Gun Violence: A Cultural Study


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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276 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    …[I]t seems to me that giving medical professionals, social workers, teachers and other professions the ability to flag individuals for investigation would help. The lawyers among you can tell me what I am missing here from a liability standpoint.

    At the individual level, what is missing is a statutory safe harbor, something lawyers call a “privilege.”

    At the legislative level, what is missing is judicial guidance about how to structure such a privilege. Must it meet strict scrutiny? Intermediate scrutiny? Rational basis? Will it be a qualified or absolute privilege? How practically are reporting criteria to be crafted and education dispensed to reporters, what to do when a reporter acting within the scope of the privilege makes a bad call?

    Some of these are practical, some of these are legal. Some may simply require making an arbitrary decision about a standard, simply for the sake of having one at all.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      Couldn’t this look like mandatory reporting laws around child abuse?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I’d expect a legislator to start from such a regime as a model, or the cognate regime for marital DV that Mike described running into in the OP.

        But it would necessarily be different and likely more problematic, because unlike a DV-identification regime, the responder would be tasked with identifying pre facto danger signs, and those red flags will be psychological and social rather than physical. A bruise tells you that a physical injury has occurred and the responder inquires how it happened. A statement like, “I don’t have a lot of friends” is kind of a different animal.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “Culturally speaking, the situation in Chicago is interesting, not because it seems to contradict tough gun laws but because it more accurately proves that bad things happen in communities where boys grow up without their fathers. Approximately 72 percent of African-American children are born out-of-wedlock. This sad statistic gets worse when we see that 85 percent of the youths in prison come from fatherless homes. The root of Chicago’s gun problem is not guns, it is broken families.”

    I see what you’re getting at here, but I think you need to do more work connecting the dots.

    You begin talking about murders in Chicago and the age and gender of the victims. You then jump to a stat about African-American children born out of wedlock. You then jump to a stat about youths in prison — seemingly of all races? — coming from “fatherless” homes.

    This is… sloppy. For a number of reasons. “Born out of wedlock” =/= “fatherless home”. Furthermore, what qualifies as a “fatherless home”? Do parents who got married, had kids, got divorced, and the dad remains an active participant in his children’s lives but does not live with them primarily qualify as a fatherless home? You mention stats on youths in jail, but given the average age of the victims (28), are the perpetrators of these crimes youths or not? If they are not youths, were they the same youths who were in jail previously?

    Ultimately seems all over the place. You title it “A Cultural Study”… but what culture are you ultimately studying? American gun culture? ‘African-American’ culture? You make some good points and ask some important questions but I can’t help but think the underlying thesis is that guns aren’t the issue but all these other things (mental health, the war on drugs, fatherless homes) are. But let me ask this… if every gun in America disappeared tomorrow with no means to replace them, would we see: more murder and violence; less murder and violence; the same amount of murder and violence?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      I see what you’re getting at here, but I think you need to do more work connecting the dots.

      I would say so.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      I’d venture it’s less African-American Culture, and more Incarceration Culture, or perhaps the Polite Society Culture that is all too eager to burn the village to save it.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        I’d venture it’s less African-American Culture, and more Incarceration Culture


        There are many poor communities where the adult men are in and out of jail, and have almost no connection with their offspring, and those offspring grow up to be poor women moving from man to man as a supplement to welfare, and poor men who join groups of criminals. (Note I’m saying ‘groups’, not ‘gangs’, for a reason.)

        These are *mostly* black communities, but it’s worth noticing it happens just as easily to white people…wherever white people are desperately poor. I know…just ask me how much meth is cooked in Appalachia.

        Of course, in rural areas, groups of criminals can operate three miles down a dead-end dirt road and bother no one, whereas in a city, they end up in charge of a building or street and bother *everyone*. So it’s not exactly the same, but close. Likewise, in a world where there are plenty of non-poor people, people can pull themselves *out* of the cycle, or at least have help raising their children to be out of the cycle, but that’s impossible if *everyone* is poor.

        And, yes, this is ‘culture’, but it’s culture in the same way that Chinese villagers eat rice or people living in the suburbs drive everywhere…it’s not some sort of voluntary thing they just *decided* to start doing, which is what people are often trying to imply when they talk about ‘culture’. It’s simply how their world *works*.

        And thus it becomes normal and expected and social norms get created around it. But those social norms are not the problem, and trying to change them, trying to change ‘the culture’, is stupid. What need changing is the circumstances that have *resulted* in people creating that culture.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    If your father or mother is a douche or worse than growing up without a father or mother is not necessarily a bad thing. Also, most people who grow up fatherless or at least semi-fatherless (or motherless) do not end up as perpetrators or victims of gun violence.Report

    • What’s more, the “single-motherhood – – > Murders!” causation thing has been pretty thoroughly refuted.
      Heck, its not even correlation at this point,and needs to die die die…
      Kevin Drum summary here – –
      and Atlantic long-form here – –

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I read the articles you point to as well, however while they rightly point out that crime has fallen while single-parent rates have stayed steady, that doesn’t necessarily refute the root cause. Since those authors don’t actually speculate on the reason for the divergence, I will share my own theory: We’re getting better at mitigating negative cultural factors. That’s good, but it doesn’y mean we have solved the root cause.

        I’ll also add that I blame the single parent homes much more on our judicial system than I do some kind of flaw in the black community. Rates for unwed births are problematic across all races.Report

        • read the articles you point to as well, however while they rightly point out that crime has fallen while single-parent rates have stayed steady, that doesn’t necessarily refute the root cause.

          Well yeah, but now we’re talking about proving a negative, no?
          If anything, the Lead Hypothesis that Kevin Drum wrote about back in 2013 does a much, *much* better job of explaining murder rates, and it requires far less reaching for secondary factors, etc.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        That doesn’t mean there’s no correlation. There’s no clear correlation between the percent of single-mother households and the homicide rate, but there is a correlation in any given year between having been raised by a single mother and committing homicide. This is probably just crazy talk, but…maybe complex social phenomena are multifactorial?

        Lead may be one factor, as is improved trauma surgery, and no doubt there are others.

        That said, I’m not sure to what extent single motherhood actually plays a causal role. Lower cognitive and noncognitive skills are a) associated with having children out of wedlock, b) hereditary, and c) associated with crime, so the link between single motherhood and crime is almost certainly due at least in part to genetic factors.Report

        • That doesn’t mean there’s no correlation

          Well, you are technically correct – hence my point about trying to prove a negative.
          One could also claim some correlation between the homicide rate and sunspots, hemlines, temperatures, and the price of tea in Pyongyang 🙂
          What I *am* pointing out is that there is no direct and immediate correlation as is implied in this – and oh so many other – article.

          In short, if Mike – somehow – changed the above to a “Lead Therefore Homicide” argument, then hey, I’m all for it.

          Then again, I guess,”Complex Multifactorial Social Phenomena Therefore Homicide” doesn’t quite have the same ring, eh? 🙂Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            When we say ’cause’ I think an absence of fathers is a big part of the problem with inner city crime, however there are plenty of other factors. Chicago has it’s own unique gang culture. It’s also the easiest big city destination for gun traffickers. The purpose of this post was really to touch on as many things as possible. I really wanted to demonstrate how interconnected and complicated gun violence really is.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              There’s also trust in the police, or lack thereof. It’s become increasingly clear that the Chicago police aren’t trusted by anyone of color in Chicago, and that they are indeed incredibly rational in not doing so.

              Police that can’t be trusted are ineffective at best.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              I personally don’t see absence of fathers as being nearly the problem people think it is. That’s because I tend to look at similar situations and not see the perpetual problems that poverty causes. Jews in NYC at the turn of the century were pretty infamous for growing up without fathers, after all (there were manhunters whose sole job was to drag men back for divorces — they weren’t terribly effective).Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Also, there’s been lots more of it throughout the country, and it’s happened along an overall decline in violent crime. There may be other social costs associated with single-parent families, but people shooting each other really doesn’t seem to be among them.Report

  4. Avatar Morat20 says:

    GCA don’t look to regulate handguns because they know a losing proposition.

    Let me speak as a GCA — if there was one type of gun on the planet I’d want to regulate, it’d be handguns.But I also know that will never, ever happen. (Think back to the 90s — that movie The American President — banning handguns WAS his big goal, the one even then he didn’t think he could make).

    If I was King of America, to own a handgun would be orders of magnitude more difficult than a shotgun or rifle. You’d either need to show true need and accept restrictions (travel restrictions, storage restrictions,etc) or agree to gun-club style ownership. You can have your handgun, but it stays at the range.

    Handguns are the popular choice for shootings because they’re concealable. (They’re also a popular choice for bear country because, hey, you can carry it comfortably).

    It’s pointless, though. Non-starter.

    So it’s kinda odd to blame GCA for not trying to ban the one class of gun that’s the least politically possible. It’s like blaming a heat-stroke victim for not turning off the sun.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      So it’s kinda odd to blame GCA for not trying to ban the one class of gun that’s the least politically possible. It’s like blaming a heat-stroke victim for not turning off the sun.

      Whether or not it’s odd I think depends on the goal of the particular GCA or group of GCAs. If the goal is to stop or lessen homicides committed with guns it does seem strange to go after those types of guns that are least often used in homicides, and which by their nature are tougher to use in homicides due to being difficult to conceal. If it’s more of a cultural battle or the goal is to over time create a de facto prohibition on individual firearm ownership it might make some sense in that every firearm prohibited is arguably another step towards that goal, even if there isn’t much logical consistency in what firearms are subject to the ban.

      As someone who supports a broad right to individual firearm ownership (but is comfortable with certain restrictions, many of which already exist but are not always well enforced) I find this to be the most challenging part of discussing the issue with GCAs. It can be nearly impossible to tell which GCAs accept/support a right to private ownership of firearms but favor some type of (typically unspecified) reform versus those who don’t think it should be a right at all and would be happy with the government trying to stamp it out. The nexus of the debate seems to usually be related to homicide but the argument I encounter most (anecdotal obviously) from GCAs, including the ones made by GCAs who hold elected office, appear to be about something much broader (i.e. no one really needs a gun and having one only creates more danger, the 2nd amendment does not protect an individual right).Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      GCA don’t look to regulate handguns because they know a losing proposition.

      The problem is that they go elsewhere “because the light is better” even though those changes won’t really solve the problems they’re ostensibly trying to solve. So instead we go to “assault weapons” that are much easier to ban even though they’re not the weapons that are really killing people.

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve found a hardware problem in a client’s design and they continue to push me to find a software problem instead because it would be cheaper to fix. But a hardware problem is a hardware problem, and a cheap software patch that doesn’t fix your issue doesn’t fix your issue.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        *shrug*. Restricting guns that aren’t useful for hunting, sports, or home self-defense isn’t exactly useless either.

        It’s not exactly a secret that, for instance, the rifles we equip soldiers with are a lot better at killing, pound for pound, than a standard hunting rifle.

        The problem is, of course, definitions. Because again, the US civilian market is huge and guns are relatively simple, so there’s a LOT of money to be made selling more and more powerful (or more and more ‘military’) weapons, modification kits to make them more lethal, and in general tooling up the folks that seem to feel they need carry around as much firepower in the US as infantry patrolling a war zone.

        Since the most effective one (making handguns incredibly hard to own, and even harder to carry around not locked in a travel case) is a political non-starter, you go with what you can get.

        In the meantime, we get to listen to idiots post on Facebook about how Switzerland is a mecca for gun’s rights. As a fan of gun control, I’d happily trade control of Congress for a decade if I got Switzerland’s freaking gun laws in the US.

        But that’s because I know what they are, and it’s not “You get to carry your military rifle around like a purse 24/7, guns for everyone!”Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          This is one of my pet peeves. Civilians generally speaking aren’t able to own military rifles in the United States, either due to legal or practical restriction. Aesthetically some rifles (AR-15s being the easiest example) look like what soldiers carry but they do not have fully automatic or three round burst capability. My understanding of the law (and someone with more knowledge please feel free to correct me), is that it is theoretically possible to own fully automatic weapons in some states but tough and byzantine regulations make it virtually impossible to buy one. Those few that are out there are probably very old and came into private hands decades ago (think pre-1940’s) before firearm ownership was particularly regulated.

          Also the .223 and 5.56 rounds fired by an AR-15/AR-15 clone are of moderate power and have what most shooters would consider a moderate effective range. Plenty of common hunting rifles use ammunition that packs a bigger punch (30-06 being the easiest example) and have a greater effective range.Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

          *shrug*. Restricting guns that aren’t useful for hunting, sports, or home self-defense isn’t exactly useless either.

          It’s not exactly useless, but it’s the next best thing from what I can tell. We talk a lot about how these terrible weapons “can” kill tons of people and are “designed to” do so, but there isn’t much talk about whether or not they actually do. And it doesn’t really look like they do.

          So we end up with laws that don’t actually do any serious good, and it burns political capital that could be used on something more useful. Worse, it sends a strong signal that the outcomes you say you’re trying to achieve are not actually the real reason you’re pushing the laws. The message that comes across is that your aesthetic preferences and approval or disapproval of a particular hobby trump theirs, and you’re just using gun violence as a cynical excuse to be a busybody. And that’s the less paranoid, more charitable interpretation.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              If I read that right, half of them possessed assault weapons, but did not necessarily use them.

