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Kazzy

One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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214 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Not really.

    But the converse is probably true. If you think that you can legislate that only people who are police-officer level of being trustworthy (or somehow politically connected) should be able to own a handgun or shotgun, it might make sense that you might think that similar rules should apply to countries. You have to be *THIS* responsible for us to allow you to also become a police officer. (Or, at least, politically connected.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      A fair point. I’m generally liberal but support gun rights AND oppose intervention with Iran’s nuclear program. I’m trying to figure out just how crazy this makes me.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      True, but in both American society and international relations, it’s proper to take into account how hard a law will be to enforce. In this case, even if you made a case for preventing Iran from getting nukes, you’d also have to show that this was worth the cost of whatever measures you proposed to prevent it from happening.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller
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        says:

        Well, the largest cost involved with making a decent nuke is, of course, it’s really, really, really, really freakin’ hard to make a decent nuke. Seriously, you’d think that something as simple as an atomic fat man/little boy would be good enough but nooooooooooo people have to make nuclear weapons because that’s what the folks in the cool kidz club have.

        So we’ve got that working for us, at least.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          What I meant was “the cost of invading Iran to force them not to get nukes”, so however many billion dollars, US and Iranian casualties, etc.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          …it’s really, really, really, really freakin’ hard to make a decent nuke.

          Where decent means “small enough to fit in a ballistic missile with reasonable range,” so that the weapon is useful as a deterrent against invasion and the like (or for regional blackmail, I suppose). Developing a two-stage weapon of that size is probably not as hard as you think, given adequate supplies of fissile material to do final design testing. The principles are all well known, as are many of the details. OTOH, if the purpose was just to pull off a single terrorist action, you don’t need an advanced weapon. I’m (unpleasantly) sure that it would be relatively straightforward for Iran to get a fat man type implosion bomb weighing multiple tons into a coastal location like the Houston Ship Channel and detonate it — once. There are big risks to such an action: if it could be traced back to them, that seems like an invitation to have their own industrial capacity reduced to rubble in retaliation.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          The worst sort of nuclear weapon is the one which doesn’t go critical. Consider that people are now living in Hiroshima. Nobody’s going to live in Chernobyl for hundreds of years, close to the fourth reactor, up that to 20,000 years.

          I fear a dirty nuke more than a hydrogen bomb.Report

        • Avatar Matty in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          it’s really, really, really, really freakin’ hard to make a decent nuke

          Don’t know if this is true but my secondary school physics teacher once told me that anyone with a bachelors degree in atomic physics should know enough to make a nuclear weapon. The reason they are less common he claimed is that getting the materials is the hard part.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      By that logic, I would consider the US ineligible to have a military.

      I’m very content with that conclusion; sadly, I have no way to enforce it. And having a nation which is, itself, not morally competent to possess a military deciding who else is morally competent to do so is clearly unreasonable.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Or is that inverse? Obverse?

    One of those.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I don’t think the 2nd gives the right to own nuclear weapons to any individual, no matter how responsible. And I think the more countries that have nukes, the more likely they are to eventually be used. (If we could get rid of the damned things entirely, that would be fantastic, but I don’t see that happening.) So I don’t see anything inconsistent about trying to prevent their spread, not just to Iran, but to any country that doesn’t already have them.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      Mike,

      Ignore the 2nd. Do you believe in a self-evident right to arms?

      If yes, why do you limit this to non-nuclear arms?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Do you believe in a self-evident right to arms?

        That’s pretty much part of being a nation-state.

        If yes, why do you limit this to non-nuclear arms?

        Because of their effect. Likewise. weaponized smallpox. There is a right to the sort of arms that could conceivably be used for self-defense, but not for those which amount to global mass murder.Report

        • Avatar Fnord in reply to Mike Schilling
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          says:

          But nuclear weapons are usable in self-defense. In fact, there’s a colorable argument that nuclear weapons are the only effective means of self-defense against a nuclear-armed aggressor.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Fnord
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            says:

            Their existence is hypothetically a kind of self-defense (the MAD doctrine.) But that goes only so far; their are far too many loonies who think a nuclear war is “winnable” to put much faith in it. And there have been far too many instances where a nuclear strike was almost ordered because of a mistaken belief that the other side had already launched to put any faith in it.

            If humanity is going to have a future, we need to control the spread of the damned things, and where possible get rid of them. It’s an area where talk about rights is just damned irresponsible foolishness.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Fnord
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            says:

            Yeah, I have a Persian friend and she feels that the only reason Iran really wants nukes, is because they know that having nukes is the one thing that will guarantee that the US doesn’t pull an “Operation Iranian Freedom” on them.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Glyph
              Ignored
              says:

              There’s a flaw in that logic.

              Because getting to nukes is a pretty high stakes game where, if you lose, you win a free invasion from the U.S.!

              Now with the Extended Occupancy option, added at no cost to you, the player!Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              At the end of Gulf War Part 1 of 2, a flotilla of ships was passing down the Persian Gulf. Many countries had sent military advisors and token forces to that fight. Someone asked one of the Pakistani military advisors, “What have you learned from this war?”

              He looked out over the Gulf and said “Now everyone will want a nuke. America never invades any country with a nuclear weapon.” And sure enough, with something like two years, Pakistan had detonated its first nuclear weapon.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Pakistan was working on its nuclear program ever since India’s Smiling Buddha test in ’74. And specifically conducted its first nuclear tests in ’98 after India conducted a series of its own tests for the first time in decades (which was in response to Pakistan’s recent election and statements on Kashmir, and India’s own right wing election victory, and so on and so on)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                Pretty much correct. India developed its nukes for fear of China. It detonated one weapon in 1964. But they’d all been messing around, playing with fire, but while America seemed feckless and wouldn’t intervene in the Middle East for fear of taking casualties, (this opinion arising from Reagan’s ignominious withdrawal from Beirut) , nobody actually screwed together a nuke and detonated it.

                But after GW1, things changed for everyone. After America had made such short work of the largest army in the Middle East, nobody was under any illusions. So after India set of another nuke in 1998, Pakistan detonated one too.

                If Iran gets a nuke, the entire region will be thundering with nuclear weapons tests. I don’t think any of the players in the region are sane. Do you?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I fear you rate sanity too highly.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                It’s not just that. The fact the the USSR and USA are separated by thousands of miles mean that after a suspected launch there was time to think and figure out whether it was real (which is one reason we’re all still here.) Two nuclear-armed enemies sharing a border don’t have that luxury. That’s one reason that India-Pakistan is so scary. Israel-Syria-Iraq-Iran-Turkey would be far worse.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Oh hell yeah. And there was the whole recursive issue of developing an ICBM and a guidance system to get it over the North Pole and all those countermeasures to detect it at launch and the ensuing Spy versus Spy anti-anti-anti (insert as many anti-s as needed) missile technology.

                The Chinese were the only sensible nation in all this: they understood they only needed a few nukes and a few copies of a sufficiently powerful launch vehicle to make the threat real enough to avoid an expensive arms race.

                Neither the Americans nor the Soviets were stupid. Probably too smart for their own good, the both of them. The Americans knew how to scare the living doo-doo out of the Soviets and vice versa and neither thought the other had a lick of good sense or survival instinct.

                But once it became clear their vast arsenals were more of a danger to themselves than each other, both nations got right. And they’re getting righter every day. * Nunn-Lugar was the acme of statesmanship in modern times. Quite literally saved the world.

                I just don’t see the Persians and the Arabs, who’ve been at their fight a hundred times longer than the USSR and USA were at their fight, applying the same lessons to their situations.

                * EDIT: Putin stopped renewing Nunn-Lugar last year.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling
          Ignored
          says:

          Mike,

          Do you think the US should disarm itself of any and all nuclear weapons?Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        “Do you believe in a self-evident right to arms?”

        Flatly, no.

        There is a self-evident right to self-defense, but that isn’t the same as a right to arms.

