 90s. Most Gun Control measures prior to 1994 were passed with the support of the NRA and many others in the firearm industry.

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        • Echo says:

          “Support” isn’t quite the right word, in that the NRA was always trying to cut out the very worst parts of the poorly written laws, ever since the ’34 act.

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      • David W says:

        I bet the pro-gun side would be ambivalent about a compromise where handguns were made illegal, and ‘bought back’, but in exchange military arms such as RPGs, machine guns, and silencers had all restrictions removed.

        The trouble is, historically compromise with gun control looks more like this: http://thelawdogfiles.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-repost.html

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        • William O. B'Livion says:

          You’d lose.

          See, if you’re going to have a stand-up fight against a tyrannical government, or even a shoot and scoot fight back alley furball of a fight yeah, rifles are definitely the choice.

          But that’s not all “we” want guns for.

          The left is hell bent on destroying the fabric of Western Civilization because they’ve lived in it so long they don’t see what’s outside staring in. The Germans saw it in Cologne, the French are trying very hard not to see it in the no-go zones of the Paris Suburbs.

          They’re seeing it in Rotterdam England.

          Rifles are REALLY great for self defense, but they’re REALLY obvious and a PITA to carry around. Even something like the Sig Sauer 556 Short Barreled Rifle, which folds up real nice, is still a good 19 or 20 inches long.

          Pistols though are *handy* it’s really easy to have one with you wherever you go.

          Now the truth is that violent crime rates in the US have been dropping steadily (correlated with the increase in states that have “shall issue” concealed carry laws, but it’s hard to prove causation) and that we live in a safer country than EVER, especially if you avoid the inner cities and the illegal drug trade.

          But crime rates go up and down. Massive influxes of folks from other cultures can impact those rates, there are about 1.5 or so million adherents of a very violent religion that have declared war on the west[1], and violent crime tends to be stochastic if not completely random.

          So no, we’re not giving up our pistols.

          Besides, there’s lots of fun games you can play with them. IDPA, IPSC, 3 gun, etc.

          [1] Islam has over 1 billion adherents. Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of them believe that violence–including terrorist acts–are justified against the US and they do not distinguish between civilians and military. Thus I believe that 1 to 2 percent of 1 billion is a reasonable figure here.

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          • NN says:

            [1] Islam has over 1 billion adherents. Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of them believe that violence–including terrorist acts–are justified against the US and they do not distinguish between civilians and military. Thus I believe that 1 to 2 percent of 1 billion is a reasonable figure here.

            Somewhere around 50-60 percent of non-Muslim Americans believe that it is acceptable for the military to target and kill civilians, compared to just 21% of Muslim Americans. About 20-30 percent of non-Muslim Americans believe that it is acceptable for non-state individuals and groups to target and kill civilians, compared to just 8 percent of Muslim Americans. Note that the question specifically said “target and kill civilians,” not “attack military targets and suspected military targets in a way that will likely kill civilians as ‘collateral damage.'”

            EDIT: When you compare these statistics to Muslims around the world, not just those in America, the results are as follows:

            Percentage of people who said it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians:

            Mormon-Americans 64%
            Christian-Americans 58%
            Jewish-Americans 52%
            Israeli Jews 52%
            Palestinians* 51%
            No religion/Atheists/Agnostics (U.S.A.) 43%
            Nigerians* 43%
            Lebanese* 38%
            Spanish Muslims 31%
            Muslim-Americans 21%
            German Muslims 17%
            French Muslims 16%
            British Muslims 16%
            Egyptians* 15%
            Indonesians* 13%
            Jordanians* 12%
            Pakistanis* 5%
            Turks* 4%

            *refers to Muslims only

            I’m reminded of something that Jesus said about trying to cast out a mote in someone else’s eye while you have an entire beam stuck in your own eye.

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          • Jiro says:

            People will answer assuming that you mean “target civilians in countries that are enemies of the country you’re asking the poll in”. If you ask that question in the US, whose enemies tend to be Muslim, you will of course get few Muslims agreeing to attack them.

            What you’d want to compare is non-Muslims asked that in non-Muslim countries, with Muslims asked that in Muslim countries.

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          • NN says:

            @Jire: I updated the post with polls of Muslims in Muslim majority countries, and those polls find that Catholic and Protestant Americans are more likely to find targeting and killing civilians acceptable than any other group surveyed.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            I am comfortably certain that the statistics you quote are conflating “collateral damage is an unavoidable and thus acceptable part of legitimate warfare” and “warfare aimed explicitly at killing noncombatants is acceptable”. Then again, maybe the oft-quoted stats regarding muslim approval of the later are too. Maybe we need better polls?

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          • @FacelessCraven, I also suspect that when you say “civilian” in this context many people will interpret it along the lines of “someone who is technically a civilian because international law hasn’t caught up with the existence of terrorism yet”.

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          • NN says:

            I am comfortably certain that the statistics you quote are conflating “collateral damage is an unavoidable and thus acceptable part of legitimate warfare” and “warfare aimed explicitly at killing noncombatants is acceptable”. Then again, maybe the oft-quoted stats regarding muslim approval of the later are too. Maybe we need better polls?

            Like I said, the question did explicitly say “target and kill,” but you’re right that a lot of respondents might not have mentally processed that part of the question before they answered.

            But a lot of the presentations of statistics about “Muslim support for terrorism” definitely do conflate these issues. For example, a common question used in those polls is along the lines of “Are suicide bombings to defend Islam justified under some circumstances?” But that question is even vaguer than the above Gallup question, potentially referring to the 7/7 London bombings or, for example, this. I’ve also seen a comment on an old SSC post that expressed concern over a poll finding that x% of Muslims “support terrorist attacks on US troops,” even though terrorism is usually defined as attacking civilian targets, which would presumably not include “US troops.”

            The only way I could think of to be absolutely certain that respondents weren’t misunderstanding the question would be to describe a specific hypothetical scenario, but that opens a whole other can of worms.

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          • NN says:

            @FacelessCraven, I also suspect that when you say “civilian” in this context many people will interpret it along the lines of “someone who is technically a civilian because international law hasn’t caught up with the existence of terrorism yet”.

            Terrorism existed long before modern international law like the Geneva Conventions was written. See, for example, the many anarchist terrorist attacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @NN – that was Harry, actually.

            For my part, I think your post was a valuable contribution, and thank you for it.

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          • I think he was quoting me responding to you, rather than mistaking me for you.

            For my part, I think your post was a valuable contribution, and thank you for it.

            I concur.

            Terrorism existed long before modern international law like the Geneva Conventions was written.

            Yes, but they nonetheless don’t adequately take it into account. Or at least I suspect that is the popular belief.

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          • sweeneyrod says:

            “They’re seeing it in Rotterdam England.”
            Really? I didn’t know we’d invaded the Netherlands.

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      • Gbdub says:

        If rifles are so great, why do police mostly carry handguns? Why are homicides committed mostly with handguns? Well, because handguns have a lot going for them in self defense situations. They are portable and concealable, handy in close quarters, etc.

        The problem is that what makes handguns attractive to criminals is exactly what makes them attractive to legal gun owners.

        I think you’ll find that there are few people who defend the 2A on “defense from tyranny” grounds who do not also defend a right to self defense just as, or more, ardently. So I don’t think the “common ground” is really there.

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        • Sastan says:

          Because rifles are heavy and require at least one hand on them at all times.

          And you are correct, the argument was that at one point in history, for many years actually, there would have been political room to make a compromise like Scott suggested. Those days are over, and I’m not sad to see them go. “Bipartisan” is a word that makes me want to load a shotgun. It means Dems and Repubs have figured a way to profit at the expense of everyone.

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      • Handguns may be useful if the tyranny operates by deputizing street gangs. Back in 1789, long guns were useful for resisting governments and handguns useless. In a more urbanized society, handguns are also necessary.

        Similarly, a society in which 30% of population owns guns might have been sufficient to resist a tyrant in 1789. In today’s society, the 30% might be government agents.

        There is a common cliche among gun-control advocates: Times have changed since the 2nd Amendment was passed. That can also be used by the gun-rights side.

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      • Sigivald says:

        Except for a few things:

        1) Gun controllers are, in my experience, not arguing on straight reason for the goal of “reducing murders”; they tend to have an emotional aversion to arms of all sorts.
        2) If we’re on the topic of tyranny, remember that “anyone in this crowd might have the ability to kill you” is a great marginal cost increase for anyone trying to oppress the crowd.
        3) Naturally, the “anti-tyranny-defender” camp doesn’t trust the gun-controllers to stop at pistols, even if they believed them useless for their end goal of stopping tyranny.

        (The other issue is that anti-tyranny-defender is rarely anyone’s primary litmus-test on guns; where that’s a priority it’s usually not the first one.

        In my experience personal defense comes in as #1 or #2 (if #2, #1 is recreational shooting).

        But the anti-gun types, well, if you need to ally with them, you’re allying with the most strident types, and they don’t want you armed at all.

        This is why it doesn’t happen.)

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        • Indeed, it puzzles me slightly that the argument so often revolves around murder. I’d have thought police shootings (not technically murder, except in rare cases) and accidental shootings would be more important really.

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          • CatCube says:

            I don’t know the police shooting numbers offhand, but the accidental shooting numbers (~500/year) are a rounding error compared to homicide and suicide.

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          • Ta. They’re still more important in one sense – we can be reasonably sure they wouldn’t have happened without the guns, which isn’t true for the homicides – but I guess they’re small enough relative to other risks that you can’t make a strong argument on that basis alone. I was avoiding talking about suicide, because it seems more complicated.

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    • I think this also explains part of the discrepancy between Canada and the US. Rifles and shotguns are fairly common in Canada, but handguns are much more tightly controlled than in the US.

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    • Allan53 says:

      Just off the top of my head, do you think that could be due to the ease of carrying a handgun? I’m not from the States, so I don’t know, but it seems more likely that people walk around with a handgun on their person than a rifle, just due to comparative size and (I suspect) awkwardness. And I vaguely remember from my criminology degree that most crimes are reasonably impulsive, rather than planned out in advance, doubly so for violent crimes, so if we assume any given person has an about-equal chance to flip out and try to kill people, then you would expect to see higher representation of handguns than longer arms like rifles and shotguns?

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      • Sigivald says:

        Ask any soldier or hunter, yes.

        Long-arms are a pain to carry around all the time; this is why policemen leave the shotgun or patrol rifle in the cruiser unless they have specific reason to think they’ll need it.

        (Heck, ask a historical re-creator. Swords are enough of a PITA to cart around, and they’re usually lighter and attached to you more firmly.)

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        • Fur says:

          And swords were the handgun analog of the day. In battle you didn’t use the same sword you carried day to day. You used a giant sword that was too cumbersome to wear, a polearm, or added a big bulky shield. If you had that sword, it was either as a backup or part of a much heavier armament (sword and shield).

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          • I’m a historical fencer who has trained in period tactics as well as individual combat. You’re generalizing way too much here.

            Giant swords too cumbersome to wear were actually very rare. The only example I can think of in the last thousand years is the German Zweihander, which (no joke) was a specialized weapon spun like a helicopter blade to cut off pike heads. I have fought in melee with a trainer weighted like one of these; it was work.

            What you’re probably thinking of was the medieval arming sword or longsword. People who haven’t trained with these often grossly overestimate their size and weight in fact, 2.5 to 4.5 pounds (1.1 to 2 kg) was the normal range.

            I use a longsword near the high end of the length range, because I have the upper-body strength to do it and the extra 3-4 inches of reach is a significant advantages. And I have short legs. Nevertheless, I can carry it in a belt scabbard without difficulty.

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    • google "gatfacts" says:

      >The only advantage handguns have is their ability to be concealed.

      Well, no, they’re small firearms for ease of carrying as a personal weapon. Look at a police officer on duty sometime, or a military officer, or a civilian in a jurisdiction that allows it (open carry is more likely to be restricted in the US, on what I presume is the “out of sight, out of mind” theory of gun rights). Smaller weapons are easier to conceal; that’s not at all the only reason smaller weapons exist.

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  2. keranih says:

    There is a problem with using rape rates to correlate with anything – it is a crime with a fairly huge under reporting problem. (And I’m including “rape-rape” of women by strangers using physical force.) The reporting rates can be widely variable by region and reporting group.

    (The same under reporting problem exists with robberies, to a lesser degree. People who expect something to be done about the crime, will report the crime. Areas with a low trust of the police, won’t.)

    (Although I do wonder about people who call 911 to report that someone burgled their place for their stash of drugs. That makes for a interesting set of social pressures.)

    This is why it is said the more rigorous crime comparisons use murder rates, even though it’s a relatively rare event as far as crime goes. Most people report the murder of a family member, and in the cases where they don’t, it’s hard to miss the body (and the bullet holes, knife wounds, etc.)

    (I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny. Could you shoot the tyrants equally well with a rifle?)

    The majority of assassinations (and attempts) in the USA have involved handguns. Rifles are for soldiers engaging other armed soldiers at the effective distance limit of engagement. Handguns are for use against people in the streets and meeting places where civilians intermingle, and there is not the space to bring long arms to bear fast enough.

    (Note: reporting from theory, not practice.)

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    • Will says:

      Long arms are just as fast to bring to bear (as long as they’re not *really* long — a Mosin Nagant in CQC wouldn’t be too great, true); notice that soldiers use carbines rather than handguns in close quarters. Handguns have little advantage except concealability and portability — bringing a rifle along is often impractical for civilians!

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      • keranih says:

        What’s the old quote…”A handgun is for fighting your way back to the long gun you should never have put down in the first place”? Something like that.

        Agreed, carbines split the difference between older style assault rifles and handguns/sidearms, but I have spoken with people who had both handguns and carbines, and they said that there were times when the handgun was preferred for the specific situation (crowded rooms, market places, etc.)

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        • Will says:

          Thanks — I’d totally forgotten that quote (if indeed I ever knew it and am not just tricking myself). Nice!

          (This isn’t a super important argument to your larger point above, so I don’t mean to nitpick; just offering my perspective as someone who does a lot of thinking about and shooting of firearms. I have both handguns and (a) carbine(s), and I personally can’t think of any situation where I would prefer the former for purely combat-specific reasons. MarkF makes a good point re: threatening, and you make a good point re: civilian life, so I don’t mean to say they’re always the worse choice.)

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        • Sigivald says:

          Internet tells me Clint Smith said: “The only purpose for a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle you should have never laid down.”

          (I had been thinking it was Jeff Cooper, but Col. Cooper would never suggest you should carry a long gun at all times; they’re far too awkward for getting work done.)

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      • MarkF says:

        Another issue with carrying handguns versus long guns is that a handgun can be holstered in a convenient position for ready access but not threateningly if your hand isn’t on it, whereas carrying a carbine or larger longarm forces the use of a patrol or low-ready carry that is easy to see as menacing. As Tamara Keel puts it, there’s a difference between carrying and carrying at people.

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  3. Scott,
    Where did you get your rape data? Since rape is waaaayyyy underreported, you’re most likely seeing correlations with the likelihood to report a rape, as opposed to correlations with actual rape.

    My brother actually did an interesting study in which he tried to disentangle reported and actual child abuse. One of his main conclusions is simply that reported child abuse is probably not a great proxy for actual child abuse. I imagine that something similar holds for rape (perhaps even more). Here’s the full article, and a popularization that he wrote for the NYT, in case you’re interested: https://static.squarespace.com/static/51d894bee4b01caf88ccb4f3/t/51d898b8e4b0fc2d0df954e3/1373149368539/child%20abuse%20paper12.pdf http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/opinion/sunday/how-googling-unmasks-child-abuse.html .

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    • Anonymous says:

      >rape is waaaayyyy underreported

      How do you determine that rape is underreported?

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      • roystgnr says:

        IIRC you compare the levels of crime which people are willing to report anonymously to survey takers with the levels of crime which people report to the police.

        From a link I was just reading elsewhere in the thread:

        http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/hpnvv0812.pdf

        The latter seems to be only half of the former. And that’s just underreporting due to people not wanting to go to the police. With rape I’d expect underreporting to survey takers to also be a problem.

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        • Robert VerBruggen says:

          This. FWIW the BJS is actually working on getting state-level numbers out of the surveys, which might be better for this type of analysis.

          Unfortunately, though, the sexual-assault data is really heavily weighted toward less serious assaults; I don’t think there are enough rapes to get reliable numbers at the state level from the survey even with a lot of fancy stats work.

          Interesting report and spreadsheets here. One interesting thing is that NCVS defines “violent crime” more broadly than the UCR does — including simple assaults and not just aggravated ones — and apparently this is so dramatic that there’s no correlation between the two. I suspected the new estimates were just junk at first, but there is a really tight correlation between the two measures of robbery.

          http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5499

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  4. ThirteenthLetter says:

    I’m still wondering why after a _terrorist attack_ we ended up spending a full month talking about, of all things, gun control. Something is severely broken in this country.

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    • Allan53 says:

      I dunno, violence is violence. And I would imagine pretty much everything that can be reasonably done is being done about terrorism by this point, while gun control could reasonably be made more safe through background checks and other mechanisms, at least in theory.

      Granted, it’s not the first thing to come to mind, but it’s not unconnected either.

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      • William O. B'Livion says:

        No, violence is not violence.

        The kid who shot up Sandy Hook, a fight between two Chicago gangs, and what that couple did in San Bernardino all very, very different.

        A better attitude towards mental health and getting help might have prevented Sandy Hook, but wouldn’t do anything about the others.

        Draconian gun laws MIGHT stop Sandy Hooks, but Chicago had draconian gun laws for decades, and the US as a whole has laws against Meth and Cocaine, and neither grow here naturally (yes, I know you don’t grow Meth, that’s my point), so you’re unlikely to stop the gang violence by taking guns away from non-gang members.

        As for terrorists, well, they’re kinda like mental cases with gang connections.

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        • Richard Gadsden says:

          The only model I could see for stopping gang violence by taking guns away from non-gang members is if the main place gang members get guns from is stealing them from non-gang members.

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          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            I think someone on the last thread suggested this was the case.

            I wonder about a law that makes gun ownership come with liability in the event of theft.

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    • Tarrou says:

      Because liberals sure don’t want to talk about terrorist control. We must import millions of people, some large percentage of which hate us and would like to kill us if they could, give them legal status (which affords them access to our civil rights, including weapons), and if anything bad happens, try to make it about firearms.

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    • Adam Casey says:

      Talking about gun control is as effective at stopping terrorism as most anti-terror policies to be fair… probably better than most because it doesn’t make anything *worse*.

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    • Jiro says:

      We spent this time after a terrorist attack talking about gun control for the same reason that we spent the time talking about surveillance–there are factions in the government who find terrorism really convenient to push through an unrelated measure that can be spun as “necessary because we had a terrorist attack”. In this case said factions including Obama himself (no-fly list used to prohibit guns? Really?)

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    • Echo says:

      Because the suspects turned out not to be right/white-wing.
      In the hours before information came out, the entire media jumped on the racist bandwagon, only to shove it under the rug and spin up the “gun control” narrative once it became clear who the perpetrators were.

      It’s just what happens when the people in charge of what gets talked about have a political agenda to push.

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      • NN says:

        The same pundits also bring up the “gun control” narrative after terrorist attacks committed by white people, if the attacks are committed using guns. See Charleston and the Planned Parenthood shooting.

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        • Gbdub says:

          The gun control line is common. What is different is whether the media encourages thinking the perpetrators are typical members of their tribe. Openly white supremacist guy shoots black church? “We need a conversation about the deep seated racism in our country! Look at what Republicans are encouraging with their rhetoric! They all have blood on their hands!” Anti-abortion extremist shoots up Planned Parenthood? Same thing.

          Muslim shouting “Allahu Akbar!” and/or major terrorist organization shoots up Ft. Hood or San Bernardino or Paris? “Don’t be a racist! Clearly this is just a tiny minority and you can’t hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of a few!”

          Seems like a fairly extreme case of “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup”.

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    • NN says:

      Because the terrorist attack was committed with guns that were bought legally. That makes the subject of gun control relevant, whether or not you believe that gun control measures would have prevented the attack.

      I find the idea of “this is a terrorist attack, so we have to talk about terrorism, not gun control” utterly baffling. It’s a complete non-sequitor, unless you believe that there is some sort of law that you can’t discuss Blue Tribe issues and Red Tribe issues at the same time.

      And I can’t help but notice that there were no complaints of this type regarding the gun control discussions that followed previous terrorist attacks that year in Charleston and Colorado Springs. Oh, gun control opponents certainly complained about left-wing pundits bringing up gun control in response to those incidents, but I can’t remember a simple complaint along the lines of “this is a terrorism issue, not a gun control issue, so shut up about gun control!” I wonder why…

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      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        “Because the terrorist attack was committed with guns that were bought legally. That makes the subject of gun control relevant, whether or not you believe that gun control measures would have prevented the attack.”

        More relevant than the fact that it was a terrorist attack *at all*? More relevant than how the US has been fighting a feeble, half-hearted “war” against the terror organization in question for years without any meaningful results? More relevant than how one of the terrorists explicitly pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook, yet was waved through the immigration system because of an official policy that it would be racist to look at the social media of certain favored groups? Because we’ve talked about those things a hell of a lot less than we’ve talked about gun control measures that would *not have prevented the attack*, yet were on the government’s wish list.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      The two answers to this:

      1. Because what people are talking about is driven entirely by a sort of Keynesian beauty contest

      2. Because terrorist attacks kill between 10 – 300 people per year (depending on how you count outlier 9-11) and guns kill more like 10,000 (even ignoring suicides), so guns are inherently more interesting, and since everyone else is talking about guns I can finally do so without disqualifying myself from the Keynesian beauty contest.

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      • “Keynesian beauty contest.”

        ???

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        • alaska3636 says:

          Maybe he meant, Dickensian?

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        • bluto says:

          It refers to a Keynes quip about the stock market. In those days, beauty contests were said to have been done by publishing women’s portraits in the papers and having a vote.

          “It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.”

          So people are talking about what they guess everyone else will think is the important topic.

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  5. Will says:

    >I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny. Could you shoot the tyrants equally well with a rifle?

    1.) Yes. You could do it better. Handguns can certainly be deadly, but there’s a reason they find no military use — they’re essentially a weapon of last resort. The only time to bring a handgun along is when concealability matters. I think a lot of people don’t realize just how much better long guns are — “If you’re expecting trouble, don’t go; if you have to go, bring a rifle.”

    2.) …but that all feels a bit irrelevant, to me. I mean, I realize the whole “governmental tyranny” thing *is* big among certain groups; I may be underestimating how often you’ve encountered them; but I feel the issue is emphasized too much by people who think those who care about gun rights are basically just being silly hicks. (I don’t think that was necessarily your thought here… but c’mon, asking if we can “still shoot the tyrants” — feels a *bit* like asking a kid about their anti-monster shield.)

    So, as a Texas gun nut, let me just say — anecdotally — that I and almost all of the fellow gun owners I know don’t actually really care so much about this. We mainly want to bear arms because a) we care a lot about home and self- defense (and have often seen how truly vulnerable one is when relying on only a cell phone; the terror of my family being at the mercy of a raving stranger is not something I’ll soon forget), and b) we think said arms are super neato.

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    • Murphy says:

      Police use handguns regularly because they can be routinely carried on ones person without getting in the way of everyday activities too much. it’s a little harder to carry a rifle with you always.

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      • Adam Casey says:

        This is one of the things I like about UK armed police, because most of the armed police you see are part of specialist firearms units and they carry carbines.

        You don’t normally walk past armed police and fail to notice they are such. They are very much displaying “I have a gun, that is the main fact about me that is relevant to you right now, I have other properties, but the main one is that I am armed”.

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      • Will says:

        Yeah, I kinda mentally put that under “concealability” — a result of size and convenience, not an advantage once the weapons are out. I guess I should’ve said “convenience or concealability”.

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  6. Steven Flaeck says:

    IIRC, most gun crime would be unaffected by background checks, etc. We could, it seems get a lot of mileage out of just restricting FFLs.

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    • Allan53 says:

      How do you mean? (I’m assuming you mean Federal Firearms Licences, which according to a ten-second scan of Wikipedia is already in place?)

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      What percentage of firearms used in crimes were legally purchased by the criminal?

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      • Richard Gadsden says:

        What percentage were legally purchased from the manufacturer?

        One purpose of well-designed gun control (and yes, I know how unlikely that is) would be to make it harder for criminals to steal guns from their legal owners. That’s why things like gun safes are a big deal.

        I suspect there are other factory-to-criminal pipelines out there, but closing the pipeline where they get stolen from legal owners would have a big impact.

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        • bluto says:

          In ATF traces, only about 15% of traced guns were stolen. Straw buyers are the leading source of traced guns (which isn’t a perfect proxy for crime guns but is by far the best means we have to get some insight).

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  7. houseboatonstyx says:

    I wish I’d nominated for a Comment of the Whatever this one in the ‘Guns and States’ thread by John Schilling.

    Whatever the local police issue to their rank-and-file officers, almost by definition cannot be considered (by the state) excessive for defense against common criminals. In the United States, and most of Europe, that’s 15-20 shot pistols often backed by 30-shot carbines in the patrol car.</I

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    • Lupis42 says:

      So one thing that you didn’t mention in that thread, but I think bears cementing, is that there’s a big difference between “reasonable objective standard” and “acceptable as a law”.

      I think John Schilling’s statement was a) a lower bound, b) reasonable, and c) just as objectionable and worth opposing as any other limit if enshrined in law.

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      • houseboatonstyx says:

        From the previous thread, here is a follow-up from JS.

        John Schilling says:
        January 10, 2016 at 2:39 p.
        If there’s evidence that the police have been asking for more but turned down by e.g. hoplophobic politicians, yes – and I believe that was the case in NYC a generation back, haven’t checked lately.

        Otherwise, I would consider police usage to constitute expert opinion as to both the upper and lower ground as to what is reasonable for self-defense against common criminals. If private citizens can generally carry whatever plainclothes detectives or off-duty officers can carry, and keep readily available whatever patrol officers carry and/or keep in their vehicles, I think there would be relatively few complaints.

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        • Lupis42 says:

          In principle, I have very few complaints, but in trying to imagine actual legislation, I always wind up with complaints.

          If you’re trying to make that case that there is a line that would be considered excessive, sure – it varies according to time place and manner, but it’s there, and 99% of the time it’s reasonably easy to articulate. But when we’re talking about the line between “fine” and “felony” I have a much higher burden for clarity of language, and all the existing examples I can find fail to get anywhere close to JS’s bound, are very problematic to interpret, or both.

          In a similar vein: in principle, there is some level of destructive ability that I’d agree is sufficiently large that it shouldn’t be covered, but it’s damned hard to pin down a border that isn’t absurd and doesn’t have a bunch of awkward cases where something winds up clearly on the wrong side.

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        • John Schilling says:

          I agree that clarity of language is critical. And we need to avoid gamesmanship where, e.g., the law says that people can own hunting rifles and/or the exact make and model of weapons the police use but the police then contract with manufacturers who agree to never sell those models other than to the police.

