A libertarian moment, after all ?

by John Quiggin on August 16, 2014

One of the really fun (?) things about blogging is that you get to make confident assertions that are permanently recorded and subject to immediate disproof. So, almost as soon as I suggested that (propertarian) libertarians were running out of issues on which they could distinguish themselves from Republicans in general, we saw the police occupation of Ferguson. The issue of police militarization is one that has been pushed for years by Radley Balko at Reason (and more recently at the Washington Post), and this (rather than the older left-liberal framing around “police brutality”) has informed much of the reaction both from the centre-left and the libertarian right[^1]. On the other hand, mainstream Republicans have either ducked the issue or backed the police.

There’s certainly some room for common ground here, and perhaps even some actual progress. But I still think there are some pretty big obstacles. Most obviously, there’s the militarization of the far-right, represented by “open carry” and the heavily armed mobs that have been seen backing Cliven Bundy and threatening immigrant children, with the enthusiastic support of Fox News.

To their credit, writers at Reason haven’t gone along with the presentation of these thugs as heroic defenders of the Second Amendment. On the other hand, they have been concerned to play down the threat they pose, as against that represented by warrior police. This piece, suggesting that licensing restrictions and teacher unioons are more racist than Bundy (described, fairly enough as a racist “federal lands moocher”), is fairly typical.

So, while it would be great to see libertarians of all stripes combining against the over-reach of the security state, the idea that weapons proliferation (and, for that matter, comprehensive surveillance) are only a problem when governments get involved is likely to impose some severe limits to progress.

[^1]: Politicians of all stripes were slow out of the gate, and cautious in their wording, understandably perhaps given the backlash against Obama last time he sided with a black man against a cop. But Justin Amash, Rand Paul and even Ted Cruz have issued statements questioning police militarization, as have Obama, Holder and (Missouri Dem Senator) Claire McAskill.

{ 227 comments }

1

William Timberman 08.16.14 at 8:24 am

A broader view from the left, 2008: Policing Dissent by Luis A. Fernandez.

2

P O'Neill 08.16.14 at 11:48 am

One test will be whether there is a broader focus on tactics and not just equipment. For example many of the arrests including of journalists seem to have been a consequence of the kettle in which protesters are given impossible instructions and then arrested for not complying with them. Addressing that abuse opens up the question of how governments deal with civil dissent.

3

Bruce Baugh 08.16.14 at 2:14 pm

I’ll wait to see what actual official action gets proposed or supported by libertarians. Anyone can talk; we’ll see what those who can legislate choose to do.

4

Peter K. 08.16.14 at 2:35 pm

Oh professor you should link to the previous post so people can revisit the discussion. I’d reiterate the point I made back then. Reaching out to the glibertarians is a waste of time. The Balkos are just attacking the symptoms. Their libertarian economics is the root cause. In a vulgar Marxist way I wonder if the early 90s downturn had some connection with the Rodney King LA riots. The 1999 Battle in Seattle at the WTO meeting also displayed (and prompted?) the militarization of the police. I don’t know enough about how it relates to New York City’s “broken window” policy.

An interesting piece by Mike Konczal on the neocon impetus to blame the symptoms on liberalism and distract from the root causes.

http://www.nextnewdeal.net/rortybomb/rioting-mainly-fun-and-profit-neoconservative-origins-our-police-problem

5

L.M. Dorsey 08.16.14 at 2:40 pm

Libertarians united against overreach? Droll. In so many ways.

6

Kevin V 08.16.14 at 3:09 pm

John, I’m not sure I understand your argument when you say: “the idea that weapons proliferation (and, for that matter, comprehensive surveillance) are only a problem when governments get involved is likely to impose some severe limits to progress.”

The legislative proposals, social movements and voting coalitions that would lead to (a) the restriction of police power and (b) the restriction of gun rights, are quite different. So it seems perfectly reasonable to hold that progressives and make common cause with libertarians on (a) without being able to make common cause on (b). Why think joint work is so holistic when politics is frequently more individuated? Many of us libertarians would *love* to work with you in rolling back the security state. I’m sure we could set other differences aside.

7

Lee A. Arnold 08.16.14 at 3:11 pm

US rightwing libertarianism looks indistinguishable from the Tea Party in regard to destroying the unity of the Republicans.

While libertarians stretch from right to left, left libertarians are not as likely to decry Social Security, Medicare, and environmental protections. Also the Democratic Party has a longer history of opposition to police brutality, since Chicago ’68. So it will be easy for today’s Democratic politicians to game this, and left libertarians are more likely to continue to vote Democratic.

The condition is not symmetrical on the right. Right libertarians introduce a split into the GOP electorate on issues of law and order, and on issues of social conservatism, as John Quiggin noted in the previous post on this subject.

It is hard to escape the feeling that what we are seeing is that, far from being a new “moment” for libertarians to shine in the sun, the Republican Party is so fractured and fractious that its longtime fringes are able to boost themselves into the tawdry limelight, for a round of fundraising.

And find that they immediately have too many squares to circle, in order to gain wider acceptance.

Consider the case of Rand Paul, who is already running away from any unscripted, uncontrolled encounters with the voters or the press, as if he were already President, and not a true libertarian. His libertarianism appears to be a convenient and perhaps quite temporary slogan, in order to gain recognition. I would think the easiest way for other Republican candidates to challenge him is to say to the Republican voters, “Why not just vote Democratic?”

8

Layman 08.16.14 at 3:21 pm

There’s a passing mention of government surveillance in the Libertarian Party platform, but not one word about the militarization of police. If Libertarians are concerned about it, it’s a very new concern.

9

LWA (Liberal With Attitude) 08.16.14 at 3:36 pm

@Peter K-
Thanks for the link-

Regarding the article itself, I keep seeing disparaging references to the Broken Windows theory mostly from those on the left.

While I understand and agree how the theory can be made to fit neatly with the authoritarian mindset, I also think there is much there for liberals to appreciate.

The concept that there are subtle signals sent in even minor lawbreaking shouldn’t be controversial, but I haven’t seen much discussion about how Broken Windows can stand as a challenge to market fundamentalism.

Market fundamentalism, the idea that free markets can produce a good outcome for society, rests on the idea of creative destruction, of the anarchic aspect of competition.

Yet this anarchy itself (“Move fast and break things”) is a form of the strong individualism that Broken Windows criticises.

If a broken window sends a signal about lawlessness and insecurity, doesn’t also a boarded up window of a bankrupt business send a similar signal?

How do we cheer for economic insecurity while criticising physical insecurity? How do we criticise the street hustler playing 3 card monte, while applauding the sellers of impossibly low mortgages?

10

Consumatopia 08.16.14 at 3:41 pm

If the gun rights position was just the status quo, then I don’t think it would cause any problem for libertarian/liberal cooperation. But, although at the federal level it’s hard to see what more gun advocates could possibly want (except perhaps SCOTUS recognition of a right to carry guns in public), at the state level they seem to be constantly inventing new ways to permit guns everywhere. Moreover, for a substantial portion of the gun rights movement, what they seem to be aiming for isn’t so much a change in the law as a change in the culture. They want people to carry more guns. Some of them think people who aren’t prepared to defend themselves in public with lethal force should be ashamed of themselves. Some of them even suggest that politicians might choose better policies if they were afraid of an armed faction of citizens.

The problem is that if that if some of these gun advocates got their way, militarized police become a good idea. The police have to be equipped in proportion to the threats they’re likely to face.

If the issue is surveillance rather than the weapon proliferation, the situation is different. I don’t think it makes sense to say that the NSA has be able to spy on people in proportion to how Google is able to spy on people. However, private surveillance still weakens the case against government surveillance–both politically (“why can’t the NSA know what Google knows?”) and logistically (policing every private company the CIA does business with.)

Plus, some of us liberals would like the government to not only stop comprehensive surveillance, but to actually spend resources to make surveillance more difficult, by encouraging cryptography and verification of software, and enacting stronger privacy regulations.

None of this means liberals and libertarians shouldn’t cooperate whenever their agendas intersect at any given moment, as they apparently do today over militarized police and government surveillance. But the internal contradictions are still lurking inside, and could become more significant later.

11

Plume 08.16.14 at 3:48 pm

There’s certainly some room for common ground here, and perhaps even some actual progress. But I still think there are some pretty big obstacles. Most obviously, there’s the militarization of the far-right, represented by “open carry” and the heavily armed mobs that have been seen backing Cliven Bundy and threatening immigrant children, with the enthusiastic support of Fox News.

This is a key observation. Propertarians aren’t sticking their necks out at all by coming down hard on the government. To them, the government is the source of all evil, and many even say the only power that can “coerce.” We will have found some common ground once they extend the idea of force and coercion into the private sector, and fight against ALEC and the Koch brothers and laws like Stand Your Ground. But that taint happenin’.

One of the clearest lines of demarcation for propertarians appeared when Rand Paul was corned by Rachel Maddow on his views regarding the Civil Rights Act. Present day right-libertarians — most of them, anyway — say they are against the government discriminating against people based on race, gender, age, etc. etc. And they can craft their speech in such a way that it makes it sound like they’re against all discrimination. But we need to read the fine print. Cuz if it inv0lves the private sector and “property rights,” then all of that goes out of the window.

If the killer in Ferguson had been a store owner, and not a police officer, I doubt there would be any “libertarian moment” to speak of.

12

PJW 08.16.14 at 4:28 pm

The North Hollywood shootout was one pivotal event in the militarization of U.S. police departments. That was one terrifying gun battle:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Hollywood_shootout

13

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 5:30 pm

….Moreover, for a substantial portion of the gun rights movement, what they seem to be aiming for isn’t so much a change in the law as a change in the culture. They want people to carry more guns. Some of them think people who aren’t prepared to defend themselves in public with lethal force should be ashamed of themselves.

The problem is that if that if some of these gun advocates got their way, militarized police become a good idea. The police have to be equipped in proportion to the threats they’re likely to face.

I want to imagine a society that worked in a libertarian-sort of way.

Everybody goes armed, except maybe some people have armbands that say they don’t. Some people have armbands that say they are police. But people don’t use their guns much at all, being normal people.

Ideally the laws should be simple enough that anybody can understand them. You mostly shouldn’t need a lawyer to tell whether you are breaking a law.

If there’s a question whether somebody has broken a law, he should come to court and say his side of it. He should get told that he needs to come in and explain. If he doesn’t show up on time, then he should come to court later and say why he didn’t do it before, and present whatever evidence he has.

If somebody refuses to come to court, or if he is a criminal who refuses to accept the court’s judgement, then he is probably an armed criminal. Everybody who meets him should advise him to surrender himself. They might possibly choose to advise him at gunpoint. People who wear police armbands are not really necessary for that. But if it does come to a gunfight, everybody ought to usually assume that the guys with the police armbands are on the right side and the people who’re shooting at them are on the wrong side. When they’re asking somebody to come to court and tell the truth, and that somebody is shooting at them, who’s right?

Shooting at people with police armbands would be a serious crime in itself and an admission of guilt, and using the prestige of the police armband for anything other than court business would also be a serious crime.

We wouldn’t need much of a police force. If somebody with a police armband asks someone to come to court or go into custody, and they refuse, it might make sense for him to back off the first time. Sure, he can ask everybody nearby to assist, but maybe better to give the perp a chance to think it over. So if you are the victim of some gross injustice you might get a chance to find journalists and bloggers and tell them about it, get some publicity before you turn yourself in. Or if you feel strongly enough, become an outlaw. Tell everybody who will listen why you’re doing it, and they can confront you if they choose to. If you strongly believe the law is wrong, or that it is commonly misapplied, this is probably an effective way to get publicity for your view. But you might get shot. You have to really believe it.

What kind of police would we need? We’d need science types to study evidence. We’d need internet experts to find internet secrets and business fraud experts to deal with fraud. Etc. We probably wouldn’t need many who are professional at violence.

I find the idea pleasing. Why can’t it work for us?

1. Our laws are complicated, expensive, and unfair. They don’t get sufficient respect from the public to let that system work.

2. In practice, we might wind up with a sort of arms race. People who expect to be involved in legal issues might wear body armor. People who expect confrontations with body armor might wear special guns with special ammo, leading to better body armor, etc. That would be expensive and wasteful.

3. We already have professional police who need to have considerable crime to justify their income. They create criminals, probably more than an amateur system could handle in the beginning.

There might be other problems too.

14

Shelley 08.16.14 at 6:06 pm

Despite all its attractions, libertarianism can be refuted by two words: corporate greed.

15

Plume 08.16.14 at 6:10 pm

A lot of this comes down to a rather dangerous expansion in the idea of property rights. The Second Amendment is not about consumer choice. It is not an amendment that guarantees unlimited consumer choice. It just says “keep and bear arms.” It doesn’t say keep and bear any arms, without limits on lethality, capacity, firepower, number, size, etc. etc. etc. If the amendment read “keep and bear suits,” and we banned polyester suits — as we should — the right to keep and bear suits would not be infringed.

So, first we move from 200 years of precedent that says the “right” is a collective one, tied to the state, to it being an individual right after Heller, to yet a further expansion under the auspices of the NRA and right-libertarians more generally. Now the right is to match or exceed the firepower of government, and the ostensible support for this right is that government is “tyrannical” . . . . which it certainly is in Ferguson at the moment, or when it bashed OWS heads in, or at Kent State, or overseas in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Indonesia, Central and South America, etc. etc.

The problem being, of course, is that a bunch of atomized individuals, albeit armed to the teeth, are no match for the world’s lone super power, and the idea that we all have some sort of “natural right” to AR-15s is self-evidently bizarre. Aside from police brutality, the right’s idea of “tyranny” doesn’t match up with the majority’s. The majority doesn’t see taxation as tyranny. The majority doesn’t see the ACA as tyranny. The majority doesn’t see asking Cliven Bundy to pay his taxes and his fees for grazing on public lands as tyranny. But the folks who do have militarized themselves and are zealous enough to believe they have “the right” to be judge, jury and executioner (of their fellow Americans), which, obviously, makes them “tyrannical.”

This is a war, and the right is in it to win it. I think the left, in general, doesn’t even acknowledge that it exists.

16

Mark Field 08.16.14 at 6:59 pm

The legislative proposals, social movements and voting coalitions that would lead to (a) the restriction of police power and (b) the restriction of gun rights, are quite different. So it seems perfectly reasonable to hold that progressives and make common cause with libertarians on (a) without being able to make common cause on (b). Why think joint work is so holistic when politics is frequently more individuated?

Because the risk is that we end up with a society which has vastly expanded the carrying of arms by individuals and reduced the power of government to control the gun nuts. That’s the worst of all possible worlds.

The propertarians aren’t on our side, not on this issue and not on many others. They’re ultimately on the side of the states rights conservatives. They can be useful idiots if we want to reduce the militarization of police departments, but they’ll turn on us the moment it comes to open carry for everyone.

17

gianni 08.16.14 at 9:27 pm

just to expand on @16, any sort of common cause between left and right libertarians on police militarization that does not address the broader issue of the general militarization of American life/culture will not last. Specifically, a situation where the firearms of our police are controlled nearly as tightly as those of our citizens is flat out unsustainable. It only takes one flashy news story where the assailant is armed to the teeth, and you’ve got the surplus from operation desert storm back in Kansas again.

Plus, the ‘militarized police’ angle only scratches the surface (& I am surprised that Konczal did not address this in the essay linked above). The issue is neoliberalism writ large. The scaling back of the welfare state, public goods, and social protections has intensified the need for security services. Over the last generation or so, concurrent with the militarization of the police, we see a swell in private security services.

While it is nice to know that the libertarian right can properly identify jack-booted thugs as such, I am not convinced that they are ready with a workable solution, at least not for the long term. I also worry that there is a certain logical path that starts with |less toys and guns for police, and ends with |heavily armed citizen militias patrolling local areas.

18

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 10:51 pm

The Second Amendment is not about consumer choice.

It is now that the most powerful lobbying organization, formerly a membership organization, has been transformed into a creature of the marketing arms of a bunch of gun manufacturers.

19

Ronan(rf) 08.17.14 at 12:34 am

Libertarianism is just the Tracy emin of. American politics, whole lot of hullabaloo but at the end of the day it’s just a bed full of ••••

20

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 12:55 am

Speaking as a life member of the NRA, the irrational conviction on the left that the NRA is some kind of astroturf front for the firearms industry is hilarious. Right, one of the largest membership organizations in the US is a front for one of the smallest industries….

Again, you just can’t bring yourselves to admit that large numbers of people can genuinely disagree with you.

21

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 1:22 am

Insight into why they disagree with me isn’t denial that they disagree.

22

The Temporary Name 08.17.14 at 1:44 am

Right, one of the largest membership organizations in the US is a front for one of the smallest industries….

It can certainly be both. It’s not like the NRA is at arm’s length from the industry or anything, and it certainly wouldn’t have the power it has without funding from industry and from the personal support of the industry’s biggest players.

Next you’ll ask that I believe the government isn’t a front for bankers.

23

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 4:27 am

Well, if the NRA were just a front for the gun companies, I can’t believe it would be all that hard to reach some kind of mutually beneficial detente with the Democrats. I don’t think the Dems, at this point, are even proposing anything that would cut into industry profits all that much.

24

stevenjohnson 08.17.14 at 4:50 am

I thought that everybody knew the hard core of the NRA are the people who want to be ready for when the race war breaks out. Does anyone really believe that the gun industry is the main force?

25

Abbe Faria 08.17.14 at 9:01 am

I’m not convinced the NRA is libertarian, it’s much much bigger than libertarianism and gets support from plenty of other areas, most members are only committed to gun rights.

