True Objection: Gun Rights Edition

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210 Responses

  1. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Oh, I forgot the weakness in mine!

    Here goes…

    People are people. As such, there will be a non-zero number of people who own firearms (legally or otherwise) who will do bad/stupid things with them and harm themselves or others (for the various values of harm). This is, of course, not ideal.

    That said, as long as the bad actors (either through malice or stupidity) remain a significant minority of the population*, then, as a person committed to an expansive idea of liberty, this is part of the cost of that liberty**.

    *As LWA noted, violent crime, including crime committed with firearms, is down and at one of the lowest points in decades. Thus these bad actors are a significant minority.

    **This cost can be further reduced through public policy changes not related to firearms, such as US drug policy, education policy, labor policy, mental health policy, etc.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      My concern is with that minority and doing what we can to shrink or eliminate it. So I generally support gun rights but with certain hurdles that will hopefully prevent folks in that minority from acquiring them. This might mean that occasionally someone from the majority gets caught up and hopefully we have a process to de-filter them back in.

      So, background checks, closing the ‘gun show loop hole’, minimum waiting periods… all of these are appealing to me in one way or another and to varying degrees.

      Of course, I’d defer to people like yourself and Mike Dwyer — folks from that majority — for better suggestions as to how we can properly filter without casting too broad a net.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        There is no such thing as the “gun show loophole”. Individuals, baring state rules against it, are not required to submit prospective buyers to the NICS system. Dealers are. The location is not relevant.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        properly filter without casting too broad a net

        Something that has frustrated societies for all time…

        Although generally it isn’t the broadness of the net that is an issue as much as it is the difficulty of getting out of it should you be unjustly caught.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        For example, the No-Fly list. Very broad net, no idea you are in it until you get to the airport, and damn near no way out of it.Report

      • Avatar Trey Brakefield says:

        Most gun owners don’t want to see prohibited people getting firearms either. However, mandatory background checks for private party sales, as often implemented, are prime examples of “casting too broad a net”. The new popular term for all things gun-related is “loophole” (as you demonstrated by reusing phrase “gun show loophole”) so with every version of expanded background checks, implementations cast the net wider in an attempt to avoid more “loopholes”. (BTW, the “gun show loophole” is virtually non-existent anyway since DOJ has determined less than 1% of crime guns come from gun shows)

        Washington state’s recently passed I-594 is a perfect example of this. The law doesn’t just cover sales but also covers transfers (including innocuous loans that are common between lawful gun owners in practice, training, and hunting). The penalties for violation are also severe (felony on second offense). In that law’s eyes (as in many other current and proposed UBC laws), two thoroughly vetted concealed carry permit holders lending a gun to one another to try out (something that contributes to zero crime) are now committing just as severe a crime as someone selling a firearm to a stranger, no questions asked, out of their trunk (an activity most people agree can lead to future crimes). When two activities with near polar opposite potentials to result in future harmful gun uses bear the same punishments, the net was thrown WAY too far.

        The solution to this problem is amazingly simple yet no one ever talks about it. Right now, it is already against federal law to sell or otherwise transfer a gun to a known prohibited person. “Known” is the key word here (although the actual Federal law also includes “or has reason to believe”). When people engage in an activity that any reasonable person would expect to likely result in harm to others, that’s already criminal negligence (and if it leads to a death it can even be criminally negligent homicide). Simply reducing the level of deniability someone can claim when selling/transferring a firearm to someone without running a check on them would do plenty to make the selling of guns to strangers risky and potentially criminal (a strong deterrent). So long as the level of deniability is well defined, that would not trap common responsible sales/transfers/loans that gun-owners often harmlessly do.

        I can attest, from personal experience, why waiting periods can be a bad idea. I bought my first gun in direct response to a friend’s stalker that was threatening to pay me a visit the very next weekend (simply because he falsely thought I was in the way of him having a relationship with my friend). The threats came on suddenly and without warning. Unfortunately for me, the threats were just veiled enough that the police said they could not do anything. Fortunately for me, my state at the time, did not require arbitrary waiting periods so I was able to buy my first gun quickly (I already had safety training and shooting experience with several models other friends owned). That event opened my eyes to the potential negatives of arbitrary waiting periods.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Yes, “gun show loophole” is a misnomer. It should be called the “private sale loophole”, both because it’s more accurate and because it makes clear how toothless the background check requirement for dealers is.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        putting someone on the no-fly list makes a GREAT prank.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I don’t believe you’ve counted the gunrunners sending guns to Mexico as part of your statistics. I believe you should, as those people running guns does manifest harm to Mexicans (and also instability around our borders is in general a bad thing).Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    For people to be able to play, I think we might need a brief refresher on exactly how the True Ob(Re?)jection thing works.

    You say you won’t disparage others’ attempts which I appreciate, but do you mind if I interrogate yours a tiny bit?

    You say, “Any government regulation[1] regarding the possession and usage of personal arms must also clear a high bar.”

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that that means that you’re basically agin’ it. You allude to people having to show individual bad judgement, reviewed individually, not to be presumptively entitled to carry weapons wherever they want subject to venue proprietors’ conditions (making pubic spaces fair game). That seems to imply that no law will be justifiable that tries to restrict that more generally than on an indivdual-rresponsibilty-review level, yes?

    My question is: what is your definition of personal in “personal arms”? And why do you have that qualifier in there? Aren’t you just seeking to draw the line of what items you think there should be much less deference shown to peoples’ prerogative to own and operate in a different place from the people you think of as gun-control types tend to do? Is there a principle here, or just a favored set of products that you like having free access to, and another set of products that you have less interest in and so don’t mind as much if they are legally controlled with somewhat less justification?Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      A personal arm is an arm intended for use by an individual. A knife or sword is a personal arm, as is a firearm (handgun/rifle/shotgun), ostensibly for personal protection/providence. A crew served weapon is not, nor are explosives (no reasonable person hunts or defends themselves with a hand grenade or a mortar; and no Kim, I don’t want to hear it), and as such they can be subject to a greater level of regulation (I still would not ban them out right, but I can fashion a reasonable argument for increased governmental scrutiny & regulation of such things).

      This not only aligns with my personal preferences, but also aligns with what I believe the Constitution intended & the Supreme Court says.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        It does indeed align with what the Court has said the constitution protects, but then the Court might have only said that because they know that that is the class of products people in our society most mobilized over protecting their ability to legally keep & bear arms are interested in keeping and bearing.

        The question is why to draw the line there if we’re committed to expansive liberty.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Again, I said such things should not be banned, but there is an argument that is reasonable that weapons that fall outside the definition of personal arms are a legitimate area for enhanced regulation.

        The individual that owns a Ma-Deuce to play with out in the desert is not much of a concern, but the group of [PERSONS WANTING TO KILL PEOPLE IN JOB LOTS] who have acquired a cache of heavy weapons might be worth some scrutiny. Of course such people would likely not acquire the weapons through legal means, but usually that is the actual point of a registration scheme – forcing bad actors to commit a crime in the first place in order to acquire what they want to do bad things with.

        Of course, the next argument is that bad actors can do that with personal arms, which is true, but the damage that can be done is, believe it or not, considerably less than what can be done with a heavier weapon. And a line does have to be drawn somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I think my point is that, from this, it can seem to some that your guiding principle is actually prudence in placing legal limits on liberty (with liberty still a worthy objective up to some limit, except that to an extent that’s not an endorsement of liberty, but rather of prudence in lawmaking) – not liberty itself.

        Which only just makes you like the rest of us in that being our guiding principle: we just have different senses of prudence. But what that does is deny you a claim to a principled difference with people who would do place tighter limits due to a different sense of prudence in lawmaking.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        My ideal is maximized liberty & minimal governmental interference. I am much more concerned with the unjust exercise of power by the state & agents of the state than I ever am the actions of individuals.

        But I am a pragmatist as well, and I recognize that just or not, government does have legitimate concerns to regulate aspects of individual action. I just want such law-making to be as practical as possible while respecting rights.

        Practical regulation is not something our government has a good track record on with regard to firearms.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      While not addressed to me, I’ll kick in.

      I don’t define “personal” in arms. I’m aware of no distinction in the Constitution. And as a practical matter, the Colonists had up to date current weapons as a matter of course. I see no reason why current american cannot have the same thing. That includes heavy armor, mortars, armor piercing rounds, incendiaries, and pretty much everything the Pentagon plays with.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Where do you stand on training? The Pentagon doesn’t let soldiers fool with mortars without both initial training and ongoing practice.

        How about investigation in the case of firing heavy weapons? I’m thinking along the lines of “When you launched three mortar rounds from your backyard, what steps had you taken to ensure there were no innocent bystanders in the line of fire? What were your established procedures for locating and retrieving rounds that failed to detonate?”Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        Training is always a good idea, if only to help protect our own ass from getting blow away. However, Michael Drew didn’t ask that question and it’s not relevant to my point.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Why did you leave out chemical weapons and nukes?Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        Did you expect that I’d list every single weapon? “Pretty much everything the Pentagon plays with” is pretty damn inclusive. Let me triple down for clarification. Nukes, chemical weapons, satellite based laser weapons, non lethal crowd control devices, electro magnetic frequency scanners, recorders, processors and disruptors, sting rays, ICBMs, neutron bombs, and biological weapons and research.

        Did I miss anything?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        are you against using robots as hunting weapons?
        Are you against the numerous laws saying “you can’t have live electrical wires just lying out, even if it is your property…”?
        The main issue with many forms of effective self-defense in a densely populated place seems to be collateral damage.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Michael Cain,
        the test for “yes, you can have that much dynamite” is surprisingly easy. I don’t mind giving people tests before we give them fireworks or other mortars.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        are you against using robots as hunting weapons?
        You mean like “I Robot” robots? Yes, although not because of the robot, but because of hunting.
        If you mean like independent drones to search an area looking for someone vis facial recognition, and killing them, aka hunter killers from the Terminator movie, I’m against that. Every act of killing a human should have human involvement.

        “The main issue with many forms of effective self-defense in a densely populated place seems to be collateral damage.” Your comments aren’t related to the OP as far as I’m concerned. If someone breaks into my house and I use a weapon that creates collateral damage I’m at fault for that damage and bear the responsibility of making good on my harm.Report

  3. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    If a person, who is legally allowed to own a firearm, wishes to carry one for personal defense,

    This, right here, is my chiefest objection to the idea of gun rights. We would not be okay declaring a broad swathe of people ineligible for the right to free speech. Our country’s greatest moral failing of the 21st century was surely when it’s leadership declared that a certain class of people were ineligible for the protections of due process and the prohibition of cruel punishment.

    The only other constitutional right that our country denies to felons is that of the franchise–something explicitly allowed by the 14th amendment. And yet every discussion of gun rights has had a clear caveat that everyone except criminals should be free to carry a gun.

    That tells me that this isn’t about rights at all. After all, the arguments for why gun ownership should be allowed apply more strongly to criminals than to others–Criminals are significantly more likely to be victims of violence than the average citizen, and are significantly more likely to be the victims of government tyranny than the average citizen.

    To object to criminals owning firearms is to say “people should have this universal right, but only if we think they’re going to use it in ways I support”. We’d reject this as a defense of free speech or religion. Why should we accept this as a defense of the right to bear arms?Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      The arguments that criminals are more likely to be victims of violence and suffer from tyranny are, to say the least, unproven here and are pretty questionable. You sort of need to back those up for that argument to make sense.

      Guns are different from speech so treating them differently makes sense.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        The likelihood of suffering from tyranny part, I think, is pretty easy: Show me an instance of tyranny, that has not involved criminalizing the tyrannized people and their organizations and actions.

        If there is tyranny going on, then those subject to it will be disproportionately policed, and so more likely to have criminal records, including of course for “resisting arrest” and “assaulting an officer” for being beaten up at some point while being stopped on suspicion of crimes they never do turn out to have committed.

        If there is tyranny going on, then any anti-tyrannical actions of those subject to it will of course be crimes – opposition parties may be deemed “terrorist groups” and attendance at their meetings will be a crime. Any protest rallies against the tyranny will not be granted official permission to march, or if they are, the riot act will be read half an hour in, at which point all those present are committing the crime of participating in a riot or unlawful gathering.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        When there’s no other way to settle business disagreements, force is often used.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I should qualify your quoted statement a bit.

      While in general I support the idea of restricting gun rights for felons, the current system is, in my opinion, far too expansive. The minimum criteria by which the right is suspended has nothing to do with violent offenses or the use of a weapon or other violence during the commission of a crime, but rather is the crime defined as a felony or misdemeanor that can result in more than 1 or 2 years in jail (respectively). Also, thanks to gun control supports getting the federal rights restoration program defunded long ago, there is no generally applicable path to having gun rights restored once a person has served their time. Some states have such programs (such as WA), but some don’t, and there is no federal requirement that states have such a program.

      This very topic is currently moving through the courts.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “We’d reject this as a defense of free speech or religion.”

      We didn’t reject that defense in the case of Sam Bacile. He went to jail for free speechin’ while felon.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      To object to criminals owning firearms is to say “people should have this universal right, but only if we think they’re going to use it in ways I support”. We’d reject this as a defense of free speech or religion. Why should we accept this as a defense of the right to bear arms?

      I’m not so sure guns are totally unique in this regard. I think some convicted hackers have been forbidden from using computers for a set period of time as penalty (arguably a free speech imposition). Certainly while you are in jail and on probation, your freedom of speech, movement and association are all curtailed. Gag orders and injunctions exist, even for people who AREN’T convicted felons.

      Moreover, making this argument seems to be cutting off your nose to spite your face, if you are a gun control advocate. Point out that guns rights advocates appear to be a little hypocritical from this POV, and maybe they will stop giving that inch and move to a 100% absolutist 2A position. Guns for everybody!

      (Also, ideally, “felons” wouldn’t compromise a “broad swathe” of society…but the way things currently stand, you and I are probably felons who just haven’t been caught yet).Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        As a parole term, sure. For people on parole, all kinds of liberties can be curtailed – freedom of movement, association, expression – but only for the duration of the sentence itself.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Generally, convicted hackers get told “don’t write code” rather than “don’t touch the internet”, and “don’t get a job as an IT guy”.

        It’s really fun to watch them whine online about how they can’t get a job in IT…Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    If it is impossible to come up with a set of regulations that significantly reduce fire arm deaths and injuries, then I wouldn’t be pro-gun control. I wouldn’t be pro-gun control if they did significantly reduce fire arm deaths and injuries, but those numbers were counteracted by an increase in other forms of violent death and injury (e.g., stabbings).