          I don’t think that these would be obstacles to a serious attempt at setting legal boundaries assuming good faith, and I think that bad faith would be fairly obvious to everyone except the true believers on one side or another (neither of which is powerful enough to force bad-faith legislation through the US congress, though the balance of power may be different elsewhere).

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          • Lupis42 says:

            I don’t think that these would be obstacles to a serious attempt at setting legal boundaries assuming good faith

            Even without gamesmanship/bad faith, here are some of the problems:
            If definition keeps pace with technology – meaning some things will become obsolete and longer covered – any citizen who doesn’t notice/update will become a felon.
            If the definition tracks a limited set of units and their specific gear, it’s going to create an enormous potential regulatory monopoly.
            If it doesn’t do either of those things, the solution space will be so large that most prosecutors probably won’t even bother taking cases – after all, the SAF will just show up with documentation showing that whatever it was carried by a single division of the RCMP from August to October of 2007.
            In almost all of these cases, select fire/three round burst would likely become unrestricted for private citizens, which is going to be a complete non-starter with the anti-gun crowd, and some highly functional arms designed for the civillian market are going to become restricted, which will piss off a huge number of gun owners.
            We can avoid that by going with classes of long gun – but that means making all battle rifles, assault rifles, and submachineguns kosher for the average joe to have in the trunk. So that would never fly from a political standpoint.
            If this is a restriction on ownership, and not simply carry/loaded transport, most hunting rifles and shotguns are going to become verboten. That’s unlikely to be politically achievable.
            Even if you bite one of those metaphors, or find some way around them, what have you achieved? The paranoid citizen can walk around with a full size handgun on the belt, a subcompact on the ankle, three or four spare magazines that work in both (for a total of ~100 rounds), and with a (select fire?) long-gun in the trunk, loaded and ready to go with ~300 additional rounds.

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          • William O. B'Livion says:

            Here’s a bright line for you:

            “Designed to kill or wound more than 1 person PER ROUND”.

            Gernades? Nope.

            Belt fed machine-guns? Fine.

            50 caliber sniper/precision rifle? Fine.

            Belt-fed 50? Well, that’s probably *the* line.

            The corner cases of this rule–belt fed machine guns in general could be argued to be to attack massed infantry, and the .50 is definitely used to attack armored troop carriers &etc. are mostly of only theoretical interest to most of us, and are (because of their signature) VERY VERY unlikely to be used in crime.

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          • Lupis42 says:

            .50’s are antimateriel weapons – designed to disable one vehicle per 1+ rounds. So they’d be fine under that test. RPGs might as well, if they’re typically designed to damage machines.
            And of course, anything which was not designed with the intent of killing would be legal – so anything anyone designs around the rules of a three gun match, or for extreme range target shooting (say 3km+) would still be legal.
            And of course, large scale area-of-effect weapons like tear gas launchers, as long as they’re designed to be less-than-lethal.
            As for the belt feds, they explicitly pass your test – the expected rounds per casualty varied, of course, but was always estimated at multiple rounds fired/casualty.
            A 30mm GAU 8 – the gun the A-10 was designed around is still fine under that standard.

            Meanwhile, you know what would be problematic? Shot guns.

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    • Richard Gadsden says:

      That implies that UK gun law – no handguns for anyone, including police – is quite reasonable.

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  8. Bill says:

    “I wish more of the debate could be about waiting periods, required training classes, and background checks – none of which would prevent people from using guns to defend against a potentially tyrannical government.”

    Quick hypothetical ways for those reasonable restrictions to be abused to prevent people from using guns to defend against a tyrannical government:

    • Waiting periods of longer than a year or so. Most people don’t see coups coming very far head.
    • Required training classes that take longer than a year or so, or cost so much money most people can’t afford them.
    • Background checks that exclude everyone but the politically connected, former police, or former soldiers.

    I mean, at a reasonable level and implemented well, those aren’t problematic, but then assuming good implementation when it comes to government is like assuming 80° temperatures in Alaska: it’s not that it never happens, it’s just that you don’t want to rely on it.

    Or, for a second way of phrasing it:

    When people are worried about corrupt government, and trying to safeguard their ability to handle it, saying “don’t worry, the government will take care of regulating your ability to handle it becoming corrupt” doesn’t exactly fill them with glee.

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    • Echo says:

      Forget “hypothetical”, just look at what Chicago did until the 7th Circuit Court smacked them.
      -Set up deliberately obtuse barriers to registering a firearm, from cost to allow 6-8 months for the paperwork to process”.
      -Prohibit registering a firearm until you get training.
      -Completely ban firearm ranges where the training could happen.

      Not exactly regulations passed in good faith, as the court pointed out.

      Emily Miller’s series on trying to buy a gun in Washington DC also makes great reading.
      Just in case anyone still actually believed that “regulations” on guns are ever passed and administered in good faith.

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      • Julie K says:

        It doesn’t even require *bad* faith per se for a regulation to become an onerous barrier. How does the difficulty of getting a gun compare to the difficulty of opening a restaurant?

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      • Moebius Street says:

        I used to live in NJ, where you need a permit to purchase a handgun (forget about actually carrying it!). By law, the government is supposed to either find reason not to issue the permit within 30 days, or they must issue it. But in practice, I have never even *heard* of someone getting the permit in less than 90 days. When they were taken to court, it was determined that the plain text of the legislation only means that they have to make an effort to meet the 30 day “deadline”, and as long as they’re actively working on it, they can take as long as it takes.

        Yet another reason why those fighting to hold onto their right to self defense refuse to trust the other side.

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        • brad says:

          Never attribute to malice that can be explained by incompetence.

          I’ve been waiting 2.5 years for a FOIA request from the US State Department. The FOIA law says they have 20 working days, with another 20 working days in special circumstances. There’s no anti-government openness “other side” to blame for this delay, just bureaucracy. Are you sure that’s not what’s primarily to blame in NJ?

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          • Moebius Street says:

            Consider:

            1. I’m fairly sure that *nobody* gets their permit in less than 90 days, let alone the 30 required by law. It’s not a single incident, it’s universal.
            2. This has been going on for a couple of decades.

            Perhaps it was initially a problem with incompetence. But I’d think that sometime in the last 20 years they might have noticed that they’re 100% in violation of the law, and done something to streamline their operations. Given that huge window of opportunity, I see no choice but to regard the continued deficit at malicious.

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          • @Moebius:

            Your story raises the interesting question of how such a rule could be enforced. Next time I’m talking with colleagues—I teach at a law school but am on leave this year—I’ll ask.

            If I am allowed a dictatorial fantasy, the law specifies that for every day beyond 30 of delay, the applicant is owed ten dollars. At the end of each month, the total of such payments is added up and funded by a proportional reduction in the monthly salary of the agency’s employees.

            But I doubt I can get it through the legislature, and it might face legal difficulties if I did.

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          • CatCube says:

            I just got out of a meeting where we talked about how to word a proposal for fixing major issues on a huge public works project (The kind with its own Wikipedia article). The problem is it’s not quite an emergency yet, but comprehensive repairs have been put off for decades and it could certainly become an emergency within 10 years or so. Wording it so it borders on “emergency” today will probably get us funding to fix it, while wording it as “it will be much cheaper to the taxpayer to fix it now, rather than when we’re running around yelling ‘OH GOD THERE’S WATER EVERYWHERE'” will probably get repairs put off until that day comes.

            The fact that it’s New Jersey makes it believable that the bureaucracy is knowingly not in compliance with the law. However, it could be lack of resources. The fact that a legislature passed a requirement for an agency to do something doesn’t require that they also provided funding to comply with that requirement. (It’s surprising to me as relatively new to this level of government bureaucracy *how often* this is the case–I knew it happened, but not to this extent.)

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          • Adam says:

            CatCube is basically right. Giving a deadline means nothing when there is zero dedicated staff and the people processing the applications face 20 per person and it’s an extra duty tacked on to their normal job, for which they’ll be fired if they don’t do it. Customer service tends to be a low priority. Then add in the delay from a legacy system of largely manual paperwork they can’t upgrade because no one will fund the upgrade.

            This may not be the case everywhere, but it was a huge problem we had during the sequester. Civilian agencies laid off most of their employees, to the point that a one-person office was processing applications for multiple clients as an afterthought additional duty tacked on to their real job, and they wouldn’t expedite system access except maybe by the personal request of a three-star General. Any statutory requirement on processing time were effectively meaningless. This was the case for all four of the major federal systems we required access to. The private banking systems at Citibank and US Bank were not nearly so bad. The thing about call centers is they may be shitty, but they’re cheap, and they beat waiting six weeks to hear back.

            EDIT: In case it’s not clear, I’m not talking about weapons permits here. I mean user access to information systems used by budgeters, accountants, purchasers, and account admins in the Army.

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          • Moebius Street says:

            Adam, you’re likely right that it’s driven significantly by lack of resources, BUT! notice that in my description of the law, I showed that there’s a built-in resolution.

            The law does NOT say that the application must be handled in 30 days. It says that the state has 30 days to find reason to reject the application, or the permit must be issued.

            So the problem isn’t that they’re taking too long. The problem is that they’re not complying with the other half of the requirement – that the permit be issued upon hitting that threshold. Compliance with that would have zero extra cost – and likely a savings, because they’d be curtailing any further investigation beyond that threshold. And if the State later finds that they’re not able to complete discovery in that period in too many cases, they could either revise the law, or provide more funding. But it can’t be claimed that they’re in a bind, because the means to resolve it is clear and is free.

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          • @Moebius, it seems you’re assuming that the only time-consuming part of issuing the permit is the investigation. I’m not sure that’s justified.

            (The law should probably have instead said that you get an implicit permit if your request isn’t processed within 30 days.)

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          • CatCube says:

            @Moebius Street

            Saying they’ll issue a permit if they don’t find a reason in 30 days won’t get you a permit in 30 days if the guy doing the issuing doesn’t even open the envelope until day 87.

            They could, in theory, be complying with the law by issuing the permit the day they open the envelope. But the person waiting for approval still won’t see their permit arrive until day 90.

            @Harry Johnson

            I like the idea of presumptively having permission if you don’t hear back in 30 days, but the problem I see is that if somebody is denied permission, but the denial got “lost” in the mail. Though I suppose registered mail might be a solution.

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          • Orphan Wilde says:

            One of the cities I interacted with stopped accepting registered mail, which until then was the only way to get them to actually process paperwork. (If it was sent normal post, it would mysteriously never get processed, or even be acknowledged to have been received.)

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    • Sigivald says:

      Yeah, the reason “the gun people” don’t like any of those things is not that they believe that an honestly, fairly implemented set of such things would be very problematic*, but that they have very good reason to not expect honestly and fairness in the implementation.

      See also literacy tests for voting; very few people actually want illiterate people to be voting, on grounds of their assumed political ignorance, but in practice those tests meant “white people have to be able to recognize the letter A” and “black people have to be able to read a passage in Latin”, so they’re rightfully forbidden.

      (* Waiting periods, well, nobody serious likes those. Because the set of misbehaviors stopped by “I must wait a few hours or days” is actually pretty small; most of the people killing other people with guns did not just go buy it and go out and kill in an immediate fit of rage. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I heard about that happening. Spree killers plan a bit more than that; “crimes of passion” even tend to recur in their motivations such that a wait doesn’t seem to prevent them.

      The one thing waiting periods reliably prevent is defense against a novel threat.)

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  9. sabril says:

    “That makes it very strange the degree to which people expect gun control to mean ‘the government confiscates all your guns, after which no guns are left'”

    I don’t think it’s that strange, because it’s pretty clear that gun control advocates in the United States are not particularly interested in reducing crime. If they were, then they would support repeal of gun control measures which have proven ineffective. They would also be willing to attach their proposals to, for example, national CCW which is something pro-gun types want and which would not result in significantly higher crime rates.

    No, gun-control advocates are interested in moral posturing; punishing the hated Red Tribe; and distracting everyone from the misbehavior of certain groups. No matter how much gun control is in place, these objectives will not go away. So it’s reasonable to expect that as a practical matter, gun control advocates really do want a complete ban and confiscation.

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    • “So it’s reasonable to expect that as a practical matter, gun control advocates really do want a complete ban and confiscation.”

      Especially since that’s what they say they want in front of friendly audiences.

      Suppose an American gun-control advocate were taking talking up “reasonable, common-sense regulation and gets asked “But wouldn’t it be better to just ban them all?”. There are two prototype responses he/she could have to this:

      A: “Yes, but we have to take what we can get now and hope it helps facilitate a total ban later.”

      B: “No, that would be wrong, civilian firearms are useful and constitutionally protected; we’re only trying to solve a crime problem here rather than overreaching.”

      To my knowledge, history does not record any instance of response B.

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      • Jiro says:

        Especially since that’s what they say they want in front of friendly audiences.

        Actually, Scott managed to catch that himself. Almost. “it’s very strange how often liberals nod along and say “Yup, that’s what we want to do!”.” Scott came so close. He just didn’t figure out that liberals say it’s what they want to do because it’s actually what they want to do

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        • William Newman says:

          Gun control advocates do not only tend to approve of the OP’s international examples like Australia. They also tend to approve of pre-Heller policies in Washington DC, NYC, and Chicago; also of places like modern Japan, with a gun control policy that as best I understand it is rather stricter than Australia or Canada.

          Anyway, the support for such policies would indeed be odd behavior on the Progressives’ part if they did not in fact support those policies.

          If. (And thus I triumphantly connect to the previous thread… Did the Spartans contribute anything but military excellence, something cultural perhaps? Apparently yes! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laconic_phrase)

          And from the OP: “That makes it very strange the degree to which people expect gun control to mean ‘the government confiscates all your guns, after which no guns are left’. I mean, I understand why (for example) the NRA would promote that story in order to get people angry, but it’s very strange how often liberals nod along and say ‘Yup, that’s what we want to do!'”

          Whatever.

          (Hopefully a flip laconic response is not too irritatingly out of line when responding to the the irritatingly misleading “no guns are left” position attributed to the NRA. Seriously, gun-control critics actualy seem to understand some of the complexities better than low-information gun-control supporters, and address the complexities more often than high-information gun-control propagandists. A gun-control position optimized to raise no hackles at Blue gatherings strongly tends to ignore e.g. the thousands of carry permits issued to the aristocracy of pull in pre-Heller NYC. Gun-control critics seem more commonly to know about that complication, and indeed seem fairly commonly to vent about it because it tends to piss them off even more than a uniformly appled ban. I have never encountered an approving response along the lines of “well, at least some guns are left!”.)

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      • sabril says:

        I think that’s a good point, but here’s my question. Suppose a gun-control advocate is asked the question you propose and gives answer A (which I agree is by far the most likely response). Is that motivated by a sincere desire for a total ban, or is it simply the result of more moral posturing/tribal signalling?

        For what it may be worth, I think it’s the second choice. Why does it matter? Because as soon as the gun control advocate’s stated desire for gun control comes in to conflict with a more compelling means of moral posturing/tribal signalling, he will abandon the gun control issue and do it pretty quickly.

        So for example, suppose stricter gun laws were passed in the US and a steady flow of guns started coming in, smuggled across the Mexican border. Some future Donald Trump proposes building a big wall along the entire border; having lots of patrols; and carefully checking anyone who wants to cross. How would your typical gun-control advocate react to such a proposal? If he sincerely desired a total ban, he would presumably support such a measure. But I’m pretty confident he would oppose it and vehemently at that.

        You see these kinds of inconsistencies regularly if you follow Leftist politics. So for example, you see gay rights crusaders vocally pushing to boycott Chick-fil-a but remaining silent about the plight of homosexuals in the Gaza Strip or Iran.

        In the context of gun control, the distinction is perhaps less important since as a practical matter, it’s reasonable to assume that the gun control advocate really does want a total ban. But I still think it’s useful to think of gun control as one specific aspect of a more general problem facing society: The problem of the moral crusader.

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        • “Because as soon as the gun control advocate’s stated desire for gun control comes in to conflict with a more compelling means of moral posturing/tribal signalling, he will abandon the gun control issue and do it pretty quickly.”

          This is possible. It’s not, however, a theory which really makes me feel any less threatened – because it ignores the existence of a cohort of truly dedicated gun-grabbers who can and do drive the mere virtue-signalers like cattle.

          It is often thus with statist “reform” movements. Most of the people in them are less evil than they are duped. Occasionally you can peel the dupes away from the villains by appealing to moral sentiments that override virtue signaling, but it’s neither wise nor safe to assume you’re dealing with a dupe in any given instance.

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          • sabril says:

            “This is possible. It’s not, however, a theory which really makes me feel any less threatened”

            It should make you feel more threatened. What do you suppose the gun-control advocates will do if they win? Will they just pack up and go home? I doubt it.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            Quite a few years ago I started hearing a few malcontented cynics say that when cigarettes were banned, the do-gooders would start on things like fatty food and soda. They were universally laughed at by all right-thinking people.

            Well, they aren’t quite banned, but apparently close enough. You can have my 64-ounce soda when you pry it from my icy, pudgy hands, Bloomberg!

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        • “You see these kinds of inconsistencies regularly if you follow Leftist politics. So for example, you see gay rights crusaders vocally pushing to boycott Chick-fil-a but remaining silent about the plight of homosexuals in the Gaza Strip or Iran.”

          What I see is a lot of complaints on the left about mistreatment of gays in various countries. While it would not be sayable that Islam is part of the problem, it’s certainly quite possible to be against government and private violence.

          I *think* I’ve only seen boycotts (real or proposed) against Russia.

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    • I don’t think it’s strange either, because it’s pretty much how I would react at first. Stuff like, “Oh, yeah, hunters and farmers will still need guns” would be an afterthought.

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    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      My impression is that the gun control movement has no interest in repealing ineffective controls for the same reason the gun rights side won’t consider any controls: both sides have come to see any control as one step towards further controls and eventually a ban, regardless of its actual effect.

      The coastal elite anti-gun types I know mostly do want a ban if they could have one, but on the other hand do see value in control measures apart from being political progress in the direction of a ban.

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    • anonymous says:

      No, gun-control advocates are interested in moral posturing; punishing the hated Red Tribe; and distracting everyone from the misbehavior of certain groups.

      I’m sure someone will be along shortly to explain to you about ideological turing tests, steelmaning, niceness, community, civilization and so on. Those that police such things on here must just be busy at the moment.

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      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Well, for my part, I just got to this comment right now, not-very-anonymous friend.

        But still, would like to hear your explanation for this behavior, because my own is not particularly flattering: People in general are really bad about repealing bad laws and regulations and generally limiting the power of the state, so to me it’s not a case of evil and/or status games, but simply laziness.

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        • anonymous says:

          I think you basically right, but I wouldn’t use the perjoritive term lazy. You can’t be an activist about everything. It is even less reasonable to criticize gun control advocates for not advocating the repeal of old ineffective laws as it is to criticize them for not advocating the legalization of drugs. Cleaning up the law books is simply not their issue. It’d be different if they were strongly lobbying against efforts to repeal those laws.

          In general I find the whole class of arguments that treats the issue as if there were two people — one pro gun control and one anti gun control — who have been going back and forth on this issue for the last 80 years to be off the mark. There was no agreement in 1934 that the NFA would once and for all settle the matter, no one capable of making such an agreement, and so no one has betrayed anyone else by not sticking to the agreement. It is just a massive category error masquerading as an argument.

          (You’ve tricked me into making a substantive argument when I only wanted to snark on how certain meta argument are only deployed against posters from one side of the blue red divide on here. Mxyzptlk.)

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          • Lupis42 says:

            It’d be different if they were strongly lobbying against efforts to repeal those laws.

            They are. Do you have any meaningful memory of the rhetoric that was flying around in 2004?

            At the state level, in my state, a variety of attempts to clean up our gun laws have been put forward every legislative session for at least the last eight years. Every single one has been broadly opposed by gun-control groups.

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  10. Kat says:

    Late to the party, but on Wyoming and Australia – I think the type of gun really matters here. I imagine the majority of guns in both those settings are rifles, compared to Maryland’s hand guns. If you want a rifle in Australia to shoot rabbits on your farm, you can have one – but the chances of you committing a holdup or shooting yourself or your wife with it are pretty minimal.

    On lives saved – the FBI data indicate that 28% of black murder victims and 21% of white murder victims in the US are not just under 65, but under 22 (that’s all homicide, not guns only – link below). So from a health economics point of view where you account for DALYs etc, especially in the US where you have a really high willingness to pay for health interventions, *huge* expenditures would be justified to save those lives, if you treated juvenile gun deaths the same way you treat juvenile cancer deaths. (And made insurance companies pay for them, I guess, somehow, since you guys are into that?)

    https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl20.xls

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    • keranih says:

      If you want a rifle in Australia to shoot rabbits on your farm, you can have one – but the chances of you committing a holdup or shooting yourself or your wife with it are pretty minimal.

      I agree that there is a difference between the rates of long guns being used for crimes and the rates for handguns. It’s not clear that shifting to more lethal long guns would be better (discussed above) and it’s also not clear that the presence of handguns increases criminal actions in that way.

      Regarding youth homicide deaths due to fire arms, I think this is the table you wanted to choose: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl02.xls It’s also useful to note this one, which gives known ages of offenders. (There are a large fraction of murderers who are under the age of 22 (and even 18).)

      As a point of quibbling, I would rather we kept the age of “adult” to be at 18 rather than 22.

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  11. Ant says:

    Isn’t anyone surprise by those figure on gun ownership ? In France, there is around 1 to 2 % of hunters and I think they are the majority of gun owner. Wikipedia gives me a reliable figure of roughly 3M of weapon, so I wonder where the 22.6% numbers comes from.

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    • soru says:

      Per wiki, the US has 112 guns per hundred residents; that doesn’t translate to 112% of people having guns.

      France and Germany both have ~30 guns per hundred residents, similar to Sweden, for which more detailed figures show that 6.5% of people own all the guns. Which is what you would expect with a license being slightly hard to get for a gun enthusiast or hunter. But those who have the licence being middle class people with money to spend on hobbies, owning as many guns as an angler might own fishing rods.

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      • Ant says:

        Like I said, there is roughly 3 millions of weapons for 60 millions of inhabitants. Even in the extreme case of a maximum of one weapon per house and 2 person per house, that still makes roughly 10%, not 20%. And I wonder how you can have 1 weapon for three inhabitants without including the police or military when less 2% of the population is hunting or practicing shooting. All of the hunters I know use one rifle (2 if they have children who wants to hunt), and they would need to average around 15.

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  12. anon says:

    Civilians cannot realistically defend against a tyrannical government with guns. If the military still supports the government then it can do to the civilians what the US did to Iraq in 2003 (who actually had tanks and rocket launchers in addition to assault rifles). If the military does not support the government then the problem solves itself.

    Few people seem to realize that you need a lot more than just willing bodies with good markmanship and guns to be more than a speedbump to even a small modern army. The communications, logistics, anti-command&control techniques and technologies, organization, and fire support of a modern army (none of which the militia will have) are what makes it so powerful in a standup fight.

    What are actually effective are IDEs and rocket launchers, so people concerned about tyrannical governments should lobby for less regulation for explosives and start stockpiling large quantities of them.

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    • stillnotking says:

      In any scenario involving large-scale armed resistance to the US government, the loyalties of the military would be divided. They’re also Americans with varying political beliefs. (We don’t even need to speculate, since this already happened in the Civil War.)

      It’s not at all far-fetched to believe that partisan activity could make the difference in such a conflict.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Few people seem to realize that you need a lot more than just willing bodies with good markmanship and guns to be more than a speedbump to even a small modern army. The communications, logistics, anti-command&control techniques and technologies, organization, and fire support of a modern army (none of which the militia will have) are what makes it so powerful in a standup fight.

      Wouldn’t (shouldn’t!) be a stand-up fight. Would be fights like the Afghanis have been waging for several generations now. Like the Poles did under German occupation. The goal being to make rule so expensive and annoying that the enemy will throw their hands up and leave.

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    • This may be over-optimistic, but I think the value of an armed populace to prevent tyranny is not so much that the populace has a chance of winning as that the risk of going up against armed people would make a government more cautious about abusing them. It’s like people being more inclined to collect butterflies than wasps, even though a wasp doesn’t present a huge threat to a human. (This isn’t a perfect analogy– butterflies are also prettier than wasps.)

      On the other hand, I can’t say that Cory Maye did a huge amount to discourage SWAT raids, or (so far as I know) badly researched SWAT raids.

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      • John Schilling says:

        But Waco and Ruby Ridge did do a huge amount to discourage Federal law enforcement from doing high-profile no-knock raids or resolving sieges and standoffs with assaults. See e.g. Oregon now, or the Bundy standoff in Nevada last year. The FBI has rewritten their playbook on that sort of thing, and other Federal agencies are more often told to stand down and let the FBI handle it the right way.

        That state and local law enforcement has picked up the bad habits that characterized the Feds in the ’80s and ’90s, went mostly unnoticed until a few years ago; it’s still too early to draw conclusions on that front I think.

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        • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

          That state and local law enforcement has picked up the bad habits that characterized the Feds in the ’80s and ’90s, went mostly unnoticed until a few years ago;

          What has been explained to me what happened: is that “Bad Apple” Bureaucrat-Cops who, in the wake of the handful of high profile and the many many more of low profile botches and disasters of the 80s and 90s found their career paths no longer progressing, and many of them changed career tracks, and became Senior Cop-Bureaucrats in state and local law enforcement agencies, who thought they were getting a super awesome deal being able to hire former employees of Uncle Sam. At the same time, a constant selection process is happening in local law enforcement, wherein whenever a working cop or a cop-bureaucrat becomes a pain in the side for his agency and collects too many complaints or becomes the star player in yet another installment over on “Yet Another Isolated Incident”, they get fired or otherwise are encouraged to leave, and then they go get hired a local law enforcement agency at another city or state who is willing to hire them.

          And thus, a (not small) subset of local law enforcement agencies get worse, and worse, and worse, and worse…

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      • JadeNekotenshi says:

        This actually seems to be the principal value, to me. Well, that, and the fact that armed irregulars can make holding an area by force a horrendous pain in the rear unless the military is willing to pull out all the stops and utterly flatten an area. However, the fact that, by and large, that doesn’t happen even in foreign wars (or in civil wars like Syria) suggests to me that it’s unlikely that carpet-bombing, nuking or gassing would be the government’s response to partisans in a putative second US civil war, either.

        It should go without saying that I sincerely hope nobody ever has to find out.

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    • Jason K. says:

      This argument is quite frankly one of the most ignorant and infuriating arguments coming from the statists. It is ignorant because it belies a marked lack of understanding of how power works and it is infuriating because it is inherently arguing for defeatism. ‘You can’t win, so don’t bother fighting’-would you accept that in any other situation? If it was someone trying to kill you, would you really prescribe that mentality? This is the same as saying ‘you can’t win the argument, so shut up’. It is an argument for suicide, for self-censorship. It is an argument for cowards.

      We can argue about the details of what an armed insurrection would look like and how it would progress, but it doesn’t really matter. It is unlikely that you have enough information for an informed discussion anyway. The argument doesn’t matter because at the root, the gun is what gives the ballot any meaning. Mao wasn’t wrong (though a little simplistic) when he said “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. When you can get a staunch libertarian to agree with a communist, you’ve probably hit a core truth.