              That aside, is it wise to focus policy choices on high profile incidents with tangential relationships to a specific thing (having it but not actually shooting it at anyone isn’t exactly a major issue), or better to focus on policies that would address what is actually causing the most harm in the aggregate?

              IIRC, Newton, Aurora, and San Bernardino where the only three in quite a while where a military style weapon was the primary weapon employed.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think there’s two things going on here, which I tend to think lots of people conflate. The first is certain views about the levels of gun violence in the US; the second is the level of violent culture in the US. Sometimes the debate is framed as attempts to reduce gun violence in isolation of the culture in which it’s embedded. Sometimes (tho rarely) the debate is framed around our violent culture and what follows from that regarding policy.

                Personally, I don’t think any policy restrictions on AW or magazine size would ever pass (given the hyperventilating on the GRA side of things) but even if they did, I think the primary value of passing such a restriction would be (in effect) that it’s constitutes an attempt by We The People to live in a less weaponize, less violence-tolerating, less violence-loving society.

                But an essential part of achieving that, it seems to me, is to reform our police and agree to surrender “We’re #1!” position in incarceration rates ans stop bombing people in the name of “Freedom!” and a slew of other things.

                This country loves violence, bro. I don’t think anything will change until that love affair ends.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Can’t argue with you there.

                I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a martial arts class, but I remember being taught the mantra, by every sensei I ever had, that we learn a martial art not to learn how to fight, but to learn how not to. When I think about those gun owner communities I envisioned in my post, my ideal would be a place where gnarled old range masters help people new to marksmanship learn the patience & discipline needed to shoot well.

                What I see too often when I go shooting, especially away from the range, is not people practicing a martial art, but joyriding.Report

            • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

              Great, so what percentage of gun deaths were from mass shootings during that time frame? Mass shootings look like they’re a threat along the same order of magnitude as jet skis.

              From what I’m reading in the article, that should be *or* high capacity magazines, not *and* high capacity magazines. They’re defining “high capacity” as >10, which covers a lot of ground. Magazines with 11 or more rounds are very, very common in handguns. It would be surprising if guns meeting those criteria weren’t common in a lot of shooting statistics.

              That’s a bit of a sleight of hand. Talk all about “assault” weapons and paint a picture of people walking around with military style rifles (crazy!) and then say “assault weapons (or guns with a magazine size common in pistols that average people buy all the time)” and then smear the statistics together. 100% of everybody who was shot was shot with a rocket launcher or a gun, so since rocket launchers are unreasonable, we should all agree on my ban on rocket launchers and guns.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                I was responding to your claim (which you’ve made a few times) that an AWBan is stupid and without merit and burns political capital, and I did so by presenting some evidence that items governed by the AWB and related restrictions constitute items used in over 50% of mass casualty shootings. So the argument in favor of restricting them isn’t prima facie stupid.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                If you consider mass shootings to be the pressing issue and you believe that the half of mass shootings that involved these weapons would not have happened or have been significantly less deadly, then yes, the AWB is a smashingly good idea. But that conclusion rests on two pretty shaky premises.

                Yes, mass shooters are statistically more dangerous than deer, but not all that much more dangerous. I can see how people consider spree shootings particularly upsetting psychologically, but they’re a tiny sliver of the overall homicide rate. Yes, those weapons were used (or at least involved) in half of the spree shootings, but I don’t think we would have zeroed out or even significantly reduced the body count in most cases. Counting, say, a 12 round magazine as a mass shooting engine of death and then saying, “If only he’d been limited to 10, that shooting spree would have gone away,” is probably not a great conclusion. Assuming we made those guns go away completely, we’re talking about somewhat reducing the impact of about 50% of the instances of a crime that accounts for a tiny percentage of the overall problem to begin with. It’s just not a good statistic to use for policy purposes unless your one and only goal is to slightly reduce the impact of mass shootings.

                I’m not really saying that the proposed rules are prima facie stupid. Just that they’re pretty stupid if you do an analysis of the numbers involved and ask if they’re going to make a significant difference in outcomes of the variables we supposedly care about. And they’re especially stupid if you consider what they cost in terms of culture wars pushback.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Sure. People disagree about tactics, goals, intentions, desires, rights, crime, violence, norms, statistics, policies, purposes, practices, preferences…

                Yeah, people disagree about all that stuff.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Is this one of those, “You’re making arguments, and that indicates that you’re a crazy person” types of meta-responses? I’m not sure I get it.

                My big complaint here is that it’s very rare to get a gun control proposal that goes like this:

                1) This is the problem we need to solve.
                2) This is my proposal.
                3) This proposal will address the problem in (1) because .

                It’s usually a proposal with a bunch of random factoids and emotional appeals attached to it. Like, “Assault weapons are bad because they’re designed to kill people.” OK, so our goal is to reduce murders? “Mass shooters sometimes use these weapons.” OK, then our gun is to deal with mass shooters, specifically? “Gun deaths including suicides are really common.” OK, then our goal is to reduce gun deaths in general?

                The policies and statistics for the different problems people throw out are different depending on what you’re trying to deal with. If you want to deal with mass shootings, say so. If you want to deal with the murder rate in general, say that.

                It seems like any policy that moves in the direction of “any sort of gun is harder to get” is applauded as a win regardless of whether it achieves a larger goal and regardless of what it costs. It’s an end rather than as a means to an end. That’s not good politics, because GRAs already believe that GCAs just want to see guns taken away for their own sake and that the reasons they float are just cover. Having your stated reasons not match up with the policy (or having ever-changing reasons for never-changing policies) just feeds into that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                See my comment to Oscar above for a detailed explanation of where I stand on this stuff.

                But look, I get where you’re coming from. I mean, I’ve heard it about a thousand times before.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Sorry to bore you with gun control related stuff in a gun control related thread. I can see how being tired of hearing it could lead one here, just to get away from it all.

                Hopefully you don’t strain your eyes rolling them at all of the other gun control related stuff that somehow ended up being posted here.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, everything you’ve said so far amounts to bog standard GRA extremism. So really, there’s nothing new there. Every possible proposal is irrationally and WRONG FOR AMERICA for numerous reasons. Oscar proposed a set of policies and norms that he thinks might be both practical as well as sufficient to appease GCAs, and I respect that. But at the end of the day the motivation is to get the GCAs to SHADUP and stop pissing off the GRA extremists, which is exactly the same reasoning you’re employing. Which is fine. So have at it.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Well, everything you’ve said so far amounts to bog standard GRA extremism.

                This is that neat trick where you call your opponent’s arguments “talking points” and pretend that makes them wrong and drop the mic.

                Look, I don’t own a gun or have particularly strong feelings about the issue. I just find policy interesting and have noticed that the gun control policies in the US look like a total mess that does little more than poke the other guy because he’s the other guy and we don’t like him. They’re like banning the kilt because we know the Scots like to wear them. My impression is that short of some seriously draconian laws, we’re probably not going to make much of a dent in the murder rate using the gun control knob, but I could be convinced with an argument that included a measurable goal, a plan, and some data.

                Anyway, if you’re not interested in engaging on the policy questions, that’s cool. I don’t know why I dragged you into this.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, I’m actually not too interested in the policy questions. I’m more interested in the cultural side of this stuff. (As I said upthread to Oscar. 🙂Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


              From the article cited: “By far the most common weapons used in these cases are semi-automatic handguns—the type of weapon also at the heart of the daily gun violence plaguing American communities.”Report

    • Avatar nevermoor says:

      Not odd at all. Just clever.

      As with all concern-trolling from ideological opponents, it’s designed to distract an adversary and splinter their support (or, better yet, cause resources to be wasted on impossible goals)Report

  5. Avatar Aaron David says:

    ” In the mid-1970s there was an ideological shift and people who were more concerned about security took over the organization. At that time it became a lobbying tool that has grown tremendously in the last 40 years. The NRA today is scared of the government, when once it was an ally.”

    You are going to have to provide something here that actually shows what you are saying, other than conventional wisdom. During this time period and a little before the GCA of ’68 was passed, there was the Brady issues in the ’80’s and infamously in the 90’s the AWB. In other words, from the point of view of the members I would guess that they had very good reason to disagree with the government. I am not a member, but from the members I know, that is the case.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      The Atlantic piece I linked to covers all of this. The NRA supportes quite a bit of gun legislation for most of the 20th century. Most infamously they supported gun restrictions in direct response to the Black Panthers actions.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        The article states that the membership of the NRA was dissatisfied with the direction that the organization was heading and changed leadership. So yes, there was an idealogical shift, but that happens in organizations when the members feel that they are no longer having their needs met. The NRA seems to only be increasing in both membership and clout from that time, so I would guess that they feel that they made the right decision. Maybe we have room for a moderate gun rights organization, but I am not seeing anything arise. On the other hand there are groups such as this.

        Again, I am not a member, but if people don’t like the directiont the NRA is heading in, and by extention taking gun owners with it, then they either need to change the direction the group is heading in, or form a group that meets their needs and desires.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Many hunters belong to organizations, but they aren’t centered around guns. Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, etc. And at this point, no one is going to ever build enough momentum to change the NRA’s policy positions.

          I also think the takeover of the NRA was described more as a coup and less of a democratic process.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          The NRA actually lost a lot of members in the late 90s, due to their reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing.

          They also appear to have 1 million life members, and no one knows how many of those are dead, and how many of those even vaguely agree with the organization anymore. Adults can buy these for *children*, and the NRA just goes ahead and counts them, even if that child literally never does anything to confirm the membership.

          And the actual number is under a lot of dispute, considering they don’t release the names of members:

          The end of that article is interesting. It points out that NRA members get a free membership to one of four magazines, and those four magazines have a combined readers of only 3.1 million. And that number *also* includes newstand sales and paid subscriptions, and double-counts people subscribed to more than one.

          And, yes, perhaps some people *declined* the free magazines, but all-in-all, it makes the NRA’s claimed membership of 4.2 million look somewhat dubious.

          Either they have a lot of members who don’t like free magazines, or a lot of ‘dead-letter’ members, (people who got a lifetime membership and forgot about it, of free memberships with a gun purchase and forgot about it, or are actually literally dead)…or the NRA is just lying.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            I enjoy reading my NRA magazine every month. Some of the articles about historical firearms and new products are quite interesting. There is also a column about instances where folks use their firearms to defend themselves.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            That’s interesting but not very compelling. The issue is not how many members they have, it’s how many can they call to meaningful action. The NRA & Everytown could each have a million members, but if 90% of those NRA members call or write their representative every time they are asked, but only 10% of Everytown does…Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              The issue is not how many members they have, it’s how many can they call to meaningful action.

              Well, yes, which was my point about dead-letter memberships.

              There are probably hundreds of thousands of people who got a free lifetime membership as a kid, maybe read the kid’s magazine for a few years, and then they moved and didn’t bother to change their address and the next person in their house canceled the magazine, and they’ve had no contact with the NRA for a decade…

              …and now they’re 25 years old, marching in a protest demanding gun control, and would be *completely amazed* to learn the NRA is running around claiming them as a member.

              And there’s the guy who signed up to be a lifetime member in 1970, and was a dedicated member of the NRA…right up until 1996, when he died. And the NRA hasn’t bothered to notice that.

              And there are honorary lifetime memberships where the person isn’t even asked!

              I mean, yes, on top of that, there are NRA members who are legitimately members who don’t care about all this stuff. They were offered a free NRA membership with their last gun purchase, and saw it came with a magazine they thought was interesting, so signed up. But they’re all for reasonable gun restrictions, so when the NRA sends out an alert about gun control, they’re like ‘Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad.’.

              But my point is, everyone knows about those guys…what people don’t notice the NRA (quite likely on purpose) has a lot of member that aren’t even really members in *any* sense.

              You know, I am very involved in a membership-based 501(c)(3) organization, aka, a charity, and one of the thing those groups aren’t allowed to do under state law is bloat their membership. Memberships can only be for, I think, three years (How voting ‘lifetime membership’ works is that we have to contact them, or them us, every three years, and confirm it.), and we can’t add people without their consent, etc, etc.

              This is all due to quorum requirements and voting, because a fun way that 501(c)(3) organizations get hijacked away from the membership is via the board making it impossible for the membership to do anything, because they have active membership is 100 people but the board has managed to put 2000 members on the role, so no quorum ever exists to call a meeting or do anything at existing meetings. Likewise, 501(c)(3)s have to produce a list of members *to* the members, so that the members can organize.

              The NRA, however, is a 501(c)(4), a ‘social welfare’ organization, and they have no such membership restrictions. And, additionally, they don’t have provide membership rolls, or provide records of their voting numbers to show how many are actually active. I’ve actually read things that said their votes are limited to lifetime members, which is odd, to say the least, especially since they only have a million of those and that’s where a lot of their non-real members are.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Again, all very interesting, but not very meaningful to a politician when the NRA can flood the mail room & email server & jam up the phone lines of a given politician on demand, & Everytown can submit a petition with 10K signatures & maybe a handful of calls or letters.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Politicians are just going to need to eventually realize that certain groups are able to get their membership to over-react to things.

