Some general thoughts on guns and stuff; thinking about the kind of stuff that gets thrown around with abandon and without — it seems to me —much forethought. I’ll try and point out why things are always more complicated than they seem and why until we speak honestly and without hyperbole, we’ll not make any progress.
Look, if you’re going to argue gun control, you can’t begin by pointing somewhere else, and I’ll tell you why . . . Australia is a country of 25 million fairly homogeneous people that —when it comes to guns — resembles the US in this many critical ways: zero.
It’s not just that the US has more than ten times the population (although, it matters) or that Australia has a vastly different history than the US (although, it matters) or that Australia because of its unique history and geographic location has a different culture (although, it matters).
The main reason you can’t throw Australia in a gun owner’s face (besides the fact they’ll throw Switzerland back in your face) is that Australia doesn’t have the Second Amendment.
Here’s the silly thing I hear from anti-gun proponents: let’s change the Second Amendment!
So, both Houses of Congress would have to draft a new Amendment replacing the old one. Assume for a moment that this was possible. The new amendment would then have to be ratified by three-fourths of the fifty states.
Here’s an interesting map:
Tell me you can get . . . let’s see . . . 0.75 x 50 = 37.5, so thirty-eight states to ratify an amendment suspending or changing the Second Amendment.
Australia also doesn’t have ex post facto provisions. (from Wikipedia) In the United States, Congress is prohibited from passing ex post facto laws by clause 3 of Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution. The states are prohibited from passing ex post facto laws by clause 1 of Article I, Section 10. This is one of the relatively few restrictions that the United States Constitution made to both the power of the federal and state governments before the Fourteenth Amendment. Over the years, however, when deciding ex post facto cases, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly referred to the ruling in Calder v. Bull, in which Justice Samuel Chase held that the prohibition applied only to criminal matters, not civil matters, and established four categories of unconstitutional ex post facto laws.
What does that mean? Well, it’s the reason that whenever there’s a shooting, gun sales go through the roof. It’s the reason why, if I were 19-year-old, I would go out and buy an AR-15 type gun right now (and many probably have).
Simply, you can’t retroactively criminalize something. If an “assault weapon/rifle” ban were enacted, it would have an effective date, and anyone who owned such a weapon before that date could legally continue to own, use, and sell such a weapon. Some states may limit the sales portion by imposing other restrictions, but no state will impose a retroactive law (as far as I know).
There are good reasons for this and making an exception for some things would open a can of worms.
Then, there’s the effectiveness issue. Some will say that Australia’s 1996 NFA reform stopped mass shootings. Well, yes and no. There are still shootings, and there are still massacres, and yes, even mass shootings. There are fewer shootings using guns that were banned. There hasn’t been a shooting to the level of Port Arthur since then, but neither had there been before then. It was a unique event.
The thing to note when looking at those numbers is the fact that the Port Arthur is an outlier. Mass shootings are oddities, even here in the US, and it’s difficult drawing conclusions (or enacting laws) based on rare events.
Note: they are rare events here, but they’re so widely publicized that it may seem as if they’re happening all the time. Some will argue this, but you can do your own research and look at numbers. Some of your research might be hampered by changing definitions of mass shootings which lowered the requirement for numbers of victims before it could be labeled a mass shooting. Currently, four injured suffices to label it a mass shooting. But it used to be the number of people killed, and a higher number at that. THIS site has some data including links to the actual incidents of everything listed. It only lists incidents it can verify. Know that my main area of interest is Home Invasions and Defensive Shootings (which you kind of have to hunt for). We can each take what we want from the data.
Violence — including gun crime — was already in a downtrend not just in Australia, but also in the US and the world (excluding war zones). Experts, whatever that means, are hard-pressed to quantify the effect of Australia’s law. Despite what you might hear, it’s possible Australia will experience a mass shooting even under its current law (that’s already happened, but people gloss over that). If they don’t, it won’t necessarily be because of the NFA.
Which brings me back to the US. We’ve had an increase in mass shootings, right? I mean, it’s practically an epidemic.
Well, yes and no. We’ve had more mass shootings in raw numbers (again, depending on how you classify them) . . . but the frequency has declined over the years if you look at the data in terms of population increases (shootings per 100K people). And, again, mass shooting are unique events. It makes them difficult to analyze, let alone predict and prevent.