      Government is about the use of coercive power. Everything a government does is backed up with the threat of violence. The exercise to prove this to yourself is to investigate what happens if someone keeps refusing to comply with the government. What happens if they keep telling the government: ‘No’. In all cases, what does the government eventually send? Men with guns. Now the idea behind democratic institutions is that it is objectively beneficial, if not a moral good, to have the government reflect the desires of the people being governed. Part of that process is voting. However voting is soft power. Voting carries no more intrinsic weight than speech does. The government can say ‘No’ to your vote all day long without costing them a thing. In order to ensure government reflects the will of the people, the people must be able to coerce the state. The people must be able to go from push to shove and bring hard power to bear. It is the threat of overthrow that gives the vote weight. It is why those words on paper about rights mean anything at all. The stronger the threat of overthrow, the greater the weight your vote carries. So anything which weakens the people against the state, weakens your vote and undermines our democratic institutions. So if you think democratic institutions are good thing, if you think distributed systems are generally better than centralized command and control systems, then you have to support widespread private gun ownership. Private gun ownership is what puts the power of the government in the hands of the people. It is what ensures democratic institutions don’t devolve into autocratic ones because it is the democratization of hard power.

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    • Coco Khalazir says:

      Ya.

      No amount of personal arms can stand up to an organized air force,navy, and army. If a government is stable with modern military tech, no impromptu organization will defeat the modern technology. These fears of the government gaining too much power that way kindof lost any argument in the days of WW2 tech. The only way I can see that not being the case are for legalizing serious military tech in the hands of the general populace….which for obvious reasons won’t work.

      I have no real idea why there’s such opposition to the banning of all guns besides 18th-early 19th century style muskets. They are still very useful for hunting, with more lethality than arrows and being easier to use. It won’t damage the hunting market.They are very large, so anyone illegally using them needs to be very careful.

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      • Jason K. says:

        Yes, because our great modern military has been fighting in Afghanistan for 10 years now, so no amount of personal arms can stand up to modern military tech.

        (sarcasm for the detection impaired)

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      • John Schilling says:

        And no organized air force, navy, or army can function without a secure logistical base. For every front-line warfighter with all the weapons of modern war, there are about five technicians who need to work relatively undisturbed to keep the shiny toys functioning properly and five more truck drivers who need to be able to deliver a regular supply of fuel, ammunition, and spare parts.

        If you are envisioning a contest where the NRA shows up with its rifles and the US Army shows up with its tanks and they line up across a field of battle, you don’t know what you are talking about. Or, perhaps more accurately, you don’t know what the rest of us are talking about.

        And really, most of us are talking about stopping things long before they reach the point of having partisans snipe at military supply convoys.

        I have no real idea why there’s such opposition to the banning of all guns besides 18th-early 19th century style muskets. They are still very useful for hunting…

        I can only presume because you have no real interest in understanding. For one thing, muskets aren’t actually all that useful for hunting; you need rifles for that. For another thing, this debate has nothing whatsoever to do with hunting. This debate is about whether ordinary private citizens should be allowed to own weapons for the purpose of killing people. At least a very large minority, and probably a majority, of Americans believe that the answer to that question is “yes”. It’s one thing not to understand that, but quite another not to have noticed that the question is being asked and taken seriously.

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        • Coco Khalazir says:

          Nobody really has any idea what they are talking about here when it comes to fighting or “taking back” the American government under some strange turn of events. Its very vague feeling with very little of substance, and not much concrete to it. Nobody seems to know just what they are talking about. Is the current standoff with Ammon Bundy indicative of how an actual taking back could occur? It is a point commonly brought up by gun advocates, so it needs to be addressed.

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          • Jason K. says:

            If no one has any idea, that means you don’t have any idea either. If you don’t have any idea, then why did you try to use the argument? You are either being dishonest now or dishonest then. Which is it?

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          • John Schilling says:

            Nobody really has any idea what they are talking about here

            If that were true, then necessarily you don’t have any idea what you are talking about. You are, after all, “here”. That being the case, how can you be sure nobody else does, rather than their understanding things you haven’t figured out?

            Is the current standoff with Ammon Bundy indicative of how an actual taking back could occur?

            No, it isn’t. I think there has been more than enough discussion of the shape of a possible insurgency against the United States Government that we don’t need to rehash it yet again.

            It is a point commonly brought up by gun advocates,

            Where?

            Because I haven’t seen it, but right now I think I have identified one person here who doesn’t know what they are talking about.

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      • xtmar says:

        If a government is stable with modern military tech, no impromptu organization will defeat the modern technology.

        This presupposes that the government is able to keep the rear secure, and thus support all of that modern technology. If you can damage the logistical tail and force the government to defend its rear, it then becomes much less effective at projecting force. The US military has no experience with this in living memory, as it has always been lavishly supplied by a basically uninterrupted stream of goods and support from the US (save for localized last mile problems, like the inability to rush gasoline forwards during the invasion of Europe). If every redneck with a 30-06 starts taking pot shots at semi-trucks or trains, that would totally upend it. For that matter, they could take a page from Tom Clancy and start knocking down utility poles and then taking shots at the repairmen. Suddenly, every tree across a line requires a platoon of infantry to protect the linemen.

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    • Dan Peverley says:

      In the event of tyrannical government overreach, defense against tyranny probably won’t look like grabbing your rifle and going out to shoot at tanks. It will mean hiding your weapons, smiling at police on the street, keeping quiet about your views, and looking for opportunities to kill government employees and collaborators. It will mean capping politicians in coffee shops, sniping at soldiers during the night and then running, shooting police who enforce illegal warrants through the window of their homes.

      That said, the military would be split.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can’t help but notice we actually did a terrible job in Iraq precisely because its civilian population was well-armed and resisted us. Yes, we were able to get Saddam and capture government institutions, but in terms of having control of the streets and establishing peace and the rule of law, we totally failed. The only reason Iraq is even remotely okay today was because we had a lot of resources to throw at it, the Iraqis are mostly okay with the new Iraq government, and it’s in Iran’s interest to prop the whole place up as well.

      If all that having guns meant was that we could give anyone who invaded us as miserable a time as the Iraqis gave the coalition, sounds worth it.

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      • Echo says:

        It’s unfortunate that militaries (especially ours) are pretty terrible at maintaining the institutional memory that tells them “insurgency warfare is really hard and unpleasant!”
        But as mentioned above, when the resistance happens in small, “regrettable incidents” that are easy to step back from, rather than a full-on national invasion, it’s much easier to avoid the kind of mass chaos that developed in Iraq.

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        • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

          It’s unfortunate that militaries are pretty terrible at maintaining the institutional memory that tells them “insurgency warfare is really hard and unpleasant!”

          I think that the US’s military does do a pretty good job of institutionally remembering how difficult insurgency warfare is. Most of the best and key lessons actively taught in the US’s schools of warfare are from the histories of the US’s military’s painful experiences at fighting insurgency warfare, going all the way back to the time where the proto-US was itself the insurgent.

          The institutions that are failing to remember is non-military civilian government. The agencies with law enforcement missions think it’s just like law enforcement only without those pesky “courts” and “rights” getting in the way, the others all think it’s just a light show on CNN or like what they read about WW2 in junior high history books, and the people in the upper executive and in the congress just think it’s about budget, grandstanding, local outgroup fights, and those weird men in weird green and blue suits that make them feel uncomfortable because they act deferential to them while making them feel judged.

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          • keranih says:

            The institutions that are failing to remember is non-military civilian government.

            I suspect this is due in large part to the de-militarization of our society, and the creation of a separate caste that does military service, while most people do not.

            I’m not sure that this is overall a bad enough thing to want to reverse it.

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          • Hmmm. Reminds me of Heinlein’s *Starship Troopers* (the book, not the movie) in which you had to have completed a term of military service in order to be eligible to vote. Might not be such a bad idea, really.

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          • In Starship Troopers, military service wasn’t the only thing that could qualify a person to vote– there were other sorts of public service like being an experimental medical subject or working in the labs on Pluto (this is from memory). The point was that the public service had to be unpleasant and dangerous.

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          • I may be misremembering […]

            And indeed I was. The phrase was “Federal Service”. Thanks Jiro.

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          • @Harry re Starship troopers

            It wasn’t exactly military service that was required, since volunteers might end up doing other things. It was basically some service where you were accepting a risk of getting killed in the process of protecting your society.

            I thought the basic idea was very ingenious–try to improve democracy by an electorate selected for characteristics that would lead to more public spirited voting. One could argue that the same was true for the early restrictions of the franchise to property owners. If you get your local government to do things that make it a worse place to live in, you can always leave–but you can’t take your land with you, and it will sell at a lower price than if your government had made better choices.

            But I’m skeptical that any such approach is adequate to make democracy work well for large polities. For one thing, it doesn’t solve the rational ignorance problem.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            @Walked Away
            That jives with my own experience. Institutional knowledge at the NCO level at least was pretty well established the conflict was in convincing our State Department minders and the young-bucks fresh out of college to shut up and pay attention because this is serious business and Chief/Gunny knows what he’s talking about.

            @Jiro
            Good link…

            My one gripe with that essay is that Gifford seems to neglect the fact that there are quite a few ostensibly “civilian” service jobs that still wear “gaudy uniforms” and involve a certain amount of danger (Cops, Firefighters, Paramedics, and Pilots to name a few) and in a society that’s been largely taken over by the military caste it’s reasonable to assume that there might be quite a few more.

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    • A terrorist organization intending to set up a tyranny may be reluctant to use guns simply because making guns more widespread might make it easier for people to resist them.

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    • alexp says:

      The fact is that peaceful (outside throwing some rocks and stuff) protesters in modern times have a much better track record of overthrowing governments than violent uprisings. You see this
      with the Arab Spring, Maidan in Ukraine, the 1988 June Democracy Uprising in Seoul, solidarity in Poland. Sure some the governments turned to shit afterwards, and there are plenty of peaceful protests that don’t work, most notably in China. But violent uprisings are even less succesful.

      Their success came from disrupting activity in the capital, garnering international support, and the fact the soldiers in question were unwilling to fire upon unarmed citizens. If those citizens were to actual use weapons, then I suspect that the soldiers’ qualms would disappear.

      In a case where the military is actually divided, the sheer power of 40-60% of the US military, plus whatever foreign interference may come means that 10,000 dudes with bushmasters probably won’t tip the scale one way or the other.

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      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        What’s your denominator for “non-violent protests”? Did you include Occupy Wall Street? Did you include Tea Party Rallies?
        Those non-violent protests did not overthrow the US federal government. Not sure if they could be considered failures?
        The Euromaidan protests did not overthrow the government of Ukraine. The pressured Prime Minister fled the nation and the elected legislative body kicked him out, which is roughly equivalent to suggesting “non-violent protests” overthrew the US government when Nixon resigned.
        I think your mind is not recognizing what “violent resistance” looks like. The Rwandan genocide was not ended by protest, it was ended by the RPF. The situation in the Balkans was not resolved by protest, it was resolved by August Storm. Kurdistan is not defended by protest, it is defended by an army. The Free Syrian Army fights violently because the government would gas them if the international community would let them get away with it.

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        • NN says:

          Examples of non-violent protests successfully leading to regime change include Tunisia, Egypt (which didn’t work out too well in the long run, but did overthrow the then current government), and I believe every 1989-90 Warsaw Pact revolution except Romania.

          There would need to be a more complete analysis of the data to determine if non-violent protests or violent revolt is more effective. Obviously a lot depends on circumstances such as how willing the government power is to massacre demonstrators. But note that the Free Syrian Army is still, as of this writing, an example of an unsuccessful violent revolt.

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          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Why is the Free Syrian Army an example of an “unsuccessful” violent revolt?

            What would move them into the successful category?

            If they protested non-violently, they would have been barrel-bombed into oblivion. As it stands, they likely will have a seat at the bargaining table and some concessions in any future peace discussion, and were nearly victorious until Russia bolstered some defenses.

            They are doing better shooting at Assad than they did shouting at him.

            I don’t see any obvious metrics to make easy comparisons, but there are obvious examples where armed resistance DOES give you some advantage that you did not have without it. No one thinks Qaddafi or Assad would respond well to organized protest, nor does anyone think Saudi Arabia will ever change merely by mass protest.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      You don’t shoot the soldiers, you shoot the leaders.

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    • I’ve been arguing for a long time for a different version of the argument that gun ownership protects against tyrannical government. I agree that armed civilians are not going to do very well against a professional military, hence that the original argument for the 2d Amendment, as I understand it, is largely obsolete. The militia was supposed to make a substantial standing army unnecessary. We’ve lost that fight.

      On the other hand, if ordinary people are disarmed, they are dependent for protection on the government. The more that is the case, the less willing they will be to restrict government power—to come down hard on unjustified police killings, no-knock raids, civil forfeiture, mass surveillance, … . Hence a disarmed populace is likely to put up with a substantially more oppressive government than an armed populace.

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      • On the other hand, an armed police force can presumably be more oppressive (in both blatant and subtle ways) than an unarmed police force. (Of course as far as the US is concerned I suppose that ship has long since sailed.)

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      • JBeshir says:

        I think this effect probably has to be pretty weak, if present- US police are by Western standards really harsh. Unjustified police killings, no-knock raids, civil forfeiture are all worse in the US than in the rest of the west, and far more tolerated there.

        I can’t imagine things like, e.g. http://time.com/4174211/blac-youngsta-police-atlanta-bank/ where a suspicious transaction results in you being rushed, pushed to the ground, and guns pointed at your head, happening in the UK. I’d expect a polite, largely apologetic conversation with someone “looking into” things. If it did happen, I’d expect it to be a major political embarrassment and result in swift policy change. Whereas in the US it’s apparently pretty routine that if you’re deemed suspicious, you’re going to have an impromptu concrete tasting experience, and while people talk about it there’s no real pressure for it to stop being a thing.

        This is probably mostly due to effects separate from guns. Culture, strong local independence of police forces preventing politicians from being held accountable for police actions, for forfeiture in particular the rules permitting police to keep their own spoils motivating them to behave as state-sponsored highwaymen, are all pretty plausible parts. If guns can’t overpower those effects then they probably don’t have a very big effect, though.

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        • John Schilling says:

          Unjustified police killings, no-knock raids, civil forfeiture are all worse in the US than in the rest of the west, and far more tolerated there.

          Unjustified killings like this one?

          Things are different in the United States; sometimes better, sometimes worse, but our police do not get together at the station house and decide, as a matter of official policy, that they are going to go out, find Suspect X, and shoot him in the head without warning. If American police sometimes kill without justification – which isn’t as common as TV and twitter might have you believe – they at least understand that openly assassinating people is not going to be tolerated.

          Beyond that, I grant that much of Europe has created a culture where disobeying a policeman is almost literally unthinkable, such that a European policeman can accomplish with a stern word what an American policeman might need violence to enforce. That’s good if your primary goal is to minimize violence. If your goal is to minimize tyranny, the policeman whose words are always obeyed is the greater threat.

          And now there’s the little problem of dealing with immigrants who don’t always obey policemen, and who by this point I think outnumber the policemen; we’ll have to see how that plays out.

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          • Tibor says:

            Hehe, this reminds me of last year when we were playing in our rehearsal room with the band and we somehow forgot about the time – it was after 10pm (but we exceeded that by only some 5 minutes), which is the official start of the “nigh calm” and you are not allowed to be too noisy after that. And someone from the house next to our rehearsal room called the police on us. We had a hammer in there for some reason (I think it was left there after we were putting some sound insulation on the walls) and I was kind of playing with it when the police shouted from the outside that we should come out and show them our IDs…that made me quite angry so I shouted back that I was not going to give them my ID cause I didn’t see a reason for that at them and forgot about holding the hammer. I calmed down a bit when one of them started climbing the fence to the former factory yard in which we have the rehearsal room (although I kind of wanted to see how he would get over the barbed top of the fence 🙂 )…but since I did not have an ID (the identification card, in Europe you have those in all countries I think) I had to show them the customer card for the bus company I sometimes travel with (that was the only ID I had on me)…apparently it was enough for them 🙂 Then I realized that I probably overreacted a bit and apologized for being so angry at them, I should have been angry at the idiot who waited till exactly 10 and then called the police immediately, but I am usually quite irritated when police want anything from me, that’s just my gut reaction, I don’t like when someone talks to me from a point of forced authority. I think I am not very representative in this though.

            I wonder what the US police would do in such a scenario. It is true that if I were to go by the stories I read in the news occasionally, the US police are more likely to shoot at someone than any European policemen would be. Also, the SWAT raids because of marijuana like the one David Friedman wrote about recently (but it was far from the only such story I know) sound as something really scary and if something like that happened probably anywhere in Europe, the chief of police would have to step down immediately. True, these are news stories and not data but at least the raids are obviously planned ahead and something like that simply never occurs (there are raids occasionally but only on large scale drug producers, definitely not in a apartment building).

            I guess that your description might work for Germans (nowhere else have I seen pedestrians waiting at a red traffic light in the middle of the night with no cars far and wide), definitely not for Italians (at least that was the impression I got form Rome where I saw guy on a motorbike being stopped by a policeman and the guy started shouting at him and them simply mounted the bike again and rode away), Czechs might be somewhere in between those two. Don’t know about other countries.

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          • The original Mr. X says:

            Unjustified killings like this one?

            Since when has one counter-example been enough to disprove a statistical generalisation?

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          • JBeshir says:

            Yes, like that one, but many times more often, and not resulting in an investigation and prosecution of the organisation-in-an-official-capacity for failure of duty of care, and fines.

            The fact that an erroneous shooting on a counter-terrorism operation, two weeks after a major terrorist attack, in which the officers credibly thought the suspect presented an immediate threat to them and bystanders, *still* was deemed to be unacceptable, was subject of a major investigation and centre of a major public controversy, and resulted in fines and changes to procedure, is pretty much exactly my point.

            In the US police shoot people, go “oh I thought they had a gun”, and that’s the end of it. That’s not a public less “likely to put up with a substantially more oppressive government”.

            People in the UK are usually polite to the police, but they expect the same consideration in return, whereas people in the US seem to expect and accept a level of jackbooted force that’d be unthinkable elsewhere. If guns press against this, they’re getting overwhelmed pretty easily.

            Edit: Also, yes, I’m not sure what’s up with the night-time violent drug raids on residential property, but it is exactly what we’d expect gun ownership to reduce the incidence of, and is happening way more in the US than anywhere else, so I think the sensible conclusion is that gun ownership is getting swamped out.

            Edit 2: No single ID cards in the UK. There was a government push for them mid-2000s, but people have a really strong dislike for them and they got scrapped. There’s a little push for connecting up databases to avoid needing to ask for information repeatedly but not that much.

            Edit 3: US policy on handling suspected suicide bombers is discussed in this article. It was poorly specified but broadly in agreement as of 2007; the UK policy emphasises authorisation and post-Menezes tightened up the process for granting it, whereas the US one emphasised officer judgement and how it would be really nice to have the suspect a safe distance away from everything so they could get them to lay down and strip safely, which wasn’t the case after they’d jumped onto the train.

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          • Tibor says:

            @JBeshir: I fail to see a connection between gun control laws and the number of night-time drug raids. This has more to do with the aggressive approach of the US government to the “War on terror”. What would reduce this would be a Portuguese approach to drugs (the decriminalization has not lead to an increase in the number of drug addicts in Portugal by the way, it either stayed about the same or was reduced) which would eliminate the already weak (if I understand it right) legal justification of those raids.

            @ad IDs: I see, good to know.

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          • JBeshir says:

            @Tibor

            That’s my point; I don’t think there is a connection. David Friedman is speculating that high gun ownership should create a public less tolerant of government abuses, and lists “unjustified police killings, no-knock raids, civil forfeiture, mass surveillance” as examples.

            I’m saying that if it does, the effect size is tiny and it’s getting swamped out by other stuff, because the US is worse on all of those than the rest of the West except mass surveillance in the UK, generally a *lot* worse. So there’s probably not any significant upside to gun ownership here.

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          • Tibor says:

            @JBeshir: I guess that in principle you probably should see an effect, the size of it is a question. If only the police is allowed to be armed then people are more likely to tolerate more abuse in exchange for protection than the same people would be if they could defend themselves. I don’t think comparison with the UK makes too much sense. It would be nice to compare the incidence of police abuse between two US states with a similar level of crime but where one has strict gun laws/low precentage of armed households and another one the opposite. However, I would also guess that you probably need a very large change in the number of armed households to see a difference in this. And I would generally expect the overall crime rate to positively correlate with the tolerance of police abuse. If you feel safe, you don’t see a point in police being aggressive, if you don’t you might turn a blind eye to some police misbehaviour. You are also more likely to buy a gun I guess. Which will in turn make you feel safer…

            I think the problem of police raids is something that, while quite horrible, affects a very small portion of the population and also it is framed as a part of the “war on drugs” which most people are convinced is a good thing. Therefore, and since people can only influence these things by voting for politicians in elections, it is something that just not enough people care about enough.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tobor/@JBeshir:
            I think one facet you guys are not giving proper emphasis is the following:

            Because guns, especially handguns, are generally far more available in the U.S. than in European countries, the police will make different (valid, rational) assumptions about whether the person they are interacting with is likely to have a gun. This is one of the (valid, rational) justification for things like no-knock raids or the rapid deployment of lethal force in a variety of situations.

            The “prevents tyranny” argument would really only apply to the police acting in a very extra-legal (from a western/1st world perspective) manner, I would think. If police started trying to shake US citizens down like the do in, say, Mexico or Russia, I have feeling that would lead to some violent confrontations. Whether that fear is what actually stops this behavior or not, the argument seems more valid to me.

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          • John Schilling says:

            The justification for no-knock warrants in the United States is almost always “He might flush his stash of drugs down the toilet”, not “He might have a gun and shoot at us”. Americans have always had guns; the police have almost always figured that the best way to deal with this is to knock, ask politely, and if necessary settle in for a siege. Drugs, or at least a major law enforcement emphasis on prosecuting drug crimes at all costs (so long as someone else is paying), is relatively new.

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          • Tibor says:

            I have to go with John on this one. Only a madman would start shooting when he sees a SWAT team knocking at his door. He is more likely to start shooting if someone unknown suddenly breaks through his door without a warning – even if he has no drugs. John’s explanation makes more sense. Of course, it is also a horrible aberration that the SWATs are willing to be so violent end endanger (and sometimes kill by mistake) people just to get some stupid drugs which might even not be there. But it has more to do with the insane idea which is “war on drugs” than with gun prevalence.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            On reflection, that makes sense.

            On the other hand, the other point, about the prevalence of guns leading to the police being more likely to employ their gun seems like it probably leads to worse outcomes in no-knock warrants. You also go in harder and heavier, so it makes the effect of the warrant worse a even if no shots are fired.

            Regardless, absent some other effect affecting the US uniquely, there still doesn’t exist any evidence that more guns in the US leads to less tyranny, as Friedman was claiming, and there is some evidence that it leads to more tyrannical behavior.

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          • JBeshir says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I vaguely wonder if some effects along those lines might also be possible. I’m not sure how much of a factor it is for what but it’s plausible to me.

            I’m not sure how much I’d expect gun ownership to do against direct, open shakedowns. It doesn’t seem to be working against “we’re going to confiscate your stuff and keep it as our spoils, and if you want it back you have to open a civil action against us and prove you should have it, which is very difficult for you, also sign this waiver which says you agree not to contest it” civil forfeiture abuse, which suggests that gun ownership doesn’t stop you from having shakedowns in a way worse than elsewhere so long as you have at least paper thin justification, at least.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @JBashir – my introduction to civil forfeiture law came when the gun rights movement protested its’ proposed extension into gun legislation. I believe the article was in a mid-nineties issue of Guns & Ammo magazine, which is pretty mainstream-gun-culture. I’ve never seen anyone on the pro-gun side defend civil forfeiture; ignore it, maybe, but never support it. generally, I think the gun rights issue has pushed a lot of people involved pretty strongly toward the libertarian side of the argument.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            I think that your point is generally sound: American civil rights have probably preserved civilian gun ownership much more than the other way around. The presence of guns in civilian hands has done relatively little to curtail overreach by the NSA, DHS, DEA, IRS, EPA etc. Generally people aren’t willing to go down fighting even if, as papa Bundy showed, the feds will back down as often as not.

            But there’s another kind of tyranny which large scale gun ownership makes much more difficult, and is as such less common in the US than Europe. The use of unofficially sanctioned criminal or terrorist organizations as government footsoldiers is much harder if, after the police withdraw, ordinary people can still defend themselves. While our police do stand aside during official riots they have a much harder time of it since they will inevitably get called in to defend the rioters. Even our equivalent of Antifas have to operate from hundreds of miles away over social media. Anarcho-tyranny is much more susceptible to handguns than the old fashioned kind.

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  13. soru says:

    One thing about the way things inter-relate is that a high murder rate leads to a low cleanup rate which leads to less predictable incentives.

    For example, over the last 10 years, there have been 564 unsolved murders in the UK over the last 10 years, and 200,000 in the US over the last 50. And the US is only 5 times the size of the UK.

    At one point in Detroit, the cleanup rate for murder was below 10%, which in terms of deterrence is statistically indistinguishable from murder being officially legal.

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    • Gbdub says:

      How much of that has to do with the type of murder? Detroit murders were mostly gang bangers shooting other gang bangers – for various practical and cultural reasons the aggrieved parties aren’t likely to cooperate with the police, making it hard to get a high clearance rate.

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      • Radm says:

        Those kind of murders happen in the UK too: it’s just that the response is along the lines of ‘this will be hard to solve, so we’d better double the size of the investigation team’.

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  14. C.S. says:

    [[Yup, that’s what we want to do!”. I wish more of the debate could be about waiting periods, required training classes, and background checks – none of which would prevent people from using guns to defend against a potentially tyrannical government. ]]

    None of this would prevent the typical medialized shooting spree. These people plan for months or years. Even European gun laws, which involve mandatory training, registration of all guns, background check (not just criminal records, apparently someone from police went around and asked my neighbors some questions), nothing of that would really help to stop spree killers. Yeah, there are few who are obvious nuts, and schizophrenic, but majority are nuts in a way that’s only discernible to close family.

    Also, trucks are deadly too. Prague had a woman with a grudge against society rent a lorry and mow down a streetcar stop. 25 heavily injured, seven dead. Worst violence since the post-WWII lynchings. Right now it’s not an established method, but it could very well become one. All you need is a few highly publicized spree murders.

    None of those stated aims would prevent the criminal underground from obtaining weapons. The reason eastern Europe doesn’t have Chicago’s shooting death rate isn’t that we don’t have guns.

    It’s that after the early 1990’s when the underworld was starting out small, and there were some low-lvl ex-Soviet thugs to boot, the crime got organized and these days the mob is very discreet and public shootings or bombings are very rare, to nonexistent. Organized crime is doing better than ever, money-wise, and gets on pretty well with the social-democratic gov’t. Every lucrative bar and restaurant, if not outright owned by the mob pays protection money, albeit in the form of having to pay a specific security agency.

    Why can’t this work in Chicago? Beats me.

