A hypothetical…

Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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199 Responses

  1. I’m not sure if this answers your questions in the way you intended, but I’ve been giving some thought to CBS firing one of its VP’s for saying on social media that the victims didn’t deserve sympathy because most of them were probably Republican (at least, that’s what I think she said from the WaPo article).

    I’m generally one who dislikes it when people get fired for committing the “OUTRAGE OF THE DAY.” But usually I find it easy to blame the “sjw” (I don’t like that term, but please stay with me) and now I can’t and find the person fired more blameworthy. I’m still not sure it should be a fireable offense, but at a very id-like level, I’m more for firing her than I am for many of the other cases I hear about from time to time.Report

    • Damon in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      IIRC wasn’t there the same type of stuff after the Texas hurricane? “Repugs” is a pretty common slur.

      She didn’t say anything I haven’t read on anti gun sites before:
      “has guns ’cause of small penis”
      “round them all up and shoot them”

      • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

        @damon — Well there is definitely a thing about masculinity and guns. After all, it’s the gun makers who came up with “man card” ads, not we on the left. And indeed, I recall back when I was shooting, there was a type — you know, the paramilitary wannabe, with his sleek black assault rifles, tactical gear, unnecessary cammo, and his his complete lack of any real self discipline and fitness.

        I’ll agree turning it into dick jokes is shooting an easy target (tee hee), but still! It’s definitely a thing.

        Have you noticed that pretty much all mass shooters are men? Have you noticed that most of them had rather dysfunctional relationships with women? Like, I was just waiting for stories such as this to surface. No surprise there.

        Contemporary masculinity has certain issues. Add modern military-style guns into the mix and a lot of innocent people die.Report

        • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

          That guy? Yah, spend any amount of time at the range and you’ll see him.

          But there’s “that guy” in the car too. Hell, I see more assholes driving Prius’s than BMWs.

          There’s “that guy” in my jujitsu class who doesn’t understand that practicing moves you’re learning means you don’t roll at full strength.

          Don’t get me started on “that gal” either…you know the ones….

          But I digress…yah, most of the shooters are men. I’d venture to say most of the knife attacks are by men as well. Men, generally, are the more aggressive sex. Most of them seem to have been clients of modern pharmaceuticals and/or had mental issues, or been maladjusted. (it’s one reason why NOBODY touches my kit without vetting and if they screw up, never get another chance-homey don’t play that with fools)

          “Contemporary masculinity has certain issues.” Yes, this is true. In the past, these types would have gone off to war and butchered and raped their way to either fame and glory or death. Not much call for that now.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

              @damon — Yeah that makes sense. As always, it comes down to men, their boners, and their dumb status games.

              You know, honestly, one of the nicest things about gender transition is I’m free from all that bullshit. No seriously. It a big thing. Add to that the ease that we form intimate friendships — no “no homo,” plus I’m gay anyhow so whatever. It’s really nice. It’s actually worth all the other bullshit I have to deal with.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

                “As always, it comes down to men, their boners, and their dumb status games”

                Come on V. This is a two way street. Guys wouldn’t be playing status games if they didn’t get something out of it….chicks. Higher status = more mating opportunities, because that’s what women traditionally have focused on. Higher status males = more resources for the kidlings.

                Don’t claim your adopted sex never had a hand in creating the very thing you criticize. It’s a tangled weave but both sexes share in m/f sex roles.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

                @damon — Yeah but women commit very few murders. This ain’t symmetrical.

                Plus there is the asymmetry between saying “I choose you” and saying “I choose not-you.” We have a right to be left alone. We have a right to not have sex, or have limited sex, or to choose this partner rather than that. Plus, I’m rather unconvinced that men understand the status games they propose to play, which is to say, the “redpill” is actually hogwash. The dipshits who try to play that game end up looking like pathetic try-hards who are still alone. Come on! You’ve seen this. The guy with the puffed-out chest is squirming while the easy-going by strangely cocky guy gets all the attention without trying.

                A lot of it is just good looks, actually.

                The point is, the male pecking order is a whole shitton of wasted energy. Only small fractions of the effort attract women. You’ve seen this too. Big idiots flexing in the gym, getting all aggro, while the pretty girls keep staring at that hawt guy on the treadmill who has quiet confidence.

                He has quiet confidence cuz he’s hawt and he knows it. Life ain’t fair, but you’re either pretty or you ain’t. Sure, status games can make a difference on the margins, but so what?

                It’s idiotic. Know where you stand. Get some chill.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

                Yeah but women commit very few murders. Ofc not.

                But again, we’re talking about males responding to incentives from females coupled with their innate characteristics. Yep, it’s intertwined. Which started first-chicken or egg?

                And as long as guys are getting laid, the pecking order is valid.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

                @damon — Dude, you’re so missing the point here. This is not about what men do to get laid. It’s about what men do who either don’t get laid or otherwise have some massive insecurity about women and sex. Usually it involves feverish resentment.

                Male status games are pure fuckery. They have little to do with the actual tastes of women. Now, it’s certainly true that women like some men but not others. But so what? We like what we like. When we (collectively with some frequency) don’t like a guy, he can either suck it up or lash out. But neither response is the fault of women. Maybe he can exercise, get a personality, fix his wardrobe, whatever, and then attract women. Maybe not. Attraction is a mystery. There are no easy answers.

                (It helps to have great cheekbones. Being tall is a plus. All the same, I know short guys with moonfaces who still get women.)

                But angry guy — nope! Fuck that guy. Yeah fine, maybe if he got a lot of blow jobs he’d be less angry. Maybe not. Maybe he’d be the same “dark triad” fuckhead, but with more women in range to abuse. That’s all though. Like, Vegas shooter guy was a millionaire with a reasonably attractive g/f (given their ages). There was other shit going on.

                But still, I expect he’ll turn out to be a hyper-controlling misogynist. Most mass shooters are. There is something about male insecurity that drives this rage. This insecurity is absolutely not that women choose wrong. It’s that men cannot handle when women say no.

                Women are allowed to say no. We’re not responsible for his boner.

                He can jerk off, get a dog, start a hobby, whatevs.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

                Well I agree with you. The male response is the reaction to lack of mates. The problem is when it’s channeled poorly.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Damon says:

                These are old instincts built for different conditions. Only partly is it about showing off.

                You’re male and don’t have a mate? Easy, go to another tribe, kill some guy and take his. Alternatively, there’s only like 20 guys your age in the entire tribe, killing a guy your own age significantly increases your mating odds as long as you do it without everyone else terminating you.

                Murder was a tool for increasing male mating chances. That was our world for a long time.

                And… childbirth might have been so dangerous that there were ALWAYS more men than women of the appropriate age, so men were always under selective pressure to eliminate rival males.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Dark Matter says:

                It’s 2017 and we have a cerebral cortex. We can fly planes and program computers. We manage large societies with elaborate urban cultures.

                Ugg the Cave Man and his club is not impressive anymore.

                Hey men, get with the times.Report

              • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

                @veronica-d “Ugg the Cave Man and his club is not impressive anymore.”

                I would love to agree with you. In my personal circles I do agree with you. I’m even willing to posit that a majority of humanity agrees with you. And I definitely believe that any absolute morality worth its snuff would agree with you.

                Unfortunately evolution (whether bio or cultural) doesn’t work on any of those metrics. It works on something more like does a significant niche population still disagree with you. As long as a significant niche can successfully (measured purely by biological or cultural reproduction) perpetuate a trait, it will persist, no matter how much I wish it’d just go away already.

                Having lived in a neighborhood full of Uggs who did stuff like get into drunken knife fights for fun (there were also multiple drive-bys in our complex while we lived there), and seen how their Ms. Uggs reacted to that behavior – more often than not, admiringly; at best, complicatedly – I’d say that particular trait is still going to be with us for a while yet.

                That doesn’t mean the rest of us have to make allowances for it. We may choose not to, or to make allowances for less harmful versions as a good middle ground for Uggs to switch allegiances to, but not for unlimited Uggness.

                But as long as we have women falling in love with violent criminals, and admiring their violence on whatever conscious or subconscious levels, we’re gonna keep having violent criminals. Sufficient, whether or not necessary.

                This is part of the reason my amazing grandmother (who separated from my grandfather in a time and place where that Was Not Done, because she wouldn’t accept him being violent) worked *with women* to shift their expectations and values, and more or less ignored men unless they already met her standards.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou — A lot of this seems class-coded. In other words, we see women who “grew up rough” dating guys who embody the behaviors they grew up seeing.