Well we’ve had an explosion of gun violence, right? Well, no. We’ve had a slight uptick in the last few years, but gun crime (and all crime) has been steadily declining since the 1990s, and this is despite a large increase in population (an increase of 70 million) and an increase in guns (56%) and a large increase in people with concealed carry permits. You can read the full report HERE (and save it). But, you can also go to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports and use the raw data to make up your own charts.
Some of this makes little sense if you listen to the news.
That’s because those conservative voices screaming that Hillary and Obama would take away people’s guns are either idiots or serving a political agenda (or both).
Likewise, those liberal voices screaming about the epidemic of violence (and especially gun violence) are idiots or serving a political agenda (or both).
I mentioned before that after every widely reported shooting there is a surge in gun sales. I said some of that relates to people’s fearing the government will make it impossible to buy (certain) guns.
But there’s another fear. It’s actual fear; for oneself and one’s loved ones. If you listen to the news, you might easily get the impression that we live in a violent society. Statistics show that significant numbers of new gun buyers are not buying guns for hunting or other shooting pastimes. They’re buying guns for protection.
When I converse with people from other countries, they envision the US population as cowering fearfully behind cover whilst (threw that in for them British folks; it means “while”) clutching their six-shooters.
But, violent crime (and gun crime) is highly concentrated. Most Americans will never experience gun crime. They might experience other crime, but that’s comparable to other parts of the “civilized” world.
“Well, Emilio, why are you so fearful, then? Why do you want a gun?”
Well, Bob, I have experienced crime, but it goes beyond just crime numbers for me, and I suspect it does for others as well.
Let me give you an example. I can train as much as I want, lift as many weights as I want, and I will still be 5′ 8″. I might sport impressive muscles and be very fit, but I won’t be a match for any of the people I regularly see at my gym. Aside from the muscle mass I will never have, there’s also the size differential. I’m talking simple physics like arm reach and leverage and striking force.
Even if I train my heart out until I can hold off an untrained larger adversary, I’ll be no match for two guys, trained or not. Or three. Or more.
There’s no other tool to level the playing field other than a gun. And that goes double for women, and I don’t mean to imply there aren’t women who could handily kick my butt. Heck, they’re the scariest ones because I would hesitate to hit a woman even in self-defense. Shooting her? Well, yeah; that way I wouldn’t get cooties. Yes, that humor.
Seriously, one thing gun control advocates have to account for is this desire of mine not to get punched, beat up, or otherwise killed by someone stronger, faster, and younger than I am. And, that desire will only increase as I get older.
“But, the odds are so small!”
Well, the odds are small that I will get into a car crash, I still carry insurance. I even carry liability insurance even though I engage in zero risky behaviors.
But, wait! Why do I have to answer to you? Would you like for me to tell you all of your behaviors I find objectionable? Yeah, I could give you an example, but I wrote about it HERE.
Let’s now move on to one other common refrain non-gun people throw in the face of gun owners: the AR-15 is not a hunting rifle. No one needs an assault weapon for hunting.
Well, now; how do you know it’s not a hunting rifle? Because, you know, it is, in fact, a hunting rifle that’s customized to “look cool” and in the process makes it versatile.
But, let’s say that’s true (it’s not, but let’s assume that’s true) . . . what would you, the non-gun enthusiast, non-hunter, recommend hunters should use?
Admit it; you don’t have a clue unless you’re a hunter. And, if you were a hunter, you might not be so quick at discounting the AR-15 for hunting. But, as an exercise, come up with alternative weapons for hunting various game; you might learn something about hunting and weapons, and wouldn’t that be nice?
So are we up a creek without a weapons ban?
No. We can still regulate weapons purchases; that’s not unconstitutional. It might piss some people off, like, for instance, when Maryland instituted a registration process just to get a permit to buy a gun. The cost to gun owners was upwards of $400. And that’s before they bought a gun.
Here’s another interesting thing. While most well-to-do people complain about guns and gun violence, they don’t live where there’s much violence. Do you know who lives in places where’s there’s a lot of violence? Poor people. I linked THIS before, but it’s worth revisiting.
Interesting side fact: many gun control measures were racially motivated. Neat, huh? Some claim they still are. You should read the article in that link. It’s from Salon; not your typical Right Wing rag.
So, registration, but, you know, not punitive registration. A few buck, something you can easily do without losing a half day of work. Along with registration, perhaps some training. Local police could hold weekly classes. The NRA (that evil entity) has long pushed and offers training and safety classes.
What’s that? Conservatives don’t like gun registration?