                Assuming that’s what is actually happening, of course. There’s been a lot of fake grassroots stuff recently, and I’ve always wondered if the NRA was a pioneer in it. How much of that is actually real, and is it possible the NRA is maybe quarter million actual supporters, and a bunch of volunteers working for them that make phone calls and write letters over and over?


              • Avatar Damon says:

                How many politicians are going to be willing to “test” the idea the NRA is “fake grassrooting” it?

                And don’t forget what happened in Colorado.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Agreed. No astro turf there, seems to me. The NRA has a lock on a lot of people’s voting behavior. Those folks might not be single issue voters, but GR certainly appears to be a necessary one (and sufficient for them to not vote D!).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yeah, that’s interesting. It appears that as the militancy of the NRA regarding any restrictions rises its approvals rise too. Which is sorta a weird dynamic, if you think about it.

                Josh Marshall wrote some stuff after the Oregon massacre to the effect that, given the responses, GCA’s have just given up on any meaningful gun control. I think he’s right about that. Which is why a lot of the framing of the debate I generally see (for example, here at the OT) – that GR extremists are only reacting to continued and persistent GC extremism – seems so puzzling to me.

                I think other issues are driving the GR movement, myself. (As I’ve said before. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I was actually planning (just today!) to write an extended piece on what I would do if I were advising the gun control movement, but Nevermoor gave me some insight into how it would (probably) be received, so maybe not.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Give up? Because as a gun control advocate, that’s my conclusion.

                Insurance requirements are my pie-in-the-sky solution, and only because it can be sold as “responsibility” and “free market” and pushed as “getting guns out of the hands of irresponsible people” which, using basic human nature, most people won’t consider themselves.

                So yeah, it’s buzzwords, exploiting cognitive bias, and all it’s got going for it is that it would probably mitigate a few problems depending on how it’s set up. The downside, of course, is that it’d never get passed ever because freedom.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The real me is totally okay with “give up”… 🙂

                The Dark Analyst goes in almost the opposite direction: Go long, take some hits, plow forward, change the debate.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                The debate? The real debate is whether it’s concealed or open carry of all the guns you want.

                Unless you’re black. That’ll get you shot by the police.

                That’s America.

                That’s my pragmatic take. You don’t want my cynical take.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I was actually planning (just today!) to write an extended piece on what I would do if I were advising the gun control movement,

                That would certainly be interesting reading, especially – of course – the types of rejections of whatever it is you’d propose even if only as a sorta academic exercise of your Dark Powers.

                GR absolutism is all the rage, and we know how arguments against absolutists go. (They’re a priori Rong!!!) Still, I’d like to read what you have to say.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Who? Me?

                I’m actually interested in what discouraged you, since I think of myself as relatively open to refocusing in that area.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor says:

            Doesn’t really matter either way if they can have a demonstrable impact on (at least) primaries.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “Most infamously they supported gun restrictions in direct response to the Black Panthers actions.”

        Well, it’s not like the Constituion applies to THOSE people.Report

        • Avatar aaron david says:

          And amazingly enough, the organization changed after that!Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              The evidence is that they no longer support gun control, even for black people.

              Of course, in a completely unrelated note, Tamir Rice discovered that open carry means different things to different people.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Black people, by and large, seem to realize that carrying a rifle into Chipolte or Wal-mart is gonna get them shot by police.

                Open carry is pretty much a privilege of white people in America.Report

              • As did Cory Maye about the castle doctrine and the right of self-defense.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                “Of course, in a completely unrelated note, Tamir Rice discovered that open carry means different things to different people.”

                It is sad that you keep distorting what occurred in the Rice case. The cops were called b/c Rice was allegedly pointing the gun as folks. No CCW permit lets you lawfully do so.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “Allegedly” is doing a SHIT TON of work there.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I’m trying to be nice b/c as I understand it, the 911 caller said Rice was pointing the gun at folks and that’s why police responded.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But none of that refutes Chip’s point.

                All we *know* is that Rice was in possession of an airgun and that he was shot dead by the police. We don’t *know* if he was pointing it at people or doing anything different than other folks exercising their open carry “rights”.

                For all we know, he *wasn’t* but was perceived to be because of a documented bias in the way physical actions of black men are perceived. And even if he was, if he was not observed by the police as doing as such, all they *knew for a fact* was what they saw upon arriving at the scene… though their presence on the scene was so short that it is hard to know if they even knew what they “knew”.

                What about John Crawford? We have video evidence that he never pointed his gun at anyone. Yet he’s dead.Report

            • Avatar aaron david says:

              ” In the mid-1970s there was an ideological shift and people who were more concerned about security took over the organization. ” From the Atlantic article Mike cited.

              Wether or not the NRA changed how its members precived black people with guns is open for debate, but all I was saying, @kazzy is that they changed political stances in the change over that @mike-dwyer says changed them from being in favor of gov’t regulation to seemingly feeling that the gov’t was in the wrong.

              Poking around on there website (public portion at least) I would say they simply hate the idea that someone would try to ban guns, as they firmly belive in the idea that owning one is a basic human right. I did come across this article which seems to be saying that Bloomberg was going to use a racialy based attack against them NRA, but was short on facts to me.

              They woudn’t but an article on there site that was pure racist, as it would attract way to much attention, if they indeed thought that black people shouldn’t own guns. But when I typed in Racism in their search field I did get a link to this article in the first spot .

              In other words, from the website it would seem that they could care less as long as everyone can own a gun. Again, I am not a member.Report

  6. It is incredibly complicated and incredibly hard to make sense of, yet the one thing that does seem to warrant consideration is whether it is worth trying.

    Ditto. One thing I learned in Oscar’s thread is that while Morat20 and I would probably part company when it comes to certain regulations and while we approach the issue from a different angle, we’re probably both on board with, an insurance requirement as something that could help at least a little. So we could at least get together on that one issue.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Doesn’t really matter, though. The NRA killed universal registration, which polled something like high 70s or so.

      So the fact that you could probably get a good majority of Americans to support something like “You need insurance for your guns, because of theft, accidents, negligent discharge, etc — just like you need it for your car”, it’d never get through Congress because the NRA would kill it.

      And honestly, I think the real shift in the NRA is when it went from a gun-owners group to a gun-makers lobby. Whomever they claim to represent, the net effect of their policies, statements, and lobbying is to sell more guns. They are quite happily stoking fears of criminals, thugs, the federal government — anyone and everyone that might make you afraid and decide to buy a gun.

      All under the cloak of representing “owners”.Report

      • Maybe that’s true, but I’m (a little) more optimistic or hopeful. If the NRA is so powerful, we should probably just close shop and go home.

        I would like to know (but don’t) whether insurance schemes have really been contemplated? I’d also like to see states or cities experiment with it.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          As I said, the NRA being against universal registration was sufficient to kill it, despite very high polling numbers in support of it.

          I suppose it’s a factor of..mania. The NRA has tons of money, claims to speak for tens of millions (even if, IMO, it speaks for manufacturers more than owners), and it’s very good at getting it’s members to scream bloody murder.

          Whereas people trying to implement some common sense gun control (like, you know, regulating them like cars. Registration, insurance, etc) are just trying to handle a problem. Guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, or guns in the hands of people who have shown serious irresponsibility.

          That doesn’t make phone calls quite like “OBAMA’S COMING TO GET YOUR GUNS!”.

          As I’ve said, people right here on this blog have claimed America has never been closer to total gun confiscation than they are now. That’s the kind of completely baseless paranoia the NRA excels in stoking. (And it also sells guns! You can watch the sales figures spike every time…)Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          I’m nervous about anything called a ‘scheme’.

          Are you talking about liability stuff for gun owners?Report

  7. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    We see what an inter-connected country we live in where race, education policy, television and movies, employment practices and the 2nd Amendment are all part of the conversation about gun violence.

    Yes, this, very much.

    The sea change in the nature of the NRA during the 70’s, in response to the cultural upheavals of the 60’s; the “weird” fixation with assault, er, tactical rifles since 2009 (something happened that year, we just can’t put our finger on it! Weird, I tell ya)…all these things are interconnected to the culture we all live in.

    This is why I broaden the scope out beyond simply decreasing the rate of violence. We are already doing that, even though no one really knows why.

    I’m not alarmed at the rate of spree killing, or gun crime, so much as I am alarmed at how we American think about guns, which is reflective of how we think about each other, which translates into how we treat each other.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      The fixation on certain scary looking semi automatic rifles didn’t start in 2009, it started with the Brady campaign. I know it’s easy to blame racist sentiment related to the country’s first black president (and I agree that such racism probably had some bearing on the sudden rush to buy and the subsequent ammunition shortage) but you’re ignoring the long term political history of the AWB. The AWB expired during a Republican presidency (2004) and was never going to be renewed during a Republican presidency unless a veto-proof majority could be created. Of course people who oppose(d) the AWB are going to be worried when a Democrat comes into power, particularly when the administration is largely comprised of people from the Clinton years who supported and enacted the AWB in 1994.

      One of the few successful state level gun control laws passed after the Sandy Hook shooting was where I live in Maryland, where, among other changes, the state banned the sale of a virtually identical list of those weapons prohibited under the federal AWB, all despite the fact that those weapons are almost never connected to murders and other gun violence in this state. I’d argue that the fixation is coming less from the NRA and more from people who don’t know much about guns other than that they don’t like them very much.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        “I’d argue that the fixation is coming less from the NRA and more from people who don’t know much about guns other than that they don’t like them very much.”

        You mean the classic GCA?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        I was snarking on this

        weird mania for tactical rifles after the President took office

        The fixation is one of those things I don’t find odd or weird at all.

        The increasingly militant tone of gun rights advocates, the increasing fixation on militaristic weaponry, the superheated rhetoric about watering the tree of liberty, tyranny, and all that, since oh, about first Tuesday in November 2008, isn’t hard for me to understand.Report

        • Avatar miguel cervantes says:

          the fact that the president had his executive experience such as it was, cochairing the Joyce Foundation which has been the wurlitzer of the gun registration and confiscation efforts, something he has come to admit is his real purpose with his nods to the UK and Australia,Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        By the way, I hear this a lot:

        I’d argue that the fixation is coming less from the NRA and more from people who don’t know much about guns other than that they don’t like them very much.

        As if a deep knowledge of guns is necessary to want to restrict them!

        Why should that be so? As I said elsewhere, it isn’t my desire to necessarily reduce the level of gun violence.

        The climate of fear and paranoia that a heavily armed populace is for me, the thing I want to reduce. The madness of people seriously wanting to walk into Starbucks with a pistol is what needs to be attacked.

        I don’t need to know if it is a magazine or a clip, I don’t need to know anything about flash suppressors to know that guns are intended to signal aggression and intimidation.

        The Bushmaster and other AR-15 type rifles look scary because they are specifically designed for that purpose.
        They mimic military grade rifles, to announce that these are weapons of war, not hunting.

        This isn’t something that we need to puzzle ourselves figuring out.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          I like it when I’m told it’s because I’m “afraid of guns” and they’re really helping me get over my irrational fear by carrying the most military looking hardware they can around.

          I’m not afraid of guns. I know exactly what they’re designed for and what they do. And I have serious doubts about the mental stability of a guy that needs to tote his to Starbucks.

          Not to mention they all seem to be idiots at handling them. Is there any freaking REASON you have your rifle out in a crowd of people? Or are you just stacking the odds of hitting anyone with an accidental discharge? I carry my rifle in a freakin’ case, and don’t load it until I’m wherever I plan to shoot it. I always treat it as loaded, even when I know for certain it’s not, so I’d not yank it out in a crowd of people because that’s how people get shot on accident.

          Lethal weaponry in the hands of people who seemingly don’t respect their own weapons AND seem to be paranoid? I can’t imagine why anyone would worry.

          You want to know why I’m for gun control? Too many idiots have guns and treat them like toys, security blankets, status symbols, or flatly anything BUT a gun.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I particularly love the pic of the guy in Chipotle with the rifle on a tac sling.

            It’s the poster boy for Tactical Derp, all he needs is fatigues and a tac vest.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              The open carry idiots (and yay, my state goes open carry because why the heck not) are like the poster boys for why I suddenly went full gun control.

              Running around in public with your weapons, showing off and basically inviting accidents goes against every bit of gun safety I was ever taught.

              They’re either idiots who don’t know how to handle their weapons safely, idiots who don’t think they need to handle their weapons safely, or idiots who think they actually need the bloody things despite how unsafe what they’re doing is.

              Gun owners REALLY need to get a handle on these morons, but instead of yanking them back for being dangerous idiots, it appears they’re actually succeeding in making sure their stupidity is totally legal. (As noted, my state goes open carry because WHY NOT).

              And of course, when someone gets shot, it’s “tragic accident no one could have forseen” and not “negligent idiots playing with guns in public shoot someone, get arrested”.