    However, we have plenty of data suggesting that neither of these is the case, so I am pro-England-level gun control, within our current system of government.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      I’ve never seen any data to suggest that gun control alone can reduce violence (the reductions, when they happen, usually occur alongside other changes), but I’d be happy to look at any studies you know about.

      Although, even if true, I don’t think I’d ever be OK with UK style control.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The data is unclear in the U.S., but that’s somewhat unsurprising. There is no clean sample, so to speak, in the U.S. Better to look at violent crime rates in nations that adopted UK-level restrictions, pre and post.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      @chris I like the fact that you acknowledge the potential dynamism (that is, in theory a reduction in gun injuries could be offset by an uptick in knife injuries, even if we haven’t seen that occur in practice). But the dynamism can run in other directions too, specifically to property crime.

      We used to hang horse thieves, because to steal a man’s horse was to steal his ability to make a living – it was a property crime that could ultimately slowly starve him. To us today, it seems nuts to trade a man’s life for a horse, but there was an underlying logic to it; and it seems to me that logic still exists, even if it’s more flexible and less unforgiving in a modern wealthy society.

      *If* burglars not having to worry about getting shot meant an significant uptick in property crimes, could this change your answer at all?

      If my house just got robbed for the 3rd time this year, should I just be happy that at least no one got shot; or should I start to worry about how I am going to make a living, if I keep getting robbed?

      What if it’s my car that got stolen, and I can’t get to my job without it?

      It’s true, from one POV, that no one should die over a single stolen TV; but it seems to me that there could be a theoretical tipping point at which it’s maybe better for one thief to get shot (and put the fear of getting shot into other thieves) than for (say) 500 thefts to occur with impunity.

      I don’t have a gun; but I could have one, and I suspect that at least the casual burglar thinks about that, before he jimmies my window.

      Of course, instead of letting citizens arm themselves, we could better fund and arm the police to compensate; I see no possible way in which more and better-funded/armed police could possibly go wrong 😉

      Do you agree that there could be any point at which the tradeoff of armed citizens becomes worth it to you (society-wide, not at the level of any individual shooting incident); and do you have any idea what that point would be?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not sure how I’d balance that equation. That is, I’d be perfectly fine with an uptick in non-violent crimes, like property crimes, if there were a reduction in violent crimes, but I’m not sure what the numbers would be in either the increase or decrease that would make me think twice.

        Then again, I’m not sure that, with gun control there wouldn’t be other things we could do to manage property crimes.

        Also, I tend to think of it less as how many burglars will get shot to prevent x burglaries, but how many family members will get shot to prevent x burglaries, because the second number will be larger than the first number.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        It would have to be a ton more burglaries for me, because I don’t see a failed burglary in which someone brandishes a weapon and possibly someone gets shot including very possibly one of the members of the household being robbed as all that much better of a scenario than one in which a successful burglary takes place. Granted, the point you’re making, @glyph, is not about direct defense but about the deterrence value of knowing households might be armed. Still and all, I’d prefer to work to control property crimes by figuring out what drives property crime rates, and how those causes can be addressed socially.

        That being said, when @chris says he wold like to see UK-style gun laws in the U.S., does that mean he wants arms kept inside homes for defense of that home outlawed? I perused the wiki page; couldn’t quite tell. Is that what they do? Is that what @chris proposes?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Really, really strong restrictions on personal firearms. There are almost no handguns, and certainly no assault rifles, just strictly regulated guns for hunting.

        On the bright side for pro-gun folks, beat cops wouldn’t have guns either.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        On the bright side for pro-gun folks, beat cops wouldn’t have guns either.

        Would they be found guilty by grand juries if they happen to wrongly choke someone out and it’s captured on video?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Generally I support handguns being legal inside the home for defense.

        That said, I opposed Heller because this seems like a quintessentially local issue to me. Chicago is different from rural Kentucky. It seems obvious that a rural Kentucky would allow this (obviously, they allow much more). Chicago has a tougher call, as clearly there is reason for people to want to be able to protect their homes, but where the population is so much more dense, that means so many more guns within the space of the city, which also seems an eminently reasonable target for legislation as well.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Chicago has a tougher call, as clearly there is reason for people to want to be able to protect their homes, but where the population is so much more dense, that means so many more guns within the space of the city, which also seems an eminently reasonable target for legislation as well.

        Why haven’t they tried legislation yet?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        They did, and it didn’t work great, so it was probably prudent to try other things. (Though maybe they just hadn’t gotten it right yet.)

        But the point was that they should be allowed to continue to try to get the mix right. I don’t put much stock in legally enforceable rights against jurisdictions trying to get gun policy right. Generally, as political atom myself, I favor in-home gun rights, but I don’t favor a constitutional right against the political process leading to decisions that go against that (weak) preference of mine.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:


        “On the bright side for pro-gun folks, beat cops wouldn’t have guns either.”

        If following the UK model, that depends entirely on jurisdiction. In Belfast, civilian police (not the soldiers stationed on each street corner through the 70’s-90’s) are required to go armed at all times, and I believe in Manchester 1 in 4 officers are armed. Also, quick response teams that are on call are armed.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        “On the bright side for pro-gun folks, beat cops wouldn’t have guns either.”

        Re-write of the Second:

        “Congress shall pass no law infringing upon the citizenry’s right to bear arms that does not apply to all agents of the State, when those agents are deployed within the jurisdiction of the public areas of the United States.”

        I’d be okay with a militia amendment as well. There’s something to be said for Every Man a Rifleman. That doesn’t mean Every Man Needs To Carry Any Rifle Around Anywhere.

        I’m okay with military folks carrying military arms on military bases, and training with them. I’m not okay with the National Guard packing ’em when on police duty any more than I am a cop doing so.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        “Congress shall pass no law infringing upon the citizenry’s right to bear arms that does not apply to all agents of the State, when those agents are deployed within the jurisdiction of the public areas of the United States.”

        It would be interesting to see how fast the courts carved that one up.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I am short of time and on mobile, but:

        The upshot of that article is that some Brits are complaining that property crime is rampant in the UK, and basically decriminalized.

        And we all know the steps the UK has taken towards public surveillance in recent years.

        Shame it’s not more effective at stopping all that property crime, which is, at minimum, a quality of life issue, and one that (as usual) disproportionately impacts the poor.

        @michael-drew says “I’d prefer to work to control property crimes by figuring out what drives property crime rates, and how those causes can be addressed socially.”

        That sounds reasonable.

        But I think we all know what would really happen; solving social problems is hard, but giving cops money for more cameras is easy.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        As best I can tell, property crime rates are only slightly higher in the UK:

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Back on the gun symposium, I found very different numbers for assault and robbery per capita between the UK and the US. Murder, too. The US was higher in the last but much lower in the first two.

        Granted, measurements are very likely not made with the same criteria, so the number of assaults per capita in the UK being much larger than the US numbers is only a proxy measurement at best.

        But I haven’t seen a corrected measure analysis yet.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @chris – the first BBC link goes into why that might be deceiving – basically, at a certain point ppl just give up on reporting such crimes…which might help explain why NZ is at the top of the list, and Portugal is way down low, when those positions seem a bit counterintuitive based on what I know of both countries.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Underreporting is a big problem here as well, especially in poor, minority, and undocumented communities. I saw it at lot in my old place: shit gets stolen, cars broken into; no one calls the cops, nothing they can do anyway.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Re: crime comparisons

        This might be instructive.

        I’ve got class tonight, so this is my last comment for tonight.

        Thank you everyone for keeping this all very civil & high level.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The homicide rate in the US is several about 5 times higher, and even the author of the revised numbers in that post admits that his own numbers are likely a serious overestimate:

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    My True Objection to restricting guns in the United States? I don’t think you can. I know plenty of gun owners south of the border and, for all of them, guns and gun ownership are a very ingrained part of the culture. I think you’d have an easier time banning organized sports in the US.Report

  6. Avatar LWA says:

    My true objection is that I place the moral value of gun ownership much lower than the right to be defended by the state.

    The claims of self defense are valid, but need to be strictly reserved for emergency use, and bounded by other strictures such as the requirement to pursue other avenues.

    Otherwise, the right to carry clashes with my right to be secure from those who carry.

    To elaborate just a bit- I start with the premise that the state has an affirmative duty to defend its citizens, and to use broad measures including coercive taxation to do this. Literally, the state has the legitimate power to reach in my wallet, extract money against my will, using whatever violence is necessary, and use it for defense of property and people.

    I only frame it in such powerful terms to show how compelling of an interest this is; police defense isn’t a nice freebie like concerts in the park. Its the most foundational requirement of a state. Without it, every other right vanishes.

    But in order to carry it out, it needs to be the monopoly holder of violence. Again, claims to self defense notwithstanding, private pursuit of justice isn’t allowed.

    I point to the Broken Windows theory, of how subtle signals send powerful messages about the breakdown of this monopoly. When I see people strolling around with deadly weapons, it signals to me that there is no monopoly on justice- every man is a king, a dictator of his own domain. The law simply becomes the plaything of those with the most guns, as we saw with the Bundy Ranch standoff.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I start with the premise that the state has an affirmative duty to defend its citizens

      Unfortunately, in the US, the state only has a duty to defend the state at large. There is no duty for agents of the state, outside of the military, to place themselves in harms way to defend the individuals of the state. Since that duty does not exist, and the courts have ruled multiple times that no such duty exists, then the state can not have the monopoly of force that you believe it should.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        I’m trying to stay away from narrow legal claims- I’m making the argument that there exists a moral claim for the existence of the state as a monopoly enforcer of justice.
        Again, I can’t quickly find citations, but I would be truly amazed if this concept didn’t form the basis for most political theories.

        Otherwise, what prevents me from advancing my claim to the property surrounding Times Square, backed up by my private militia?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I’m making the argument that there exists a moral claim for the existence of the state as a monopoly enforcer of justice.


        What about when the state has acknowledged that it has abdicated its obligation here and, indeed, has no intention of meeting it?

        (Is that the narrow legal claim you’re talking about?)Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I don’t think this narrow point precludes the attitude that you’d rather generally depend on the state for protection than buy in to an “in this state your protection is you” mentality.

        Yes, there may be (are) limits to how secure the state can make you. but they can offer protection, and there is value in possibly taking a bit of risk to help contribute to an overall less violent, less armed society. You could be safer in such a society in the long run.

        The alternative vision is of a highly armed society in which everyone is more highly suspicious of others as threat than less, which is a less safe society. It is the logic of the arms race.

        Hobbes’ insight was not that the sovereign will be perfectly just or actually able to resolve all disputes, but it was that if people contracted with each other to cede power to use force to enface resolutions of disputes to the sovereign, the result would be generally more peace. We don’t have to go as far as Hobbes prescribed in giving all power to the sovereign to benefit from that logic. If we buy in a bit to the logic that a significant degree, if not perfect, ultimate security can be provided by the state, then we can proceed with a sense that we don’t need to self-protect quite as much, and perhaps create a more peaceful society by not enacting a society-wide arms race and maintaining vigilance for personal security at all times, which can never contribute to peace.

        There is an element of asking people to buy in to an illusion for the sake of the larger effects on behavior that can have. But I also don’t think the idea that the state can provide some personal security to people as as completely an illusion as you make it out to be. people can very reasonably buy in to that notion on a combined realistic and goal-oriented basis. Not doing so I think has more to do with baseline and even ideological inclinations regarding relations among the state, the individual, arms, and violence, than it does with simple rational calculations regarding personal security. The vast majority of people do not own weapons and don;t give particular thought to personal protection until their security is threatened. i don;t think the majority of the populace is under some kind of complete illusion that defies rationality. Rather, they look at the kinds of protection that the state can provide, and think about how little they want a society in which everyone pursues personal security through arms and decide rationally to place most, though not all, of their trust in the state to provide them with personal protection.Report

      • Avatar Citizen says:

        If Hobbes insight was correct we would have all been dead with the invention of sharp rocks.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Fair enough, that is a valid philosophical foundation to stand on. I obviously disagree, since I don’t hold that an individual should be required to depend on the state for protection, but your position is not valid.

        Now, as Jaybird points out below, our reality is much different. The state has been determined to have no obligation or duty to protect anyone. Therefore, the duty to protect reverts back to the individual, as does the right to the means of such protection.

        Of course, if my footnote 3 example (tangle rounds) was found to be an equally effective way to stop an assailant, I think the state would have a valid cause to require that such rounds are the only legally permissible rounds for self defense (for police & civilians alike). This is because I can’t square with a right to lethal self-defense, only effective self-defense. If an effective, non-lethal option exists and is reasonably affordable to all, it has to be the primary option employed.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        edit: I meant to say your position is valid


      • Avatar gingergene says:

        How does one square the circle between “There is no duty for agents of the state…to place themselves in harms way to defend the individuals of the state” and the demand that so many police officers have made that they be allowed to use deadly force with limited oversight due to the inherent dangers of their job? It strikes me as a eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too kind of defense: a police officer doesn’t have to place himself in harm’s way if he doesn’t want to, but if he chooses to, he can empty his clip into a shopper in Wal-mart or a 12 year old boy, and we shouldn’t question him because he puts his life on the line every day.

        This is more of a general question, as I realize that you (and most commenters on this site, I think) are probably in favor of greater police oversight and/or seriously reining in the authority of the police, perhaps even rejecting the idea that the inherent dangers of policing are proportionate to the authority they’ve acquired. But recent court decisions seem to sustain the police’s viewpoint, so is there a coherent line of thinking (in the courts or elsewhere) that encompasses these two (seemingly) contradictory ideas?

        The danger I see is that both @mad-rocket-scientist and @lwa are right: people have the right to be defend themselves as they see fit and more people choosing to arm themselves openly leads to undermining of the police system and more vigilante justice. In that sort of society, the police officer is just a citizen with flashy lights on his car whose deadly-force decisions are subject to a different, but not necessarily more or less stringent, review. If no one has a monopoly on force, how do we avoid becoming a society bound up in an arms race with each other?Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      When I see people strolling around with deadly weapons, it signals to me that there is no monopoly on justice- every man is a king, a dictator of his own domain. The law simply becomes the plaything of those with the most guns, as we saw with the Bundy Ranch standoff.

      Pro tip: if you see a guy walking around open carrying, you can pretty much eliminate him as a threat. The guy that you need to worry about is lurking somewhere out of the way with his hands in his pockets.

      How much gun crime is committed by people who are open carrying?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        People usually pull out their guns before shooting them. So the difference between open carry and active shooter is about a second if that person is going to start shooting.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        The concern here isn’t that open carry advocates are going to run around mugging people.
        Its that the carrying of a weapon signals danger, that any confrontation becomes an armed confrontation.