    What ‘reasonable’ gun control proponents want would not help. So I imagine afterwards, more measures would be required in order to combat what is really mere statistical noise when it comes to violence.

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    • Setter says:

      > Why can’t this work in Chicago?

      I think this is where we get into the “culture of violence” aspect of gun homicides. One way to characterize it is as a feud system. Some violence is related to drugs, but, I believe, a majority of killings stem from some kind of personal conflict that snowballs and results in multiple shootings.

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      • C.S. says:

        I’m not sure if it’s just ‘culture’.

        Take Albania. Not sure if Albanian mafia has a presence there, but likely yes. Homicide rate 5.0 /100K. Blood feuding is still practiced.

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    • Nonnamous says:

      Why can’t this work in Chicago? Beats me.

      In America, the government has this unusual notion that they are supposed to fight organized crime, instead of getting in bed with it.

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    • Tibor says:

      Um, which country are you talking about specifically? If you are talking about the Czech republic (which I assume based on you mentioning the social democratic government, but I think Slovakia currently has a social democratic government as well, the other east-central European countries do not) then I don’t really think I can agree that organized crime is “doing better than ever” or that lucrative restaurant and bars usually pay extortion. Can you support that with some evidence?

      According to these data from Eurostat, all reported crimes (homicides,robberies, domestic burglaries, motor vehicle theft and drug trafficking) have been more or less steadily declining from 2004 till at least 2012 (the data end there). The main difference is in vehicle theft which halved in that period and the number of robberies which decreased by 40%. Now, these are reported crimes which is not the same as actual crime and in some countries people may report crimes more often than in others. However I doubt that people would change their reporting habits in less than ten years. Of course organized crime is something a bit different and harder to measure. Maybe a good proxy is government corruption. If I use the Transparency international data then there has again been an improvement till at least 2014 (no data after that yet). It is still at 51 whereas the US is at 76, (100 is a perfect score), but the 2000 score is 43 (2008 is 52 for example and 2013 is 49, but overall there seems to be an actual improvement since the early 2000s, or even the 90s). Of course there are also people who criticize the Transparency international’s corruption perceitpions index, but I don’t know any other proxy for organized crime than this (which is already a proxy). But maybe you have some information that I don’t.

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  15. Murphy says:

    >I wish more of the debate could be about waiting periods, required training classes, and background checks – none of which would prevent people from using guns to defend against a potentially tyrannical government.

    I think this hits the same issue as abortion restrictions. Most people will agree that it’s a good thing to make sure that someone isn’t being coerced into getting an abortion. Most would probably agree that it’s a good thing to make sure the person fully understands what they’re doing. Most would probably agree that it’s a good thing to make sure that someone is in a stable state of mind when making choices about abortion.

    But you’ve got 2 sides in an adversarial situation where the ones who want to get rid of abortion entirely use all those things as excuses to try to make it really really hard and expensive to get an abortion legally by delaying and delaying and making every step as slow and hard as possible with the maximum bureaucracy.

    And so the people on the other side who, in a world without the anti-abortion crowd might support some measures like counselling and checks, quite rationally oppose all such things because they know damn well what they really are: attempts to make it really hard to get an abortion.

    In a world without the portion of the political spectrum who genuinely want to take away all guns you’d probably find far more pro-gun people who are happy to increase training and background check requirements but in this world they, quite rationally oppose all such things because they know damn well what they really are: attempts to make it really hard to get a gun.

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    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Murphy
      “But you’ve got 2 sides in an adversarial situation where the ones who want to get rid of abortion entirely use all those things as excuses to try to make it really really hard and expensive to get an abortion legally by delaying and delaying and making every step as slow and hard as possible with the maximum bureaucracy.”

      The overall strategies (re abortion and gun control) may be very similar. A key difference is that in abortion there’s a ‘run out the clock’ factor; delay long enough, and the pregnancy will reach the late term stage (or birth). In gun purchasing, there is no clock to run out. A legitimate buyer for a legitimate gun will eventually be able to get one … and can get an illegal gun easier and safer than an illegal abortion.

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  16. Scott, here’s a general rule: if the policy prescriptions of a political movement don’t rationally follow from their expressed objectives, you should immediately consider it highly likely that they are lying about their objectives to cover up a less creditable agenda. Then you should ask what motives their prescriptions actually suggest, and not refuse to believe your deductions when they are uncomfortable or ugly.

    Application of this rule to gun-control advocates and “pro-lifers” is left as an easy exercise for the reader.

    Note: when you observe a disconnect between prescriptions and expressed objectives, you should be unsurprised when the movement has a history of systematic lying to advance its cause.

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    • voidfraction says:

      > Application of this rule to gun-control advocates and “pro-lifers” is left as an easy exercise for the reader.

      Huh, due to outgroup homogeneity bias I had assumed without really thinking about it that due to your anti gun control stance you would be on the “pro life” side of the abortion debate. It’s always good to remember that you can’t neatly segment political thought into two buckets, ‘left’ and ‘right’.

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      • “Huh, due to outgroup homogeneity bias I had assumed without really thinking about it that due to your anti gun control stance you would be on the “pro life” side of the abortion debate”

        Don’t know many libertarians, do you?

        It’s an interesting question whether the gun-grabbers or the pro-lifers are the most egregious liars. I’d say it’s gun-grabbers by a nose, but this may be an availability bias because I’ve studied the gun policy debate and its partisans more closely.

        Anyway, AGW alarmists have both groups beat by a long country light-year.

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        • Nathan says:

          OK, so I’m pro gun control and anti abortion. What are my motivations here, if not the preservation of human life as I claim?

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        • I thought pro-lifers are more honest than that about their long-term goals. Maybe it’s because I read the ideologues instead of the politicians.

          OTOH, the abortion rate has been declining since 1989. If the present decline continues, we can expect the rate to be near zero within four decades. Regulations might not be needed.

          Of course, the Left of the mid-21st century will blame the abortion epidemic on capitalism. They will quote pro-choice libertarian rhetoric to establish that.

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          • William O. B'Livion says:

            I suspect that Eric is referring to the tendency for Pro-Life types to argue for things like parental notification laws, age minimums & etc. using arguments that don’t include “life begins at conception” type arguments, but rather more practical, issue focused arguments when their real goal is to incrementally chip away at abortion the way the anti-gun types are trying to chip away at our gun rights.

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          • Nathan says:

            @ William

            That’s just the Median Voter Theorem at work though. If 49% of the population says abortion should be allowed in all circumstances and 49% says it should be allowed in no circumstances, the 2% in the middle are going to determine exactly what shape various restrictions take. Finding incremental changes where the 2% agree with your side is exactly the way a democratic system should work.

            I mean, yeah, of course the other 49% WANT to go further than that. But if they coulda, they woulda.

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          • lliamander says:

            @William O. B’Livion,

            Agreed, but it seems to me that pro-life advocates are perfectly honest about their objectives. They are just trying to make a difference on the margin.

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          • Urstoff says:

            Pro-life politicians (particularly at the state level) seem like a particularly duplicitous lot given all the laws that they propose “for the health of the mother” that are obviously just intended to restrict access to abortions.

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          • lliamander says:

            @Urstoff
            Can you give some examples of such legislation? Was the attitude when presenting such legislation “We not trying to take away your abortions, we’re just trying to do help mothers” or were the legislators honest in saying “This is not our ideal, but we think this is a reasonable compromise based off of a shared concern for mothers”?

            I’m not challenging your claim; rather, I ask as a pro-lifer who is concerned about the message my side is conveying.

            I’m one of those rara avis pro-life libertarians, so it is interesting for me to see the pro-life and pro-gun control advocates placed in the same category. It gives me a bit more respect for the position that gun-control advocates are in.

            However, it strikes me that the difference between the two debates is that, with gun control the question isn’t really about whether the ownership of guns is ethical per se. Rather (at the surface level) the debate surrounds the implications of widespread gun ownership. This makes it easier for the hoplophobic to manipulate the casual observer, because their intentions do not match the common perception of the debate is actually about.

            With abortion, the focus is mainly on the ethical nature of abortion itself, and whatever half measures the pro-life advocates propose, no one forgets that.

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          • Urstoff says:

            The Texas law putting all sorts of nonsense requirements on the facilities of abortion providers is one of the most egregious examples: http://www.texastribune.org/2015/07/02/state-says-supreme-court-did-not-suspend-admitting/

            Other states have passed or are trying to pass similar laws. The rhetoric from the lawmakers is all about “safety of the mother”, which is pretty obviously not the goal of the legislation. Abortion is quite safe, and the real result of these laws is to restrict the number of places that can provide them. Thus, the lawmakers are just bald-faced lying about the reasons for the legislature. This makes me respect the pro-life side much less (where I’m coming from: a moderate who thinks that the pro-choice side avoids the important philosophical questions and that the pro-life side doesn’t give good arguments for their answers to the philosophical questions).

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          • @lliamander, huh. I’d have said that the implications of widespread gun ownership are precisely what determines whether gun ownership is ethical or not. (I guess that makes me some sort of consequentialist?)

            I’m also puzzled by the implication that pro-life libertarians are rare, given that I thought I’d resolved an earlier confusion of mine about libertarian policy by realizing that most US libertarians are probably religious. Perhaps a Catholicism vs. Protestant thing, in very rough terms of course?

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          • lliamander says:

            @Urstoff
            Thanks for the links, I’ll have to do some research. While I’m sure there are more examples, I’m still inclined to think Eric is exaggerating the dishonesty of pro-life advocates, but I am open to correction.

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          • lliamander says:

            > I’d have said that the implications of widespread gun ownership are precisely what determines whether gun ownership is ethical or not.

            That’s my point as well. Indeed, I think that is also the common perception of the debate. No gun control advocate would say that gun ownership is intrinsically bad. However, their behavior in many cases seems to suggest otherwise.

            This strikes me as a level of dishonesty that simply isn’t present in pro-life advocacy, because whatever legislation they try to promote by referencing values held in common with the pro-choice group (such as women’s health and safety), nobody is trying to hide the fact that pro-lifers think that abortion is intrinsically wrong.

            (By the way, I don’t know that it makes you consequentialist to recognize that some goods are instrumental in value – otherwise Aristotle is a consequentialist)

            > I’m also puzzled by the implication that pro-life libertarians are rare, given that I thought I’d resolved an earlier confusion of mine about libertarian policy by realizing that most US libertarians are probably religious. Perhaps a Catholicism vs. Protestant thing, in very rough terms of course?

            Fair question – most of the libertarians I personally know are pro-life and religious, but I assumed that was a local phenomenon. Other commenters on this post indicate that this doesn’t match their experience. However, I think that part of your confusion may be that the line between conservative and libertarian is blurrier than between progressive and libertarian.

            That is, many conservatives (at least in the US) are more likely to support a smaller, less coercive government in general, and more likely to be skeptical of what a remote central authority can achieve.

            I don’t know what the Protestant/Catholic divide would be – both are pro-life.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            No gun control advocate would say that gun ownership is intrinsically bad.

            Wait, what?

            Tons of them do. None of the heavy hitters will usually admit to it (although some have had open-mike moments) but it’s very easy to find people who honestly believe we should send the cops door to door and collect all the guns.

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          • it’s very easy to find people who honestly believe we should send the cops door to door and collect all the guns

            Sure, but is that because guns are intrinsically bad or because the effect of people having guns is bad?

            … come to think of it, I’m not even sure what “intrinsically” actually means in this context. It makes sense in a pro-life context, because it means “according to God, who has the first and last word on everything“, but in this case …

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          • “most of the libertarians I personally know are pro-life and religious”

            Whereas my impression is that libertarians are typically atheists. It’s possible that I’m interacting with more “hard core” libertarians than you are.

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          • My experience matches David Friedman’s. Most of the libertarians I know are atheists. Or neo-pagans.

            To be fair, David and I are part of the same ideological and social sub-cluster among libertarians and we both know that there are more different kinds than us. We just don’t tend to run into the other kinds that much.

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          • Lupis42 says:

            @Harry Johnston
            I’d have said that the implications of widespread gun ownership are precisely what determines whether gun ownership is ethical or not. (I guess that makes me some sort of consequentialist?)

            Most gun rights advocates will still defend gun rights in a hypothetical where there is strong statistical evidence for at least moderate aggregate harms from widespread gun ownership. The arguments usually look something like this:
            – The right to defend oneself is a terminal value, and so gun control is not justifiable regardless of the aggregate consequences. (When gun control advocates model these people as consequentialists, the debate is particularly unproductive).
            – The the typical gun-owner is a boost to society. The average societal impact is dragged down by a few bad individuals/groups, but the marginal impact of restrictions will fall almost entirely on the beneficial typical gun owner, not the people who cause the problem.
            – The harms and benefits of widespread gun-ownership are impossible to usefully measure and/or aggregate, possibly because other factors completely dominate guns, possibly because we cannot measure things that don’t happen, possibly for some other reason or set of reasons, and so statistical claims are more or less irrelevant.

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          • The right to defend oneself is a terminal value

            Curiously enough I personally started with the same premise and drew the opposite conclusion, in that the best way for me to defend myself is to make sure that other people aren’t allowed to have guns willy-nilly.

            The two conclusions don’t really conflict, since they’re drawn under very different circumstances. But it seems kind of interesting.

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          • Echo says:

            I believe you’re conflating “the right to defend yourself” with “the right to be defended (by someone else’s actions)”.

            I’m sure you can see the difference between them.

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          • @Echo, no, I think that’s an entirely artificial distinction.

            Hiring a bodyguard is just as much an expression of my right to defend myself as carrying a gun is.

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          • Lupis42 says:

            Curiously enough I personally started with the same premise and drew the opposite conclusion, in that the best way for me to defend myself is to make sure that other people aren’t allowed to have guns willy-nilly.

            I’m not sure it’s the same premise, so much as a very different concept phrased as if it was similar.
            If I take a stab at the ITT on this, I’d guess that your premise is that something along the lines of “living in the safest possible world” is your terminal value. In contrast, the pro-gun type’s terminal value is “each person having responsibility for their own safety.”

            ETA: Hiring a bodyguard is just as much an expression of my right to defend myself as carrying a gun is.

            Exactly – the right to defend your self is a right to take action to manage risks that you face.
            The right to have other people be disarmed – not just when they’re around you, or in your house, but all the time – is a right to live in a world that poses fewer risks for you.*

            *Given that could be proved. This is where the statistical argument would become relevant to a deontologist, but notice how it wouldn’t for the other formulation.

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          • ITT? Not familiar with that acronym. (Google suggests “In This Thread” but that doesn’t seem to fit in context.)

            Exactly – the right to defend your self is a right to take action to manage risks that you face.

            And in this case the action is voting/lobbying against any attempt to liberalize gun laws. [This doesn’t necessarily mean I would want to strengthen gun laws if I lived in the US; the circumstances are different.]

            … oh, I think I see what you mean. It’s all about how broadly you define “defend yourself”. I’m probably on the wrong side of that; I’ve always thought the law, in particular, defined self-defense far too narrowly.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Urstoff
            (where I’m coming from: a moderate who thinks that the pro-choice side avoids the important philosophical questions and that the pro-life side doesn’t give good arguments for their answers to the philosophical questions)

            I think the questions the pro-lifers raise fall in the realm of religion, which in the US is an individual matter — thus a matter for persuasion, not for laws. Separation of church and state….

            Pro-choicers staying out of such religious questions is the ethical thing, personally as well as constitutionally. Otherwise we might be to some extent encouraging some women to change their own religious beliefs, which would be … not very nice at all.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ lliamander
            Was the attitude when presenting such legislation “We not trying to take away your abortions, we’re just trying to do help mothers” or were the legislators honest in saying “This is not our ideal, but we think this is a reasonable compromise based off of a shared concern for mothers”?

            Pro-choice here. “Shared concern” is invoking a level of abstraction far above the actual issue. We want women having many options available, and each woman and her own doctor deciding what is or is not most ot her benefit. Pro-lifers wanting to limit her options may think it is to her benefit, but these causes are mis-aligned. The version you call more honest … is not more credible.

            ETA: On this issue, laws allow; they don’t compel. If a woman and her doctor choose, she can travel further and pay more. An open local clinic does not compel her to use it.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m sure the Little Sisters of the Poor will be delighted to learn that pro-choicers are now staying out of religious choices and keeping church and state separate.

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          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think the questions the pro-lifers raise fall in the realm of religion,

            Oh yes? Which ones, the questions about what counts as human, or the questions about whether or not it’s permissible to kill a human?

            which in the US is an individual matter — thus a matter for persuasion, not for laws. Separation of church and state….

            I highly doubt the Constitution was intended to exclude all religious considerations from matters of policy, not least because none of the Framers seems to have had much of a problem with the explicitly theological justifications laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

            Pro-choicers staying out of such religious questions is the ethical thing, personally as well as constitutionally. Otherwise we might be to some extent encouraging some women to change their own religious beliefs, which would be … not very nice at all.

            Is it also “not very nice at all” to promote the theory of evolution over creationism?

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ lliamander
            Was the attitude when presenting such legislation “We not trying to take away your abortions, we’re just trying to do help mothers” or were the legislators honest in saying “This is not our ideal, but we think this is a reasonable compromise based off of a shared concern for mothers”?

            This has a contradiction so big that (like Lewis’s writing on a map that is too big to read) it’s taken me this long to notice it. (Not likely just me being slow, as I haven’t seen anyone else mention it either, here or in the outside world. (Or of course I could be wrong.) )

            This amounts to saying, “We want murdering your unborn baby to be safer for you.” If believed, it would cast doubt on all your other talk about abortion being, well, murder of a child. Whatever dangers there might be for the woman, a sincere protector of fetuses would want to leave those dangers in place as a deterrent against the murder.

            I don’t think we can suddenly dismiss the ‘murder’ claim as a metaphor that fades against real world harm to a real woman, in light of the real world practice of putting temporary survival of a non-viable fetus above the life of the mother.

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          • “I think the questions the pro-lifers raise fall in the realm of religion, which in the US is an individual matter — thus a matter for persuasion, not for laws. Separation of church and state….”

            Isn’t that equally true of either answer to the questions? The belief that a six month fetus is a person may be a religious belief, but only in the sense in which the belief that he is not a person is a religious belief. So why does state acceptance of one answer violate separation of church and state, state acceptance of the other answer not?

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          • @David, I’d have said it was a philosophical question. But the presumptive pro-lifer argument for their particular answer (“it has a soul, so it’s a person”) is a religious one whereas the presumptive pro-choice argument (“its nervous system isn’t developed enough to be self-aware, so it isn’t a person”) isn’t. Of course any particular pro-lifer might have a different argument, perhaps a non-religious one.

            Usually I’ve seen pro-lifers talking about whether it’s a “human” rather than whether it’s a “person”. I’m never quite sure whether that’s a failure to understand the distinction, or a deliberate attempt to avoid having to talk about souls.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Prolifers say “human” because it’s a term amenable to scientific definition. When “person” is used in this debate, it’s just re-importing the idea of “has a soul, thus is worthy of protection” using a secular vocabulary. “Self-awareness” really isn’t that meaningful a concept, especially once you start stretching it to mean “a property gained at precise moment of birth, and also not lost by me anytime I go to sleep or enter a coma, experimental evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.”

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          • “Human” may be amenable to scientific definition, but it’s also completely the wrong question to ask. Why should a “human” have any more rights than any other kind of animal? Until you’ve provided some sort of answer to that question, whether religious or philosophical, the definition of human is irrelevant; and in most cases, once you have answered it, you find that the definition of human is still irrelevant, because that isn’t what matters.

            (Even in religious terms, an animal with human DNA but no soul isn’t necessarily a person. Though I imagine it depends on who you ask.)

            a property gained at precise moment of birth

            More like “a property gained at some point after birth, but we’re not sure how soon, so let’s play it safe, especially since there’s no real downside to doing so”. 🙂

            Edit: forgot to mention the flip side of the human/person thing: we should IMO be treating various non-human species as people (to the greatest extent possible) until we can prove otherwise. The fact that humans and people are often conflated is probably the biggest political hurdle to overcome.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            The belief that a six month fetus is a person may be a religious belief, but only in the sense in which the belief that he is not a person is a religious belief.

            It’s a religious-level question either way, regardless of any individual’s answer.

            So why does state acceptance of one answer violate separation of church and state, state acceptance of the other answer not?

            Laws prohibiting abortion compel people not to do it. Laws allowing it do not compel; they leave it up to each individual to follow zis own belief.

            However, neither the prohibition nor some theoretical compulsion to abort, would mean that ‘the state’ ‘believes’ one answer or the other to the religious question. Beware equivocation: ‘the state accepts/allows a practice’ =/= ‘the state accepts/believes a doctrine (or its opposite)’.

            (‘The state’ ‘accepts/believes’ would be an odd opinion for a libertarian anyway, I should think.)

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      • Tibor says:

        I think that for example most libertarians would probably be against gun control and also for legal abortions (one can probably be consistently libertarian and against abortions if he considers a fetus equal to a human being). Similarly, they would be for legal drugs (much more than either the mainstream right or left) and against military interventions abroad but against higher taxes and government subsidies (to anything). They would be against immigration restrictions but also against tax-paid welfare benefits (both more than both the mainstream right or left). This is also why libertarians usually get annoyed when people talk about left and right. It’s true that there are libertarians who regard being a libertarian as right-wing and supporting the government solutions in anything as left wing. I think that this is confusing because it is not how other people usually understand left and right…on the other hand it at least correctly puts nazis and communists next to each other on the far left. And then there is the 2D political spectrum which unfortunately never gained much popularity.

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        • Jason K. says:

          For me, this is pretty close to the mark.

          1: probably be against gun control

          Check

          2: for legal abortions

          I’m kind of agnostic on this for reasons related to when/how do we define sentient and the issues that conflicting rights create. So my stance is to err on the side of least restriction, but the closer we get to birth, the less favorable I am.

          2: for legal drugs (much more than either the mainstream right or left)

          Check

          3: against military interventions abroad

          Check

          4: against higher taxes and government subsidies

          In general, some exceptions apply.

          5: They would be against immigration restrictions

          In general, some exceptions apply.

          6: against tax-paid welfare benefits (both more than both the mainstream right or left)

          Check

          “It’s true that there are libertarians who regard being a libertarian as right-wing and supporting the government solutions in anything as left wing. I think that this is confusing because it is not how other people usually understand left and right”

          This is pretty much how I saw it until my mid to late 20s. It wasn’t until I saw the batshit response to 9/11 that I started to shift away from seeing libertarian as right-wing.

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          • sourcreamus says:

            “I’m kind of agnostic on this for reasons related to when/how do we define sentient and the issues that conflicting rights create. So my stance is to err on the side of least restriction, but the closer we get to birth, the less favorable I am.”
            If you are unsure about when life begins, shouldn’t you err on the side of more restrictions since the stakes are so high? If an action is going to kill something that might be a baby then we really need to make sure that the something is really not a baby.

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          • Urstoff says:

            There is no fact of the matter at when a developing fetus becomes a moral/metaphysical person; that’s simply a matter of one’s intuitions. Those intuitions can (and should) be nudged hither and thither via arguments, but after all of the arguments, it may be possible that two people can rationally hold conflicting intuitions. Thus, compromise should be the MO.

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          • Furslid says:

            sourcremus, I’m kinda in the same boat as him on abortion. The reason that I lean pro choice is that any situation where abortion is forbidden creates an obligation on the woman. She MUST carry the pregnancy to term. I don’t like the law setting up positive obligations of this type. Even where there are positive obligations (ex. provide military defense), it’s a big difference between demanding someone send money and that they be drafted for a specific job.

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        • “one can probably be consistently libertarian and against abortions if he considers a fetus equal to a human being”

          By casual observation, that is a position held by some libertarians, but a minority.

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          • Tibor says:

            Yes, I think so too. You probably know many more libertarians than I do but of the maybe tens of libertarians I’ve met there were none who held that position. But most of them were Czech and there is very little debate about this in the Czech republic (abortions are legal till the 12th week of pregnancy) and there is almost nobody in the country in general who would want to make the abortions more restricted.

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          • Confirming from my experience. There are some pro-life libertarians. but a minority. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be the religious ones and the ones with more conservative cultural attachments.

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          • Phlinn says:

            Tibor, in the US, restricting abortions after 12 weeks would be considered very much a pro-life position. We have ridiculous claims of a war on women based on trying to reduce the limit from 24 to 20 weeks…

            I am broadly libertarian, and i would find a 12 week cutoff for easy abortion acceptable. If it’s harvestable for distinct organs, you really should be nervous about declaring it not-a-person. OTOH, I have zero problem with early abortion.

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          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >Tibor, in the US, restricting abortions after 12 weeks would be considered very much a pro-life position.

            Isn’t that the prevailing position in most of the western world?

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          • @Phlinn, that’s perhaps much the same as the pro-gun folk saying they aren’t prepared to support even reasonable-sounding legislation, because slippery slope, past experience, etc.?

            Also, according to my vast knowledge of US constitutional law, based on watching every single episode of West Wing and reading Popehat now and then, I’d always understood that allowing any restrictions on abortion could weaken Roe v. Wade. 🙂

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          • Phlinn says:

            @Harry Johnson: “that’s perhaps much the same as the pro-gun folk saying they aren’t prepared to support even reasonable-sounding legislation, because slippery slope, past experience, etc.?” There are similarities, certainly, but much to set them apart. Consider that if the proposed laws are magically 100% effective at stopping the instances of murder/infanticide (just accept that term for this argument please) they would apply to, the edge case abortion restriction would save vastly more lives than the proposed gun control, given that virtually no gun homicides occur with gun acquired via private sale. There are a lot of differences between the two, and I think the gun right supporters have a better argument than the ‘Republican war on women!’ pro-abortionists do for various reasons.

            @Whatever happened to Anonymous:
            Pretty much. The US is at the extreme end of the list when it comes to abortion legality

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          • brad says:

            Also, according to my vast knowledge of US constitutional law, based on watching every single episode of West Wing and reading Popehat now and then, I’d always understood that allowing any restrictions on abortion could weaken Roe v. Wade.

            Roe v Wade had a trimester framework, whereby abortion restrictions were presumptively unconstitutional in the first trimester, presumptively constitutional in the third trimester and somewhere in the middle in the second trimester.

            Planned Parenthood v Casey replaced that framework with a simplified two part scheme — before and after viability.

            As I understand it the current medical (but not necessarily legal) definition of viability is around 24 weeks.

            In any event, an exception to both the old trimester and new viability scheme is where an abortion is necessary for the health or life of the mother. Partly because of an expansive reading of “health” and partly because of why people actually tend to get late abortions this is an exception that often swamps the rule.

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          • Thanks @brad. Every time I start to think that I should stop posting here, I read a reply like this one and decide that it’s worth it to learn this sort of thing, even if I do get to look like an idiot in the process.

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          • Tibor says:

            Huh, I guess you learn something new every day. 24 weeks, that’s between 5 and 6 months. That really seems kind of late to me. Can’t you already save at least some kids today that are born prematurely if its in the 6th month?

            I thought that the US law varied by state and that in some states it was also the “standard” 12 weeks whereas in others abortions were restricted like they are in Poland (which does them no good because Polish mothers simply go to Bohemia to get an abortion there).