                That said, I tire of middle-class nerd-guys who fetishize the “dark triad” stuff, as if some socially awkward nerdling could simulate being a charming sociopath.

                Of course, the reality is that most people with cluster B personality disordered live awful lives. It might be great to be a narcissist, if you’re also smart and get a solid education and land a posh job in finance. If you’re a below average intelligence and born poor, guess what, you probably end up dead or in jail (and then you die in jail).

                In any case, sure, if you’re a famous serial killer or bigshot finance guy (but I repeat myself), you’ll likely get a lot of women. But those aren’t all the women. Nor do those women represent the “general” female opinion (as if there were such a thing). There are all sorts of ways to be compelling, fun, and interesting. I know so many people who are not violent emotionally repressed jerks, but who still have girlfriends.

                The male attraction to violence emerges from men.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to veronica d says:

                The male attraction to violence emerges from men.

                Every society has this issue, most societies allow females to have a lot of influence over who they mate with. Ex-soldiers I’ve met have mostly been married. I think long ago female instincts decided the way to deal with male violence was to keep some violent males around to deal with others like them.

                And I’m using the word “female” here in a non-standard way so let me expand.

                Humans didn’t invent fire. Whatever species we used to be invented it, because you need fire to have cooking and you need cooking to have brains our size.

                Organized War and Male-violence predate the invention of fire by a lot. We’re not the only ape that manifests this behavior. If the behavior is common, then it predates humanity, and what humans call “culture”. Ergo the instincts that deal with it do also.

                We are a lot more affected by our instincts than we like to admit.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Eh, she said something profoundly revolting on what is basically a broadcast medium, and got fired for it. Fuck her.Report

  2. Dark Matter says:

    I think… the closest we’ve seen to this level of doublethink is the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, which was done to derail peace in the middle East (and which worked btw).

    Does/would it change how I feel? No, I still measure these mass murders against a truly nasty gov supported genocide and decide we’re better off with 1000 years of them (and yeah, I get that it doesn’t eliminate the chances of that gov).

    Does it change others? Maybe if more of the ideas supporters do it.

    Interesting idea.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

      In another, although fictional example of this, I think there was a movie where a group of death penalty opponents committed a horrific murder and framed one of their own people (Who was not in on this plan) in an almost-successful attempt to get him executed, with presumably the plan being to confess afterwards. So there would be, indisputably, be an innocent man that had been executed.

      I just vaguely remember reading the summary of that movie, and thinking there were two problems with their plan in that: a) causing the problem yourself doesn’t really prove it happens otherwise, and b) there, uh, already have been _very clearly_ innocent people executed (Carlos DeLuna for example.), and that hasn’t changed anything, nor has all the exonerations of people we had already decided to execute but later cleared before killing them.

      I dunno, maybe the idea was that none of executed had been cleared legally, whereas someone confessing to a capital crime someone else had already been executed for would require the state to legally clear the non-deceased person if they wanted to charge the confessor (Or else they have to let someone who is not only confessing to a murder, but has evidence to prove that they framed someone else, walk around free.)…but it was just all around a dumb plan.

      It seems like both (a) and (b) would be applicable to this hypothetical, also. If (a) ever comes out, it completely undermines everything…and (b) we’ve have someone shoot up a fricking elementary school and nothing changed. Not really sure this is emotionally worse, even if more people died.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

        I don’t know that the needle will move on GC because of something @pillsy said the other day, about how it’s no longer about policy, but about symbols, and both sides are dug in like ticks to defend the symbols they’ve constructed.

        I mean, it’s like police reform. I figured that a SWAT team abusing a sitting mayor would move the needle (Cheye Calvo), and then I was sure dropping a grenade on a baby would get it done, and then killing a law abiding CCW holder who was doing everything the officer said, and… well, it’s not about police policy anymore, it’s police as a symbol, and we will go nowhere useful.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I don’t know that the needle will move on GC because of something @pillsy said the other day, about how it’s no longer about policy, but about symbols, and both sides are dug in like ticks to defend the symbols they’ve constructed.

          People did not construct those symbols. The media constructed those symbols and handed them to people.

          This is something I keep repeating on this site, but I’m not really sure if anyone is following me. People do not construct their own narratives in some sort of vacuum. People barely put any thought into any of this at all. You know how Joe Sal is always going on about ‘social constructs’? Well, he’s sorta right, in a rather skewed way.

          What is going on in society is that some people in the media (The right wing media specifically) decided that the way to get ratings was to, basically, make up some differences between their viewers and everyone else, and slowly construct entirely different worldviews. This would, essentially, trap them in their own media ecosystem.

          And, of course, they didn’t invent new worldviews, but used a bunch of existing ones that were previously limited to the far right, suitably modified to be less overtly racist. Guns were included in that.

          So, at this point, a bunch of people have been taught to associate gun ownership with all sorts of things.(1) They have, as you said, turned them into symbols.

          It is actually pretty easy to turn them back…simply have the same people who taught them what the symbols were and what they meant to teach them something else. All the media has to do is come up with some plausible-sounding way that gun ownership is wrong, some plausible way that people can show they are really members of the right group by doing something about guns.

          ‘True Americans have to reduce the number of guns and make sure people don’t own too many because people are stealing them from those idiots and using them in crime.’ ‘True Americans have to do something about weapons that can be modified to fully automatic because the left is trying to ban all guns, but a True American doesn’t need more than one shot.’ ‘True Americans’ gun ownership has always been about hunting and self defense, so of course True Americans don’t want people to have large magazines.’

          The right-wing media could come up with exactly the same level bullshit they’re using to justify unlimited guns, and just direct it the other way. Within a couple of years, it would not be an issue.

          The right-wing media will not do this, of course. It’s all ratings.

          Of course, we’ve learned they will listen to Trump. Maybe he will do something. I doubt he’s smart enough to finish making his sandwich…no, wait, while true, that wasn’t what I was talking about. I doubt he’s smart enough to present a reasonable face on gun control that his base could accept.

          1) And yes, there is a small amount of people on the other side who have been taught other things about guns and gun ownership. Some of these are politicians, and some morons, but I repeat myself.

          Meanwhile, there’s the vast majority of people ‘in the middle’ who, uh…have noticed that guns currently appear to be extremely dangerous to allow people to wander around freely with. They haven’t been ‘taught’ that, they have noticed an objective fact.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

            The media constructed those symbols and handed them to people.

            That works too. The point is, X is now a symbol, whether a person constructed it themselves, or had it spoon fed to them via media or special interest groups, and symbols don’t dislodge so easily.Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

            All the media has to do is come up with some plausible-sounding way that gun ownership is wrong, some plausible way that people can show they are really members of the right group by doing something about guns.

            You can’t stop Sandyhook unless you disarm the guy with the undiagnosed Schizophrenia, and his mother, and anyone else he might kill for their firearms. You can’t stop Pulse without disarming a guy who can work as airport security. You can’t stop Vegas without disarming the one percent. People understand that when you say “do something” your end goal is “total disarmament of everyone”.

            And that’s where multiculturalism comes back to bite you. America has lots of cultures, but while some of that is just “history” some of it is also “functionality”.

            Some households live in areas where the police are an unreasonable distance away. Similarly, if shooting my neighbor’s dog is a reasonable concern for me or any of mine, then no amount of “spin” is going to convince me that it isn’t. Ditto if I occasionally put meat on the plate via a firearm. For that matter the local deer are large, pretty pests and the only way we’ve got to keep them under control is hunting (I’d mind deer less if they didn’t bring their ticks with them).

            So the press, who almost uniformly live in heavily urban areas with easy access to the police and who don’t face any of these issues and don’t talk to anyone who does, are going to paint gun ownership as a bad thing? When they do that they just look out of touch to the people who have different cultures.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I found a pretty much perfect example of what I was talking about yesterday, in this blog post from Charlie Pierce. I’m not calling it out to drag Pierce, who I generally like, and the piece is, IMO, powerfully written, but it’s a pure appeal emotion. The failure to act in response to Newtown or Las Vegas is put entirely in terms of what it symbolizes—a commitment to the Second Amendment above all else.

          Little attention is paid to what actions should be taken, or what those actions might do to prevent future atrocities.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

            Little attention is paid to what actions should be taken, or what those actions might do to prevent future atrocities.