        If you remember the 70’s, you will recognize that open carry arguments track precisely the arguments of liberals who advocated increased protections for the rights of the accused, and were pushed back by advocates of law and order who observed correctly that something as simple as turnstile jumping had the effect- like graffiti- of intimidating people, making them unable to exercise their freedoms.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        So the difference between open carry and active shooter is about a second if that person is going to start shooting.

        Is it not obvious what we mean when we talk about open carry? It’s people carrying weapons in full view at all times. And the point is that the overwhelming majority of people open carrying are doing so lawfully. And the overwhelming majority of people who end up committing crimes are not open carrying.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        plenty. I imagine most poachers opencarry — certainly all the ones I’ve seen.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … In my state, we have a 3 hour response time for some residents to get State Police at their doorstep.
      What’s the response time you have to have before you can meaningfully regulate guns?Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I used to be supportive of reasonable gun regulations that only crazy people would disagree with. Everybody can support those, after all.

    It was a couple of High Level Court cases that got me to say “WHAT THE HELL??? SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL???” (except I didn’t say “hell”) and become a JPFO-level crazy person when it came to gun rights.

    Essentially, this Supreme Court case ruled that a town and a police force couldn’t be sued for failing to enforce a restraining order that a woman had against her estranged husband.

    The estranged husband went on to kill their three daughters.

    Now, if the arguments that implicitly argue that there should be someone involved in making sure that Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales did not get a gun except only under certain appropriate circumstances (which, of course, Ms. Lenahan-Gonzales would have been found to be under), it’d require, for me, legislation that requires that if a city/police department screws up this magnificently that it be held liable under the law. Not merely civilly liable, but criminally so (i.e., city officials and police officers going to prison).

    If the argument that a police officer shouldn’t go to prison for something like this can be reasonably made (and, why not? they don’t go to jail for shooting people, right?), I don’t see how we could possibly make the argument that it be appropriate for Ms. Lenahan-Gonzales to have to jump through hoops to get a gun (after an appropriate waiting period, of course).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      (Oh yeah, the other case was which, believe it or not, is even more horrible.)Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      Is it fair to characterize your argument as “You should be afraid and only a gun can save you”?

      Or is it correct to assert that in certain circumstances where people face unusual levels of risk- like security guards, couriers, victims of domestic violence or high profile celebrities, carrying a gun is warranted and even strict gun control advocates should agree with it?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Is it fair to characterize your argument as “You should be afraid and only a gun can save you”?

        It’s more that Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales should not have put her faith in any moral claim for the existence of the state as a monopoly enforcer of justice.

        Or is it correct to assert that in certain circumstances where people face unusual levels of risk- like security guards, couriers, victims of domestic violence or high profile celebrities, carrying a gun is warranted and even strict gun control advocates should agree with it?

        I’d be interested in exploring the mechanism and timelines whereby people like you and me decide whether Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales’s situation met the requirements to where we’d agree that she was in circumstances where her risk was unusual.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        Second paragraph should begin- “Or INSTEAD, is it MORE correct to assert…”Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        plenty of things can save you from a gun pointed at your head. However, a gun is a lot cheaper than an armored vehicle, and significantly more portable.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      @jaybird , the fact remains that after all that, Jessica Gonzales didn’t own a gun, and Simon Gonzales did. There were no legal barriers preventing Jessica from purchasing a gun, but even if she had, the circumstances of the case were such that a gun would not have prevented her husband from kidnapping their children.

      Simon Gonzales, though, purchased a gun the night in question, and then shoot each of his daughters in the head.

      @j-r was right to call this a culture war. That’s the point I was trying to make when I talked about whether the 2nd amendment applies to criminals. That’s the point others are making when they decry the Sheepdog metaphor.

      The Jessica Gonzaleses of the world aren’t the ones with guns. They will never be the ones with guns and they will never be the ones made safer by guns. The people who buy guns to protect themselves are always more likely to encounter (and therefore kill) someone like Trayvon Martin rather than someone like Simon Gonzales.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The point isn’t whether Simon Gonzales would have been prevented from a gun purchase by sufficiently rigorous legislation.

        It was whether the state acknowledges its responsibility to do stuff like “enforce restraining orders” and “consider itself liable when it fails to enforce restraining orders”.

        It doesn’t.

        If that’s the starting point, there’s no freaking way that you will ever convince me that the state should also prevent me from acquiring/owning a gun.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I know people that have in good faith offered to sit outside on the porch and defend domestic violence victims from retaliation.

        People like this do exist, they aren’t always assholes, and they’re willing to stick their neck out for someone they Don’t Even Know.

        These people don’t go hunting for problems, because that’s a good way to get attacked by the person you’re trying to save. “Don’t hurt my daddy!” is a real thing.Report

  8. Avatar j r says:

    My true objections to stricter gun control all revolve around the fact that stricter gun control measures are ostensibly about reducing the incidence of gun crime, but once you dig into almost any of them, what you find is culture war. Almost none of these measures are about reducing crime; they’re usually about reducing the social status of gun owners in the belief that this will somehow magically lead to a reduction in guns and gun crime. If someone were to demonstrate to me that this mechanism actually worked, my position on this issue would likely change.

    There are number of premises that inform my position; they are below:

    -We already have a fairly strict gun control regime. I’ve spent almost all of my life living in two cities. In neither of those cities would/is it practically possible for me to own a handgun, not even one that I kept at home and transported to and from a range in a locked cage. So, when I hear people going off about how widespread and easy it is to get a gun, I have to point out that this has been the opposite of my experience. I did spend a few years in a place where I was legally able to purchase and keep a gun. That place, by the way, had much lower rates of gun crime than either of the other two, which leads me to the fact that…

    -Stricter gun control does not correlate to less gun crime. Almost all gun rights arguments I see involve some pro gun rights person making the “an armed society is a polite society claim” and some pro gun control person arguing that the only thing keeping us from drastically cutting down on gun crime is our cowardly inability to enact the appropriate gun control measures. Neither one of these claims holds much water. About the only thing correlated with the strictness of gun control laws is geography. I don’t claim that gun ownership makes us safer or that I need a gun to protect me from government tyranny. I just enjoy shooting and would like to be able to legally exercise a hobby that I find enjoyable.

    -Prohibition generally doesn’t work. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, guns, whatever. Just because you make something illegal and demonstrate a willingness to lock people up for violating the law doesn’t mean that you are actually going to get rid of the thing that you are prohibiting. And one of the things that prohibition does is provides the powers that be with the opportunity to exercise their power more. So for instance, if you live in a big city with tough gun control laws, rich, politically connected people will always be able to get some kind of dispensation that allows them a legal permit. And on the other end of the spectrum, gun crimes provide prosecutors with a sentence enhancement that allows them to lock up the poor at even higher rates and for longer sentences.Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      I agree that prohibition doesn’t work.
      Laws in individual circumstances are coercive, but in the broader sense are voluntary- if the population at large doesn’t want to follow them, there isn’t an army large enough to enforce them.

      My goal is to reduce the desire to own guns, which means pushing back on the “You need to be afraid and only a gun can save you” arguments.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Last I checked, owning a gun was more likely to get you hurt than to prevent harm. Admittedly, statistics are hard to come by — the usual sources aren’t allowed to compile them.

        So in terms of fear, rationally you should fear your own gun more than the guns carried by strangers.

        *shrug*. 95% of my problem with gun-owners boils down to “You’re not a vigilante, chuckle-head. You live in a suburb whose biggest crime was someone knocking down a mailbox six months ago”. (That’s not “95% of gun owners. That’s “Of all the problems I have with gun owners, virtually all of them boil down to a specific TYPE of gun owner and his/her SPECIFIC REASONS”).

        I don’t know what I’d do about that legally, but I do know I find those people idjits of the highest order who are very likely to get themselves or someone else killed over what amount to power fantasies.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Yeah, we’ve been around that maypole a few times. Unfortunately you can not legislatively correct for stupid, you can only hope the stupid catches up with them before they hurt someone innocent.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        You can do more than hope, if you’re smart.
        Last I checked it’s not illegal to keep a list of the idiots, and where they live.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      This is a great summary of my position as well. It seems to me that the last people who will give up guns are the truly dangerous criminals, so practically any regulation you put in place will only have its effect once the supply of firearms is so restricted that it’s hard to get a gun even if you operate outside the law. Until you reach that point, you’re just messing with law abiding gun owners and all of the rules we write are just a legal arms race between gun enthusiasts and anti-gun activists. Actual dangerous users of guns just sit on the sidelines and keep doing their thing. The reality is that it’s probably both “very easy” and “practically impossible” to get a gun in those heavily regulated cities, depending on whether you’re a law abiding citizen who follows those rules or a criminal who ignores them.

      I fully believe that we could significantly reduce gun violence if we soaked up practically all of the guns with a straight blanket ban. But that’s never going to happen, so the whole “gun control” thing seems to be a ridiculous waste of energy and law enforcement resources. As @j-r says, all of the barrel-measuring and bullet-counting rules are culture war theater, not real policy.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      -Stricter gun control does not correlate to less gun crime.

      Not from one state to the next of the US, it might not. (And I don’t know that that statement is even particularly true in that limited form). When someone who wants a gun under a different legal framework doesn’t have to cross any border control points and have their possessions searched, then the most permissive framework for obtaining a gun in any of the lower 48 states, becomes the effective framework for the entire US mainland.

      But across international borders, I’m pretty sure it does apply (subject to having a functioning state actually able to enforce those laws – sure, Honduras nominally has stricter gun control laws than some US states, but it’s been unable or unwilling to enforce them meaningfully for a variety of reasons).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I think it also depends on how porous the borders are. Drug cartels know that a certain amount of their drugs will get seized at the border, but a large enough percentage will get past that the loss is just the pride of doing business.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      for the person who “just enjoys shooting” I’d be glad to see them just keep the gun at the range (and put some decent “you can’t shoot through that” armor around the place, and some security making sure no one crazy takes the gun out of the facility).
      Voila, something that’s reasonable and fair.
      If there is an argument for why they should reasonably keep the gun at home, I’d like to hear it, but it just seems like a recipe for Issues. [I don’t keep a gun in the house.]

      I know people who have lived in multiple cities and had concealed weapons on them pretty much all the time. They also managed to get shot at (by what I shall term criminals), and get their asses into places the police weren’t terribly comfortable going.Report

  9. Avatar LauraNo says:

    My objections to lax gun control have very little to do with crime per se. Mentally unstable people, terrorists, men with restraining orders against them, known criminals/ gang members should not have guns and when a trip to a gun show will get you one, with no questions asked, every other law or regulation regarding guns is just a joke.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      This is exactly the sort of comment to which I was referring in my comment above.

      Show me empirical evidence that gun shows are a significant source of guns for “Mentally unstable people, terrorists, men with restraining orders against them, known criminals/ gang members…” In the absence of that evidence, this is just alarmism.Report

      • Avatar Trey Brakefield says:

        Agreed. DOJ surveys have concluded that less than 1% of crime guns come from gun shows. Alarmism is not the way to make any point, for or against, anything.Report

      • Avatar Notme says:

        Alarmism? That is what the anti gun liberals specialize in. Cop killer bullets, gun show loopholes and the ever present fear that increased concealed carry will cause our streets to run red with blood like the wild west.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Also, see Damons comment at the top. Dealers at gun shows must run background checks. The only people who don’t have to run a check are private individuals.

      Also, numerous studies have been done (interviews with individuals that were convicted of gun crimes) that show that only a small percentage of such individuals acquired their weapons at gun shows. Most were acquired from friends, family, theft, or the black market.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Talking strictly about gun shows really misses the point that private individuals can sell a weapon without any background check. Yeah that doesn’t happen much actually at gun show but the loophole is about private citizens being able to sell w/o the check. Things get named, its called the Gun Show Loophole even though it isnt’ technically completely accurate. Noting most sellers at gun shows do run background checks doesn’t in anyway address the larger point. It is being pedantic.

        I’ve been googling for some stats about where criminals get guns and as i suspected the numbers are a bit all over the place. While illegal buys at gun shows are in the single digits they are much higher for the general issue of people buying from private citizens w/o a background check.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        A simple solution is universal registration. That is simply being able to say “This gun here belongs to that guy there”.

        However, despite the fact that the police can glance at my license plate (or my VIN) and determine who owns the car, they can’t do it with a gun.

        Requiring registration doesn’t prevent me from owning a gun, it doesn’t infringe on my right to have it or carry it. (Yes, yes, hand-made guns and antiques might be an issue, but that’s certainly solvable). It just means that if my gun is found lying around, the police can ask my why my gun is THERE and not WITH ME.

        Sadly, paranoia prevents that. We can’t have sensible gun rules (like, say, the ones we use for cars) because then unsensible rules will happen, because all slopes are slippery, and those made of guns are the worst.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Trey has a good solution to private sales up above (limit deniability on sales).

        As for registration, there would need to be a very strict, almost constitutional, restriction on the ability of law enforcement to use that registry for anything except tracing guns used in crimes. No fishing expeditions allowed, and the registry would have to be heavily encrypted so it couldn’t be stolen and used as a target list for thieves if it should ever be hacked.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        You just need to buy more guns to protect your guns from the people who want to steal your guns!

        Offhand, wouldn’t universal registration make guns a less desirable commodity for thieves? It would make reporting a stolen gun easy, and make tagging on theft charges to anyone caught with it simple. Guns are hot commodities for thieves because they are both useful and effectively untraceable if stolen.

        Make them traceable and you remove a lot of their value. What criminal wants a gun that can be used to pin theft charges on them, if they’re so much as noticed by a cop?Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Dangit, that first line was supposed to be marked as “snark” and not serious. The “Offhand” part on was serious.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Fair point regarding theft. There would still need to be tough restrictions on using the registry to confiscate firearms. Certain states have used their state registries to do this & it’s got everyone else pretty well convinced it would be inevitable that someone else would try it.Report

      • Avatar Notme says:


        What i find so amusing is that liberals who dont trust the police or govt about many things are more than happy to trust the govt with info like a gun registery.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        What i find so amusing is that liberals who dont trust the police or govt about many things are more than happy to trust the govt with info like a gun registery.

        I’m guessing because you’ve never stopped to think about it. But then, your role here seems to be to attack strawmen with all the gusto and might you can bring to bear, so I guess heavy thinking isn’t required.

        But do continue. You’re an amusing little puppet anyways.Report

      • Avatar Notme says:


        You need to try harder with your insults.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Try harder with your trolling and I’ll break out better stuff.

        You’re just gonna have to earn it.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        ” but the loophole is about private citizens being able to sell w/o the check.”