              And again — while the number of guns in America rises, the number of households owning guns shrinks. Long term, gun owners would be better off seen as sober, professional people to whom gun safety is a critical element — and not wide-eyed loons running around the local target toting a rifle and complaining Denny’s is violating is rights by not letting him fondle his Glock over crappy hamburgers.Report

            • Not just tactical derp, but blatant lack of taste in Mexican food.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          As if a deep knowledge of guns is necessary to want to restrict them!

          I find this to be a perplexing position. If you want the state to create laws and regulations you should know something about what it is that’s being regulated. Setting policy from a position of ignorance is irresponsible and it’s something the state already does far too often with disastrous results. All this does is reinforce the (apparently true in this case) perception that it isn’t about violence or safety but rather one group imposing its mores on another. That’s not a stance that deserves to be taken seriously. If that’s where we are then it’s not worth getting into a discussion about the ArmaLite aesthetic style and how the M-16 got to be the standard rifle used by the military (it hasn’t always been that way).

          I will add, for what it’s worth, that I am also not a fan of people carrying weapons for no reason and I find the “tactical” side of gun culture immature, irresponsible, and generally cringe-worthy. There is a paranoid side to American culture, particularly related to crime, which I think feeds into the worst and most violent tendencies of the state. I have nothing against non-gun owners and see their decisions as none of my business, even if some insist on making their politics my business.Report

  8. Avatar greginak says:

    While i don’t agree with a few things you’ve said here Mike i do think this is a good piece trying to tackle a serious bunch of issues. Firstly, sort of picky, but what is a “tactical rifle”? Is that a old fashioned hunting rifle for taking a deer or an ar-15 clone or a shotgun? Is there a precise definition or is just a different term, more PC, for an assault weapon. Really its the gun makers term for what a non gun owner would call an assault weapon.

    Attaching gun violence just to children of single parents is sketchy as noted above. But it also doesn’t address the huge differences in gun violence between regions. Some parts of the country like the Northeast have far less gun violence then most of the south. Is that all about boys w/o fathers? That seems far fetched. Boys w/o dads are likely to have problems but as noted above just because mom’s are unwed doesn’t mean there aren’t fathers.

    The Chicago example for why gun control doesn’t work is always weak. There are places close enough that are easy to get guns. When i lived in NJ there were a bunch of studies that found most of the guns used in crimes in NYC and NJ came from legal purchases in the south. Gun runners hoped on I 95 drove for a day, got a tan in Fla or Georgia bought a bunch of guns and headed north. It is a problem having wildly divergent laws in a country with very easy travel between regions.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      Me: I don’t want to take away gun owners’ rights, but we need to do something about tactical rifles. We need restrictions on owning a tactical rifle.

      You: Wait. What’s an “tactical rifle”?

      Me: You know what I mean. Like military rifles.

      You: Huh? tactical rifles aren’t military rifles. In fact “tactical rifles” isn’t a thing. You mean like AR-15?

      Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your AR-15. But civilians shouldn’t own tactical rifles, the sort with high capacity clips.

      You: Its a MAGAZINE, DAMMIT!Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      Or its a problem is that in some places it is culturally acceptable for folks to kill one another over $20, shoes, girls, insults etc. Why address that when you can complain about white guys carrying rifles at starbucks?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Pretty sure that place you think exists doesn’t.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          There’s a place where it’s culturally acceptable to shoot a dude just to watch him die. How come no one’s talking about it?!!Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          So you mean those 400 plus murders in Chicago have been about something more substantial?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            You keep referencing Chicago as though it is the epi-center of the gun violence universe. Admittedly, I could also be guilty of advancing that stereotype because I chose it for this piece, however my reasons were a bit different. I chose it for this post because more research has been done on Chicago’s inner city culture than any other American city IMO.

            So inner-city violence is part of the problem, but that only accounts for about 60% of the country’s gun homicides. What about the other 40%? You can’t just keep referencing Chicago and ignoring requests to consider the rest of the country. So let me help:




            • Avatar notme says:

              That is bc Chicago is the perfect example of a dem run with strict gun control that has lots of murders. Yet the GCAs ignore it and whine about the white guys with rifles at Starbucks. The ones that aren’t killing anyone. We all know Dems won’t tell their inner city constituencies that they need to change the way they live.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                But Washington DC and NY have similar dynamics and those murders aren’t happening at the same rate. And as much as I also love pointing out flaws in Democrat policies, it’s not very interesting if you aren’t also explaining why people are getting murdered in Republican-controlled and heavily white areas.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Both DC and NYC have been murder capitals of the US within recent memory.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Right. But they aren’t anymore. Why? There are still gangs there and many of the same cultural problems I describe above for Chicago. What are they doing different?

                Also, if you don’t want to talk about murders in Republican-controlled areas, at least have the courage to say, “I refuse to talk about that,” instead of dodging the question over and over by repeating the same talking points.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Has anyone attributed those changes to the success of gun control in any of those cities? Not that I can see. I’m not talking about grand sociological issues, just that no one has shown that gun control works.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                No. To your point, it wasn’t gun control that changed things. They mitigated the problems in those cities with cultural changes which is exactly what I am talking about in the OP. But what I am getting at is, murders are still happening in lots of non-urban places. I want to know what you think is the driving factor there, since obvious they aren’t shooting each other for sneakers and they don’t settle their problems with guns. What are the cultural dynamics at work in rural places that lead to shootings?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                notme, now:

                I’m not talking about grand sociological issues, just that no one has shown that gun control works.

                Oh, of course you aren’t. Where would anyone ever get such an idea?

                notme two posts upthread:

                We all know Dems won’t tell their inner city constituencies that they need to change the way they live.

                notme about an hour ago:

                No I’m suggesting that within certain inner city communities there is an acceptance of using guns to settle arguments that gun control hasn’t and won’t fixed.


          • Avatar pillsy says:

            Are you suggesting that if roughly 400 people, out of a population of just under 3 million, do something over the course of a year, that’s a sign that those 3 million people think that thing is culturally acceptable?

            Because that seems like a very strange argument to be making.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              No I’m suggesting that within certain inner city communities there is an acceptance of using guns to settle arguments that gun control hasn’t and won’t fixed.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                How many people live in Chicago’s inner city? And if use of guns is ‘accepted’ wouldn’t there be waaaaay more shootings? In 30 days there were 159 shootings. Does that mean there were only 159 disagreements? That seems hard to believe.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Are you really trying to say that 159 shootings in 30 days isn’t a lot? Get real.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                If you are going to make broad generalizations that suggest everyone in the inner cities behaves a certain way, then you also have to explain why some people don’t behave that way. There were a lot more than 159 disagreements during those 30 days and yet only a small % resulted in a shooting. Why?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I’m saying that 159 shooting in 30 days is a number that shocks me for as a pattern of casual disregard for human life.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                But you aren’t shocked by the hundreds of shootings that happened in rural areas during the same time period?Report

              • Avatar aaron david says:

                How big was the rural area and what is the population of said area that you are comparing it with @mike-dwyer?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m looking at the whole country. There are plenty of gun deaths in rural areas. Would like to know what @notme thinks drives those folks.Report

              • Avatar aaron david says:

                I see only 20% of americans are listed as living in rural areas, are these the numbers you are using? If not what are the numbers you are using? Where do you put suburban dwellers in your numbers?

                To simply say you are looking at the whole country is to make the same mistake that Notme is making, i.e. taking numbers out of context to make a point. There are enough people commenters going after him to make the point, but to just say “the whole country” tells us nothing, other than those deaths aren’t in inner cities.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                What I mean is, plenty of gun violence happens outside of big cities. That means small cities, suburbs and rural areas. I think it’s just as important to understand the factors there as it is inner cities.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No I’m suggesting that within certain inner city communities there is an acceptance of using guns to settle arguments that gun control hasn’t and won’t fixed.

                {{Those “inner city” folks … they live like animals, don’t they?}}

                Alsotoo, you might think a bit more about El Muneco’s Venn diagram comment.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Have you ever seen a show called the First 48 on A&E? Watch a few and then lets talk about the casual use of guns.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I take it your argument here – your insistence! – is that gun related policies are only justified if they change the gun culture in the “inner city”, yes?

                Have you heard of Venn Diagrams? They’re these diagrams of circles in circles, or overlapped or apart, representing different sets of things and how they relate to each and stuff….Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                That’s what those circle thingies are? Wow, you just blew my mind.

                No, I’m saying that dem controlled cities that have strict gun control have failed but can’t admit itReport

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That’s what those circle thingies are? Wow, you just blew my mind.

                Two kinds of circle thingies. One is used to clarify good arguments, the other is used to construct bad arguments. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, I’m saying that dem controlled cities that have strict gun control have failed but can’t admit it

                So, your position is that that liberalizing gun laws fully generally would reduce the level of violence in an inner city culture that already accepts and possesses (as you admit!) a fully liberalized gun culture?


              • Avatar notme says:

                Whatever, you can suggest that I’m a racist and then join chip in whining about the open carry guys at Starbucks that haven’t hurt anyone.Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott says:


                Of course the open carry guys at starbucks hurt people. They, or more acurately, those in their demographic group, kill themselves and/or their families all the time. They are the biggest perpetrators of gun death in the US.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                You’re going to have to explain what ‘their demographic group’ means for that to make sense.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                He’s just desperate to make something up about the open carry folks so that they seem dangerous.Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott says:

                White middle-aged male gun owners.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                The “:culture” argument being leveled at black poor people is the same that it has been made about the Irish, and redneck culture.

                Yet somehow all the clichés of redneck culture- the drunkenness, teenage pregnancy, idleness, ignorance and violence are somehow viewed by “our” culture as charming, amusing and even “Jacksonian”, the rough edged aspects of honest Real Americans.

                If the Palin clan were black, they would be held up as the centerpiece of why Those People should be kept out of Our Neighborhood.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “somehow all the clichés of redneck culture- the drunkenness, teenage pregnancy, idleness, ignorance and violence are somehow viewed by “our” culture as charming, amusing and even “Jacksonian”, the rough edged aspects of honest Real Americans.”


                you’re gonna need to come up with some links that show a drunken pregnant teenage redneck as a figure of merit before I’ll believe you on this oneReport

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Bristol Palin.

                Granted, she’s just ridin on momma bears coat tails…Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “White middle-aged male gun owners.”

                Well that’s just ridiculous. That group has millions of members that are probably the most responsible of any group.Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott says:

                @mike-dwyer , and it has thousands of members each year that blow their brains out with their own guns, and hundreds of members that use those guns to kill other people. Members that, the year before, you would have included in your tally of the responsible.

                Accounting for both homicide and suicide, White middle aged men kill more people with guns than any other group, on both an absolute and per-captia basis.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                What evidence do you have to back up your claim that White middle-aged male gun owners are probably the most responsible of any group?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Alan Scott: White middle-aged male gun owners.

                I…guess that’s true if you’re talking about suicides. Homicides, definitely not. It might be kind of close on an absolute basis, but on a per-capita basis it’s not even close.Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott says:

                I am including suicides. Given that suicide accounts for two thirds of the gun deaths in the US, I think they deserve to be included in the discussion.

                When incidents like Sandy Hook happen, and liberals start talking about gun control, a common counter-argument is the idea that such incidents are rare, and account for a tiny fraction of people killed by guns in the US–and that to use such incidents to justify an anti-gun policy would be foolish.

                I happen to agree–but the logic follows that those interested in reducing the number of people shot to death should instead look to the most common form of gun violence and consider gun policy in light of those. And from that standpoint, measures to reduce gun ownership are particularly justified. I see suicide as the form of gun violence where gun ownership reduction will have the greatest positive effect.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I am including suicides. Given that suicide accounts for two thirds of the gun deaths in the US, I think they deserve to be included in the discussion.”

                The same discussion as tactibros at Starbucks?

                The same discussion as San Bernardino?

                The same discussion as Aurora?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                There is certainly use of guns to settle arguments in some inner city areas. True. However that is not a universal in inner city areas since most citizens there actually hate it. Parents, pastors, business owners, children. etc etc hate the violence. It is a smallish group of gangs and criminals that use guns to settle arguments, usually over criminal problems.

                Gun control hasn’t fixed that because it A isn’t’ a panacea, B there are so many guns in the US and so many easy ways to get them that it hasn’t limited the supply of guns. It is people in those communities who have pushed for gun buy back programs we discussed on Oscar’s thread. They wanted fewer guns and with various levels of gov, have used gun buy backs in many cities to lessen the number of guns and violence.

                Of course the level of violence in inner cities is an issue. It is one of the many facets of gun violence in america and a terrible one.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Suggest all you want, but the numbers you cite seem to be doing nothing to actually support your suggestion, at least not without a great deal more argument.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          You should watch an episode of The First 48 on A&E and see the reality of the inner city.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Also watch Seinfeld to learn about real NY in the 90’s. Miami Vice for real Miami in the 80’s and CSI Miami for real Miami crime and sunglass putting on and taking off style now. I hear that 21 Jump Street movie really shows what the kids these days are like. Those guys are down with it and all hip and taking it to the streets.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              And what would those fantasy shows tell me? The First 48 isn’t a fantasy show. Clearly you are just spouting off and haven’t ever seen it.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                lol….i’ve seen it although it isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve also worked on the actual streets and known many people who worked with homeless/runaway kids in LA and NYC. I’ve read and heard plenty. that show might not be terrible, but it is just one narrow slice of what inner city life is like. And from one view. People who live in inner cities don’t sugar coat it nor do they see it like an A and E doc.