        Asserting a right to arms is valid only if it assumes they are defensive in nature.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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          says:

          I like that distinction, LWA. The right to self defense is, let’s suppose, self-evident. It doesn’t follow from that self-evident principle that the right to own or possess specific types of tools is self-evident. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that such a conclusion could be self-evident since whether or not a tool is useful (sufficient, say) for self-defense is contingent. So, the strongest claim the “right to bear arms” folks can defend, it seems to me, is that given the types of tools guns actually are, the right to possess them necessarily follows from the right to self-defense. That’s an elaborate argument, with a conclusion that’s not self-evident, and which could be false.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            Mistake up there. It should read: “In fact, it seems pretty obvious that such a conclusion couldn’t be self-evident…Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            This is a very interesting line of argument.

            Some follow up questions:

            1.) Would Iran be justified in acquiring nuclear weapons if they felt they were the only defense against nuclear strike?
            2.) Do we have a self-evident right to *ANY* items?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              Re: 1: Instrumentally, I’d say yes. I don’t think the mere belief that acquiring nukes will prevent a nuclear attack would justify it tho. That belief would need to be justified empirically, it seems to me. (Which I don’t think is hard to do, actually.) Another argument in favor of Iran acquiring nukes is that if other countries justify their own possession of nukes by appealing to a self-evident right to possess them, then clearly that principle (even if it’s wrong) would apply to Iran as a sovereign nation.

              2 I think is trickier. According to the lore, the only object anyone has a self-evident right (or legitimate claim) to is their own body, and even that isn’t completely agreed on. I think the so-called self-evident right to property isn’t self-evident at all, since the classic framing of how that right is grounded requires an individual to go thru a particular type of process (Lockean property, say). So, it seems to me that given that there are conditions on what constitutes a legitimate claim to property, the principle of a right to property isn’t self-evident. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any right to possess any objects, of course or even that we don’t have a right to property. It just means that that right isn’t self-evident.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            Guns just aren’t good defensive weapons.
            And most decent defensive weapons are banned for self-defense BECAUSE they’re good at it.

            Consider: any weapon that works while you’re sleeping. Even a simple pit trap in your backyard is a walking lawsuit waiting to happen (on you being “negligent”).Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kim
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              says:

              There are types of self-defense. One is building a pit-trap. Another might be building a wall. Or a mote. I think the argument for a right to possess firearms or nukes as a means of self-defense presupposes a particular type of defensive activity: defense from individuals who are using tools, perhaps similar tools, to cause harm.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Say I decide to harm you. My first step is to use carbon monoxide. Voila! all these silly “self-defense” matters go away. Because you go to sleep, and I have a gas mask.

                I do know someone who used a wimpy anti-tank missile to prevent a bulldozer from destroying his dad’s house. (april fool’s prank).Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim
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                says:

                I do know someone who used a wimpy anti-tank missile to prevent a bulldozer from destroying his dad’s house. (april fool’s prank).

                Is someone recording this for posterity?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
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                says:

                ahem. I should have tried to be more accurate. Did not actually fire said missile, used it as a threat.

                … you’re just begging to hear about who’s got complete creative control of a superbowl ad, aren’t you? ;-P [no, not me. friend of a friend.]Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      Also, Mike, why don’t people have a 2nd amendment right to a nuclear weapon? It is an arm, no? Does that restriction not violate the text of the 2nd?Report

  4. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    I think there is a line the US should not cross. I think it’s reasonable for OUR self-defense interest to prevent US transfer of nuclear technology to Iran but it’s not reasonable for us to fund resistance groups that assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists or covertly insert computer viruses into their centrifuges. We can take the position that “what you discover on your own is all yours but we’re not helping you along the way.”

    This has the benefit of not interfering with Iran’s development and not helping them out either. Nothing in the rights of men that says you have the HELP anyone.Report

    • Avatar Russell M in reply to Damon
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      says:

      thats why we outsource those actions to mossad. they are already going to be hated in the arab world, why not make use of the pre-installed hate app and keep the blame at arms length?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Russell M
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        says:

        We don’t outsource anything to Mossad because we don’t much trust Mossad. They spy on the USA, too. Every time an Israeli prime minister stops by the White House, he always begs for the release of Jonathan Pollard.

        Don’t overestimate Mossad. They’ve screwed up more than they’ve ever solved. Mossad was directly involved in the creation of Hamas as a response to Arafat’s PLO. They made a golem they couldn’t quite control.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    Well, for one, we do allow Iran to own guns. We don’t allow them to own nuclear weapons, but we don’t allow individual citizens to do so in the US, either. Weapons of mass destruction are qualitatively different from small arms.

    For another, Iran’s government is our enemy, and kind of nuts. There isn’t a lot of concern about France or Israel having nuclear weapons.Report

  6. Avatar Glyph
    Ignored
    says:

    FTR, I strongly oppose nuclear-armed bears. Just give them the damned pick-a-nick basket, it’s not worth Jellystone being uninhabitable for hundreds of years.Report

  7. Avatar M.A.
    Ignored
    says:

    Multipart problem:

    #1 – Do you believe the “right to bear arms” should be absolute, e.g. you can get away with whatever you can afford to buy, learn to build, or otherwise acquire?

    #1a – Is there validity to the idea of a proposed weapon being “overkill” for the stated purpose of ownership? For example, should your right to own a handgun or shotgun for home defense mean that you also have the right to own a surface-to-air missile or attach a turret minigun in the bed of your truck and drive through town with it armed and ready? Or to put IEDs in your driveway or around your property line with a control box at the ready to blow up “trespassers”?

    #2 – Can there be an honest discussion of legitimate and illegitimate purposes for a weapon? For instance, 2nd amendmenters talk about needing crazy weapons to take up arms against the US government, and I can’t fathom how so many of them haven’t crossed the line into conspiracy. The constitution is pretty clear, Article 3 Section 3, that taking up arms against the government isn’t a legitimate purpose. We have a word for that.

    I think the discussion of nuclear weapons in a state-to-state arena needs to fall into #1a. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate “scorched earth” policy. A nuke set off in “self defense” doesn’t just harm the attacker, it harms their neighbors, it puts fallout in the air to go round the globe, it’s a mess all around. The use of a nuclear weapon, knowing what we know now that we didn’t know at the end of WW2, is completely irresponsible and I would sleep better at night knowing that no nation on the planet had access to one – but I still sleep better knowing that Iran lacks access and I’m confident that they ought never be given access because they can’t be trusted to do the only responsible thing (which is not to use it).

    But in relation to the others, then we need to discuss what’s acceptable. Many nations have signed accords against other weapons too: chemical weapons, biologics like nerve gas and infections agents, land mines. The reasoning is the same: these weapons don’t just harm the enemy, they create a mess for the entire world for generations to come if not downright permanently.

    So to answer your question:
    In a personal citizen question, we need to identify appropriate reasons for weapon ownership and valid weapons to meet those needs without being stupidly overkill and creating more risk than we abate.

    In the international arena, we need to do the same thing and many nations have agreed for good reason to ban a number of categories of weaponry and to try to prevent nations that show signs that they would put irresponsible hands inches above a shiny red button from getting the weapon that’s the current worst-of-the-worst.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
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      says:

      The use of a nuclear weapon, knowing what we know now that we didn’t know at the end of WW2, is completely irresponsible

      You’re certain that the use of a single low-yield nuclear weapon on Tora Bora wouldn’t have been preferable, in economic, environmental… and human cost… than a decade of war in Afghanistan? I have to say, I’ve read a lot about nuclear weapons, and fallout, and environmental damage, and collateral damage (some of that here), and I’m not sure.

      Probably not worth the cost in international political capital. But we lost plenty of that in Iraq.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        Eroding the taboo against use of nuclear weapons would be worse, yes.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Dan Miller
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          says:

          Let me put it to you this way; I think the “foreign intervention” idea is completely screwed to begin with, so…Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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            says:

            There is a flip side to the Foreign Intervention argument: I’m wrestling with a troublesome essay where borders are not only irrelevant, they’re actually counterproductive. All these jihaadi groups wandering around in the weeds, transnational criminal gangs, revolutionaries without a clue, arms dealers both national and economic, monarchies exporting iconoclastic ideology and vicious preachers to boot, moribund and corrupt military juntas distinguished from the transnational criminal gangs only by the fact that they have a little nameplate on a desk at the UN somewhere.