        No, it’s not a “loop hole”. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. A loop hole is like saying the lawyer got the crook off on a technicality. No, the lawyer got the defendant off because the criminal justice system couldn’t prove the guy was guilty of the crime. If we’re going to have a conversation about this, let’s get our terms and definitions correct first.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Chiming in late on the ‘gun show loophole’. While I agree that there are plenty of sales at these shows where background checks are run, we all know there are plenty of dealers that do a brisk sale of guns as ‘private’ individuals and do not run those checks. I’ve sold three guns at gun shows, all to guys sitting next to a table with 20+ guns. Those guys can turn around and sell that gun to someone else without running a background check because they aren’t an legally a gun dealer. THAT is the loophole that people are talking about. So in theory, I could go to the gun show and buy up a bunch of cheap pistols from these types of dealers, then taking them into inner-city Chicago and sell them for profit with (again) no background checks.

        As for the numbers of crime guns that come from these types of sales, it’s hard to put a % on it but I definitely think these drive the black market portion of crime guns.

        I still contend the best solution is to track ammo, not guns.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        How would ammo tracking work?

        I think I’ve posted my plan here, but basically my idea is to make the owner of a gun responsible for what happens to that gun. Now, if your gun gets lost or stolen, you report that and are absolved of responsibility. Lose too many guns or have too many stolen, well, you are probably not a responsible gun owner and thus lose your gun rights. I suppose the same could be done with ammo provided there is a method of tracking it.

        “Oh, you bought a box of bullets and 5 of them were found in a dead guy? We’re bringing you in. Stolen, you insist? Did you report them? No? Well, you’re still liable. Oh… you did report them. Where were they stolen from? The back of your pickup? Well, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again. No more bullets for you.”

        To me, this only targets irresponsible users. Which I think everyone agrees we ought to.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        With bullet tracking you embed a serial number in every bullet and then tie them to the point of sale. It’s a speedier way of getting good tracking out there because people are more likely to use up their old non-serialized ammo at some point (yes, people will hoard and yes, some ammo lasts a really long time but…). A non-documented gun can last hundreds of years if properly maintained.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Bullet tracking is problematic because bullets deform on impact, making a serial number unreadable. It might help somewhat, but I’m not sure it would be worth the cost. Also, what to do about re-loaders? Lead has a low melting point & bullets without a serial number can be cast in your garage with little more than a mold & a butane torch. Or frangible rounds? More expensive, but they turn to dust if they hit anything solid, and they fragment heavily in soft things. They are very popular amongst sport & competition shooters because they don’t ricochet or over-penetrate.

        It’s not a bad idea, but technically it’s not very workable.

        Serial numbers on cartridge cases would be more useful, although that still runs into issues of people using revolvers, or who police their brass, or someone who claims spent brass from a gun range & reloads the case in order to frame someone, or just through investigators off on a wild goose chase.

        I think the best bullet tracking idea I’ve seen is having the powder mixed with non-flammable serial number microdots. These would be ejected every time the gun fired, would be impossible to clean up except in the most controlled of scenes (like something out of a Dexter kill), or without a lot of water, and very hard to re-use to frame someone. You could even have them fluoresce so crime scene techs could locate them easily and collect samples. Ammunition manufacturers would use their own, and powder mills would have separate numbers for the powder they sell to re-loaders. It would not be perfect, but it would be a far cry better than anything else we got.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Your spat with notme aside, do you have any ideas how to prevent a registry from being used for political confiscations? I once suggested such a system could be heavily encrypted & only searchable with a warrant & by serial number. Another way to protect a federal registry is a SCOTUS decision that would declare such weapon bans &/or confiscations as verboten and a deprivation of rights under color of law.

        Basically that would require a ruling that the state, at any level, can not declare a specific weapon, or sub-class of weapon, or weapon features, as illegal. If it is a personal arm, you don’t get to play culture war ban with it.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        What do you mean by “political confiscation”?

        Do you mean “If the US becomes a banana republic, no one’s rights are respected, and politicians can order the seizure of any property they want?”. Because, really, I’m not sure what the point of that is.

        Or do you have some specific scenario in mind? Like civil forfeiture? (Hint: They’re already taking the guns. And your money. And your car. And your house. And apparently 64,000 pounds of shark meat).

        Because all I’ve got here is some unspecified worry that the government will — if they know about your guns — have some special, new, ability to take them they don’t already have. So a little clarity about your worry would help me answer that.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        CA routinely decides certain firearms are banned (the list is rather arbitrary and includes whatever firearms are a political/media hot button at the time), and then demands that owners either surrender or dispose of the firearms by getting them out of CA.

        The NY SAFE act did something similar with regard to firearms that could hold more than 5 rounds.

        Those are the two that come to mind. I don’t have time for a more extensive search.

        My point is that a firearms registry should exist for one, and only one, purpose: to track the ownership of a gun found to have been used in a crime. Any other purpose should be illegal and gun owners should be able to seek relief if the registry is used to identify owners of a firearm that is currently politically unpopular. And the fact that some legislative body has decided that owning X is illegal does not mean that crimes have been committed and they can use the registry to go fishing.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        So, just to make totally sure, you’re worried that the registry will be used to determine who owns illegal firearms, and make them surrender them, modify them in accordance with the law, or remove them from the state or nation (depending on whose law)? Having not been illegal when registered, because registering an illegal weapon would be pretty dumb.

        Let me ask a question:

        1) Can the government legitimately make that law? That is, can I assume this is a perfectly Constitutional law, in accordance with state and federal law? (If not, then the protection would be the same as with all laws: Unconstitutional laws can be challenged and overturned in court, and any damages fixed. No further, nor higher, protection can exist in the US than the Constitution proper, yes?)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        While government may have the power to declare things illegal by fiat, that does not make it a good idea. Gun owners strongly object to this kind of culture war politics with regard to their property, and preventing a gun registry is one way they can exercise a manner of civil disobedience toward it.

        So here is a question for you, which would you rather have, a registry that could significantly aid law enforcement in the investigation of crime, or legislatures to have the power to ban items in that registry that represent red meat to a special interest and then use that registry to enact a takings of property?

        Which one do you think politicians want more?Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        You seem to be shifting the goalposts rapidly. I’d rather stick with the actual topic. You’re the one with concerns here, and I’m trying to understand them.

        As I understand it concerned about a registry because of ‘political confiscation’, to use your term. When I asked you what you meant, you gave examples of what appear to be Constitutional laws (if not laws you agree with). But agree or not, perfectly valid laws.

        So I wanted clarification — by ‘political confiscation’ do you mean “Constitutionally valid Laws that render currently owned and/or registered firearms illegal to own.”. (Whether “illegal to own” means “in that state” or “unless modified” or “at all”. Or do you mean “unconstitutional laws”? (And by that I mean “as determined by a court, not yours or my personal opinions).

        As best I can tell, your concern seems to be that if you register your gun, and that particular gun becomes illegal to own as is that the registry will be used to contact you and ensure your gun is handled per the law. (Disposed of, modified, moved out of state, whatever).

        However, I am certain I’m misunderstanding you, which is why I’m asking, because that can’t be your objection.

        So, please clarify it. Where am I getting it wrong?Report

  10. Avatar LWA says:

    The arguments against the monopoly use of force by the state, contained within the asserted need for private justice (as in Jaybird’s example of the domestic violence victim) are a form of “exigent circumstance” type of argument.
    That is, there is a morally superior cause (such as personal defense) and it overrides any concerns about the legal structure.

    For cases of crime victims this is certainly easy to argue. Its almost impossible to assert that no one has the right to defend themselves. So impossible in fact, that no one does.

    Expanding that to vanquish any boundaries on defense, such as the requirement to flee, or to pursue violence only as a last resort, becomes a variation of the “The urgency of exigent circumstances authorized my blowing up an abortion clinic/ smashing nuclear warheads/ claiming an ancestral right to the Bundy homestead and therefore I don’t need to recognize the authority of the state”.

    I’m not seeing a clear line being delineated here between one thing and another.
    Can someone provide one?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      For cases of crime victims this is certainly easy to argue. Its almost impossible to assert that no one has the right to defend themselves. So impossible in fact, that no one does.

      We’re not arguing over self-defense.

      We’re arguing over whether people should be allowed to purchase guns with a minimum of hassle and within a short timeframe in order to use said guns to defend themselves.

      Though, were I arguing your position, I’d probably paint my opponents as arguing against the former as well in an attempt to have everybody look at them rather than look at the forms I’d force Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales fill out downtown before we get back to her in 4 to 6 weeks.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      The urgency of exigent circumstances authorized my blowing up an abortion clinic/ smashing nuclear warheads/ claiming an ancestral right to the Bundy homestead and therefore I don’t need to recognize the authority of the state

      Exigent circumstances is, I believe, a pretty well defined legal area. Since abortion is legal, there is no legal exigent circumstances that allow for the destruction of said clinic. Likewise your other two examples. Assault is not legal, and if the authority of the state is unable to make it’s presence felt in the moment of an assault, the exigent circumstances allow the victim to temporarily assume the authority of the state until the assault is over.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        OK, so we are back to where self defense is only allowed under tightly controlled circumstances (“at the moment of assault”).
        Its not like anyone is saying “He was vandalizing my car, so I shot him” type of vigilantism.
        We are only talking about when and under what circumstances we allow people to carry, which is kinda where we started.

        Which is where I bring out the cost of carrying- the signaling and all that.
        Since carrying a weapon is not frictionless, that is, it does demonstrable harm to the ability to reassure people of the adequacy of policing, we should restrict it to the least amount necessary.

        Its a form of the libertarian argument about regulation- some carry may be necessary, but it shouldn’t be any more than is absolutely necessary.

        Again, I realize I am placing the value of carry much lower than yours. My valuation of public security and order is much higher.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        So are you OK with concealed carry then? Out of sight, out of mind.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        LWA: Sheepdog. That’s the term I heard.

        Read a pro-gun piece from a gun-owner who basically said “You’re not a sheepdog. You’re not there to police the streets. If you want to do that, become a cop. You carry a gun, you’re not a cop. That attitude — walking around, guarding the sheep from the wolves — gets people killed. And not the wolves”.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        That was the piece that got LWA & I going in the first place! 🙂Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Of the gun owners I know, half are hunters. The other half are ‘sheepdogs’. To be blunt, I’m in more danger from the sheepdogs than criminals.It’s purely anecdotal, but I admit that people who carry guns and openly fantasize about getting to use them on some ‘bad guys’ seems more dangerous to me than the ridiculously low crime rate hereabouts.

        *shrug*. If you want my personal opinion, I think gun-owners are shooting themselves in the foot. They’re an increasingly small percentage of Americans, and they seem to be getting both more vocal and more uncompromising (probably because they realize they’re a smaller and smaller percentage of the populace). That uncompromising stance drives off would be gun owners, who don’t want to associate with fruitcakes.

        Kind of a negative spiral there.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        “So are you OK with concealed carry then?”Report

      • Avatar Notme says:


        So you would really have us believe that you suffer some sort of psychic harm or trauma when you see a person carrying a gun in a holster? Does also include pocket knives, i mean you may not see the knife but you can see the clip on the outside of the pocket.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        hit reply too soon.
        Re: concealed carry-
        What I am objecting to is not the guns.
        What I am objecting to vehemently is the normalization of gunplay as described by Caleb on that sheepdog piece, where he describes a world in which carrying a gun is just a routine part of one’s daily life- you slip on your pants, strap on your handgun, and go about your day.

        That world is one where a simple trip to the grocery store carries the real possibility of deadly violence. Always, everywhere, the anticipation of deadly violence.

        This is not a civilized society. this is Mad Max/ Walking Dead society.

        Worse, it becomes a self fulfilillng prophesy. A society where everyone is in constant fear and dread, where death is always at the ready, is a society where civil liberties vanish. Fear reduces our ability to behave liberally. It turns us all against each other, where every stranger is a potential assailant.

        Ironically, liberty requires order and security. Re: the comments below, Switzerland and the UK have guns, yet are polite societies, BECAUSE they have security. The Swiss don’t feel they need to strap on a gun just to go to the local store.

        Its not the guns I am attacking, its this warped view of ourselves.Report

      • Avatar Citizen says:

        @ LWA
        Have you even lived around a population of highly armed people for decades? From my experience it is not how you paint it to be. I’d like you to consider for a moment this whole Mad Max/ Walking Dead notion is a construction of your own fear.

        Your drawing other peoples line in the sand at “I wanna” and ignoring their line a few feet away that says “I will”.

        On several boards “those” “dangerous”, “wrong” people have been labeled:

        With that, I am starting to cut the open carry crowd some slack. About the only thing I would start to frown on is mall ninjas (if they in fact exist).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I know someone who did actually use a gun on some “bad guys”. It wasn’t a pretty scene — nor something he’s likely to try to repeat. People have this problem understanding that “reality isn’t pretty”.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        I gotta agree with Citizen here, your MadMax scenario is your fears carried to it’s extreme. The reality is much more pedestrian and subdued. To borrow a tired cliche, it’s akin to deciding that a person who keeps a fire extinguisher in their car is just waiting for a chance to put out a fire and be a hero and deny the fire department the chance to do their duty.

        The original point, that people who carry are sheepdogs, is something you should push back on! If a person is carrying because that is how they imagine themselves, that is dangerous precisely because they will be prone to over-react in exactly the same way as the person linked in this article.

        Such hero fantasies plague law enforcement, and cause the same set of problems.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        I keep a fire extinguisher in places where there is a real possibility of fire- my kitchen, the workshop, and so on.

        You carry a gun to Krogers because…?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Well, I don’t. I have a permit, but I rarely carry except in the wilderness. The permit mostly just makes gun purchases faster, and makes transportation easier.

        Why someone else carries to Kroger – you’d have to ask them, and I expect the answer will vary. And while I suspect you would find most of their reasons inadequate, they don’t, and that is the important thing to remember. Their values are different from yours, and that is OK. It’s a large, very diverse society we live in. As long as they are not hurting anyone unjustifiably, you are just going to have to learn to be tolerant of the differences you experience.Report

      • Avatar Citizen says:

        On these quests to give haircuts to other peoples mores, what is the probability your own will become quite bald?Report

      • Avatar LWA says:


        The reason I ask why people carry guns is because the story keeps changing.
        First we are told that people carry because of a reasonable fear of deadly violence. And that society is so broken that the police cannot be counted on to keep order.

        To which I reply, that’s a Mad Max view of the world.

        To which you both reply, that’s a wild exaggeration.
        Which brings us back to the point.
        Why carry then?
        Is Krogers such a dangerous place that fear of deadly violence is reasonable?
        Or is it not?
        Its a simple polar question, and most importantly, NOT one which is subject to individual opinions.
        It either is or it isn’t reasonable to fear deadly violence there.