“I also worry that there is a certain logical path that starts with |less toys and guns for police, and ends with |heavily armed citizen militias patrolling local areas.”

But the actual history of NRA support for gun rights is the complete reverse of this, it’s a response to police/atf militarisation not a cause. It supported gun control though the political assassinations and 60s and early 70s, taking the opposite side to the black panthers who did support gun rights. Then it’s become progressively more extreme with the succession of botched gun control incidents by militarised law enforcement which was kicked off with the Ken Ballew raid in 1971 and was followed by all the familiar names (Waco, Ruby Ridge etc). The reason gun rights are so important is many minds is otherwise suspicion of possession can get you shot dead for no good reason.

26

John Quiggin 08.17.14 at 10:10 am

@25 I think you may be missing a subtle distinction between the Black Panthers and the victims of subsequent police overreach in the cases you mention, which may help to explain the NRA’s change of position. The same subtle distinction might perhaps explain the NRA’s silence regarding events in Ferguson, in which, as you mention, someone got shot dead for no good reason. Do you want a hint?

27

Robespierre 08.17.14 at 10:44 am

@13
Really, – those – are the problems? As opposed to, say, people organising in groups to wage violence on other people?

28

J Thomas 08.17.14 at 12:03 pm

@13
Really, – those – are the problems? As opposed to, say, people organising in groups to wage violence on other people?

OK, OK.

#4. We have a lot of cultural diversity and some of our cultures don’t get along. Better if they aren’t armed. (Except at least one of them already is.)

29

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 12:20 pm

A large part of the NRA’s silence concerning Ferguson is attributable to the lack of clear facts. Like most large organizations, the NRA is rather risk averse, (Which is why it wasn’t the NRA that won the Heller case.) and unlike the other side in this fight, does not benefit from a media willing to shove anything embarrassing they say down the memory hole.

So they’re not going to issue any statements about Ferguson until the facts are clear. Which, let us admit, they are not yet.

“I thought that everybody knew the hard core of the NRA are the people who want to be ready for when the race war breaks out. “

Yes, everybody who knows nothing about the NRA knows this. Like Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

It’s always tempting to assume the worst of people you oppose.

30

Robespierre 08.17.14 at 12:29 pm

Actually I was was thinking about mafia, but perhaps living in Italy does not inspire libertarianism. Also, a few years (2010?) ago our government proposed complementing police with vigilante groups – mostly aimed at looking tough vs immigrants. They were eventually forced to back down, not least because of the enthusiastic response from fascists nuts (actual fascists, blackshirts and all). More generally, I’m not sure how one would enforce the law against people with enough force of their own, or the means to buy it.

31

Ze Kraggash 08.17.14 at 12:35 pm

Personal gun ownership is perfectly consistent with emphasis on individual rights, individual pursuit of happiness being the main focus and a fundamental human right. As opposed to illiberal ideologies with the highest priority given to, say, greatness of the nation, class struggle, or religious devotion. If I want to buy a nuclear-armed submarine, and I can’t be accused of conspiring to commit any crimes, then how is it any of your business? The most you could demand from me is getting a liability insurance.

And if you advocate something like ‘yes, individualism, but be reasonable, and better safe than sorry’, then understand that ‘reasonable’ may vary, so here you’re at the mercy of a ballot box, and that the arms manufacturers only do their best to pursue their happiness.

32

J Thomas 08.17.14 at 1:07 pm

Actually I was was thinking about mafia, but perhaps living in Italy does not inspire libertarianism.

Good point. There is of course a lot of diversity in libertarian thought. I think it’s usually kind of implicit that if you have a way to keep governments from coercing people, it will also work on the mafia. They are after all an unelected government that coerces people and does favors to their friends but then expects the favors to be repaid. An unrecognized aristocracy, that hides in the shadow of government because government tries to keep a monopoly on armed coercion and they can’t stand up to actual armies.

So if you actually have a way to stop the big government you can probably use the same method to stop the little government too.

On a more emotional level, it may be that the gut feeling is if a mafia tries to coerce Chuck Norris then Chuck Norris will kill them all before they can kill him, and that takes care of the problem for the rest of us too.

It sounds silly said like that, but something like it could work in some circumstances. Imagine that everybody is armed all the time, and also that there are plenty of good jobs available. The mafia tries to coerce people but when they do, 10% of the victims are brave and kill on average one enforcer before they themselves are killed. It might not take long before most of the enforcers choose to go into less dangerous work.

Sheep dogs can herd sheep because each individual sheep is afraid of dying and refuses to fight back. If sheep were armed and willing to fight, it would take far more than two or three dogs to control a whole flock of sheep.

More generally, I’m not sure how one would enforce the law against people with enough force of their own, or the means to buy it.

That’s a problem. However, it could be viewed instead as an opportunity! A lot of Americans were raised watching Westerns. In a place where there is no government, or where the government is only one weak or corrupt sheriff, the bad landowner has a whole hired gang that’s loyal to him and they lord it over everybody else. They steal other people’s cattle and there’s nothing the others can do about it — even though each of them have guns, there are too many of the rustlers and they will be killed if they resist. But then a hero arises! He works hard, and he has courage, and he is kind to women and children. He opposes the rustlers, and some other brave men join him. Finally there is a shoot-out and the good guys win. Perhaps he becomes the new sheriff; he definitely gets the beautiful woman he has been protecting.

One of the problems with the USA is that there are so few opportunities to be a hero. If you see an injustice locally you are not supposed to get involved, you are supposed to wait for the police and the courts to handle it. You can join the army and maybe get shot at, and people will sort of act like you’re a hero when they see you in uniform, but it isn’t the same thing. You can be a mercenary and kill people for money but that doesn’t make you a hero at all. You can protest against injustice and maybe get tear-gassed and maybe clubbed and arrested, but it’s unsatisfying.

The problem with being a real hero is you can get killed. But I think a lot of people hunger for it. And somehow US society is set up to avoid it. If you are a hero, it’s because the system was not working well enough to prevent the problem that you heroicly handled. Any time you save the day, it’s because the authorities fucked up. They hate that.

I’m not saying that libertarians consciously want to have a society that’s so badly designed that they will regularly have chances at heroic shoot-outs. But I do think that deep down, for a lot of people, the idea that they could get the chance to stand up for what they believe and be heroes does not seem like a design flaw.

33

J Thomas 08.17.14 at 1:16 pm

If I want to buy a nuclear-armed submarine, and I can’t be accused of conspiring to commit any crimes, then how is it any of your business? The most you could demand from me is getting a liability insurance.

That works for me. If you want to buy a nuclear-armed submarine, and you can find a reputable insurer who will issue you liability insurance for the maximum damage you can do, then go right ahead.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Liability-for-Nuclear-Damage/

34

J Thomas 08.17.14 at 1:16 pm

If I want to buy a nuclear-armed submarine, and I can’t be accused of conspiring to commit any crimes, then how is it any of your business? The most you could demand from me is getting a liability insurance.

That works for me. If you want to buy a nuclear-armed submarine, and you can find a reputable insurer who will issue you liability insurance for the maximum damage you can do, then go right ahead.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Liability-for-Nuclear-Damage/

35

J Thomas 08.17.14 at 1:28 pm

Oops!

If you want to insure a nuclear power plant, you get something like $12.5 billion insurance of which a little is provided by a pool of 60 insurance companies, more is provided by a pool of all the nuclear power plant operators, and then the government chips in the rest at no cost.

If you have an accident and your nuke accidentally damages a US city, what do you suppose the maximum damage might be?

I doubt you can get insurance at all for the case that you do it on purpose. But if you can get private insurance to cover the maximum damage if your nuke goes off for any reason, from insurers who can actually pay and who will be held responsible, then I won’t stand in your way.

Hey! What an idea! Maybe we should get gun-owners’ insurance, like automobile insurance! The insurance company notes the average financial loss from gunshot wounds and deaths, and offers insurance that becomes mandatory in some states. The rates could vary depending on risk factors. Like, if you promise to keep all your guns locked up in an industry-approved gun safe and take them out only to go to a shooting range on Thursdays, you might get a rate as low as $5/year, but if you shoot somebody and it isn’t Thursday then you are 100% personally liable….

36

Sancho 08.17.14 at 2:13 pm

One of the problems with the USA is that there are so few opportunities to be a hero. If you see an injustice locally you are not supposed to get involved, you are supposed to wait for the police and the courts to handle it.

Ye olde state monopoly on violence.

What irks me about a lot of libertarian arguments is that they’re essentially complaints about things that came into existence precisely because the world libertarians aspire to already existed, and people didn’t want it.

37

Layman 08.17.14 at 2:34 pm

“What irks me about a lot of libertarian arguments is that they’re essentially complaints about things that came into existence precisely because the world libertarians aspire to already existed, and people didn’t want it.”

What’s more, there are places in the world that are still like that – where a minimalist state maximizes personal freedom and self-sufficiency – yet they refuse to go live there. Perhaps because they’re uniformly awful places.

38

Bruce Baugh 08.17.14 at 2:37 pm

Sancho: Exactly.

More privatized police? We can see how security firms and mercenary corporations do, and to put it mildly, they do not exceed public police forces when it comes to attending to basic rights, opportunities for fair and valid trials, and the like.

Less regulation and more torts? Even setting aside the many libertarian-cheered-on efforts to restrict the general public’s access to the courts, we have the one-two combo of Ferguson’s police stalling and fresh releases of Nixon tapes to remind us of how much harm can be done before any outside power can catch up.

More guns in the public hands? If there were the slightest scrap of evidence that raising concealed and open carry rates reduced crime and reduced harm done to non-criminals in the vicinity of gun toters, we’d never be hearing the end of it. We aren’t.

And so forth and so on.

39

Layman 08.17.14 at 2:55 pm

“If I want to buy a nuclear-armed submarine, and I can’t be accused of conspiring to commit any crimes, then how is it any of your business?”

Because we’re capable of reason, and understand the only purpose to a nuclear-armed submarine is to cause indiscriminate death and destruction to far away people and places; and that the sort of people who want one can’t be trusted to possess one?

40

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 3:21 pm

Which is as true of governments as individuals…

41

Layman 08.17.14 at 3:30 pm

“Which is as true of governments as individuals…”

Yes and no. You can argue the deterrent power of nuclear-armed submarines at the level of nation states, but it’s hard to come up with a similar argument which reasonably applies to individuals. And, some forms of government are better at constraining government power than others, while pretty much all are better at constraining the behavior of individuals with power than is anarchy.

42

Peter K. 08.17.14 at 3:30 pm

@ PJW 12

I watched the the North Hollywood shootout live on TV.

43

mattski 08.17.14 at 3:36 pm

Brett @ 40

Do you support/advocate demilitarization?

44

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 3:37 pm

Layman, the NSA read that, and the Deep State is not pleased that you do not trust them, after all they do for you.

45

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 3:41 pm

J Thomas if you shoot somebody and it isn’t Thursday then you are 100% personally liable….

A policy that protects the insurance company! You may have a future as a neoliberal yet.

46

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 4:33 pm

Matt, yeah, I do support the elimination of nuclear arms. Basically, I regard any weapon that can’t take out the guilty without automatically hitting the innocent to be immoral.

What I don’t see is any argument against civilians owning weapons that CAN take out the guilty without hitting the innocent, that doesn’t apply to the police. As I asked, are the police supposed to be spraying from the hip?

47

Barry 08.17.14 at 4:43 pm

JThomas: “It sounds silly said like that, but something like it could work in some circumstances. Imagine that everybody is armed all the time, and also that there are plenty of good jobs available. The mafia tries to coerce people but when they do, 10% of the victims are brave and kill on average one enforcer before they themselves are killed. It might not take long before most of the enforcers choose to go into less dangerous work.”

What is this ‘mafia’ you speak of? It must be something new, since if we go back not that far in time, lots of people *were* armed.

Is it some Post-WWII/New Deal thing?

48

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 4:53 pm

Okay, here’s an argument–a private individual should not be able to outgun the police. Individuals shouldn’t be able to defy the laws created by We The People by waving guns around, Bundy style. Or like Mexican drug cartels. The government should not lose gun fights with domestic criminals..

Or to put it another way, a foreign military shouldn’t be able to legally migrate to the U.S., then buy the same weapons the U.S. military can buy and then declare war.

49

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 4:54 pm

J Thomas: The mafia tries to coerce people but when they do, 10% of the victims are brave and kill on average one enforcer before they themselves are killed. It might not take long before most of the enforcers choose to go into less dangerous work.

What’s the Darwinian process — the competitive equilibrium? An arms race in which enforcers improve their skills, and the brave enforcees are winnowed from the population?

50

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 5:28 pm

Dodge City? Hays City? Tombstone? With 15-round magazines? I do hope I’m no longer around when the libertarian gladness comes to pass. Then again, I live in AZ, so I suppose I might just as well fuggedaboudit.

51

PatrickinIowa 08.17.14 at 5:32 pm

A responsible gun owner’s syllogism:

The Crips know the Bloods are heavily armed.
The Bloods know the Crips are heavily armed.
A violent criminal will be deterred by a firearm in the possession of his potential victim.

Therefore, there is very little violence between the Crips and the Bloods.

(Pay no attention to the empirical data.)

52

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 5:43 pm

What kind of moron won’t join a union, but wants to carry 5 pound of gun and ammunition with him wherever he goes because freedom? So when his jerk of a boss lets him go after 20 years of loyal service, does he shoot the guy? Nope, he just walks away with his tail between his legs and dreams about shooting liberals. Because freedom.

53

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 6:13 pm

It’s probably my liberal prejudices talking, but it seems to me that it comes down to a contest to see who will organize the government, for what purposes, by what means, and according to what design.

It might be a warrior elite, heavily armed and adolescent in its ideas, which dominates the countryside, in the feudal manner of William the Conqueror. It might be the descendants of that warrior elite, transmuted by time and peace, into a guild of lawyers working for a aristocracy of landlords, arguing over legitimating fictions like property law. It might be a secret society, like the Camorra, acting variously as champions of the community, patrons of corrupt politicians, and self-serving bastards. It might be a fanatical band of ideologues like the Communists, determined to revolutionize government and human nature both, in some Plume-like idealization of naïveté. It might be the Praetorian Guard of the Deep State, empowered by technology to know everything and understand nothing, convinced by its own incompetence and the fears of the terminally and fantastically greedy to rule and ruin.

So many choices!

The libertarians, as I understand it, want to reason from first principles, with as little reference to practical experience as possible, how to constitute the state and government by the state. Whether it is the restructuring of the political economy in syndicalism of left-libertarianism or the high constitutionalism of right-libertarianism, it is the restructuring according to reasoned, abstract principles that distinguishes the outlook.

If this is, indeed, the libertarian moment, it is because the inherited system of government institutions, such as they are, have become, in the course of political and economic evolution or anacyclosis, sclerotic and dysfunctional. We are at an endpoint, and have to re-invent government, and some people are re-inventing it, in fact, despite a general reluctance to let go of the past and recognize the full horror of the usurpation.

Imagining that libertarians might occasionally be useful allies in a piecemeal attempt by liberals to bargain for feature modifications in the design of the rapidly emerging New State is typical of liberal preservationism: looking to slow the deterioration with “incremental improvement” reforms, backing lesser evil — in general focusing on one tree or another, to avoid seeing the full horror of the forest taking shape.

We are in, or approaching a revolutionary moment — a moment when there is a real danger of collapse, and strong reasons to welcome collapse despite the acute costs. I think many libertarians, though hopelessly simplistic in their vision for what might work as replacement, at least dimly recognize that what exists is no longer working well, and to extend and pretend, preserving dysfunction, is to invite a dark and stagnant future.

What’s frightening to me is that so many were surprised by Ferguson — just like so many were surprised by Katrina or the GFC — to see what their government is becoming.

We are repeatedly surprised by these “shocks to the system” large and small to discover what is happening to change the system fundamentally — whether it is the GFC of 2007-8 or the Snowden revelations or Trayvon Martin’s death and how it showed up Stand Your Ground and ALEC. One could make a long varied list — Bush v Gore, the timely repeal of cramdown for mortgages in federal bankruptcy, the Obama Administration’s policy of prosecuting whistleblowers but not banksters, soaring inequality — everyone can make her own list, according to her own perspective.

Europeans might want to consider the craziness of the Euro, which is still accepted as a kind of progress, by vast numbers of people, despite the devastation and some quite sound arguments for why its design is fatally flawed.

Libertarians at least see that the overall system appears to be failing into something else, and that design principles matter. Liberals and social democrats might look to their own blindness and lack of architecture.

54

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 6:51 pm

It supported gun control though the political assassinations and 60s and early 70s, taking the opposite side to the black panthers who did support gun rights. Then it’s become progressively more extreme with the succession of botched gun control incidents by militarised law enforcement which was kicked off with the Ken Ballew raid in 1971 and was followed by all the familiar names (Waco, Ruby Ridge etc). The reason gun rights are so important is many minds is otherwise suspicion of possession can get you shot dead for no good reason.

I’m not sure, but I do recall that my gun nut friends reaction to the 2009 shooting of three Pittsburgh policemen was that the cops should have been prepared to deal with an armed suspect.

I do agree with you that equating libertarianism with the gun movement is dubious. This thread might even be moving the wrong direction, as it’s not clear that the portions of the gun movement that we’re complaining about most here are actually libertarian or even skeptical of police power at all.There are a lot of people with both pro-gun and pro-police sympathies. (I’m not sure it’s racism at such that motivates such people, but it’s some kind of complicated cultural narrative deeper than a counter-reaction to a few ATF raids.)

