The Evil Inside All of Us

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30 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    Great picture.

    And this should be labeled “Guest Author”, not Tod.Report

  2. Shazbot3 says:

    Fully agreed.

    If people have a right to own X, then requiring psych testing, or really any kind of background check that isn’t a check for a criminal record (even then…), to own X would be an intolerable violation of their right to own X.

    So if people have rights to semi-automatic hand guns, and sniper rifles, then the mentally ill have those same rights. (The exception would be if, the person is so insane, they have lost legal autonomy and been placed under a conservator, which is very, very rare.) On the other hand, if owning X is a privilege, then the state can discriminate, as long as they have reason to do so in benefiting the public, IMO.

    And as you could’ve and would point out the category “mentally ill” is incredibly broad. Virtually everyone could be categorized with some kind of personality disorder, or depression, or GAD, if the diagnosing doctor was even a little careless. There is a real slippery slope problem here.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      Should people on Prozac be fingerbanged before riding a moped?
      They already agree to it for airplanes– why not mopeds?

      I have a personal policy of only fingerbanging people on Prozac for non-transportation purposes.Report

  3. Stillwater says:

    I don’t know how to answer all the questions in the post, but I think the answer to this question

    Is not the evil, or the potential for evil, a portion of the humanity of a person – if not a substantial portion?

    would clarify most of them.

    I think the answer depends on what a person means by the word “evil”. Usually, evil is at least restricted to acts that serve no justifiable purpose than furthering another hedonistic impulses. Be they pleasure, or greed, or ambition, etc. They serve no other justifiable purpose than furthering a person’s own hedonistic impulses. On that view, I’d say that most people don’t have a substantial portion of (the potential for) evil in them. I’d also be inclined to say, more tentatively, that most people don’t have evil in them.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Stillwater says:

      I disagree.
      The questions were more or less intended to draw out areas of inconsistency in principles.
      I’m kind of odd like that.

      And I disagree on the nature of evil.
      I don’t think it has anything to do with any internal matter, but is exclusively a manner of external relation.Report

  4. zic says:

    When he was 18, my son got pulled over for doing 55 in a 35 — 20 above the speed limit. At least in this state, that’s considered criminal speeding. It’s a felony. Because of that, we challenged it in court, and the charges were dismissed, but only with 6 months of no driving violations and no other legal charges.

    Had he failed, he’d be a felon, and never able to purchase a gun. For driving 55 in a 35 on a rural road where everybody drives 55.

    Things are arbitrary. You make rules the best you can, and some folk probably get caught up in them in ways not intended.

    One of my best friends — one of the mom’s I raised my children with, amongst the deepest friendships women ever have — was married to a doctor; a research doctor with a serious pedigree and grants and fellowships at a prestigious university. And he threatened to kill her and their kids repeatedly. Guy was a cruel, controlling SOB. She filed multiple restraining orders; and typically, judges would look and see how respected he was, and dismiss them, suggesting she was crazy and had a problem. There was nothing preventing this awful, dangerous man from purchasing a gun and following through with his promises to her.

    These things are arbitrary. You make rules as best you can, and some people still fall through the cracks.

    But in a democracy, you keep trying, keep perfecting. Because that’s what democracy’s all about.Report

    • Will H. in reply to zic says:

      I’ve never heard of felony speeding, but I know of places that will automatically tow the car for 20 over. If you’re in a rental car, they just give you a huge ticket.
      They have some similar thing here, where if you don’t have any traffic violations in X amount of time, you get the money for the ticket back. Of course, people from out-of-state don’t know that, and of course there are certain things that they’re more likely to nail out-of-staters for. It’s illegal to have anything hanging from your rear-view mirror, for example.

      I’ve also had police officers tell me that they can’t accept a complaint from a non-resident of the state. He told me that their tax base didn’t support it because so much industry had moved out of there.

      The law is, in many ways, completely arbitrary.Report

      • zic in reply to Will H. says:

        The variations are due to variations in state law. In my state, 15 miles over the speed limit is criminal speeding, and it’s a felony. And that felony is a felony is a felony, no matter which state you might go to after earning it.

        I just saw a piece from NPR on research into what happens after states’ adopt stand-your-ground laws, another window into the variations between states:

        Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period


        • zic in reply to zic says:

          I’m incorrect here; criminal speeding here is 30 over; I asked the sprout, he was going 60 in a 30; stopped just after the drop from 45 to 30.Report

        • Will H. in reply to zic says:

          The rules for domestic abuse civil injunctions also vary widely from one state to another.
          Some are very eager to hand out ex parte orders, and others a very reserved.
          Some states are known for the horrors of the abuse of process involved there.
          In these times, they are often used as a leveraging tool in divorce cases.Report

        • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic says:

          Question – do they differentiate between justifiable homicides, and criminal homicides?Report

          • zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            From the linked NPR story:

            Hoekstra checked to see whether police were listing more cases as “justifiable homicides” in states that passed stand your ground laws. If there were more self-defense killings, this number should have gone up. He also examined whether more criminals were showing up armed.

            In both cases, he found nothing. There were small increases in both numbers, but it was hard to tell whether there was really any difference.


  5. david says:

    >>>Isn’t farm equipment more dangerous than guns, in terms of the number of fatalities in relation to the number of units in circulation?

    “OK, STICK ‘EM UP! I got a plow and I’m not afraid to use it! Don’t make me furrow your bank lobby…”Report

  6. If you believe (or don’t believe) that guns should not be allowed into the hands of the “mentally ill,” then what other manner of rights protected by the US Constitution should be removed from persons suffering from mental illness?….Should a person whom a police officer believes might be suffering from some form of mental illness enjoy the same level of protection against unlawful detention under the Fourth Amendment as a person where no reasonable suspicion to believe that they might be suffering from some form of mental illness should enjoy?