            The concept of the nation state is dead. All that remains is to give it a decent burial. It’s as obsolete as the Divine Right of Kings. A nation exists only in the mind’s eye of those who believe in it, not a whit different than theology.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP
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              says:

              Well, it’s not quite as dead as the Divine Right of Kings.

              There’s plenty of nations out there that call themselves nations and recognize themselves as nations.

              I agree, though… that particularly in tribal areas, the label of “nation” not only doesn’t apply, it’s counterproductive to understanding the power dynamics properly.

              A whole bunch of the non-first-world never got into the whole nation dynamic enough for it to take.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                Sure and it’s just as dead. It’s not as if the Divine Right of Kings has entirely passed away, not when we consider all these loathsome sheikhs and emirs such as KSA and Kuwait and Jordan and and a host of other undemocratic regimes, where God hath seen fit to bring one man to power over another, armed with the perennial and still-useful excuse of maintaining God’s interests in that region of the world.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                And that, in part, is what makes nuclear proliferation dangerous.

                Take Iran. Assume they get a nuke in the next 5 years; then assume somewhere in the 5 years after that, the Ayatollah dies.

                Instant power vacuum, only with nuclear weapons on the line. And the chance of a Shi’a ascending to the throne and deciding to just take the Kurds out of the way, or the Azeri lose the protection that Ali Khamenei’s being a half-blood affords them.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                The problem is a bit more obvious. There has never been any love lost between the Persians and the Arabs. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, with weeks, KSA will buy twenty and Kuwait will buy a few and everyone else with more money than good sense, which would include everyone in that benighted part of the world, will get some. It will completely break the dikes of every nuclear nonproliferation treaty and set in motion an arms race the like of which the world has never seen.

                The USSR and the US saw reason. They never went over the brink into the nuclear abyss. Stories are now coming to light of truly heroic interventions by Russians and Americans both, preserving us from certain oblivion. I do not believe the Middle East features the same sort of heroes, wise men and statesmen.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                It’s all in the windows. 30 minutes to get an icbm across the world. less than 5 minutes to get one across india to pakistan. or in the middle east.

                no time for heroes.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Did the US believe the USSR had such people? And vice versa? It is really easy to assume your enemy lacks heroes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                We did know. One of the truly awful things about the Aldrich Ames treachery was how many of those heroes were murdered.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                But some of those heroes weren’t known until after the Cold War had ended. Ordinary guys manning consoles like Stanislav PetrovReport

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                One such hero was a man named Oleg Gordievsky. He narrowly escaped being sold by Aldrich Ames.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                That proliferation is an iterative process is undeniable. But it was 10 years from China’s to India’s, and another 15 from India’s to Pakistan’s.

                Strategic ambiguity aside, does anyone doubt that Israel has nuclear capability? Or doubt that anyone in the region believes it?

                But it’s coming up on 15 years since Pakistan and probably even longer since Israel. I don’t see a broken dike yet, just the same unfortunate trickle that’s been operating since WWII.

                And really, if the Saudis and everybody else are weeks away from nuclear capability, they effectively already have it, and we’re not taking about nuclear proliferation, we’re talking about keeping the decision loop long because everybody’s agreed to keep the bombs in pieces on the factory floor. Preferable from the standpoint of avoiding an accidental nuclear war, no doubt, but not exactly the same thing as nonproliferation.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Dan Miller
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          says:

          There is very little worth making that slope more slippery.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling
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            says:

            This is how I feel about foreign military intervention, generally.

            So I guess I’m just standing back on a different perspective and saying, “I don’t think this is a good idea, but most of the people who also don’t think this is a good idea… think *that* is sometimes a good idea. If that’s a good idea, why isn’t this a good idea?”

            Or something.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Patrick Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, but you touched on the “why” with “international political capital”.

              Say I have a bad neighbor, that keeps vicious dogs. They have bitten people and are just generally dangerous and unrestrained.

              If I shoot them one by one with a rifle when they stray over my property line, no one in the neighborhood complains (aside from their owner of course).

              Heck, even if they weren’t quite on my side of the line when I shot them, no one complains, because somebody needed to do something, dammit, those dogs are a menace.

              But if I blast the doghouse with an RPG and get them all at once, the neighbors are now worried about *me*.

              (Note: I am not comparing the Iranians to dogs. Just trying to explain why if we ARE going to intervene, better if possible to do so in a way that the rest of the world sees as “reasonable”, even if it takes slightly longer and costs more).Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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              says:

              One is a chronic problem, the other is very, very, very acute. I’ll worry less about the low-grade fever than the heart stoppage.Report

      • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        You’re certain that the use of a single low-yield nuclear weapon on Tora Bora wouldn’t have been preferable, in economic, environmental… and human cost… than a decade of war in Afghanistan?

        Even a low-yield nuclear weapon on Tora Bora would have made for a landscape with serious radiation dangers, and a lot of nuclear fallout into the atmosphere that would travel to neighboring areas and worldwide.

        And then as Dan Miller points out, the taboo against using them (in place since WW2) would be eroded. Such a strike would make India and Pakistan more likely to use theirs; it would be one more reason for North Korea to consider the use of one “justified.” And it would make it more likely for other unstable nations like Iran to want to work to get one, because the theoretical risk of one being used would be greater (the claim that the US would use one against Iran, repeated often by Mullah mouthpieces today, being downright nuts).

        Plus, the USA’s use of one would signal to the other NPT states that its use was “alright” in some sense, which would lead to the least sane of either the current Russian or Chinese governments thinking they had a right to use it to settle their own petty border disputes.

        The use of a nuclear weapon isn’t limited to just the blast effect. It’s the unraveling of a very delicate balance, something that has potential to cause far more nuclear weapons to be used.

        Say what you want about the war in Afghanistan, which I think was relatively good policy as a starting point (they were, actually, helping Bin Laden & Al Qaeda) royally cocked up by the immature, incompetent members of the Bush administration, but it has not given anyone reason to fire off a nuke with the excuse of “well the USA did it.”Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
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          says:

          I’m pretty sure that anyone predisposed to use a nuclear weapon is entirely predisposed to use a nuclear weapon without any regard, whatsoever, to what any other nation is doing with nuclear weapons… except how it figures in their calculus for the likelihood of retribution.

          I don’t think “well, the USA did it” is even remotely a contributory factor. Especially considering “well, the USA did it” is already an acceptable off-the-shelf excuse. I don’t buy the taboo argument at all… taboos exist to make individuals conform to a societal standard. Taboos for nations aren’t historically a barrier at all (see Geneva Conventions, for one cogent example).Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Patrick Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            Why have no nukes been used in war since WWII? Because any nation that did so would be seen by the entire rest of the world as a menace, irresponsible and borderline criminal. The cost would be higher than any possible short-term tactical advantage. For the US to risk those consequences to itself, and to risk other nations deciding that maybe the consequences won’t be as bad as all that? For what–to get one terrorist? It would be a disaster on every level–moral and practical.Report

          • Avatar Mopey Duns in reply to Patrick Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            Strongly disagree on both counts. Taboos matter. Right now the marginal cost of using a nuke is enormous; that is why only pariah nations like North Korea even discuss it. Everyone else has something to lose. Too much, at the moment. The more they are used the more they will be used.

            Also, the Geneva conventions made an enormous difference in the Second World War. All you need to do is look at the difference in treatment by the Nazis of Allied prisoners on the Western and Eastern fronts. The Soviets, who were not Geneva signatories, were treated abominably. The British and US POWs received far better treatment.

            The historical record does not bear up your assertion. If you don’t believe me, do your own research.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mopey Duns
              Ignored
              says:

              “The Soviets, who were not Geneva signatories, were treated abominably. The British and US POWs received far better treatment. ”

              I always thought that was more a function of Nazi race ideology. (Anglo Saxons were not Aryans, but they weren’t the worst sort of people, either; not like Slavs, who were not too much better than coloreds and Jews)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe
                Ignored
                says:

                To the best of my knowledge, Americans got treated decently, regardless of race or religion.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                Conversely, everyone in the Pacific War was treated poorly, because Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention (all credit to the US for being better than Japan, but it was a much rougher ride for a Japanese POW than a German one, for a variety of reasons).

                If you meet an American POW from a Japanese camp, ask them how they felt about the experience.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to M.A.
      Ignored
      says:

      This is pretty good.