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          • keranih says:

            @Tibor, brad –

            As I understand it the current medical (but not necessarily legal) definition of viability is around 24 weeks.

            The medical definitions of pregnancy and fetal viability in humans are more fraught with politics than in other species. Human pregnancy is said to “begin” not at sperm-egg fertilization, but when the fetus/embryo implants in the lining of the uterus. This happens pretty early in human development (2-4 days), so there’s not a huge difference in length, but given that other species develop for a much longer (and variable) period of time before attachment, pregnancy is defined as ‘fertilization to delivery’. This was specifically chosen against in human medicine, (in the series of conferences on defining terms) because it would mean that deliberately preventing implantation would mean technically aborting the up-to-that-point-viable embryo/baby, and the doctors knew that this would be a legal problem.

            That’s not the only issue with defining pregnancy – the legal implications of dating a pregnancy from the last menstrual period (which is far easier to measure than conception or date of fertilizing sex) are covered here.

            The law is a blunt instrument. It can say, by definition, that something is correct or not, or alive or not, under a specific set of circumstances. Biology has proven to be far less rigid – see mules, people coming out of comas after a dozen years, and infants born dead at full term.

            The lower practical limit of viability in the USA *today* is around 21-22 weeks for a singleton. (Twins are smaller and more fragile at this age.) Most infants born alive at this stage in most hospitals will not survive, but some will, with a considerable investment of money and effort. It is important to note that some NICUs have better results than others – this is what makes rules like “50% survive at this fetal age” problematic.

            The bluntness of law and the resulting financial legal risk from lawsuit have helped make medical providers very resistant to legal restrictions on what they do – a procedure that is uncalled for in a hundred patients might be exactly what is needed by patient #101 – and you will likely find some physicians who agreed that doing this procedure in 2 to 5 of that 100 was a perfectly defensible position, if not what they would do.

            To say that this discussion is fraught with the possibility of error on all sides is to put it mildly indeed.

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          • brad says:

            Thanks for the reference. I must say I’m not persuaded by the argument that date of fertilization is better than the widely used date of last menstruation. The claim is that women might not remember when they had their last period, but that argument works if anything even more strongly for when the day they conceived. Even if it was ever so slightly better I don’t think that would justify the costs of confusion in switching. Finally, even if I want to be cynical and attach wholly bad faith motives, it doesn’t seem to particularly help or hurt any agenda. The whole thing strikes me as rather strange.

            As for what viability means legally, Planned Parenthood v Casey didn’t fully elaborate, but as a benchmark it claimed that it was approximately 28 weeks in 1973, and 23-24 weeks in 1992 (both from last menstruation). So if we look back and see that the absolute record earliest in 1992 was 20 weeks and yet the Court choose 23-24 weeks then we know that they weren’t using that sort of standard.

            Again, I’m not sure how much practical difference it makes at this point because of the health and life of the mother exception which is in place all the way until birth. If we ever get an artificial womb it may be a very different story.

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          • Anthony says:

            Tibor, last I read up on fetal viability, the non-mortality rate of 24-week premature births was about 30% – low, but worth trying; while the non-mortality rate of 23-week premature births was closer to 1%. And apparently the rate for 24-week and later premature births has been increasing, while it hadn’t been changing much before that.

            That was at least a couple of years ago, however.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Anthony:

            While the line is not exactly bright or thin, in my understanding the line basically is, “This kid has lungs, but they are underdeveloped and might or might not work well enough, even with all we can do, to keep them alive,” and “This kid doesn’t really have working lungs yet and they are going to die.” Absent significant genetic manipulation, wherever that line is in gestational development, it’s pretty much the floor for “potentially viable” in human fetuses.

            I am not a doctor, and I am quite willing to be proven wrong.

            It should be noted that at this point in our medical development, again in my non-MD understanding, “viable” and “likely to have reasonably normal physical and cognitive development” are not necessarily that close to each other. Children born on the ragged edge of possible almost all have serious later health issues, as I understand it.

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          • Anthony says:

            @Mark Whipple, re: lungs, I’d assumed it was something like that, but hadn’t seen the details. Of course, at 24 weeks, something like two-thirds (as of last report I know about) of all premature births are so damaged that they *die* within their first year.

            But the fact that a third of them live, even if the lives they live aren’t that great, does make a pretty nice, if slightly fuzzy, dividing line for people who don’t want to use conception or birth as the dividing lines.

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      • In addition to your outgroup homogeneity bias I think there also needs to be something about the narcissism of small differences in your self-correction.

        I’m a rationalist atheist with a high IQ, a heavy technical background, and geeky hobbies like SF and strategy gaming. I have a pretty confident guess based on the mere fact that we’re both commenting here that in this respect I resemble pretty much all of your peers. So why would you suppose me to be in your outgroup at all?

        Think carefully about this. You’ll know you’re thinking carefully enough if you start being very disturbed by your own previous assumptions.

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        • voidfraction says:

          I was actually pattern matching you to ClarkHat (twitter.com/ClarkHat), a rationalist-adjacent transhumanist Libertarian/an-cap type with geeky hobbies including SF and strategy gaming who is also anti-abortion and a gender role traditionalist.

          Outgroup was probably the wrong term to use (I was aiming more for group-I’m-not-a-member-of than group-I-hate-with-a-burning-passion), but the specific group I assumed you belonged to was the alt-right, which tends to have a lot of people who could be described as “a rationalist atheist with a high IQ, a heavy technical background, and geeky hobbies like SF and strategy gaming.”

          So yes, I was wrong, but not as wrong as you seem to think (due, in fairness, to how badly I mangled the point I was trying to make).

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          • Note: I don’t actually regard myself as a gender role traditionalist. I think that label properly applies to people who have strong normative beliefs about gender roles based on, you know, tradition.

            That’s not me, as you’d know if you’d ever met my wife Cathy. Who, despite being 5’2″ in her stocking feet, could knock most men into next week if she took a mind to, and outshoot them to boot. I’ve encouraged her every step of that way.

            It’s more that I consider a lot of the earnest anti-“sexist” talk popular around here to be what my friend the Dividualist calls “unicorn farts”, protected from a fatal collision with biological and behavioral fact only by the fact that the talkers lead very cosseted lives.

            If I were an actual conservative, this would fill me with righteous anger of some sort. As it is, I mostly just shake my head and wince. The collision with reality is going to happen sometime, and as long as the cluelessness doesn’t directly affect me I don’t feel any strong need to hurry it up.

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    • Wrong Species says:

      Or maybe people have different values and different ideas on how to achieve those values? Is it not possible that the world is a bit more complicated than you’re suggesting and you might actually be wrong?

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      • One way to tell when you’re not wrong is to be sensitive to evidence of strategic lying.

        Of course, to avoid conformation bias you have to work at being especially sensitive to lies by the side you instinctively favor.

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    • Murphy says:

      Actually I think Scott did an article that may be related.

      http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/05/30/fetal-attraction-abortion-and-the-principle-of-charity/

      if the policy prescriptions of a political movement don’t rationally follow from their expressed objectives sometimes there’s a less sinister explanation: they may not be consequentialists.

      Alas‘s argument of “Why don’t Christians promote the lesser evil of contraception in order to fight the greater evil of abortion?” assumes a consequentialist viewpoint. And it is really hard for consequentialists to take non-consequentialists seriously or to realize how earnest they are about their position, but a decade or so fighting this particular battle has convinced me that yes, they are serious and earnest, and no, you can’t just round them off to basically a consequentialist and expect their moral beliefs to make sense.

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  17. Otis Horsebeater says:

    With respect to section 2 of your writeup, I have to suggestions that might come in to play.

    First off, I think you’re underestimating the variance caused by an armed victim in averting a sexual attack. In 1979, the Carter Justice Department found that of more than 32,000 attempted rapes, 32% were actually committed. But when a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of the attempted rapes were actually successful.

    Sexual predators are predators. They want prey – not a fight.

    Secondly, with respect to the Southern/Urban split, has anyone done good research on the reporting rate of crimes, and how it varies across different parts of the country?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’d bet that very very few women are carrying guns at the time they are sexually assaulted, both because women have a generally low gun-carrying rate and because the situations where sexual assault is likely – dates, bars, etc – are some of the least likely to bring guns to.

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      • Walked Away, Still Looking Back says:

        very few women are carrying guns at the time they are sexually assaulted

        My sister disagrees. And at least two of my former girlfriends.

        Probably more, but these are stories that are shared only with the closest of family, friends, and intimates.

        Especially for the majority of cases, where drawing ends the encounter and the threat, and the police are never called.

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        • Hmm. I think that Scott’s getting around an important confounder here; women are armed seen very likely to also engage in several other behaviors that would drastically reduce their rate of being raped relative to the general population (avoiding drinking to excess, increased situational awareness, and probably others.)

          I don’t think that we can slice a population across a variable, note that one side has a certain trait or attribute, then force-apply that attribute to the other side and expect comparable results.

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      • On the other hand, in 1972 the state of Florida addressed an epidemic of violent rapes by encouraging women to carry concealed and funding local police to run female-focused safety, handling, and shooting courses. This worked. Thus, we have real-world evidence that arming women is an effective countermeasure.

        (Source is Kleck 1992…I think. It’s been a long time since I reread that book. It’s possible I got it from one of Don Kates’s criminological papers.)

        An essential element of the Florida intervention was, I think, that the publicity around it was directed as much at potential rapists as at women. Message: the chick you think is easy meat could be packing. Consequences easily predictable with a little game theory even if the actual increase in female carry rates was small.

        (One reason to believe the causation is that the Lott & Mustard longitudinal study in ’98 found that rape was the crime on which civilian concealed carry seemed to have the strongest suppressive effect, around 8%)

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        • Murphy says:

          Were there any other interventions being tried at the same time in the same place? Did they have any controls?

          it’s really really hard to be certain if one change in one case is down to the intervention you think it’s down to.

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          • lliamander says:

            True, but the wider implication is that virtually no government interventions have sufficient epistemic justification[1].

            [1]http://harveymansfield.org/multimedia/jim-manzi-on-science-knowledge-and-freedom/

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  18. Vaniver says:

    I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny. Could you shoot the tyrants equally well with a rifle?

    I think the first phrase in this sentence is why the debate is the way it is–most liberals who are opposed to guns simply dislike guns, and so haven’t put in the effort to be familiar with the different varieties and what they’re useful for.

    Rifles and shotguns are the preferred weapons for hunting, anti-tyranny, and home defense. So handgun restrictions would irritate the rural gun owners but could be acceptable.

    Handguns are the preferred weapon for defense about town. A woman who doesn’t want to get raped in an alley is not going to be helped by her shotgun at home, but will be helped by the pistol in her purse. But also the drug dealer who wants to be inconspicuous but able to defend his turf likewise relies on a handgun tucked somewhere. Requiring a concealed carry permit for all handgun possession might be the best-of-both-worlds approach.

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  19. Dr Dealgood says:

    So here’s a stupid question Scott: have you tried to control for illegal drug use instead?

    My guess is that drug use is going to have much better record-keeping than rape as a measure while also standing in for the overall violent crime rate at least as well as robbery. Plus it lets you disentangle Drug War and gun culture effects a lot better, and lets you you break the stats down to isolate groups by their drugs of choice.

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  20. Setter says:

    A more recent source for gun ownership rates is http://m.injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2015/06/09/injuryprev-2015-041586 however, I can’t say how reliable their survey methods were.

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    • Robert VerBruggen says:

      Whoops, somehow I didn’t see this one when I posted. Check out my comment below; I’m very skeptical of the results, but it might be worth plugging it into the model if he has everything else set up with the more recent numbers.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      I’m very, very leery of those results.

      First off we have:

      State-level firearm policy information was obtained from the Brady Law Center and Injury Prevention and Control Center.

      Oddly enough googling “Brady Law Center and Injury Prevention and Control Center” doesn’t show anything, but a link to the “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence” organization. Formerly known as Handgun Control, Inc. formerly known as “National Council to Control Handguns”.

      They’re not really all that trustworthy.

      Then:

      We used data from a survey by YouGov (http:// http://www.yougov.com) among individuals aged >18years…invited 11 471 potential participants, out of which 5392 (47.0%) started the survey and eventually 4622 (40.3%) completed the survey.

      I don’t have time to dig into it, but I don’t guess their methods would meet reasonably stringent standards. But then I’ve never taken a stats class and that stuff makes my head hurt.

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  21. Robert VerBruggen says:

    On gun ownership patterns changing, good news and bad news. Good: There’s a survey from 2013. Bad: I don’t think the numbers make sense. Might still be worth plugging them in and seeing what happens.

    They’re the ones Freddoso used: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2015/06/09/injuryprev-2015-041586.full.pdf?keytype=ref&ijkey=doj6vx0laFZMsQ2

    Reasons I don’t buy it:

    The CDC asked in 2001, 2002, and 2004 and got pretty consistent results. There’s still a correlation with the 2013 data, but there are a lot of pretty big differences.

    Some of the differences don’t make much sense. Gun ownership in Hawaii did go up a lot, that’s true, but the new survey puts it at 45%. I have a hard time believing this. I also don’t believe MA has a rate 50% higher than New Hampshire’s.

    (Hawaii’s a neat case study, btw. Crime didn’t go up when gun ownership did. *But* it has strong rules about who can own a gun, and an easier time enforcing those rules thanks to the Pacific Ocean. The interaction with culture plays a role here too — giving Hawaiians a bunch of guns might be different from giving guns to people somewhere else.)

    I agree that PSG (% suicides with a gun) is bad for studying murder and am surprised it kept happening for so long. (I noticed the same thing Scott did; this measure falsely introduces a murder-ownership correlation in the raw data: https://twitter.com/RAVerBruggen/status/674954960862334976) Even Kleck is OK with it as long as it’s not used across time.

    But it *is* true that there’s a strong correlation there between ownership and PSG. A while back I looked at the 2013 survey and the 2004 CDC survey and correlated them both with 2013 PSGs for states. The 2004 survey, nine years old, had a much stronger correlation. (r = .85 vs. .64)

    I did this in the process of analyzing some trafficking data from 2014. With those numbers too, the correlations were tighter with 2004 CDC data than with the 2013 survey. See here for a spreadsheet link: http://www.realclearpolicy.com/blog/2015/11/16/when_crime_guns_cross_state_lines.html

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  22. anonymous says:

    One thing about the defense-against-tyranny argument.

    If we are considering that as an argument in favor of guns, we should also be considering the possibility of people using guns in an insurrection against a relatively benign government, and if the defense-against-tyranny has any chance of successfully contributing to an overthrow of said tyrants, the possibility of armed insurrection actually leading to “tyranny”, as arguments against guns.

    Of course, people can argue about the likelihood of those two scenarios and Cthulhu causing people to be less evil over time and all that. And of course people who think the government is already needing a violent overthrow may go the route of various revolutionary groups of gladly arming the populace now then taking the guns away again once in power.

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    • Jason K. says:

      If government is of the people and for the people, how could this succeed? If the population at large was against such a takeover, wouldn’t they too take up arms against the insurrection? An insurrection amongst a widely armed populace can only succeed with the support/indifference of the populace. If the populace is supportive/indifferent I would question the notion that the government is truly benign. Finally, if the government is representative of the people, a popular insurrection would never be needed as the make-up of the government would have changed long before people took up arms.

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      • William Newman says:

        In practice democratic political power is not necessarily an exact proxy for military might.

        In the US Civil War, if the South had been more industrialized than the North, it would not have directly affected their relative formal political power in the legal institutions in force before the war, but it might have had a significant impact on the military balance after revolt.

        You can also have situations like the American Revolution. Even if the Americans had had Parliamentary representation before, it might not have led to a compromise they would accept; and then even though the Americans were basically militarily weaker, they had a really impressive moat. (They also had foreign help, but even without the foreign help I think the moat was enough to make them more expensive to put down than you would expect from your raw force balance arguments.)

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        • Jason K. says:

          I don’t think either of those examples really contradict my point. The South didn’t try to take over the North and the U.S. didn’t try to take over England. They both basically said ‘Screw you guys, I’m going home’ because they weren’t getting what they wanted, while the other party went ‘Nuh-uh. You are going to do what we want. Here are some men with guns to make you’. Soft power is meaningless without hard power to back it up. At best, this just points out that if there is a sufficient discrepancy between power and treatment, there will be conflict. Unless you are arguing that there was majority support for the North and England in the South and the U.S. respectively.

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  23. TomA says:

    If there is a sincere and reasonable desire to improve society via better firearm management (i.e. reduce harm via criminal, accidental, or suicidal incidents), then one way to accomplish this would be to offer voluntary and repetitive firearm education and training to all citizens beginning at a young age and extending through early adulthood. This program could become an avocational element of public education (parental permission needed) and be used to inculcate safe habits, responsible conduct, and social norms of acceptable behavior. In this approach, we would endeavor to maximize the positive resources of the majority of society rather than try to coercively eliminate the negative (or deviant) outliers that are inevitable (and relatively few) in any large population.

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    • “If there is a sincere and reasonable desire to improve society via better firearm management…”

      I’d volunteer to tech the kids myself. I do it anyway, with less social approval.

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    • Lysenko says:

      There is a precedent for this in different flavors in the form of NRA activities, Project Appleseed, and even the federal Civilian Marksmanship Program. Speaking personally, I would LOVE to see a basic level of familiarity with firearms handling, safety, and marksmanship become a basic part of our civic education.

      However, in reality all three receive varying degrees of cool to hostile reception outside of already pro gun culture areas, and an attempt to broaden and strengthen that sort of education program would go exactly nowhere.

      Anyone want to take a bet on public reaction to a proposal for increased funding for the CMP with the goal of comprehensive gun handling, safety, and marksmanship training classes taught at US Public Jr. High and High Schools?

      -Anti-Gun politicians would accuse the gun lobby as trying to infect the youth of the nation with their ideology while simultaneously callously putting them at risk and encouraging the next school shooting.

      -Every gun-phobic and school-shooting-fearing parent would scream bloody murder. In more “Blue” school districts there would probably be lawsuits.

      -Even most pro-gun politicians wouldn’t be particularly happy about it, having low trust in the federal government to enact sensible policy, and in many cases having biases against solving problems with government spending.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Take the Eddie Eagle program, strip out the NRA branding stuff and make it a requirement for grades k-4.

      Then make basic firearm training a quarter long class for 9th through 12th grade, on pain of not getting federal funding.

      Including 5 hours of dry-fire and 2 hours of live fire.

      Of course, I’d also hand out .22 rifles/pistols with the high school diploma.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I get to make jokes about “gun abstinence only” education for the next week? Thank you.

      Report comment

    • keranih says:

      one way to accomplish this would be to offer voluntary and repetitive firearm education and training to all citizens beginning at a young age and extending through early adulthood.

      In discussing this possibility with a liberal/progressive friend –

      – my best preference for a compromise would be a national-id card, issued at the age of majority (18 years old?) which was sufficient for purchase of firearms, alcohol, legal narcotics, and porn, and which served as a license to operate a motor vehicle on the roadways. Oh, yes, and this would be valid ID to cast a ballot anywhere in the nation, using an online system linked to the physical address on the ID, and I would be perfectly fine with a standardized set of tests to achieve that card – including demonstration of effective use of prophylactics, personalized alcohol tolerance, drivers training to the level of CDL, basic budgeting competence, civics foundation, and a firearms safety and qualification test, so long as it was all one package

      – (when I dream big, I dream imperial) –

      – and she brought up the sex-ed classes referenced below. We both agreed that this should be implemented immediately, if only for the amusement value.

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      • soru says:

        So people who can’t drive can’t vote? is that really your idea of a sensible compromise?

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        • keranih says:

          I would be willing to have modifiers, such as are on my current license, which says I have to have glasses/contacts in order to drive.

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          • Lysenko says:

            One thing your scheme would require: Universal concealed and open -carry-, not -purchase-.

            That’s one of those things that’s pretty much non-negotiable when it comes to any sort of permit scheme in the US.

            For awhile, a favored rhetorical device for the pro gun control faction in American politics was to take the “common sense” signalling approach and ask the rhetorical question: “Why can’t we treat guns like cars?!”

            The anti gun control response was: “Licenses that cost $20-50 and are easy to get for use in public spaces and have nationwide reciprocity…the requirement that you pass a test that is likewise basic and simple designed so that anyone who is not clearly a dangerous idiot can do so…NO requirement for registration or licensing or testing for ownership and/or operation solely on private property, no restrictions on resale or transfer either intra- or inter-state, no sales records required beyond those needed for tax purposes…Hmmm, that doesn’t sound too bad!”

            I suppose you could tack on a property tax argument there to try and jack the price up, but since accepted practice there is tying property taxes to infrastructure costs and NOT sin tax/externality tax (we don’t tax car owners based on the life insurance payouts for vehicular manslaughter or accident victims), that wouldn’t amount to all that much either 🙂

            For some strange reason, despite many anti gun control types being QUITE happy to “regulate guns like cars”, the people who initially made the proposal seem to have lost interest in that potential compromise…can’t imagine why…

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          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Apparently straw purchases are the main source of guns used for crime in the US. These are already illegal at the federal level, but National Review says the government won’t bother to prosecute.

            I have to say that if this is true, there’s a convincing anti-gun-control argument here in the form of “no new gun laws until you enforce the very-relevant ones you already have”. Any gun controllers care to rebut?

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          • anonymous says:

            I won’t try to justify the massive non-enforcement of the straw buyer laws, as I think they ought to be enforced. But if you want to know *why* they aren’t, it’s because of the modal straw purchaser is a wife or girlfriend that’s probably been beaten up once or twice by the husband / boyfriend and probably has a kid or two.

            Prosecutors, judges, and when it comes right down to it juries, aren’t terribly interested in throwing the book at these women.

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          • Echo says:

            You don’t have to prosecute the girlfriend. Give her immunity in exchange for testifying about the “abusive boyfriend” who took possession of the gun.
            Plus you’d be protecting the women from abusive criminal boyfriends, so anyone who disagrees with my policy demands is Waging A War On Women!

            God this is easy and effective. No wonder it caught on.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Echo: You gonna hire bodyguards for all of them for when the boyfriends are out on bond and come around to shut them up? You gonna bankroll them when the boyfriend, who’s the primary earner in the household, loses his paycheck while he’s in jail?

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          • anonymous says:

            @Echo
            The reason these guns come to the attention of the police in the first place is because the husband/boyfriend is arrested for something or other. A gun charge is tacked on, but the whole thing is plead out as part of package deal. The wife/gf isn’t arrested nor is her testimony needed or sought. The assembly line rolls forward without any inconvenient hitches.

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          • Echo says:

            Nah, just let him know she has the gun back. 🙂
            And if the boyfriend’s a felon who bought an illegal gun through a straw-buyer, I’d rather us bankroll the girl than have her living off the kinds of “income” he’d be bringing in.
            If you can make a case for living on welfare having corrosive social effects, you can make a stronger one for living on the proceeds of violent crime.
            The marginal value of getting one scumbag off the streets is high enough that we should generously compensate the people who turned him in, up to “we’ll help you start over with a decent job in another city”.

            Anon, I’m saying the local police should start going after these guys more aggressively based on “anonymous tips”, and throwing the book at them.

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          • John Schilling says:

            the modal straw purchaser is a wife or girlfriend that’s probably been beaten up once or twice by the husband / boyfriend and probably has a kid or two.

            The average straw purchaser, OTOH, and the most readily prosecutable, is I believe the poor or homeless man who gets $500 cash for every $400 gun he delivers to the black-market dealer who comes by once a month making the rounds of all his local buyers. That’s what drives the interstate gun-law arbitrage people are talking about elsewhere, and while the buyers are less numerous than the battered-wife version their higher volume more than compensates.

            These people, however much we may sympathize with homelessness and poverty, I think we want serving time just as if they had turned to burglary or mugging. And with a substantial discount if they can give us the professional gunrunner they were dealing with, though I’m not sure we want to let the usual suspects handle that side of the operation.

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  24. anonymous says:

    Gun nuts say they are a bulwark against tyranny but nine times out of ten when a government agent guns down a citizen without any justification, they support the guy with a uniform and a gun.

    The only kind of tyranny they are actually interested in fighting is the “tyranny” of gun control. Well that and having to pay taxes or massively subsidized fees to use public lands or similar.

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    • “Gun nuts say they are a bulwark against tyranny but nine times out of ten when a government agent guns down a citizen without any justification, they support the guy with a uniform and a gun.”

      That’s your ignorance of the actual gun culture talking. It’s not true.

      But I can say something more constructive than that: the cohort of “gun nuts” for which your nine-out-of-ten rule is closest to being true is also the subset of “gun nuts” that identifies as conservative. This is one of the significant splits between conservatives and libertarians, who are far more likely to evaluate reports of police abuses on a case-by-case basis and condemn the police when warranted.

      Conservatives have a lizard-brain attachment to order and its guardians that libertarians do not. This is actually nearly definitional; conservatism is a temperament, not a theory.

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      • anonymous says:

        Yes, that’s true, I’ve brushed over the True Libertarians. All of twelve of you that like to think that you are, if not half, than at least 30-40% of the Republican coalition .

        The tricky thing is that if you ask vaguely worded, philosophical poll questions you’ll indeed get numbers that high. Same thing if you ask outright whether or not people have libertarian leanings. But when it comes to concrete, specific, libertarian but not conservative policy proposals the polling support melts away, and in the privacy of the voting booth it never even gets off the ground.

        So I’m more than comfortable with my original statement. I don’t feel the need to qualify every sentence I write to acknowledge the existence of de minimis exceptions. I’m sorry if that hurts the twelve True Libertarians’ feelings.

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        • FooQuuxman says:

          Heh, pay any attention whatsoever to libertarians sometime. You will find that too many libertarians automatically assume that the cop was at fault, regardless of evidence.

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          • anonymous says:

            Re-read what I wrote. I’m happy to stipulate for the sake of argument whatever positive qualities you’d like me to about libertarians. That still leaves the inconvenient fact that there are hardly any of them.

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      • >Conservatives have a lizard-brain attachment to order and its guardians that libertarians do not. This is actually nearly definitional; conservatism is a temperament, not a theory.

        True, but this temperament or attachment is something sort of a pattern-recognition that can be rationally justified. Look at how criminal syndicates and gangs are rarely able to form truly stable hierarchies, there is always a Scarface gunning for the boss’ job. Conversely, the guardians of order tend to attract good guys in their ranks, as good guys are far more okay with being supervised and transparent and part of a hierarchy and fulfilling someone else’s orders. Their typical failure mode is being too nice, which can also mean cowardly, attracting the kind of people who just hope for an easy job with good pension, and those kinds of people easily fall into panic, and panic can lead to unjustifiable shooting. The too-soft nice guy becomes a bad guy through panic. This is their failure mode.

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      • Civilis says:

        Conservatives have a lizard-brain attachment to order and its guardians that libertarians do not. This is actually nearly definitional; conservatism is a temperament, not a theory.