55

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 7:00 pm

“Okay, here’s an argument–a private individual should not be able to outgun the police. “

So, if police are limited to the same weapons as private individuals, how exactly are the police (Which, note, is a plural.) not going to be able to outgun a private individual? Perhaps what you meant is that no combination of private individuals should be able to outgun the police?

That’s a coherent position. It’s a coherent position which was rejected in the founding of this nation by people who banded together to outgun the police, and who wrote into the Bill of Rights an amendment intended to assure the opposite, but it IS coherent.

56

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 7:13 pm

Perhaps what you meant is that no combination of private individuals

No, I mean that an individual cop should be able to outgun an individual non-cop, that a collection of cops ought to be able to out-gun a similarly sized collection of non-cops.

I would not want the cops to be able to violently suppress the entire population.

57

Layman 08.17.14 at 7:25 pm

“It’s a coherent position which was rejected in the founding of this nation by people who banded together to outgun the police, and who wrote into the Bill of Rights an amendment intended to assure the opposite…”

‘A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’

Not one word about police. I guess one must infer that part?

58

Plume 08.17.14 at 7:40 pm

Brett,

It’s just right-wing nonsense to say that the 2nd amendment was intended to ensure that the population could overthrew the newly formed government of the United States — that the founders wanted to make it easier for “the people” to slaughter the founders. It’s actually beyond nonsense. It’s outright idiocy to believe this.

The founders didn’t trust “the people” enough to let more than a very small portion of them vote, and you think they wanted them to be able to outgun and topple the founders? Only white males, and well to do white males, could vote or run for office. They had a real fear of “the masses” and no intention of arming them for anything other than to protect the state — as in, them.

The founders were the ruling class in America. They fought a revolution primarily because they didn’t like the idea of the British ruling class having any say in the matter. Like all ruling classes, everywhere, throughout history, they wanted to keep control, not enable rebellion. The 2nd amendment was in fact put into effect to stamp out rebellion, primarily slave rebellions. And one need only look at Article One, Section Nine, to see their views on what constituted treason.

The deification of the founders is so strong on the right, all too many conservatives actually believe the founders were unique in the history of the world, and the first ruling class to ever set the table for its own destruction. This is an article of faith among them, based on nothing more than a bizarre take on our already bizarre origin myths.

It’s dangerous to be blind about such things.

59

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 7:56 pm

Deification and demonization are both mistakes, Plume. Sounds like you’ve chosen the latter.

60

Plume 08.17.14 at 8:01 pm

Brett,

No. It’s far from “demonization.” It’s just dealing with things as they really are, not how we might want them to be.

61

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 8:02 pm

Plume @ 58

Your potted history is far from accurately interpreted. The American ruling class did have to make egalitarianism part of the ideology of the American Revolution to get mass support for overthrowing the British Crown, and the franchise was significantly extended after 1775, as state governments were constituted to replace colonial governments.

The Second Amendment — an amendment! — was proposed and adopted because people did fear the power of the proposed new government and wanted protections. The historical record on the Second Amendment actually does provide a lot of support to the interpretations offered by those, who say that the amendment reflected the fears of people, who could imagine a tyrannical government disarming the people. I think Brett is on sounder ground, historically, than you are.

62

gianni 08.17.14 at 8:04 pm

I’ve been waiting for a comment like @55 from you Brett, after your comment in the Ferg, MO thread. Basically over there you said something to the effect of ‘riot is never rational, nor ever moral.’ Which, yknow, is a fairly obnoxious thing to say, as most blanket statements like it are. But more interestingly, I had the sense that you were one of those Americans who finds a great deal of value in our revolutionary history. Which led me to wonder: how would you differentiate the early moves in the US revolution from rioting? Especially something like the Boston Tea Party, that sounds like a riot to me – of course, of the type you would see in a time before consumer culture proper.

@25 – somehow the reply of ‘at one point in history the NRA was in favor of gun control because it was afraid of African-americans getting guns’ just is not comforting in this day when we have pictures of random gun nuts aiming high caliber rifles at federal officers and still walking away armed and unmolested. I don’t understand how bringing up the NRA’s racist past on the issue of gun control would make me feel better about the (NRA-supported) general erosion of controls and regulations on gun ownership happening today.

63

Plume 08.17.14 at 8:17 pm

Bruce,

Nonsense. Talk about potted histories, I see you’ve fallen for the origin myths as well. And you seem not to get the difference between rhetoric in order to gain support for revolution and actions to back that up. What is “egalitarian” about limiting the vote to wealthy white males? What is “egalitarian” about the support for slavery, the Senate as constructed, and who voted for senators? And please show how “the franchise” was significantly extended. How, exactly?

And it’s just silly talk to suggest that “the people” had some say in the matter. The founders took very little input from the vast majority of the population. It was a very select boys club of rich white males — no women, no non-rich whites and no minorities allowed. Jill Lepore has done some good work on the history, and she’s far from free from the overly generous interpretation of the motives of the founders. She disagrees with your take, as do most historians. Digby does a good job here of collecting some of the recent scholarship on the subject.

I

64

Plume 08.17.14 at 8:41 pm

All too many Americans have a real blind spot when it comes to the founders. Even though these men were politicians, and the American ruling class, people seem to assume they were telling the truth, always, and that their rhetoric wasn’t “political” and was devoid of any hidden agenda. These same Americans in 2014 would never make those assumptions for politicians today, or for the 1%. But the founders? For them, all the usual and very healthy skepticism is tossed out the window. For them, “belief” in their honesty, integrity and transparency trumps all.

There are degrees regarding this kind of gullibility, and the right as of late pretty much has that franchise cornered. But as Mr. Wilder demonstrates, blindness infects the center-left as well.

Sad.

65

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 9:07 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 61

The historical record on the Second Amendment actually does provide a lot of support to the interpretations offered by those who say that the 2nd amendment reflected the fears of people, or at least the fears of state legislatures, who were haunted by the specter of a tyrannical government which might disarm the people as a prelude to enslaving them.

And if the anti-Brett Bellmore faction doesn’t want to take the time to study and digest in detail what the fears of the people were between 1787 and 1791, a brief look at the reported comments of Alexander Hamilton at the Constitutional Convention, quoted today in Brad DeLong’s blog, should be sufficient to understand what at least some the anti-Federalists of 1787 were concerned about.

All water over the dam now, of course. The arguments on both sides were legitimate enough at the time. Who could be certain that reserving certain powers to the states, and arms to the people, innocent enough in principle, would devolve so inexorably into the Civil War of 1860-1865, or that Appomattox would fail to settle much of anything in either the short or the long run? Unfortunately for us, the tragedy of our first go-round has not returned as farce in the second, except, I suppose, in the shallowness of the thinking of some of those who believe themselves to be going to war under the old banners.

Even counting up all that’s transpired since, I think Bruce is right about where we are now, even for those who believe that the fault lines in our original Constitution to be a relatively minor influence on our present unhappinesses. It would be nice, though, if our decisions about how to apply ourselves to what comes next weren’t governed by mythology and self-righteousness alone.

66

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 9:24 pm

Speaking as a member of this anti-Brett Bellmore faction, I object to the shifting of goal posts here. Brett’s position was not merely that the people, collectively, should have enough guns to defeat the government. His position is that an individual should be able to buy any weapon the cops or the military could buy. So that if you have a group of people slightly larger than the local police force, you should be able to outgun the local police force.

This is a particularly silly view, even among those pining for Second American Revolution.

67

Layman 08.17.14 at 9:33 pm

“And if the anti-Brett Bellmore faction doesn’t want to take the time to study and digest in detail what the fears of the people were between 1787 and 1791,”

Given that Brett Bellmore has in the past expressed disdain for adding interpretation to the plain language of the Constitution, the fears of the people between 1787 and 1791 ought to in his view be irrelevant to the question.

68

Plume 08.17.14 at 9:41 pm

It’s worth keeping in mind that we are but one of two countries in the world with a special set aside right to own deadly pieces of metal. Yemen is the other. And that hasn’t stopped people all over the globe from buying and selling guns. It’s not necessary, and it was originally put in place to suppress rebellions (again, slave rebellions, primarily), not to enable “the people” to fight back against government tyranny.

It is also worth noting that a far better and more humane set aside right would have been one that guaranteed life’s essentials — again, rather than the right to keep and bear deadly pieces of metal.

Oh, say, something like access to safe water, food, sufficient shelter, clothing, a quality education and health care. The acting founders would have been better off if they had listened to Thomas Paine. “The people” did. And then they and he got screwed over after the revolution.

Here’s a decent but incomplete start on a much better BOR. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights . . .

69

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 9:43 pm

anti-Brett Bellmore faction

Really?

70

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 9:52 pm

Yes, well… Brett’s position seems to reflect how long he’s been steeping in the tepid water of free enterprise. I doubt he’d support subsidies to the poor so that they could also buy anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles.

Yet there are always people around who, for reasons of their own, were willing to fish in troubled waters, even in American ones. In the 1770’s it was the French. Today it’s the Koch Brothers, Wayne LaPierre, and as Bruce suggested above, our own arms manufacturers, although I’m sure the gunmakers don’t offer credit to the Oath-Keepers, Posse Comitatus, etc. without someone, somewhere, who’s actually guaranteed to pay. If things really go south (pardon the expression) no doubt the Mexicans, the Cubans, or even the Chinese would be willing to lend a hand. Cost is never an object when serious meddling is in the offing. Just ask the CIA.

71

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 9:55 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 69

Never, ever make a casual, hyperbolic reference without thinking of the consequences. Such things tend to take on a life of their own. Thanks for reminding me.

72

Mark Field 08.17.14 at 9:58 pm

The Second Amendment — an amendment! — was proposed and adopted because people did fear the power of the proposed new government and wanted protections.

This is vaguely phrased, but it’s seriously wrong. To the extent there was “fear” of the new government relevant to the 2A, it involved the power of the feds to regulate the militia. The 2A protected the state governments against any attempt by the feds to nationalize the militia or to disarm it.

Now, why was this a concern? Because in the South the militia served as the slave patrol. It NEVER operated independent of aristocratic command. The slaveholders wanted to maintain control over their slaves, and they didn’t want Northern “outsiders” interfering with their peculiar institution.

The single biggest flaw in the arguments of Brett and others can be seen in the identity of the others who voted to adopt the 2A: the Federalists. Hamilton, et al. had no objection to the 2A. And the reason they didn’t was that it was never expected or intended to give power to individuals. The Federalists always opposed any such power — they were aristocrats and supported rule by the “best”. Thus, the 2A passed with support from the ruling class both North and South precisely because they maintained command of the militia. The 2A didn’t protect any individual right in 1791 (Barron v Baltimore).

73

Plume 08.17.14 at 10:06 pm

Mark @72,

Well said.

Its purpose was to make sure militias were well staffed and stocked, so the states could protect private property — slave property, especially. For the aristocracy, as you mentioned. The ruling class, etc. Protect them as well.

The point of view here is important. Just as the Roman aristocracy feared a standing army, and wanted to keep it outside of Rome, so, too, did the South’s aristocracy fear a standing, federal army, and hoped that the militia system would make it unnecessary.

Somehow, over time, the point of view thing shifted via historical revisionism. The “fear” moved from its actual subject, the ruling class, to its mythological subject, “the people.” Again, this is most obvious on the right, but it holds some sway on the center-left as well. The rest of us know better than to drink the koolaid.

74

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 10:15 pm

When did he take the position that he thought civilians should be able to buy anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles?

I guess I missed that.

75

Bruce Wilder 08.17.14 at 10:16 pm

Mark Field @ 72

Utter nonsense.

76

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 10:22 pm

It has to be said, though, in response to both Mark Field and Plume, that present-day gun nuttery seems to have devolved, as did the mythological gallantry of the South, from the fact that the entire white population of the South, not just the aristocrats, bought into the idea that they alone were the defenders of the republican (small r) faith. How proud freeholders and yeoman could make common cause with slave owners is an interesting subtext. Part aspiration, part frontierism, as far as I can tell, and a lot else besides. What we have now is its own kind of lunacy, I admit, but its ancestry is undeniable.

77

Plume 08.17.14 at 10:23 pm

Bruce @75,

The way you back your assertions is truly impressive. All of those links to the supporting evidence has my head spinning. It’s simply overwhelming!!

78

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 10:26 pm

@74

It’s not clear whether he would ban the military from buying those things or permit civilians to buy them, but the logic of 46 and 55, as well as a couple posts in the first Ferguson thread, definitely seem to imply that he insists civilians be able to buy any weapon the government can buy or make.

He might try to weasel that he just meant the police, not the military, but that won’t fly–his counter-argument to me @55 works just as well if you’re talking about the military as the police.

79

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 10:29 pm

As I remember, he said that the police shouldn’t be armed more heavily than the populace, which is, or at least can be, an entirely different matter. Then again, I was once introduced to a retired airline pilot who had a gun safe stuffed with, among other things, a .50 caliber sniper rifle, a couple of Laws rocket launchers, and a dismounted 20 mm. anti-aircraft gun (without ammunition.) He was also an unabashed libertarian. Coincidence? Probably, but reading the news these days makes you wonder what else is brewing in our cultural soup.

80

Plume 08.17.14 at 10:32 pm

William @76,

I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The entire white population? There was no dissent?

It would be an interesting point of research to see just how much of that population did buy in. Along similar lines, a lot of people today think that the American revolution had widespread support, too, but it didn’t. Colonial America was split roughly into thirds on the subject, going from my reading (will try to track down relevant links, etc.). Less than a third actually supported the revolution.

It’s ironic that taxes actually went waaay up once they threw off the yoke of the Brits, and, of course, slaves and Native Americans would have been better off without the change in ruling classes. The Brits were horrible to both as well, but not quite as bad, and they ended up abolishing slavery several decades before we did.

81

ZM 08.17.14 at 10:33 pm

This article says the second amendment provided for arms bearing for specifically militia use, but civilian militias did not prove successful militias. It also says that it couldn’t have been to overthrow a government, that this interpretation is a late innaccuracy, because that would mean overthrowing the constitution also and the constitution would be odd to put in a clause allowing the overthrow of itself :

“Any so-called right of insurrection or revolution is carried out against the government, which means against that government’s Constitution as well; including the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment. One cannot carry out a right of revolution against the government while at the same time claiming protections within it.62 Even though the truth of this conclusion is clear enough, Akhil Amar and Alan Hirsch do not accept it, arguing that “the Framers did envision the militia playing precisely this double role ’63 of both suppressing revolt and fomenting it. They offer this argument without providing any sources or documentation to support the claim that the framers endorsed this insurrectionist purpose of the militias.

The idea that vigilantism and armed insurrection are as constitutionally sanctioned as voting is a proposition of such absurdity that one is struck more by its boldness than by its pretensions to seriousness. Yet it appears repeatedly in the individualist literature.

Discussing the broader principle of the meaning of the Second Amendment, the article [from 1912] stated that
[t]he many decisions which have already been made as to statutes against carrying concealed weapons or weapons of a certain character show two general lines of reasoning; first, that such provisions should be construed in the light of the origin of the constitutional declarations and the necessity for an efficient militia or for the common defense; second, that they should be construed in connection with the general police power of the state and as subject to legislative regulation thereunder.

the first full-blown treatment of the Second Amendment appeared in the Harvard Law Review.m Authored by noted constitutional scholar Lucilius Emery, the article discusses the
British tradition behind the Second Amendment, pertinent American history, and various comparable state constitutional provisions. Emery quotes Presser,and concludes that “[o]nly persons of military capacity to bear arms in military organizations are within the spirit of the guaranty [i.e., the Second Amendment].”8’5 Emery ends by saying that “the carrying of weapons by individuals may be regulated, restricted, and even prohibited according as conditions and circumstances may make it necessary for the protection of the people. ‘”
http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3294&context=cklawreview

This constitutional law article looks at the second amendment in relation to using guns against Indigenous people :

“The Article first examines evidence that the historical meaning of self-defense in America (including that of the Second Amendment) was predicated largely on the premise that European, especially Eng- lish, colonists needed to defend themselves against “savage” Indians. The Article then argues that this cultural myth2 of white America’s need to defend itself against Indians obscures the fact that Indians who engaged in armed conflicts with the United States or the colo- nies were, in many instances, actually defending themselves and their homelands from white aggression and encroachment.”
http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1086&context=jcl

This article looks at the right and duty to bear arms as inherited from the English tradition and in relation to race (it does seem to claim Madison thought a civilian militia would be a counterweight to an excessive government, but doesn’t quote him directly on the matter and is in a compilation of the journal of firearms and public policy which overall seems pro popular gun ownership)

“If the English tradition involved a right and duty to bear arms qualified by class and later religion, both the right and the duty were strengthened in the earliest American settlements. From the beginning, English settlement in North America had a quasi-military character, an obvious response to harsh frontier conditions. Governors of settlements often also held the title of militia captain, reflecting both the civil and military nature of their office. Special effort was made to ensure that white men, capable of bearing arms, were imported into the colonies.

For the settlers of British North America, an armed and universally deputized white population was necessary not only to ward off dangers from the armies of other European powers, but also to ward off attacks from the indigenous population which feared the encroachment of English settlers on their lands. An armed white population was also essential to maintain social control over blacks and Indians who toiled unwillingly as slaves and servants in English settlements

The statutes of many colonies specified that white men be armed at public expense.20 In most colonies, all white men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, usually with the exception of clergy and religious objectors, were considered part of the militia and required to be armed.”
http://67.205.9.148/wp-content/uploads/journals/JFPP07.pdf

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mattski 08.17.14 at 10:55 pm

@ 72

I hate to go all ad hominem but when it comes to the meaning of the Constitution, Mark is El Hombre.

