Saturday, June 18, 2016

Popehat On Gun Control

The title is intentionally misleading : In Support of a Total Ban on Civilians Owning Firearms.
I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.

Oh, I don't support the ban. I support the argument.

I support the argument because it's honest and specific. It doesn't hide the ball, it doesn't refuse to define terms, it doesn't tell rely on telling people they are paranoid or stupid in their concerns about the scope of the ban. The argument proposes a particular solution and will require the advocate to defend it openly.

That elevates it above most gun control dialogue.
One of the sports stations I listen to on my commutes (93.7) has a morning show that discusses movies, politics, and popular culture more than sports. One of the hosts, who typically rants about a lot of things, complained that he doesn't want to hear firearms details from gun nuts who call in whenever shootings make the national news and a public gun control discussion is occurring.  He finds it tedious, he finds it irrelevant, he finds it annoying.

Once one is alert to the idea that for at least some percentage of gun-regulators, this is not about safety, but about culture war, comments like this jump out at you. When you take the time to read at least a few of the firearms-details arguments, you see pretty quickly that the details are not irrelevant.  People use terms like "assault weapon," or "weapons of war," or "reasonable for self-defense" with absolutely no clue what they are talking about.  President Obama, for example, that Omar Mateen had a Glock with a lot of clips, and an assault rifle. Then, after illustrating that he doesn't know much about guns, he wants to more deeply regulate them, sure that he knows enough - the details don't matter.

My brother, and two dear Christian women who are my friends posted similar things this week. They are all sure that they know enough to have a decent opinion.  If pressed, they believe that other anti-gun people who are wonks on the subject and pay attention to these things know enough to craft decent legislation about it - and their job is to rally support whatever that legislation is. Intelligent people often fall into the trap that they can pick up 90% of what they need with minimal effort, so they can move on to other subjects.

Actually, everyone believes that, but intelligent people at least have some empirical experience that this method works. They got through school this way, and navigate conversations this way now. They know a little bit about Egyptian loan-words in Biblical Hebrew, or Hungarian elections in the 2000's, or the Treaty of Westphalia, and instantly know more than 95% of everyone about those subjects. I get this.

Believe me, I get this.  I am that guy, having kited my way through conversations for decades by knowing more than the 95%, enough that I can usually at least hang out with people who actually know a lot more. I also believe in most situations that drawing in a few bits of information from a source or three I consider reliable, plus a little oppositional contemplation, puts me way ahead of just about everyone else. It works. The number of people doing this is pretty much the list of "smart people" that you know.

Here's the huge problem: This doesn't actually work with some subjects. It works in limited areas of mental health, but in other places you have to actually know something.  You can't fake it.  There are discussions of law that historians or political scientists can enter and be usefully knowledgeable in. But in others, you just need to know something about law in general, and particular rulings in specific, or you are just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. In those instances, a realtor discussing real-estate law with an attorney might be more accurate than a brilliant Ivy-League professor of history.  The hard data sometimes matters, and matters a lot. Psychologists, and parents, and grant-writers may know a lot about educational interventions; they may know more about the topic in general and have ideas about changing the system that are better than special-ed coordinators.  But if you want to write an IEP, you should talk with a person who is a specialist in IEP's.  Theory is gone.  Rubber meets road.

Slight tangent:  Is the Christian left actually worse on this than the secular left, or is that just an impression from my particular circle of friends?

So. I have generally chalked all this up to the mild arrogance of those who get by by overgeneralisng, combined with the quick sympathy of soft-hearted people for those who suffer (with a bit of "I've thought about ethical and moral issues and most haven't"), topped off with the infographics of those socially skilled enough to imagine what should be persuasive. Those people aren't your go-to source for solutions to political problems, but neither are they evil incarnate. They're just wrong, speaking beyond their knowledge but meaning well.