                But come on…its still a tv show, its only so real….Don’t get fooled again.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Then presumably you know, unlike Tod from his comment above, that folks get killed for petty BS reasons or none at all. I was watching a re run earlier where this kid got killed for pretending to be a Blood.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Why were the folks in that Charleston church killed? Was that reason more or less BS?Report

        • Avatar Lurker says:

          Can I point out that notme’s dog whistle racism here is deserving of a warning from the blog-masters that the line has been crossed and comments will be erased or commenters banned if it is crossed again.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I would suggest you refresh yourself with our commeting policy. Opinions alone, even if you or others find them distasteful, are not grounds for disciplinary action. We believe everyone is entitled to say what they want, so long as it isn’t a direct threat or insult or an attempt to derail the conversation.Report

            • Avatar Lurker says:

              Even horrible hate speech is okay here? No limits?

              Nice environment for people who aren’t white men, which is mostly what you have, I suppose.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I’m actually not in favor of Starbucks SEALS or people killing each other over insults,etc. I’m sorry for suggesting i was in favor of either. I can see where i really said i dug all that stuff. My bad.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          I never said that you said any of that, so don’t pretend otherwise. Please cite were I said, “greg says XXX.”Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Damn i screwed up again. Your question suggested the hell out of it that i thought killings for all that stuff was fine and dandy. Maybe you should just tell me what i believe since you know far more about what liberal types think then i do.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              I didn’t suggest that you “think” anything in particular, rather I offered a different cause for the issue. Is your reading comprehension really that poor?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        That place where it is acceptable to kill someone over an insult is the honor culture of the antebellum South.

        You, suh, have sullied mah dignity! Pistols at dawn!Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      PS Tactical rifle is another way to say “military pattern”, or a rifle patterned off a common infantry rifle (like the AR-15). It also fits any semi-auto version of a current military rifle (like the FN P-90).

      Functionally, 90% of those rifles are the same as (or very similar to) common hunting or varmint rifles/ranch guns, they just have standard features that are otherwise optional or aftermarket features for the other firearms.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Yeah i know. When people say “assault weapon” they are talking about military style rifles. But assault weapon is , essentially, the non PC term and supposed to be meaningless and show a lack of knowledge of guns. Whereas tactical rifle is precise or something. TR is a marketing term that certainly has some objective meaning. AW basically equals TR.

        It is also certainly true that the military looking features are “scary” to some but also make them attractive and sexy to others. That is both why people want to ban them and people want to trick them out.

        I’m not for an AW ban fwiw.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          When I was a bit younger and the term ‘assault weapon’ was getting thrown around, I use to hear gun guys refer to them as ‘black rifles’ a lot. The reason was obvious due to their color schemes, but it was also an attempt to reduce negative connotations.

          I call them tactical rifles for much the same reason. And this also dovetails with the larger trend of tactical gear, which has gotten uber popular. I actually own a ‘tactical tomahawk’ and a ‘tactical pen’ believe it or not. I really do think the dystopian thing plays into all of this as well.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          My understanding was that “assault weapon” was originally a marketing category, too, prior to “assault weapons” being a political flashpoint and leading to the (really quite dumb) 1994 AWB and its various state-level clones.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      I only own strategic rifles. They’re better for long-term and broader engagements.

      All the tactical stuff came from marketing majors. I realized this when I first started seeing “tactical knives.” We used knives in combat for thousands and thousands of years without having to attach the word “tactical” to them. It’s for people who need to be assured that they bought tactical gear and not jogging shoes, tennis shorts, or yoga pants.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Well what am I going to do with this Tactical Salad Shooter now?!Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I’ve been amusing myself my using ThinkGeek “tactical” items for the family White Elephant on Christmas. My cousin (a rather avid duck and deer hunter) happily ended up with the “tactical bbq fork” (laser pointer, matte black, and a flashlight) and recently the tactical beer koozie (has an LED light on the bottom but, sadly, no laser).

        The whole point of them is that they’re matte black with ludicrous accessories that can snap on. Like the laser on the BBQ fork, which points where you’re about to stab the meat. (Which can be reversed for a flashlight, in case you’re grilling in the dark or something).

        OTOH, two years running I got my brother-in-law (an avid outdoorsman) solid, professional equipment (a machete one year, an axe the other) and both years he cut himself within minutes. He’s the safety guy at his job, too. 🙂 Maybe I should have given him the tactical tie (also with laser pointer).Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        Heh. “Amateurs worry about strategy. Dilettantes worry about tactics. Professionals worry about logistics.”Report

  9. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I just want to take a moment and thank Mike for taking the time to write part 2 of my gun post. Of course, he didn’t know he was (and neither did I), but this is the perfect follow-up.Report

  10. Avatar notme says:

    Obama set to unveil curbs on gun sellers via executive order

    • The changes include requiring an expanded number of small-scale gun sellers to be licensed — and therefore conduct background checks — whenever selling a weapon. […] The administration is also expected to impose tighter rules for reporting guns that get lost or stolen on their way to a buyer.

      Pretty horrible stuff, all right.Report

  11. Avatar Will H. says:

    I just want to say that this was an excellent post, and you brought up a number of issues that should be emphasized more.
    Great work.Report

  12. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    You should watch an episode of The First 48 on A&E and see the reality of the inner city

    As tempting as it is to mock this sort of thing, its probably better to point out how on this score, both side do in fact do it.

    By IT, I attempt to speak articulately about the “inner city”/ “ghetto”/ “Black Community” without the slightest shred of evidence, other than what we see on our tee vee.

    I mean, how many people on this thread actually are black? Live in the “inner city”? Live in a majority black neighborhood?

    I don’t. So if I were to think about it, where exactly DO I get my notions of what its like to live in Chicago or South Central?

    Lets start with my early memories of Life and Look magazines, with black and white pictures of the Watts and Newark riots; Movies like The Warriors, TV shows like Hill Street Blues, magazine articles, essays, books, all of which painted pretty much the same picture, of a Mad Max type of dystopian wasteland. Broken, crumbling infrastructure, total illiteracy, dysfunctional families dogs and cats living together.

    Except of course, all these sources of information were transmitted by white people who lived in the suburbs, and were reporting on it as if it were the Congo. Almost everything I know, including “reality” TV, is scripted by people who live along a 5 mile stretch of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Vallley, in the white suburbs of LA.

    Is the “inner city” really that way? Maybe. But I doubt it.
    I think of the reminiscences of people from the Dust Bowl or Appalachia, who tell stories about how poor they were, “but we were happy, you know- we didn’t even realize we were those “needy folk” Roosevelt was going on about!

    In other words, the chaotic miserable world of dirt-eating hillbillies impregnating their sisters, upon closer look, was really a lot different. Not that some didn’t eat dirt (they did), not that some didn’t wed their sisters (some did), but that the outsider view seizes upon the very worst aspects and makes them the median experience.

    Imagine if, some Martian were to see a John Waters or David Lynch production, and conclude that “this is how middle class white people really are, that behind the manicured lawns and white picket fences is a seething nightmare of incest, drunkenness, and madness”.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’m white. But I grew up in a town that was 27% Black (53% white) and attended the public school system that was about 50% Black at the time of my graduation (about 25% white). I now live in Yonkers, NY which is about 18% Black and 35% Hispanic/Latino — with my neighborhood skewing heavily Black and Latino. My hometown was urban/suburban just outside NYC and Yonkers borders the Bronx and is decidedly urban. While this doesn’t make me an expert on the inner city, “ghetto”, or “Black community”, I have probably a more intimate knowledge of whatever is typically meant by those terms and can say that what you see on most of TV is laughably inaccurate. But that really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone… should it?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        I happened to catch an episode of one of those CSI/ Law and Order shows last night (forget which one- they are legion), and was reflecting on how narrow and well, white, the viewpoint is.

        On one level, the show was the epitome of Hollywood liberalism- there were a couple black guys, not stereotypes, but fully realized characters women in positions of power, etc. Very SJW ish!

        Yet its characterization of the justice system seems less like a realistic portrayal, and more like one of those Agatha Christie Arsenic and Old Lace mysteries, which is to say utterly fantastical.

        Its not just that a single crime gets a team of 8 or 10 full time detectives and technicians, using a vast array of high tech tools and labs.

        No, its more in the way that whats missing is the sense that the justice system- the one that poor and ethnic people like those notme is talking about in Chicago experience- is this creaking assembly line machinery, where the police round up the usual suspects, the defense attorney may or may not be sober or even awake during the proceedings, and has 90 other cases anyway, and where 90% of all cases are plead out in summary fashion.

        The portrayal of the criminal justice system is what most white suburbanites imagine it is, a sort of idealized version that makes Dragnet look like gritty cinema verite.

        I think about this, when I hear all this talk about the “inner city” and its troubles. And when we hear the first hand testimony of black people who relate their experiences at the hands of cops and the courts, I wonder how many people unconsciously imagine Michael Brown Tamir Rice being processed through the Law And Order type system, and nod their heads to assure themselves that “the system worked”.

        The worldview of those who speak for our justice system and the worldview of those who experience it are almost completely disparate.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Person who experiences our justice system: “Black lives matter.”

          Person who speaks for our justice system: “Slow down their champ. In our justice system, all lives matter.”Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I have to admit that it feels like there is a lot of cognitive dissonance going on when we call for more laws at the same time that we know what we know about law enforcement.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Not..really. I mean, let’s say you live in the heart of the most corrupt police force in America, you still want murder to be illegal. You want cooking meth (probably) to be illegal. You’d probably also like the police to clean up their act, but that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly gonna want to make theft, murder, etc legal because “the police are gonna be d*cks about it”.

              The efficiency of any given police force is independent of a given desire for something to be legal or illegal.

              Laws are statements on what we want to be acceptable in society. Police are there to, well, police. (No civil forfeiture, well — there’s a law that I think might have actually made police more corrupt, but then any law squarely aimed AT police will affect their behavior one way or another.)Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Not at all, just remember that anything bad that happens is the result of bad people acting badly. If only we can get rid of all the bad people then bad things won’t happen anymore.Report

        • Agatha Christie Arsenic and Old Lace mysterie

          Arsenic and Old Lace was not written by Agatha Christie and is in fact nothing like an Agatha Christie mystery, This misuse of terminology invalidates your entire argument.Report

  13. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Of course, if inhabitants of say Capella, were to be watching the first episodes of law and order, one would get the impression that the upper classes are as murderous as Renaissance Italy,Report

  14. Avatar notme says:

    Chicago Rings in New Year With First Homicide

    There were 468 reported murders in the city in 2015, a 13 percent increase from 2014, according to police. There were 2,427 shooting incidents last year, a 16 percent spike from 2014.Report

    • Avatar nevermoor says:

      Gun control restrictions taken away by courts, gun violence goes up. Therefore…Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Remind me, what restrictions did the court strike down?Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          An effective handgun ban (refusal to issue legally required registrations). What’s yours?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Don’t recall hearing about a significant rise in criminal shootings from legally owned handguns in Chicago (I recall at least one case of a legally owned handgun used in a justified shooting, hence my qualifications), so I’m not sure you can draw a line between those two events without doing a bit more work.Report

  15. Avatar Dennis Sanders says:

    Regarding the CDC ban, I think one of things that has caused an impasse is that gun rights supporters think CDC research is going to be biased against guns, that it’s a study where the findings have already been determined. A 2013 article from Reason Magazine explains this.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      That is a weak article Dennis. Part is about “spending your money” type complaints, which is a generic conservative complaint. They don’t like the public health view but that is a perfectly valid way to look at something that causes death. Isn’t the only way but it is certainly a reasonable view. The CDC research would be open and their research is high quality. Starting a debate with ” this is going to go against us” could easily suggest they don’t want unpleasant data uncovered. Just stating they don’t like the past research doesn’t prove it wrong and strengthens the ” don’t find facts we don’t like” argument.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        @greginak I don’t think Dennis was offering it as an argument for, only as information about.

        Concur about the rest. If CDC research has bias, it will be noticed & called out, just like it has in the past. You can’t hide bias for very long in scientific work without hiding or deceit.Report

        • Avatar miguel cervantes says:

          Of course, the CDC who did a bangup job last year, on the priority they are supposed to focus on, will only sponsor confiscationist research, this is what the Joyce and Sarah Diamond foundation has done, for 20 years, tReport

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I believed this a lot more a year ago than I do today. Watching the “science” debate around ecigarettes unfold has been very disillusioning, up to and including the CDC, and especially the notion that bad science will be sufficiently shot down. Particularly when letting it stand serves a perceived greater good.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            E-cigarettes lack a powerful interest group that eagerly jumps on everything critical of them.