83

Consumatopia 08.17.14 at 11:06 pm

@79

As I remember, he said that the police shouldn’t be armed more heavily than the populace, which is, or at least can be, an entirely different matter

Well, he’s backing up that position with the Second Amendment, so it seems like it should apply to the military as well as the police. After, it’s not literally the case that our nation was founded by “people who banded together to outgun the police” as he said, no, they banded together to fight the British military. That suggests that he’s using “police” as a stand-in for government arms in general.

(And, heck, I don’t even object to “people who banded together”, I object to any small faction that happens to slightly outnumber the police in a given conflict being able to win the day. By all means, let the people collectively outgun the police, but not per capita.)

84

William Timberman 08.17.14 at 11:25 pm

…no, they banded together to fight the British military.

We shouldn’t forget the …inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, who might appear anywhere at any time, a situation which hardly allowed settlers in the early days the leisure to call the local company together on the village green. Even in the days before the advent of well-regulated militias equipped — as they often were — by the local aristocracy, keeping one’s own gun handy was thought by many to be in the best interest of all. The southern aristocracy’s compelling interest in keeping their agricultural work force of African slaves under close control did indeed result in institutions peculiar to the South, but they weren’t all that peculiar, not in pre-revolutionary times.

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Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 11:33 pm

” They offer this argument without providing any sources or documentation to support the claim that the framers endorsed this insurrectionist purpose of the militias.”

There is, of course, always Joseph Story, who had actually met some of the founders. Or Tenche Coxe, a contemporary of them. Some would consider them sources.

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PatrickinIowa 08.17.14 at 11:39 pm

A couple of years ago, I went through the Library of America’s volumes on the debate over the Constitution, which includes the Federalist Papers, and a bunch of other stuff, using the index to locate who was talking about the 2nd Amendment at the time. Two things were striking.

The first was how little part that Amendment played in the debate. I can only assume that the people debating and voting had bigger fish to fry.

The second was how frequently the discussion of the amendment had less to do with what would happen–militias defending against indigenous resistance, defending the slave owners from their chattel–that what shouldn’t: the formation of a standing army. One line of discussion might go like this: as soon as the US formed a standing army (and the one we have now not only stands, but does quite a bit of stomping too) the conditions that made the 2nd Amendment relevant ceased to exist. The Second Amendment, as written, seems to me to have contemporary currency of the Third, except in the feverish imaginations of people who cannot read.

Unless, as noted, the definition of treason in the Section Three of the document is utterly ignored. I don’t think the Founders should be deified, but I don’t think they were psychotic, either.

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ZM 08.18.14 at 12:28 am

Brett Bellmore,
“There is, of course, always Joseph Story, who had actually met some of the founders. Or Tenche Coxe, a contemporary of them. Some would consider them sources.”

That might be true – if you don’t mind me saying so I don’t really think the founders seem to be of very good character so they may have made all sorts of contradictory arguments to different people, who knows what rhetoricians’ true reasons are for anything.

When Iwas young I thought they were sincere and must have just accidentally ended up owning slaves, but then I found they didn’t include women as being men (even though women are included in the term man historically), that they didn’t include Africans or indigenous people or people without much property either even though these people are all included in the meanng of the word man too. So now I think they were rhetoricians and not sincere because I donot think they were so stupid as to not know the meanings of the word man. And also rhetoricians after the sophists not Aristotle, because I have heard there is some distinction.

Having said that, I guess it would be pretty hard to have such founders birthing your laws for you.

“As far a statues go, so far there’s not
Much choice: they’re either Washington’s
Or Indians, a whitewashed stubby lot,
His country’s Father, or His foster sons.”

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J Thomas 08.18.14 at 1:36 am

I think Brett Bellmore did make a reasonable argument that got lost in the usual stuff.

There isn’t much justification for the police to have more than a few imprecise weapons.

Automatic weapons that lay down a field of fire — how often should police be using those? Especially in urban areas.

Police might occasionally have use for armored cars or even heavier armor, considering the possibility of criminals with weapons that can disable lighter vehicles. How often do police need anti-tank guns on tanks, or heavy machine guns with a fast rate of fire? Godforbid flamethrower tanks and armored cars.

There might be an argument for police to have UAVs that can, say, fire three closely-spaced shots. A UAV is not the most stable firing platform and a single shot might miss when you desperately need it to hit. There’s no need for 300 shots or a Hellfire missile.

Usually, the old ways are better. If the police have somebody trapped and he has hostages and won’t surrender, usually he will surrender if they wait him out. If they try to kill him and miss, particularly when they’ve given him the impression they wouldn’t, he’s likely to go crazier. In that sort of thing it’s a whole lot better when the police get their victim alive. When he kills all his hostages and kills himself, there’s a nagging doubt that maybe they killed him and staged it. It’s just a whole lot better for public trust in the police when there are a maximum number of survivors who can tell their stories, and that works best when the victim cannot escape but increasingly sees what a bad bargaining position he has.

It shouldn’t be up to the police to put down insurrections. Their job is to maintain order when there is order to be maintained. When a lot of people are upset that the laws don’t work for them, it is not the job of the police to oppress them. It is somebody’s job to persuade them that the laws will work right, and that they don’t gain by violence, and maybe somebody will need to oppress them with superior violence but not the police.

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J Thomas 08.18.14 at 1:52 am

JThomas: “It sounds silly said like that, but something like it could work in some circumstances. Imagine that everybody is armed all the time, and also that there are plenty of good jobs available. The mafia tries to coerce people but when they do, 10% of the victims are brave and kill on average one enforcer before they themselves are killed. It might not take long before most of the enforcers choose to go into less dangerous work.”

What is this ‘mafia’ you speak of? It must be something new, since if we go back not that far in time, lots of people *were* armed.

In Sicily, there were not lots of good jobs available.

When Italian came to the USA in large numbers there were not lots of good jobs available for wops. It took a couple of generations for them to get integrated into the society well enough that there were usually better opportunities that were legal.

Meanwhile the mafia got the reputation, and cultivated it. And so rich mafia families tended to put their money into legal businesses that brought in a lot, leaving the illegal stuff to the losers.

And newer immigrants tended to move into those niches. So the chinese tongs get displaced by the korean mafia and then the vietnamese mafia etc. (I am not actually an expert in this stuff, I read about it some and then John Barnes laid it out so clearly in a science fiction novel that I believed him. Maybe I’m wrong.)

So, you believe that lots of people were armed. But the enforcers did not have better choices than to risk their lives being enforcers, and maybe the sometimes-armed people they threatened tended not to pick fights with them but instead usually gave in. My hypothetical situation where the mafia might stop coercing people had three conditions, and you claim in reality one of them used to be satisfied.

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godoggo 08.18.14 at 1:56 am

“Italian immigrants had lower crime rates than immigrants as a group… The casual Irish approach to brawling was foreign to southern Italians, to whom fighting was a very serious matter. The Italian immigrant was often armed with a knife or a gun, and an attack on him was a deadly risk….

The cultural values of southern Italians emphasized the heavy responsibilities of men and women, in a family setting. To be manly was not to be ‘macho’ in the individualistic style of courting needless dangers. Casual brawling,, for example, was to be avoided, but a serious fight was to be pursued implacably. In complete contrast to the Irish style of quick-to-anger and quick-to-forgive, the southern Italian pattern was one of very polite but firm warnings to head off trouble – and implacable vengeance if the other party persisted in the offensive acts.

Alcohol consumption was viewed in the same serious way…”

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godoggo 08.18.14 at 1:58 am

Just something I happened to have saved here. Seemed a bit of a waste.

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J Thomas 08.18.14 at 2:00 am

J Thomas: “The mafia tries to coerce people but when they do, 10% of the victims are brave and kill on average one enforcer before they themselves are killed. It might not take long before most of the enforcers choose to go into less dangerous work.”

What’s the Darwinian process — the competitive equilibrium? An arms race in which enforcers improve their skills, and the brave enforcees are winnowed from the population?

It could go that way.

When people study predator-prey relations among micro-organisms in test tubes, sometimes the prey survives, sometimes the predator exterminates the prey and then dies itself, and sometimes they achieve a shifting balance. The outcome depends on subtle changes in circumstance.

I don’t want to argue that any one outcome is inevitable under all circumstances given just a couple of givens like everybody’s armed. I do want to argue that it isn’t completely implausible that it could work out that small private governments might get stopped before they are fully established, in some circumstances.

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Consumatopia 08.18.14 at 3:02 am

@88, it may not be the job of the police to put down full-scale rebellions, but what about organized crime? I suppose you could just call the national guard every time the police want to take down a drug kingpin (or whatever-kingpin after you decriminalize drugs), but I’m not sure that’s what we have in mind when we talk about demilitarizing the police. (It’s probably not what Brett has in mind either. If you want to overthrow the federal government, it probably doesn’t make sense to let the feds keep their guns but disarm all the state and local cops. Some of the states would be on the side of the rebels, right?) I know there are countries where the military ends up doing police work that’s too big for the police, but I didn’t think that civil libertarians would consider that an improvement.

I’m not talking about heavy machine guns, tanks, etc. I’m talking about are submachine guns, assault rifles, stun grenades, etc. I’m saying no one outside the law enforcement and the military should be allowed to buy SWAT toys.

Should the police be allowed to have SWAT toys? Obviously, they’re overused now (e.g. flashbang in the crib). Maybe there shouldn’t be as many SWAT teams–maybe only states and larger metropolitan areas should have them? That would mean that in the rare instances when they’re needed (e.g. North Hollywood) you have to wait longer for them to show up, but if SWAT is misused more frequently than properly used, maybe that’s a trade worth making.

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godoggo 08.18.14 at 6:19 am

Continuing…

“Jews and Italians arriving in New York at about the same time in the late nineteenth century have historically avoided any serious violence or even strong political strife. In Boston as well, ‘Jews and Italians get along with each other better than either does with the Irish.’…

Some of the Irish clergy even expressed antipathy to Italians as a group. One declared: ‘Italians are not a sensitive people like our own.’…”

Possibly not the most suitable thread for this, but of course Henry banned me.

Anyway that’s all I got. This isn’t going to be a thing.

95

Bruce Baugh 08.18.14 at 7:03 am

This thread is a good demonstration of why skepticism about libertarian moments is in order. Libertarianism is not fundamentally an approach to doing things in the real world – it’s a set of tools for thinking about the world so as to justify a) one’s own lack of triumph over the damn masses and b) whatever it is the commercial elites wish to do. What is distinctive in it is pretty much all detrimental, when it comes to dealing with real people’s real needs, and above all, it’s good for endless argument that need never get anywhere.

For my part, I donated to the ACLU this evening, and will be seeing how much I can budget for donation to them and other groups in the next few months.

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godoggo 08.18.14 at 8:40 am

Really? Glad I didn’t read it.

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Layman 08.18.14 at 1:54 pm

“There is, of course, always Joseph Story, who had actually met some of the founders. Or Tenche Coxe, a contemporary of them. Some would consider them sources.”

Perhaps even some justices will consider them sources, and go on to legislate from the bench. Pfui.

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Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 2:02 pm

” Libertarianism is not fundamentally an approach to doing things in the real world”

I hold forth Plume as evidence that neither is socialism.

99

Plume 08.18.14 at 4:18 pm

Brett,

I hold forth Plume as evidence that neither is socialism.

You should stop digging.

First off, yes, I’m a socialist, and I’ve proposed some variants on traditional socialist arrangements. But I’m not the socialist. If you have issues with my proposals, then it’s with my proposals. One can not reasonably draw further conclusions from that that “socialism” itself has some problem dealing with the real world.

Personally, I think what I’ve suggested works far better in the real world than our current system, but that’s another kettle of fish. Suffice it to say, however, that I don’t claim to speak for all socialists or for socialism proper. Just as it would be wrong for us to base our views of libertarianism on you, or any other individual adherent, it makes no sense to base one’s opinion of socialism on one example — mine, for instance. While both are minority political philosophies, they have millions of “followers.” You need to zoom out on the google map of life.

100

Bruce Wilder 08.18.14 at 6:48 pm

J Thomas: I don’t want to argue that any one outcome is inevitable under all circumstances given just a couple of givens like everybody’s armed. I do want to argue that it isn’t completely implausible that it could work out that small private governments might get stopped before they are fully established, in some circumstances.

You are right to be suspicious of “inevitability” where so much would depend on how the game was played. Organizing society is about organizing, and only about weaponry when and where weaponry is the decisive factor in shaping organization, which, historically, it sometimes has been.

The only thing that gets a responsive, competent government organized, is organizing one. Preventing hypothetical alternative scenarios isn’t accomplishing much of anything; it is a waste of time. And, the fear that having “everyone” armed — which means in practice a lot of neurotic people acting out fantasies with their death penises (to use Atrios’ phrase) and a steady stream of tragedies — just undermines the trust and solidarity a democratic politics requires seems a more reasonable assessment.

101

J Thomas 08.18.14 at 7:57 pm

And, the fear that having “everyone” armed — which means in practice a lot of neurotic people acting out fantasies with their death penises (to use Atrios’ phrase) and a steady stream of tragedies — just undermines the trust and solidarity a democratic politics requires seems a more reasonable assessment.

As usual, it depends. If we had a whole lot of sane people who just wore their guns the way a lot of guys wear neckties, it mostly wouldn’t mean much of anything at all. There’s the fear that there are a lot of crazy people who would be armed and you don’t know what they’ll do. But then there’s also the fear that if you drive somebody crazy you don’t know what they’ll do.

If we all went to more effort not to drive each other crazy, that might be worth some overhead.

But if it turned into an arms race with people spending more and putting up with more inconvenience for the thought that they might get into a shootout and they want to buy an advantage, that could turn into a great big waste. If we were going to do something like that, better that people accept that it’s a standard ritual handgun they carry, and no armor, and it’s not worth trying for an advantage except by training your marksmanship.

And if people were ready to accept that, then they might as well carry ritual swords instead. That reduces the chance of innocent bystanders getting shot.

It all starts to seem kind of arbitrary and silly, but then other people’s cultural norms often seem that way. It isn’t as silly as the stock market which people take dead serious.

102

Zamfir 08.18.14 at 8:25 pm

If we had a whole lot of sane people who just wore their guns the way a lot of guys wear neckties

Without bullets in them?

103

Abbe Faria 08.18.14 at 8:53 pm

There are plenty of examples of high gun ownership low crime societies, Switzerland or pre-war Iraq, for instance. Much of the trouble with the US is its own very unique problem with the cultural role of guns.

104

William Timberman 08.18.14 at 9:08 pm

It’s hard to imagine how anyone willing to wear an automatic pistol to Walmart, or Mickey D’s, or his kid’s primary school pageant can be considered sane. I’m not so sure about the wearing of neckties either, with or without bullets. Where is it written that culturally well-adapted and sane have to be synonymous?

105

J Thomas 08.18.14 at 9:51 pm

It’s hard to imagine how anyone willing to wear an automatic pistol to Walmart, or Mickey D’s, or his kid’s primary school pageant can be considered sane.

It’s hard to imagine how anybody willing to take two tons of metal containing twenty gallons of highly-flammable sort-of-explosive hydrocarbons to the nearby convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk could be considered sane. But we mostly don’t think about it.

People could carry guns without thinking about them much because it was just what people did, if that was the custom. I don’t know what it would take to develop a custom like that in the USA where we have so many crazy people who think about guns so much….

106

The Temporary Name 08.18.14 at 10:09 pm

It’s hard to imagine how anybody willing to take two tons of metal containing twenty gallons of highly-flammable sort-of-explosive hydrocarbons to the nearby convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk could be considered sane. But we mostly don’t think about it.

That is not actually hard. The vehicle has wheels, rolls, and carries stuff for you. Might be warm/cold if needed. Plays music if you’re lucky!

107

Ze Kraggash 08.18.14 at 10:15 pm

“whatever it is the commercial elites wish to do.”

But the elites will use whatever philosophy may come handy. Iraqi oil fields will be occupied in order to liberate women, Social Security privatized because it’s unfair to the minorities, Christian teachings justify the crusades, marxism the gulag. The powerful use various ideas to justify their actions and advance their interests, but it doesn’t necessarily discredit the ideas themselves. It is, I think, a falacy to argue that it does.

108

Collin Street 08.18.14 at 10:21 pm

I don’t know what it would take to develop a custom like that in the USA where we have so many crazy people who think about guns so much….

In response to…

Where is it written that culturally well-adapted and sane have to be synonymous?

Not actually responsive. Triggered by, but not shaped by.

109

J Thomas 08.18.14 at 10:49 pm

“Where is it written that culturally well-adapted and sane have to be synonymous?”

Not actually responsive. Triggered by, but not shaped by.

It may be written somewhere that culturally well-adapted and sane are synonymous. It probably is. But it’s wrong. They don’t have to be.

And yet, sane people can follow cultural norms without much trouble provided those norms don’t actually cause them trouble with other people.

In a society where groups of married couples do naked sauna together and it does not imply wife-swapping etc, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just something people do. In a society where it does mean something, it can lead to complications.