        As I already pointed out, carrying guns- and publically proclaiming a reasonable fear of deadly violence- DOES affect others.
        Our view of the world is very much collective- that’s why broken windows and graffiti are objectively harmful.

        That’s also why slander is actionable- if I were to loudly proclaim that “Kroger’s is a dangerous place where your children are not safe!” I could (in theory) be sued for slander. My personal opinion, expressed, affects everyone else’s view of Krogers.Report

      • Avatar Citizen says:

        “NOT one which is subject to individual opinions.”
        your position is no longer admissible to me.

        Your perceived world is very much collective, this is the point where I reach for my scissors….Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        We are going around in circles here. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree & leave it at that, as unsatisfying as it is.Report

  11. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    By the way, I’ll be in Long Beach, CA Monday & Tuesday next week with some free time during the day, if anyone wants to meet for lunch.

    email me at madrocketsci at gmail dot comReport

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I wish I could; I’m pretty booked next week. If you get in town early enough on Sunday and have no other obligations…Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Sunday I have family obligations (great grandma wants time with the little boy). Monday & Tuesday my wife will be working, so Bug & I have our days free.Report

  12. Avatar aaron david says:

    Quite often people like to point to other countries, such as the UK, to show how gun control can work positively. As I enjoy the shooting sports (rifle, shotgun and handgun) but seem to have rather international tastes , I spend some time on foreign shooting forums.

    Many people do not know this, but one can indeed own a handgun in the UK, one just has to live in the correct area. The Isle of Man allows residents to own handguns, as does Jersey. North Ireland also allows handgun ownership, and specifically states this can be for personal protection. One only needs to obtain a certificate from the police. One wonders how many of these have gone to Catholics…

    Also, it is apparently rediculously easy to obtain a firearm illeagally in the UK. “Having found the telephone number of Andrew, an underworld arms dealer, The Observer was offered a brand new 9mm Glock pistol, a semi-automatic complete with silencer, for £1,700. The weapon had been smuggled in from France.”
    (slightly older article, but the idea holds. There is one glaring inaccuracy though, a Glock will show up in an airport scanner.)Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      People often like to point to Switzerland.

      I’ve mentioned on several occasions — adopting Switzerland’s policies on guns would, in fact, go beyond my most fantastical dream on gun control.

      Required training? Required licensing? No carry without demonstrating strong need? Even transport of the gun is heavily regulated. I’m pretty sure the gun license itself requires inspections of your gun storage.

      So yes please. Spite the liberals and adopt the gun laws of that wild, wild west Switzerland!Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        Indeed. The Swiss changed their laws in ’08 for the Schengen Treaty. I am sure the murder rate fell drastically.Report

  13. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    The ability to keep and bear arms is written into our fundamental law. That’s enough for me. Whatever sort of restriction or condition one might propose, for me, it must allow a meaningful and realistic opportunity for a law abiding person to keep and use reasonable weapons for personal safety and self-defense if they wish.

    I realize that word such as meaningful, realistic, and reasonable are not very exact. But we use words like that in a wide variety of other legal contexts, without substantial difficulty. In terms of setting out the limits of what more specifically worded legislation can do, this taxonomy feels comfortable enough to me.Report

  14. Avatar zic says:

    On top of that is my personal belief that we are all responsible for our own safety. This is bolstered by my knowledge that police forces are not always nearby, and even if they are, the individuals that respond are not obligated in any legal or ethical sense to place themselves in harms way or to actually save anyone’s life. They may have a personal, moral obligation to do so, but I can’t count on that. As such, part of how I try to implement a degree of (imperfect) safety is by owning and knowing how to safely use firearms, as they represent the best means to halt an assault that is currently available[3]. If a person, who is legally allowed to own a firearm, wishes to carry one for personal defense, for whatever reason, then as long as they have not demonstrated that they are incompetent or otherwise a public nuisance/danger, I have no issue with them doing so[4].

    So owning firearms does not increase one’s personal safety; it decreases it. Households with firearms in them are subject to more domestic violence, to more gun deaths, etc. etc. etc. If, as you say, we are responsible for our own safety (something I might agree with, but would want to tease out a whole lot of stuff before I did so,) then it strikes me as incredibly silly that the notion that owning a gun makes one safer or somehow is a tool to make one safer, because the opposite happens to be the case.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Guns do make you safer in the event of a breakdown in civil society. It’s closer to the surface than you think — Bush had plans for martial law in case we lost our financial system.

      Guns make you safer if you can see the bad guy coming, and don’t have to worry about him taking your gun and shooting you with it.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      See jr’s comment below. To run it a bit further, your point about firearms & domestic violence is a correlation with the possible causation in reverse. Firearms do not create domestic violence, rather people who are prone to domestic violence are more likely to seek out & own firearms.

      This is not just some whishful thinking on my part, it is the only logical conclusion. Firearms are inanimate objects, they can not talk or reason, they emit no signal or chemical that could affect a human brain, etc. It is physically, emotionally, and psychically impossible for a firearm to alter a humans behavior. The pathology in question will already exist, the worst that can be said is that a firearm will enable that pathology to a specific potential end.

      This suggests to me, as I said in my very first comment all the way at the top, that this is an issue better addressed through other social policy, such as mental health policy, or domestic violence policy.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Firearms do not create domestic violence, rather people who are prone to domestic violence are more likely to seek out & own firearms.

        Both could be true. I mean, not “create,” but escalate. Clearly people who are prone to domestic violence might seek out firearms (I don’t knw that they’re more likely). But once they get them, isn’t it possible that the domestic violence that occurs in those homes causes more damage that that which occurs in homes with DV but not guns? It’s not like it’s likely that domestic abusers who have guns are likely hitting people a lot less than domestic abusers who don’t have guns are, before then maybe shooting someone.

        I realize that there are other weapons in the houses of people who are prone to domestic violence – knives, staple guns, whatever. I think that’s a stronger point. But it’s still possible that, net all of that, guns still make domestic violence more destructive than it would otherwise be. It’s worth study and I’d be interested in good studies on the point.

        I will say that the fact(?) that people who are prone to domestic violence (and I’m assuming it’s the case re: all other kinds of violence as well) are more likely to seek out & own firearms than the healthy population is makes me marginally but perceptibly more inclined to potentially support gun control measures on lower justification than I otherwise would. That’s a background fact about guns that in my view ought to lower our baseline inclination to maintain a high bar to restrictions on ownership (sales, production, whatever). I realize that the most effective way to address that is to attempt to restrict access only for those with high risk. But it doesn’t follow that a fact like that shouldn’t color our baseline views about a product in general, in part because solutions targeted at identifying those who actually pose those risks themselves carry the risk of being implemented in discriminatory ways, Indeed, it’s a narrow maze to run not to end up with that problem going down that road. (Which is not to say I’m against trying.)

        I’m trying to think of a product that featured that differential that I wouldn’t feel that way about.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Which is why I emphasize that the issue is best dealt with via other avenues.

        Improving our mental health or domestic violence policy can help better identify trouble before it has a chance to fully metastasize.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        From the fact that X might be the most effective individual way to combat a problem does not flow that Y, a somewhat less effective way to combat it shouldn’t be done in addition to X. X + Y may be more effective than just X.

        Which is not an argument that, e.g. any particular policy that would be effective at all must be done, whatever the cost. I’m not arguing for any particular ban or anything. Certain kinds of bans on certain kinds of weapons in certain scenarios I’m sure would have too high a price in liberty for me without doubt.

        But you have to look at those individual ideas and their tradeoffs. It doesn’t work to just say, “Well, I have my own favorite approach that I think we should focus on to the exclusion of other means, and holy cow, whaddya know it doesn’t have anything to do with restricting access to any weapons at all!”

        As an argument against any other proposals, there is no force in that at all.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Firearms do not create domestic violence, rather people who are prone to domestic violence are more likely to seek out & own firearms.

        And gun-rights advocates defend their right to own and seek out firearms, which is one of the reasons that there is a vector between fire-arm ownership and lack of physical safety.Report

  15. Avatar j r says:

    There are two pretty common gun control arguments that I am seeing at various places on this thread. Figured that it would be best to just jump down here and make a new comment.

    – One is the idea that guns don’t actually make us safer, because the numbers tell us differently. In reality, the numbers don’t tell us any such thing, at least not any way that isn’t completely tautological. It is a bit like saying that owning a car increases your chances of a DWI. The nature of statistics is that they tell us something about the world ceteris paribus, but all else is not equal. So, we can say for instance that a man who abuses his wife is more likely to shoot his wife if he has a gun or that a person who is suicidal is more likely to use a gun to commit suicide if there is one in the house. That is a pretty persuasive argument for no being an abuser or for seeking help if you feel suicidal, but it doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what effect having a gun is going to have on any particular household not already suffering from some pre-existing pathology.

    This is another very good example of how this is mostly about culture war and not harm reduction.
    For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics holds a policy position that effectively calls on parents not just to exercise proper gun safety, but to remove guns entirely from their homes and also calls on the government to ban whole categories of firearms, like hand guns. Every year, about 200 or so children are killed in unintentional firearms-related incidents. At the same time, about 700 children in that age range die in accidental drownings, most in residential swimming pools. I’ve never seen pediatricians telling parents that they ought to fill in their backyard pools.

    – The second thing is the observation that while within the United States, there is no correlation between tight gun control and lower gun crime rights, there is a correlation internationally. And yes, that is sort of the case, but why stop at correlation when we can dig into this issue and try to figure out whether there is causality and in which direction the causality works. So, for other countries it is possible that they have much lower rates of gun crime, because they have tighter gun control laws and fewer guns. The reverse is also possible, that other countries have tighter gun control laws and fewer gun crimes, because they have fewer guns in the first place. This goes back to the prohibition point. Laws cannot change a culture that does not want to change. There are lots of historical reasons why guns are relatively rare in Europe and Canada, but present in America. You cannot go back and change that history.

    If someone presented me with a magic button that, when pushed, made almost all the guns in America disappear, I would be tempted to push that button. That would certainly lead to much lower rates of gun violence. Unfortunately, we have no such button and laws and regulations are not magic.

    The reality is that there are lots of guns in the United States and lots of people who have and/or want guns. You can crack down on those people, but mostly you are going to be cracking down on the people who use guns safely and legally, while the people who commit most of the gun crime remain in the black market. Short of banning the further manufacturing, importing and sale of firearms and then going door-to-door and confiscating existing weapons, there is no way to get us to Canadian or European levels of gun ownership. And even then, people would smuggle weapons across the border or start making them in black market gunsmith shops.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      It seems pretty rational to take into account the huge extent to which owning a car would increase your risk of DWI when making lifestyle decisions about things like… whether to be a car owner. …To me.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      …Can’t we also say that a man who doesn’t abuse his wife is more likely to shoot his wife if he has a gun in the house and he happens to have a mental break, than if he doesn’t have a gun in the house?

      It seems to me that, whatever the pre-existing risk factor for someone shooting a household member, the gun already being there will raise it. And it will raise the odds of an accidental shooting in that house. And it will raise the odds of a bullet going astray during an attempt by a perhaps trained but still inexperienced homeowner to defend his home using that gun. And etc.

      It’s a fair point that other things cause injuries and deaths as well. As a risk facotr, I gree there’s probably no reason for the AAP to single out guns. But from a utility standpoint, there is a reasons for families to focus on guns meant for self-defense: that safety from harm is the primary ostensible utility they provide!

      If airbags consistently and persistently killed more people than they saved, would we say “Keep putting them in?” No, because they’re not there to do anything other than save lives. If they’re net killing people, there is simply no non-safety utility that trades off the fact that they net killed people (if they did).

      Swimming pools have a different utility from providing security. We can question the trade-off, but at least it can be identified. Owning a car has considerable non-safety-related utility. The risk-cost is high, but w can see the tradeoff.

      If having a gun for security actually decreases your security (not saying it does, but if it does), then that is like if airbags net killed people.

      OTOH, if owning a gun is about other utility than security: self-identity (“I’m not me if I don’t own guns”); collecting/investments; hunting; etc., then there is your utility for trading off against the increased risk factor it poses.

      But without considering what the actual ostensible utility of owning guns is (which is obviously more variable across people for guns than for swimming pools), it’s an incomplete comparison to compare the risks to having a swimming pool.

      Also: that is good info about the pools, thanks. I’ll take that one off the list of priorities (that it was never on).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Can’t we also say that a man who doesn’t abuse his wife is more likely to shoot his wife if he has a gun in the house and he happens to have a mental break, than if he doesn’t have a gun in the house?

        That’s a big game of “What if…?” that is fun to play, but can fly so far down the rabbit hole that it isn’t for useful.

        If airbags consistently and persistently killed more people than they saved, would we say “Keep putting them in?”

        Bad analogy, but your point is good. The assumption we have to make is that people who own guns have rationally evaluated the risks & have taken the actions they feel are adequate to mitigate those risks within their lives. As tragic as accidental/unintentional/mistaken shootings are, the fact is that they are still rather rare and the vast majority of gun owners practice effective gun safety and storage and never have an incident. We hear about the exceptions precisely because they are so rare (and if it bleeds, it leads; and blogs that are keyed to such stories draw attention to such from a wider ranging audience).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        If airbags consistently and persistently killed more people than they saved

        IMO, we are never going to get good numbers on “lives saved” for guns, since I can’t think of any way to really easily and accurately measure such a thing.

        I mentioned here that once my elderly great-aunt used a gun once to scare off a home intruder in her house (a man she actually knew who had mental and drug issues, probably just there to steal some stuff to feed his habit).

        Now, maybe she could have scared him off without the gun; or, maybe he could have taken the gun from her; but all I know is, that incident and others like it aren’t really tracked (or even very trackable).

        Had she shot him, or he her, THAT would have been recorded. And then we’d have a check in the minus column with no corresponding offsetting statistical plus (except for, you know, the tiny, inconsequential plus of a wonderful lady not getting robbed, or worse yet, physically harmed.)

        Should I scare off an intruder who might have otherwise harmed my family, that’s up to 5 lives “saved” (not even offset by one lost). But AFAIK we don’t count that way.

        Even if I shoot him, (= one life lost) we STILL can’t count 5 lives “saved” (because maybe he wouldn’t have harmed us at all; maybe he was just making an empty threat to get us to comply while he robbed the place…but maybe he would have).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        probably recorded only because she was in her house and the neighbors would have called.
        I know people who have been politely threatened with guns (Not Recorded!), shot people with guns in the middle of the city (Not Recorded!), and been shot at with a gun at an illegal stil (Not Recorded!).

        I’m pretty sure a lot more gets not recorded than people think. Particularly if you can run away from the scene of the incident.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Why is the analogy bad if the point is good?

        I’m talking there about owning guns only for protection. If they make you less safe, it’s just like if airbags net killed people. It’s a good analogy.