Or are they? This week I wondered if there actually is some evil involved for these nice people. I have wondered if culture war actually is more than half their motive, and if this is particularly true (though disguised even to themselves) of Christians who lean left, in defensive counter-reaction to the stereotype that they are suspected of rightist sympathies by secular progressives, and they want to get out from under. As with the sports-ranter above, it is their own words and their types of arguments which raise red flags for me. I don't think they are usually the hard-edged SJW's who want their opponents to be not merely defeated but humiliated. They have absorbed a Christian lesson of not-hating quite well, and hope that even those who disagree and lose out in the halls of power feel okay about it and don't feel disrespected or unheard. They want everyone to go home with a little gift.

And yet.  And yet. This time around my suspicions are darker, on the basis of their own words. Their first goal actually is to win, and to make sure everyone knows how much they care about humanity and their opponents apparently care about something else. Not very nice, though often mentioned indirectly or disguisedly. They don't know the important facts, and they know that they do not know, but cannot be troubled to reconsider.  Perversely, not knowing about the details seems to be a badge of honor - they aren't one of those icky dangerous people who know about guns and have some sort of obsessive, Aspergery interest in the details. (Watch out for that guy.  He could be the real danger.) They are good people who care about the arts. They are on to showing how gun manufacturers, and the NRA, and congressional Republicans are morally dangerous.  They won't say "evil" but it's pretty clear they think that there are some evil pro-gun people out there. (The rest of you nice hunters and home-defenders are just misled, and perhaps a bit primitive in your morality - but they have hopes that you will come around, because you are Christians - maybe kinda sorta, even though haven't you read what Jesus said... and oh dear, not as well read as we are, but not bad people really. Except actually, you are. Just a little bit, by which we mean "a whole lot," but we don't talk like that because it isn't nice. But we would never say it, because that would hurt your feelings, and we aren't the sort of people who hurt others' feelings).


Here is my challenge:  Most of those are anti-Trump because they fear there is far too much fascist, or at least authoritarian in him.  I see that.  But the actual fascists last time were not drawn from his type of crowd, but from yours. I should never have brought up Trump.  Lost my head there.  This isn't about Trump, it's about you.  Who goes Nazi? I am no longer sure about you.

31 comments:

Roy Lofquist said...

AVI,

When I talk to religious people I find that they fall broadly into two groups, the rote Christians who quote the bible as if that were an authoritative argument and those who, when they quote the bible, suss the meaning behind the verse.

I've never related that to politics but it might make some sense.

Zachriel said...

Crossposted to Popehat

Ken White: Gun control advocates may argue that it's pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. That's a fair description of the behavior of some — perhaps even most — gun control opponents.

In a functioning political system, where people consider opposing concerns, and where compromise is possible, those who support guns for self-defense would work with those who want to restrict guns to find solutions; in particular, that people have enough firepower for reasonable self-defense, but not so much that a single individual can cause a hundred casualties in a couple of minutes. Notably, the 1930s restriction on fully automatic weapons has been quite effective, and the criminal use of such weapons is rare in the U.S.

Perhaps you could propose an unambiguous standard, perhaps based on rate of fire, size of magazine, and the time it takes to switch out the magazine.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Or we could wait until there is something that some state or nation has found that actually works to reduce violence in apples-to-apples comparisons and start the discussion there. Rather than assuming that something that "just sounds like it should work" is actually reasonable - implying, as you do, that those who won't go there are the ones being unreasonable.

Zachriel said...

Assistant Village Idiot: Rather than assuming that something that "just sounds like it should work" is actually reasonable - implying, as you do, that those who won't go there are the ones being unreasonable.

The politics are such that there is no common ground seen between the two sides of the divide. However, most people agree that people have a right to defend themselves, and most people agree that there should be limits to the firepower available to an individual. The problem talked about in the Popehat post concerns the difficulty of making legally clear distinctions — necessary to fair enactment of any law. This problem is resolvable based on mutual respect for those holding these two positions.

Texan99 said...

The problem might be resolvable based on mutual respect if there were mutual respect, which there isn't. In the meantime I'll remain armed, thanks.

Zachriel said...

Texan99: The problem might be resolvable based on mutual respect if there were mutual respect, which there isn't.

Case in point.