        I’d phrase this as ‘American Conservatives have a lizard-brain attachment to the American Rule-of-Law System that libertarians do not, and local law enforcement, for most, is the public face of the American Rule-of-Law System.’ In many ways, it’s self-reinforcing. Conservatives are likely to obey the law, and therefore most of their interactions with police will be, if not positive, more ‘yes, officer, I know I was speeding’ understandable. Considering that they are policing conservatives, local law enforcement in conservative areas can expect that their interactions with people will not be hostile. Because the current Rule-of-Law system works for conservatives, they maintain their part of the system.

        If you’re convinced the police are out to get you, whether as a liberal minority or as a libertarian recreational-pharmaceutical advocate, you’re more likely to start an encounter with police at a more hostile state, because you’ve heard the stories. Because the system is broken, both sides are less likely to maintain their part of the system. This same dynamic is now showing up between conservatives and the federal government. Conservatives now distrust, say, the IRS and the BATF, so act as hard as possible when dealing with the federal government bureaucracy. The bureaucracy responds by being as hard as possible itself, therefore justifying the conservative hardness.

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    • I suggest taking a look at Reason Magazine. They have been objecting to police misdeeds for a long time. I don’t remember seeing pieces on gun control, but it’s pretty easy to predict which side they would be on.

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      • anonymous says:

        What percentage of gun nuts would you say are Reason print or digital subscribers?

        The answer to you is the same as ESR, true libertarians are not the central example of gun nuts, they aren’t even a second mode, they are far off outliers.

        Change that and I’ll be very happy to start qualifying such statements.

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        • Sastan says:

          Do feel free to do some field research. One of the largest and best respected gun blogs out there is The Truth About Guns. Check into how they report on police shootings.

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    • Murphy says:

      If you had a magical switch labelled “to be pressed in the event of the government no longer being worth it” to be used in the event that the government started acting like the north-korean government and making things worse for people. A button which would dissolve the government and plunge the country into years of chaos.

      Would you press it the first time your brother told you that his friends, uncles, cousins saw a police officer “totally shot someone for no reason” ?

      Or would you extend the principle of charity to state actors and assume good faith on their part for quite some time?

      Because pressing that button is a big commitment which will lead to a great deal of suffering for a lot of people. You’d want to be really really sure about pressing it.

      Now imagine that instead of pressing a button the way you did the same thing was by convincing other people with guns in your peer group that everything was fucked? might you be a bit slower to try to get the ball rolling?

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    • Civilis says:

      Conservative trust in the government (really, the federal government) has been very low since Ruby Ridge and Waco.

      I strongly suspect that, at least with regard to local law enforcement, there’s a better trust relationship both ways between people carrying guns and law enforcement in places where carrying a gun in public is common. If there are fewer people carrying guns legally, it’s more likely that the people you run into carrying guns are carrying guns illegally.

      Finally, gun owners know they can’t trust the media with regard to guns. If they wanted to get gun owners riled up about cases where the shooting was truly unjustified, they’d take more care about pointing out when there was a justification. Most gun owners seem to be at a point where they assume the shooting was justified until proven otherwise because the media is quick to pillory shooters as unjustified (whether or not the shooter was a cop).

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  25. Doug S. says:

    It’s not actually any harder to rob an armed man than an unarmed man. You just shoot first, from behind, then take what you want from his corpse.

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    • Anon says:

      This is only easier in the most boringly pedantic sense. In real life, even completely amoral agents will not always murder someone who they would rob, because murder is harder to get away with and has more serious consequences.

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    • John Schilling says:

      Also, looting corpses in public places is neither safe nor easy. Particularly when you use real guns, which unlike the Hollywood version do not instantly convert living people into inert bodies. You up for looting two hundred pounds of screaming, thrashing, bleeding, not-yet-dead meat, when what you are looking for is likely as not underneath all that, with bystanders wondering what all the fuss is about.

      As noted the last time around, most robberies in the United States don’t use firearms at all. Almost none of them use the “shoot first, loot the corpse” technique, even in circumstances where the victims (e.g. armored-car guards or liquor-store owners) are highly likely to be armed.

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      • Tibor says:

        I have the same issue with Hollywood swords. I have a theory that they are actually lightsabers covered in a neurotoxin.

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        • William O. B'Livion says:

          There is a huge difference in force between a 6 pound piece of sharpened steel being swung by a moderately healthy and moderately skilled man With Intent and a 124 grain bullet fired by a hoodlum.

          Generally you don’t *cut* someone with a sword[1], you either cleave large bits of them off, or you run them through. Both tend to allow large quantities of blood from where it is supposed to be, to where it isn’t. Which greatly reduces it’s ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed.

          A rifle or pistol doesn’t do that as quickly. Both swords and bullets can be used to target the central nervous system–brain, brain stem, bits in the neck etc. This does the meat puppet string cutty thing. Puts you off your lunch the first time or two you see it. Well, for some people.

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          • “There is a huge difference in force between a 6 pound piece of sharpened steel”

            Unless you are imagining an attack with a large great sword, make that a two to three pound piece. For a late period small sword, intended mainly for dueling, one to two pounds.

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          • Tibor says:

            In film scenes what you mostly see is a someone wearing either a gambeson or that and chain mail over it and being magically cut by the hero’s (one handed) sword. Not stabbed but cut, usually somewhere around the stomach – and the bad guys instantly fall and die (unless they are the main antagonists of course) 🙂

            But I guess I could live with this. The most annoying thing in films are the non-existent formations, because almost every film (not just Hollywood) battle involves one-on-one individual fighting. I think there are two reasons for that. First, it looks more dramatic than two lines of infantry pushing each other and you can have your main characters stand out, second, it is much cheaper because you only need some 20-40 actors to make a “big” battle scene, whereas you’d need at least hundreds to do it properly (I guess some CGI tricks would be able to reduce that number though, but cheap CGI is a relatively new thing).

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            You think that’s bad…

            I love wushu movies, but whenever swords or other edged weapons are involved, I have to turn up the WSOD-otron up to about six settings past the redline. People wielding same routinely miss opportunities to strike which your average out-of-shape ten-year-old Star Wars fan would see, but the second the edge touches someone, they fall over dead. They may kick and spit up some blood first, but the edge doesn’t even have to penetrate their clothing, much less cause a grievous wound, to produce a fatal injury. Sometimes particularly bad-ass swordsmen will get in a stroke that produces what looks like somebody drew a line on the opponent with magic marker. Those poor souls don’t even kick first.

            (Note: Starting with movies made in the 70’s this is not always the case: some can be quite gory. I’m talking about classic 60’s Shaw Brothers type stuff.)

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  26. Gbdub says:

    I’ll bring this up here mostly because Scott seems to be trying to educate himself and I hadn’t seen it mentioned in the earlier thread.

    Resistance to background checks seems to boggle liberal anti-gunners. Why would any reasonable person be against checking to make sure we aren’t selling guns to violent felons?

    Well, there are certainly a few people who are going to resist any government prying into private backgrounds in order to exercise a constitutional right. But I think most legal gun owners have come to accept the NICS system without much complaint.

    The bigger issue is that the proposed background check laws could severely hamper normal gun enthusiast activity. An lot of gun sales involve people who know each other (or strangers at a gun shows – but note that any dealers at shows still run NICS checks) selling guns back and forth. It’s a collecting hobby. And it’s in my experience actually pretty good at self-policing obvious “weirdos” with ill intent. As far as I can tell, there’s not a lot of evidence that private sales at gun shows are a significant source of crime guns. Requiring the intervention of a dealer (who is the only person who can run a background check) in these sales (who would usually charge a commission) would put a damper on a normal, enjoyable part of the hobby.

    Also, how do you define a “transfer”? Loaning guns is ubiquitous – it’s pretty typical to show off your new firearm to your friends at the range, and let them run a few rounds through it. Gun ranges also often have rental or loaner guns that obviously change possession frequently. Or maybe there’s someone new to the sport who doesn’t have a lot of their own gear, so you loan them your shotgun for a hunting trip. Maybe it takes you a couple weeks to get around to getting it back. Some background check law proposals would make this a felony.

    A lot of these problems (as with the “assault weapons” ban) stem from the lawmakers being openly ignorant of how guns work and how gun owners engage in their hobby. This obviously does not breed trust.

    Personally, if I were going from a clean slate, I’d be okay with requiring a license for gun ownership, with an associated background check and a training course. Maybe even a requirement for liability insurance. But in exchange, private sales could continue – you’d just be required to check the buyer’s license. Also, the license would be valid in all 50 states, and would entitle you to carry your firearm(s) anywhere possession is not strictly prohibited – and this would be very liberal. States would be prohibited from setting greater restrictions on firearm ownership and carry (enact the 2A against the states). Nobody should be made a felon for driving a legally owned gun across a state line.

    I’d be pretty happy with that, and I suspect a lot of other owners would as well. But part of the problem is that it’s so hard to trust any registration scheme – you’ve already made it clear that in your preferred world, you’d take away my gun, by force if necessary. Why would I support any measure that made this easier for you without an obvious benefit in return to me?

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    • TrivialGravitas says:

      I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that liberal anti-gunner background check rhetoric is seemingly oblivious to everything you just mentioned. That means the legislation will either be stupid (see various ‘assault weapon’ bans that were applied to semi automatic rifles) or evil in some way (Clinton II wants to remove the three day limit on NCIS background checks, which in turn would be used to simply refuse to give an answer, a favorite ATF tactic for the stricter checks).

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      • William O. B'Livion says:

        To reinforce this point, the idiot behind the recent magazine limits in Colorado thought–no, really–that once all the 30 round magazines had been fired they’d be used up.

        As in she thought they were one use things that came pre-loaded.

        Also when California banned guns by name one of the rifles banned as an “assault rifle” was a .22lr pump action gun that superficially looked like a AR15. Some twit of a staffer went through a gun catalog and listed every gun that scared him.

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        • Tibor says:

          I think this is a general problem. Whenever there is an issue which requires a certain non-trivial amount of expertize most people don’t have to make good rules, democracy works fairly bad.

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          • enoriverbend says:

            It may be a general problem but the gun control advocates have it far, far worse.

            I cannot think of an issue on which one side has so much misinformation and outright fabrication *and* they believe their own fabrications.

            The pro-life advocates usually at least understand where babies come from; drug war advocates usually at least understand that marijuana isn’t really as dangerous in most respects as heroin.

            But gun control advocates typically haven’t bothered to learn the least little thing about what it is they are in favor of banning.

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          • gbdub says:

            I think part of the issue is that the average gun control advocate these days is Deep Blue Tribe, and among that group it’s fashionable to not only promote gun control, but also to promote the idea that to own a gun is inherently “weird”, something only criminals or ignorant yokels would want to do (see that post basically advocating keeping your kids away from any gun owner).

            So from that perspective, being as ignorant as possible about guns is positively beneficial to your standing amongst the Tribe.

            It does seem rather common for people anti- most things to be selectively informed, maybe not precisely like gun control but similar. E.g. anti-drug proponents may be able to readily call up statistics on harms caused by drugs, but totally unfamiliar with how drugs are actually obtained, how most users use them, etc.

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          • Echo says:

            Yes. The kind of people who would be proud of spewing things like:
            “I’m less afraid of the criminals wielding guns in Baltimore, I declared as we discussed the issue, than I am by those permitted gun owners”.
            To her own relatives who own guns. It’s hard to think of them as having real human relationships not based around tribal identity at that point.

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        • keranih says:

          the idiot behind the recent magazine limits in Colorado thought–no, really–that once all the 30 round magazines had been fired they’d be used up.

          As in she thought they were one use things that came pre-loaded.

          *facepalm* You have got to be @#$ing me. No, srsy, that’s too crazy for me to buy without a cite.

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    • AlphaGamma says:

      Also, how do you define a “transfer”? Loaning guns is ubiquitous – it’s pretty typical to show off your new firearm to your friends at the range, and let them run a few rounds through it. Gun ranges also often have rental or loaner guns that obviously change possession frequently. Or maybe there’s someone new to the sport who doesn’t have a lot of their own gear, so you loan them your shotgun for a hunting trip. Maybe it takes you a couple weeks to get around to getting it back. Some background check law proposals would make this a felony.

      Not to mention that some essentially made it illegal for people in unmarried couples to own guns (leaving your partner at home with the gun counted as a transfer).

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      • Josh says:

        I wonder what percentage of gun owners were perfectly okay with that restriction being selectively enforced thanks to religious opposition to Those Sorts Of People.

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        • Echo says:

          Zero, but you sure had fun beating up on that redneck scarecrow.

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        • Do you have any evidence that it ever was selectively enforced?

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        • Civilis says:

          I suspect that a decent amount of gun-control types are of the opinion that the laws will be selectively enforced in their favor, and given the values-signaling involved it’s hard to see this as anything other than belief that laws should only apply to Those Sorts of People.

          Evidence 1: Rosie O’Donnell’s bodyguard’s application for a gun control permit. (http://www.wnd.com/2000/05/1999/)

          Evidence 2: The use of ‘Prosecutioral Discretion’ in David Gregory’s breach of DC gun laws (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/dc-police-urged-meet-the-press-execs-to-use-picture-of-high-capacity-magazine/2015/01/24/f132eebe-a3f4-11e4-903f-9f2faf7cd9fe_story.html)

          Whereas a lot of gun owner groups have spoken out even when it’s Those Sorts of People victimized by gun laws:

          http://articles.philly.com/2015-04-04/news/60790722_1_gun-laws-shaneen-allen-bersa-thunder

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          • I can’t speak to the David Gregory thing, but as for Rosie O’Donnell there’s nothing hypocritical about supporting gun regulation while simultaneously owning one (or letting your bodyguard own one). Just because you believe society would be better off with fewer guns, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to live in the society you’ve got today.

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          • Civilis says:

            I can’t speak to the David Gregory thing, but as for Rosie O’Donnell there’s nothing hypocritical about supporting gun regulation while simultaneously owning one (or letting your bodyguard own one).

            Rosie’s an old case, but was the only one that came to mind where the security was private, and she was also very vocal at the time, and I’m fairly certain that she went well beyond ‘regulation’ and much closer to outright ‘prohibition’.

            The charge I was responding to was that gun owners somehow expect that ‘Those People’ won’t have the same rights as gun owners. For the longest time, a lot of areas have had policies that have effectively meant that only ex-cops, politicians and celebrities could have the right of self-defense, and these policies were ironclad examples of ‘rights for me but not for Those People’. Rosie (and Mike Bloomberg, for a more recent example) want to have the security of a bodyguard (or a taxpayer funded security team, in Bloomberg’s example), but advocated policies that mean the only people that can afford that right are the rich and/or connected, which is hypocrisy.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            Rosie O’Donnell had a screaming fit on live television where she said that the police should go door to door and confiscate all guns and if people didn’t comply, they should be executed. That goes a little beyond “thinking society would be better off with fewer guns.”

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    • Echo says:

      Thanks to an “initiative” written and funded by a bunch of left-wing billionaires who know nothing about guns or shooting (other than that it’s icky), it’s now illegal for me to take someone shooting at the local range.
      Our local gun safety classes are also illegal, but fortunately the cops in this area are on our side.

      “Banning private transfers” has nothing to do with reducing violence. It has everything to do with trying to strangle our culture and hurt gun owners as much as possible.

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      • DarkWing says:

        Echo,

        Would you provide some more detail about the gun safety classes that are now illegal? Not something I’ve heard about.

        Also, is this state or national?

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        • Echo says:

          Washington State’s new “private sales ban”, which defines an illegal transfer as broadly as “handing a firearm to another person” outside of very limited circumstances.

          For example, before I could hand someone a 22 single shot rifle to practice with, I would have to check the 501c status of the licensed range we were on. Because for-profit ranges are… evil, I guess?
          That’s a moot point anyway, as no registered gun ranges exist in this county.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      When the NICS law passed in the 1990s it REQUIRED the FBI to only maintain records long enough to verify the system was functioning, and it stated that the data could NOT be used to create a registration of firearm owners.

      When GWB took office in 2001 and crud, forgot his name–Bush’s first AG took office he found out that the FBI was not destroying/deleting ANY NICS check data, in effect violating the law.

      He then demanded that they destroy any old data and only keep 48 hours of data around for verification purposes.

      Also note that there is currently no provision for a private party to do a NICS check.

      Starting from a clean slate huh?

      Well, at minimum 80 million gun owners.

      Around 16k murders per year in a country of this size with this cultural diversity? 11k of them using a gun as the means, and roughly 90% of those being felons?

      So 80 million “legal” gun owners (minimum) and *MAX* 1500 killings a year by them?

      Hmmm… doesn’t sound like the guns are the problem. Maybe focus on the f*kers doing the crimes?

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      • gbdub says:

        I am aware that NICS was not intended to store data, but that’s probably not well known outside pro-gun circles, so it’s good to bring up.

        As for the rest of the post, I think you misunderstand me. By “clean slate” I mean “magical fantasy land where we can throw out all current law and rewrite a single lasting compromise on gun control, and this is actually possible because there is mutual trust bewteen the two sides”. I thought the remainder of my post made clear that I don’t actually believe we live in that world.

        Anyway my proposal was basically make a firearms license equivalent to a driver’s license, and throw out most of the rest of gun control laws including NICS. The license, shall-issue and obtainable by any eligible citizen after a background check and basic safety course, would entitle the holder to purchase and possess any legal firearm in any state, and would permit carry in everywhere not otherwise prohibited.

        I suspect many gun owners would go along with this because it’s basically the procedure for shall-issue concealed carry, and in exchange for extra responsibilities actually gives a lot of benefits over the current system for gun owners. So it’s actually a compromise, instead of the one-sided capitulation currently being proposed by control advocates. Might even actually do some good on the safety front by requiring a basic familiarity before purchasing, and making it a bit easier to track/prosecute straw purchases.

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  27. Jiro says:

    Let’s go through the replies to the earlier article and find all the criticisms that Scott didn’t respond to or consider in this second article. I’m sure I missed some stuff, but let’s try anyway:

    — The figures for people telling surveyors what guns they have at home are laughable, because people are strongly motivated to lie to surveyors. (Scott’s statement that it’s “hard to believe” the true figures are higher is not supported by anything. It is generally a bad idea to respond to “you have failed to take something into account” with “it is hard to believe that what I failed to taken into account has no effect”. One commentor also pointed out that Scott is probably in a bubble if his personal experience makes the figure seem lower.)

    — Grouping together handguns and long guns is a bad idea. (Also, watch out for Simpson’s Paradox.) One person points out that long guns are responsible for 6% of killings. This doesn’t seem at first glance like it could make the figures worthless, but actually, it can. It is also likely that percentages of each type of gun differ between the US and Europe.

    — Scott has no reason to believe he’s found all the cofounders, and using limited data and proxies to measure cofounders is inherently inaccurate. Scott is also only controlling for Hispanics in selected cases. (He eliminates Colorado, but Wikipedia shows that Oregon has 11.7% Hispanics.) Another person points out the war on drugs as a cofounder, and another points to Native Americans in some states (including Wyoming).

    — Scott’s figure for the cost of guns takes into account *only* the cost and does not try to balance the cost against the benefit. The tax should not be $1000 per gun even by his standards; it should be $1000 – positive externalities. And even just measuring property losses is misleading–you need to add the cost of not having good property protection.

    — People do not treat other externalities involving death like Scott proposes we treat guns. One commentor points out that cigarettes are worse (although another disputes it). Another points out alcohol. Another points out that one could equally tax black people living near other black people.

    — Scott’s attempt to take into account urbanization does not consider degree of urbanization; the US has a lot more open spaces than Europe and non-urban American areas are a lot more rural than non-urban European areas. (This also falls under “probably didn’t find all the cofounders”.)

    — When Australia bought back its guns, the crime rate only went down as part of a general trend that also affected countries that did not increase gun control during that period. People also gave examples of places such as Florida which liberalized their gun laws and did not have more crime.

    — Scott’s figures for how much people value a life do not take into account that many gun murders are of people such as drug dealers who everyone else would value at far less than that figure, possibly even negatively.

    — Scott doesn’t consider the possibility that the percentage of black people can affect the percentage of crime for the entire area, including crime committed by people who are not black. (Consider gang or drug violence, for instance–the black gang could lead to gang violence and a white gang could end up committing more crime.)

    — Scott needs to do a sanity check. Check the non-gun homicide rate and apply the same cofounding corrections that he applied to the gun homicide rate. If it turns out the non-gun homicide rate is higher, he left out cofounders.

    — The figures as Scott quotes them claim to be about gun ownership, not legal gun ownership.

    — The figures as Scott quotes them claim to be about homicide, not non-justifiable homicide or homicide convictions. In fact, Scott waffles between homicide and murder, which makes this even worse.

    — Scott seems to misunderstand the phrase “percentage point difference”.

    Several of these criticisms, all by themselves, never mind in combination, make Scott’s conclusions worthless. And “well, these are the best figures I have, and I did take into account a lot of stuff” is not really an answer.

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    • Murphy says:

      Some of these are Fully General Counterarguments that you could apply to any analysis of anything anywhere no matter what.

      Specifically “Scott has no reason to believe he’s found all the cofounders” is completely fully general and as such is a pointless counterarguments. If you believe there’s a specific confounder get the numbers for it and try adjusting for it. Otherwise complaining that there may be more confounders to be found is just hot air.

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      • Jiro says:

        “Scott has no reason to believe he has found all the cofounders” doesn’t literally mean *no* reason; it’s a qualitative statement saying that he has poor reasons. And just because a qualitative statement can be made about any situation doesn’t make it a fully general argument; it depends on the specific details of how careful he is, what he’s overlooked, etc.

        Furthermore, demanding that I do research before I can complain about missing cofounders puts the burden of proof on the wrong side. By those standards, Scott doesn’t actually need to do any research or quote any figures at all to prove his claims.

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        • Murphy says:

          At least suggest candidates for confounders.

          And yes simply saying that there *could* be more (unnamed)confounders *is* fully general because it applies to everything. He made a decent attempt to check some common confounders like rural/urban etc.

          At some point you do indeed end up with the ball in your court where you have to suggest something that has some value.

          Saying “he didn’t check to see if X was a confounder” (where X is something reasonable that can be measured) is worthwhile and may be a fair criticism.

          Saying “there could be some generic confounder out there somewhere in the universe” is worthless, zero worth, nadda, ziltch.

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          • gbdub says:

            Jiro actually listed multiple possible confounders in his original post, including: %Hispanic population (which Scott controlled in Colorado but not elsewhere), %Native American population, degree of urbanization, how hot the drug war is, and degree of urbanization.

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          • Jiro says:

            Also, that wasn’t a post about my own criticisms. It was a post summarizing *everyone’s* criticisms from the earlier post which Scott didn’t answer. People criticized Scott for ignoring cofounders and gave those varying examples of cofounders.

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          • “Saying “there could be some generic confounder out there somewhere in the universe” is worthless, zero worth, nadda, ziltch.”

            I disagree. It’s a way of pointing out a general problem with statistical results, a reason that they are less reliable than they might at first seem.

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      • William Newman says:

        “Specifically ‘Scott has no reason to believe he’s found all the cofounders’ is completely fully general and as such is a pointless counterarguments.”

        It is not actually fully general, except if you are reading it in an artificially superstrict sense.

        Consider, e.g., that a model that succeeds in fitting not just the results that it was tuned for (and possibly overfitted for) give good reason to believe that it has covered all the (relevant) confounders. E.g., my example from the original page of the model that diktat had a performance disadvantage relative to markets. A lot of that model was already pretty firmly clearly laid out in the 1970s. (Especially I know of a number of influential advocates clarifying their preferences around that time by publicly placing their bets on some of the debatable borderline cases.) After that, to the extent that developments since the 1970s tended to confirm the model, it is evidence that it has covered the (relevant) confounders.

        Of course the model in question didn’t cover every confounder in principle — e.g., if there had been a huge nuclear war in 1981, it would probably have caused a lot of large chaotic effects substantially independent of the model, and the results would probably be difficult to interpret in terms of the model. But the basic principle (importance of covering the confounders that happen to arise in practice, even if off-the-wall confounders like relativistic effects or imminent alien invasion can’t possibly be modeled from the data available) is sound enough that people can use it — a kind of limited agnosticism about confounders in stuff that hasn’t been observed yet — as a practical design principle in automated learning systems. (Ask a search engine about the phrase “compression as learning” e.g.)

        Scott has if not *no* reason, at least very very little reason to believe that he has covered all the confounders that matter. It is a fundamental problem with fitting an aggressively-parameterized model to a small noisy dataset.

        I like referring back to market economies as an example here because it might help convince people that I’m not dishonestly cherry-picking a new unrepresentative example every time I want to prove a point. In other respects, though, that is probably not the best example here because of distracting complications. Probably-less-confusing examples of simple models fit to small datasets in complex systems and subsequently tested against various levels of confounding complications include island dwarfism/gigantism, hybrid vigor, the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, and various regularities in price movements beloved of technical traders.

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  28. Eli says:

    I mean, I understand why (for example) the NRA would promote that story in order to get people angry, but it’s very strange how often liberals nod along and say “Yup, that’s what we want to do!”.

    People who’ve already polarized themselves and decided to speak and act within the polarization have a tendency to loudly stake out extremist or strawman positions just for the sake of loudly opposing their enemies. When actually given the power to implement their original ideology, they don’t tend to implement these straw-extremist positions.

    Of course, it is noisy: you need a lot of information to distinguish Literally Communism (a left-wing extremist position that was actually implemented) from Literally No Guns Ever (a left-wing extremist position nobody really cares to implement), and a lot of that information is mostly just available to left-wing insiders.

    Usually, the key evidence is what people say they plan to do either prior to exposure to enemies, or when they feel safe from enemies.

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    • The trouble with this theory is that gun control advocates take their most extreme anti-civilian-weapons positions when talking to friendly audiences, not in confrontation with opponents. That is the opposite behavior from what your polarization theory predicts.

      Anyway, gun folks have been burned by strategic lies designed to lull them into complacency way too often in the past. We’re done with that, and we’re therefore done with assuming anything but the worst case about the other side’s intentions.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      It is probably the case that the “anti-gun extremists” do not wish to take *all* guns out of society.

      Just all the useful ones.

      They will leave the duck squeezers their field grade double barrel shotguns.

      The Trap and Skeet guys will get their Fine Italian Doubles.

      The hunters will have their bolt action rifles, and maybe the lever guns.

      You will still be able to get olympic target pistols.

      Well, if you can pay the tax, and jump through the hoops.

      And then we’ll be crime free. Like England and Japan.

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      • Echo says:

        Well, you can’t get olympic target pistols in the UK any more, even if you’re on the olympic team.
        And now they’re talking about banning kitchen knives, so I guess we can’t accuse them of just wanting to ban all guns.

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        • AlphaGamma says:

          Target pistols have never been banned in the UK as a whole. They have been banned in mainland Britain but have always remained legal in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. The Olympic pistol team does go to France to practise, but that may be because that’s actually easier than going to Northern Ireland.

          There may now be a few people who have got special permission to own target pistols and use them at particular ranges in Britain (Section 5 licenses exist but are very rare).

          As for a “kitchen knife ban”, that article is ten years old, and refers to an article from a medical journal advocating it. There have also been similar calls for a ban on boxing. Neither is likely to happen- note the Home Office in the article you link essentially saying that current law is sufficient.