      Much like personal arms (see: Zip Guns), there is no real way to stop a nation from developing chemical/biological/nuclear weapons if they have the means, short of going in & cleaning house. The knowledge of how to build them is essentially public domain, and those who really want them, will have them.

      Doesn’t mean we need to ship them the equipment or give them a loan to do it.Report

  8. Avatar b-psycho
    Ignored
    says:

    What with the constant threats and sanctions, if Iran did decide to go nuclear could you really blame ’em? At the moment, “our” government is doing everything short of begging them to build nukes.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to b-psycho
      Ignored
      says:

      We are talking about a nation run by a collection of maniacs running an apocalyptic cult so batshit crazy they are building luxury hotels for the return of the Mahdi. Sorta like these Last Days lunatics, expecting the return of Jesus Christ in power and glory and he shall strike the nations with a rod of iron. Book of Revelations plagues, etc.

      Nobody’s begging Iran for anything. Russia’s been trying to talk sense to them for years, they know these mullahs are crazy and spoiling for a fight. It’s all part of their plan to hurry along the return of the Mahdi. Just yesterday they said a strike against Syria is a strike on Iran. I mean, maybe we can shine on this sort of spittle-flecked ranting in hopes they’ll just shut up or something.

      Maybe sanctions aren’t working the way we want them to work. But if Iran goes nuclear, who’s to blame for all those other nations in the vicinity going nuclear? That sort of crazy is contagious.Report

  9. Avatar M.A.
    Ignored
    says:

    From above, I’m still waiting for an answer (or several answers? Discussion?) to the following question:

    #1a – Is there validity to the idea of a proposed weapon being “overkill” for the stated purpose of ownership? For example, should your right to own a handgun or shotgun for home defense mean that you also have the right to own a surface-to-air missile or attach a turret minigun in the bed of your truck and drive through town with it armed and ready? Or to put IEDs in your driveway or around your property line with a control box at the ready to blow up “trespassers”?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
      Ignored
      says:

      I mean, provided you don’t break the law or violate anyone’s rights with them, what’s the harm?Report

      • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Beyond the fact that certain weapons are going to necessarily cause harm (or excessive damage to everything around them) if used?

        Or be highly likely to cause other grief later on (IEDs or landmines being banned for even the military after all because they tend to sit around and get triggered by people who don’t know they are there)?

        And I’m still trying to figure out what valid, legal use a civilian would have for a surface-to-air anything in the first place.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
          Ignored
          says:

          Discouraging illicit entry to your airspace?Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kim
            Ignored
            says:

            See previous statement: what valid, legal use a civilian would have?

            You (as a citizen) don’t own “your airspace”, that’s settled law in the USA and most other countries. Countries own and police their airspace, but you have no right to block (or attack) helicopters or airplanes that overfly you.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
              Ignored
              says:

              Who cares what legal, valid use a civilian would have? Who needs 18 TVs? No one. But some people have them. And we shouldn’t stop them.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                18 TVs won’t be used to kill the neighbors.

                A SAM? IEDs or landmines? Different story.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                And should you use a SAM, IED, or landmine in such a way as to even pose a threat to your neighbor, you forfeit your right to have them.

                Putting landmines in your front lawn should be and is illegal. But why should it be illegal to keep a landmine in your attic?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                But why should it be illegal to keep a landmine in your attic?

                Because when you kick off, the executor of your estate, or someone hired by them, or someone else from society is going to have to figure out how to dispose of the damn thing.

                I think we’ve come to a conclusion. You don’t care whether or not there is a legitimate purpose for a civilian owning certain weapons or not. You think that they can be, and are likely to be, kept in such as a way to be no threat to others.

                I think that entire argument is baloney. The risks are too high and there is a point where society has a right to say that certain weapons have no valid purpose and no business in civilian hands, to the point of saying that even licensing won’t be allowed (though as pointed out to Citizen down below, even California will issue you a license to own a flamethrower provided you go through the hoops and prove to reasonable satisfaction that you’re not going to be the “hold mah beer and watch this” guy who uses it to clear brush from his backyard during a fire-hazard drought).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                I just struggle to see why “weapons” should be treated differently than any other form of property.

                Suppose I took my 18 TVs and heaved them onto my neighbors head. Would you restrict my right to own TVs? How many folks would need to heave their TVs on to people’s heads before TVs got classified as a weapon and their use became restricted?

                I realize a counter-argument might be, “GUNS ARE DESIGNED TO KILL.” Are they? Let’s look at the facts.

                There were approximately 9,000 homicides attributed to guns in 2009. That number is a little old so let’s be REALLY generous and say there were 12,000 homicides attributed to guns in 2012. There were approximately 310,000,000 guns in the hands of Americans in that year. That works out to approximately .00004% of guns being used to kill. And that assumes each homicide was caused by a unique weapon! .00004%! If guns are designed to kill, they’re doing a pretty shitty job!

                But, wait, that counts one year’s gun deaths versus all the guns purchased and still owned in America. Okay. Fair enough.

                The FBI conducted 16.5 million background checks for firearms purchases through the end of November 2012. That changes things quite a bit. Now we’re up to .0007% of new guns being used to commit a homicide, again assuming a unique gun for every murder (something we know to be unlikely).

                So, well over 99% of guns are NOT used to kill people, no matter how you slice the data.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                And I struggle to see why weapons – defined as devices whose primary form of use, as designed, is killing – should be treated like any other form of property, because they are fundamentally not like any other form of property.

                You claim one statistic. And yet you admit that statistic is filtered through our existing system. Our system that has prisons to try to remove some of the worst of the worst from the streets, our system with background checks to deny gun ownership to at least some of those who are the worst risks.

                Our system that says you can’t have a flamethrower, or tank, or fully automatic truck-mounted minigun, or a tremendous number of other things without sufficient licensing and reasonable proof to the rest of the citizenry (through the agency of government) that you are not the kind of wack-job who’s going to drive it down main street murdering anyone within a defined radius of your position.

                Suppose I took my 18 TVs and heaved them onto my neighbors head. Would you restrict my right to own TVs? How many folks would need to heave their TVs on to people’s heads before TVs got classified as a weapon and their use became restricted?

                That’s quite a strawman you’ve built up there.

                A TV is not designed to be a weapon. In fact, you’ve got to become considerably inventive (or at least, possessed of some serious upper body strength or wicked aim with an unwieldy object) in order to kill with one.

                We strike balances every day in society. TVs are not designed to be weapons. Knives may have been designed to be weapons, once upon a time, but they are equally useful as tools around the kitchen or for other tasks such as opening boxes; at the same time we aren’t about to let you onto an airplane with a 6- inch santoku in your grasp.

                Weapons should, by their nature, be treated differently than other forms of property. The more powerful the weapon, the more strictly we should look at it. A BB gun is not nearly as dangerous as a sniper rifle, is not nearly as dangerous as a SAM.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                So, a weapon is a weapon because it is designed to kill, despite the fact that fewer than 1% (far fewer!) of them ever achieve this end?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                So, a weapon is a weapon because it is designed to kill, despite the fact that fewer than 1% (far fewer!) of them ever achieve this end?

                You count up only those kills inflicted on human flesh.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess we should start regulating fly swatters then, no?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re not doing very well here at making me take you seriously, Kazzy.

                Weapons are designed to kill. Nobody in the armed forces is going to say that their weapons aren’t designed to kill. Even their “nonlethal” program is more of a “less likely to be lethal but still likely to inflict permanent injury” setup.

                You count up guns and claim they aren’t “designed to kill” because, you claim, so very few of them are used in a homicide between humans. You leave out the nasty, inhumane people shooting cats or dogs across the country. You leave out hunters everywhere engaging in a perfectly reasonable activity, one I support their right to do, but who nevertheless are engaged in an activity with weapons and they damn well know it, or if they have deluded themselves into thinking they are “using a tool” to hunt then are engaging in the height of irresponsibility.