        But then I go on to say that clearly some people do own them for other reasons as well. But the point is that the protection lane is the protection lane. If guns make you net less safe on average, then they they fail as an instrument of personal security overall as a product. So then the conversation turns to whatever their other utility is for people, where it’s a tradeoff of one kind of utility against a decrease in personal security, like with a swimming pool.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        That’s a big game of “What if…?”

        Guns in the house increase the chances that someone gets shot in the house. It’s not that complicated.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Michael Drew,
        People put airbags into cars because it’s a great way to wave the flag of “see, aren’t we safe!!”. I’ve seen the European argument that building “safety devices” into cars is rather stupid. Better something light and easy to maneuver out of trouble.

        Do some people have guns for same reason? Of course!Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        Why is the analogy bad if the point is good?

        What exactly is the point of the analogy?

        If the point is that individuals ought to take an honest accounting of all the risk factors when deciding whether to own and keep a weapon in their home, an accounting that includes considering all existing and potential possibilities for mishandling that weapon, then I agree. Individuals absolutely ought to do that when deciding on whether it’s wise to have a weapon in their homes.

        If the point is that the existing statistics on gun deaths is, itself, enough to justify tightening restrictions on personal gun ownership, then I absolutely disagree.

        My original comment was a push back against the people saying that having a gun unequivocally increases the chances of doing harm to yourself or to your loved ones. The point being that whether having a gun increases or decreases your overall safety is dependent on who “you” are.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Piling on with jr here. There is a lot to unpack with regard to “a firearm in the house makes it more likely someone will be shot”, because that is the what the actual study measured. Not the likelihood a firearm owner would be shot, not the likelihood a family member would be shot, only the likelihood someone would be shot. And if I remember correctly, the increase in risk was pretty small, and it did not control for risk or mitigation factors like socio-economic status, criminal history, the legality of ownership, the justification of the shooting, etc. Which was why the study was pretty roundly criticized.

        To put it simply, I’m well educated, middle to upper middle class, no criminal history, have firearms training, etc. The likelihood that I or anyone in my family or circle of friends is going to be shot with one of my firearms is extremely small, practically noise. My cholesterol is more likely to kill me than my firearms will.

        The guy who barely got out of high school and who leaves a handgun on the coffee table where his girlfriends 5 year old can get it? Yeah, that household is at risk. But should my right to ownership be severely curtailed because he’s an idiot? Sorry, doesn’t work that way.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        The assumption we have to make is that people who own guns have rationally evaluated the risks & have taken the actions they feel are adequate to mitigate those risks within their lives.

        I’m not in favor of overriding their decision, but I have to object to this. There’s a body of pretty good data that indicates that people suck at evaluating tail risks in general and that they specifically massively overestimate the rate of violent crime and the likelihood that they’ll be victims of violent crime. I’m willing to grant that they’re sensible adults who make rational decisions based on faulty assumptions, but it’s still very much a GIGO problem.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Let me run a bit more here. First off, you are focusing on the bad, without acknowledging the good or the benign (benign be the bulk). But let’s for the sake of argument, assume the bad is very widespread, a systemic problem.

        How should we be addressing a systemic problem? Well, in true American fashion we do two things. First we try to ban X in an effort to make the systemic problem go away, even though that has NEVER, in the history of the human race, EVER done anything more than a teeny modicrum of good.

        The second thing we try, once we realize the ban isn’t working (although no way are we removing the ban & saying we approve of X, that’s madness! Better to destroy lives through legal action…), is to begin education programs, and we start in the public education system. This makes sense! It’s what a public education system is there for, educating the public! We teach our children to watch for cars & safely cross the street, we teach them to say no to drugs, we teach them to practice safe sex, and don’t drink & drive, and a whole host of other social ills that we at least try to mitigate through empowerment via correct information.

        Except firearms. No one is allowed to talk about firearms in school. Eddie Eagle is rarely let in to tell kids that if they see a gun, to stop, don’t touch or let other kids touch it, leave the room, and get an adult. Older kids are not taught proper firearms handling, or the four rules. When it comes to firearms, the public education system decides all the responsibility lies on the parents. Us educated firearm owners are fine. We can teach our kids. But what about the parents who don’t? Or worse, the ones who do, but are themselves uneducated about firearm safety?

        Our public education systems allergy to firearms contributes to kids being killed every year because it refuses to talk about firearms the kids may encounter in an uncontrolled setting.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Misthreaded a response below.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Sure, totally agree. Now how do you control for it? First thing you’d have to do is get the media to stop blasting on about the latest violent crime du jour. When that is done, then we can discuss other things, but as long as the media insists on skewing the information in, we have no hope of correcting the information out.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        First thing you’d have to do is get the media to stop blasting on about the latest violent crime du jour. When that is done, then we can discuss other things, but as long as the media insists on skewing the information, we have no hope of correcting the information out. [“Information out,” i.e. the decision to own weapons for protection.]

        Poppycock. Why do you get to say what hope there is? Have you yourself tried converting from a firearms-ownership evangelist to an anti-firearms-ownership evangelist?

        We certainly can make a point of saying loudly that because of this media tendency, people are almost certainly overestimating their risk from outside crime, and thus almost certainly overestimating the protective value of owning weapons. And we can therefore loudly counsel them to probably decide not to own weapons, rather than to own them if they are on the fence (or even if they aren’t).

        We can say those things in the face of what the media does, and keep doing it even when the media doesn’t change.

        It seems to me that getting these kinds of marginal gun buyers not to choose to buy would be a big key in raising the proportion of the gun-owning population who are good (by an objective, rather than comparative measure) at owning weapons safely. I do have enough faith in your kind that the most hard-core gun culture people at least tend to be better in their gun safety behavior than the marginal owners are, at least when they’re sane.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      The point of the analogy is to push back on this:

      the idea that guns don’t actually make us safer, because the numbers tell us differently. In reality, the numbers don’t tell us any such thing, at least not any way that isn’t completely tautological. It is a bit like saying that owning a car increases your chances of a DWI.

      Here, you’re treating only the personal security reason for having a gun and comparing it to the risks associated with owning a car. If you choose to own a car, you do increase your risk of DWI. Maybe it’s more important to you to be able to drink when and how much you want than to own a car. You’re just assuming that the car isn’t the problem in that situation, when in fact that is a question of priorities for individual people. Lots of people calculate not to have a car in part not to have to worry about DWI on a regular basis, and its a rational calculation. Likewise, in general many people calculate not to have guns because iof various compound risk factors, or just the risk factor of owning a gun in general. (And indeed it’s not irrational to calculate not to own a car just based on the simple car-ownership risk factor, not even the alcohol-compounded risk factor.)

      The problem with your analogy (because you are specifically addressing the personal security reason for having a gun; this changes when we bring in the other kinds of reasons people have), is that the reason to own a car is almost never mainly about personal physical security. Owning a car (or at least driving a car regularly) is a net risk to your physical security. It’s about mobility and conveyance of objects. Convenience. Time effeiciency, and the like. The the whole value proposition of taking risk of driving the car is based in things other than personal physical security.

      But you were addressing specifically resistance to the idea of guns making people safer as the reason to own guns, and you used that analogy. If owning guns doesn’t make us safer, then there is no value pertaining to making us safer in owning guns. But even if driving a car makes us less safe, there is value to it, indeed no one really advances personal physical security as a primary reason to own a car.

      I realize your point was that it’s focusing on the wrong problem to say that owning a car increases your chances of DWI. But I wanted to point out that if a gun bought for protection net decreases your personal physical security, then the value proposition is wiped out, whereas if a car bought for mobility decreases your personal physical security, then there is a risk/reward tradeoff to consider. You can’t really quantify and compare the value of mobility and the risk of driving in the direct way you can calculate the how much having a gun increases versus decreases your chance of being shot or having other adverse results flow from that decision.

      And you can’t waive away the statistics by saying certeris paribus but everything else is not equal. Yes, other things may more strongly influence whether a shooting occurs in any particular home. But it’s falsely dismissive of statistics to say that a heightened overall risk can’t tell us that having a gun heightens rather than lessens your risk of having a shooting occur, holding all those other things equal. That’s exactly what the statistics tell us, and if you’re just regular family thinking about whether to buy a gun purely for protection, that’s pretty relevant information.

      The real question to consider for that regular family that might mitigate that ceteris paribus stat is whether there is some reason they depart from the average likelihood that the gun will actually cause some other kind of harm to them not to occur that otherwise would have – or that they depart on the safety side from the average likelihood of the gun causing some damage.

      Clearly, if they have heightened risk factors for accident or internal crime, like domestic violence then they’re worse-off even than the average family. But if they’re merely average, then the net is still less security. It’s only if there’s a higher likelihood of the gun preventing some other harm, or if they depart from average on the side of the likelihood that they will safely store and use the gun that they should expect to beat the odds.

      And how many gun owners believe that they will handle, store, and use their guns more safely than the average gun owner? I’m guessing a lot more than 50%. It’s hard to ever be sure you’re not among the self-deceived. I also would guess that a fair number of the self-deceived on that point, or those just hanging around average in gun safety practice, live in more-secure-than-average areas where their guns are relatively unlikely to prevent other harm to their families. this makes it so that they have to be even more safe in their storage/use of their guns than they otherwise would in order for the gun’s presence not to be making them net less safe statistically.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        But you were addressing specifically resistance to the idea of guns making people safer as the reason to own guns, and you used that analogy.

        No. I was not.

        I own a gun that I’ve had to keep elsewhere because of the laws of my city prohibit me from legally keeping it in my home. I want that not to be the case and not because of safety, but because I enjoy recreational shooting. And because I don’t think the government is correct, neither in an objective sense nor in a constitutional sense, in making what I want to do a crime.

        As I already said, yes, individuals ought to make adequate assessments of gun risks, but beyond that I’m not sure where you’re going with this.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I know you have the other reasons. But you were referencing the claim the guns do make people safer:

        One is the idea that guns don’t actually make us safer, because the numbers tell us differently. In reality, the numbers don’t tell us any such thing, at least not any way that isn’t completely tautological. It is a bit like saying that owning a car increases your chances of a DWI. The nature of statistics is that they tell us something about the world ceteris paribus, but all else is not equal.

        The “don’t actually” there must reference claims that are being denied that guns do make us safer. And those claims are frequently made and cited by gun owners and gun sellers as a reason to have a gun.

        Comparing it to the car (especially DWI) example is misleading in this context because for it to be similar people would have to be trying to sell cars on the basis of them making DWIs less likely (than not owning a car). No one does that, because they don’t. They sell them as convenient, reliable, comfortable, functional as transport, etc. They don’t claim that they lower your chance of DWI.

        If gun sellers didn’t sell guns on the basis of providing personal security, and gun owners didn’t justify their gun ownership that way in part, then the analogy would be better. But then you wouldn’t be making it by focusing on that reason (even though you have others), because no one would be rebutting that sales job with statistics, because no one would be advancing that sales job.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        What you quote me saying is that, “the numbers don’t tell us any such thing, at least not any way that isn’t completely tautological. And that is absolutely true. Everything you are responding with is tautological. By definition, a gun crime necessitates a gun. Yes, buying a car increases your chances of getting a DWI, but it’s far from a good reason to not buy a car or the try and stop other people, who don’t have alcohol problems, from buying a car.

        What’s the point of this line of argument?

        Yes, keeping a gun in your house increases the chances of experiencing a gun incident.
        And putting in a pool increases the chances of someone drowning.
        And having a gas stove increases the chances that you’ll have a gas leak that leads to an explosion.
        And having indoor plumbing increases the chances that you’ll slip in the shower, invent the flux capacitor, drive a Delorean back in time and get stuck there because you timed the lightning strike incorrectly.

        So what? In only one of those cases do people try to put this forward as an argument why people ought to just absolutely refrain from doing the thing in question.

        Tell me what you think all of this means; otherwise, it’s just a pointless intellectual exercise.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        It’s not tautological that owning a car increases your chances of DWI, it’s a real relationship between discreet things in th world. It’s just that it’s really obvious, so it seems like a tautology to you. A tautology is “That bachelor is not married.” increasing your chance of getting a DWI is a tightly-related cost of owning a car. And it’s not at all irrational to calculate not to own a car because of that cost/risk.

        But the thing with cars is, they’re mainly good for getting around, not for keeping you from DWI – and, more important, everyone is clear about that. Their utility is not at all in lowering your chance of a DWI compared to not having a car.

        I’m not defending restrictions that keep you from having a gun in your house. I’m just saying that it makes sense to question the calculations of people who are choosing to do that out of a belief that it makes them safer. Which is the reason you referenced by talking about people who argue that that is not “actually” true. It an argument people make and do rely upon as their primary or only reason to have a gun. And in certain cases it is almost certainly true. but it mater that on average it is not. I’t complicated to figure out if you are among the minority of people on the other side of that divide.

        As to why people put this forward as an argument why people ought to just absolutely refrain from having guns in their home for any reason, I’m not sure that many people do. Clearly, enough people in your city’s government put some combination of reasons forth why they want (and require) you to refrain from it, but I can’t really speak to that.

        To the extent that people put this argument forward only on the basis of guns not making you safer, when other things clearly make you less safe and they’re okay with them (again, I don’t know how many really demand people refrain, versus simply question the prudence of the decision), I think it is because most people are thinking of the debate in terms of having the gun exclusively for protection. I’m not sure why the discussion go framed that way so starkly, but I guess it has. Bring up hunting, and I think most people suddenly change tunes. (Which does make some sense because you can lock up the hunting rifle totally and completely and not nearly negate its hunting value, while you can’t do that with the gun you have for protection. Too inaccessible, and it’s not much protection.)

        So I think people bring it up because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for people to have something for protection that on average makes people less safe. I think people understand that that is an average so that there are situations where having a gun could make a person or family more safe, but in general I think people would like others to use the average as a basis to lean against owning a weapon (for protection). They probably want people to lean against it because they know it’s a fact that some guns do get lost and stolen, and it’s a fact of averages that there will be accidents. If people lean against owning weapons and the overall number of weapons thereby decreases, there should be fewer weapons who have lost their owner floating around, and fewer accidents.

        And they feel that this is different from asking this of people about their cars, because the utility of having a car is clear, while the whole premise here is that people are hoping that people considering buying weapons because they hope they will make them safer will reconsider on the basis of it being fairly likely that they are mistaken in that calculation. They think lots fewer people are mistaken about whether the basic utility that a car provides will be realized for them, so they feel like they’re asking people to give up something pretty reasonable: a pretty likely illusory increase in real personal security. Rather than something much more tangible: the almost certain reality of greater mobility.