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      • The Anonymouse says:

        It is probably the case that the “anti-gun extremists” do not wish to take *all* guns out of society.

        I’m not so certain of this. A creeping-incrementalist approach, as well as a lack of knowledge as to how firearms operate, would leave me completely unsurprised if suddenly both hunting rifles and typical shotguns were further demonized.

        Just as affordable pistols became “Saturday Night specials,” that hunting rifle you own will become a “long-range armor-piercing sniper rifle,” and that shotgun a “streetsweeper.”

        There is no fundamental difference between this rifle and this one. But one of them has a scary black finish.

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  29. rational_rob says:

    This is a good post. I like this post. It’s nice to see revision where it matters and sticking up for your ideas when you need to as well. As for the “we’ll take away your guns” argument – yeah, I know that you might not see a liberal perspective that way, but the way laws are trending it’s more likely than you think. IIRC, I just read a post about a new law in California that allows officers to confiscate guns without a warrant if a family member or neighbor reports suspicion. This has implications, if it’s true.

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  30. Lupis42 says:

    On the topic of gun-control rhetoric, and motivations, I was completely unsurprised to run across this today:

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-bishop-0108-20160107-story.html
    Excerpted
    I’m less afraid of the criminals wielding guns in Baltimore, I declared as we discussed the issue, than I am by those permitted gun owners. I know how to stay out of the line of Baltimore’s illegal gunfire; I have the luxury of being white and middle class in a largely segregated city that reserves most of its shootings for poor, black neighborhoods overtaken by “the game.” The closest I typically get to the action is feeling the chest-thumping vibrations of the Foxtrot police helicopter flying overhead in pursuit of someone who might be a few streets over, but might as well be a world away. But I don’t know where the legal gun owners are or how to ensure that their children, no matter how well versed in respecting firearms, won’t one day introduce that weapon to my daughter.

    And so, as President Barack Obama announced plans this week to tighten background checks for gun buyers and increase gun tracking and research, I thought, that’s all well and good, but how about adding something immediately useful: a gun owner registry available to the public online — something like those for sex offenders. I’m not equating gun owners with predatory perverts, but the model is helpful here; I want a searchable database I can consult to find out whether my kid can have a play date at your house.

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  31. Ciarán says:

    Hey, Canadian here with a lot of gun enthusiast friends. It’s a running joke here the lack of rhyme or reason in what guns are banned.

    http://www.huntinggearguy.com/rifle-reviews/top-10-non-restricted-black-rifles-in-canada/

    Here’s a list I found with a quick google of things you can get with just the basic license, which is fairly easy to get if you don’t have a criminal record.

    Variants of the combat rifles of Israel, China and Switzerland are non-restricted. AK-47s are prohibited, but the longer-barreled Czech version is non-restricted. The old Russian-built SKS is dirt cheap and you can pick up doomsday-prepper pallets of Soviet ammo for a song at Bass Pro Shop or Cabelas.

    Weirder stuff gets through, too. The Soviet 14.5mm PTRS and PTRD anti-tank rifles are non-restricted. Some goes for the Finnish 20mm Lahti anti-tank rifle (.50 caliber, by contrast, is 12.7mm). I know someone who has a WW2-era quad .50 caliber anti-aircraft gun, non-restricted. It was modified to be semi- rather than fully automatic, but it’s a modification which could be easily undone.

    Some pure enthusiast guns are restricted or prohibited, too, which is incredibly odd. My little brother is interested in rifle drill, and wanted to buy an old Canadian WW2 era Lee-Enfield rifle (similar or lesser in capability than most hunting rifles). However, it’s prohibited. A friend of mine wanted to buy the Rossi Circuit Judge revolver-action shotgun because of how unique it is, but it is restricted, despite being identical or lesser in capabilities than a bevy of other shotguns. Remember the anti-tank rifles and assault rifles that can be bought after a single easy test that I mentioned!

    A lot of folks here roll their eyes when they see Americans pointing to Canada’s restriction of assault weapons, or city folk doing the same.

    EDIT: One could make the argument for banning all semi-automatic weapons except for .22 caliber, but pretty much any restrictions other than that or measures that jack up prices really won’t do much. The semi-automatic rifles most popular for hunters and enthusiasts, like the SKS, are also ideally suited for mass shootings. Less comprehensive measures like what you see in Canada just serve to annoy enthusiasts and placate urbanites.

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    • Montfort says:

      This is the obligatory pedantic correction that the vz 58 sure looks a lot like an AK-47, but is not actually a variant of it. It has different internals and none of its parts are interchangeable (its magazines are incompatible, too). It is chambered for the same caliber, though, because of the whole Warsaw Pact thing.

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      • Ciarán says:

        The more you know! Thanks for the correction.

        The absurdity of having one banned and the other fairly easily accessible is still palpable, though.

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      • Tibor says:

        Heh, I just wanted to point it out. I don’t know much about guns, but I know that the only similarity between the AK-47 and Sa Vz. 58 is superficial and in the caliber, the insides are very different.

        But it is actually a reasonable thing to assume (not just based on looks) as the Czechoslovak army was the only one in the Warsaw pact which did not field a version of Kalashnikov and used its own assault rifle (actually the Czech army has only in the last year finished switching from Sa vz. 58 to the new BREN 805 assault rifle and replacing the Škorpion vz. 61 machine pistol with a new Scorpion EVO 3 instead)

        However, what is interesting is that the AK-47 is very similar to the Sturmgewehr 44, the original assault rifle. It is not really a mystery though, because its designer, Hugo Schmeisser, was captured by the red army and then worked in the same arms factory where AK-47 was developed. So AK-47 is basically an upgraded Sturmgewehr 44 and I wonder how much work on it was actually done by Kalashnikov and how much by Schmeisser.

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    • Tibor says:

      Some US laws also seem to be stupid in this respect (not just the assault weapon thing). The Scorpion EVO 3 I mentioned in another post has a civilian semi-automatic version which however cannot be sold in the US as it is in the Czech republic because it is classified as a imported rifle. However, they managed to import it by taking away the stock, importing it as a pistol and then offered US-made conversion kit with a stock. Which is legal. Importing the original stock from Česká Zbrojovka is not. Apparently foreign-made stocks are very dangerous.

      But I guess you can find nonsense anywhere. According to the Czech law, silencers are illegal even though they are almost never used in a criminal activity and would be probably nice to have on a shooting range to limit the noise around. Still better than Germany where you need a gun permit for a gas pistol. Or even the UK where even longer knives are treated as weapons and you cannot just buy them and carry them around.

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      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        >Or even the UK where even longer knives are treated as weapons and you cannot just buy them and carry them around.

        This sounds too stupid to be both true and honestly presented. Can I have a source?

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  32. John Schilling says:

    One more thing that I’ve seen alluded to here and there but I think needs to be stated explicitly. This one is important:

    The first step in using private firearms to defeat tyranny isn’t shooting Jackbooted Stormtroopers(tm) or the Evil Dictators(tm) who control them. It isn’t even forming a militia to demonstrate your resolve to shoot the stormtroopers et al if it comes to that. The first step, and ideally the only step, is to have a firearm close at hand to shoot any ordinary common criminal who threatens your family – or extraordinary uncommon criminal, if that’s what’s in the news at the time. The second and hopefully last step, is actually shooting these criminals.

    Because the first and most powerful tool in the tyrant’s standard-issue toolkit, is whatever group of dangerous violent criminals they can point to and say “Look! Over There! A Deadly Menace that threatens your family, against which only I can protect you! Now all you’ll have to do is vote for these extra taxes and extraordinary powers, and once I have the Legion of Stormtroopers on the streets, you’ll be safe…”

    If you can respond with “No thanks; already got that covered”, the proto-tyrant is in a fairly weak position.

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    • TomA says:

      Not to dismiss Scott’s attempt at using linear statistical analysis to study this complex social issue, but macro-scale societal analysis of these types of problems has been ongoing for at least two decades now. Game theory based computer simulation modeling is highly advanced now and utilizes vast resources of internet harvested profiling and historical data (which now incorporates most technical library assets).

      As regards to the relevance of private firearm ownership to the issue of tyranny mitigation, these models suggest that the key advantage is psychological rather than tactical. An armed population tends to be more independent minded and consequently more difficult to subjugate. In addition, modeling reveals that armed insurrection is not an optimum strategy for opposing a modern tyranny in the US. Intelligence and creative thinking are much more powerful tools, and firearms do not play a significant role in the most successful of simulated conflicts.

      It helps to bear in mind the size and distinction between common citizenry and incipient tyrannical regimes. The latter tends to be exceptionally ruthless, but the best of us are still to be found in very large numbers among the former. This is why the Soviets murdered the Polish military officer corp at the start of WWII.

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    • Echo says:

      Is that what a paleocon would call protecting against the “anarcho-tyranny” process for the formation of a managerial/police state?

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    • Alex Trouble says:

      Good point, I like it.

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    • Tibor says:

      It is not a coincidence that both nazi Germany and all communist countries basically banned privately owned guns (save for trusted people loyal to the party). I don’t want to imply that any government which does that is necessarily totalitarian, but it sure comes in handy when the totalitarian government is established that nobody owns any guns.

      By the way, the first anti-communist uprising in the Eastern bloc was in Pilsen (a city in West Bohemia) in 1953 after a currency reform which reduced the value of savings 50 times and salaries 5 times, save for some exempt people (likely those with good connections in the communist party). The uprising was not really very well organized and was started more or less spontaneously by workers in the Škoda factory (actually, the communists renamed it to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin factory, but in 1953 they renamed it back because the sales abroad plummeted after the name change). Still, they managed to get a control of most of the city and hold it until the government sent the army and the police to deal with them. More or less simultaneously, there were protests in some 19 other Czech cities (that is a lot for such a relatively small country). Now that was already 5 years into the communist rule and privately owned guns were banned. But imagine such a scenario in a country like Switzerland where 25% households have private firearms and 45% of households have a government issued automatic rifle (no ammo at home, but one could capture a local storage using the private guns). That would give the communists a run for their money.

      It is true that civilians with rifles are not a match for modern military, but if you have simultaneous armed uprisings in half of your country, organizing a military response (also a part of the military will probably defect to the rebels even in a totalitarian country where the military is screened politically) becomes much more difficult.

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      • HlynkaCG says:

        This is true.

        The other scenario that I don’t see discussed all that often (even among the pro-guns fight tyranny side) is something like Kristalnacht where you have thugs acting illegally (vandalizing and burning homes and businesses of the outgroup) with the tactic approval of the government. Simply put, the cost benefit analysis of joining a lynch-mob skews hard to left when the would be lynchees have the capability of shooting back.

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    • JBeshir says:

      Empirically, this “got it covered” response does not seem to have happened with the war on terrorism.

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      • FacelessCraven says:

        actually, it was a fair bit by the gun culture. One of the immediate responses to 9/11 was to point out that airline pilots should be allowed to arm themselves. One of the immediate responses to school shootings has been to point out that teachers and administrators (or students themselves, in the case of higher education) should be allowed to arm themselves.

        The former argument actually was implemented (poorly, I believe). The later has been repeatedly shouted down every time it’s been raised. A few states have actually followed through on it anyway, with no disastrous results.

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        • JBeshir says:

          It getting its own responses as well is fair enough, but it didn’t stop people voting through extraordinary powers and whatnot in response to the bogeyman in the manner that John Schilling suggests gun ownership should.

          Nor has it done anything to stop police being equip to “proto-Stormtrooper” levels with excess military hardware so they can deal with “terrorism”, on a scale unique to the US.

          The stuff they’re saying gun ownership prevents already happened inside the US within the last 20 or so years.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            the pro-gun side at least has an answer to such concerns, even if that answer has repeatedly been shouted down by the pro-control side. On the other hand, without that answer, what solution can you propose to terrorism and spree shootings? It’s a defense, not a guarantee.

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      • John Schilling says:

        The War on Terror got its start in one of the places where essentially all Americans have been totally disarmed for about two generations; I’m not sure that’s really where you want to look for evidence on this one.

        The post-San Bernardino upgrade to the War on Terror is characterized by, A: Donald Trump wanting to ban all Muslim immigrants, B: Barack Obama wanting to ban as many guns as he can get away with by executive fiat, and C: the FBI et al wanting to ban strong cryptography and strictly police the intertubes. Trump is getting support from the same people who supported his anti-immigrant shtick back when it was Mexicans rather than terrorists and almost nobody else, Obama is getting support from the same people who have always supported gun control and almost nobody else, and the FBI’s wish list doesn’t seem to be getting much support from anyone.

        When faced with a terrorist threat that can plausibly be countered by individual action, Americans do seem to think they have got it covered, or at least they don’t seem terribly concerned. My sense from coverage of the various attacks in Europe is that the Europeans are a bit more afraid and support quite a bit more government action than they did beforehand, but I’m not the best placed to speak to European cultural developments in this area.

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  33. houseboatonstyx says:

    As a gun-moderate, I’m taking a fresh look at Now. An easily profiled set of people are trying to buy their first-ever gun in the US. An NCIS flag saying “If this person tries to buy X kind/amount of armament, call the police” is feasible.

    The local police who get the calls can decide which are worth responding to, and how. Setting the flag for Muslims etc is easy. Setting it for NECAR* type individuals can use some of the computer connections that already make ads pop up targeted to young male losers.

    * Newtown, EliotRodger, Columbine, Aurora, Roseburg

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  34. Perhaps mentioned in the comments on the previous post, but one (perhaps too obvious to mention?) thing that makes comparing US States against one another a bit tricky is that, unless I completely misunderstand US law, the borders are porous. That is, there is no realistic way for one state to prevent people from obtaining guns in other states and bringing them home illegally. So it’s not quite the same thing as where an entire nation has the same laws.

    (Whether that’s a worse problem for the statistics than the equally obvious ones when comparing one nation to another nation, I don’t know.)

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    • Sastan says:

      No one contests you can traffic guns from one state where they are illegal to one where they aren’t. This is expensive and time consuming, but you could do it. It’s not the sort of thing disorganized criminals are going to do, but organized crime, terrorists and our more methodical spree-shooters, sure.

      This misses the point when the argument is that the places where those guns are cheaper, legal, and don’t require hiding STILL HAVE LOWER CRIME RATES! There is no plausible mechanism whereby guns are easier to get, cheaper and more prolific where they are banned than where they are legal and openly sold. Hence, no reasonable mechanism for easy access to firearms being the driver behind violent crime.

      If you have someone bound and determined to get a gun for a violent crime, yes, this does make his life somewhat easier, he doesn’t need to pay a smuggler or risk crossing a national border with a weapon. He could do it himself on a weekend. But this isn’t the argument at all.

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      • Hmmm. I don’t think either this post or the previous one were making this particular argument, or if they were I failed to notice it. But it seems to me the most you can get out of this is some kind of upper limit on how much crime can be caused solely by the ready availability of guns. It provides no information on to what extent guns can “make a bad situation worse” to use Scott’s words. Nor is there any obvious reason to think that said upper limit doesn’t depend on cultural/contextual factors.

        (As in, if there’s an 1-in-X risk of the average armed person shooting a stranger who swears at them, the impact of that risk in country Y will depend on how often people swear at strangers.)

        On a tangent: how expensive and time-consuming can it really be to drive to another state and back? Surely most people in the US are, oh, only a few hours drive away from a state line? (I’ve been willing to drive that far on occasion just to go to a favorite restaurant.)

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        • Alex Trouble says:

          “how expensive and time-consuming can it really be to drive to another state and back? Surely most people in the US are, oh, only a few hours drive away from a state line? (I’ve been willing to drive that far on occasion just to go to a favorite restaurant.)”

          This depends on where you live. If you live in the middle of Texas, you could be 5 hours from another state. If you live in Southern Texas, it could easily be 8 (but much closer to Mexico). Alaska and Hawaii are obvious outlier, but not many people live in these areas.

          Most crime occurs in cities. Places like NY and Chicago (and, of course, DC) are right next to other states; Seattle and LA are not. Of course, “not close” is still probably within a few hours drive; on the other hand, the next state over might not be any easier for gun laws. Given the population density of the east coast and the fact that most American states are not Texas-sized, I would guess that most Americans live within a few hours drive of at least 1 other state.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      There are effectively no internal borders. If you miss the sign you might not even know you’ve crossed from one state into another, and on some smaller roads there might not even be a sign.

      Report comment

    • “So it’s not quite the same thing as where an entire nation has the same laws.”

      The nations being discussed are mostly in the EU, where the borders are similarly porous.

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      • Tibor says:

        The border police can and sometimes does stop people for a check (since some things like weapons are not allowed to be transported without a transport permit, or alcohol and cigarettes of which typically only a limited amount, a carton or two or several bottles of hard liquor, can be transported by private persons). However, they do this pretty selectively, so because the some Czech Vietnamese gangs are known to smuggle marijuana to Germany, Bavarians stop Vietnamese pretty often (at least that is what I heard from some of them) and on the train route from Prague to Munich people also get checked. I was checked by the Bavarian police when I took that train once, they asked me where I was going, I told them I was going to a stochastic conference in Ulm…they I had to explain what the word stochastic means 😀

        But I was never stopped by either border police and I cross the Czech-Bavarian border about once a month on average. So theoretically I could smuggle guns to Germany quite easily. The police might start suspecting something after my 500th or so gun purchase though.

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    • Jared says:

      You appear to be, quite understandably, moderately overestimating the ease of evading individual states’ gun control laws.

      From your reply to Sastan, I think you believe that I, a Californian, can simply drive over to Nevada, which is famous for its permissive laws in general, and come back with as many guns as I want, the same as I could avail myself of its gambling and prostitution, as long as I personally am willing to violate California law. (Of course, if I just want to do some tourist thing internal to Nevada, like fork over some cash and fire a machine gun on a range, that’s a different matter altogether.)

      This is not so: I also need to find a Nevadan who is willing to violate (or ignorant of) federal law. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968, which created federal licensing for firearms dealers, prohibits (1) dealers from selling handguns to unlicensed individuals outside their state of residence, (2) dealers from selling long guns to unlicensed individuals unless permitted by both the state of purchase and the state of residence, and (3) all sales between unlicensed individuals from two different states.

      Sellers can practically comply with this because driver’s licenses issued by our states of residence serve as our de facto ID cards. The upshot is that to evade my state’s laws in this fashion, I’d need a complicit seller for a black market transaction in the laxer state.

      Of course, our porous internal borders, together with the sheer number of firearms, support a more robust black market than would otherwise be possible, but it’s not quite as easy as what you’re envisioning, where the sale itself is legal and the only illegal part is crossing a border that is indeed absolutely porous.

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      • Richard says:

        My experience tells me that this is less of a problem than the intent of the law though.

        Last time I was in Nevada, I was browsing the shelves and idly complaining that I could not buy a nice item even though I had a valid license from a different country.

        The dealer promptly sold the gun to a random customer standing beside me who 5 minutes later sold it to me in the parking lot, all legal as far as I know (the dealer told me we had to do the second transaction on the parking lot next door, not on the premises of the dealership). The law seemingly applies only to dealers and not to private citizens, so all you need to do is to find a local who is willing to sell you a gun.

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        • Jared says:

          Certainly your anecdote suggests that black market sales are easier to find than I thought. However, the law absolutely applies to private citizens, as I said. See 18 USC 922(a)(5). https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922

          On top of the fact that the customer’s sale to you was illegal, the customer’s purchase from the dealer sounds like an illegal straw purchase.

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          • Robert VerBruggen says:

            Technically, the law says you can’t sell to someone *if you know or have reasonable cause to believe* they’re from another state. Dealers have to make efforts to find out (checking IDs under the 1968 law and since the mid-1990s running background checks), but private citizens don’t. The ATF tries not to draw attention to this — they often just leave out the “know” part when summarizing the law — but they do admit it’s optional in this fact sheet:

            https://www.atf.gov/file/58681/download

            There’s also a good discussion of the 1968 law in this 1975 Frank Zimring article:

            http://www.hoplofobia.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Firearms-and-Federal-Law_-The-Gun-Control-Act-of-1968.pdf

            Obviously, selling without checking ID is stupid; if something happens, you will come under suspicion. (As a gun owner I’d strongly advise just doing a background check at a dealer for peace of mind.) But if you actually go to court it will be hard to get a guilty verdict.

            I’ve seen conflicting reports as to whether most private sellers in fact do check IDs. This reports that most at gun shows don’t (page 91):

            https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/vprp/pdf/IGS/IGS3web.pdf

            While this says the overwhelming majority at gun shows do (page 17):

            http://www.nyc.gov/html/om/pdf/2009/pr442-09_report.pdf

            Both are based on investigations of actual gun shows roughly around the same time, so I’m not sure what the difference is all about. The NYC one does say sellers talked about ATF efforts to enforce the out-of-state-sale rule, so maybe word spread to be extra careful about it at the gun shows they investigated.

            Worth noting: There have been cases of people driving to other states and loading up on guns (see: http://www.thetrace.org/2016/01/unlicensed-gun-dealer-convicted/) but I’m not sure how many do it with fake IDs.

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          • John Schilling says:

            But if you actually go to court it will be hard to get a guilty verdict.

            I doubt it would be the least bit difficult to get a guilty verdict in the case just described, if anyone cared to take it to trial. The immediate resale would negate any plausible excuse, and the dealer would probably have security-camera footage of key aspects of the transaction. Almost certainly it would be settled by plea bargain in practice.

            The Federal government, almost certainly won’t prosecute – they are literally worse than useless when it comes to preventing or prosecuting strawman sales. But state governments also have jurisdiction, particularly over the second, private resale part of the transaction, and some of them have been passing and enforcing laws allowing them to claim jurisdiction over the initial dealer sale as well. But it’s hard to keep track of what fifty different states are doing; I’m not sure what Nevada’s current policy is.

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        • Sastan says:

          So all you have to do is break the law to break the law!

          Who’d have thunk?

          I bet we need another law that makes it double secret illegal to do that!

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      • Thanks Jared. That makes sense. I was puzzled at first because I remembered one of President Obama’s recent proposals being related to private sales at gun shows, but a quick search through the comment thread established that I was confusing “background checks” with “checking ID”.

        On the other hand, I’ve always gathered that fake drivers licenses are fairly easy to come by, if the stories of teenagers and alcohol are at all true. (Another myth perhaps?)

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        • Jared says:

          No, it’s true that fake driver’s licenses are not hard to come by. I certainly don’t think that it’s hard to traffic guns across state lines. All I was saying is that it’s not the utterly trivial process that it would be if every step were legal except the uncontrolled border crossing.

          However, it looks like Robert VerBruggen is correct that if you find a private seller who doesn’t ask questions, then no one is breaking the law except you: There is no requirement that a private seller check ID, only that seller must not “know or have reasonable cause to believe” that the buyer is from another state.

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    • Jared says:

      Based on replies to my first post, I’m going to go ahead and stipulate that it’s easier than I thought to illegally buy a gun in a laxer state than one’s state of residence. Although the sale wouldn’t be legal, it looks only slightly more difficult than if it were. My mistake was being a dork who’s never even bought marijuana, and assuming that arranging an illegal private-party gun sale would be yet more challenging.

      The people who are stopped by the legality are probably people like me who would be stopped the legality of possession in the first place.

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  35. Douglas Knight says:

    Here is a table of household firearm ownership that breaks out handguns. It is from this report (table 18, p279). It is an international comparison, mainly of Europe. America is included, so it would be possible to break it out by state, but I don’t think that was ever published.

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  36. I haven’t noticed you controlling in your various regressions for the percent of a state’s population that is young adult males, which I believe is an important variable in crime rates. I don’t know how much it varies from state to state.

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  37. Alexander Wales says:

    Without the cultural factors in place, guns are pretty harmless. That’s why Wyoming can be the highest-gun-ownership state in the country, with 60% of households having a weapon, and still have a murder rate equal to Canada’s and lower than 45 other states’.

    This is one of those situations where splitting handguns and long guns (shotguns and rifles) apart would be enormously useful. Rural areas have more guns … but those guns are mostly long guns, because in rural areas you go hunting for meat or sport. We know that handguns are used in homicides at a rate almost ten times higher than rifles or shotguns, because all the major organizations that track those stats tell us so. So it might be that long guns are pretty harmless but handguns are not, and culture doesn’t have that much to do with it. It’s a confounder that almost no one seems to be controlling for.

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    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Most rural folks I know have at least one handgun for (on average) every two long guns. They are more likely to be revolvers than in another cohort, but they have them.

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  38. David Friedman asks: “At a mild tangent … . Back when it was common for gentlemen to wear swords, how common was it for someone to draw his sword and stab his opponent–as distinguished from challenging him to a duel and then having a duel according the the then current conventions?”

    I have studied the history of dueling rather closely. There is a suggestion in the fact pattern that what we now think of as the “duel of honor” became regularized in the European early modern period in part as a social reaction to the prevalence of “killing affrays”, the sort of draw and stab you describe.

    Literary sources suggest the killing affray was still relatively common in Shakespeare’s time; Christopher Marlowe died in a drunken argument over a bar bill in 1593, stabbed over one eye. But by 30 years later offended Frenchmen were fighting duels in the Bois de Bologne (that is, rather than stabbing each other in the street at the time of the offense) and killing affrays were beginning to be considered declasse.

    During the next hundred and fifty years aristocrats and the emerging middle class re-purposed and elaborated customs previously associated with the judicial duel. You can track this transition by the development of written codes duello, such as the Irish Code developed in 1777 at the Clonmel Assizes and the Wilson Code of 1838 (representing then well-established dueling customs of the Southern U.S.)

    I should qualify that my view of the matter might be rejected by the few academic scholars that have written on the history of dueling. Those I have read treat the duel of honor as an earlier and more continuous development of the judicial duel than I have described above. They don’t see the large transition in early modern customs that I think is one of the most interesting parts of the story.

    In support of that academic view, one can find institutions that mixed elements of the judicial duel with the duel of honor from relatively early, the Scandinavian custom of holmgang being a case in point. But – and with great relevance to David’s question – before the early modern period the duel was less formalized and coexisted with the killing affray rather than tending to displace and replace street violence.

    EDIT: Another way to think about the early modern transition is as once in which sporadic instances of the duel of honor among aristocrats spread down the social scale, becoming aspirational behavior for commoners and thus actually more common.

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    • The most surprising aspect is that e.g. in 17th century France duel deaths were treated officially as murder which got automatically pardoned. Nobody actually got punished for winning one, but the official treatment as a crime really surprised me. I.e. the fact that it was not fully legal but rather just decriminalized, like pot in Holland these days. I just assumed 100% legal ways to do consensual combat existed all through the Middle Ages, because, after all, there were private wars, and did Viking Age hólmganga got criminalized sometimes during the Middle Ages, so that duelling had to be explicitly re-decriminalized? I cannot imagine a post-Frank society without some form of a duel, given that the rather brutal culture of the comitatus was alive until at least the 10th century. So who and when did criminalize duels so that they had to be decriminalized again in the Early Modern era? How the eff can one even imagine an age of chivalry without duels? Something does not make sense here for me.