            I think that complaint is legitimate only if you think the larger problem of gun violence is not cultural. Until the American love affair with violence ends nibbling at legislative edges can be correctly viewed as effectively useless.Report

      • veronica d in reply to DavidTC says:

        @davidtc — Yeah this is the same as the right wing Christian men who go in to women’s bathrooms to freak people out, using this as evidence that trans women are dangerous.

        But of course it is the right wing Christian men who are dangerous.Report

  3. Damon says:

    There has been some commentary that the shooter had antifa/leftist leanings. Frankly, I haven’t been paying much attention to this story…..

    If there are people that are going to hammer metal spikes into trees to “stop the deforestation of the PNW” and are willing to let loggers get killed over it, and there are people willing to assault people for voting for a certain candidate, I think there are people willing to shoot into a crowd of people that are likely more conservative than not (the assumption that country music fans are more republican, more conservative, etc.-I don’t know if that’s true). At a minimum, the gap from one to the next is decreasing.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

      There has been some commentary that the shooter had antifa/leftist leanings. Frankly, I haven’t been paying much attention to this story…..

      That was, IIRC, the commentary of Great Internet Detectives that had identified the wrong person.

      The actual shooter was apparently pretty apolitical.Report

  4. Oscar Gordon says:

    If it helps, extrapolate this out even more generally.

    Somebody has committed a very poignant* act of violence specific to advance a political goal. How does that fact impact the utility of the event for people who are also passionate about the goal, but who find the act horrific?

    Poignant being that it wasn’t just random violence. The violence committed was chosen specifically because it was the topic.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      It obviously puts you in a politically and emotionally difficult spot, and I think if it happened to me I would want to hide under my bed for a weak. And hiding under my bed for a week would probably be a wise course of action from the standpoint of effective advocacy.

      Nonetheless, there isn’t a cause so noble or self-evidently correct that it doesn’t attract some truly vicious shitheads to it, and being too worried, after the fact, that continuing to advocate for a cause I believe in just because someone committed an atrocity in its name would allow a particularly nasty form of a heckler’s veto.

      It might well be cause for introspection over the nature of the movement, and to consider whether we might have been providing what could be interpreted by a reasonable person as support for terrorism, and for that matter whether some of my fellow advocates might have actually been providing explicit support for terror. But just because you need to change your tactics and rhetoric doesn’t mean you have to change your ultimate goals.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


      I’m struggling to think of another situation that might fit the bill.

      If I’m understand the hypothetical, part of what is behind the question is the notion of a gun being used violently to resist efforts to curb gun control. There is something unique in saying, “I’m going to do the very thing you are trying to stop in the hopes of making it hard for you to try to stop things like this from happening.”

      I’m trying to think of an analogy… someone having an abortion in some sort of grotesque way in the hopes of furthering a pro-choice agenda? Is that what you had in mind?Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kinda. That is what makes this hypothetical interesting (to me, at least), that the act of violence is deeply integral to the debate itself. It is also what makes finding other similar cases tough, because it would be a perfect storm of elements.

        Perhaps, if we were having a heated national debate about the lax controls on civilian aviation (anyone can just walk onto an airfield and steal a plane!), so our shooter instead used his pilot’s license and a stolen plane to crash into the crowd, instead of shooting at it. Something like that.

        Or maybe an eco-warrior sabotaging an oil rig.

        Even bombing an abortion clinic would count, in a way (killing unborn babies via the bomb, rather than via medical procedure).

        It’s a oddball question, I admit, but the meat I am looking to get folks to think about is what @j_a said here. And perhaps a person would not be willing to kill to further the agenda, but would they be OK with using the violence of another to further that agenda, even if said violence was done to further that agenda? How toxic is that event to the cause?

        ETA: I don’t know that there is necessarily a right or wrong answer here, because I think context matters, a lot. But I do think it’s one of those things that is worth kicking around the ol’ mental can, seeing if it knocks something loose.Report

        • Nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          As to “how toxic” I think the answer is easy. Everyone inclined to disagree with the policy goal will use the event as an example of how right they are, forever and ever, amen. Everyone on the other side will (as I meanderingly did below) explain why one person’s bad acts don’t tarnish the policy goal.

          See, e.g., everything Trump does or says.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


          I’m actually realizing now I misread the hypothetical. I thought the idea was that the shooter acted to OPPOSE gun control, not further it. Which may have made my comment above seem nonsensical? Or not? Who knows.

          With a clear understanding, I don’t know that I see this as vexing a question as others do. Learning that fact would not change my feelings on gun control in general (which are mixed).Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:


            I wouldn’t expect anyone to change their mind. The question is, does the event itself become toxic to the cause? Does it damage the desired narrative? Is there a moral quandary with using the specific event to further the cause?Report

            • It seems to me that we forgive violence (sometimes) in support of nationalistic goals. The IRA, the PLO, Kurds bombing sites in Turkey, Americans killing redcoats… I find it difficult thought to think of a single example of anyone excusing violence in support of a singular policy. So playing along with the OP…I’d say that if Paddock was indeed doing this to prove the need for gun control, it doesn’t hurt that cause at all. I wouldn’t hold it against the movement unless it was commonly advocating violence, which it is not.

              I don’t like abortion but I’ve never been okay with bombing clinics or even harassing patients outside. We can feel strongly about something on both sides of the aisle without resorting to barbarism.Report

              • Damon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Good point, but also let’s remember that the victors write their own history. If the rebels in 1776 would have lost, we’d be reading history books talking about the failure of the rebellion.

                That being said, there is something to an ethnic group fighting for a piece of land they can “own” themselves, especially ethnic groups that have historically been marginalized, like the Kurds. Of course, it was an outside power that carved those borders that made the Kurds essentially stateless.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


              Maybe this has been mentioned, but there is actually an interesting parallel to guns themselves here.

              Remaining within the hypothetical… this shooter created a tool to further an aim. He wants gun control. He orchestrated an event with the hopes of realizing that goal. A horrific, awful event. A tragic event. This tragedy was his tool.

              The question, as I understand it, is whether this tool can be wielded in another way. In a way other than how he intended but for the same purpose.

              Which… isn’t unlike a gun. A gun can be used to murder someone in cold blood. It can also be used to defend life. If a specific handgun was previously used to kill someone, could it never be used to save someone? Would it be toxic? Would we have to purge that gun… melt it down… and find another gun to offer someone wanting it for defense?

              I realize it is not a perfectly analogy but the symbolism jumped out at me.Report

  5. Road Scholar says:

    Funny… You don’t look like Alex Jones, j/k. But you are basically describing something like the false flag stuff he’s always yammering about.

    I guess you’re gesturing toward the principle of not acceding to terrorism, which is what your hypothetical is describing. So in that spirit, my answer would be no. Either a principle works both ways or it’s not actually a principle.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Road Scholar says:


      Yeah, I figured someone would bring that up, thank you for not thinking I was trying to head down that path. A false-flag suggests a conspiracy of power players. I’m keeping this to lone-wolf, or perhaps small cell (less than 5 people, all peers), with no hierarchical guidance.Report

      • Damon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        ” I’m keeping this to lone-wolf, or perhaps small cell (less than 5 people, all peers), with no hierarchical guidance.”

        Why? It’s well documented that the FBI uses snitches/agitators to try and get maladjusted folk to commit terrorist activities. Why is it “wing nut” territory to suspect something similar in the case?Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

          That would suggest the FBI let one slip away (to date, it seems that every lone wolf the FBI has cultivated they’ve had reasonably good control of – which is it’s own set of issues). I guess it isn’t beyond the pale, but that is pretty wild speculation at this point.Report

      • Peter Moore in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I realize you are offering this as an hypothetical, but still: while not technically ‘false flag’, your scenario still seems to require the same kind of dime-novel-super-villian planning that Alex’s fantasies do.

        Out of curiosity, can you point to a case outside of thriller books and movies where someone actually did this kind of cynical “do horrible thing to prove that thing is horrible” plan?Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Peter Moore says:


          Nothing to this degree, or so well targeted, no. At least, not that comes to mind.

          Damon had mentioned spiking trees to defeat loggers, which is of a kind, but is designed more to thwart loggers, not alter public policy. Same with a lot of the actions of far left eco groups.

          But that is why it lends itself to a hypothetical.Report

          • bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            It’s nowhere near this level, but I recall back in Jan/Feb there were a bunch of pictures of someone at an anti-Trump rally holding up a sign that said ‘Rape Melania’. It got a lot of play on right wing sites and then on FB. All of it to show how unhinged and dangerous the left had become.

