Sunday, April 12, 2009

A bit more gun (out of) control

I had a lengthy "discussion" over at Slag Heap on the potential for gun control with one of those "well informed" individuals who support the Second Amendment. I suggested that this person (mjfletcher, unless my worsening eyes deceive me) that they had a agenda to their comments, and that (I thought) they sounded (vaguely) threatening. He/She responded that (s)he was giving me simple facts, if I felt threatened by those facts that was my problem. Among the simple facts mj recounted were that the all the founding fathers knew all governments become corrupt and oppressive and that’s why the Second Amendment was put in the constitution. It is our patriotic duty to resist an oppressive government. There was also stuff at first about how gun control doesn’t work and legislators know that, but they (a) want to make ordinary know-nothing citizens feel good, and (b) want to consolidate their hold on the patriotic citizens who might resist the corrupt and oppressive ways of the legislature by taking away the guns of ordinary law abiding citizens. There were lines about how we let felons out of jail too soon, and when I countered with a statistic that we have the most persons in jail percentage wise, mj suggested we put people in jail for parking tickets or failure to pay child support, but still let the gun toting felons go. Actually mj could have said, had mj chose to, something about how we jail people mostly for drugs, but perhaps mj thinks that is justified; jail is where the drug users and petty distributors belong.

mj also said some technical things about guns themselves, he said that gun control doesn’t work, that reducing the capacity of magazines (my suggestion) can be easily gotten around. Then he asked why no one is paying attention to the nuttiness of Poplawski, how Poplawski was thrown out of the Marine Corps, how Poplawski had protection from abuse orders, how Poplawski wrote nutty things about an international Jewish conspiracy, and how the government (Obama) wanted to take away his guns. Of course, mj only knows these things because the media was paying attention to it, but whatever. My response (yes, I didn’t need to give one, but I did) was to say “irony”, and also God help us all. To me, one person with pseudo conspiracy theories was complaining about another person with conspiracy theories.

I don’t thing that there is going to be a serious call for gun control in Congress. Obama has too much on his plate; he can’t make new enemies right now. And by the way, I do agree that gun control up till now really hasn’t worked. Even if there is a call for some new but limited measure, it would not involve any kind of reduction of the guns or high capacity magazines that are out now (by one estimate I read, 200 million). But what might happen is the police may take matters into their own hands. They may start wearing helmets, a heavier grade of body armor and they may come to the door (when someone calls the police because you are watching TV too loud) carrying M-16’s, the same guns carried by the army and SWAT team members. When they stop you for running a red light, they may be pointing M-16’s at you until after they make you get out of the car and search you and your car for weapons. In short, the police may act as if every person they come into contact with is a patriotic, law abiding citizen who feels it is his or her patriotic duty to resist the corrupt and oppressive police with an AK-47 when the police seem to want to take guns away (by stopping people for traffic violations or responding to domestic disputes). Serves us right for being supporters of the Second Amendment.


OpenMindedRepublican said...

I sincerely hope you are wrong about that.

One 'ruby ridge' and something very ugly is going to happen. Too many people are too nervous right now.

Maybe Pelosi & Reid calmed things down when they shut down discussion of renewing the assault weapons ban, maybe not.

This is going to be a nervous four years.

EdHeath said...

Well, as I say, I don't think the Assault Weapon ban was all that effective, although I have not done extensive research on the issue (maybe I should). Also I don’t think there is going to be serious pressure for additional gun control, even if only to reinstate the Assault Weapon ban. I saw the 60 Minutes where Diane Feinstein (sp?) said she was not going to push for additional gun control now.

But you will forgive if I get pissed off when advocates for the Second Amendment say that they hope gun control measures are not proposed in Congress because “Too many people are too nervous right now”. This is the same language I found threatening from mjfletcher, that somehow we need to tip toe around people who own guns because they will start shooting us if we annoy them. I mean, say that gun control doesn’t work. Say that the Supreme’s will strike down any additional gun control. But don’t tell me that we can’t have a discussion about gun control because armed nuts are going to start slaughtering cops. Because that’s what it feels like people dotted around the internet are saying, that Obama is going to try to do this or that, and the government needs to be resisted (as it has become, since the election of Obama apparently, corrupt and oppressive).

OpenMindedRepublican said...

I would highly reccomend doing some research on the subject. You might be surprised.

The statement was not intended to be threatening. It is just a statement of what is.

I think the main problem is what cound be called 'information assymetry'. Pretty much everyone on the gun rights side is heavily educated on the subject. Most people who are not involved know next to nothing about it. Makes it hard to have an honest discussion.

And I believe you are mistaken about when we will see new attempts at gun control. Pelosi just came out with a statement that she wants to try something new. And it is nothing that the gun right crowd will accept.

We are watching the balance between what they want to do vs. their memories of the '96 elections.

EdHeath said...

Ok, first of all, I requested the book Out of Range by Mark Tushnet from the library. I figure I will read a book from a Harvard law professor who is considered an expert on constitutional law.

Second, I don’t make a study of this subject, but I am not totally na├»ve. Last summer one commenter pointed people on the Burgh Report to a lengthy pdf created by a gun rights advocate group. It was full of short paragraphs containing (negative) facts about gun control. I researched some at random on the web and found that maybe half of the ones I chose were misleading in the pdf at best. Pretty much every heavily educated gun rights advocate starts a discussion and ends it with the statement that gun control doesn’t work, period. So unless the discussion is going to be about the many different ways in which gun control doesn’t work, then yeah, you’re right, it will be hard to have an “honest” discussion.