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      • In France, the legal status of dueling was so murky and variable over time that it would take significant historical research to answer your question. It is possible there are good French-language historical sources on this, but the English-language ones don’t provide enough detail.

        I do know this: custom and law were frequently at odds. There were times when the King issued harsh edicts against dueling but winked at the practice, and both behaviors seemed to be expected.

        I have the impression – but won’t swear to it, because it’s from literary sources that may be romanticizing – that French anti-dueling laws were passed under pressure from a vocal minority that included clerics and influential women but then largely ignored by gentlemen and effectively abrogated by judicial refusal to enforce them.

        It is not commonly recognized, but the code duello actually lasted longer in France than it did in the Anglosphere. In England, serious legal enforcement began with a law against dueling by military officers in the 1840s. The last recorded fatal duel on English soil was fought just 12 years later, significantly between French refugees; by contrast, dueling remained relatively common in France until around 1900 and the last recorded formal duel on French soil was actually fought in 1967! (It was unintentionally farcical. There are photographs.)

        Even the U.S. gave up dueling before the French. Excluding the frontier, the duel seems to have died out by the end of the Civil War; in the West, the last recorded duels were in the 1880s.

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        • anon says:

          My great-granduncle, born around 1860, fought sword duels in Italy.

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        • François Dancie says:

          I have the impression – but won’t swear to it, because it’s from literary sources that may be romanticizing – that French anti-dueling laws were passed under pressure from a vocal minority that included clerics and influential women but then largely ignored by gentlemen and effectively abrogated by judicial refusal to enforce them.

          No, that’s romanticism. The general consensus is that the edicts were passed because too many noblemen were killing each other, depleting the French Army of officers and the wider society of its ruling caste. “Influential women” is a bit of an oxymoron in early 17th century France.

          [T]he last recorded formal duel on French soil was actually fought in 1967! (It was unintentionally farcical. There are photographs.)

          There’s video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e68nuAcSuWQ

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  39. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    There’s been a story floating around my liberal bubble about a ban on federal gun violence research. Can anyone explain what’s going on with this? I only have the NRA-as-cartoon-villains version.

    Looking into it it sounds like the law only affects the CDC, and Obama is planning to defy it and fund CDC gun research and presumably go to court over the law’s meaning. Why doesn’t another federal agency just do the research?

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    • HeelBearCub says:

      I believe it is true that congress has banned this. It has been discussed here before.

      IIRC, the gun-rights advocates say that this is because the CDC was blatantly biased in the gun research it was doing at the time. I’m not sure whether that is the case or not. My guess would be that, at a minimum, the CDC research was pointing at conclusions that gun rights advocates did not agree with.

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      • FacelessCraven says:

        @HeelBearCub – “I’m not sure whether that is the case or not. My guess would be that, at a minimum, the CDC research was pointing at conclusions that gun rights advocates did not agree with.”

        Lots and lots and lots of background on that research:

        http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/58tenn.pdf

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      • Marc Whipple says:

        It is not banned and it never was.

        There were some specific restrictions on spending Federal money to do it.

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      • HlynkaCG says:

        Murphy already covered this but the long and the short of it is that a few years back the director of the CDC got censured for using funds from the CDC’s budget for what amounted to political activism.

        The Republicans in congress didn’t quite have the clout to get anyone fired but they did slip an amendment into the CDC’s budget that specifically prohibited the CDC from spending funds earmarked by congress for medical research and “injury prevention” on lobbyists.

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    • Murphy says:

      I think I know a little about that one. A while back the CDC had a very anti-gun director who was not subtle about doing explicitly pro-gun-control research.

      CDC money was effectively being spent on partisan political lobbying.

      http://thefederalist.com/2015/12/15/why-congress-cut-the-cdcs-gun-research-budget/

      The final nail in the coffin came in 1995 when the Injury Prevention Network Newsletter told its readers to “organize a picket at gun manufacturing sites” and to “work for campaign finance reform to weaken the gun lobby’s political clout.” Appearing on the same page as the article pointing the finger at gun owners for the Oklahoma City bombing were the words, “This newsletter was supported in part by Grant #R49/CCR903697-06 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

      Federal money can technically still be spent on firearms research but it’s a lot harder to do so through the CDC.

      The text was

      “Provided further, that none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

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    • John Schilling says:

      Because any other federal agency would probably do what Scott did; conduct a careful analysis, find that there is a weak correlation when you account for the obvious cofactors, and look for any non-obvious cofactors that might explain the rest.

      The CDC, is likely to do what Vox did and put out something that obfuscates the difference between homicide and suicide and just simplifies to “Scary Guns Bad!”. The medical community in general has a bad reputation in this regard in the United States; their normal statistical tools come from epidemiology when what we are dealing with is sociology, and whether they misapply the “everything is a communicable disease” tools or try to reinvent statistics from scratch, there have been some abysmally bad studies of “gun violence” by people with ‘M.D.’ behind their name and, until now, no good ones.

      Toss in some comments by a former head of the CDC suggesting he was likely to produce more of the bad ones, and you get Congress saying they don’t want the CDC to touch this one. And nobody’s willing to pay e.g. the FBI for a study that will predictably say “It’s complicated but it doesn’t seem like it makes much difference. Now about all those black folks and their culture…”

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  40. ad says:

    (I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny

    I once read abou the planter Thomas Thistlewood. During the slave revolt on Jamaica he armed some of his slaves and had them defend him from the people wanting to free them . Even the Nazis used to arm militias in their conquored territories.

    It seems that light weapons are less valuable to La Resistance than you might think. Probably because the other lot have heavy weapons. I suppose the moral is: don’t bring a pistol to an artillery duel.

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    • >I once read abou the planter Thomas Thistlewood. During the slave revolt on Jamaica he armed some of his slaves and had them defend him from the people wanting to free them.

      I find nothing weird about that. A decent master could easily be seen as a popular father figure or chieftain type guy by his slaves. People who weren’t exposed to much Enlightenment values don’t find subjugation in itself abhorrent as long as they are treated well. And every army, when not sufficiently disciplined, can easily devolve into a drunken, arsonous, raping, violent mess. A slave revolt could very easily turn in that direction, thus I find it logical that slaves want to fight against an invading army of slaves whom they see as drunken, violent rapists.

      The story just demonstrates how elite explanations of events after the fact are not really related to events actually perceived when they happened. If you were a revolting slave with about zero humanistic education into being nicey-nice, would you really care about liberating anyone, or would you rather care about getting your belly full, your throat and dick wet and burning down anything that is flammable? Seriously this second is far more realistic.

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  41. NN says:

    I don’t know enough about guns to be know whether restricting handguns would make it harder to defend against tyranny. Could you shoot the tyrants equally well with a rifle?

    According to Wikipedia, the final decommissioning of the Provisional IRA’s arsenal in 2005 included 1,000 rifles, 2 tonnes of Semtex, 20–30 heavy machine guns, 7 surface-to-air missiles, 7 flamethrowers, 1,200 detonators, 11 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 100+ hand grenades, and only 90 handguns.

    This would seem to indicate that pistols are not the weapon of choice for first world guerrilla fighters/terrorists/La Resistance.

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    • Furslid says:

      Or it could mean that a lot of the handguns weren’t in the armory. I can think of a couple of reasons this might be the case.

      Some of the fighters may have taken handguns home with them, as they can be carried from the armory hidden and then slipped into a drawer in case they were needed later. Not so easy with a rifle. And leaders might allow handguns out when they wouldn’t let explosives out. Someone with explosives could likely restart the conflict a lot easier than someone with a handgun.

      Or the armory was where they stored big stuff for major operations. Handguns were kept with local cell leaders or individuals for use in small operations where they are needed fast. So they weren’t there when the arsenal was decomissioned. A much higher proportion of handguns would have been issued at any time than the proportion of flamethrowers.

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      • John Schilling says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty much going to assume that if an irregular military force whose members are by definition armed criminals is told, “We’re disbanding tomorrow; hand over all the weapons to our enemies then go home and pretend you were never really one of us to begin with”, an awful lot of weapons are going to quietly disappear tonight.

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  42. Mark says:

    I’m really, really not sure about this “25% of Canadians own guns” statistic – this way, way off what the RCMP reports about # of Canadians with a gun license. Unlike the US, you MUST have a license to have a gun in Canada or you are in very illegal possession.

    http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/facts-faits/index-eng.htm

    According to that, the legal gun ownership rate is 6%. Even if you doubled it, assuming just as many illegal owners as legal, it’d still be only 12%.

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    • enoriverbend says:

      I haven’t seen any good numbers on illegal gun ownership in Canada. But I would note that

      a) enforcement is very weak, particularly since the long gun registry was closed; many provinces refused to enforce it before the long gun registry was closed;

      b) as many as 20,000 have *publically* refused to get licensed; sure, that’s a drop in the bucket, but *publically* implies a large number of less brave individuals;

      c) there’s even a organization of people that refuse to get licensed!

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  43. perlhaqr says:

    I’ll go ahead and stake out the extremist position here.

    I support precisely no restrictions on gun sales and ownership. The prefatory clause to the second amendment is purely prefatory, and the active part of the amendment is “The right of the people (the same individual “people”, mind you, as in the first, fourth, fifth [“person”], sixth [“accused”], ninth, and tenth amendments) to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It’s absolute. Shall not be infringed.

    This means that at the very least we need to immediately repeal the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act, and the 1968 Gun Control Act, and the 1934 National Firearms act, and give the average American citizen reasonable access to the sort of personal military hardware that soldiers have in our military, and because we’re Americans and we should support free trade, all the personal military hardware that other militaries who are willing to sell it to us will sell us.

    I’m opposed to licensing. I’m opposed to mandatory classes. I’m opposed to restrictions on convicted felons owning firearms. All of those things are infringements.

    If you want to start making those sorts of things requirements, or laws, or want to start restricting types of weapons that people can own, or models, or saying that entire classes of weapons are forbidden, you need to amend the Second Amendment first. (Ethically, I mean. In practice, clearly plenty of gun control laws have been passed in defiance of the plain meaning of the Second Amendment.)

    Beyond that, I don’t actually care what the statistics say. Murder is already illegal. I have an absolute right to own any sort of firearm I wish to own. I have no right to use said firearm to commit murder. My right to own any firearm of any sort isn’t affected by someone else breaking the law.

    But if you want to reduce the incidence of murder, before you advocate stomping all over a very deeply enshrined right that a lot of people in this country take very seriously–a right that’s fully supported by the founding documents of our country–I strongly recommend scrapping the entire War on Some Drugs. A.) It’s not supported by the Constitution. B.) Eliminating pure non-violent offenders from the prison system would create a lot more space for violent offenders. C.) Eliminating the War on Some Drugs would reduce the value of drugs, and reduce the incentive to have turf battles.

    –An ex-libertarian anarchist

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    • anonymous says:

      It’s a strange sort of anarchist that considers following the constitution an ethical requirement.

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      • HlynkaCG says:

        How so?

        Libertarians (in the Anglosphere at least) drew heavily from Deontological Ethics, having a clearly defined set of “virtues” or “rules” that everyone is expected to abide by in social situations pretty much comes with the territory.

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        • anonymous says:

          I don’t understand your response. Perlhaqr specifically labeled himself an ex-libertarian anarchist. So what the do the properties of Anglosphere Libertarians have to do with anything?

          Further, even if anarchists were generally followers of deontological ethics, it still wouldn’t necessarily follow that they buy into the American cultural idea that the Constitution is an Inspired Document and transgressing it is ethically wrong. On the contrary, anarchism at least strong implies the opposite.

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          • perlhaqr says:

            Enh, it’s not that unreasonable of a statement.

            I stated “ex-libertarian anarchist” to indicate the direction from which I approached anarchism, which means it’s not completely outre to think that I might have some habits of thinking that are remnants of that time.

            While I would no longer espouse the theory that the Constitution was a divinely inspired document, it’s definitely the mindset I grew up with, and I still have some of those same buttons to push installed in my psyche. 😉

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          • I couldn’t tell if “ex-libertarian anarchist” meant “ex-libertarian” now anarchist or “ex-(libertarian anarchist)”.

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      • perlhaqr says:

        I’m willing to use the enemy’s tools to bind it. A United States that follows the Constitution is a better place to live, IMO, than one which ignores it entirely in favor of greater government control. I consider it an ethical requirement of people who wish to use the system to at least follow the system’s rules for using the system.

        I would of course not object to a United States which had evolved sufficiently in an anarchist direction no longer following the Constitution because it wanted to offer more freedom from government intervention.

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        • HlynkaCG says:

          True anarchy however requires us to accept that the desire to subjugate people is entirely legitimate. After all, nothing is prohibited.

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          • perlhaqr says:

            No, there is a firm distinction to be drawn between “anarchy” and “chaos”.

            And I certainly don’t have to respect or accept people’s desire to subjugate others. All that’s required is that I not initiate violence against them for having ugly thoughts.

            Still, this is highly orthogonal to the conversation about guns.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            I can see an situation being anarchic without being chaotic, but if a situation is chaotic, wouldn’t it more or less have to be anarchic?

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          • I think a Failed State would constitute a situation that is chaotic without being anarchic. Depends on your precise definitions I guess.

            Consider Syria in particular.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Harry Johnston:

            Fair enough.

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          • “True anarchy however requires us to accept that the desire to subjugate people is entirely legitimate. After all, nothing is prohibited.”

            An odd definition of “anarchy.” It’s usually taken, in the political context, to mean “absence of government.” There are other ways of preventing things.

            Do you mean “to accept that government shouldn’t exist in order to control the desire to subjugate people?”

            There is no reason an anarchist cannot believe that subjugating people is wrong, and be willing to use force to prevent it.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            @David Friedman

            “No Government” basically means that no rules beyond those which you and your immediate cohort can enforce at that very moment, as the moment you start forming some sort of wider consensus and enforcement mechanism you’re 99.99~% of the way to reinventing government anyway.

            An individual anarchist may hold the opinion that subjugating people is wrong, they may even express that opinion through violence but it’s kind of silly to imagine anarchists of all people trying to dictate the behavior of others.

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          • William Newman says:

            “but it’s kind of silly to imagine anarchists of all people trying to dictate the behavior of others”

            [edit: Absence of government doesn’t mean absence of effective norms. E.g. whether I trust someone not to lie to me or others, or expect him to penalize liars, has rather little to do with government. People can have just as strong norms about coercion as they do about lying, even though in modern societies we don’t get to see them so clearly or so often because government interventions w.r.t. coercion are so strong and pervasive.]

            I don’t see why. Large groups of people do strongly tend to settle into something closely resembling our idea of government, but small groups not so much. Do you really think that 5 random castaways, anarchist or not, will necessarily think it’s OK to subjugate others? And if they start with reasonably comparable capabilities, do you think they will spontaneously fall into some subjugation arrangement regardless of such abstract ideas about what’s OK? That doesn’t seem consistent with what I know about incidents of people thrown together. Sometimes they do settle into some clear dominance relationship, but without the effects like specialization for war and clear advantage of large specialized coalitions that kick in strongly when many thousands of individuals are involved, sharp dominance relationships don’t seem to be the only common outcome in very small groups, or even the most common outcome.

            And re. large groups, you might or might not be aware that *someone* wrote a book called _Machinery of Freedom_ which contains arguments, too long to summarize usefully here. that the range of feasible outcomes is less simple than you seem to believe. (And I don’t entirely know whether to be convinced, but I do note that it would have been a challenge to explain to me in 1600 that representative government was about to enjoy centuries of world dominance, so I retain a certain intellectual humility about propositions like that.)

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          • ““No Government” basically means that no rules beyond those which you and your immediate cohort can enforce at that very moment, as the moment you start forming some sort of wider consensus and enforcement mechanism you’re 99.99~% of the way to reinventing government anyway.”

            Do you assume that “no government” also means you have to grow your own food, perhaps with the help of your “immediate cohort,” build your own houses and cars and computers?

            I published a book more than forty years ago that sketched what a private property society without a government might look like. The enforcement was not done by the individual’s “immediate cohort” but by firms that sold the service of protecting rights and arranging for dispute arbitration. If you are sufficiently curious, the second edition is available as a free pdf from my web site.

            http://www.daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf

            There are many large organizations other than governments, so your argument depends on some definition of government that somehow includes any large firm providing rights protection to its clients. Defining what is or is not a government is a non-trivial problem. My best attempt is in the third edition of the same book. That edition isn’t available for free, but a late draft of the relevant chapter is webbed at:

            http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Machinery_3d_Edition/A%20Positive%20Account%20of%20Rights.htm

            You might want to be a little more careful about assuming that you know what people whose political views are very different from yours believe.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            @William Newman
            In regards to smaller groups, I think it’s rather naïve to assume that they wouldn’t considering how popular the choice to “Rape, pillage, and plunder our weasley black guts out!” has been throughout human history.

            @David Friedman
            You don’t have to make everything yourself as you could always raid, or trade with another cohort.

            What I wouldn’t expect is for such relationships to be stable in the long term as in the absence of external enforcement mechanisms personal loyalty/charisma or fear of retribution are going to be the primary motivators to cooperate. Even if you and the folks from the next farm over get along there is no guarantee that your kids will, or that some 3rd group wont come and raid both of you.

            While you are correct that there are many large organizations other than governments. I don’t think that it’s really relevant because once that organization starts enforcing it’s laws on people who are not immediate members of that organization you basically have something that walks like a government and quacks like a government.

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          • Doctor Mist says:

            @HlynkaCG:

            once that organization starts enforcing it’s laws on people who are not immediate members of that organization you basically have something that walks like a government and quacks like a government.

            Just because you say it, that does not make it so. Refuting Dr. Friedman’s book without reading Dr. Friedman’s book is a fool’s errand.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            @Doctor Mist:

            No disrespect intended but I’m not going to read a 133 page document for the sake of a 2 paragraph reply. That said I did read the specific chapter he linked and I still think my critique is valid.

            David Friedman says that “A government is an institution against which people have dropped the commitment strategies that defend what they view as their rights against other people.” and the arbitration firms he describes would seem to fit that description, otherwise people would defect from, fight it out with, or just plane ignore the arbitration firm whenever a ruling doesn’t go their way.

            In short, there is a government-like entity doing government-esque things we just aren’t calling it a government.

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          • Doctor Mist says:

            @HlynkaCG,

            I’m not going to read a 133 page document for the sake of a 2 paragraph reply

            Your choice, of course, but it means you just look silly to someone who has read it.

            Do you really imagine Friedman is slapping his forehead and saying, “Oh my God! It quacks like a government! How could I have been so blind?”

            Or, just maybe, it has already occurred to him that arbitration firms do in fact look a little like a government, and he has explained in some detail how they would be restrained from quacking?

            (It really is an entertaining book whether you end up believing it or not.)

            I’m afraid there is a little of the Noncentral Fallacy here (Scott’s “worst argument in the world”: Martin Luther King may have technically been a criminal, but pointing that out doesn’t automatically endow him with all the baggage usually associated with the term.) If we are lucky enough to avoid chaos, something is standing between us and it. Historically that thing has been government, so when faced with a novel nonchaotic situation it’s natural to try to pick out the part that is “the government”. But that part need not have all or even most of the properties of government that anarchists find objectionable. So when you think you have figured out what that part is and say “Aha! The government!”, what do I do? I can say, “No fair, that’s not what we really mean by government.” Or I can say, “Okay, in some sense you’re technically correct, but so what?” In either case, what’s really going on is either that you’ve missed the point or that you’re using the label rhetorically to obscure the point.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            I’m not going to speculate on what Mr. Friedman’s is doing right now. That’s none of my business. But I do think its rather silly of you to argue that anarchy works great so long as there’s a government when anarchy is supposed to be the absence of government.

            Sorry, but I don’t care how foolish you think I am. The emperor is naked.

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          • Doctor Mist says:

            its rather silly of you to argue that anarchy works great so long as there’s a government when anarchy is supposed to be the absence of government.

            That is so very, very far from what I was saying that I’m tempted to accuse you of disingenuousness. Instead, I will just assume that I am very bad at communicating, and shut up. My apologies.

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        • anonymous says:

          It doesn’t sound like you find following the Constitution to be an ethical requirement, but rather that you find following the constitution in this case to be contingently good (or at least better) and to be doing good is itself an ethical requirement. That seems more consistent with anarchism to me, but doesn’t justify the sense of textualist outrage I get from your post.

          Do you think the authors of the constitution were unethical when they ignored the modification requirements of the articles of confederation in order to replace it with the constitution?

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          • perlhaqr says:

            I find “following the Constitution” to be an ethical requirement for people who wish to wield the levers of power of the United States of America. It’s a game. I don’t particularly enjoy the game, but I think people who want to play it should have to follow the rules.

            I think “doing good” is also an ethical requirement, but that one applies to everyone.

            The sense of “textual outrage” you get is not unreasonable, there really is one there, but it’s more due to actual anarchist philosophy than Libertarian Constitutionalist philosophy. Ultimately, I hold that my “right to keep and bear arms” follows solely out of my own self-ownership due to existence as a sapient entity. In (very) short: I own myself; I have the right to defend myself; I have the right to acquire what tools I can–short of trampling anyone else’s self-ownership–to defend myself more effectively.

            Basically, even if the Second Amendment is amended, I’ll still consider myself to have an absolute right to keep and bear arms. But given the existence of the United States of America as a political entity, and the ground rules it has, operating within those ground rules is the absolute base starting position for getting a lot of people who aren’t me to agree with you.

            Yes, I think the shift from the AoC to the Constitution was a vast overstepping of the boundaries of the task the people who wrote it were set to, and the ignoring of the defined modification procedure was unethical of them. That being said, I do at least try to recognize reality, if only from a distance, and getting people to comply with what 99.9999999% of the population even thinks of as their “founding document” is more likely than compliance with the AoC. 😉

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    • … I’m opposed to restrictions on convicted felons owning firearms. All of those things are infringements.

      You lost me at that last example. Punishment for felony includes loss of fundamental rights, including property, liberty, and even life; I see no Constitutional reason it can’t include loss of the RtBA.

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      • But all of those things only happen during the decreed term of punishment. The government can confiscate a criminal’s properties following a trial, but they can’t come back ten years later and confiscate something else unrelated to the original conviction.

        It would presumably be constitutional to sentence someone to not being allowed to carry arms, even if it was a lifetime sentence, but automatically denying that right to everyone convicted of any crime seems dubious at best. In other words, it should be up to the judge.

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    • Anthony says:

      Based on historical precedent, an absolutist position on the Second Amendment would allow private ownership of artillery and warships, as private individuals *did* own those things in the period during which the Second Amendment was passed.

      Also, I’ve read, but haven’t been able to verify, that in the 1880s, state naval militias significantly outclassed the U.S. Navy. Though that wasn’t hard – the U.S. Navy would have been unable to defeat Peru or Chile in the Pacific (but they’d just fought a war and had larger navies than usual), and may have been smaller than the Chilean Navy overall. So even assuming that the preface clause is legally relevant, there’s precedent for pretty powerful concentrations of force not in the hands of Washington D.C.

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      • Russ R. says:

        Artillery and warships are “materiel”, bombs and missiles are “ordnance”.

        “Arms” are what an individual soldier would carry into battle, historically including spears, swords, longbows, and in modern times, firearms.

        Since the purpose of protecting the people’s right to keep and bear arms was to maintain a militia (see Federalist 46), it’s only reasonable that the people should have the right to keep and bear arms of exactly the sort that an individual soldier would carry into battle. (i.e. assault rifles).

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  44. grampy_bone says:

    Have you investigate any studies into what level of crime is prevented by gun ownership? Instances where being armed directly deters a criminal (flashing a gun at a mugger is usually enough to scare them off), and how gun ownership overall acts as a deterrent to crime (criminals are less likely to break into occupied houses because anybody could be armed.)

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  45. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I’m curious about the data regarding different types of murders, as it could affect policy implications. I tried to look up info on domestic homicide. I couldn’t find the state-by-state stats one would need to redo the correlations. I found http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.93.7.1089#/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.93.7.1089 which claims to find abusive male partners of women are much more likely to kill said women if they have access to firearms. It did try to control for stuff, though I suppose that it doesn’t rule out direct reverse causation where people who know they might kill someone buy guns.

    It also finds women who live separately from their abusive partners and own guns are less likely to be murdered, though with a small sample.

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  46. Ahilan Nagendram says:

    The rape correlation is probably a product of definition? It’s negatively correlation with black percentage because of marital rape and such being swept into the fold.

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  47. H.E. Pennypacker says:

    It seems pretty nutty to me to talk about “culture” or “cultural factors” as something separate from “guns” or “gun ownership”. It perfectly highlights the flaws of social science approaches that treat society as an explicate order of atomised phenomena that then have to be pieced together through theory. What does it mean to have an interaction between “culture” and “gun ownership”? Having a high rate of gun ownership and the attitudes towards gun ownership are clearly part of culture (and while we’re at it you can’t really isolate certain “factors” as separate). Reasoning like:

    ‘I suggested that the difference in homicide rates between America and other First World countries were about two-thirds cultural, one-third gun-related. That’s sort of true, but people have reminded me to think of it as an interaction. Without the cultural factors in place, guns are pretty harmless. ‘

    reminds me how weird many people’s understanding of “culture” is.

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  48. Orphan Wilde says:

    I have friends who are vehemently anti-gun, and who have never been around gun owners. When they found out I and my partner own guns, their horrified response was that we should never bring guns over into their house.

    It took a little while to explain that this was offensive, in something the way, after finding out somebody chews tobacco, you ask them not to spit on the couch would be offensive; you’re suggesting an incredible level of incivility. There were some more explanations of this, about how, even in rural areas where carrying a gun is like wearing a hardhat in a construction site (that is, a safety tool), it’s still basic etiquette to leave your gun on somebody’s porch when you enter their home.

    There’s a massive gulf between the people who grow up around “good gun culture” and the people who don’t.

    There is “bad” gun culture, too. The idea that guns exist to kill people. The idea that guns impart power on those who have them. The idea that guns can solve complex social problems – or that guns cause complex social problems.

    They’re tools, specifically tools of civilization – those who never have need of a gun, never have need of a gun because they live in an oasis of civilization ultimately maintained by other people with guns. Like any tool, they can be misused.

    I think most people who are inclined to ban guns have never lived in an area where somebody else with a gun wasn’t actively ensuring they didn’t need one.

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  49. passing says:

    Hypothesis:

    Rape and gun ownership correlate because rape survivors are strongly motivated to procure and carry a firearm

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  50. Sam Rudolph says:

    Great work, but I think you give short shrift to the value of firearms. If you want to make it purely about empiricism (I should mention that there are some people on each side of this argument to whom it is purely ideological, and empirically measured effects of gun ownership are mostly irrelevant to them), shouldn’t a cost/benefit analysis be part of this? You mention the benefit of enjoyment of firearms and the benefit of the defense against tyranny, the latter of which was of course the stated purpose of the Second Amendment, but you largely gloss over these admittedly pretty-hard-to-quantify values. But, if you’re talking about crime rates, defensive firearms use is something you should also take into account, although that is its own raging argument in the criminology literature. Since you’re citing Kleck and Hemenway, I’m sure you’re at least passingly familiar with the arguments.

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