110

William Timberman 08.18.14 at 11:01 pm

J Thomas @ 105

When judged by their impact on the general welfare, guns and personal motor vehicles are similar in some ways, different in others. What’s odd to me about the comparison is that our recognition of the seriousness of the threat posed by cars is relatively recent. As more people recognize that threat, we would expect to see embedded cultural attitudes begin to change, as indeed I think we have. With guns, the tide seems to be going the other way. The threat that universal gun-toting poses to civilized interaction was recognized and dealt with in the U.S. more than a hundred years ago — not always peacefully, but in the end pretty thoroughly.

So what’s changed? Is not wearing a gun now more threatening to an increasing number of people than wearing one? If so, what exactly are they afraid of? More to the point, are the reasons for their fears as rational as the fear of being killed in an auto accident, or being overwhelmed by global warming? Obviously they think so. If a new barbarism is just around the corner, though, I suspect that rather than defending against it, gun nuts are more likely to become part of it, whether they foresee it or not.

The other angle on this question which fascinates me is that 40 or 50 years ago, the people who wanted to own and carry handguns — assault rifles hadn’t acquired their 21st century sexiness yet — seemed to be afraid mostly of the perceived lawlessness of the poor, the drugged, and the black, and thought that Support Your Local Police, and the assassination of Fred Hampton, to name just one example of government overreach, had been fine ideas. Nowadays, of course it seems to be Ruby Ridge, Waco, the BLM, the IRS and our Muslim Kenyan Socialist President that are what’s getting up their noses. The only constant I can see is racism, but racism can’t be blamed, I think, for the whole of the change in attitude.

White liberals look at the NSA, the War on Drugs and Terror, the kettling of protestors, the mugging of reporters and hounding of whistleblowers, and think all of it can be fixed at the polls. White conservatives, and especially libertarians, look at the same things — plus a black helicopter thrown in here or there — and think maybe they should buy a machine gun. Bruce Wilder could well be right. We could all be nuts, or worse, we could be sane, yet still somehow find a way to fiddle while our latter day Rome sets fire to itself.

111

engels 08.18.14 at 11:59 pm

Apropos perhaps: last year the entire British police force fired their weapons fewer times than Darren Wilson did.

112

David J. Littleboy 08.19.14 at 7:24 am

“It’s hard to imagine how anybody willing to take two tons of metal containing twenty gallons of highly-flammable sort-of-explosive hydrocarbons to the nearby convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk could be considered sane. But we mostly don’t think about it.”

We? Speak for yourself. Here in downtown Tokyo, we don’t have a car. My in-laws out in the countryside have more cars than people. But the grocery stores here are about twice as far from home as they are in the countryside. When we offer to go shopping for the in-laws, they don’t understand how we can shop without a car. Unthinkable to walk for 20 minutes. And this isn’t even the US…

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J Thomas 08.19.14 at 8:44 am

#110 William Timberman

The threat that universal gun-toting poses to civilized interaction was recognized and dealt with in the U.S. more than a hundred years ago — not always peacefully, but in the end pretty thoroughly.

So what’s changed? [….] More to the point, are the reasons for their fears as rational as the fear of being killed in an auto accident, or being overwhelmed by global warming? Obviously they think so.

Here’s an idea. You think of yourself as part of a society with civilized interaction. Maybe they think of themselves as belonging to a civilized society which is being dominated by something outside itself, something bad.

First, consider a little history. It’s less than 200 years ago that the Irish starved while the English exported food from Ireland. Less than 300 years ago that the Scots had their last rebellion against the British empire. If you think of yourself as basicly English then it makes sense to think the government is working in favor of civilized society. If you think of yourself as Irish or Scottish then you have a tradition that the government was imposed on you to oppress you. And if you’re Southern that tradition was reinforced more recently.

If you think of yourself as not a member of mass consumer culture but as part of a tradition with roots, then things which threaten that, also threaten you. Mass consumer culture is a threat. Multiculturalism is a threat. Ideally all these other cultures should go away and leave you in your own country, with laws that fit your traditions. (But of course that’s impractical.)

There are already too many people with foreign cultures in the USA to suppress them. So the government will inevitably be a foreign government that will if anything suppress the wrong people. Particularly when there are so many liberal traitors.

In that context doesn’t it make sense to try to weaken the government into something that can mediate disputes when that’s tactically useful, but that cannot suppress good people? And when mediation fails, each society will be supported by the individuals who choose to be loyal to it. Maybe not so different from the clans of Scotland which were destroyed around 1746, largely by the enclosures which confiscated their land and forced them to scatter.

It doesn’t make economic sense. Totally impractical. But it might resonate with a lot of people’s souls. Throw off the oppression, be more than a mass consumer, stand up yourself for what is right. It’s different from joining the army and taking orders and fighting in third world countries to support the American empire. Just as standing up for Ireland or Scotland was different from joining the British army.

I can’t say it’s rational. But while rationality gives my life meaning, to a lot of people it isn’t so. The meanings which enthrall them might lead to a lot of suffering, but we have a long tradition of suffering for the important things.

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Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 10:11 am

“There are plenty of examples of high gun ownership low crime societies, Switzerland or pre-war Iraq, for instance. Much of the trouble with the US is its own very unique problem with the cultural role of guns.”

It would be helpful to recognize that the US is a very heterogeneous nation, and that most of the US qualifies as one of those high gun ownership, low crime societies. And doesn’t want to be disarmed just because some small portions of the country which are no higher in gun ownership happen to be as dangerous as war zones.

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Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 10:32 am

“And, the fear that having “everyone” armed — which means in practice a lot of neurotic people acting out fantasies with their death penises”

Which means in practice, a lot of people who are neurotic about guns displacing their mental pathology to the sane people who just own them. Seriously, I think Freud is a bit of a joke, but if you’re going to get all Freudian, you might want to look up what he had to say on the topic. You’ve got it backwards.

“So what’s changed? Is not wearing a gun now more threatening to an increasing number of people than wearing one? If so, what exactly are they afraid of?”

It’s a kind of over-reaction/backlash, like the excessive drinking right after Prohibition was repealed. We’ve just come off a long period where the forces hostile to this civil liberty looked like they were going to win. Then we finally beat them back. Though they’re still fighting a rearguard action, and fantasize about victory, clearly it IS fantasy.

Now the people who value that civil liberty want to revel in it. You walk around with a gun in your pocket, it’s a bit inconvenient, you’re unlikely to need it. But each time it bumps your hip, you notice it’s there, and think, “Yeah! Take them apples, Chuck Schumer!”

You buy a so-called “assault weapon”, with as many formerly banned features as possible, and use it for pig hunting. Maybe it isn’t the best gun you could have choses for the purpose, but it pisses off people who deserve to be pissed off.

THAT is what it’s about. And why shouldn’t we have our in your face fun? We’re exercising a civil liberty, which remains a civil liberty no matter how much you dislike it. And the statistics say we’re not causing problems doing it. CCW permit holders have a remarkably good record. “Assault weapons” hardly ever get used in crimes.

They’re a non-issue, crime wise, you just deny this because you want an excuse to take away a civil liberty you don’t like. Well, screw you, I’m going to go to my closet right now, and gaze upon my Calico carbine, and revel in the fact that you can’t do anything about it.

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William Timberman 08.19.14 at 1:08 pm

So, J Thomas, Brett Bellmore, which’ll it be then, all political power flows from the barrel of a gun, or we have met the enemy, and he is us? Either way, you’re prepared, right?

It’s hard to see Cliven Bundy as a man deprived of his civil liberties, but if he is, raising an armed mob may not be the most effective way for him to regain them. As for patting the Glock on your hip and imagining you’ve outwitted the nanny state, all I can say is, attitude isn’t much of a substitute for politics. You might just as easily shoot your thumb off cleaning your prized M1911A1, as one of the AZ yahoos of my acquaintance managed to do recently, even though he had decades of gun-fondling experience, and lots and lots of attitude.

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J Thomas 08.19.14 at 1:18 pm

And the statistics say we’re not causing problems doing it.

This is true. The majority of deaths that are ruled suicide are by guns, but people who are intent on suicide can always find some way. If nothing else, initiate a tense moment with a policeman and then pull out a water pistol.

In 2005 there were only about 10,000 officially-counted homicides using firearms, well under a quarter of the number of automobile deaths. Some of those would have happened anyway. If you really want to kill somebody, you can wrestle them into submission and then strangle them with your bare hands. Or if you have several plastic spoons you can stick one into his brain through the eyesocket. (But flimsy plastic spoons might break if you get the angle wrong; you might need several attempts.)

10,000 is an insignificant number anyway, hardly 3 times our losses on 9/11.

It isn’t as easy to get statistics about gun injuries, but in 2010 there were about 73,000 nonfatal gun injuries treated in emergency rooms, compared to 31,000 deaths. (Ruled suicide, homicide or accident, all combined.)

So if you are an average American, your chance of getting shot in 2010 was only about 3 in 10,000. Well under one in a thousand. Nothing to worry about.

Plus, your chances are better than average. Drug dealers get shot more. Blacks get shot more. People who’ve been arrested for a felony get shot more. If you have never been arrested, you probably have a lifestyle that makes it improbable you will get shot.

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J Thomas 08.19.14 at 1:28 pm

As for patting the Glock on your hip and imagining you’ve outwitted the nanny state, all I can say is, attitude isn’t much of a substitute for politics.

On the other hand, politics isn’t much of a substitute for attitude.

Say you campaign intensely and then half of your candidates get in, and they tell you that they’ve started bills to get what you want, watered-down bills they think they can pass, and then twelve of the bills are stuck in committee. and six never make it onto the agenda, and three get loaded with hostile amendments that make it worse if they pass than not, and the last one is voted down. And your representatives say “Well, we tried, better luck next time, let’s get campaigning right now for the next election”.

But if you just maintain an attitude, you get all the psychological and social advantages of the attitude without actually having to do a lot of hard zero-sum political work.

I strongly recommend it to all the people who want political goals I oppose.

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William Timberman 08.19.14 at 2:00 pm

This is turning into a better deconstruction than I expected. Looking at the firearms-related crime statistics, I say to myself, well, maybe most crimes aren’t committed with assault rifles, but one Newtown is quite enough, and there’ve been lots of Newtowns. So by my reckoning, score one for the nanny state.

Looking at the history of armed struggle, I say don’t expect it to come from libertarians. The remind me of a train trip I took through northern Italy years ago, where there seemed to be a ruined fortress on every pissant hilltop, some of them no more than five miles apart. One gunfight and we’re done with our contribution to the Revolution seems to be the libertarian’s creed, a great consolation, I’m sure, when, after the smoke clears and they’re being attended by their weeping widow and children, while some impassive working stiff with a shovel throws dirt in their face. Even the Molly MaGuires and Black Panthers were better focused and better organized than your average libertarian, despite all the current yapping about their Second Amendment rights.

I’m not myself a liberal in the sense of my previous post, in that I don’t think that all that ails us can be fixed at the polls. I do think, though, that armed insurrection in a country as divided as ours is more likely to lead to civil war — as it did already once — than to a revolution which sorts out some of the irrationalities both Left and Right are coming to see as a harbinger of End Times. In any event, it might be instructive to gather Cliven Bundy’s gun-toting, don’t-tread-on-me folks together in a church basement somewhere, and let one of the old Stalinists I used to know — if any are still left — fgive them a long, boring lecture on how to recognize pre-revolutionary conditions.

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Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 2:12 pm

J, not to mention that the government can’t actually get rid of guns. All it can do is make them illegal.

So, who is making them illegal going to disarm? Why, the people least likely to have ever done anything wrong with a gun. So you’ve still got the drug dealers and robbers running around armed, and you’ve pissed off a bunch of accountants and department store clerks.

And some fraction of the accountants and department store clerks refuse to obey your law, because it’s unconstitutional, (And it doesn’t stop being unconstitutional in the view of a huge number of people, just because Thomas croaks and gets replaced by an anti-gunner.) and you’re jailing accountants and department store clerks who never would have hurt anyone.

And, that, William, is the cost of your nanny state. All those accountants and deparment store clerks you make into felons because of Newtown. And those polls showing a majority think the biggest threat to their liberty is the government. They come from your sort of thinking.

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Layman 08.19.14 at 2:21 pm

“not to mention that the government can’t actually get rid of guns”

What an odd thing to say. The police destroy seized guns all the time.

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Bruce Baugh 08.19.14 at 2:27 pm

Ze Kraggash:

But the elites will use whatever philosophy may come handy. Iraqi oil fields will be occupied in order to liberate women, Social Security privatized because it’s unfair to the minorities, Christian teachings justify the crusades, marxism the gulag. The powerful use various ideas to justify their actions and advance their interests, but it doesn’t necessarily discredit the ideas themselves. It is, I think, a falacy to argue that it does.

That’s true as far as it goes. But when a philosophy ends up pretty much always telling the guys with most money that they are indeed being most moral by going ahead and doing whatever they want, by gratifying all their desires for power over other and indulging all their fears about how others are lurking and charging, then its advocates can’t really be surprised when the rest of say “That’s just being a lackey.”

As Teresa Nielsen Hayden says, “Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on yours.”

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Consumatopia 08.19.14 at 2:29 pm

@115 is definitely the best defense of weaponized police I’ve ever seen. If the time to arrest Brett ever comes, use of SWAT would be justified.

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William Timberman 08.19.14 at 2:30 pm

Brett, come on. I don’t care if they own guns, although I think it’s reasonable to ask why a department store clerk needs an AR 15 with laser sighting a thirty round magazine and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Does he fancy himself The Terminator? I do care if they want to wear their guns to the grocery store, especially since those who do don’t seem to feel like a whole person without them. Do I want to stand every day in the check-out line with a guy who’s just one questionable glance, one unkind word, one Obama bumper sticker away from turning into Travis Bickle. No, I don’t. Would you respect me if I wasn’t carrying a gun? No? Well, that’s why I’m carrying it. Civil liberties, my ass.

125

J Thomas 08.19.14 at 2:43 pm

J, not to mention that the government can’t actually get rid of guns. All it can do is make them illegal.

So, who is making them illegal going to disarm?

I don’t advocate trying to get rid of guns. But your argument that we can’t, is silly.

If we actually had a consensus to do it, we could first make it illegal to manufacture them in the USA. Kind of like we do with bootlegging alcohol, but it would work better because gunsmithing is harder to do than distilling alcohol. The legal distillers are allowed such whopping profits by keeping their legal status that they have a great big incentive never to be caught selling untaxed alcohol. We could do something like that with our military munitions manufacturers.

Second, we do not legally sell ammunition anywhere in the country, nor do we sell shell casings or handy-dandy reloading kits.

Isotope-label police ammo, so that stolen police ammunition would give some indication where it was stolen from. But the police wouldn’t usually need to have guns out where they could be stolen anyway.

Confiscate and destroy any guns discovered. Reduce the giant backlog of guns we’re swimming in now.

Great big fines and also jail terms for possession of guns, ammo, ammo-reloading equipment, etc. Also mandatory psychological counseling, at least 5 years of weekly meetings for those who can afford it, something worse for those who can’t.

Make it considerably easier to acquire other weapons, particularly “nonlethal” ones, and decriminalize some of them entirely. Say Mace could be legal, tasers mostly legal, etc.

We could do it if we wanted to, and quickly most criminals would not carry guns. First, the penalties getting caught would be too big to justify. Second, collectors who would never be caught using guns but who want to fondle them in secret would drive the price too high. You wouldn’t carry a gun to commit a crime in the same way you don’t carry a gold-plated dagger with diamonds in the hilt and a ruby the size of a Cadbury egg on the pommel. If you can afford to keep it instead of sell it, you keep it in a safe secret place at home.

We could do it if, say, only one American in 200 had a gun fetish. It wouldn’t be very difficult.

But the way things are, we do have a whole lot of Americans who care deeply about keeping their guns. These are Americans who do not actually ever shoot anybody, not criminals, just fetishists. It isn’t worth riling them up.

If we had that many people who wanted to wear sharp broadswords, then I’d say let them do it.
If we had that many women who wanted to go topless then I’d say let them do as they want.
If we had that many Americans who wanted to publicly burn US flags then I say put wire flag-burning baskets on the streetcorners.

It just isn’t worth poking at them.

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Consumatopia 08.19.14 at 2:50 pm

I don’t always agree with J, but the one big thing he gets right is that the space of possibilities is always much larger than our imaginations. Both liberals and conservatives frequently argue along the lines of “there is no alternative”, but in reality there almost always are.

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Sancho 08.19.14 at 3:03 pm

#115

The post-Prohibition analogy is a bit laboured, to say the least. Was there widespread fear among drinkers that the government was going to take booze away forever if people didn’t spend the whole day smashed? Were there news networks dedicated to spreading the notion that drinking heavily is the finest and most important expression of freedom? Were people who disagreed with constant drinking everywhere, all the time, denounced as traitors?

I doubt it. In which case the current frenzy of gun fetishism is nothing like the repeal of Prohibition.

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Layman 08.19.14 at 3:33 pm

“I doubt it. In which case the current frenzy of gun fetishism is nothing like the repeal of Prohibition.”

This, plus there was never really any gun prohibition to repeal…

129

The Temporary Name 08.19.14 at 3:49 pm

And why shouldn’t we have our in your face fun?

Because people die from that stupidity. The tree of liberty seems to like the blood of idiots and anyone in range.

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William Timberman 08.19.14 at 3:52 pm

J Thomas @ 125

If we had that many people who wanted to wear sharp broadswords, then I’d say let them do it.

Another sad, but relevant AZ anecdote: a few years ago, I arrived at my local Safeway to find a large portion of the parking lot blocked off by yellow crime scene tape. After I returned home, I learned from the local news what had happened.