            However, a close up on the face of the guy holding it showed that he was one of the people associated with the white supremacists in Charlottesville. It turned out he was right wing troll.

            Now I don’t give the other protestors a pass because someone seeing that sign should have torn it our of his hands and told him to leave, but it is someone doing something heinous to try to paint anything on the same side of the aisle as heinous.Report

            • pillsy in reply to bookdragon says:

              There have also been about a zillion right-wing fake Twitter campaigns designed to discredit “SJWs” by trying to associate them with banning Father’s Day or whatever.

              And it looks like Russian trolls have been posing as BLM advocates for similar reasons.

              It’s easier online because nobody can tell if you’re actually four ducks in a trench coat.Report

              • veronica d in reply to pillsy says:

                Yeah, it seems as if there are about a billion more fake “antifa” Twitter and Facebook accounts than real ones. They’re usually really obvious to us, but not so obvious to mom and dad back on the farm.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Peter Moore says:

          can you point to a case outside of thriller books and movies where someone actually did this kind of cynical “do horrible thing to prove that thing is horrible” plan?

          It’s the whole, “put on the other guy’s uniform and commit heinous acts in his name” gambit and that was outlawed quite a while ago. I’m not sure how often this has actually been done historically, it requires a degree of control that seems problematic.

          It’s been suggested Putin did this. I.e. that the Chechen rebels/terrorists who blew up Russian Apartment buildings were actually State Security successfully swinging the election to Putin.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    If I may wander into weirdness territory…

    There are pictures of the room that had been leaked. (The leaked pictures claim to be from the room, anyway.) On one of the tables is a pen next to what looks like a note.

    Why don’t we know what the note says?

    Why don’t we have more information?

    My immediate assumption is that the information that “the authorities” have is information that makes “the authorities” look bad on some level. Why? Well, it’s similar to the body cam thing that police do.

    There are circumstances under which they release all footage immediately including footage that they didn’t even have on the body cams. “Here’s some stuff from the camera at the 7-11 across the street. Here’s some stuff from youtube from one of the people hiding behind a dumpster when it happened. Here’s the dash cam.”

    There are circumstances under which they explain that the process for releasing footage is difficult and onerous and there are all kinds of things that need to be taken into consideration before hastily putting footage out there that doesn’t show the entire context of the incident.

    You know the conclusions that you reach when the cops start doing that latter one?

    This strikes me as being somewhat similar to that.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

      The boring answer is that assuming there is a note, investigators want to ask questions of one more witnesses about it without the note being public knowledge.

      Also, cops are being forced to disclose evidence sooner than they like. It makes their job harder when people’s recollections are influenced by the media. I would not assume that those circumstances are the normal state.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

        It makes their job harder when people’s recollections are influenced by the media.

        Except when it makes their job easier.

        In the situations where it makes their job easier, they back a truckload of evidence up to the media and dump it in the parking lot.

        Right? You’ve seen that… right?

        Which tells me that we’re in a situation where disclosing this information is *NOT* one where disclosing information makes their job easier.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

          It’s only been 48 hours, and the public is not in danger of erupting into violence over the incident (which is usually when the police dump the truckload, to quell ire that might directed at them, or some other group the want to shield). I expect all the evidence will have to made public at some point.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Seriously, this isn’t one of those situations where I’m inclined to go all Alex Jones on the cops. It took them only 11 minutes from the first shot being fired to busting in the door to his room. Given the circumstances that’s remarkable.

        What do you imagine they could possibly be hiding?Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Road Scholar says:

          According to this, it wasn’t 11 minutes.

          Shots fired at 2140, police identify room at 2224, SWAT team breaches at 2325.Report

          • Peter Moore in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            According to Fox timeline, 10:40 is the start of the concert, not the start of shooting. The shooting didn’t start until 10:08. The police identified the floor by 10:14, the room by 10:24 and an officer was wounded approaching that room by 10:26. So 18 minutes from first shots to first attempt on his room.

            What took a significantly longer time was the successful breach of the room by SWAT almost an hour later at 11:20 . But given that the shooter had evidently stopped shooting at civilians by 10:19, and an officer had already been wounded on the approach, it seems understandable that SWAT took some care in setting up the approach.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

      If I may wander into weirdness territory

      I honestly don’t know what I would do if you didn’t wander there at some point. I’d have to ask Maribou if you were feeling OK.Report

  7. J_A says:

    I don’t remember who said this, but, on discussing if there causes that are so important it’s worthwhile to die for them, he/she retorted something like:

    “The real question is: Is the cause so important that it’s worthwhile to kill for it?

    Most of the time, the answer is no.Report

    • KenB in reply to J_A says:

      If you have a strong belief that many lives will be saved by the proposed policy change, it becomes essentially a trolley problem — if killing 50 innocents this way results in more extensive gun control being passed, which could save, say, 1000 people a year, one can see that utilitarianish argument being made, as repugnant as it is at first glance.

      Obviously the premises themselves are questionable (both on how likely the act would be to move the needle on regulation and on the life-saving effects of any resulting regulation), but for people who have a lot less doubt than I do on those counts, it looks like at least a debatable proposition.Report

  8. North says:

    To answer your question empirically, Oscar, if promoting gun control was the shooters motive then the shooter was either extremely ill informed or extremely irrational. So far in the current political environment the result of mass shootings has been an increase of pro-gun ownership regulation; not less. On the economic front mass shootings result in surges of gun buying and increasing in gun manufacturers stock; not decline.

    So if advancing gun control and gun restrictionist goals was the shooters objective then not only was the shooter a malevolently evil person but he was also an imbecile.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

      Yes and no. I see the point you are making but…

      One of the realities of the manner in which the shooter executed his plan is that he was in a clock tower. He was effectively immune to any and all return fire that anyone in the crowd could have hoped to direct against him (the range was well beyond effective pistol range). He rendered the CCW crowd impotent. He just shattered a common, reassuring myth of the pro-gun crowd, that a good guy with a gun could stop a mass shooter. No chance in hell of that happening. The only way he could be stopped is if there was a sharpshooter with a scoped rifle at the venue who could quickly get a bead on him (they have one or two of those at big stadium events for just this reason).

      Which disturbs me, not because of the truth here, but because it shows a level of planning that is rare in mass shooters.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        it shows a level of planning that is rare in mass shooters.

        This one I think has already been kind of explained.

        The alleged shooter’s alleged father was an alleged bank robber. He made the FBI’s most wanted list. From what I understand, bank robbery requires a huge amount of meticulous planning… I don’t know how much influence the father had on the kid (a lot of articles talk about how the father vanished when the children were young) but if planning is something where apples don’t fall far from the tree, we know that there is a bit of family history of that sort of thing.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

          In adulthood, most cognitive and psychological traits are dominated by genes and non-shared environment, with shared environment playing a very small role. I would expect whatever traits govern planning ability (IQ and conscientiousness, maybe?) to have a large genetic component, with the fact that his father disappeared when he was very young not having much of an impact. Apparently he was also a very successful professional gambler, which seems like it would also require those same traits.

          The motivation’s a head-scratcher, though. I wonder if he had some kind of neurodegenerative disease like FTD. Or maybe his girlfriend just dumped him.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            The motivation’s a head-scratcher, though.

            Why? We know with certainty that Paddock’s internal reasoning led him, via a chain of inferences, to want to shoot effectively fully automatic weapons into a crowd of people. He had his reasons!

            Why do we care what they were?

            Is the idea that we want to answer the question “what could bring a man to do such a thing?”Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            The motivation is one of the things that bugs me. Most people who come uncorked do it locally. Even when they plan, the target something specific that is typically local. You can figure that somehow that local thing had meaning or a connection to the killer.

            The guy lived 80 miles away, executed what appears to be a very well thought out plan against a highly transitory target (musical festivals come and go). I mean, unless he had a real grudge against the music festival itself, or one of the performers…

            But yeah, the motivation, whatever it was, matters, because this wasn’t just a random event like an asteroid impact. I mean, I am assigning a motivation for the hypothetical, but I’m not pretending that it was the motivation that was actually in play.Report

      • Nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Even then, a bad-angle shot, in the dark, into a building full of innocents is not something any civilian “sharpshooter” is ever going to try.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Nevermoor says:

          No, a SWAT or Army/USMC shooter might, with approval from higher up, but some guy in the crowd never would. In other words, you’d have to have one or more snipers laying in overwatch.Report

          • Nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            The military might (::might::) have a few guys who could make a shot like that, but they aren’t likely to be hanging around in Vegas. I’d bet a lot of money Vegas PD has zero such people.