Well, that goes back to what I talked about above. It’s a matter of civic education, you see, something that apparently is no longer taught in schools.
We need the Right Wing Nuts to stop yelling confiscation. Heck, they’re the first to tell you that if the government even tried it, there would be civil war and most cops and soldiers would not follow those orders. So why are the Right Wing Nuts still yelling? Well, for one, it raises money (some of them are in the top 1%, all from yelling into a radio microphone). But the other reason is the Left Wing Nuts.
Left Wing Nuts yell that guns should be done away with. No guns. Period. They further yell that every gun control victory is a step toward getting rid of guns. Apparently, they too are deficient in knowing the laws of the land.
But, that’s the problem. You have a bunch of ignorant people yelling at each other about stuff that has zero chance of happening, and that’s what frames our current gun debate. That’s what raises campaign money. That’s also what triggers my annoyance.
Registration can work, together with instruction, and requirements of reporting if a gun is stolen or sold. Registration puts some measure of responsibility in the hands of the gun buyer/owner.
It’s still not as simple as it seems, but that’s why we need serious debate and honest exchanges of ideas. For instance, this whole mental health issue. Where does that line fall?
Heck, if I take cold medicine, I’m warned not to operate machinery. Many people take antidepressants or other medicine to regulate anything from anxiety to whatever the mind-malady de jour happens to be. And many of those medicines have warnings on them about effects to your mental stability. But, there’s a wide spectrum of responses to a given stimulus, and often those dire warnings reflect very low probabilities that the cure is worse than the disease. Who decides? How do you appeal?
For the record, I think many people have mental issues; it doesn’t make them suicidal or homicidal. But, some, it might. Even unmedicated personalities are suicidal or homicidal.
Still, we should be able to work that out. We won’t be perfect, but then we’re not perfect on anything. Look up how many people are accidentally killed each year by our doctors and nurses (HERE and HERE).
Once it’s registered, then what? So, you have to report the gun when it’s stolen, but that doesn’t keep anyone from using it in a crime. Ideally, people might take better precautions, the same precautions they take with other valuables.
Perhaps some sorts of liability insurance would be required, although this too might disadvantage the poor.
Another side note: there’s talk of holding gun manufacturers liable if their products (guns) are used in crimes. Again, I think that is a terrible idea. I can picture Perry Mason cross-examining a gun manufacturer. “And you admit your product performed flawlessly and as designed?” “Yes; yes, I do.” “No further questions, your honor.” Wouldn’t that set up a precedent for every product that gets misused? We don’t sue booze manufacturers when drunks kill someone, or car manufacturers when someone speeds and kills someone. It seems a stupid thing even to suggest.
What else? Well, we’re about done with guns. There’s remarkably little we can do with guns. FSM knows we’ve tried, but, ultimately, the gun is an object. People love to say “people with guns, kill people” but people without guns also kill people. We can start debating body counts, and I’ll bring up bombs.
Then, there’s the implementation of criminal law. We’ve imposed disproportionate prison terms for marijuana users, yet people who commit gun crimes are often back on the street to commit more. How about this? Use a gun in a crime, go away for thirty years; no parole. I would suggest life or the death penalty, but Liberals get on my case for that. Still, get rid of plea bargaining for gun crimes and send them away. After all, isn’t that a part of what England does? Aren’t we all admirers of their system?
The rest of the stuff gets into heavy-duty societal issues. Like, for instance, that there’s a fan club for the Columbine shooters. Do you arrest them all? Forcibly medicate them?
Perhaps that speaks to the media making the shooters so infamous that they’re the equivalent of celebrities. Don’t know what to do about that. This latest shooting had round-the-clock coverage. I know more about the shooter than I know about my brother or best friend. That is a whole other aspect of this conversation; his story from when he was very young to now (including recent months) points to systemic failures that have nothing to do with guns. Sure, raise the age limit to 21. He might have been “cured” by then, right? Or, he might have bought a gun illegally. Check how gangs smuggle guns in with drugs. Or, he might have stolen one. Or, he could have used bombs.
We can talk about being better — all of us — at not only recognizing problems personalities and disturbing actions, but doing something about them.
There, we run into our love of liberty and due process. In the last few days, they have arrested a few kids for posing “credible” threats to various schools.
I’ll be curious seeing how that plays out. That I know of, it’s difficult proving intent before the fact. You have to catch them armed to the teeth and about to enter a school.