                A flyswatter is in the strict terms I described, a weapon, yes. But remember I also said this: The more powerful the weapon, the more strictly we should look at it. The level of power or lethal potential to a human being of a flyswatter is at a level less than the wooden spoon I used to stir my stew last night. It deserves no regulation by that very reasonable measure, and I feel your assertion otherwise was flippant and completely unhelpful to the conversation, not rendered in a way to make me feel you are participating in good faith.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                MA,
                Okay, so buying a theater-quality sound system ought to be regulated… (sonic weapon, natch).
                *shrugs*Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Question to the moderators, at what point can I just give up and say I don’t think they are engaging in serious discussion in good faith?

                Okay, so buying a theater-quality sound system ought to be regulated…

                Check your local noise ordinances. We have to have permits for outdoor speaker setups above a certain decibel level.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                The more powerful the weapon, the more strictly we should look at it. The level of power or lethal potential to a human being of a flyswatter is at a level less than the wooden spoon I used to stir my stew last night.

                Sure.

                But the level of power or lethal potential to a human being of a firearm (not a cannon, or a flamethrower, but just something that uses gunpowder to propel a light piece of metal at high velocity)… while much greater than a flyswatter…

                … is much less than oodles of things that we don’t call “weapons”.

                Because we live in a world where post-1850 the amount of energy stored in inanimate objects has scaled up well past the “hey, this makes this small job easier” to “Jesus, you could kill a lot of people with this”.

                And the vast, vast majority of those objects are not considered weapons (because human beings are freakin’ crazy when it comes to their largely arbitrary classification systems) which leads people to really regard guns as particularly dangerous in spite of the fact that I can kill more people with any one of about 10,000 objects that exist within a quarter mile of the current place that I’m sitting. None of which requires anything more than a teeny, tiny bit of imagination. No permit, no background check, nothing.

                I guess this oddball classification error is somewhat normal considering people don’t like being afraid of stuff and if they really sat and thought about all the things that they could be afraid of they’d probably shrink into a ball and get nothing done. So instead they categorize some things as “not dangerous”, just so they can get through the day.

                But while that’s normal human behavior, it’s still just a rationalization, and a pretty bad one at that.

                You’re really harping on “weapons” as if they’re this thing that sits in a nice logical little container that both can and ought be separated from “other things that store massive amounts of energy”. A gun is an object, it’s not a talisman.

                In spite of the bald fact that they can’t be (which really should stop this argument although cold rational empiricism has never done a thing to even slightly tone down the gun debate)… you really haven’t provided much in the way of a structured argument that they ought to be, other than a really small percentage of people say really stupid crap about these objects that indicates that those really small numbers of people have made the same classification error you’re making, and they regard this object with talisamanic fervor as well.

                There’s plenty of objective evidence that their propensity to say stupid crap has little to no correlation whatsoever with an actual increase in substantive, real risk to you.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                But despite all these other things that are not “weapons” that can kill people, the military…still uses guns.

                Because guns are designed for killing, yes? And obviously something that’s designed to cause death is going to be a lot more efficient than something whose misuse can cause death or whose primary design is for, you know, not killing things.

                It makes perfect sense to seperate the world of dangerous things into “weapons” and “not weapons” and regulate each seperately, according to what they are, their damage potential, their intended use, etc.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                which leads people to really regard guns as particularly dangerous in spite of the fact that I can kill more people with any one of about 10,000 objects that exist within a quarter mile of the current place that I’m sitting.

                “Waah, you’re calling guns a weapon when I can make weapons out of other things. And I don’t care that a gun is a point and click death interface.”

                I think we did this ad nauseum and I got plenty nauseated by it back a few weeks ago. I have no reason to repeat dignifying this silliness again.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                MA,
                Who said we were talking outdoor? I thought we were talking defensive weapons? 😉

                Are you seriously advocating regulating knives based on how they’re weighted? Some are better at combat than others, of course…Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Also, ma, you assume i’m arguing because I’m against you. Nah, I’m just being querulous.
                I think things ought to be regulated.

                But stay away from the guns until you get better regs on fireworks. or nukes, for that matter. (see that nun in Oak Ridge).Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Kim, I’m going to charitably assume you failed reading comprehension.

                Are you seriously advocating regulating knives based on how they’re weighted?

                And I quote myself from above:
                “We strike balances every day in society. TVs are not designed to be weapons. Knives may have been designed to be weapons, once upon a time, but they are equally useful as tools around the kitchen or for other tasks such as opening boxes; at the same time we aren’t about to let you onto an airplane with a 6- inch santoku in your grasp.”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Morat:

                It makes perfect sense to seperate the world of dangerous things into “weapons” and “not weapons” and regulate each seperately, according to what they are, their damage potential, their intended use, etc.

                (sigh) Let me try this one last time.

                This object A is dangerous. That object B is dangerous. To the extent that we can functionally segregate the two objects by potential harm, it makes sense (to a degree) to treat them differently, yes. Particularly if they have different measures of utility. Risk-benefit analysis requires a measured look at the risks and the benefits. Sure.

                This object A is dangerous. It is also what we call a “weapon”. That object B is also dangerous, less so that A. That object C is also dangerous… much more so, in fact. We don’t call B or C “weapons”.

                If we’re looking at A and B in the first scenario, and A and B in the second scenario, an approach that is similar is warranted.

                Once we include “C”… if the process by which we treat these two scenarios is different… The label “weapon” is now a measurable part of our quantitative analysis.

                The only rational explanation for this is that we no longer care just about danger or safety, and we are kidding ourselves if we claim otherwise. What we care about is the perception of danger or safety, which is rightly labeled “fear”.

                Period.

                Don’t get me wrong… we certainly expect human organizations to incorporate fear models. To not expect this would be irrational, because humans incorporate fear models in group behavior. Psychology tells us so. From this perspective, the gun regulation lobby is a completely normal social response to the presence of guns in our society. The fact that the pro-gun people don’t recognize this is kind of their problem. Granted.

                That’s not the point.

                M.A.

                “Waah, you’re calling guns a weapon when I can make weapons out of other things. And I don’t care that a gun is a point and click death interface.”

                Nothing about this comment particularly reflects that you’re taking this debate seriously.

                Since you can’t seem to engage with ideas that you don’t agree with without consistently belittling them in a way that is wildly uncharitable… I’m now reaching pretty much the bounds of my good behavior limits.

                You have not demonstrated much more than a glimmer of open-mindedness since you started commenting here, which leads me to believe (in my most charitable interpretation, mind you) that you very rarely engage the thought that you might, just possibly, be incorrect.

                On any topic.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                MA,

                The explicit purpose of this series is to challenge often unchallenged assumptions. Do I really think we should regulate fly swatters? Do I really think we should deregulate nuclear arms? No and no. But I think if we are going to make policy decisions to either end, we need to work from a set of consistent and morally/ethically justifiable principles, something I think we do far too rarely.

                If people are going to argue that the right to bear arms is self-evident and inalienable (which I realize is a group of people you do not identity with), then I think those same people have some heavy lifting to do if they are going to argue that Iran or any other country should be limited in their ability to bear arms.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                I must be confused. It seems like you’re trying to define weapon by “dangerousness” and not by “design goal”. I’m obviously misunderstanding you, but just in case:

                To me, weapons are things designed solely or primarily to kill, injure, or cripple human beings or animals. Damage potential is immaterial, as are comparisons between classes of things.

                Weapons should be more tightly regulated than non-weapons, by default. Inside the “weapon” and “non-weapon” class one should regulate and restrict, sensibly, by damage and misuse potential.

                But it seems a no-brainer to start with the presumption that “things designed to kill people” need more control than things which are not.

                For all that cars and powerplants and forks can kill people, the military gives it’s soldiers guns and tanks and bombs. Not cars and forks.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                In security analysis (and more generally in risk analysis), you don’t care why the thing was made the way it was made.

                The design is only relevant to the extent that it affects the capability, that’s all.

                To give “the design” more weight than “capability” is to (usually) falsely weigh (also usually, highly falsely weigh) the potential risk of the item. Because you’re making a very, very dangerous assumption… that you can accurately predict how something will be used based upon its design rather than by its capabilities.

                In security analysis, in fact, this gets you fired. You won’t last long, at all. If you’re in charge of a large, important, at-risk facility, your decision-making process is very, very likely to get a lot of people killed, in fact… which is sort of the antithesis of the goal of your profession.