            It’d be a different story if there was an adjacent building providing a level shot, but my understanding is that wasn’t an option.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Nevermoor says:

              True, shooting up is a lot different than shooting down. A lot would depend on the training the sharpshooters have.

              Although, there are a number of rather specialty shooting ranges around Vegas, so the chances such a person was hanging around Vegas is actually pretty high, but deploying them in a timely fashion…Report

      • North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        So I initially was pondering your response and furrowing my brow in some confusion. Then I saw David’s response and your reference to my comment and it finally clicked. So you’re basically pondering if this guy literally looked at the standard NRA responses and formulated a gun attack that invalidated absolutely every single one of them while also targeting a traditionally pro-gun group of people? I guess I see your point there.

        But… what is the appropriate pro-gun/NRA response to this attack? I don’t think I understood your response because guns are largely foreign to me so I’m asking sincerely. Based on you and DavidTC’s analysis the standard ones don’t apply so what’s left?Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

          The best I can dream up is either A) Call it a never event and hope like hell it never happens again, or B) what I am betting they are doing is waiting for the final casualty stats to come out.

          Here is how B) works. Shooting a FA weapon, or a semi-auto with a bump stock, is ridiculously inaccurate. You literally can not aim, so all you are doing is firing in a general direction. When shooting into a mass of humanity, accuracy is not much of a concern, so initially it doesn’t matter, some people are going to get hit.

          But remember, bullets are small, and if you aren’t aiming, once the crowd begins to disperse, your chance of hitting a person begins to drastically diminish. Now you are just shooting to keep the panic alive.

          People die in panics because they get trampled.

          So we have 58 people who are dead and over 500 injured. How many have actual fatal bullet wounds? How many were injured or killed in the panic?

          In the final calculus, the casualty count doesn’t matter because every death and injury is a direct result of the shooting. But for gun control, if the number of people hit by bullets is a small fraction of the casualty count, then I can fall back to, a guy with a sniper rifle and a loud set of speakers with a recording of gun fire can have the same effect. Kill a few people, let the panic do the rest.Report

          • North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I see, makes sense. So basically too early to tell.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

              Yep. Just remember, the strategy is to expose the Gun Control desires as a game of hydra head hunting without a torch. If you only focus on the heads, the problem will never be solved. You gotta target the body.

              And then they walk away from the hydra while pointing in some vague direction while muttering, “the body is that-a-way”.Report

              • North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                What if the bullet death numbers come in really high though?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

                Then they better have a really good spin doctor.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The range was roughly 350 yards and we know how many were killed and will have good data on how many were injured, wound severity, etc. We also have a hotel room where the brass can be typed and counted down to the last bullet. We have an enormous amount of video footage from the crowd from which we can calculate the crowd density and how it changed, and we have impact points on the ground to show the areas where he was firing. From all that we can calculate pretty exact numbers and ratios.

                He fired for 12 minutes, so we can compare typical hit rates with 12 minutes (720 seconds) of aimed fire versus how he fired based on audio recordings. We might find that his bump stocks saved lives by causing vastly more misses and fewer hits per minute, or we might find that the overall increase in firing rate created more casualties despite a lower hit rate.

                I think the key factor in the attack wasn’t his weapons, it was his high angle firing position. Essentially he was strafing an open field like a WW-II fighter plane. Unlike many active shooting situations, getting on the ground didn’t help much.Report

  9. Nevermoor says:

    I think the analogy to tree-spiking above, or any other criminal act, is the right framework to think about this. Another equally good one would be groups like the Weather Underground.

    Were I alive in the late sixties, I very much hope I would have supported WU’s stated goal of supporting the civil rights movement. I also very much hope I would have supported the non-violent crimes committed by many members of that movement (which is to say that by exposing themselves to arrest by violating evil laws they do a valuable service that merits support). I feel quite confident I would not have supported anyone who committed murder in service of the same cause. WU was an exercise in trying to find the line between the two (assuming you believe they carefully and intentionally limited their actions to destruction of property), and I can see why attitudes on them at the time among other committed activists were all over the map.

    Another good analogy would be how to react to fringe violent groups at rallies (whether it be Occupy, BLM, or other causes I sympathize with). The answer for me is that I would not support any group that encouraged such behavior, but that would not change my feelings about an underlying cause I agree with. I suspect I would feel the same way about your hypothetical: gun control is a necessary step towards a country where fewer people are shot to death, and the fact that one of the nutty shooters is a left-wing nut instead of a right-wing one only reinforces the need to keep guns away from nuts.

    That was meandering, but I’m going to leave it as written so my thought process is out there.Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:

    I am more realist on the approach to gun control than many on my side if only because I see the almost impossible slope to 2nd Amendment repeal.

    The issue here is that the do nothing Side has too much power on all issues. I might have warmer feelings to the gun rights side if:

    1. They supported broader access to mental health and public health money spent on mental health professionals. They largely do not.

    2. They recognized that urban communities have rights to monitor guns in their communities; and

    3. They cared about the rights of minority gun owners.

    None of these are true. Rather it seems to be about imposing rural values and views on a universal level.Report

    • Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think one of the strongest arguments against gun control (or at least certain kinds of it) is that it is a matter of cultural identity. If we take liberal multiculturalism seriously, culture is important to identity and self respect. If a gun control measure would endanger the cultural identity of a group (e.g rural hunters) that is a reason against that measure. (making no judgements about the goodness or badness of said culture).

      We do seem to accept a similar argument when it comes to male circumcision and Jewish identity.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:

        Muslims also circumcise. There is also the issue that religion in protected by the Federal and state constitutions.

        You can protect the rights of rural hunters while also saying it is not okay to own an entire arsenal of weapons that are not really meant for hunting. A multi-cultural society would also say that rural hunters can have their weapons but not take them open carry into urban spaces.Report

        • Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          That’s why I said certain kinds of gun control. There are better and worse ways of going about it. For instance, handguns (which are involved in more gun related deaths) ought to be the first to go*. unlike hunting rifles, the only thing handguns are good for is killing other people. And unless I’m missing something, they are not culturally important the way hunting rifles are. Perhaps Mike Dwyer can correct me if I’m wrong.

          *If we could get rid if them all and not just have only criminals with weapons.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Murali says:

            Just as a note: If you outlaw X, only outlaws will have X is indeed true. On the other hand, you do suddenly make possession of X a crime. Which means getting caught with one tends to remove you from society and place you in jail.

            Not that gun control in America is a possibility. In my wildest liberal dreams I envision universal registration, insurance requirements, and buy-back programs.

            Which, I note, doesn’t ban jack or even control things. It merely requires you to be responsible for any damages done by your freaking gun, and incentivizes people to get rid of guns they don’t want. (And if you turn in 10 cheap, crap guns and use the money to buy a nice expensive one you’ve had your eye on for awhile, that’s fine by me.)Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

              When you game out how law enforcement handles gun control in your head, does it play out significantly differently than how the War On Drugs played out in the 80’s and 90’s?

              Like, do you see something other than “cops throwing minorities in prison for decades for guns, some of which were planted, and ignoring all but the poorest/least educated of whites” happening once the laws are put in place and cops start kicking down doors?Report

            • Murali in reply to Morat20 says:

              yeah, i meant more about only bad people having guns. (but the way cops are now, i think you are already there)Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Murali says:

                I find the Second Amendment rights do seems to falter when they run into the “Anything and everything is a threat to a cop” issue.

                I don’t think a black man has a real right to open carry, even if it’s legal in his state. Not if he likes to keep breathing. White men, on the other hand, can wander around with AR-15s complaining that Dennys won’t serve them with no worries.

                I wouldn’t advocate banning guns in general — it was just a note that if only outlaws had guns, well then you had easy legal proof the guy with the gun was an outlaw. The weird belief it’d suddenly go all Mad Max, with roaming bands of gun-armed outlaws breaking into defenseless houses is pretty hilarious.