            Not to say that you are wrong, bad legislation can move faster than peer review, but I think the CDC can do work that has the potential to offer useful insights for policy.Report

  16. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Alan Scott: They are the biggest perpetrators of gun death in the US.

    By the way, I want to point out the methodological issues with talking about “gun death” statistics when comparing groups of people—not just demographic groups, but also international comparisons—with different levels of access to guns. To some degree, guns substitute for other methods. For suicide especially, but also for homicide. And yes, they also facilitate suicides and homicides that might not have occurred without access to guns.

    The distinction between gun deaths and non-gun deaths is really important only insofar as the difference in gun deaths is due to facilitation rather than substitution. To compare gun deaths, and only gun deaths, among two different groups is to steal a base and implicitly attribute all of the difference to facilitation rather than substitution. Every time I see someone do this, I wonder what he’s trying to hide.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      Research indicates that guns facilitate suicides that would not be substituted via other means. Most attempted-but-failed suicides do not yield subsequent attempts. It stands to reason that these attempts are the result of temporary issues. Unfortunately, guns offer a highly effective and highly permanent “solution”.

      I can’t comment on homicides. But the data that I’ve seen is pretty strikingly clear that access to guns raises suicide rates.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        @kazzy As I said, there are both substitutions and facilitations. Comparisons of “gun deaths” tend to be made with the implication that substitution just isn’t an issue. To demonstrate the extent to which access to guns increases homicides and/or suicides, you need to compare total homicides and suicides, not gun homicides and suicides. And do a bunch of controls, of course.

        For suicide, substitution is definitely a big factor. Half the suicides in the US use methods other than firearms, and many countries with extremely strict gun control have higher suicide rates. There are other factors, of course, but in general people seem to be much better at killing themselves without guns than they are at killing each other without guns.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott says:

          This ignores the reality that substituting guns with other suicide methods still saves lives. Guns account for more suicides in the US than any other method–But they account for only a small fraction of suicide attempts. There are more than five times as many poison-based suicide attempts as there are gun-based ones. But guns account for half of US suicides, while poisons account for only one sixth.

          If every single person who tried to kill themselves with a gun used a different method instead (and that’s almost certainly not the case, since suicide is a crime of impulse that depends on an opportune method), that would still save thousands of lives each year.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      Respectfully, so what? I’m literally posting in a thread titled “Gun Violence”. The fact that I focused my post on gun violence might have something to do with that.

      But if you want to play that game, here are the states with the top five per-capita overall murder rates (source1 source2):
      4)South Carolina

      And here’s the list for per-capita firearm murders:
      2)South Carolina

      You’re welcome to do the same comparison for suicide rates, but you’ll see the same pattern. overall numbers and gun-specific numbers are pretty close, especially at the top of the list.Report

  17. Avatar DavidTC says:

    As an complete aside to this article, does anyone think the term ‘assault weapon’, in addition to be poorly defined and based on silliness, is just dumb term.

    All weapons are ‘assault’ weapons. ‘Weapons’, by definition, are tools designed to ‘assault’ people, or at least assault living things. Or they are things not normally used for that purpose, but specifically *have* assaulted people, like a kitchen knife used to kill someone could be referred to as ‘the weapon’ in the murder investigation.

    The concept of ‘weapon’ has the concept of ‘assault’ built in.

    (Well, actually, *battery*, I guess. But everyone gets that confused. It would be really weird if people used ‘assault weapons’ to refer to weapons that, legally, could just assault people and not batter them…aka, toy weapons that can just threaten.)Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      Yep. But it’s a “SCARY” term so it works, regardless of whether or not it actually has any meaning.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      All weapons are ‘assault’ weapons. ‘Weapons’, by definition, are tools designed to ‘assault’ people, or at least assault living things.

      Not true. An object becomes a weapon only when it’s used for assault or defense. A baseball bat isn’t a weapon, but it can be used as one if your redneck buddies are attacked by hopped up college kids on spring break.

      Long those lines, a .410 gauge shotgun isn’t a weapon in isolation of a context, and isn’t even a weapon in service of its (probably primary) intended purpose: shootin squirrels and such.

      An item becomes a weapon in a context, and is used to assault people only in a context: one where people are being assaulted. (An ashtray could serve this purpose just as well.) The concept behind classifying certain objects as assault weapons was that the primary purpose of *those* items – their fundamental intended purpose – is for killing lots of people in a short amount of time. Course, once the anti-AWB mania took hold, people started using them to hunt deer, rabbits and ducks. They’re for hunting! See?

      The problem with the AWB from a practical pov was defining the term narrowly enough that modifications to design weren’t trivially easy make to by-pass the restriction. I think that problem would persist in any event, myself. I also believe that those definitional problems were fully understood by gun manufacturers at the time the ban was enacted, so from a practical pov they weren’t too worried about it. (It was the principle of the thing, dammit!)Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Not true. An object becomes a weapon only when it’s used for assault or defense. A baseball bat isn’t a weapon, but it can be used as one if your redneck buddies are attacked by hopped up college kids on spring break.

        No. In ordinary English speech, a weapon is *either* something that is *designed* to harm living things(1), or something that *has* harmed living things.

        You can try to claim that ‘weapon’ is only the second definition, but the dictionaries, including legal dictionaries, all back me up.

        Here’s the definition of the criminal code of Canada, which for some reason was much easier to find than the US’s: “Weapon means any thing used, designed to be used or intended for use (a) in causing death or injury to any person, or (b) for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing,”

        Here’s ‘define weapon’ on Google: a thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage.

        Designed *or* used.

        Non-weapons can become weapons in context. But certain things, designed with a specific purpose, are called weapons *all the time*. The English word ‘weapon’ means two slightly different things. Deal with it.

        Not that I’m sure how this has any relevancy at all to the discussion.

        1) Almost always living things, although note the term ‘anti-tank weapon’ or ‘anti-aircraft weapon’. But I think those are exceptions that prove the rule…they’re calling something a weapon that is against non-living things, so they felt the need to specify that!Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Well, I disagree with your analysis up above for the reasons I stated. I continue to disagree. So there’s not much left to say about it, yeah?

          I disagree. (For the reasons I stated. 🙂Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            (I guess I owe you an explanation of why I disagree…)

            Seems to me what you’re doing is applying a very narrow definition of “weapon” to people who use the term and conclude, from that semantic analysis, that a bunch of folks are clearly (CLEARLY!) irrational. But why think they use the term in the way you’re defining it when there are – as I wrote above – different meanings which render their claims totes coherent?

            Eg. is a hatchet a weapon? Is a tomahawk? What’s the difference between a hatchet and a tomahawk?Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              Seems to me what you’re doing is applying a very narrow definition of “weapon” to people who use the term and conclude, from that semantic analysis, that a bunch of folks are clearly (CLEARLY!) irrational.

              Um…where did I conclude anyone was ‘irrational’ at all?

              I just pointed out that ‘assault’ was a dumbass modifier of ‘weapon’, because assault-iness is sorta the *premise* of weapons. It’s like a ‘transportation automobile’ or a ‘cooling refrigerator’.

              Now, I *do* think the AWB is poorly conceived, but not because of the *terms* used, nor do I think the supporters were ‘irrational’, just had a poor understanding of how guns worked and it was based on very silly and untrue ideas. It’s a textbook example of legislators not understanding what is going on. I have explained that elsewhere.

              And that has nothing to do with my aside on how ‘assault weapon is also a very dumb term’.

              If you want to address my dislike of the AWB, either find somewhere I’m talking about that, or *ask* me what my reasons are. Do not pretend a jokey post about how the term is technically incorrect is my reason for disliking that law.

              And especially don’t do that via arguing the semantics of the word weapon, which I can’t even figure out how you think that is supposed to work. If anything, *your* definition of weapon ties ‘weapon’ even *more* to ‘assault’, because you’re demanding that tools only be called weapons in the *context* of them being used in an assault!

              But why think they use the term in the way you’re defining it when there are – as I wrote above – different meanings which render their claims totes coherent?

              Man, it’s *you* who have presented the definition that renders ‘their claims’ incoherent. (Claims? WTH does that mean? Who is claiming what?)

              I said calling it an ‘assault weapons’ ban was redundant and implied a lot more was banned than they intended, because all weapons are ‘assault’ weapons.

              You said ‘Guns are only weapons when used in that context’, which makes the term ‘assault weapons’ ban just outright wrong! Those things, according to you, aren’t weapons at all!

              I honestly have absolutely no idea what this conversation is about at this point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And especially don’t do that via arguing the semantics of the word weapon,

                Dude, you’re the one who posted a comment specifically around the semantics of the word “weapon”, one I responded to by disagreeing with your semantics.

                It turns out the definition you cited to defend your preferred semantics was also inconsistent with that definition.

                I don’t know what to say at this point. My disagreement of your dislike of the AWB as you framed it at the top of this thread is that it’s based on either straw or your own confusions. That’s about it, really.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                My disagreement of your dislike of the AWB as you framed it at the top of this thread is that it’s based on either straw or your own confusions.

                I did not, at the top of this thread, explain why I don’t like the AWB. That is, very blatantly, a lie, because I didn’t even *say* I didn’t like the AWB in that post. The assault weapon ban is literally not mentioned in that post at all.

                I said I don’t like the *term* ‘assault weapon’.

                And how the *hell* could I base something on ‘straw’ that was *not in response to anything*? I literally reference *no other person or argument* in that post.

                Do you even know what a strawman *is*?

                Dude, you’re the one who posted a comment specifically around the semantics of the word “weapon”, one I responded to by disagreeing with your semantics.

                Which, as I pointed out, you disagreed with *in the wrong way*.

                My claim was that all weapons fundamentally include the concept of assault, because we only call things weapons if they are used to (or designed to be used to) assault things.

                You demand, for some reason, that the part in parens is removed…which, uh, doesn’t actually change my point. If we only call things weapons when they’re used to assault things, ‘assault weapon’ is *still* a redundant term!

                What the hell is even your point?!

                (Although, as I pointed out below, going by your incorrect semantics, now ‘assault weapon’ is goofy for *another* reason. You’re basically asserting that guns are not weapons automatically, that they only become weapons in the context of being used. Which means the ‘assault weapons ban’ applies to a lot of things that aren’t weapons, like never-used guns sold in gun shops.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What the hell is even your point?!


                David, in the comment atop this thread, you wrote

                As an complete aside to this article, does anyone think the term ‘assault weapon’, in addition to be poorly defined and based on silliness, is just dumb term.

                I’m answering that question in the negative. And I did so by giving the reasons for why I reject your reasons for thinking it’s silly as well as providing my own for thinking it isn’t.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Actually, I just noticed this from your above comment:

          “Weapon means any thing used, designed to be used or intended for use (a) in causing death or injury to any person, or (b) for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing,”

          That’s pretty much exactly the function-based definition I was using above. The one you din’t like. 🙂Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            Did you not notice the ‘designed to be used…in causing death or injury to any person’ part in there?

            Which *literally* uses the word ‘designed’ that I used in the definition you took issue with: tools designed to ‘assault’ people

            Do you even remember what you are trying to argue anymore? Did you ever know in the first place?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Yeah, I do. I’m arguing that the term “assault weapon” isn’t, as you said, “silly”.

              I made that case way upthread in my first comment (go back an re-read it!) by invoking the concept of “design” to pick out the distinction the term is intended to capture: that the fundamental purpose of those weapons is to kill lots of people quickly. (I then went on to say that people now use them to hunt deer and ducks…)Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      Of course “assault weapon” is a dumb term. It was a marketing term in the ’80s that became the flashpoint of a moral panic over gun violence in the early ’90s. What could be possibly be dumber?Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Has there ever been a moral panic that wasn’t dumb?Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          That’s only because we only call them ‘panics’ when they are irrational.

          There are plenty of things that look identical to panics, but, uh, were a good idea.

          The turn against smoking in public buildings, for example. Or trans fat. Or DUIs.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Oh, I don’t think it was a moral panic. I don’t even think it’s panic. I think there are legitimate worries about the weaponization of our society and one indicator of that is the type of weapons people use to shoot each other, as well as issues about access and so on. What to do about it, if anything, is another issue, one distinct from (what I’d call) silly judgments about how silly some commonly used terms are.

        But the term “assault weapon” is pretty clearly defined in common parlance since we all know exactly what type of weapons are referred to. The fact that it can’t be defined precisely enough in legalistic terms doesn’t make it silly.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          “Assault weapons” really aren’t the type of weapons people use to shoot each other now, and they weren’t twenty years ago, either. The type of weapon people used to shoot each other then, as now, is the handgun.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            Maybe someone can tell us why liberals are so obsessed with them.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              One, because–as I mentioned above–they were a highly publicized symbol of gun violence at a time when gun violence was at a crisis level, and then were reintroduced to the public consciousness through the AR-15’s association with the Newtown attrocity. In both cases, the “military” and “bad ass”/”manly” aesthetic had an effect not only on the people assault weapons were being marketed to, but also people who only really think about guns when they hear about people being murdered with them.