Let me repeat myself, I know the record of gun control in the US has been pretty dismal. I don’t expect much from future efforts. But I also suspect that most of the attempts at controlling people purchasing or carrying guns have had issues of various types. For example, what is the point of having a handgun ban in DC, when people can buy guns very freely in Virginia? Obviously the handgun ban wasn’t going to work real well. But, in my opinion, people in DC are no safer now that guns are allowed in. There were shoot outs on the streets before, now there will be shoot outs in homes as well as on the streets.

You tell me you are just making a statement of what “is”, in reference to the nervous people. I live in a quiet neighborhood, known for its low crime rate, a few blocks from the April 4th shootout that killed three policemen. I might have some small and easily dismissed idea of what “is”. And if I understand you correctly, if Democrats even talk about gun control, “nervous people” are going to start slaughtering the police, in little random shoot outs. And I guess you feel it will be the Democrat’s fault, the blood will be on their hands for trying to infringe on people’s rights, causing them to (as mjfletcher said) do their patriotic duty and resist the oppressive and corrupt government. I suppose the heavily educated gain the right to pick and choose which laws they wish to obey, and which can be dispensed with using a gun.

I read an article in the NYTimes about how the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested micro cars in crashes with midsized cars and found the micro cars fared poorly. Their conclusion, people should not buy micro cars (whether to save gas or whatever), they should buy mid sized cars to do better in crashes. It was like an endorsement of an arms race in car size. What the IIHS did not do was suggest people considering making a car purchase refrain from buying midsized cars, so that the possible crash partners on the road could gradually shrink in size and also that the country might reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The IIHS getting a more dangerous car, much like gun rights advocates suggest allowing guns on college campus so that ordinary students can get into a shoot out with the next Virginia Tech type shooter (that was on 60 minutes last Sunday).

OpenMindedRepublican said...

I read the first pages of "Out of Range". An interesting choice for where to start. I hope you will post a review when you are done; This guy takes more of a legal view than I am entirely interested in, but at least in the intro he doesn an excellent job of balancing positions.

I have noticed myself that information about gun control online is heavily polarized, and suffers from a bad case of what I call 'team short hand'. That is, there is a large amount of history and shared information that 'everyone knows', so we make large logical leaps in discussion without even noticing because we have already covered the intervening territory many times.

The same happens in other areas as well; My current internet hobby is a 'Liberal Immersion Program' to try and understand what goes in the gaps when they talk, by following the discussions until they just start to make sense to me. Sort of learning by osmosis.

I actually started to try and do a write up on gun rights/control that would be more accessible and even handed, but I am not sure I am able to be objective enough.


There is actually a term for the people we are all worried about now. It is "3 percenter". These are the people who are closest to starting shooting. It's not a compliment. They are a danger to everyone, in various ways.

Who's 'fault' is it? Well, truthfully I have no use for the concept of fault. The responsibility for the guy who shot the cops belongs with the guy who did it. He was a crazy racist scumbag. I don't really think his actions had much to do with current events; I think it was due to the afforementioned crazy scumbag issues.

There really is no potential for harm in talking about gun control honestly. The 60 minutes show you mentioned offended no one as far as I know. The 20/20 'report' that just came out is another story. That was a flat out 'hit piece' disguised as news.

As far as choosing which laws to follow? I neither support nor accept idealogically based laws that make criminals of whose 'crime' exists only on paper.

A suggestion : If you do decide to look deeper into gun control, look at the UK. The history there is a huge influence on what is happening here.

EdHeath said...

I will say you seem to be trying to live up to your handle - an open minded Republican. I’ve always thought that could be one of the best positions to start from in looking at policy (I was a political science and economics major at a liberal liberal arts school, and the economics part makes me appreciate what the Republican party could be).

My understanding is that Tushnet does not have a horse (so to speak) in the Second Amendment Debate, except that he is interesting in people not being killed and perhaps as a bonus then also thriving. Supposedly he criticizes both sides. How effectively remains to be seen.

Since tax season is ending I should have time to read the Tushnet (I work at a VITA site on the side during the season). So maybe in a month or so I can report back.

It’s up to you, but if you know any 3 percent’ers personally, you might consider giving a heads up to your local constabulary. Of course it is kind of difficult to know what to say, no one wants to get other people in trouble for something they only might do and anyway the cops might not trust you (wondering what your motivation is). Here in Pittsburgh it is clear that the 911 operator dropped the ball in a huge way in the April 4th shooting. Her identity has not been revealed (and I don’t particularly want to know), but apparently she is on leave right now, rather traumatized. At least one blogger has asked why she hasn’t been fired, for my part I think I would resign if I were her and try to get a job as a private dispatcher for UPS or Fed Ex or some other related but less life and death sort of career.

OpenMindedRepublican said...

I try to live up to the name.
I am actually quite disturbed that it was so easily available. I was the number one google hit for that phrase the day after I started my blog. I know blogs naturally show up better on search engines, but still...

In truth I find that few of my beliefs have changed so far, although as I started from a libertarian/moderate conservative position many of my views are not that far off from the Democrats. At least on social issues. My perspective on why things happen is pretty radically different, and thus far I have had little success bridging the gap, but I persevere.


I don't personally know any 3 percenters; They are the kind of people I avoid normally. The degree of 'peer pressure' used by responsible gun owners to enforce safety rules and safe behaviour actually acts to marginalize the crazy and dumb ones.


As far as the operator goes... I do not have a job where lives depend on doing everything right every time in an emergency situation, so I will not judge those who do. But I would say that by one means or another she should probably be removed from the position. Not as a punishment of any sort but rather for the piece of mind of the police. They simply have to be able to trust the information they are given. Although... a skilled gunman with an AK, body armor, and a willingness to die? There is no guarantee SWAT would have been enough to end that without loss of life.