                As I said: universal registration, insurance, and licensing. The crap we require for cars. Force responsibility on gun owners. If everything gun owners assure me is true is true — a handful of “bad owners” will be unable to afford keeping their guns, a handful of businesses playing under-the-table criminal arms dealer will go bankrupt, and all the “good, responsible owners” will find their lives go on much the same, only with the added moral clarity of knowing they have coverage (and thus can make whole, as much as such things can be) accidents or negligence.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Murali says:


            I would argue that handguns also have a cultural importance. I would characterize them as the swords of today. Personal defense and a sense of pride of ownership are sort of merged together in the same way a samurai might feel about their katana or a Spaniard about their rapier. And the first duels with handguns started around 1750. So yeah, there’s a lot of cultural stuff there to unpack. In some ways, I think today they represent a person’s ability to protect themselves and their loved ones more than any other type of firearm.

            Handguns are honestly as popular as I have ever seen them in my 42 years. With that said, as you point out, they account for the majority of gun deaths, so we need to talk about them.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Handguns are honestly as popular as I have ever seen them in my 42 years.

              The number of households, as a %, that own guns is dropping and has been for decades. The number of guns per household is higher — there’s effectively a concentration of gun ownership going on. So I’m not sure handguns can be “as popular” — perhaps they’re as popular among gun owners?

              I know my father-in-law, for instance, ended up with a small armory (even after selling several) due to simple inheritance. He’s one of the few avid hunters and outdoorsmen of his generation, so they all sort of drifted to him because “He’d use them/he’d appreciate them/he actually might want them”. (Seriously, the man has bought exactly two rifles, one shotgun, and one pistol in 60 years of life. He’s sold one of the rifles, but currently owns something like three shotguns, five or six rifles, a pair of pistols, a muzzle loader his father-in-law built, and I think that’s after parceling out some other inherited pieces to a hunter friend of his).

              Out of my generation, the numbers wanting to own a gun or having any interest in one are even smaller — so the collection will get concentrated again.

              I suspect that’s one reason the NRA has, frankly, gone batsh*t the last few decades. Manufacturers are having to focus more on selling more guns to existing owners just to stay even on sales.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Morat20 says:

                So I’m not sure handguns can be “as popular” — perhaps they’re as popular among gun owners?

                Yes, that was what I meant by that. Handguns and ARs seem to be all anyone wants to talk about.

                Also, I’m concerned that you describe your father-in-law’s collection as a ‘small armory’. I have roughly the same number of guns and about the same types…but I consider my collection pretty average at best. I might need to reconsider….Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                That’s how he refers to it. Growing up, the folks owning guns tended towards a single deer rifle, a shotgun if they hunted birds. Most of the handgun owners were suburban or urban.

                He’d be happy with half the guns he currently has, because that’s enough to do everything he wants to do AND have a spare to loan out or in case one breaks.

                Like I said — despite giving away as many as he could, despite not having bought a gun in something like 20 years, he’s got two or three times more guns that he knows what to do with.

                If I were a gun maker, I’d be really nervous about the trends. And I suspect one reason for the..tenor of gun owners these days is an understanding that they’re a shrinking group, and a deep seated fear about what that means long term.

                Something I try to keep in mind when listening to them complain about “gun control” even as they’re literally experiencing a Renaissance in gun ownership. From SCOTUS overturning a century or more of precedent, to concealed carry and open carry blossoming in ways unimagined 20 years ago, to massive updates to self-defense doctrine, to the fact that already existing gun-control laws are falling off the books….

                *sigh*. I’m not gun unfriendly. But a lot of gun owners are their own worst enemy.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Morat20 says:

                I agree that there are lots of gun owners who harm the cause. Likewise, there are a lot of anti-gun folks that harm their cause. As with most issues, no one pays much attention when the reasonable people in the middle talk to each other.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                As with most issues, no one pays much attention when the reasonable people in the middle talk to each other.

                Of course not, those conversations don’t make for good clickbait headlines, nor do they muster up donations.Report

              • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:

                “but currently owns something like three shotguns, five or six rifles, a pair of pistols, a muzzle loader his father-in-law built, ”

                That’s not that many-at all. My dad a much more than that, but sold most of it when I told him I wasn’t interested. (I was more interested in his bottle of 20 year old whiskey :))Report

            • Personal defense and a sense of pride of ownership are sort of merged together in the same way a samurai might feel about their katana or a Spaniard about their rapier.

              I’m going to object to the analogy here on multiple grounds.

              Both were priced far beyond the reach of the common man. Some of that “pride of ownership” is “it’s a bloody expensive piece of kit and you damned well better take care of it.”

              Katana were light infantry military weapons. At least as military as “well regulated militia.” And given the limitations on what you can do standing in a line of men, dependent on the ones on either side of you to do the right thing, samurai took the same “pride of ownership” in their armor, and their training, and their colleagues’ training, or they didn’t last long.

              Rapiers were, in practice, weapons suited to professional duelists. Freak-of-nature kind of hand and forearm strength. Contemporary writing suggests duelists might be fond of a particular weapon, but mostly it was “just business.” What you really mean are small swords, more suited to a person of average stature and strength.

              Any of those — katana, rapier, or small sword — require years of practice to become proficient. Western European history is full of examples of the king outlawing such practice, usually because of either (a) it kept the aristocrats from practicing actual military skills or (b) the aristocrats were killing each other off at rates faster than they could be replaced.

              Swords injure or kill people within a fixed distance. There was nothing analogous to the weekly “infant kills adult with handgun.” If you’re ten feet away from the guy with the sword, turn and run and you’re safe.

              The notion of the common man can afford a weapon that kills intentionally (sans training) at six feet, maybe intentionally and maybe not at 60 feet, and completely at random at 600 feet, is a thing that has never existed before.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

                There is also the fact that Samurais were allowed to kill common people with impunity. Hey, that does sound familiar…..

                (Redacted by Maribou, insulting)Report

              • Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                @saul-degraw If you make a personal comment about someone else on the site like that again any time soon, I’m going to suspend you. Dressing up an insult doesn’t make it less insulting.

                The fact that it was in response to someone giving their opinion of something after *being specifically invited by another commenter to do so* makes it even less civil.

                You can do better.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw says:


                Regarding your redacted comment… Murali asked my opinion about handgun ownership. So I am distilling the anecdotal experiences I have had with other gun owners to try to give him the best answer I can. With that said, while I do own several handguns and enjoy shooting them from time to time, I don’t consider myself a handgun aficionado. So no, I don’t think of them as my samurai sword that I protect my family with. Hopefully my psyche meets your approval.Report

              • @michael-cain

                I know you are a fencing guy and I also know the history behind those two swords in particular, so I understand why you might bristle. So please, insert the weapon that makes more sense for the common man. A tomahawk. A Kentucky long rifle. A simple Viking sword. A club. Whatever.

                The point is, handguns in particular represent, to some, a weapon of personal defense, pride of ownership and some kind of security for their family. So for those people, I think there is just as much cultural significance as my favorite shotgun has for me.Report

              • The point is, handguns in particular represent, to some, a weapon of personal defense, pride of ownership and some kind of security for their family. So for those people, I think there is just as much cultural significance as my favorite shotgun has for me.

                For what it’s worth, my father resembled that when it came to his guns, and he owned a lot. It wasn’t just handguns, but he owned quite a few handguns, and while some were probably antiques, most were modern-ish (I think….I’m not a gun connoisseur at all). His pride of ownership extended beyond his identity as a hunter, although he hunted, too (pheasant and elk, I think), and, I presume, liked that identity as well.

                My point is, what you wrote above does ring true for that one example in my life. As a personal matter, I had and have very mixed feelings about all that, but I can’t deny that the appeal was real and that in its own sphere was something shared by many, many responsible adults.

                ETA: whether my father was a “common man” is a hard thing to decipher. He probably thought of himself that way, and while he had the advantages of white men with relatively high affluence, he was also working class. Still, he probably also thought that owning a gun for self-defense and pride of ownership made him “better than common” in other ways. I’m speculating. I really wasn’t that close to him while he was alive.

                ETA #2: Thankfully, to my knowledge, my father never actually used a gun for “self-defense.”Report

              • I’m not saying pride of ownership in a gun isn’t a contemporary thing. I’m drawing a blank on self defense weapons prior to inexpensive handguns where widespread ownership was possible and where pride of ownership has to take a back seat to, or at least be accompanied by, pride of mastery. It’s a common thing in a mature industrialized society. Lots of people take pride of ownership in their automobile, even though they lack the hard-earned skill needed to make it do more than very basic things.Report

              • @michael-cain

                I’m not sure I follow. Surely even the average person could take pride in their self-defense weapon while not having mastery of it…right?Report

              • Rereading my comment, it’s certainly phrased badly. What I’m challenging, I guess, is the use of “self defense”. Someone carries around a sword — absent extended training, they can’t seriously protect themselves. For them, it’s only potentially a self-defense weapon. Pride of ownership in the sword absent the training has to be for reasons other than self defense: it’s pretty, it’s valuable, it’s made by a famous smith, etc.

