Sunday, October 11, 2015

Guns N' Arguments

I seemed to have switched over almost entirely to FB, though I take an unfortunate blogging approach to it, linking articles and making short comments.  I suppose it forces me to edit and be concise.

Nonetheless, I still feel the urge to make a more complete argument at times.

Gun control came up again, because there has been another shooting.  Since then, there has been yet another. You will note that Bethany over at Graph Paper Diaries on the sidebar has a statistics-based post, which has already gotten pushed down the list, but is worth reading.  Most of you have likely also seen the Volokh essay from the Washington Post which she links internally. (If not, it shows zero correlation between strictness of gun laws and homicide rates.) For the record.  I don't own a gun, and other than the occasional BB gun at another kid's house, my only experience with firearms was .22 caliber target shooting at summer camp. Archery was the only thing I was worse at. Hunting was not part of my family culture.  My grandfather went back once a year to Nova Scotia to hunt with his brothers, and perhaps he hunted for food around Westford MA before I was born.  My father shot varmints away from Grampa Wyman's garden, I think.  I have no desire to take up any of the shooting sports.  As I live in NH, my current need for self-defense weapons is slight. Four of my five sons shoot, none often. I have less than zero dogs in this fight.

My simplest formulation is that the government has to show compelling overriding interest in order to take away a right. That evidence just doesn't exist. There are a lot of bad arguments that look like they are relevant, but just aren't. I agree that yes, background checks, waiting periods, and outlawing weapons of warfare sound like they should reduce violence.  But they don't. It is actually weird to read comments sections on the issue, because there are lots and lots of people who just know that particular laws will reduce mass shootings, because of some pretty odd reasoning. I will note in passing that locking up all disgruntled loners is not really a mental-health strategy. There are way too many, and it would be a pretty intolerant society.

If you find a gun law that actually reduces homicides, I'm all ears.

This is all complicated by the fact that the pro-2nd Amendment rights people also make some bad arguments, and make them loudly. Nothing convinces some liberals faster than a conservative making a stupid argument.  The need to be associated with the thinking of experts, and wise folks, and the Best People trumps everything else.  Wherever we're going, it's not there.

For example, references to Obama/Democrats/Liberals wanting to confiscate all our guns is not helping their case.  It is true that there are a not-insignificant percentage of citizens who would indeed like there to be no guns. But that doesn't mean anyone will come to your house demanding you hand your firearms over, Bucko. Not gonna happen, so conjuring that image makes you sound paranoid. As a practical matter, there will be continuing pressure to make it harder to get guns by restricting some people. Similarly, guns will be taken from others for reasons, often good ones, though not always. Taxing the hell out of them might be tried. But it won't be confiscation, because, well, we won't call it that.

I note that strictness in gun laws seem to follow in places that already have low homicide rates.  They may be a result of less violence rather than a cause. Western Europe had low rates of internal violence - a level of cooperation which also allowed them to engage in warfare against others very effectively. So after WWII, in their horror over all things shooting, they passed more and more restrictive laws about guns. But their homicide rates did not drop dramatically after that, just the same slow decline they had been seeing for years.

The big number differences between wealthy nations, and between American states are deeply tied to black-on-black crime and to different groups of any type living cheek-by-jowl. That latter has been observed worldwide among tribes that are of the same race but see themselves as different. England and Ireland, for example.  France and Germany. Tutsis and Hutus. Sunnis and Shias.  That this would be present in the US among people who don't even look like 2nd cousins should hardly be surprising, but apparently it was upsetting enough for Harvard's Robert Putnam (Bowling Alone) to hide his research for four years, so that people like me wouldn't coming to any wrong conclusions. Looking at the numbers, I would say that Americans do pretty well, compared to everyone else in the world.  But when disparate groups are in contact, violence rises in both groups.

As to the former, I don't know why.  Conservatives like to point to the breakdown of the black family, which co-occurs, but that's been elusive to prove. Income, education, employment - all sound like they should be factors, but they seem weak at best. There may be something genetic, but that's been more of a process-of-elimination answer, and I don't think we've eliminated all the possibilities. Even at that, it may only mean that there is a greater percentage of low-impulse control individuals, whose anger is potentiated by bad circumstances, leaving the greater percentage of African-Americans about like everyone else, with the greater burden of having to be in close contact with more bad actors. 

I also note that not all African tribes are especially violent; there are European tribes which are more violent than others (There's that Hajnal Line showing up again); Native tribes differed greatly in violence, and my loose understanding of Asian history suggests differences there as well.  But for whatever reason, the numbers are simply there, an 8x higher homicide rate, that doesn't occur in the Netherlands or Switzerland.  Take out those two factors and the American rates are the same as European - and the European rates are climbing.

I had a thought that more armed middle-aged black people would be a excellent, and were more of a thing in their culture. Yet I sense that in African-American culture there is enough horror of violence and wanting to distance oneself from that whole way of living that complete renunciation of guns is more emphatic.  But I'm just guessing here.


Sam L. said...