    This is an important question. Sadly, I think some persons’ view that guns ought to be denied against those with “mental illness” might be part of a trend to criminalize mental illness. Dave Kopel, gun rights supporter and intrepid defender of liberty, on a PBS Newshour segment (to see video, click here: , his statement is around time marker, 13:17), praised in passing states with liberal (easy to implement) civil commitment laws as part of the solution.

    There might be something to Mr. Kopel’s point. I don’t know much about civil commitment and whether it’s “too hard” or not, and at any rate, something is to be said for increased funding for mental illness treatment. And to be fair, he was on a panel with 4 or 5 people and didn’t have much of a chance to elaborate. But civil commitment is a denial of liberty, and it ought to be considered cautiously. His commitment to gun ownership rights is so robust that he is willing make this denial of liberty a bit easier in order to ensure that people can have the guns they have a right to.

    Should persons with Tourette’s have their First Amendment rights abrogated, or sharply reduced?

    No, but I’d distinguish between the type of right the 1st amendment recognizes from the type of right the 2nd amendment recognizes. The 1st amendment, among other things, recognizes our right to say what we will, but that right is restricted in some commonly accepted ways that usually have to do with after-the-fact valuations of what is said, e.g.:

    1. Civil libel and civil slander laws
    2. “Fighting words”
    3. commercial speech (some before-the-fact regulations, like FDA warnings, and some after-the-fact regulations, like civil liability for demonstrably false claims).
    4. The injunction against “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater” (more a guideline for what might be a permissible restriction than what, to my knowledge, has actually been enacted).

    The right recognized by the second amendment deals with something that has, as one of its principal purposes, the capability of killing someone . I’m more comfortable with some restrictions, or at least regulations, of that right that would be unacceptable when it comes to restrictions, or regulations, of other rights.

    To repeat, however, I think we need to walk a fine line between targeting someone who has mental illness when it comes to a denial of rights and ensuring “public safety.” I think this is partly what you were getting at. Also, I should state that while I would personally like to see fewer guns in this country and much tighter restrictions, I don’t see a workable way of doing so and my preferred program would probably come at a very large cost, all with minimal benefits.Report

    • M.A. in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      4. The injunction against “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater” (more a guideline for what might be a permissible restriction than what, to my knowledge, has actually been enacted).

      This is covered in most jurisdictions by laws against “incitement to riot.” Essentially, one cannot use one’s power of speech in order to provoke a violent and dangerous situation.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      I have mixed feelings about the civil commitment issue.
      On the one hand, I’ve read a lot about guardianship abuse and the like.
      OTOH, I remember when the state started cutting funding for mental institutions. The one thing that sticks out in my mind from that was a fellow at the library downtown. I was spending a lot of time there at that location about that time, due to the reference collection there. There was a fellow that would be sitting outside on the low stone wall every day, eating ice cream. And he would be having a rather animated conversation with someone that was sitting next to him, though there was no one there. This went on for months.

      It could be a workable idea with sufficient protections in place: showing of cause, stringent application and adherence to statutory guidelines constituting cause, judicial and administrative review (automatic and periodic), etc.
      I’m accustomed to redundant safety features, and I would prefer it if the matter were approached in that way. Determine everything that could go wrong with such a system, and provide a number of protections against each.

      I still seem to have some misgivings about it though.Report

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response. Things do get tricky when it comes to doing things for people for their own good when it is presumed they might not know what their own good is.

        I do admit that the spirit of my comment was animated in part by the desire to take a virtual jab at Dave Kopel. I’m not a big fan of his.Report

      • M.A. in reply to Will H. says:

        Where I live, Will, we occasionally have had a few mentally disturbed vagrants barricade themselves in the restrooms of public buildings. It’s intensely difficult for authorities to get them out, because restrooms are surprisingly defensible (especially when these people have managed to wedge a couch between the door and wall in a zig-zag entryway).

        I’m imagining what would happen if one of these men got his hands on a gun. It’s not a good scenario.

        When they are removed, they don’t serve more than a month or so of jail time and then they’re back on the streets.

        For all the anecdotal tales we hear of how in one case, guardianship abuse happened or in another case, well-meaning relatives were overly harsh, the statistics are pretty much that we have too many untreated people out there with illnesses strong enough to make them un-employable and therefore homeless. It’s not an easy or good situation there either. I am coming to the belief that the “infringement of their rights” required to get them into a treatment facility (which would have monitoring, licensing requirements, able-bodied nurses and staff to assist them or catch them if they were becoming violent during an episode) is probably better than consigning them to life in gutters, under freeway overpasses, or barricading themselves in the bathrooms of public buildings in order to maintain a roof over their heads in bad weather.Report

  7. M.A. says:

    For example, there have been a number of instances where an elderly person mistaken hits the gas pedal rather than the brakes, and plowed into a gathering of people, wiping out a number of them— yet no one has called for color coding of the pedals on vehicles, etc.


    Nobody calls for color coding pedals because drivers’ eyes aren’t on the pedals, they are on the road (or should be).

    People DO, all the time, call for changing the licensing system to require frequent re-testing and to include vision testing as a part of the licensing system so that we don’t have senile, legally-blind octegenarians endangering everyone else on the roadways (non-senile, non-blind octegenarians we have no problem with letting drive).Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to M.A. says:

      And there have been calls to improve auto designs where the pedals are too close together or confusingly placed, (Which, unlike color coding, would actually help.)Report

      • Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I’ve never heard of that.
        And I carry a Florida driver’s license; those types of incidents are probably more frequent there than anywhere else.

        btw, in Fla., a driver’s license is also a fishing license. There are certain game fish that you still need a stamp for, and fishing from a boat is not permitted without a standard in-state fishing license.Report