                All of that applies to contemporary handguns, of course, but handguns have reduced the amount of training necessary, by orders of magnitude. All of my gun experience is a variety of single-shot rifles, most recently almost 40 years ago. Still, I’d be surprised if you couldn’t make me lethal with at least one model of handgun in 30 minutes.Report

              • Damon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I’m not sure about that Michael.

                I’m sure that in 30 mins you can be briefed on safe firearm handling, can learn to work the action of a semi auto handgun, learn how to eject the mag and rack a round. You could even be taught some basics on improving your sighting and accuracy.

                What I don’t think you’d learn or have the muscle memory for, is how to draw a concealed weapon/or unconcealed weapon, and fire it in a self defense adrenaline rush scenario. Hell, I’ve shot for decades and I’m not sure I could either because I don’t train that way.Report

              • @michael-cain

                I get that, again, you are the fencing expert here however, I’m 100% sure many, many men carried swords in the past who were not very good at using them. This would have been both in civilian life and on the battlefield. Likewise, beyond swords, think about an American Indian carrying a gun stock club or tomahawk passed down by his father. He believes he hasn’t necessarily had any training but he believes he can defend himself with it and has pride in owning the weapon. Now someone asks him to give it up… Probably a pretty reasonable analogy.

                And in my experience lots and lots of people who carry handguns or keep them in the nightstand for home defense are not particularly good with them. And despite plenty of practice, I have no idea how I would do in a real self-defense situation. So…in that sense I’m probably much like a trained swordsmen about to engage in combat for the first time. I hope, but have no way to prove my skill.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                The first time I ever shot a pistol, a .357 magnum, I put six rounds into a fist sized group at 50 yards. I wasn’t fast but I was accurate.,

                As an aside, European martial arts died a quick death once we realized that ten years of intense sword training was useless against a partially disabled grandparent with a gun. The knights who clung to the old standards were ruthlessly weeded out on the battlefield. The armored heavy cavalry charges kept ending badly, and their first response was to adopt thicker breastplates. So armorers would shoot each new breastplate with a musket to prove the armor’s quality, and shortly after all the breastplates had a dent in them from the proof test (probably made with a ball peen hammer in most cases). Gunpowder and ammunition improved and the knights just had to give up because armor that can stop a bullet was too thick to fight in.

                And then we had to redefine courage. Courage used to mean grappling with the enemy and defeating him by force of arms from a few feet away, while cowardice was generally associated with launching projectiles from a distance. Archery was for sissies like Homer’s vain Paris in the Iliad. Real men went hand-to-hand. Guns forced us to abandon that mental construction. Courage was redefined as standing stock still in formation as death whizzed past your ear and cannon balls came slamming into people all around you. Courage was not flinching under fire.

                That construction is still operative, as was made plain in Las Vegas. The people standing up to guide the evacuation and to render aid, ignoring the incoming fire like it was a warm spring rain, were the brave ones. We built that idea, and that behavior, out of battlefield necessity.Report

              • Murali in reply to George Turner says:

                Except standing still while the bullets are coming at you is not what you’re trained to do in the army. You stay under cover and slowly advance moving from cover to cover not leaving cover for more than 3 seconds. and keeping as low a profile as feasible given the terrain.Report

          • pillsy in reply to Murali says:

            Handgun bans are considerably less popular than “assault weapon” bans. I think that is cultural: a lot of people who think that owning a handgun is a perfectly sensible thing to do in order to protect your person and property also think owning an AR-15 is weird and pointless.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw try to stay somewhere in the neighborhood of oscar’s hypothetical rather than analyzing the sides, in this post, please, as he requested above.Report

  11. Stillwater says:

    Interesting question since it highlights the role narrative plays in forming our judgments about these types of events. Eg., even as we speak people are scrambling to (scare quotes) “make sense” of this, as if finding out that he was trying to start a race war, or trying to destabilize western democracies, or trying to accelerate restrictive gun laws, provides any intellectual comfort. I guess the internal dialogue is that until we know what he was trying to achieve by killing 59 innocent people and injuring 500+ others this whole thing just makes no sense. And we need it to make sense.

    One of the dangers you’re pointing at is that identifying one motive rather than another (or none) will make sense of, and therefor in some sense justify, the otherwise morally insane actions of an otherwise lunatic. It makes me want to not play that game!!Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:


      Honestly, seriously thinking about this, even in an abstract fashion, should give a person a bit of an uncomfortable feeling. I know it did for me when I thought about it last night, which is when I wrote the post.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I think the discomfort would be proportional to the degree people use motive, rather than the act itself, to justify condemnation/permission. Eg., Dylan Roof murdered 9 innocent people. In a Church. Who were black. To start a race war.

        Here’s my worry: that focusing on motive often sanitizes the act of the bare moral opprobrium we would otherwise, in the absence of a compelling explanatory narrative, apply to it. Eg, once people get hooked on motive, they begin to think things like “Well, after finding out Roof wanted to start a race war I totally understand why he shot 9 innocent black people, but really, he didn’t think it through very well because {analysis, analysis, analysis…}.” The bare insanity of killing 9 innocent people becomes an afterthought.

        And that worry exists separately from your more pointed concern: that motives which align with an individual’s goals will cause a person to cast less moral judgment on an otherwise purely heinous act.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I wanted to make one more point about this. I agree that serious consideration of motive affects our moral judgment of certain acts. And it’s not that I’m reluctant to do so. The point I was getting at is that your hypothetical strikes me as a reductio on using motive as part of our moral calculus when judging these types of events. Not too long ago I got into a discussion with quite a few commenters about the various post-Trump election threats some Jewish institutions were receiving which followed an all-too-familiar pattern: lots of folks refused to judge those threats until it the source could be determined. They could be false flag ops, afterall! My argument was that those threats should be rejected as immoral or inappropriate regardless of their source. Needless to say, I didn’t make any converts. Similarly, I’d be surprised if a made any converts to the view that given what we know Paddock’s motive is irrelevant to forming a judgment about his actions. By saying that I’m not trying to diminish the role which determining motive helps us understand why he did what he did. It’s more to say it isn’t *necessary* to make a moral judgment about it.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

          Ah, gotcha! And yeah, that’s a fair way to think about it, or at least it’s a legit way to square the circle.

          Although, now that I think about it a bit, I’m not making a moral judgement of the act itself, but of using that act to support political reform that aligns with the motive.

          Basically, if he wanted more gun control, and committed terrorism to encourage more gun control, are we “letting the terrorists win” if we do.

          And if letting the terrorist win is still good public policy, do we establish a dangerous precedent that violence is an acceptable mechanism to move a sticky needle?Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            The problem you outline sounds like a Black Mirror plotline! From a cynically instrumental pov resolving the paradoxical nature of your hypothetical is easy: the end justifies the means. And if *that’s* the operating principle the hypothetical is intended to reveal, then I tend to think it still constitutes a reductio. There are some means which the ends do not justify. But now I’m back to talking about morality again. 🙂Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

              I did say that I didn’t think there was necessarily a right or wrong answer.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yes, yes. I’m not suggesting there is, which is surely one reason your hypothetical is interesting to think about. For each of us, how we individually view the means, ends, principles, consequences, politics, etc of an act will affect how each of us views it. And even tho I (may!) view this hypothetical scenario as a reductio, other people may view it as an argument for the deliberate commission of terrorism. In that sense it’s not unlike many of the discussions we have here at the OT re: cops killing black men. My view of most of those situations is that the death-by-cop of those people constitutes a reductio on our criminal justice system, that we’re doing something fundamentally wrong. Lots of other people go the other way, effectively defending the CJ status quo and effectively pinning the cause of death on the victim. One person’s reductio is another person’s WAI.Report

  12. Tod Kelly says:

    I think you’re confusing the issue of good public policy with an issue of a single crime. To the degree that gun control is a good idea, I’m not sure that it is dependent on the “true” motivations of mass killers.