              Second, the assault weapon is increasingly a part of the uniform for many of least hinged members of Team Red, like the guys who think they need to carry guns to protest a local mosque or who decided to occupy a federally owned bird-watching center and hold it by armed force.

              If your only familiarity with a class of weapons involves the fact that they look intimidating, they are involved in rare but horrible murderous outrages, and that they’re the favored fashion accessory of a bunch of wingnuts who probably shouldn’t use scissors unsupervised, let alone firearms, well, it’s an easy mistake to make to decide they’re bad and dangerous, and you aren’t harming anybody’s legitimate interests or rights by banning them.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If your only familiarity with a class of weapons involves the fact that they look intimidating,

                This makes no sense. My guess is that most people who oppose the AWB – the vast majority – have no experience with assault weapons.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                It’s hard for anyone to be familiar with something that only exists as a legal description and not a real thing.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


              • Avatar pillsy says:

                They existed as a marketing category prior to existing as a legal description, and they refered to a class of real things, which were (and are) primarily a matter of aesthetics or, I guess, ergonomics.

                “‘Assault weapon’ is too vague to make the basis for a good law, and even if it weren’t, such a law would be very silly,” is not remotely the same statement as, “There is no such thing as an ‘assault weapon’.”Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                “A class of real things”? Hardly. It was a list of specific firearms by name and a list of firearms that had two or more of this list:

                Folding or telescoping stock
                Pistol grip
                Bayonet mount
                Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
                Grenade launcher mount
                Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
                Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
                Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
                Barrel shroud safety feature that prevents burns to the operator
                Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
                A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.
                Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
                Folding or telescoping stock
                Pistol grip
                Detachable magazine.

                Yeah, cause everyone wants a bayonet mount and a grenade launcher. Regardless of whether something is “marketed” or not, it wasn’t really a real item. The “ultimate driving machine” is not, in fact, the ultimate driving machine. It’s a marketing slogan.

                There are, however, “assault rifles”. “An assault rifle is a fully automatic selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.” but those are already regulated.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                You appear to be arguing that the term “assault weapon” was invented when the 1994 AWB was passed, but that wasn’t the case. The idea that just because a marketing category is focused on aesthetics and too vague to be sensibly used as the basis of legislation[1] doesn’t mean that it’s something that nobody understands when you use the term. C.f., say, “hardcore pornography”.

                [1] Which is why they wound up with the weird checklist with bayonet lugs and stuff! You can’t just ban guns that “look tactical” or whatever.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                “You appear to be arguing that the term “assault weapon” was invented when the 1994 AWB was passed, ”

                That’s not what I’m arguing.

                “The idea that just because a marketing category is focused on aesthetics and too vague to be sensibly used as the basis of legislation[1] doesn’t mean that it’s something that nobody understands when you use the term.”

                Your description of the bill is exactly what I’m arguing. It was nonsensical, and stupid because it created a ban on cosmetic components of firearms and served no practical purpose but to “do something”. This is proved by the easiness of the manufacture’s changes to conform to the law and the fact that given two firearms, of the same caliber and power, semi auto, with the same mag capacity, the “scarier” of the two was prohibited because it had a stupid bayonet lug on it. Yeah, that’s success by any definition.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I’m really confused now, because I was agreeing from the start that the AWB was dumb because it was trying to ban things on the basis of aesthetics. I was, perhaps foolishly, taking notme’s question seriously and trying to explain why so many people wanted (and in some cases still want) to do such a silly thingReport

              • Avatar notme says:

                If you can truly explain why liberals are obsessed with “assault weapons” you are a better man than I.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                The AWB was basically an attempt to take military-grade weapons off the street, and make it difficult for civilians to own.

                AK-47s, that sort of thing. Of course, it’s hard to ban them by model (makers will just make a new model with slight modifications) and it’s hard to ban them by feature (guns are, in the end, both very simple and very easy to modify and there’s lots of crossover) and the AWB was, of course, the result of the usual sausage making process — with a hefty dose of lobbying by manufacturers who saw wealth in selling military rifles to would-be soldiers. (And as I’ve noted, the US is THE market for civilian weapons).

                And goodness, weren’t they right.

                Whether or not it’s possible, feasible, or even a good idea to try to ban such things, the actual desire to keep civilian arms at least a step down from what soldiers are equipped with is at least understandable.

                In the end, though, while military rifles are great for fighting wars — it’s handguns that are best for killing amongst civilians, because they’re so easily concealed. They lack the firepower, and obviously aren’t as efficient for fighting (after all, soldiers only have them as a backup weapon), but being able to sneak them around easily is so much better when you’re not facing soldiers.

                You could see the AWB as a strange compromise — an attempt to restrict the citizenry from weapons that are only good for fighting other soldiers, and leaving them the weapons that are the best for killing each other. It wasn’t meant to be that. But hey, either way — manufacturers made bank.

                And continue to make bank, fanning fears then selling you another gun to kill the bogeyman under the bed. (Or, to be honest, your spouse or kid walking in unannounced. Which will be called a ‘tragic accident’ and not ‘negligent homicide’ because it’s obviously an Act of God).

                And who wants to dwell on how guns are really used, when they can fap to Lott’s old work or the NRA magazines about steely-jawed men and virtuous women defending themselves from evil doers. It’s so…heroic. And not nearly as depressing as the accidental shot kids, spouses, wives, house guests, and other ‘unforeseen accidents’ that so badly outnumber them. I mean, except for when Lott’s making up the data.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                The sense that these were “military grade” weapons was motivation, though I’d argue it was mostly rooted in aesthetics. Actual M16s, unlike the civilian market AR-15s, are selective fire, and thus were already very heavily restricted.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Seems I was confusing you as well, not my intent, as we generally seem in agreement. 🙂Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Yeah, I’m not particularly vehement about opposing gun control in general, but “assault weapon bans” are, or should be, a textbook case on how not to craft public policy.

                Also, I bet you’ll appreciate this editorial, where a particularly confused law professor says that GCAs should give up on banning assault rifles.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                That poor deluded soul. I hope he has tenure.
                (j/k! I’m sure he does)Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                The title says “assault rifles.” The actual editorial uses the term assault weapon and indicates some expertise on the topic.

                My guess is that the fault lies with the editorial staff and not with the professor.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                It does in the first paragraph, and then starts using the terms interchangeably:

                The only thing unique about assault rifles is their menacing name and look, and it is these elements that make them such an appealing — if not particularly sensible — target of gun control advocates.

                Emphasis mine.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                I especially like ‘A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.’, which can’t *possibly* accomplish banning any weapons at all, because, duh, the manufacturers will just give them two different model numbers…in fact, they’d do that *anyway*.

                All it *actually* does is stop ego-inflating idiots who say ‘This is a real M16, same as the military, except it has to be semi-automatic by law. But it’s the real thing!’. Now they can’t do that.

                And, man, I’m the last guy to say the egos of idiots like that shouldn’t be deflated, in fact, I’ll volunteer for the job…but this appears to be literally be spite-based legislation.

                I also love ‘Pistol grip’.

                ‘How dare you make those weapons one-handed and thus harder to control! We’re trying to stop you from shooting people, so we demand you shoot people *accurately*….well, okay, you can have one, but only if you don’t have a bayonet on there, because we don’t want to to be able to stab people one-handed. That’s possible, right?’ *pauses* ‘Oh, and almost forgot….also, you can’t be able to attach a grenade launcher to it, despite the fact grenade launchers are already 100% illegal and not even available illegally and no one would conceivably use them. You can only attach those hypothetically if you have a normal rifle stock! Except you can’t because, like I said, illegal.’

                *someone whispers in ear*

                ‘What do you mean I sound like a crazy person?’Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Seriously, I just keep imagining someone operating a bayonet with a pistol grip and laughing. Poke, poke, poke.

                Next up, let’s ban *halberds* with pistol grips.Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                Fencing foils.

                No serious competition fencer uses a grip invented by cheese-eating epee monkeys.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                You can buy an M203 grenade launcher. It’s the grenades that are hard to come by legally (except smoke grenade, I think)Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Checking Wikipedia, real quick, it appears that civilians actually *are* allowed to own not only the M203, but also the grenades. If you’re willing to pay $200 for tax on *each* grenade and register them as high explosives, that is.

                Although actually putting them in the launcher would probably not be complying with the legal storage requirements for high explosives, and shooting one, even on private land set up as a shooting range, would require basically the same sort of rules and regulations as blowing up some C4, and the government permitting office almost certainly will not let you get away with ‘I am going to expel these high explosives from a gun barrel and they’ll just sorta explode wherever they land’.

                So, from what I can tell, you can’t *ever* legally use them, under any circumstances.

                So, okay, whatever. That actually makes things a bit more surreal. You can legally buy the M79 stand along grenade launcher. You can legally buy grenades.

                You can legally buy a gun that a launcher can be mounted to, and a M203 launcher to mount to said gun, and grenades to go into it.

                You *cannot*, however, buy one of those guns if it *also* has a bayonet mount on it. You want to attack people with a gun, a knife, and a grenade launcher all at once, the knife and the gun cannot both be attached to the gun, by God! At least one of those needs to be separate!

                (A company selling M203s should have tried put a bayonet attachment on the *grenade launcher* and seen what happened. Legally, the law does not appear to prohibit that.)Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I think that may well be the case now, since support for the AWB is now in the minority, but at one point those kinds of bans were really popular[1] and what opposition there was came, understandably enough, from people who actually owned or wanted to own the weapons in question.

                [1] Example: George W. Bush was in office when the ban lapsed in 2004, despite a promise to renew it during his 2000 campaign. For a while there, the AWB had genuine bipartisan support.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:


            Yes, that’s true!


            I mean this seriously (which makes me wonder why I’m gonna say it to you…): on a relative level, I think conservatives are way more obsessed with guns, guns rights, and gun politics than liberals are. Disproportionately so.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              “on a relative level, I think conservatives are way more obsessed with guns, guns rights, and gun politics than liberals are. Disproportionately so.”

              I don’t know, some of the gun grabbers are quite adamant.Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                Some religous fanatics are terrorists.
                Some New Atheists (and some TV sitcom stars) are serial sexual harassers.
                Some NFL quarterbacks ruin their careers due to a lack of self-discipline in their personal lives.

                Might it be that we’re disproportionally focused on the “some” when it makes juicy news?Report

  18. Avatar Lurker says:

    Re: the banning pitbulls analogy.

    Look, One could say, why ban chemical weapons. I mean, what is a chemical weapon? It is just a chemical that happens to do harm. There is no deep ontological difference between some nerve toxin and lemon pledge. Just chemicals. Both could -in some circumstances- be used to kill. It is just that one is much easier to use to kill large numbers of people, police, etc. One is demonstrated to be very dangerous, the other less so.

    So, yes there is no difference between dogs and german shepherds, but if one could be used to kill 100 people easily, society would have a right and perhaps a duty to pass legislation controlling, restricting, or even banning the ownership of pitbulls, or nerve gas, or 50 caliber machine guns, or shoulder fired missiles, or guns with large magazines, or guns with ability to pierece body armor easily, etc., etc.

    IMO, pitbulls are mildly dangerous and there should be some small regulation placed on their breeding and ownership. Guns are much more dangerous and should be regulated and restricted. Some guns, missiles, chemical weapons, etc. are even more dangerous and should be more restricted.

    I would pass regulations -if I passed laws- to reduce the ownership of guns to a small percentage of the population who would be legally required to prove that they safely stored the weapons and that they were psychologically and morally “fit” (details left out of what counts as “fit”) but it would be a standard designed to make it hard to own a weapon so that only a fraction of 1% of people owned a gun for personal use.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      a standard designed to make it hard to own a weapon so that only a fraction of 1% of people owned a gun for personal use.

      More laws designed to help the one percent have advantages not available to the rest of us.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        You joke, but there is an actual point in there about oppression. Let me present the case, and then argue against it.

        The Colt .45 was called the ‘Great Equalizer’ for a reason. Put one in the hands of a woman, or a weak man, and they’re suddenly as strong as the strongest man.

        So, we ask, at what point does restricting their ownership reduce equality?

        And let’s note we’re not just talking about ownership itself. What if we made gun ownership so complicated and hard to do that, essentially, the only people that had guns were professionals. Cops, security experts, etc.

        …who is it that can afford to hire professionals, again? Wait, that 1% was supposed to be a joke, right? Oops. Talk about inequality.

        But let’s check something…did guns *actually* ‘equalize’ anything in the first place? I mean, women suddenly didn’t become un-oppressed when gun were invented. Neither did, for example, black people…wait a minute, black men don’t seem to ever have been physically weaker than white men (That sounds a bit racist, but whatever.), and they’ve been oppressed forever.

        Hmmm. I think our entire premise might be off somewhere. Maybe it’s *not* individual strength that determines oppression, but all of society being designed in that manner.

        In which case, guns really aren’t equalizing anything at all. The oppressors have ‘legitimate’ force on their side, which allows them to summon all the resources of society, whereas the oppressed only have ‘illegitimate’ force. And women in the 1800s were, perhaps, a special case, in that men often were using *illegitimate* force against them (as men were not allowed to rape women who aren’t their wife), so giving them a tool to fight back worked.