So, no one who claims to be knowledgeable about guns, and supports the right to self-defense, is willing or able to define an unambiguous standard that meets the needs of self-defense while limiting the power of an individual to cause a hundred casualties and just a couple of minutes or so. Should people have unlimited firepower?

Donna B. said...

The most efficient ways to cause a hundred (or a thousand) casualties in just a couple of minutes or so do not involve the use of guns. In fact, guns are rather inefficient if a large casualty count is your goal. You'd want to use explosives, fire, poisonous gas, and panic.

I don't claim to be really knowledgeable about guns, but I've had the opportunities to fire a variety of rifles and handguns at a range. It is always lots of fun and I'm not as bad a shot as I thought I'd be. However, the only reasonable defense weapon for me is a shotgun.

So, since a shotgun fulfills my needs and matches my skills, should that be the "unambiguous standard" for everyone's self-defense? I doubt it would be the best weapon for sports fishermen who are likely to meet some nasty creatures in Louisiana's rivers and bayous that I'm not likely to ever see. It wouldn't meet the needs of my relatives who ranch in Colorado, though they likely carry a variety of weapons.

AVI -- is Zachriel's question a form of the straw man fallacy or something else?

Zachriel said...

Donna B: In fact, guns are rather inefficient if a large casualty count is your goal

Apparently not, as shown in Orlando.

Donna B: You'd want to use explosives, fire, poisonous gas, and panic.

Deaths by fire, even fire by arson, are usually the result of problems with safety planning. Poisonous gas is rarely effective outside of war zones, such as artillery delivered chemical munitions. Explosives can be very effective, but are highly REGULATED.

Donna B: So, since a shotgun fulfills my needs and matches my skills, should that be the "unambiguous standard" for everyone's self-defense?

No.

Donna B: is Zachriel's question a form of the straw man fallacy

No. There are two countervailing concerns, the right to self-defense, and the necessity of limiting the firepower available to the individual. Automatic weapons are already highly restricted in the U.S. Do you disagree with this restriction? Other hand-held weapons can bring down an aircraft, but are illegal to possess. Do you disagree with this restriction?

The original complaint was the lack of an unambiguous standard that reconciles these countervailing concerning, but that is certainly not an insurmountable problem. Yet, no one on this forum is willing to put forth any such standard, or argue why such a standard can never be devised. The latter is almost certainly not a supportable position, so gun supporters on this forum apparently refuse to consider such a standard for reasons unrelated to self-defense.

Christopher B said...

There’s lots of straw flying around (typical of Z-gang posts) as the Second Amendment makes no reference to self-defense.

If the more vocal elements on both sides could be persuaded to back down there does seem to me to be a rough consensus on ‘commonsense gun control’. The major points are approximately -

Firearms should be sold only to legally competent adults, excluding for the most part those with convictions for violent felonies and documented mental illness.

Firearms sales and transfers should be documented to establish a chain of custody in support of the first provision, and for investigative purposes.

Owners can be required to obtain training suitable for the use of the firearm, roughly equal to hunter safety courses for long guns, and more extensive training for potentially concealed weapons.

Restrictions may be placed on ownership of various configurations (rate of fire, magazine size, length, etc) of firearms.

Ownership of firearms should be allowed on a ‘shall issue’ basis (in accord with the first provision) for open carry firearms with more restrictions allowed for concealed carry. Requirements for waiting periods, proof of required training, and transportation should be reasonable and focused on safety.

Focus on self-defense is a distraction. Both sides need to back down from the idea that mass firearm confiscation is either likely or desirable. Private ownership of firearms is in the American DNA and we aren’t going to achieve European levels of gun ownership or gun crime without it, but the political will and practical resources just aren’t there. The Second Amendment is part of the Constitution and it’s not going atrophy away. There are an order of magnitude (at least) more privately owned firearms than there are LEO and military personnel combined, without even subtracting those who might refuse to carry out a confiscation regime, and we would be looking at serious bloodshed if it was attempted. It’s not going to happen. The NRA needs to quit worrying about it, and the gun-grabbers need to quit wishing it would happen.