Apparently two men, one an ex-police chief, got into an argument in the parking lot of the local Builder’s Emporium. One chased the other into the Safeway parking lot, about a half mile away. The one doing the chasing got out of his car with a meter long medieval battle axe replica — a half-moon edge and opposing spike, according to the published photo, with another spike at the end of the shaft — and approached the ex-police chief’s car. The ex-police chief pulled his piece and emptied it into the axe-wielder, killing him.

The moral of this story, for those interested, is NOT don’t bring an axe to a gunfight.

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Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 3:57 pm

“We could do it if, say, only one American in 200 had a gun fetish. It wouldn’t be very difficult.

But the way things are, we do have a whole lot of Americans who care deeply about keeping their guns. These are Americans who do not actually ever shoot anybody, not criminals, just fetishists. It isn’t worth riling them up.”

Precisely, setting aside the perjorative “fetish”. It could be done, if hardly anybody opposed it. But, even then, you wouldn’t be successfully disarming the criminals, because they have a strong incentive to have arms, and black markets don’t need popular support to thrive. Guns aren’t nearly as hard to manufacture or smuggle as gun control opponents like to think.

But, of course, it isn’t one American in 200. It’s more like one American in 3. Gun “fetishists” aren’t a tiny minority, we’re a plurality of the population.

If anything, it’s gun controllers who are the minority. We got an enhanced RKBA amendment into the Missouri constitution just recently. Where have you repealed any in living memory? Where are you winning, politically?

Gun controllers rave about the NRA being just astroturf, when your own movement imploded the moment a couple of wealthy foundations decided to defund it. Today talk of disarming the country is just the fantasizing of the adherents of a lost cause.

The worst you could manage is to get a temporary majority on the Supreme court, and undo the Heller decision. And that would probably result in a new 2nd amendment being adopted by convention.

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Layman 08.19.14 at 4:15 pm

‘But, of course, it isn’t one American in 200. It’s more like one American in 3. Gun “fetishists” aren’t a tiny minority, we’re a plurality of the population.’

That sounds like rectal polling. How about some real data? A majority consistently favors stronger controls, and there’s virtually no constituency for weaker controls.

http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm

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Bruce Wilder 08.19.14 at 4:25 pm

Just following Layman’s link, what I found was roughly 50-50 on whether to support stricter gun control as a general proposition, and strong support for some existing measures.

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Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 4:25 pm

The real polling is called “elections”. Wake me when you win them.

You lose them because the people who actually CARE about this subject are on my side. And because, when people who previously didn’t care start to care, they mostly end up on my side. That’s why, despite polls showing people who don’t know anything about our gun laws think they should be stricter, you keep losing elections.

So you’ve got the support of apathetic people who 100% support you with an intensity of approximately zero. I don’t think that’s real support. I think that’s people who don’t care making the noises they think they’re expected to make.

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Layman 08.19.14 at 4:35 pm

The results are consistently better than 50-50, and it’s hard to reconcile that with the claim that gun fetishists are a plurality. Let’s have some data on that, please, unless it’s truly rectal. Claims that the polls don’t reflect the reality of views are frankly comical.

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TM 08.19.14 at 4:42 pm

“Dodge City? Hays City? Tombstone? With 15-round magazines?”

In case this hasn’t made the rounds yet, fact is that the “Wild West” (i. e. frontier towns) had – and needed to have – strict gun control laws, laws that today’s historically, grammatically and ideologically challenged Supreme Court majority would have no time for.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-winkler/did-the-wild-west-have-mo_b_956035.html

As to the premise of the OP, it’s BS. No meaningful fraction of the right will come out against police power. Radley Balko may be doing good work, kudos to him (although I have read about the issue of police militarization at least 20 years ago in left-leaning publications) but he’s not representative of anything and no pretend libertarian Republican in actual power will do anything to limit the power of white police to control minority populations.

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Consumatopia 08.19.14 at 4:56 pm

The percentage of Americans who smoked was once much higher than one in three. Back in the 2006 or so, the anti-gay marriage folks were chalking up quite a few victories, too. Culture changes.

Brett is correct that his side cares more about the issue. There are plenty of competing ways to save lives, but if you feel a need to dominate people and a gun is the only means you have to do that, then guns become your whole life.

Of course, Layman is also correct that doesn’t mean there’s a plurality. It’s a minority with sufficient intensity that they’re able to win the day. For now. There is a majority or plurality for stronger gun laws, but over the long term that it’s growing smaller. Either higher gun homicide rates or continued mass killings could change that. Technology could change the terms of the argument–if smart gun technology becomes viable, it could (and should) be mandatory. If we insist that all cops film everything, then we should insist that all civilians who decide to act like cops should be filming everything (better buy a GoPro or Google Glass along with that gun, I guess.) We should definitely research gun violence as a public health issue, but as a public health issue there are probably ways to alleviate the problem other than banning guns.

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William Timberman 08.19.14 at 4:57 pm

The question of why, Brett. Why is owning a machine gun so essential to your (rhetorical your) sense of well-being? Why not garlic, a bowl of holy water and a silver cross? Why not stamp collecting?Reason not the need, you say, and await the gallery’s applause. Cheap thrills.

139

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 4:58 pm

“The results are consistently better than 50-50, and it’s hard to reconcile that with the claim that gun fetishists are a plurality. “

It’s not that difficult. Opinions are vectors, they have both direction and magnitude. Polls do a lousy job of measuring magnitude. A bit over half the population will say, if polled, that they support stricter gun laws. Almost all of them don’t really care about the subject. A bit under half oppose stricter gun laws. Most of them care enough to vote on that basis.

Are “opinions” that are held with zero intensity really opinions? Or just polling artifacts? As I say, elections are the real polls, and how do you do in them?

You get hammered.

140

TM 08.19.14 at 4:59 pm

“high gun ownership low crime societies, Switzerland or pre-war Iraq”

For Pete’s sake. Swiss reservists have rifles at home, locked in armories, only for the case they are called up for military duty to defend against an invasion. The Swiss do not in general run around heavily (or even lightly) armed (*). As of Iraq, I guess it might qualify as a “low crime” society if you ignore crimes committed by members of the ruling elite and its security forces (it’s also an excellent example of how effectively gun ownership deters would-be-tyrants).

(*) Although there have been exceptions, shocking the nation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zug_massacre

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Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 5:02 pm

“but if you feel a need to dominate people and a gun is the only means you have to do that, then guns become your whole life.”

And if you feel a need to dominate people, and their having guns gets in the way of that, taking them away can become your whole life, too.

142

geo 08.19.14 at 5:08 pm

Brett@134: The real polling is called elections.”

Be serious, Brett. Leaving aside gun control: for quite a while, strong and stable majorities have favored taxing the rich, single-payer health care, increasing Social Security, cutting the defense budget, stricter pollution controls, and other progressive measures. Yet these policies don’t happen, because moneyed elites largely control the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. It’s extremely hard for a disorganized, atomized, insecure population to even begin to match the resources and organization of the owning class — that’s what you seem to mean by their being “apathetic” and “not caring.”

If you think the American political system does an efficient job of translating the preferences of the citizenry into public policy — i.e., that America is a genuine democracy, rather than a plutocracy — you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

143

Plume 08.19.14 at 5:17 pm

The key thing about gun nuts is that they are absolutists. They brook no compromise. Gun safety regulations are compromises between no guns and guns everywhere. The gun nuts think there can only be the latter, or their “rights” have being “infringed.”

Again, the SA never says word one about unlimited purchases of guns with unlimited capacity, firepower, range, etc. etc. It is a very, very basic “right” which just says keep and bear them, and it’s tied to state-run militias which no longer exist. If we actually took it at its word, it would no longer apply at all. The conditions for its implementation are gone. There is no threat from the Brits coming back. No slave revolts to worry about. No frontier. The people who didn’t want a standing army lost the debate long ago. In short, it’s an anachronism. The gun nuts’ entire argument rests on an anachronism, and if we really followed that logic, even if we kept the right, it would be for single load rifles and pistols only. One bullet at a time.

To me, the most sensible compromise is one that no politician has the guts to suggest. And it would save lives:

Ban the manufacture, import, sale, trade, loan or possession of all guns with detachable ammo containers — and those containers. The only legal guns would be those with internal chambers, with six being the max. Bullets must be loaded by hand, only, and one bullet at a time.

Smart technology on all guns, without exception, would be mandatory.

All guns would have to be registered. All purchases would require a license. All sales would require background checks, using that license. No loopholes. No exceptions.

The ban on government studies of gun violence would be lifted and we’d go on offense. It would be illegal to suppress those studies.

A national buyback program would pay for those guns newly illegal to be melted down. Citizens would have two years to sell their illegal guns back or face stiff fines. No gun confiscation would occur, but citizens who owned now illegal guns could no longer claim their “law-abiding” status, and if those guns were used in public, further fines and possible jail time might be on tap.

All the above would conform with the SA. No “rights” would be infringed whatsoever. Again, the SA doesn’t protect consumer choice. It just protects the right to keep and bear arms. The above keeps that intact.

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Consumatopia 08.19.14 at 5:24 pm

“Opinions are vectors, they have both direction and magnitude.”

No, actually, when you’re talking about whether a plurality of the population holds a particular opinion, each person either holds the opinion or doesn’t. A plurality doesn’t could some people more than others.

As an aside, I was curious if any gun control ballot initiatives had succeeded. Apparently in Washington state there are now two competing, contradictory initiatives that have a good chance of passing at the same time. Sounds like fun. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/08/04/gun-control-gun-rights-advocates-push-dueling-ballot-measures-in-washington/

“And if you feel a need to dominate people, and their having guns gets in the way of that,”

You having a gun isn’t an obstacle to any policy I want other than reducing gun fatalities. Did all of those guns brought to ACA protests change anything?

No, the very asymmetry you’ve been trying to point out–that death-worshiping fetishists care about the issue way more than normal people–proves that you’re wrong about domination. If guns really did get in the way of liberal policies general, then gun control would start winning elections immediately.

No, you need a gun because you have a fantasy of violently dominating people. This fantasy, of course, doesn’t actually do anything to stop the government or your boss from ordering you around. If it did, you wouldn’t have that gun anymore.

145

The Temporary Name 08.19.14 at 5:42 pm

And if you feel a need to dominate people, and their having guns gets in the way of that

The problem with the gun-nut power fantasy is that they’re the victim no matter how many guns they have. The suffering would be enjoyable if it weren’t for the needless dead.

146

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.14 at 5:45 pm

Once again the thread veers off into emotional fantasy. Most gun rights advocates do NOT want to dominate people (although the mass shooters are sometimes control freaks or want social recognition). Quite the reverse: guns rights advocates mostly express existential fear.

There are some gun rights advocates on the left, but most of the rest appears to align with the cognitive and emotional correlates of right-wing tribalism:

“The emotion norms come into conflict with the troubling emotions created by the perceived threats… i.e. fear, helplessness, and guilt. In response to the felt clash of values and beliefs, individuals manage emotions through the use of selective attention (focus on something they feel comfortable to know or can do) and perspectival selectivity (de-emphasizing their own responsibility).” — “Research conducted over the last decade or so has provided support for the notion that epistemic, existential, and relational needs are all disproportionately associated with the endorsement of inherently conservative, system-justifying beliefs, opinions, and values. For instance, individual differences in the need for cognitive closure (i.e., the desire to “seize and freeze” on a given conclusion rather than tolerating or prolonging uncertainty) predict anchoring on the status quo, political conservatism, authoritarianism, stereotyping, and rejection of opinion deviates… Similarly, low need for cognition (i.e., possessing a low level of motivation to engage in cognitive activity); is correlated with political conservatism and harsh punishment of those who threaten the social order.” — “With respect to existential motives, the fear of death and perceptions of a dangerous world are associated with political conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism, stereotyping, and support for discrimination against same-sex couples…” — [Relational]: “…individuals who feel that it is especially important to ‘see the world as others who share their beliefs generally do’.” –[However]– “it is not our view that high system-justifiers always oppose social change… On the contrary, they frequently embrace forms of change that are either incremental—and therefore designed to forestall the demand for more radical changes to the status quo—or retrograde or restorative in nature, that is, designed to return the country to some prior idealized state of affairs…”

147

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.14 at 5:50 pm

Mass killings happen once every few years, and I imagine that in the future, gun control will be an even bigger topic.

Gun rights advocates are up against an enormous public-relations problem, and they are finally going to start losing: The horrors keep happening to innocents, and the NRA’s solution is for taxpayers to cough up another $20 billion or so (for starters!) to train and arm guards for every school in the US (as if school guards couldn’t be neutralized with a quick diversion). Thus, the NRA is essentially advising us to create a bigger and bigger security state…

148

MPAVictoria 08.19.14 at 5:55 pm

149

Layman 08.19.14 at 5:58 pm

“It’s not that difficult. Opinions are vectors, they have both direction and magnitude. Polls do a lousy job of measuring magnitude. A bit over half the population will say, if polled, that they support stricter gun laws. Almost all of them don’t really care about the subject. A bit under half oppose stricter gun laws. Most of them care enough to vote on that basis.”

In other words, when you say there is a plurality on your side, what you mean is that there isn’t a plurality on your side, but you’ve read the minds of the opposition and determined they don’t really care. Isn’t that right?

150

The Temporary Name 08.19.14 at 5:58 pm

The last time I was in an eastern US airport and marvelling at the amount of security guards I was at least happy they had jobs. A paranoid security state equals full employment!

151

Layman 08.19.14 at 6:00 pm

“Thus, the NRA is essentially advising us to create a bigger and bigger security state…”

If you think of the NRA as primarily a lobby group representing gun manufacturers, who wish to sell more guns, their actions become quite easy to understand.

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Lee A. Arnold 08.19.14 at 6:05 pm

MPA Victoria #148: “Open Carry advocates are all about domination and intimidation.”

Note that so far, open carry is not well-received by a majority of gun rights advocates, although that may change. Hopefully what we will see in the meantime is a decrease in business at restaurants, stores, and even whole shopping districts which allow it.

153

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.14 at 6:10 pm

Layman #151: “their actions become quite easy to understand…”

Sure. Their proposal to put armed guards at every school is another guaranteed taxpayer subsidy to the gun manufacturers.

Although when I pointed out to a couple of advocates that they are thereby ensuring higher taxes, it suddenly boggled their minds. This goes to the thing about the “low level of motivation to engage in cognitive activity”.

154

MPAVictoria 08.19.14 at 6:13 pm

“Note that so far, open carry is not well-received by a majority of gun rights advocates, although that may change. Hopefully what we will see in the meantime is a decrease in business at restaurants, stores, and even whole shopping districts which allow it.”

Assumes facts not in evidence Lee. The NRA retracted its criticism of the movement almost immediately.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/nra-open-carry-protest_n_5441189.html

The NRA speaks for the gun nut crowd if anyone does.

155

TM 08.19.14 at 6:20 pm

“Most gun rights advocates do NOT want to dominate people (although the mass shooters are sometimes control freaks or want social recognition). Quite the reverse: guns rights advocates mostly express existential fear.”

Isn’t that true for the mass shooters too? Their way of dealing with “existential fear” is to go and kill people. Others are content to “only” intimidate others. A longing to dominate, and fear of losing one’s imagined superior status, are not mutually exclusive emotions.

“open carry is not well-received by a majority of gun rights advocates” – and you determined that how exactly? When the NRA released a statement slightly critical of open carry “enthusiasts”, they took it back in a heart beat.

(http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/nra-backs-off-statement-critical-of-open-carry-supporters/article_cee2f7f6-ec06-11e3-8a94-10604b9f6eda.html)

156

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 6:30 pm

“In other words, when you say there is a plurality on your side, what you mean is that there isn’t a plurality on your side, but you’ve read the minds of the opposition and determined they don’t really care. Isn’t that right?”

What I mean is that I don’t believe in “opinions” which only show up in polls, but not anywhere else. I don’t believe they qualify as real opinions. They’re just polling artifacts, a consequence of people not liking to admit they don’t have an opinion about something.

You like to think the public is on your side, because when you ask people if they agree with you, they say they do. I think the public is on my side, because my side wins elections. Because, as soon as people start caring, they switch over to my side.

You think Newtowns will bring people to your side. Newtown voted to arm the school guards. The shooting made them care, and caring made them come to my side.

157

MPAVictoria 08.19.14 at 6:36 pm

The last couple years have gone your way Brett but demography is turning the country against you. In 25 years walking around with a gun will be viewed as negatively as opposing gay marriage.

158

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 6:40 pm

The last couple of decades, more like.

I think things started turning against you back in the 90’s. Burning people alive was pretty bad PR, wasn’t it?

159

engels 08.19.14 at 6:53 pm

160

engels 08.19.14 at 6:54 pm

161

Plume 08.19.14 at 6:56 pm

Brett,

Winning elections doesn’t prove much at all when it comes to the gun issue. It’s usually a matter of incumbency, more money, better organization, and in the case of the GOP, voter suppression and gerrymandering.

The GOP successfully locked in the House via the last Census. Even though more people voted for the Dems in the aggregate, the GOP won the House. One could say the Dems won the “popular vote” but lost more individual elections.

Most Americans live in cities. But cities can be negated by a ton of much smaller, much less populous districts. Theoretically, you could have one district with a million Dem voter being cancelled out by ten districts with 100,000 Republican voters combined. That could bring you 10 House members versus just one Dem, even though the Dems would have a 900,000 voter edge total. Of course, things are much closer to that, even in the aggregate. But this was the rationale behind gerrymandering, and no one has done this more successfully than the GOP.