        I think far fewer people are interested in asking people to give up the utility of weapons for hunting. I think sport-shooting and collecting (of modern, usable weapons that people who want weapons for purposes like protection or crime would actually want to use) is more of a middle case, where they don’t think the utility is likely illusory like for protection, but neither is it as sympathetic as hunting, for whatever reason. I’m pretty sympathetic to the sport-shooting side myself, less so to the non-antique collecting utility, as I think there risks of misaccounting and poor maintenance almost necessarily start to rise.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Michael Drew,
        Anything that can’t be prevented by police is likely to give me enough warning to dig up a gun, whether from the backyard or the local shop. If not, having a gun in the house is unlikely to defend against poison, or half a dozen easier ways to kill me and make it look like an accident.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        One gun owner I know (I know her because I know her mother-in-law, and see her when she visits from the South,) keeps her loaded gun in her beside table, which is not locked, and in easy reach of her two children, my friend’s grand children. I hear no end of concern from my friend about this, either. She can easily imagine one of the victims of gun violence being one of her grandkids. When she asked her daughter-in-law why the loaded gun was there the response was, “TeyBlacks,” spoken as a sort-of code to protect her children’s delicate ears from obvert racism. My friend, the god-daughter of one of New England’s celebrated Democratic politicians, is nearly apoplectic over this, and constantly tries to put this into perspective with having been a good mother to her son.

        But it does seem a scene oft-repeated; the short-sighed calculations of perceived risk vs. actual risk analysis.

        Funny, it always strikes me, that I never hear about a young, black kid’s right to carry a gun to protect himself in a violent neighborhood; but I suppose I’m just obtuse and miss these defenses of gun-ownership rights.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Funny, it always strikes me, that I never hear about a young, black kid’s right to carry a gun to protect himself in a violent neighborhood; but I suppose I’m just obtuse and miss these defenses of gun-ownership rights.

        Come, @zic. You’re better than that sort of concern trolling.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        ps – Just because you don’t hear it, doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Maybe you ought to expand your circle a bit.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @j-r I am absolutely not trolling, which is why I admitted to probably being obtuse. Rather, I’m under the impression that one of the reasons we make so many young black men felons is to strip them of their 2nd amendment rights.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        @j-r (& @mad-rocket-scientist if he wants.)

        Let me ask a follow-up now.

        Let’s say that you had demonstrated definitively that people feel differently about guns and are inclined to treat guns differently from other products, where you could also draw some parallels about why logically maybe some of their reasons could apply to the other products as well. But they just feel that way about guns, and are inclined to treat them accordingly from a regulatory perspective.

        What would be the significance of that? Why shouldn’t they feel differently about guns, or about this product from that product from that product, and want to treat them accordingly? Why shouldn’t they just go ahead and feel that way, and feel good about feeling that way?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …Maybe think of that in two parts:

        1) Why they shouldn’t just feel differently about different products where the arguments for feeling that way are a bit to substantially similar, and then

        1) Why they shouldn’t be inclined to treat those products differently according to their different feeling about them from a regulatory perspective.

        …As the answers I think clearly should not be the same.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        In all honesty, I don’t really understand your questions. I’m not really sure that I understand most of this thread. My original point is that to say guns make you unequivocally less safe, is to misuse the statistics in a fundamental way. There is a difference between descriptive statistics and predictive statistics. Generally, you shouldn’t be using descriptive statistics to try to predict outcomes, because they contain all sorts of spurious conflation.

        I don’t think that people ought to feel anyway about guns. People should be properly attuned to the risks that guns pose. And people should treat guns with the respect and the attention to safety that they warrant. Beyond that, I’m not all that interested in telling people what they should do.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Ah. Well, to me it seems different to say “to say guns make you unequivocally less safe, is to misuse the statistics in a fundamental way” is different from saying “the idea that guns don’t actually make us safer, because the numbers tell us differently. In reality, the numbers don’t tell us any such thing, at least not any way that isn’t completely tautological. It is a bit like saying that owning a car increases your chances of a DWI.”

        I understand that your point is that the numbers don’t tell us either thing, and maybe that they don’t tell us that guns do make us safer, either. But those claims – that guns make you unequivocally less safe; that guns don’t actually make us safer – first of all, are two pretty different things for the numbers not to be telling us. One could argue that if the numbers don’t tell us that guns actually make us safer, then they tell us differently (“they might and they might not” is different from “they do”). Whereas you are right that the numbers certainly don’t rise to telling us that guns make you unequivocally less safe. It’s an average, after all, so very likely some people are made safer by having guns.

        But more generally I’m not sure about your claim that descriptive statistics tell us so little about what’s likely to happen. They can’t make solid predictions about individuals, of course. And they obviously can’t say what will unequivocally happen to everybody. But I think they can tell us what’s most likely to be the case for you if you’re average and you do a thing. Which leaves you in the position of deciding, if you don’t like the sound of that, whether you’re far enough from average to make the most likely thing to happen to you if you do it something you like better.

        Moreover, it seems clear to me that statistics like that are more than enough to rebut general claims such as that guns make us safer (the claim you chose to name as the one being resisted). It’s hard to know what such claims mean exactly, but studies that show on average that homes with guns in them are more likely to experience gun violence seem like enough to rebut those claims, which in any case likely mis-formed. But descriptive statistics never hurt in addressing them all the same.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Rather, I’m under the impression that one of the reasons we make so many young black men felons is to strip them of their 2nd amendment rights.

        While I don’t think anyone in recent history has that as a stated or unstated but still desired goal, the truth is you are right, that happens. And as I stated way up above, there used to be a federally funded program by which those who’d become felons could petition the courts to restore their rights, and the gun control groups successfully lobbied for the funding to end.

        And I would bet a lot of those same gun control proponents lobbied for tougher drug crimes back in the day (to further strip away gun rights).Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @michael-drew the problem here isn’t just that homes with guns in them are more prone to gun violence, they’re also more prone to violence in general; the gun violence is often the extreme tip of a vast, hidden berg of violence; one that you can only really comprehend when you’ve listened to a woman describe how her intimate partner would clean his gun in front of her to make a point. I’ve sat through several of those conversations, and not one of these women actually was ever victim of gun violence, but they were certainly victim of other violence.

        There are also other forms of violence here — innocent toddlers turned matricides by the contents of their mother’s specially-made purses, for instance. Suicides. Inner-city drive by shootings. Police shootings. Even accidental hunting shootings, which are sometimes true accidents and sometimes dastardly plots. Not to mention highly public mass shootings in schools, abortion clinics, etc.

        If one wants to tease out appropriate gun policies; if one wants to actually condone the rights of gun owners, gun owners own some responsibility for helping tease out that nest of violence and taking responsibility for it. Responsibility does not equal pretending these things are problems that are unrelated to gun ownership, and should be solved in other ways, it seems it ought to embrace “these are the costs, how can we discourage them better.” Often, the answer will be deciding that the risks of physical safety are too great, and that the gun should remain a dream, not a reality. I here little of this sort of encouragement, and that dismays me greatly.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Let me add, I don’t think the gun control lobby that pushed to remove the federal path to rights restoration, or who pushed for tougher penalties for drug crimes, were racist. Rather, they were, and still are, dogmatically committed to their end goal, no matter the cost. I don’t think any of them really thought about the unintended consequences of their actions, and when those consequences became obvious, they just shrugged it off as collateral damage.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Rather, they were, and still are, dogmatically committed to their end goal, no matter the cost. I don’t think any of them really thought about the unintended consequences of their actions, and when those consequences became obvious, they just shrugged it off as collateral damage.

        Is that not equally true for the gun rights lobby?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        I was going to start talking about correlation and causation, saying that while we can hypothesize about how mch additional damage guns cause in violent homes into which they are introduced, it’s a mistake to think that guns are causing these to be violent homes in the first place.

        And I still think that’s true, but I now see that your point is a more nuanced one. It;s that, in violent homes, guns can contribute to the overall violence in ways other than being discharged. They can function as as an ongoing threat in the home.

        Much as they are out in the public street when brandished only (or concealed and then sprung on people), guns are a tool and symbol of power. And when power is concentrated and displayed and exercised cruelly by the already powerful over the weak, it is an ugly thing.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        It’s true for every ideologically blinkered movement.

        That said, gun rights groups are not trying to grant power to government to damage entire demographics in pursuit of their own goals. A single bad gun owner can maybe hurt a handful of people before the rest of society puts a stop to it. An overzealous DA can destroy lives in job lots if given the power, and society will happily buy into the lie that he’s making them all safer.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        And I still think that’s true, but I now see that your point is a more nuanced one. It;s that, in violent homes, guns can contribute to the overall violence in ways other than being discharged. They can function as as an ongoing threat in the home.

        True, but this is something that should be best addressed with other social policy that strikes at domestic violence directly.

        One of the issues there is with regard to problems like this is related to the discussion with Kazzy way up above. There is value in casting a wide net to catch trouble before it manifests, but if the net is difficult to get out of, you’ll have trouble getting buy in. We can see this with the No-Fly list, or closer to the everyday, with the trend of law enforcement & CPS dealing harshly with free-range parents.

        It’s one thing to see a couple of kids walking alone on the street and a police officer doing a welfare check & maybe having a quick word with parents to make sure everything is on the up & up. It’s something else if CPS gets involved and literally makes a legal case out of it.

        Zic would probably prefer a very wide net to be cast to identify & deal with domestic abusers, especially those who have a firearm, but what about everyone who is a false positive? How do we make sure their rights are respected, and avoid dragging them through an ordeal they don’t deserve?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist honestly, the problem of false positives is a real and serious problem, just as false rape accusations are real and serious problems. I would never deny either.

        But the problems of one partner in a relationship, often with children in the house, watch an abusing partner clean a gun are pretty complex, often involving ongoing battery and mental and financial control. But pretty much all the power, in this relationship, resides with the person cleaning the gun. What little protection others have gotten is often hard won, decades of work to change legislation, to educate police forces and judges, to even have advocates so that battered people aren’t forced to sit down and negotiate with their batterers. I’ve heard judges tell women who’ve just told the judge of being beaten and threatened to go into the other room, alone, with an abuser and ‘work things out.’

        I respect you tremendously, but I still don’t think you have very much notion of the cruelty and terror your excusing on the pretense of false positives.

        As with rape, which men need to take responsibility for ending, gun owners own responsibility for gun violence, and turning to false positives without even addressing the social policies here stuns me. It’s rather like the Republican call to repeal and replace Obamacare without even the tiniest glimpse of what ‘replace’ actually means. It’s cowardly; and that’s a term I thing aptly applies to most gun owners. Afraid they’ll be victims, so their victims of their own fear, and afraid to actually deal with the consequences of their fetish. They’re cowardly. I do not think that of you, but I do think that you fail to see that in many of the people you feel brotherhood with on this topic.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        I do have a notion of the terror. Not my family, but close friends of ours while I was growing up (the dad was a piece of work, would do crap like clean his firearms while berating his wife & kids, actually stuffed his wife in an oven once and turned on the gas).

        I doubt many firearm owners would have a problem with a guy like that (or any domestic abuser) having his/her 2nd A. rights revoked/suspended/whatever. The tricky part is not getting firearm owners to agree that such a person needs to be reigned in, it’s how to do that while maintaining due process. This is the same problem with rape cases. Due process must be respected or the legal system becomes even more of a sham than it already is for large swaths of the population.

        My understanding right now is that without a complaint, it is very difficult for the justice system to take action against an abuser. I personally am not aware of any systems that do a better job, or reduce the criteria by which the police can take action. One thing I know firearm owners balk at is that, in many places around the country, especially in states that are more hostile to firearms, once the police seize guns, there is a good chance that even if a person is exonerated, they never get their property back, and if they do, it takes a court order to make it happen. This is related to what I was talking to Morat about with regard to a registry.

        As long as the government insists it can treat personal property as something it can take at will, with no recompense or duty to return, this will be a sticking spot. This SCOTUS case, which was just recently argued, may change the legal landscape enough, or at least start to change it, so that such concerns become lessened enough that gun owners won’t fear that a temporary siezure for cause will become a permanent siezure because the police are stalling.

        Remember, the worry is rarely that the police will seize an abusers firearms and not give them back, it’s that they’ll use that legal framework to go after other people who have merely annoyed them, but have done nothing else wrong (and yes, PDs do this all the time, especially small ones). Again, this is something local and federal LEOs and prosecutors do all the time. Just think about Civil Asset Forfeiture and how a legal framework meant to deprive drug lords of high value property is leveraged mostly against poor people who are unable to fight the system.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        PS This is exactly why I am so opposed to the Drug War and the Terror War. Not because I want to smoke pot or need to hug a jihadi, but because it has so skewed our law enforcement priorities and legal system that dealing with other, larger problems becomes much more difficult to address for fear of the power of government that was born of these Wars.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist it intrigues me that your solution is law enforcement and the justice system and not changing social mores; because it’s social mores that empower wife beaters to some great extent, though there has been a lot of change in that since the 1990’s.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        But more generally I’m not sure about your claim that descriptive statistics tell us so little about what’s likely to happen. They can’t make solid predictions about individuals, of course. And they obviously can’t say what will unequivocally happen to everybody. But I think they can tell us what’s most likely to be the case for you if you’re average and you do a thing.

        The problem here is that average doesn’t exist. Average is a statistical concept created when you lump a whole bunch of people or things into a sample population. Sometimes the average tells you something vaguely predictive and sometimes it tells you something completely misleading. For instance, let’s say I tell you that there are ten men in a room and the average height of the group is 5’10. You might walk into that room expecting to see a group of men, generally of average height with a few taller and a few shorter. But what if you walk into that room and find five NBA players and five little people? You probably would not have been expecting that.

        What the gun incident statistics do is to aggregate a whole bunch of people into one group, people who practice responsible gun safety with people who are irresponsible, people who are domestic abusers with people who are not, people with mental health problems and people without, even people involved in criminal activities (one way to drastically increase the odds of experiencing gun violence) with law-abiding citizens. So, no those descriptive statistics do not tell you a whole lot about what is likely to happen to any gun owner independent of who they are.

        If you want me to believe that owning a gun drastically escalates the possibility of experiencing a gun crime even for people who are non-violent, safety-conscious, law-abiding gun owners, you’re going to have show me the evidence.

        And speaking of evidence…

        Everything that @zic says in this thread is emblematic of what I’ve said in my first two posts about gun control advocates making arguments completely devoid of objective evidence or with misapplied evidence. This isn’t necessarily a criticism. People can and should have any view of guns and gun ownership that they wish and don’t need to justify it. If, however, you want to make a case to me about more gun regulation, then I want to see good reasons, not anecdotes and shade.