Zachriel said...

Christopher B: There’s lots of straw flying around (typical of Z-gang posts) as the Second Amendment makes no reference to self-defense. <

We didn't reference the 2nd Amendment, so the straw is yours alone.

Christopher B: Restrictions may be placed on ownership of various configurations (rate of fire, magazine size, length, etc) of firearms.

Thank you for answering the question.

Zachriel said...

As for the Second Amendment: Supreme Court leaves state assault weapons bans in place
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/06/20/supreme-court-leaves-state-assault-weapons-bans-in-place.html

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Jonathan, thanks a bunch for wishing we had Copithorne back.

GraniteDad said...

With the rise of 3D printers, I despair of any "long term solution" here related to gun/ammo/magazine size. Best to plan for how we work in a society where weapons are downloaded.

Zachriel- I think Donna B is right- guns aren't the most efficient killing device. They are more ready at hand and thankfully we have not seen mass terrorism by other means- bombs, gas, water poisoning, etc.

Zachriel said...

GraniteDad: {Guns} are more ready at hand

That's rather the point.

GraniteDad said...

So Zachriel, what's your solution?

Zachriel said...

GraniteDad: So Zachriel, what's your solution?

See our first comment above. The point we raised was that defining an unambiguous standard is not impossible, as suggested in the linked article, but that it should be quite possible to provide a standard that allows for self-defense while limiting the ability of a lone wolf gunman to cause a hundred casualties.

Laws which regulate the rate of fire, size of magazine, and time to switch out magazines, seem the most likely solution. Short of an impending zombie attack, the need to rapidly shoot hundreds of bullets for self-defense is probably not required. (Even then, it depends on whether they are old-fashioned zombies or not. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KCiWoSrCX4 )

GraniteDad said...

Sorry let me say it another way- Perhaps you could propose an unambiguous standard, perhaps based on rate of fire, size of magazine, and the time it takes to switch out the magazine. I'm interested in what your specifics are for a standard.

Zachriel said...

GraniteDad: I'm interested in what your specifics are for a standard.

We aren't proposing a standard, just pointing out that a standard can certainly be crafted based on overall rate of fire, contrary to the claim in the linked article.

Another option is licensing and insurance, as with motor vehicles. Then the insurance market would decide how safe guns are for families that choose to keep them. If gun supporters are correct, that guns actually increase safety, then they should get a discount on their homeowner's insurance. How likely do you think that would be?

GraniteDad said...

"Yet, no one on this forum is willing to put forth any such standard, or argue why such a standard can never be devised." Well, that's certainly true in your case. I'm not sure why you were asking other people to devise a standard, but are unwilling to provide one of your own? Can you explain?

Zachriel said...

GraniteDad: I'm not sure why you were asking other people to devise a standard, but are unwilling to provide one of your own? Can you explain?

Our point was that the claim that no unambiguous standard was possible, when that is clearly not the case.

A simple standard is to limit the magazine to a ten rounds, and make it so that it takes time to replace the magazine. Ten rounds is more than enough to defend oneself (short of the zombie apocalypse). The reason most gun enthusiasts want more firepower has little to do with self-defense, and gun manufacturers work to get around such limitations in order to sell to enthusiasts.

Another option is licensing and insurance, as with motor vehicles. Then the insurance market would decide how safe guns are for families that choose to keep them. If gun supporters are correct, that guns actually increase safety, then they should get a discount on their homeowner's insurance. How likely do you think that would be?

Grim said...

Yeah, the ten round thing is actually pointless.

I'm a big fan of training, but that actually makes people more deadly, not less. So if you get a rogue, like Mateen, he'll be worse because you taught him how.

As for the insurance, I ran the numbers a year or so ago. The NRA offers an insurance plan that only deals with shooting sports events, rather than general cases. However, we can estimate. There are slightly more guns than cars, and they efficiently cause about as many deaths per year. Thus, if all deaths resulted in insurance payouts, we could assume that gun insurance would cost about as much as car insurance.