                So…

                I must be confused. It seems like you’re trying to define weapon by “dangerousness” and not by “design goal”. I’m obviously misunderstanding you, but just in case

                No, you’re not confused.

                And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

                And you’re not misunderstanding me.

                Because this statement:

                Damage potential is immaterial, as are comparisons between classes of things… Weapons should be more tightly regulated than non-weapons, by default.

                … while it seems intuitively correct, is actually completely wrong. From the standpoint of security analysis (or to a lesser extent, failure engineering, or to a greater extent, risk analysis).
                For the biggest example, look at airlines. Prior to 9/11, people in the industry ignored the (fairly sensible and long, long encouraged by security professionals) security countermeasure of keeping the cabin door locked in-flight.

                Why? Because nobody considered the fact that a 747 makes an awesome airborne, man-targetable explosive device.

                The fact that an airplane was not considered a weapon was instrumental in the success of the attack on the WTC.

                The long standing encouragement to lock the freakin’ cabin door would have stymied the whole plot. We don’t even need any of the enhanced “security” measures the TSA has forced down our collective throats since 9/11 (most of which are completely ineffective, by the way).

                There is, however, a wrinkle on the margins: there are exceptions to the exceptions that warrant certain types of transient interdiction. Post 9/11, anyone who did purely rational (and non-psych-lit-backed security analysis) would check off airlines as potential targets. Why? Because even though the heightened security is largely ineffectual, it was a demonstrated security failure, and the countermeasures put in place would dictate that the next terrorist attack would go to the path of least resistance. Rather than blow up a plane, we’d expect to see train bombings, or bridge bombings, or ferry sinkings, or something… something else where you could create mass terror without dealing with the heightened security at the airport. But while we did in fact see train bombings, we still saw Richard Reid.

                Which goes to show that you need to account for the irrational actor on attacking side of the the security actor stage (which, we knew, granted).

                So there IS a case to be made that you ought to treat guns differently than cars. The argument is not entirely without merit, from a theoretical standpoint. One nut shoots up a place with guns, you can expect that it’s possible that the next nut will, too, rather than blowing something up or running amok with a machete (a very effective method of mass killing, actually).

                But you have to make that case. We can’t just wave our hands and say that guns are uniquely dangerous because we say so, or because the military uses them, that goes back to making the original error.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick, your comment is full of win.

                M.A.,
                Would you rather put time/effort/shouting toward regulating guns, or towards the two or three things that have already established themselves as capable of killing the entire world’s population — this decade? *smirk* (no, that’s not privately-owned nuclear weapons!! pretty sure that was last decade, anyhow)Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy:

                Do I really think we should deregulate nuclear arms? No and no. But I think if we are going to make policy decisions to either end, we need to work from a set of consistent and morally/ethically justifiable principles, something I think we do far too rarely.

                You should have said this in the first place, rather than making flippant and nonsensical commentary about banning fly swatters and ignoring what I had said about gauging anything defined as a weapon by its ability to do harm which was a major part of the moral/ethical framework I was trying to lay down.

                By the definition I had pointed out, a flyswatter is a “weapon.” However, its ability to cause harm is limited to squishing small insects and occasionally inflicting a somewhat stinging swat to human flesh, and it’ll actually do more damage to a human if held wrong way round to smack them with the handle end. Short of taking one of the older style ones that used a wire loop handle/stick and undoing it, then using the wire as a garrotte, I’m not sure how you’d manage to kill anyone with a flyswatter and I’m pretty sure that for that level of effort bare hands are probably more effective.

                Patrick Cahalan argues there is an arbitrary definition of “weapon” that causes trouble for security analysis when relating to hardened targets. But even inside hardened areas, there’s going to be items around that are not normally considered weapons. If your job is to be Mister Paranoid Security Guy looking around, then yes, you are justified to consider a screwdriver a potential lethal weapon, or a box cutter, or a butter knife.

                For the day-to-day of normal society, however, there is use and worth for our considering the primary purpose of a device in whether we classify it as a tool or weapon. And there is also worth in assessing whether, within the spectrum of weaponry, there comes a point that we should say a normal citizen shouldn’t be carrying it around at all, or should only be carrying it if licensed (in a trust-but-verify sort of way), or should be able to get their hands on it with little to no trouble.

                Imagine, for instance, someone comes up with an airborne-contagious strain of MRSA. Then decides to sell it in pepper-spray sort of bottles as a “self defense spray.” Should we allow that? Allow people to carry them? Wait for the stupid person to stick one on a keychain in their back pocket, then sit on it and crack open and spread airborne, medicine-resistant bacteria to everyone in a packed subway car?

                At some point you will acknowledge there are weapons we shouldn’t allow civilians to have. Your idea on the exact point between ‘no access’, ‘licensed only access’, and ‘open access’ may be different from mine, but I can guarantee if we go high enough up the possibility list there’ll be some point where you will agree the risk to society is too great to allow.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                What is the potential for harm of a landmine stored securly in an attic that is disarmed (but fully capable of being armed by a knowledgable user)?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                For the day-to-day of normal society, however, there is use and worth for our considering the primary purpose of a device in whether we classify it as a tool or weapon.

                For the day-to-day of normal society, security exceptions don’t happen. That’s what makes them day-to-day, normal society moments.

                This is the fundamental error you’re making.

                You’re attempting to use non-exception scenario thinking in the same framework as exception-scenario thinking. This is almost always a bad idea.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy,

                If there are explosives in it, it’s not safe. And given a device with a pressure trigger, trusting it is foolish.

                If it’s a dead shell that’s had no explosives in it, or all removed and certified safe, then it’s a dead shell. It should be rendered difficult-to-impossible to re-arm.

                And again, who the fish are they expecting to arm it against? For what purpose? The military doesn’t even use those things any more, we have treaties against it. There is no valid purpose for one other than a fully disarmed one as a museum piece.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                I keep getting stuck on this, though:

                The military — which one would expect has done a great deal of analysis about lethality, ease of use, and all those nitty-gritty details — uses guns. It is the primary weapon of the infrantry soldier.

                Doesn’t that leap RIGHT out and say “Whatever else your security analysis says, the default weapon of choice for a single soldier is probably, pound for pound, ridiculously dangerous?”

                Because design is important. A thing specifically engineered for a given function is going to be far more efficient and certain at fufilling that function than a work-around is. A gun is far more efficient at killing than a repurposed fork — or car.

                There’s a reason there are no mass “run-downs” where spree killers randomly run over crowds of people. Guns are designed for killing and they are very good at it.

                Guns are where form, function, weight, portability and reliability meet in the modern world for the task of “killing living things”. It is the default weapon of the infantry for a reason — all things considered, it is the best choice for killing someone before they kill you — or at least that can be carried, maintained, and used by a single individual.

                Yes, anything can be used to kill with enough ingenuity, skill, or desire. I can use a book to hammer in a nail, but only if I’m really desperate and don’t have a hammer.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                The military — which one would expect has done a great deal of analysis about lethality, ease of use, and all those nitty-gritty details — uses guns. It is the primary weapon of the infrantry soldier.

                Doesn’t that leap RIGHT out and say “Whatever else your security analysis says, the default weapon of choice for a single soldier is probably, pound for pound, ridiculously dangerous?”

                Actually, no (this also misunderstands how the military assesses weaponry).

                The military chooses weaponry (ostensibly) based upon common tactics, not individual lethality. As I pointed out on my post on the gun symposium, the 5.56mm NATO round was chosen primarily because you can carry twice as many of them, per trooper, as the 7.62 round.

                And small-unit on small-unit tactics standards in the U.S. military is for part of the attacking force to engage the enemy at medium range with suppression fire (which eats up a lot of rounds) to keep their heads down while the remaining part of the attacking force gets to within effective kill range. Thus, the vast majority of rounds are used to “keep their heads down”, which is why cartridge weight is more important than impact force.

                A 3″ 12 gauge shotgun slug at 30 feet will generate about 3,000 ft/lbs of kinetic energy.

                A 5.56 round at the same distance will generate about 1,250 ft/lbs of kinetic energy.

                While the ballistics of both rounds is more complicated than sheer kinetic energy, I can say with pretty reasonable certainty that if I had to pick one to get shot with, I’d go with the 5.56 round. I’ve also see what shotgun slugs can do, tissue-damage wise.