"For example, references to Obama/Democrats/Liberals wanting to confiscate all our guns is not helping their case." Yet liberals do make such, or similar statements, Further, let us not forget Obama "joked" about setting the IRS on people. And then he/his administration did just that.

Sam L. said...

" Conservatives like to point to the breakdown of the black family, which co-occurs, but that's been elusive to prove." Would you take it as a reasonable thought that, in general, intact families are more likely to do better (economically and socially), and their children to do better in school and be less inclined to violence and joining gangs?

Assistant Village Idiot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Assistant Village Idiot said...

It is very hard to separate out genetics from upbringing when it's the same people. A dad who left his children by going to jail - as mine did - also supplied his children with those genes. He was not only the dad who Did That Thing, he was also the dad who was That Sorta Guy. When I turned out to be an irresponsible jerk, which was the cause?

Donna B. said...

Black (African-American) culture is not monolithic. At least where I live, it isn't. But one thing I've never run across here is a black person who is emphatically -- or even half-heartedly - into renunciation of guns unless they also are of the "progressive" mindset about political matters in general. Surprisingly, there aren't many of them. Though they may vote "straight Democrat" just like many white southerners and union members, they don't do it because Democrat policies align with their personal beliefs. Sort of like the South went for Jimmy Carter because he was "our sumbitch".

I think that most black families are intact (at least as intact as white families, perhaps less intact than Asian and Hispanic families) and are doing reasonably well. They don't get much publicity. I suspect they live mostly in the South too. The nationwide statistics are skewed by densely populated and highly dysfunctional neighborhoods in cities such as Chicago and Detroit.

Also, I think that where black families are not intact, the impact is greater than for other cultures, and that results in even more publicity to the "not intact" segment. I think it's possible that this is where the legacy of slavery plays the largest role -- by having inserted a "norm" of families being separated. That's just a guess too -- I've got no evidence to back that up.

If it were not true that most black families are not intact and functioning well, the city where I live would be very scary. It's not. Nor is Birmingham or Atlanta. (Well, Birmingham is scary if you're on I-65... but that's a different problem.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have never seen an urban/suburban/rural breakdown of black families. That would be enormously interesting information. Anyone know of some?

Donna B. said...

If that survey hasn't been done, it should be done. If I am correct in my observations that most black families are intact and functional, then it's a great disservice to them to allow the "meme" of the "breakdown of black families" to continue.

I predict that the most dysfunctional black families will be "extreme" urban or "extreme" rural. I also predict that this will be true of dysfunctional families regardless of race or culture.

There are problems with some aspects of black culture and they are exacerbated by so-called black leaders (Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, et al) who personally profit from dysfunction in the black community and try to shame the functioning black families to get in line with their programs of "hate whitey above all else". That tactic doesn't work as well as it used to -- and that is -- I hope -- a lasting legacy of Barack Obama's presidency even if he seems to want it not to be. There's nothing wrong with being proud of a black man who made it to the top.

Sharpton and his coterie are among what I term "blind black socialites". They can't see white people OR black people of the working class. I don't run across nearly as many of them as I used to. The worst treatment of a black man I ever witnessed was by Al Sharpton and 2 of his coterie outside our local airport. And in defense of my local "blind black socialites" I don't think most of them would have ever done or condoned what Sharpton did. Maybe they want to (I doubt it), but politically they can't get away with it -- too many intact working class black families here. And, I do not think they have obtained the approval of BaracK Obama, even if he has floundered his way into the Trayvon Martin mess and the Ferguson fiasco. I consider both a calculated political maneuver to preserve some political "bonafides", rather than a full-on "way to go" thing.

james said...

WRT genetics and upbringing: in other fields it is hard to make something better and easy to make it worse. I'd think it would have an impact in upbringing also.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Donna B, I do know that an enormous percentage of black children - something like 75% - are born out-of-wedlock. A quaint phrasing no longer favored, I know.

This may fit with my discouraging post about Baltimore a month or two ago. White people, and even many black people, do not ever see about half of African-Americans. The terrible statistics that come out about them seem unreal because they don't fit the people we know, not at all.

Texan99 said...

I agree that there are no immediate plans to come into our houses and take our guns, but I'd argue that's only because the people who would very much like to do it don't think they can get away with it at the moment. They are working very hard to change that state of affairs. Will they ever succeed? I don't know, but I know the best way to get them there will be to let them win this argument in the public mind.

I didn't think they'd ever get away with taking away my health insurance, either.

Donna B. said...

AVI, I found and read the Baltimore post, so now I know from what angle you were viewing my assertion that most black families are intact and doing reasonably well. From that angle it looks pretty dumb even though I noted that I thought this true mostly in the south.

Unlike Baltimore, the black population here is much more diverse in IQ -- the brainier ones didn't leave. The lower IQ whites are still here too. ;-)

RichardJohnson said...

"For example, references to Obama/Democrats/Liberals wanting to confiscate all our guns is not helping their case."

Any anti-gun person who cites Australia as the way to go is lining up on the confiscate your guns side.