And they don’t even have to be particular sinister about it. They have a “natural” advantage in the way their base is spread out versus the far more concentrated Dem base. That natural advantage will keep the GOP in the mix for a bit longer until the demographic bomb obliterates it — most likely in the next decade.

And when that happens? Your “side” will start losing these gun issue battles, electorally, along with those opinion polls.

162

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.14 at 6:57 pm

TM #155: ” A longing to dominate…”

After speaking with a few gun owners on a regular basis for many years now, I am pretty sure they do not long to dominate anything. Considering the amount of guns in the US, I think we would need a lot more news reports of domination to conclude that most gun owners long to dominate others.

“…and you determined that how exactly? When the NRA released a statement slightly critical of open carry ‘enthusiasts’, they took it back in a heart beat.”

Own a gun/don’t own a gun is about 40/60 in the population. About 80% who have a gun want it for home protection. Open carry/no open carry is about 40/50, 10% have no opinion, and these numbers could change after experience with the issue. Indeed if restaurants start losing business, it could change quickly. The gun owners whom I know all think open carry is a bad idea. I am just guessed that a majority feel the same way, no matter how the NRA runs scared from people who threaten to stop sending them money.

163

Ogden Wernstrom 08.19.14 at 7:10 pm

When antitank missiles are outlawed, only outlaws will have antitank missiles.

164

Plume 08.19.14 at 7:15 pm

Gun ownership is declining in America on a per household basis. The people who own guns, however, are buying more. The loss of households obviously scares the merchants of death, and they know that scaring the populace right back is their only way to increase sales. They do that through endless campaigns that say Obama or the Dems are going to take away guns, even though Obama and the Dems have actually made it easier to own them and carry them in more places, recently.

The NRA owns both parties, and the Dems are now afraid to push for even the most innocuous of gun safety legislation. Profiles in cowardice, etc.

We have one party pushing for ludicrous extensions of gun “rights,” including open carry at bars, in churches, etc. etc. etc. And the other party quivering in fear of the NRA.

I don’t think we’re in a libertarian moment at all. But our leadership is reactionary.

165

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 7:34 pm

“Gun ownership is declining in America on a per household basis.”

This is known as “divorce”. You take a household with two people, one owns guns, one doesn’t, you have one “gun owning household”. They divorce, you now have two households, only one gun owning.

The percentage of gun owning households has been cut in half, without one single person having ceased to be a gun owner.

166

engels 08.19.14 at 7:42 pm

This is known as “divorce”. You take a household with two people, one owns guns, one doesn’t, you have one “gun owning household”. They divorce, you now have two households, only one gun owning.

You mean like this guy?

167

MPAVictoria 08.19.14 at 7:42 pm

“The percentage of gun owning households has been cut in half, without one single person having ceased to be a gun owner.”

That is an…. Interesting interpretation.

168

TM 08.19.14 at 7:49 pm

LAA, surely your anecdotal acquaintances are more representative of gun owners than the NRA.

BB, your rhetoric is inconsistent. On the one hand you claim to represent the majority/plurality, and you claim that people are won over to “your side” by reasonable arguments. If that is so, why did the gun lobby need the Supreme Court to strike down hundreds of locally enacted gun regulations, regulations that had the support of the vast majority in these communities? If gun regulation were left to the people to decide locally and democratically, we would have far more restrictive gun laws (the kind that were commonplace in the 19th century, see 136) than we have now. Also, your claim that the people devastated by the Newtown massacre are “on your side” is egregiously wrong – Connecticut, New York and Maryland did tighten gun regulation in response to the massacre, to the very limited extent they are allowed to do so by SCOTUS.

169

geo 08.19.14 at 7:54 pm

Brett, what about Plume’s point @143, that at least a few partial, targeted gun control measures make sense, aimed at limiting the more high-tech weapons and at licensing and background checking? Would you object? (Apologies if you’ve already explained your position on this upthread.)

170

Consumatopia 08.19.14 at 8:04 pm

I think things started turning against you back in the 90′s. Burning people alive was pretty bad PR, wasn’t it?

That’s not really what the polls say (and besides, blowing up government buildings was pretty bad PR, wasn’t it?).

http://www.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx

Gun control (“more strict”) was still in the 60s when GWB took office. It slowly declined after that. The most likely explanation is lower homicide rates. In other words, your side is gaining ground because people overall care less than they used to.

171

Plume 08.19.14 at 8:06 pm

Brett,

Wow. It’s all due to divorce? I’ve heard a lot of spin from the gun fetishist crowd, but that’s a first.

Excerpt from NYT article on the decline:

The household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s, according to the survey data, analyzed by The New York Times.

I have no doubt that if more people knew that having a gun in the house radically increases the risk of death due to homicide, accident or suicide, the rates would plunge even more. This is also the case with people who carry guns concealed on their person. Their risk of death goes up. The NRA successfully got Congress to suppress gun violence studies with outright bans in the 90s. The CDC and NIH can’t even study this now. Remove the ban on studies and publication, and fewer people are going to buy guns. And the merchants of death will do everything in their power to prevent this.

172

Plume 08.19.14 at 8:07 pm

Sorry, here’s the link again for the article above:

NYT>

173

Plume 08.19.14 at 8:10 pm

Of course, another way the gun owning public is reduced is through homicide, accident and suicide. That’s in the neighborhood north of 35,000 people now a year.

174

The Temporary Name 08.19.14 at 8:19 pm

There’s a country song in She Took My Guns.

175

Layman 08.19.14 at 8:24 pm

“You like to think the public is on your side, because when you ask people if they agree with you, they say they do. I think the public is on my side, because my side wins elections. “

This is pure projection, Brett. I get that you ‘like to think the public is on your side’, but I don’t have any such motivation. Indeed, I’m aware that some of my views place me in a minority, and am able to bear up under that awareness quite ably.

Coming back to the point, can you provide no data at all to support your plurality claim? Is it just what you feel?

176

Layman 08.19.14 at 8:32 pm

‘This is known as “divorce”. You take a household with two people, one owns guns, one doesn’t, you have one “gun owning household”. They divorce, you now have two households, only one gun owning.’

Another interesting anal-ysis. Is it pointless to ask for a citation here? The studies I’ve seen show it to be largely driven by demographics, specifically a growing urban population vs. rural, and a much lower rate of gun ownership rate among young people.

177

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 11:15 pm

“I have no doubt that if more people knew that having a gun in the house radically increases the risk of death due to homicide, accident or suicide, the rates would plunge even more. “

I’m not sure that would be terribly relevant even if true; People still own swimming pools even though they increase the risk of drowning. I assume you’re referring to the Kellermann study. I wasn’t impressed with it when it first came out, and it hasn’t aged well.

“The NRA successfully got Congress to suppress gun violence studies with outright bans in the 90s. The CDC and NIH can’t even study this now.”

Why should the Center for Disease Control or the National Institute of Health be doing studies in the area of criminology? Does the Department of Justice do studies of kidney disease? The law in question doesn’t flatly prohibit research in the area, it simply prohibits these two medical bureaucracies from sticking their noses into a subject outside their competency.

Of course, gun controllers prefer to keep their ‘research’ as far from actual criminologists as they can. Since criminologists tend not to arrive at conclusions the gun controllers like.

“Coming back to the point, can you provide no data at all to support your plurality claim? Is it just what you feel?”

Elections constitute data. Politicians understand this, and demanding that they pretend elections aren’t data is, thankfully, going to be futile.

178

J Thomas 08.19.14 at 11:16 pm

#131

It could be done, if hardly anybody opposed it. But, even then, you wouldn’t be successfully disarming the criminals, because they have a strong incentive to have arms, and black markets don’t need popular support to thrive. Guns aren’t nearly as hard to manufacture or smuggle as gun control opponents like to think.

Criminals have an incentive to have guns, because it helps them intimidate people. But gun enthusiasts argue that criminals are less likely to use guns in places where lots of other people have guns, because it’s too dangerous.

If for example we put a $10,000 bounty on people with guns, so if somebody could prove you had one and then turn you in with it they get $10,000, and you get a possible capital punishment, a lot of criminals would be falling over themselves to turn each other in. It would be safer and more effective to use some other method to intimidate people.

But, of course, it isn’t one American in 200. It’s more like one American in 3. Gun “fetishists” aren’t a tiny minority, we’re a plurality of the population.

Gays are something like 10% of the male population and what, 1% of the female population? They are too big to be suppressed.

Zionists are no more than 3% of the population and they are way too big to be suppressed.

It might be possible with gun nuts if they were 0.5% and the rest of the public was disgusted with them. Whatever the numbers are, they’re too big now. And they have a lot of money behind them too.

179

The Temporary Name 08.19.14 at 11:32 pm

Why should the Center for Disease Control or the National Institute of Health be doing studies in the area of criminology?

People developing holes is a medical concern because people die from them: it’s not criminology.

180

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 11:35 pm

People developing holes due to bacteria or such isn’t criminology. People developing holes because other people put holes in them darned well IS criminology. Just precisely criminology.

181

Layman 08.19.14 at 11:42 pm

“Elections constitute data. Politicians understand this, and demanding that they pretend elections aren’t data is, thankfully, going to be futile.”

Indeed they do, but guns don’t appear on the ballot. If you want to believe that people vote for the politicians they do solely on the basis of guns, you’re free to do that. Freedom includes the right to be wrong, after all.

182

Ze Kraggash 08.19.14 at 11:49 pm

But the democrats all but dropped their anti-gun advocacy. It was hurting their electoral chances too much. At least this is my impression. Is it not true?

183

J Thomas 08.19.14 at 11:52 pm

#180

People developing holes due to bacteria or such isn’t criminology. People developing holes because other people put holes in them darned well IS criminology. Just precisely criminology.

Sure, but so what? CDC and NIH tend to be pretty good at doing competent statistics. They’re good at analyzing data.

Isn’t it better to get the data analyzed by people who’re good at it, than by people who aren’t good at it?

A lot of people who publish gun statistics appear to have gotten into that work precisely because they are bad at statistics and much better at getting results people want them to get. So I’d tend to trust people whose core competence is OR or epidemiology a lot more than those whose experience is mostly at reviewing previous bad research and not noticing how bad it is.

184

Layman 08.19.14 at 11:53 pm

“It might be possible with gun nuts if they were 0.5% and the rest of the public was disgusted with them.”

J Thomas, this is an asinine contention. In effect you say that anything that 3% of the population wants can’t be outlawed, ignoring the many outlawed things more than 3% of people want to do. And, along the way, somehow conflating a desire to own a physical object with sexuality, race, and/or ethnicity. If you can’t tell the difference between ‘suppressing guns’ and ‘suppressing gays’ , I can’t help you.

185

Layman 08.20.14 at 12:09 am

“But the democrats all but dropped their anti-gun advocacy. It was hurting their electoral chances too much. At least this is my impression. Is it not true?”

No, I don’t think it is true. Democrats who have to compete in pro-gun districts or states certainly have dropped it, while Democrats who can run in pro-control districts or states haven’t. Nationally, gun control legislation continued to get done even under Reagan (see the Brady bill) but Republican control of one or both houses pretty much ended that. So you see proposals from Dems, but they don’t go anywhere. Why do Republicans control one or both houses? Lots of reasons other than guns.

186

J Thomas 08.20.14 at 12:09 am

#184

In effect you say that anything that 3% of the population wants can’t be outlawed, ignoring the many outlawed things more than 3% of people want to do.

Give examples? Things getting outlawed recently that more than 3% want, not things outlawed more than 20 years ago that have not been repealed yet.

You may have some obvious examples, I’m no expert on this. If you have examples I’ll look at how they work and revise my ideas, so I’m really interested.

187

The Temporary Name 08.20.14 at 12:12 am

People developing holes because other people put holes in them darned well IS criminology.

Sure there’s crime – which you’re scared of enough that you might be the cause of one – but there’s plenty of mishap and suicide to work with. Does you doctor tell you to cut out the smokes? Good idea! Should he tell you to lay off the guns? Yup. It’s a health issue.

188

Consumatopia 08.20.14 at 12:46 am

The positions that elected representatives take on an issue doesn’t tell you which side has the plurality, because when the voter goes to make their choice they have to decide on the basis of all issues, as well as what they think of the candidate as a person. It’s likely the case that there are far more pro-gun single-issue voters. In that case, it might make sense for many candidates to switch to a pro-gun view even if a plurality is pro-control.

Not to mention that there is some gun control legislation such that, if you added up all the voters choosing candidates favoring it, would probably be greater than the number of voters choosing candidates opposed. That’s the reality of the filibuster and state/district boundaries.

OTOH, Guns do sometimes show up on ballot initiatives. I don’t know the complete history, but I don’t think the NRA has dominated those to the extent that they’ve dominated Congress.

Matters of health can also be matters of criminology. It makes absolutely no sense to say that one field of inquiry “owns” an issue. That would be like saying we have to decide whether psychologists or neuroscientists “own” the brain. Note that pediatricians routinely give safety advice on guns just as they do swimming pools and car seats, or just as doctors ask adults about domestic violence.

189

Collin Street 08.20.14 at 1:08 am

Is there any element of criminology that isn’t part of public health? Think on it from a mental-health perspective, maladaptive behaviour and what-have-you.

190

Lee A. Arnold 08.20.14 at 1:27 am

TM #168: “…surely your anecdotal acquaintances are more representative of gun owners than the NRA.”

The NRA hopes that you believe that all gun owners agree with the NRA. The evidence is otherwise:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/23/gun-owners-vs-the-nra-what-the-polling-shows/

191

MPAVictoria 08.20.14 at 1:27 am

I will point out that BB has proven himself (once again) to be a dishonest hack by refusing to respond to questions surrounding his divorce claim. BB you are a lying liar who is telling lies.

After that why should we listen to anything you say?

192

Ze Kraggash 08.20.14 at 2:13 am

“gun control legislation continued to get done even under Reagan”

Yes, under Reagan, but in the 1990s, I believe (don’t remember the source), they made strategic decision to stop being an anti-gun party. Some are anti-gun, but the party as a whole isn’t anymore (though it used to be).

193

Sancho 08.20.14 at 2:57 am

#144

Did all of those guns brought to ACA protests change anything?

Yes. Compare police treatment of the armed ACA protests and the unarmed Occupy protests.

194

Plume 08.20.14 at 3:05 am

Sancho,

Exactly. It’s just more proof that the establishment in America is center-right and has no fear of the right in general. The right does its dirty work for it. An actual left, however, scares the shit out of the establishment. Here and pretty much anywhere in the world. That’s why it spends so much time and force on snuffing it out — through wars, covert and overt, “regime change,” coups, etc. etc. And it’s been doing that for more than a century.

195

Plume 08.20.14 at 3:10 am

Brett,

Guns are a major health and safety issue in America. The CDC and NIH should study it. So should any federal agency tasked with any aspect of public health and safety. Guns in the hands of Americans are a far greater threat to our health and safety than Al Queda, as they cause more than 35,000 deaths a year, and hundreds of thousands of injuries. And in the hands of right wing extremists, they’re an even bigger threat.

The threat of right-wing violence in America

Here’s an interesting and sobering fact: that when it comes to domestic terrorism, you are far more likely to be murdered by a far Right-wing American than a Muslim American, but the term “terrorist” remains reserved exclusively for acts of political violence carried out by Muslims.

Violence carried out by far Right groups or individuals, which have racism as a central component of their ideology, is of similar magnitude to that of Jihadist violence. In the years 1990 to 2010, there were 145 acts of political violence committed by the American far Right, resulting in 348 deaths. By comparison, 20 Americans were killed over the same period in acts of political violence carried out by Muslim-American civilians.

196

Plume 08.20.14 at 3:13 am

A fact-check article on guns in the home or carried on the street — and more. Yes, they radically increase the risk of death and maiming.

10 pro-gun myths

Want to be safer? Want to keep your family safer? Don’t buy a gun.

197

Ogden Wernstrom 08.20.14 at 3:52 am

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 7:34 pm:

This is known as “divorce”.

I think I see an anti-gun-ownership campaign in this. (Note: I am amazed at how often Bellmore sets up a premise for a left-wing position.)

I normally would think we need to start with some statistics on divorce rates in gun-owning vs. non-owning households, and which party initiates the divorce, and maybe some other stuff…but then I realize that data has a bad reputation among the target audience. Plus, it might not prove that Bellmore is correct in his assertion.

Sloganeering it must be, then. We need some catchy way to say that buying guns will leave men alone and lonely.

198

ZM 08.20.14 at 4:19 am

In Australia we have horrible pictures of diseased body parts on cigarette packets and tear inducing television ads of tragic hospital lung cancer victim fathers telling their young daughters they wished they could be out of hospital watching them play sports and things.

You could do this for guns – pictures of abandoned husbands sitting on their front porches with only a gun to hold ‘I used to have my wife’s hand to hold, now all I have is this shotgun’, tearful ads of fathers ‘my wife moved interstate because of my gun carrying, I wish I could see my children grow up’
Also pictures on guns of victims injuries from gun violence ‘unsafe gun use causes [injury]’
And lots of similar signs in shooting practice venues etc

199

PatrickinIowa 08.20.14 at 4:22 am

Re: the CDC and the NIH. Criminology and epidemiology often overlap. (See heroin overdose morbidity and morality. See workplace deaths due to criminal negligence. See morbidity and morality deriving from counterfeit medications. See homicide deaths in populations by age, race, gender and gun ownership.)