                And if I had to choose between being shot *at* with a 5.56 round at 30 feet and having someone detonate a 100 liter propane tank (the same sort you can pick up outside most grocery stores) at the same distance, I’d pick the bullet, too. The bullet might miss. The fireball won’t.

                Guns are dangerous (and don’t get me wrong, they’re clearly dangerous), sure. But many, many more things are actually more dangerous.

                (Especially if you’re talking about the exception of violence in civil society.)

                While an assailant can *hide* a gun easier than a propane tank, it would also be a lot easier for an assailant to just walk around with the propane tank without triggering all sorts of fight or flight responses.

                Guns have other utility metrics than many other items don’t have (portability, for one), but this applies to certain types of violence scenarios way, way, way more than others.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                The military doesn’t even use those things any more, we have treaties against it.

                An important quibble… we’re not signatory to the international ban on mines. And there are, in fact, munitions companies in the United States that still make mines.

                Specifically because we heartily endorse their very heavy use in one particular geographical region (the Korean DMZ).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                MA,

                Why are you so angry? Damn, man.

                More importantly, suppose I had a landmine in my attic that required 30 minutes of work by a highly trained professional to make explosive but which did contain explosives. Problem?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                MA,
                Explosive ordinance is legal to buy, and is used every single year by most Americans (fireworks). Why are we talking about guns, again?

                Because guns code as weapons, and fireworks dont.

                Hell, we ain’t even talking about GOOD psyops weapons (fire and blades).Report

              • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy, there’s an extent to which this kind of argument can’t help but imply that the weapon discussed is useful for defense. Even if you don’t feel the authority to withhold it should exist (I don’t), as things stand now the ones able to afford missiles who actually want missiles I’d still be worried about. Government may be the largest murderer by default, but if the neighbors want missiles and they’re not intended to be pointed at The Other People With Missiles, who else is left?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to b-psycho
                Ignored
                says:

                bpscyho,

                Can you flesh this out a bit? I THINK I understand what you’re saying but I’m not entirely sure and want to give you a fair response.

                Are you suggesting/arguing that countries might not use these weapons for defense, but might instead use them against A) their own people and/or B) other nations without the ability to defend themselves? In a nutshell, regarding B), Iran might not want nukes to defend themselves from Israel or the USA, but to bully/target non-nuclear countries?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to b-psycho
                Ignored
                says:

                The people with bulldozers.
                [April Fools Prank]Report

              • Avatar b-psycho in reply to b-psycho
                Ignored
                says:

                Actually I’m not arguing here about international matters at all (I said my piece on that already), but your hypothetical about civilian ownership of missiles the following:

                I distrust & disregard the authority claimed to regulate private arms (that is, the government). Yet in the case of missiles, unless you’re planning outright revolt & it is generally agreed to that Shit has indeed Hit The Fan I see reason for raising eyebrow at least at the person in your argument.

                In other words, you’ve stumbled into a space where I think M.A. is closer to being correct.Report

        • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
          Ignored
          says:

          M.A.
          Flame throwers are perfectly legal to own and carry in most of the country. How many deaths by flame throw occured last year. At some point its good to give folks a little credit. There is a margin of difference between the people who are crazy and those labeled as crazy.

          I would have no problem with the citizens of the US or Iran holding guns, and both do legally. I question the sanity that either government should hold nukes.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Citizen
            Ignored
            says:

            Flamethrowers are state-by-state. States with wildfire problems have mostly banned them, for good reason due to the risk of creating out of control blazes.Report

            • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
              Ignored
              says:

              Ok, so take it another decimal point out. How many wildfires were created by flame throwers last year per capita?

              What law creation would have pushed unreasonable people to act reasonable?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Citizen
                Ignored
                says:

                Because of risk, you have to get a permit.

                Really, what makes conservatives so blind that they can’t understand the legitimate societal interest in people proving they’re not complete nitwits before we trust them with dangerous equipment?Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Where are you going with this, what is your end game? Are you labeling me a conservative or is this just a general observation of your immediate environment?

                Should we trust them, should they trust us, should I trust you, should you trust me. Lets not trust anyone and put our full fear into the scribes of law. What does that look like?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Citizen
                Ignored
                says:

                “Trust, but verify.”

                Remember those words?Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                There are no brakes on your wagon.
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_register

                How many pages for 2012?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Propose what you want deleted, then.

                I still think weapons regulation is more than justified, because I’m not a big fan of anarchy and the US has too many “hold muh beer an’ watch this” sorts of people.

                Trust, but verify. It’s good policy. It was, if you’ll recall, conservative policy.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                “We strike balances every day in society.”
                I agree with this, the point I am getting at is we can decide these things without the proliferation of law.

                When it comes to choice of the “hold muh beer” person, or the asshole coming through the door with an 80,000 page rule book on how free I am……….Im going to hold a beer.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Freedom, obviously, is measured in pages.

                Seriously, what’s the obsession with page count? Especially on the federal register? OH NOES! The government ran 80,000 pages of meeting notes, addendums, proposed rule changes, and various other notes!

                The Tyranny is upon us when the meeting notes from the entire federal government take up so many of our precious, irreplaceable pages.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                the asshole coming through the door with an 80,000 page rule book on how free I am

                So you regard the number of pages as a direct measure of how “free” you are?

                How many pages do you feel acceptable? What typeface? Point size? Spacing?

                You remind me of that libertarian friend. Yesterday the GOP/TEA nut meme was a cartoon with the constitution vs. a thick book labeled “federal register”. Title over the constitution was “our rules for government”, title over the book was “government’s rules for us.”

                Except it’s completely fishing inaccurate. Much of the federal register is devoted to structure of the government and nation in general. Such as the law defining start and end dates of terms of office, or the law defining the number of the House of Representatives presently at 435 members.

                And then we must also keep in mind that many of those laws and regulations you hate so much actually increase aggregate freedom, by making it illegal for others to engage in behavior that would be directly damaging or coercive towards you.

                “There are no brakes on [my] wagon.” Wrong. The brakes on my wagon are the electorate.

                The lack of brakes is found on your anarchism.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Electorate, because that has worked so well, and the government has made such strides in conservative policy!

                Yay, more please!Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Electorate, because that has worked so well

                Seems to be working not perfectly, but within tolerances, from where I stand.

                and the government has made such strides in conservative policy!

                Or maybe you are just bitter and haven’t realized that the electorate isn’t conservative and doesn’t support conservative policy, because when it’s been tried previously it didn’t work.

                The system is working. If you think there are laws to be repealed, propose repealing them. Get active. Petition the government for redress, it’s part of your 1st amendment rights. Hell, run for office if you want.

                But don’t kid yourself. The metric for how well the government is working is not “how much power conservatives have” or “how many conservative talking points have been adopted as policy.”Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                How the fish are you setting your tolerances? You obviously have pigeoned holed me into your simple frame work of “conservative”.

                The one thing I can assure you is the metric of a working government is very different between us.

                I do enjoy these discussion, its damn healthy to converse with folks who still think the wheels are on the bus.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                You obviously have pigeoned holed me into your simple frame work of “conservative”… its damn healthy to converse with folks who still think the wheels are on the bus.
                …and the government has made such strides in conservative policy! Yay, more please!

                “Wheels on the bus” – Ah, now I see it. You’ve wandered in from the Ron Paul Preserve.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Nope. He was delusioned in thinking that running for office could change anything.
                So what camp do you hail from?Report

              • Avatar ktward in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                When it comes to choice of the “hold muh beer” person, or the asshole coming through the door with an 80,000 page rule book on how free I am……….Im going to hold a beer.

                Seriously, this sounds awfully like nonsensical Glenn Beck-speak.

                (Uz-becky-becky stan! Beyond awesome. This is why the folks at TDS get the big bucks.)Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                ktward,
                Definitely not a Glenn Beck fan, only made it half way through one of his casts before moving on. Someone mentioned him before in the same dismissive manner.
                M.A. has consistently failed to sell the “social interest” in any context that betters my perception of anarchy.Report

  10. Avatar aaron david
    Ignored
    says:

    Kazzy, I would say that the reason I could think of for the split – pro 2nd, anti Iran nuke – would be the level to which a country with nukes poses an existential threat to another country/race.