However, virtually all car deaths are accidents, whereas two thirds of gun deaths are suicides. Since no insurance policy will cover suicide, gun insurance would cost a third what car insurance does. Well, except that most of the remaining deaths are homicides, and insurers aren't going to agree to cover your liability for your criminal acts (nor are criminals likely to carry gun insurance!). So, really, we need to get an accidental figure.

In 2010, guns accidentally killed 606 people. Cars accidentally killed a million people. Thus, guns are 0.0606 times as dangerous as cars. Assume your car insurance costs $400 a year. Gun insurance would then cost less than $25 a year. Nobody's going to disarm over that.

SJ said...

@Zachriel,

...I feel a little late to the discussion.

(1) About danger and efficiency of killing:
There is a Wiki article on something called the "Happy Land Fire". The death toll was 87, and the weapon of choice was arson. An aggravating factor was that the building that had only one usable exit, blocked by fire.

However, there have also been accidental fires at nightclubs with death tolls above 200.

A man named McVeigh used fertilizer and diesel fuel, and killed hundreds in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Guns are efficient for some situations, but explosives and arson are much easier for an attacker to set and walk away from.

(2) About magazine-limits:
The thing about 10-round magazine limits is that they make sense for situations involving one attacker, but not situations involving three or four. (I've never had either happen to me. Yet. But I've seen them in the news, on occasion.)

If you're writing rules to cover many possible situations, isn't it a good idea to give broad leeway to each individual to choose how they handle the problem?

(3) About powerful weapons:
The problem with question of "power" is that each individual bullet carries a certain amount of kinetic energy. A single bullet is a dangerous thing, if well-aimed.

In situations with one attacker and one defender, the first bullet fired causes a huge increase in danger present. The next bullet, and the refire rate afterwards, is a small addition to that first bullet.

That calculation changes a lot when it is a single attacker against many unarmed victims.
But what if a home-owner in a riot-zone wants to defend his house from a mob of 25? He needs as much rapid firepower as he can get.

(4) Insurance
Insurance makes sense, if there is a potential loss of money, or danger to self.

Am I going to lose money or hurt myself by carrying a gun?
If so, I currently have the option of self-insuring, or purchasing insurance.

What else should the insurance paying for?

If the insurance has to pay out after I use a gun to defend myself against someone committing a crime against me, do I get the payout?
Or does the family/estate of the criminal get the payout?

Zachriel said...

Grim: Yeah, the ten round thing is actually pointless.

Z: A simple standard is to limit the magazine to a ten rounds, AND make it so that it takes time to replace the magazine.

Grim: Thus, if all deaths resulted in insurance payouts, we could assume that gun insurance would cost about as much as car insurance.

So, not a discount on their homeowners insurance. Drat!

Grim: Since no insurance policy will cover suicide, gun insurance would cost a third what car insurance does.

Life insurance policies typically cover suicide after two years.

JS: The death toll was 87, and the weapon of choice was arson. An aggravating factor was that the building that had only one usable exit, blocked by fire.

As we noted above.

JS: A man named McVeigh used fertilizer and diesel fuel, and killed hundreds in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Ammonium nitrate is now subject to regulation.

JS: But what if a home-owner in a riot-zone wants to defend his house from a mob of 25?

Then there's the zombie apocalypse.

JS: What else should the insurance paying for?

Liability on the gun, similar to liability on a motor vehicle.

Grim said...

You might get a discount, if the insurance company decided to absorb the tiny risk of accidental gun deaths in return for getting a lot more clients from their competitors. The cost of the insurance would be so low it could easily be waived as a loss leader to write more homeowners policies. The point is, even if we calculate it on the assumption that you'd pay for it like car insurance, the cost would be so small as to be of no real effect.

In terms of making my guns harder to reload, now you're talking about a serious problem: not just a restriction on new magazine sales plus a restriction on the carrying of magazines above a certain size, but forcing people to bring millions of guns in to be refitted so as to be less efficient. That's a nonstarter.

Zachriel said...

Grim: You might get a discount, if the insurance company decided to absorb the tiny risk of accidental gun deaths in return for getting a lot more clients from their competitors.