Like most arguments for guns in the home as a way of protecting yourself, it’s both stupid and meretricious to suggest otherwise. (One thing American politics continually proves: you don’t have to be choose between stupid and dishonest.) If the NRA and its minions hadn’t put the brakes on it, the science would be uncontrovertibly by now. Instead it’s just highly suggestive. That’s what they bought those legislators to do, and that’s what they did.

Remember Bob Dole? The guy who, when he ran for president in 1996, said that he didn’t think cigarettes were addictive? As with the tobacco industry, so the gun sellers.

200

Brett Bellmore 08.20.14 at 10:31 am

“Isn’t it better to get the data analyzed by people who’re good at it, than by people who aren’t good at it?

A lot of people who publish gun statistics appear to have gotten into that work precisely because they are bad at statistics and much better at getting results people want them to get. “

Congratulations: You’ve just explained why the CDC was forbidden to continue churning out “research” in this area. Because, when it came to this topic, they suddenly became bad at statistics, and much better at getting results people wanted them to get. Actually, they were so bad at statistics when it came to their gun ‘research’, that it calls into doubt whether they’re really doing a competent job at statistics when it comes to health. Maybe they’re lousy at that, too, and it’s just not as obvious because bacteria don’t go over the reports to point out mistakes.

“Yes. Compare police treatment of the armed ACA protests and the unarmed Occupy protests.”

I don’t know, that the former didn’t need “rape tents” might have played a role. I’ve been to right-wing protests before, and they seem to be different from the left-wing ones in several crucial respects, such as getting parade permits, public sanitation, frequency of violent assaults… Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

“If the NRA and its minions hadn’t put the brakes on it, the science would be uncontrovertibly by now. “

In as much as the relevant law specifies only certain agencies can’t do this particular research, what exactly IS your objection to gun violence research being done by the Department of Justice, rather than the Center for Disease Control? Not as confident you’d like the final product, maybe?

201

Sancho 08.20.14 at 11:41 am

…“rape tents”…parade permits, public sanitation, frequency of violent assaults… Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

And if evolution is real, then why are there still monkeys?

Having identified a flaw or inconsistency, you may now excuse yourself from considering any other factors or complexities of the topic, because god knows the only reason that a massive, spontaneous rally on the streets of a metropolis might attract more crime than a gathering of middle-class white people organised by the Republican Party is because leftist types just love rape.

In regard to police violence, though, the cultural “thing” is worth examining.

The Occupy protests specifically represented the 99% of people being excluded from economic growth, of which the poor and homeless are the most obvious mascots, and who attended in large numbers. Increased crime isn’t surprising in that context, nor is police brutality – the powerless are always the ripest targets.

The ACA and Tea Party protests were somewhat less…eclectic. That is, entirely white and right-wing. Truly surprising that they didn’t fall victim to America’s notorious habit of brutally repressing conservative WASPs who merely want to defend the rich and powerful.

And, of course, some of them carried guns, and a whole lot more promised to bring guns if their demands weren’t met.

To be fair, police tolerance of right-wing protests is less to do with guns than with the fact that conservatives want the same things cops want. After all, who is Officer Friendly going to attack with the tank – the people protesting in favour of more authoritarianism and militarisation, or the people protesting against police having tanks?

202

J Thomas 08.20.14 at 12:06 pm

“Isn’t it better to get the data analyzed by people who’re good at it, than by people who aren’t good at it?”

Congratulations: You’ve just explained why the CDC was forbidden to continue churning out “research” in this area. Because, when it came to this topic, they suddenly became bad at statistics, and much better at getting results people wanted them to get.

My own prejudice would lead me to disbelieve this claim, and think that it’s your own prejudice talking.

Would you mind giving me a few links to the evidence you used to decide this? I don’t want to depend on my prejudice which I know is not reliable. I’d do better to actually look at the studies you think are flawed.

No hurry, sometime after I get home.

203

Consumatopia 08.20.14 at 2:46 pm

At least some gun-rights advocates have decided that CDC research isn’t so bad

http://www.gunsandammo.com/politics/cdc-gun-research-backfires-on-obama/

Their spin on an early research priority document looks a bit dubious, but you would think that if the CDC were producing the kind of anti-gun propaganda that Brett is hyperventilating over then Guns and Ammo wouldn’t find so much to like.

204

Layman 08.20.14 at 2:58 pm

“Give examples? Things getting outlawed recently that more than 3% want, not things outlawed more than 20 years ago that have not been repealed yet.”

Is it your contention that things could be outlawed 20+ years ago despite annoying 3% of the population, but that they can’t be outlawed now if doing so irritates 3% of the population?

205

Layman 08.20.14 at 3:06 pm

As to examples, 27% of those polled in 2007 opposed expanding hate crime legislation to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or gender identification; yet Congress enacted, and the President signed into law, a bill which does precisely that in 2009.

206

Yama 08.20.14 at 3:07 pm

If you folks have not yet tired of playing with Brett, perhaps you could ask him how he feels about light bulbs?

207

Brett Bellmore 08.20.14 at 3:20 pm

Keeping in mind that it’s a lot more than 3%, I think this highlights a serious problem with the Democratic approach to government, as demonstrated by the ACA.

You’ve got this notion that democracy means that any time you can get 51% to apathetically acquiese to whatever you want to do, the 49% who are adamantly opposed to it don’t matter. And that really doesn’t work, not in the long run.

208

Layman 08.20.14 at 3:34 pm

“You’ve got this notion that democracy means that any time you can get 51% to apathetically acquiese to whatever you want to do, the 49% who are adamantly opposed to it don’t matter. And that really doesn’t work, not in the long run.”

Other than the ACA, what are you talking about?

With respect to the ACA, numerous polls have shown widespread approval of the elements of the law. Disapproval only appears when you use the name of the law, or its nickname, or improperly describe it (e.g. “Do you favor or oppose government-run health care?”).

209

Brett Bellmore 08.20.14 at 5:01 pm

Yeah, you ask people if they like rye bread, and swiss cheese, and they love it. You hand them a fecal sandwich with swiss, on rye, and they refuse to eat it.

Sure, elements of the ACA are popular. Too bad they’re yoked to the parts that people hate.

210

Plume 08.20.14 at 5:01 pm

Right-wing descriptions of Occupy events, which were echoed by the MSM, were pure propaganda.

First of all, the incidence of crime overall at those events was far lower than in the general population, and there was no proof offered that Occupy members themselves committed the crimes. It’s not even third-rate amateurish to automatically assume that if something goes wrong in a public park or place of assembly, then only the protesters could possibly be to blame. First of all, America has a long history of infiltration of left-wing organizations, using “agent provocateurs” to incite violence, or using other proxies. We know that police even hired homeless people to go into the camps in hopes they would create bad press to one degree or another. The FBI coordinated the suppression of Occupy, and they have a history of rather loose ethics — to put it kindly — when it comes to surveillance and infiltration.

Yes, there are “cultural” differences between left and right, and science tells us it’s possible that we’re even hard-wired in different ways. Perhaps likely. But those differences don’t lend themselves to right-wing propaganda at all, because the science clearly is not kind to right-wingers. People on the left are far more likely to be inclusive, empathetic, sympathetic and open to new evidence even if it goes against previous beliefs. The right, OTOH, tends to be driven by fear, paranoia and authoritarianism, doubles down when confronted with contrary evidence, and doesn’t really do “empathy” so well.

Now which side is more likely to be problematic when it organizes itself or protests in public settings?

211

Brett Bellmore 08.20.14 at 5:03 pm

“The right, OTOH, tends to be driven by fear, paranoia and authoritarianism, doubles down when confronted with contrary evidence, and doesn’t really do “empathy” so well. “

Which I guess explains why the same research shows people on the right give more to charity…

It’s not so much a matter of not doing empathy well, as it not being the only thing we do.

212

Plume 08.20.14 at 5:17 pm

Actually, Brett, no. There is no credible research that says people on the right give more to charity. One conservative, Arthur Brooks, wrote a book claiming this was the case. But there were no peer-reviewed studies regarding this. Just his opinion.

And why were there no peer-reviewed studies about charitable giving? Because charities don’t collect that data. They don’t ask people for their political affiliations. There are no records along those lines.

213

Plume 08.20.14 at 5:26 pm

Of course, then there’s the breakdown of what groups people give to. Churches or humanitarian causes.

Romney, for example, gave most of his “charitable” donations to the Mormon church, and the Mormon church spends that money on things like fighting marriage equality.

While there is no concrete data regarding this, it seems non-controversial to say that conservatives probably give more to their churches. Those on the left likely give more to humanitarian causes. Again, we lack the concrete data for this, so it’s largely conjecture.

Churches tend to spend 75% to 90% of their donations on non-humanitarian issues. If a person wants to give charity to help the poor in general, churches are not efficient vehicles for this.

214

Trader Joe 08.20.14 at 5:26 pm

@212 plume
Its not perfectly indicative, and the approach has plenty of holes in it, but the Journal of Philanthropy takes a stab at this question and reaches an answer similar to Brett’s.

http://philanthropy.com/article/The-Politics-of-Giving/133609/

Other attempted studies have pointed to religious oriented giving as the secret sauce that makes a claim like this have some validity. I’m not prepared to push the point, but there are at least a few data points that lean that way (ignoring Brooks of course).

215

Plume 08.20.14 at 5:32 pm

Trader Joe,

The problem is this has to be based on surveys of the givers themselves, which is never going to yield much accuracy, given the baggage of not giving to charities. The sense of shame or guilt possibly in the mix. The inflation of one’s own giving, etc. etc.

Until these organizations collect the data for “the politics of giving,” I think we’re stuck in guestimate-land. But as you and I point out, that secret sauce is key here. How much of it goes to churches, and what do those churches do with those donations?

Spending millions fighting against marriage equality could hardly be called “charity,” for example. Nor it is “charity” when a church buys itself fancy new digs, etc. etc.

216

Layman 08.20.14 at 5:44 pm

“Sure, elements of the ACA are popular. Too bad they’re yoked to the parts that people hate.”

Which parts do they like, and which do they hate?

And, what are the other examples to support your claim?

217

Layman 08.20.14 at 5:48 pm

“Its not perfectly indicative, and the approach has plenty of holes in it, but the Journal of Philanthropy takes a stab at this question and reaches an answer similar to Brett’s.”

‘Plenty of holes’ is an understatement. States are not people, and tithing is religious, not partisan.

218

Consumatopia 08.20.14 at 5:49 pm

The only health care policy less popular than the ACA is repeal of the ACA.

“You’ve got this notion that democracy means that any time you can get 51% to apathetically acquiese to whatever you want to do, the 49% who are adamantly opposed to it don’t matter. And that really doesn’t work, not in the long run.”

It’s preferable to a tyranny of the screamers, in which we let whoever can hyperventilate most about a policy can get their way. Or, in the other direction, see: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2569

In practice, a determined minority that’s willing to dedicate more resources to a fight (either because they care more or they have more resources) or willing to sacrifice ground on other issues frequently wins the day. The NRA has voters who are willing to vote for pro-gun voices in either party. ACA proponents were willing to sacrifice progress on other issues (e.g. immigration) to move policy in their direction.

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TM 08.20.14 at 8:47 pm

No response from BB to 168.

Re the CDC ban. It’s worth noting that the ban on gun research was even more perfidious than just a ban. The CDC was never explicitly banned from researching gun violence but the budget that had been used for that research was eliminated (and – contra BB – not moved to some other agency, like the DOJ, to allow some research to continue). In addition, the the Republicans in 1996 explicitly wrote into law that gun research was prohibited to come to *conclusions* that the Reps disapproved of – namely, conclusions that would support gun control “in whole or in part”. So it was really the possible *outcome* of any such research that was politically predetermined (e. g. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cdc-ban-gun-research-caused-lasting-damage/story?id=18909347). This event is AFAIK unique in the history of US science. I’m not aware of any other case in which politicians so blatantly and explicitly interfered with scientific research.

Interesting to note that BB’s version of libertarianism approves of direct political manipulation of scientific research. I’d like to see how BB and his ilk would respond should liberals ever try anything remotely like it, shutting down a branch of science because they don’t like the results. Imagine the outrage.

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J Thomas 08.21.14 at 12:04 am

#204-205 Layman

“Give examples? Things getting outlawed recently that more than 3% want, not things outlawed more than 20 years ago that have not been repealed yet.”

Is it your contention that things could be outlawed 20+ years ago despite annoying 3% of the population, but that they can’t be outlawed now if doing so irritates 3% of the population?

No, more like I figure if something is already outlawed it might take a whole lot to get it legalized, but if something is not yet outlawed it might take a big effort to outlaw it, particularly when there are a significant number of swing voters or even regular voters who want it stopped.

As to examples, 27% of those polled in 2007 opposed expanding hate crime legislation to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or gender identification; yet Congress enacted, and the President signed into law, a bill which does precisely that in 2009.

So, you’re saying that 27% of the USA wanted to do hate crimes and opposed the law which they thought would apply to them?

And then Congress did it, and Bush signed it?

They must have felt betrayed beyond belief. Or maybe it was just a poll.

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Layman 08.21.14 at 4:01 am

“Or maybe it was just a poll.”

Or maybe you’re not worth responding to? I told myself not to bother, and will know better next time.

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J Thomas 08.21.14 at 9:52 am

Layman, there might be something to your claim, but I don’t have it yet. Did I overstate my original thing? Sure, it’s possible to pass an act of legislation when more than 3% of the voters say they’d rather not. And it’s sometimes possible to make some sort of progress when large numbers of people are opposed — like abortion, where it was made mostly legal back in the old days even when a whole lot of people were opposed, and now there is progress toward making it illegal even when a whole lot of people are opposed to that.

Similarly, when homosexuality was made illegal something like 7% of the population was homosexual but was afraid to oppose it (because they individually would suffer too bad consequences by admitting their beliefs and organizing). And over a period of time it was largely decriminalized and is being granted a degree of equality even though there are a fraction of people who think it shouldn’t happen.

The tendency is to stall when there are a lot of people who care deeply on both sides. And the tendency is to stall when it comes to action against a group large enough to tip elections.

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TM 08.21.14 at 1:22 pm

J Thomas 186:
“Give examples? Things getting outlawed recently that more than 3% want, not things outlawed more than 20 years ago that have not been repealed yet.”

I am shocked by your short memories. Have you forgotten the dozens of states outlawing gay marriage in just the last 10-15 years? Have you forgotten the many state level restrictions on abortion enacted in recent years (http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/updates/2013/statetrends42013.html)? Many of these, while not outright bans, have effectively taken access to abortion services away from millions of women (*). The American Right has no qualms whatsoever, and never had, to use state power to prohibit others from doing things that they disapprove of. To claim that “outlawing things many people want” is somehow unusual in America is unbelievably ignorant – the fact is that many aspects of life in the US are highly regulated and visitors from Europe never fail to notice that (for example the absurd level of alcohol regulation). American rightwingers imagine to live in the “Land of the Free” because it’s usually their side that decides what others cannot do. But woe if they imagine their own precious liberty to be even remotely diminished! (**)

(*) Recently, a judge in Alabama explicitly compared restrictions on abortion providers with closing down gun dealerships. I don’t think any gun rights advocate would say that

(**) The only real counterexample I can think of are smoking bans. Anti-smoking isn’t strictly a partisan issue but initially had probably more support among liberals (although there were some very vocal opponents on the left).

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TM 08.21.14 at 1:24 pm

Oops. was going to say “I don’t think any gun rights advocate would say that closing gun dealerships doesn’t infringe on their sacred right of gun ownership.”

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Layman 08.21.14 at 1:25 pm

“Did I overstate my original thing? “

Do bears bare? Do bees be?

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J Thomas 08.21.14 at 1:39 pm

Have you forgotten the dozens of states outlawing gay marriage in just the last 10-15 years?

That’s a good point. Although gay marriage wasn’t exactly legal in those states before. Still, it wasn’t just maintaining a long-existing ban — they were taking active measures. So that’s an example I can’t really argue against.

Have you forgotten the many state level restrictions on abortion enacted in recent years (http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/updates/2013/statetrends42013.html)?

Yes, that’s another one. When the US Supreme Court said it was legal, they couldn’t restrict abortion too much or they’d just get overruled. But now state majorities (I think probably the majority of the populations agree, maybe not) are overriding minorities that might be pretty large and outspoken.

The only real counterexample I can think of are smoking bans.

Another example. A lot of smokers did not want any limitations. They laughed at research on second-hand smoke, arguing that it was fake science created intentionally for political goals. Just being in a smoke-filled room never hurt anybody! But they got limited anyway.

And then there are the drunk driving laws. A whole lot of people who drink wanted to have the right to drive drunk, but somehow they could not organize effectively to get that right. Some of them argued that they drove better drunk than they did sober, because what you get good at depends on what you get practice doing. But there were all these people claiming that drunk drivers had killed their children, and somehow the drunks could not make a strong campaign in favor of their freedom to drive drunk.

I think there’s something to what I was saying but it was far too simplified and now I’m not sure how to complicate it to make it true. Likely by the time I add in the complications and caveats and qualifications it won’t even sound interesting any more. Everybody knows that fairly small numbers of single-issue voters can have an impact on their issue. There’s more to it than that, but maybe the extra stuff is too complicated or too wishy-washy to bother saying.

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TM 08.21.14 at 7:22 pm

I think most smokers nowadays are full aware that they risk ruining their health. Some even support smoking bans as a means to get away from the habit. Others have stuck to the argument that their cancer is nobody’s business and nonsmokers who like a smoke-free environment can go elsewhere. They have been overruled, have mostly resigned to the new status quo – and the sky hasn’t fallen.

But then, the Founders forgot to enshrine a constitutional right to bear tobacco.

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