The same goes for troubled kids . . . what exactly do you do? What do you do once they become adults? How long can we monitor them and might that not make matters worse?
All good questions in search of answers. Too bad no one is talking about the good questions.
Side note: I often wonder what the NSA thinks about me; I’m prone to research weapons, ways to kill, poisonings, bomb-making, and many different things for my fiction. But, how do they know it’s for my fiction? The only reason I don’t have cops at my door is that the NSA would have to disclose their illegal monitoring and — as we all know — they just rather let people die than give up their toys. Yes, humor.
So, here we are. That’s what I think about when I search for answers. Can we agree that it’s more complicated than how these issues are presented in the media?
You’d be surprised how difficult it is wading through literal mountains of incoherent rants trying to get even simple answers to simple questions. Constitutional law can be both extremely simple and incredibly nuanced and you can find reasoned arguments on both sides . . . and that alone should make you realize the one-liner solutions are worthless.
Add to that the tendency for people to look only for things that support their own views (the echo chamber effect) and pile that on atop raw emotions, and . . . well, here we are.
Which brings me to my closing point; there’s a lot of anger out there (occasionally understandable, but, truthfully, it often seems a bit hypocritical and self-serving), but especially on the Left, and what I hear is a bit worrisome.
For example, I was listening to the Left, Right, and Center podcast and I heard the editor of The Nation say something like this (I’m paraphrasing it from memory): we should have human chains around the NRA headquarters and people in front of Ryan’s home holding up pictures of dead kids. It’s time for massive civil disobedience.
Aside from sounding like a dangerous thing to do and possibly inciting violence, it’s kind of weird; I seem to remember Liberals decrying those same tactics by Pro-Life proponents. I also remember clashes and arrests and an eventual murder and also the National Organization of Women filing a RICO lawsuit against the demonstrators (dismissed). I believe Bill Clinton eventually signed a bill curtailing such protests which, you know, might run afoul of the First Amendment, but Liberals weren’t worried about that back then because it didn’t apply to them.
Not to mention that I think going to a person’s home is way over the line. But, you know, it’s OK if Liberals do it.
It may sound like I’m bashing Liberals, but it’s because right now, they’re — more often than not — the idiots. They are proposing the same kind of tactics they justly ridiculed and lambasted Trump for, claiming it was irresponsible to incite violence (it was).
And Trump . . . it doesn’t help when we ridicule how people look and are ready to jump on every little thing they say just because they said it. It doesn’t help because someone is sure to pull up a video of Obama or Hillary or other Democratic Press Secretary or other luminary saying or doing the same thing.
Make the legal case, make it clearly and simply, and stick to the issue and not the person because FSM knows, Liberals are just as prone to making idiotic statements as Conservatives and those idiotic statements become fodder for talking heads on both sides.
Like, for instance, claiming Trump is taking us toward a totalitarian dictatorship and comparing him to Hitler . . . and then asking for guns to be banned and confiscated. Honest, do they not see the irony?
Please, please, please . . . don’t insult me by even thinking I am defending Trump or have anything but contempt for him and The Republican Party. The only difference between me and a Liberal is that I have the same level of contempt for Democrats. I just plain hate dishonesty and gamesmanship.
Here are a few videos:
Now, I’m going to put in here a few videos that go every which way. I just did a quick source and wanted to find a spectrum of view.
I spoke of the difficulty of finding cogent arguments, but especially on the anti-gun side. They tend more on visuals (a play on emotion) and ridicule (dismissive marginalizing) or just reporting the problem as they tsk-tsk about the state of affairs.
Feel free to link videos in the comments presenting whatever view you hold. Preferably, videos making a serious effort at not just showing the problem, but offering workable solutions. And by workable, I mean realistic and within the frame of what we can legally do as a country.
Bonus Disperser Musings: the majority of crime is committed by people in the 15-24 age group. Hmm . . . Baby Boomers span the birth years from the late 1940s to 1964. I wonder if the run-up in crime we saw that peaked in 1990 has anything to do with that and if the subsequent drop is because boomers aged? I hope not because the slight uptick we saw in the last two years corresponds to the mini-boom that peaked in 1992 . . . hmm 2016 – 24 = 1992 . . . Hmm. Probably not. Maybe. We’ll see. I mean, the math doesn’t quite work out, but I wonder. Actually, there’s a better correlation with the crack epidemic that peaked in 1990, and that has me wonder (and worry) about the opioid epidemic. I better stock up on guns and ammunition.
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