Did you just change your mind? Home owner's policies cover people for theft of a gun, or accidental damage. The problem is liability for misuse of a weapon. For instance, if you are drunk driving, and hurt somebody, then your motor vehicle liability insurance has to pay. Requiring liability insurance would be the onus on the gun owners to ensure the safe use of their weapons.

Grim: In terms of making my guns harder to reload, now you're talking about a serious problem: not just a restriction on new magazine sales plus a restriction on the carrying of magazines above a certain size, but forcing people to bring millions of guns in to be refitted so as to be less efficient.

You could start by restricting new guns. Most guns cycle out after a period of time, depending on usage. At some point, it becomes a moot point, and the restriction can be more general.

Zachriel said...

Grim: Yeah, the ten round thing is actually pointless.

"The shooter, Michael-Zahef Bibeau, had an illegally acquired Winchester Model 94, a deer-hunting rifle that enabled him to fire off all of seven rounds before he had to halt in his tracks and fumble to reload. He was handily tackled at that point by security."
http://www.rawstory.com/2016/06/why-does-the-us-have-so-many-mass-shootings-experts-blame-this-one-factor/

Grim said...

I have a Winchester 94 myself. But now you're talking about something completely different from a ten-round magazine restriction -- you're talking about a tubular magazine that has to be hand-loaded with loose cartridges. If the real proposal is to do away with firearms with detachable magazines, you're really pushing a much stronger gun control standard than you claim to be.

The 94 is also a lever-action, not a semi-automatic. I like lever actions. Matter of fact most of my rifles are lever-actions. Nothing wrong with them. Just not what we're talking about when we talk about 'ten round magazine changes.'

Did you just change your mind?

No. If we 'require the purchase of gun insurance,' then gun insurance will be a product that the insurance company will expect to be paid for -- after all, the law requires you to buy it. But it won't be expensive. In fact, it would be so cheap that it would make sense for them to use it as a competitive mechanism, the way they give discounts for multiple policies. They could waive the gun insurance cost as a loss leader, or even offer a discount.

Now, if the 'gun insurance' isn't required by law, that's another story. But gun controllers act as if they think this is going to break the firearms industry, or force gun owners to disarm. It's not. We're talking about a product that, if you priced it like car insurance, would be completely affordable. The only reason it doesn't exist is that it's not really marketable. The price of hiring people for processing the applications probably outweighs what the insurance company would make off it, unless they had a government mandate that required people to carry it.

Zachriel said...

Grim: If the real proposal is to do away with firearms with detachable magazines, you're really pushing a much stronger gun control standard than you claim to be.

It has to do with overall rate of fire. Again, it is a balance between reasonable means of self-defense, while limiting the ability of a lone gunman to cause untold carnage. We're more than happy to hear any suggestions on how to balance these two concerns.

Grim said...

I think I don't agree with the frame, which means it's difficult to proceed to specifics. I think that self defense, for example, is not the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment. The real purpose is not to defend one's self, but to defend what the 2A's language calls "a Free State." That's a relationship we share, which we mutually defend by defending both ourselves and each other. It shouldn't really matter whether I'm defending myself or a third party who is a fellow citizen; or whether I'm defending them against a threat from a criminal, a terrorist, or a tyrant. What I'm trying to defend is an order in which we can be free. Sometimes we need to be free from criminal violence. Sometimes we need to be free from tyrannical encroachment. Sometimes I need to protect myself from aggression, and sometimes I might come upon someone being raped in an alley and need to step in on behalf of the victim.

Rather than adopting a technology-focused approach, then, I'd favor an approach that targets those who are especially prone to anti-social or irrational violence. Project Exile is one approach that worked well, which the Obama administration has abandoned. The best suggestion I've seen come out of this immediate debate is this one, to focus on domestic abusers. That makes it most likely that we will identify the kinds of people who do the wrong thing, and disarm just them. It also is an approach with due process ensured, although we might quibble about the details of making sure it the protections are adequate.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"I think I don't agree with the frame..."

Bingo.

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