        Whereas giving the oppressed a tool to fight back just means they get gunned down the streets currently.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          So what is the solution?

          It seems that “give the 1% even more power” is not the solution we’re trying for but, for whatever reason, it’s the outcome of most of the stuff suggested (even though, of course, those making the suggestions have the best of intentions and want equality for all and all of the other acknowledgements of their virtue that I need to make).Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            But the 1% are ahead *currently*, too, with the lack of gun restrictions. They still can easily hire protection, enough protection that even with a handgun, someone is not equal to their ability to commit violence. The rich can easily hire people to commit illegal violence against people, and the fact they can *hire* people to that instead of doing it themselves help shields them from the law.

            At least if gun ownership was limited to a class of well-trained ‘professionals’, said professionals might hesitate at committing illegal acts for hire!

            I.e, the idea that guns are equalizers is, frankly, not correct. They managed to help a certain class of victims of specific illegal activities in a specific circumstances, once, and yay for that.

            But strangely, there’s a historic analogy to ‘give women guns’…Prohibition. Which *also* was intended to protect women from men, their husbands this time, and sorta kinda did.

            But it, like guns, actually caused way more problems than it solved, and a better solution was the absurd idea of ‘giving women the ability to divorce abusive drunkards’. Likewise, ‘actually prosecuting rape’ seems a better method to stopping rape from happening, instead of expecting women to *shoot* rapists. (1)

            So, anyway, like I said, guns only seem to equalize when the law says one thing, but it seems like the law can’t be enforced. It happened with women in the 1800s, it *almost* happened with the Black Panthers in the 60 (causing a good deal of panic), but it only happens in pretty unique circumstances.

            And those circumstances are not true with income inequality. There is really no point people could *legitimately* shoot rich people. Rich people are not running around menacing their way into your house and taking money from your wallet.

            1) Especially considering, at this point, most rapists are known to their victims, which means most victims are known to their rapist, which means they often can *get to and take away* the gun before the rape. What is the premise there, that women constantly hold a gun in their hand pointed at the closest male?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              At least if gun ownership was limited to a class of well-trained ‘professionals’, said professionals might hesitate at committing illegal acts for hire!

              So would you say that a “new police professionalism” is what we’re looking for here?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I mean, sure, I agree with your goals here… but you’re effectively arguing for, among other things, only police to own guns. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, under this paradigm, ex-police will not be able to own them. Just police.

                Is that accurate?

                If so, we’re eliding a lot of things.

                Now if we’re just spitballing and playing the “wouldn’t it be nice” game, sure. Yeah. It’d be awesome if only professionals could carry weapons. Nice ones.

                If we’re not playing that game, then what you’re proposing will not, in fact, result in a new professionalism among those that carry but a new credentialism that will limit guns to those employed by the 1%.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                No, I’m not proposing that at all. I was simply pointing out that such a system would not be more unequal than what we have now.

                If guns are legal at all, the rich will be able to hire people to operate guns for them, both defensively and offensively. And they are able to hire so many guns that it hardly matters if other people have guns at all.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, I completely misread you, then.

                Though I admit to still wondering if “And they are able to hire so many guns that it hardly matters if other people have guns at all.” doesn’t have a “therefore…” behind it.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                It should be added that oppression doesn’t have to involve the direct application of violence. It can also be done by withholding violence.

                Refusing to deploy law enforcement to certain areas, or turning a blind eye to the refusal of law enforcement to deploy can also serve to oppress , especially if other populations are keen to use violence and intimidation against the oppressed. In such cases,the ability to have access to a means of self defense is probably pretty important just for survival.

                IIRC this was a popular choice in the pre-civil rights era.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Refusing to deploy law enforcement to certain areas, or turning a blind eye to the refusal of law enforcement to deploy can also serve to oppress , especially if other populations are keen to use violence and intimidation against the oppressed. In such cases,the ability to have access to a means of self defense is probably pretty important just for survival.

                I think that is a much better way to categorize the examples I gave than what I tried to do!

                Women in the 1800s, especially in the west, were not protected by law enforcement from rapists. Black people in the first half of the 1900s were not protected by law enforcement from racists.

                Women equalized with a gun. Black people tried, and the country flipped out, but the premise was sound.

                But, as I said, a *much* better solution is…to stop having unequal protection under the law. Not everyone can operate a gun. Not all circumstances can be solved with a gun. Guns actually *cost money* so the very poor cannot afford them.

                And, perhaps more important, even if they have become *equal*…that just turns injustice into a coin flip. The woman has a gun, the rapist has a gun…the woman ending up dead half the time is not the actual outcome we want there.

                And if half the lynch mob has a gun, even if the black guy does too, that’s probably not the outcome we want either. (In fact, sometimes the gun will escalate it into *really* not the outcome we want. There are a few notable instances where black people fighting back against lynch mobs turned out *horrific*, with mass slaughter of black people, instances so bad we literally pretend they didn’t happen.)Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      IMO, pitbulls are mildly dangerous and there should be some small regulation placed on their breeding and ownership.

      No, there shouldn’t be. At least not more than other dogs. Because pit bulls are *no more dangerous* than other dogs.

      What needs to be regulated is asshole owners, of which a certain type prefers pit bulls and other specific breeds, because they think it is acceptable to build an angry and threatening alarm system out of a living creature, which they do by mistreating said living creature.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Bingo. Anyone who’s ever worked with dogs or trained them knows this.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Is that really true though? “No more dangerous”? I mean, give the same asshole owner a pit bull and a chihuahua and let him subject them both to the same “training” and you’d argue the pit bull is no more dangerous than the chihuahua? I’m no dog expert, but that seems like a real stretch.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Ask the insurance companies. I bet they have the stats for payouts (which is a rough assessment of actual damage) by dog breed.

          In general, the bigger a dog is the more damage it can do, but that’s mitigated some based on the design of the breed. For instance, I’d suspect you’d find that Labrador bites are by far the most common (it being, last I checked, the most common breed) but that the damages for a Lab bite aren’t that high compared to some other dogs of comparable size.

          Labs have pretty soft mouths (they’re retrievers, and sharp teeth and powerful jaws aren’t really useful for retrieving carcasses undamaged). Beagles have very sharp teeth (mine has gnawed through two seatbelts and a lot of furniture) but as best I can tell they don’t have strong jaws, and aren’t big on biters. They’re more chewers.

          Of course with effort you can turn any dog into a nasty, damage causing machine. (Again, you’ll find that bigger = better on that).

          But statistically, over the whole breed — ask actuaries. I’d be surprised if they didn’t have, somewhere in their home insurance numbers, the risk of bite and average payout per breed. (Which would include some skewing as people tend to view certain breeds as ‘dangerous’ and thus seek them out or avoid them, depending on whether they want to make a dog that bites the crap out of people).Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          I mean, give the same asshole owner a pit bull and a chihuahua and let him subject them both to the same “training” and you’d argue the pit bull is no more dangerous than the chihuahua?

          That example is almost entirely a function of size.

          Chihuahua are actually, on the whole, pretty mean dogs, even when treated well. Meaner than pit bulls. It’s just we treat them as a joke, because they are so small, and clearly can’t injury anyone

          Pit bulls are *fairly* strong for their size, but, then again, their size is not that big. And they don’t put up with children playing with them, so actually end up causing a lot of injuries to children. (I didn’t say they were the greatest choices as *pets*, especially with children.)

          You want something that can cause injuries to human, there are two different ways to look at it. English Mastiffs and Bullmastiffs have the strongest jaws, then rottweilers. Then we get to German shepherds, which have moderately strong jaws, about the same strength as pit bulls, but are large enough to be a real threat to adults, instead of just children like pit bulls.

          So, put all together, and the Bullmastiffs probably win the ‘Which dog would be *really* dangerous to fight?’ contest. Very large dogs, the strongest jaws, both of their origin breeds (bulldogs and English mastiffs) bred as fighting dogs.

          Why do Bullmastiffs never seem to attack people? They’re actually a pretty protective breed, and will defend their family, and, yes, they will attack people.

          Well, they don’t do that because no one *trains them to* or lets them become essentially feral by chaining them up and tossing food at them. (And, strangely, they almost never *bark*, so would be crap as the ‘threatening alarm system’ other dogs are turned into.)

          A study in 2006 came to the conclusion that if you separated you the owners of dogs considered to be ‘dangerous’ (rottwillers, pit bulls, Doberman pinscher, etc) with dogs not considered to be dangerous, the owners of the dangerous dogs averaged *ten times* the amount of criminal convictions vs. other dog owners:

          (That study, oddly, takes the tack that owning such a dog indicates the owner is dangerous. Whatever. What I am saying it means is that dog is much more likely to be mistrained as a weapon.)

          Also it is worth pointing out that ‘pit bull’ often seems to be a *very vague* category of dog, and a lot of indeterminate dogs suddenly seem to be ‘pit bulls’ after they attack people. Of the three *actual* breeds classified as ‘pit bulls’ (Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier), all three of the breeds are so friendly to strangers as to be pretty crappy guard dogs!

          It’s plain Bull Terriers (The dog with the goofy egg head) that normally can be a bit aggressive toward strangers, and those are not actually even ‘pit bulls’. As can American Bulldogs, another breed that often gets suddenly lumped in with pit bulls when they are aggressive. (And a lot of ‘pit bulls’ are just mutts.)

          In fact, I bet everyone reading my post and the word ‘pit bull’ has actually been *picturing* an Bull Terrier when reading it, and not one of the actual breeds of pit bulls:


          • Avatar Aaron David says:

            One thing I will say about “pit bulls*” is they seem to have become the Tough Guy dog of choice lately. This catagory has been held by Dobermans, German Shepards, Rottweilers etc. in the past and will surely move on to some other breed at some point. At which point we will have another round of These Ought To Be Outlawed.

            *I happen to love Bull Terriers and know the difference between the two breeds, but as I have cats I wasn’t going to bring one home last when I was looking for a dog a few months ago. And that goes for any full size terrier breed.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              Oh, yeah, I’m not trying to say pit bulls are for everyone.

              For example, people with toddlers should be careful to pick a breed, and not select any of the ‘pit bulls’, because pit bulls will not put up with someone pulling their ears and tail and whatnot, and will attack back.

              A lot of breeds of dogs will do this, in fact, which is why children are much more likely to be attacked by dogs than adults…adults know if you keep hurting a dog, the damn dog will eventually bite you, no matter how ‘friendly’ it is. Children often do not seem to understand this.

              But some breeds have a much higher tolerance for this than others.

              Likewise, some breeds have a much higher tolerance of cats than other breeds. Or other dogs, for that matter.Report

        • Avatar Kevin says:

          DavidTC has this pretty much right. I’m a veterinarian, and I almost never have to muzzle a pit bull. I muzzle far more chihuahuas, and that even takes into consideration that I probably see twice as many pit bulls as chihuahuas. A chihuahua is far more likely to bite than a pit bull in my experience.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Probably because owners of little dogs do darn little training. We had a German Shepherd & trained her a lot, especially bite inhibition.Report

            • When my kids were little, I took them to a dog show where you could go backstage and meet the dogs. They were all well-trained, of course, and happy to be introduced to people and often petted. Except the chihuahuas, which were gated off in a No Admittance area, because they are just naturally bad-tempered.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:


                Training is good. Most people don’t really know how to train dogs. (Hitting them a lot seems to be a popular choice).

                My beagle was pretty easy to half train, but that’s because beagles will literally do or learn ANYTHING if there’s a treat in it. My previous dog I actually took to a trainer and spent several weeks with, entirely to teach her to obey (in the absolute reflexive sense) “down”, “sit” and “stay”.

                She was a bigger dog, nervous around kids, and I needed to make sure she would instantly obey commands that would stop her from jumping on people, running towards (or away) from people, etc.

                My beagle is so entirely friendly that I hadn’t needed that level of training, plus I quickly learned that all he needs to do is see a treat (or a squirt bottle) and he’ll obey instantly.

                Unless he’s got a scent, then good luck.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              Yes, I’m probably being a bit unfair to chihuahuas. They are just as mistrained, although in a different way.

              It’s Small Dog Syndrome, and it’s when owners let tiny dogs get away with repeatedly asserting their dominance, via things we would *never* let large dogs get away with.

              I have no idea what sort of temperament a well-trained chihuahua has.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                If I ever encounter a well trained Chihuahua (or other small/toy dog), I’ll let you know.Report

              • Avatar aaron david says:

                Ya know @oscar-gordon I have a very well trained LLasa Apso!Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                My aunt has a well-trained (Or at least not constantly dominance-asserting) standard-sized dachshund, although I guess those are slightly out of the scope of ‘toy’.

                And it probably helps that she’s owned medium-size dogs for a decade, including having one the entire time she owned the dachshund, so she’s used to telling dogs ‘No’ and asserting control, even if she doesn’t formally ‘train’ them.

                That’s an interesting scientific hypothesis someone should test: Small dogs that are owned by people who also have larger dogs are better trained and less like to exhibit Small Dog Syndrome than small dogs owned by people who have no other dogs or only small dogs.Report