        Take a statement like this, for example:

        It’s cowardly; and that’s a term I thing aptly applies to most gun owners. Afraid they’ll be victims, so their victims of their own fear, and afraid to actually deal with the consequences of their fetish. They’re cowardly.

        The first thing that comes to mind when I read a statement like that is that it is completely unverifiable and completely unfalsifiable. It is the sort of statement that tells me way more about the person making it than it does about gun owners. It’s only real purpose is to try to lower the social status of gun owners.

        I think that a lot of gun control advocates believe that guns are just bad and the fewer of them the better, so the best thing to do is to continually seek to vilify gun owners in the hopes either many of them defect to the anti-gun side or they become such a marginalized group that it becomes politically easier to enact harsh gun control regulation. And this an approach unlikely to work, because to the extent that it does get some gun owners to ditch their guns, those will be the gun owners most likely to responsibly keep and use their guns. And for every person who does succumb to this social pressure, another gun owner will be alienated and pushed further into the anti-gun control camp.

        In the meantime, all we get is more culture war.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        this an approach unlikely to work, because to the extent that it does get some gun owners to ditch their guns, those will be the gun owners most likely to responsibly keep and use their guns.

        I feel the opposite way. It won’t have that effect on criminals whose intent is to harm people with guns (though the intent behind the effort to lower the overall number of guns is that there be fewer guns around, so more expensive for criminals to get them, so fewer do), but I think it will be on people on the fencce about whether to own, who ar the well-intentioned people who least understand the responsibilities of gun ownership. least internalize what being faithful in carrying those responsibilities out will mean for their lives (just like people experience with having kids), and have the greatest chance of, despite their good intentions, eventually shirking those responsibilities.

        Incidentally, what you say about people just not liking guns and wanting there to be fewer os them and for gun ownership to be a less presumptively laudable thing in our culture, that was teh subject of those questions above you claimed not to understand. The question was, what’s wrong with any of that?

        On the average and stats stuff, I’m not super confident of my view there, so I’m willing to concede that you make reasonable points and I don’t claim to have answers for all of them. In general though, I think we do look to statistics about what has happened in the past to make judgements about what is likely in the future, and I’d be surprised if you disclaim that mode of empirical inquiry and argument in areas where there’s a point that you do want to make that can be aided with that kind of argument. Nowhere have I said that when pursuing such arguemnts, the right way to do so isn’t with lots of caveats.

        Maybe next time you’re making an argument where there is a statistical case for what you are saying that you are declining to advance because it doesn’t withstand the Humean rigor which you are applying to the abstract idea of reasoning from aggregate statistics about what has happened in the past to what is likely in the future, you can point out that your restrain so I can see your consistency on the point.


        If you want me to believe that owning a gun drastically escalates the possibility of experiencing a gun crime even for people who are non-violent, safety-conscious, law-abiding gun owners, you’re going to have show me the evidence.

        I never said I wanted you to believe that. You can believe whatever you want about what the study we’re talking about tells you about that proposition. (But for example, I don’t think the study itself or anyone else has said that the study shows that the risk is drastically elevated by owning a gun.)

        What I said is that that study or ones like us are enough to rebut claims that guns actually make us safer.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        The question was, what’s wrong with any of that?

        Morally, nothing is wrong with that. It’s what we’ve basically done with smoking. The problem is that it wasn’t enough for some to just make smoking unappealing to the public at large. They had to start trying to criminalize it as well. That is the step too far. This is, in a lot of places, what I see happen to gun rights (although in some places the rights are expanding, even if ownership goes down). It’s one thing to say we want less of X even though it is legal, it’s something else to criminalize aspects of X just to make it go away, even if no one is being harmed by it.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        I would agree that it’s wrong to criminalize something just because you don’t like something.

        But notice that my questions to JR didn’t ask about what’s wrong with criminalizing things just because you don’t like them. They asked about 1) what’s wrong with just not liking them, which we agree on, but then 2) what’s wrong with letting those feelings affect/inform one’s thinking about policy/regulation.

        As your way of thinking about policy – having a high bar to banning things – suggests, there always might be some background legitimate-in-form reasons to ban things; the question is always whether they are compelling enough to rise over a bar against banning things.

        The way I would suggest it is legitimate for one’s feelings about guns to affect one’s policy consideration of them is in where you set the bar for kinds of reasons for various regulations (including maybe bans, or certain bans with certain terms).

        So, the 2nd Amendment set a high bar to bans on weapons, and that is going to be the law going forward, regardless. But people can think about where they would set their personal bar for different products. And if they don’t like a product, what I’m asking is, what’s wrong with setting a low(ish) bar to banning it (for reasons there than not liking it)?

        I’m not saying their reason to ban guns (or impose some other regulation) is that they don’t like them. I’m saying that the presumption against banning or other regulation that they personally would give to guns might be lower than that they give to other products (contra the signal that the 2nd Amendment sends about our legal values; people can have those kinds of opinions).

        So, they might want to ban guns because they are dangerous. Well, you say, band saws are dangerous too, ban them? No, they say. They just feel differently about band saws than guns, so the presumption in their favor that they have is lower. So you want to ban them because you don’t like them, you say? No, they say, they want to ban them because they’re dangerous, and they give them a low presumption against being banned for being dangerous.

        So the questions would be, can people want to ban (or otherwise regulate) certain things because they are dangerous (not saying that’s necessary a sufficient reason, it’s just a stand-in for “substantive reason other than not liking”), but not other things that are equally dangerous,

        1) not at all, for any reason?;

        2) only if they have a reason that meets some particular kind of rationality and soundness test?; or

        3) just because they feel differently about the things they find dangerous and want to ban for being dangerous, so that there is a lower bar to wanting to ban that thing for being dangerous than other equally dangerous things?

        I certainly expect most people will say they need a good reason for the wanting to regulate something that’s equally dangerous as something else they don’t want to ban, and I think that’s reasonable.

        But I don’t think it’s the way most of us actually operate, and I don’t hold that view myself. I agree that you shouldn’t seek to regulate or ban something just because you don’t like it. And you shouldn’t seek to regulate or ban something for a trivial reason other than not liking it either. But once you get into a place where there are reasonable reasons to potentially partially ban or heavily regulate something, as I think is the case with guns and for that matter band saws, even though there are also good reasons not to, then when making decisions about which things like that to support heavy regulation of, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with supporting the regulation of guns but not band saws, because your bar against regulating guns is lower than you bar against regulating band saws.

        Shorter: positing that band saws and guns are equally dangerous, you would like guns to be thought of by everyone as tools just like band saws, so that their attitudes about regulating them should be the same. but people don’t feel that way. They think of band saws as tools but they think of guns as guns. And for that reason, the same reason for regulating guns (being dangerous) clears their bar for regulation when it doesn’t clear their bar for regulating band saws. And I’m saying that’s okay even if their reason for that is that they just feel differently about band saws than they do about guns.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        They asked about 1) what’s wrong with just not liking them, which we agree on, but then 2) what’s wrong with letting those feelings affect/inform one’s thinking about policy/regulation.

        I answered those questions in my comments. There is nothing wrong with either. Believe what you want.

        In answer to the question posed in the OP, my true objection to stricter gun control laws is that they are supported through appeals to emotion and not to convincing evidence.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Sorry, @j-r didn’t see that you had answerd them. Thanks.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    Forgot about the microdots. Promising solution and I agree it might be the best fix. That would also prevent the ‘reloading loophole’.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Well, it wouldn’t prevent it, but making smokeless powder at home is tricky as hell (you’d need a pretty extensive chemical lab setup), and you have to really know what you are doing to make black powder & reload modern rounds with it.Report

  17. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Quick comment and then I have to step away for the rest of the day.

    Does anyone else find this as troubling as I do?

    Private police carry guns and make arrests, and their ranks are swelling

    I don’t think WA has anything like this, although we do have reserve Sheriff Deputies, although they don’t have arrest powers, they just help out with Admin & other support functions if the Sheriff is shorthanded.Report

  18. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


    Michael, I could be wrong, but I am getting the impression that you are trying to enjoin a conversation that explores the philosophical domain, but jr & I mis-read you and thought you wanted a policy discussion.

    Do I have that right?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      Do you mean where I responded on the point @j-r make against people denying that guns make households safer?

      Sort of depends what you mean, but ultimately, probably yes. I would sayl I’m more speaking to people’s attitudes (which often is what we mean by philosophy, so probably).

      Ultimately that’s people attitudes toward policy. But I’m certainly not drawing the line of “it’s actually not the case that a gun in the house makes the household safer, therefore a ban of this nature is the right policy and must be enacted.”

      It’s more “the notion that having a gun in the house – on average and certainly in any individual case – might well make the household less safe rather than more, which has some empirical support, is a valid potential fact for people to consider both in deciding whether to own guns, and also in how much personal deference (i.e. how high a bar against bans or other restrictions in your phraseology) they are willing to accord to gun ownership rights in light of American culture and the 2nd Amendment and other considerations when considering gun policy.” Whether that means going from according guns greater deference than they might other products to just the same deference, or going from the same to less deference, or less to even less, my point is just that it’s a valid factor, since certainly a big part, though of course not all, of the civic justification for giving firearms deference as a special class of products is the notion of the individual’s right to self-defense. To that end, guns are only one means, and not an inherently indispensable means nor and end in themselves. So if their contribution to the maintenance of personal security is found to be more tenuous than the traditional civic justification holds or even negative, that is relevant to the strength of that part of the justification for special protection for gun ownership. (ETA: But only to that part of it.)

      So yeah, I guess philosophy. 😉Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        OK then. We should probably make sure we all know the playing field we are on before we starting running with the ball. I’m usually much more open to making or conceding points on a philosophical ground than I am with respect to policy.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @michael-drew I have a model meshing, so I have some time to reply.

        Re: safety/Safer

        A firearm does not make you safer anymore than a power saw makes you a carpenter, or a socket wrench set makes you a mechanic.

        It is a tool, nothing more. As much as I push back on Zic that guns do not cause violence, I would push back on others that guns do not make one safer, or make one a ‘sheepdog’. It is a tool, and a dangerous one at that. Owning one does, to a degree, increase the risk to one’s self & household. As one friend of mine likes to say (in a bad Russian accent), “Is gun, is not safe. Da?” Being trained and experienced in how to use one can, in a critical moment, make the difference. Not will, only can, but in general it offers a better chance at survival than not having one.

        It is therefore imperative that a person who chooses to own a gun understands the danger & takes the necessary actions to mitigate the risks within their household. To this end, when you purchase a firearm new, it comes with an owners manual that you should read, including lots of warnings with regard to the danger represented, and actions you should take (keep it locked up, keep the ammo separate when locked up, here are the 4 rules – follow them, etc). Acquiring the training needed to safely use a firearm is also part of those actions. Similar advice exists for any dangerous thing we may choose to bring into our homes or lives. This brings me back to what I was saying above about education. Driving a car is a dangerous thing, so much so that before a person is old enough to drive, they’ve had (or had the opportunity to get) considerable education and training regarding automobiles. You almost have to make an effort to avoid learning about the basics of automobile safety. Even urban dwellers who never get a license understand the basics. We do similar things for other common aspects of American life. Except firearms.

        So we have this common aspect of American life that can be very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing, and by & large we do nothing to educate the public with regard to the basic safety of it. Then we complain that it isn’t safe & people should probably be discouraged from owning one. The gun control folks won that battle in the culture war, making guns seem so dangerous that people are afraid to teach basic safety to children. We don’t do that with pools, we teach kids to swim as early as possible, and we warn them away from pools until we know they can float face up. We put Mr. Yuk stickers on poisonous household chemicals & drill the danger that sticker represents into kids so deeply that as adults they still have uneasy reactions to that green face. Fire, electricity, power tools, etc. All these things are dangerous, they all manage to kill some number of kids every year, but we still accept that danger & strive as a society to impart knowledge of how to use such things safely.

        Except firearms. Firearms are something people pretend are so dangerous that nothing can make it better. It’s treated rhetorically like having a box of TNT in the garage, as if it is only a matter of time before it goes boom and kills someone. Except the reality is that most gun owners, those for whom gun safety was part & parcel of growing up, rarely have an incident. Sure there are accidents, that will never be a zero value, but the fact is that the less training & experience a person has with a firearm, the more likely they are to be careless with one.

        We can not actively discourage safety & use education for firearms and then remain intellectually consistent to claim they are too dangerous to own. That’s what hard right conservatives keep wanting to do with things like sex, and we all know how well that works.Report

  19. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


    Sorry, down here:

    it intrigues me that your solution is law enforcement and the justice system and not changing social mores

    What is the social more to change? Men, firearms owners included, are more & more finding spousal abuse unacceptable & are applying what pressure they feel they can to discourage it. It is very possible that more can be done (and I’m open to ideas, as are many men & women), but abuse is a private* problem and thus it is difficult to effectively apply pressure en masse. The private nature also makes it more difficult to change the social mores, and if abusers can surround themselves with people who are accepting, or at least willing to turn a blind eye (this includes other women, by the way), then they can hide even more effectively.

    I suppose more men could try to be pro-active in getting abuse victims away from their abusers, but that requires the co-operation of the victim and quite a bit of coordination to pull off, while exposing their families to potential harm from an enraged abuser looking for payback. It’s a difficult play.

    Getting firearms away from an abuser requires law enforcement, and that does seem to be what your original concern was. I suppose a group of guys could always show up at an abusers house with their arms & clean the guy out, but that is technically theft no matter how well intentioned and they could all face legal trouble for that. That is a lot to ask.

    Still, considering all the aspects that go into allowing an abuser to successfully be a monster (sympathetic community, etc.), it’s more than a bit unfair to place any kind of significant responsibility on firearm owners to end such a problem, because abusers are known to use firearms as a totem of their power & an implement of their terror. I mean, I occasionally drink alcohol, is it the significant responsibility of all alcohol drinkers to end alcoholism and DUIs?

    That is asking an awful lot of people.

    *As in it is actively hid from not only the public, but even close friends & family.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      And so again, we wander in circles in the desert. Honestly, the only answer I’ve really seen from the gun-loving crowd to deal with this is the notion of arming the abused. I do not, for instance, see the ad campaigns to suggest it’s unmanly. I do not see the support to have law enforcement take weapons from an abusive spouse, either. (In fact, I’ve witnessed the opposite; that it’s a ruse and excuse to take weapons.)

      @mad-rocket-scientist I respect you tremendously, but I think your solutions here are weighted to protect the rights of a few at the expense of another few, as if the rights of those others don’t matter. This, too, is a more. Remember: gun-rights advocates made sure the government could not even spend money researching gun violence as a health problem. Don’t even ask the questions.Report