    In other words it wouldn’t surprise me if the N. Koreans lobbed a few a Japan when they get everything squared away with their program, to get back at former colonial overlords. Iran, well, you can see where that would go.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to aaron david
      Ignored
      says:

      Aaron,

      Should we then consider the “existential threat” that an individual poses when considering his individual right to a gun?Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Theoretically we already do, as we have waiting periods, background checks etc. I guess you could say that Iran already failed. As far as other countries, would anyone care if Spain, Norway, Brazil or Tahiti decided to build one? I don’t know, but that may be part of the problem, in that only “bad guy” countries seem to want to be in that club.

        Anyway, I don’t think I was clear that this wasn’t my personal belief, but how someone could square that circle.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to aaron david
          Ignored
          says:

          This was an argument I anticipated, which is why I said we shouldn’t limit ourselves to thinking about Iran. Truth be told, how much of our perception of Iran as crazy is predicated on their desire to get a nuke? Would we see Spain in the same light if they were hellbent on getting one? In reality, what international laws has Iran broken that were not related to its weapons program?

          Iran’s leaders have said some really scary things, particularly about Israel. But I also see plenty of folks driving around my area with “NY State Terrorist Hunting Permit” stickers on their car. I bet you many of these folks are carrying. Should that sticker be enough to disqualify them?Report

          • Avatar aaron david in reply to Kazzy
            Ignored
            says:

            This is why I also brought up NK, and Tahiti. I don’t know if Iran has broken any international laws other than its weapons program, and I haven’t really decided for myself if having that program if enough to put them in the “bad guy” column. Then again, if Tahiti started getting rough with Samoa, and then started a “nuclear power program,” would we rethink our position on Tahiti?

            As far as “NY State Terrorist Hunting Permit,” should we prevent someone with a “No Fat Chicks” sticker from getting married?

            Crap, that ruins my argument.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to aaron david
              Ignored
              says:

              Let me be clear and say that I do NOT think the “Terrorist Hunting Permit” should alone be enough to deny someone their gun rights. But I do think that if folks want to hold Iran’s rhetoric as reason for why they should be denied a self-evident right, then we should consider rhetoric in our own evaluation of individual’s rights.

              In America, you have to do a lot more than simply hold unpopular or loony opinions to be denied your gun rights.

              Also, I’m sure the circular logic of declaring anyone who wants a nuke to be too crazy to deserve one is obvious… 🙂Report

  11. Avatar Pyre
    Ignored
    says:

    The notion of inherent or self-evident rights is silly. Thusly, I would say “no”.Report

  12. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “#1 – Do you believe the “right to bear arms” should be absolute, e.g. you can get away with whatever you can afford to buy, learn to build, or otherwise acquire? ”

    Yep.

    “#1a – Is there validity to the idea of a proposed weapon being “overkill” for the stated purpose of ownership? For example, should your right to own a handgun or shotgun for home defense mean that you also have the right to own a surface-to-air missile or attach a turret minigun in the bed of your truck and drive through town with it armed and ready? Or to put IEDs in your driveway or around your property line with a control box at the ready to blow up “trespassers”?”

    Nope. That’s all stuff I want! 🙂

    “#2 – Can there be an honest discussion of legitimate and illegitimate purposes for a weapon? For instance, 2nd amendmenters talk about needing crazy weapons to take up arms against the US government, and I can’t fathom how so many of them haven’t crossed the line into conspiracy. The constitution is pretty clear, Article 3 Section 3, that taking up arms against the government isn’t a legitimate purpose. We have a word for that.”

    The general understanding of conspiracy usually involves two or more individiuals. Notwithstanding Federal legal intrepertation of conspiracy (sorta like letting the fox define breaking and entering into the hen house), one individual deciding that he’ll do X if Y happens does not make a conspiracy.Report

  13. Avatar M.A.
    Ignored
    says:

    Outdenting this before I develop a headache.

    @Kazzy: More importantly, suppose I had a landmine in my attic that required 30 minutes of work by a highly trained professional to make explosive but which did contain explosives. Problem?

    Yes. For whoever had to remove it after your death, for firefighters who might have to come to your home, to name two persons it’s a problem for. And then there’s the instability factor of aged explosives.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
      Ignored
      says:

      This doesn’t work if you answer your own question instead of mine.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
          Ignored
          says:

          I’m not talking about after my death. And why would firefighters need to come to my home?

          I’m 29. I just bought a brand new landmine with safety features that require 30 minutes of expert tinkering to make it explosive. Do you object to me having that in my attic at this very moment?Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy
            Ignored
            says:

            And why would firefighters need to come to my home?

            Cue the obvious answer.

            I’m 29. I just bought a brand new landmine with safety features that require 30 minutes of expert tinkering to make it explosive. Do you object to me having that in my attic at this very moment?

            I think that the chances of your holding it that way, that you do not intend to make it into a functional device, are slim enough that society cannot realistically trust your assertion that it’ll sit unused in your attic.

            There is still the problem of what happens if emergency service personnel have to come to your house. Home fires happen.

            “At this very moment”, added up a sufficient number of times, becomes 30+ year old unstable explosives.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
              Ignored
              says:

              This is not the first time you’ve referenced the deployment of emergency personnel as some sort of undue burden created by malfeasants. You DO realize the problem with that mindset, yes? Not only can it be utilized to regulate basically ANY human activity, but it also can lead towards the privatization of such services, rendering them inaccessible to a whole host of people.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Is that really what he’s doing here? Or is he really just asking what happens to the firemen when the electrical fire sets that landmine in your attic?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                I forget the exact context, but the other day he argued for some other regulation because of the cost of sending out ambulances or something.

                My dad was a firefighter, so by no means do I take lightly the danger those men and women face. But I also don’t think we should set policy based on what might happen to a firefighter. There are plenty of things in my home, unnecessary things, the presence of which would make my home more dangerous to enter if it were to catch a fire. I don’t think that means these things should be illegal.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                What I’m really asking is what happens to the firemen when the electrical fire sets that landmine off in the attic. There’s absolutely no reason for it to be there, and there’s every reasonable possibility that they’d respond to a call and not be warned of it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                How many items might someone have in a home that have no reason to be there and which would make a fire more dangerous to a firefighter? Should all those be regulated?

                You realize we’ve now moved away from the design and intent of a weapon as the rationale for regulation to the threat posed to firefighters?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Not to mention the fact that a fire won’t set off a land mine.

                But that bleach and Comet under your sink will react quite nicely.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                MA,

                I think we’ve gone as far as this is going to go. As I’ve said, the intention of these posts is to challenge unchallenged assumptions. Personally, I don’t think you are willing to challenge any of your assumptions or positions, and are more interested in lecturing than discussing. With that said, I’m just going to bow out.

                In the future, please know that posts in this series are not intended to offer people soap boxes but instead are supposed to give all of us an opportunity to think long and hard about the way we do things.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
            Ignored
            says:

            Gonna side with M.A on this point. Explosives in general are dodgy, even if there is no method of detonation attached.

            Stored in your attic – problematic
            Stored in an approved storage structure – not so much

            There is an engineer I know who has property out in Idaho where he holds an annual event known as Boomershoot. He is licensed by the ATF to mix & store explosive for his event, and often talks about what is needed to safely store explosives.Report

  14. Avatar Matty
    Ignored
    says:

    Hmm, lets see. If there is an innate right to self defence what is it in detail? A right to do anything to those who attack you or a right to use violence to stop someone in the process of attacking you?

    If the second it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to suggest you only have the right to harm in self defence those who are here and now seeking to harm you, you also only have the right to inflict as much harm as it takes to stop them and no more.

    Using this modified version of a right to self defence how do nuclear weapons hold up? They inflict harm on potentially large numbers of people who are not a direct threat and it is likely there are less destructive ways to stop an attack on you. Therefore nuclear weapons are not covered under self defence and no one should have them.

    As I think about this it occurs to me that my method would actually set a threshold of acceptable defence well below nuclear weapons, I’m not sure how low but possibly even throwing stuff at an attacker that might hit others would be ruled out.Report

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