    If we discovered the terrorists who flew plans into the WTC were motivated by trying to awaken us to the potential threat of terrorism, would we dismantle our security systems and stop x-raying bags at the airport?Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I do seem to recall that there was quite a bit of resistance to the Patriot Acts and DHS that fell along those lines.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        The “inside job” theory was very, very popular right after 9/11.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        This seems to dodge my point by simply waving at the fact that nutters exist.

        If gun control is a good idea as a way to curb mass murder, than it is exactly that by definition.

        The only way it matters what the inner motivations of mass murderers are is if you are going to debate whether or not mass murdering people is ethical and/or should be allowed. If you don’t want to argue that, who gives a shit if someone shot 100 in the name of the Right or the Left? Is someone really going to argue, “well he was mentally ill and he carried out an evil atrocity, but hey he really belongs to my party so I guess I’ll allow it?”Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          This seems to dodge my point by simply waving at the fact that nutters exist.

          Christamighty Tod, aren’t you paying attention? The whole damn country is nutters anymore.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Btw, if Paddock’s actions caused a massive cultural shift realized as significant and substantive gun control legislation I could see very many liberals lionizing him as a hero.* Which is one of the issues Oscar’s hypothetical is inviting us to think about.

          *Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of their lives.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

            Liberals recognize that the Great Depression caused a cultural shift that led to FDR and the New Deal and all that, but Liberals don’t lionize the Great Depression.

            (Well, Amity Shlaes think they do, but I don’t think they do)Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Tod Kelly says:


          Again, I’m not asking about whether or not the overall policy becomes toxic or invalid (obviously it doesn’t), merely if the use of the event (even if the shooter or event is not lionized[1]) to promote the policy presents a moral hazard?

          Let me re-frame a bit. If Eric Rudolph’s bombing of abortion clinics causes a state to effectively[2] ban abortion clinics because of the danger they now represent, do we run the risk of other extremists bombing clinics in other states to achieve the same end? One could argue that the closings of clinics is not about banning abortions, but about public safety.

          [1] Although there were way too many people on Twitter and Facebook being too happy about potential republicans/Trump voters getting killed or injured or terrified in Vegas. People really need to take a deep breath…

          [2] Effectively ban by instituting safety requirements that make clinics too expensive to operate.Report

  13. Murali says:

    This is one of those tough ones. One of the costs of lax gun laws is the risk of someone who for all intents and purposes looks sane getting his hands on a dangerous weapon and causing lots of deaths. An actual incident of such a thing happening is the realisation of such a risk. For almost any other issue, when people say that the downside to a law is the risk of X and X actually happens, that makes the downside more salient and gives us some reason* to change the law**.

    The complicating issue is that in your hyppothetical, a mass shooting is conducted in order to warn the people about lax gun laws. I’m tempted to agree with Tod and say that if gun control is good policy and the shooting makes that more apparent, then the motivations of the shooter are irrelevant

    *Things are a bit complicated. It may very well be the case that a realised risk gives us no more reason than an unrealised risk. (because the risks we care about are always prospective and any realised risk is always in the past) But given that we are already prone to discounting unrealised risks, taking the risk more seriously in the face of it being realised is a heuristic that may very well provide a useful corrective.

    **The usual caveats apply. The reason is a pro tanto reason. There may be other countervailing reasons to not change the law. For the sake of argument I will assume that changing the law will actually make things better and not violate anyone’s rights.Report

  14. DavidTC says:

    Weirdly, yesterday I realized something interesting about all this, and was planning to write a post on my blog about it, and then, as I laid in bed, started getting weirdly paranoid and wondered almost this exact premise.

    I’ll try to keep this non-partisan, but basically, every time there is a mass shooting, there’s always something else presented by the gun lobby that we should do instead of gun control. We all have seen it. Except…nope. Not here.

    a) We can’t crack down on terrorism. Doesn’t apply.

    b) We can’t work on dealing with and noticing mental health issues, because this guy didn’t have any…well, I mean, he possibly had some, but he didn’t have any sort of history of it, and apparently none of the people he interacted with noticed anything.

    c) We can’t crack down on people with criminal records, or a history of violence…again, none there.

    d) We can’t ‘enforce the gun laws already on the books’, this guy’s ownership of guns seems completely legal. Even the modifications to make the guns full-automatic were legal, because, from what I understand, it was the ‘bump stock’ method that basically uses the recoil to pull the trigger again. (1)

    e) And ‘Bad guys with a gun will be stopped with a good guy with a gun’, is, obviously, no. As Jaybird said above. It’s not just that the guy was above, it was that he was shooting from at least 200 feet up the air and 200 feet or more horizontally. That’s a minimum response distance for this ‘good guy’ of 300 feet. Pistols…cannot shoot someone 300 feet away. They just cannot. Especially not someone inside a building at a bad angle who is spraying automatic fire. And please note the shooter had sniper rifles that could have been used to to take out people returning fire.

    f) We can’t even fall back to ‘We should secure crowded locations from guns’ via metal detectors and whatnot. Are we going to ban guns from hotel rooms? Make people walk through metal detectors when they’re in buildings with sight-lines to crowds?

    That’s it. NRA playbook empty. No hypothetical stopping methods besides gun control. There literally are no other things we could do to stop this in the future except stop letting people buy semi-automatic rifles with large magazines.

    So…yeah, being a bit ‘paranoid’ when looking at this one is not a crazy conclusion. It is hard to imagine a mass shooting that makes a better argument for gun control. I suspect the conspiracy theorists are all over this thing.

    It is also going to be a hell of an indication if we _can’t_ get any sort of gun control after this.

    1) Currently, dumb people in Congress are proposing making ‘bump stocks’ illegal, but you can functionally make the same sort of thing out of anything…it’s just something that lets the action move backwards into the stock, and then bounce forward…and the movement forward causes the trigger to be pulled again.

    You can ban a rifle stock from being modified in that way, but it would be pretty easy to build something to put the back of the gun into, around the stock, that does exactly the same thing. A ‘bump sleeve’ or something. You could even, absurdly, just put the gun against a wall and hold your trigger finger in exactly the correct place to have the recoil bounce the gun off the wall and get the trigger pulled again. (Well, no you couldn’t, the gun would probably twist up, but you get the point.)Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:


      I said something very similar to @north up above.

      I feel a little better that I’m not the only one who came to this conclusion last night. I still don’t know that his actual motivation will line up, but yeah, it’s a slam dunk set of conditions.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Hey, that’s what I was thinking about, except for some reason I thought Jaybird said it.

        But, yes, the entire thing almost seems ‘How do we build a case for gun control that can’t be rebutted?’.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

          But, yes, the entire thing almost seems ‘How do we build a case for gun control that can’t be rebutted?’.

          I think you get to the same tactical plan by just thinking how to do it without being stopped. This time it was the NRA’s house of cards that was tumbled, the last time it was the “gun free zone” that was shown to be a farce.

          And we’d need a lot of gun control to stop someone like him, serious culture changes, serious disarmament. He was a member of the 1% (etc). For that matter we’d need an absurd amount of gun control to have prevented Pulse, the shooter was a professional guard, I just can’t picture the police (etc) being disarmed.Report

        • j r in reply to DavidTC says:

          But, yes, the entire thing almost seems ‘How do we build a case for gun control that can’t be rebutted?’.

          Except that this has not built a case for gun control that can’t be rebutted, unless you mean among people who were already in favor of more gun control. For instance, my own personal position on gun control – which is that our gun laws need to be significantly tightened in some places and significantly loosened in others – is exactly the same today as it was on 30 September.

          And this is the problem with spending too much time trying to figure out what the shooter’s motives were. Chances are if he were still alive and you asked him five different times why he did it, you’d get five different answers. And one of those answers would probably in some way indict our gun laws. Your laws let me amass this arsenal. You’re all to blame as much as me!.

          I recently watched the De Niro Bernie Madoff movie and was reminded about some of the after-the-fact rationalizations that Madoff used to deflect his own blame. It was the greedy investors who wanted to make money so badly that they didn’t question his too-good-to-be-true returns. It was the regulators who did a piss poor job of catching him when the signs were so obvious. It was the investors that pulled money from his fund at the wrong time, leaving him no choice but to make up for it. Etc. How people choose to rationalize these sorts of actions after the fact is mostly just an exercise in psychological deflection. Not sure how much it tells us about the acts themselves.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        The response to the clock tower shooter was people with gun racks in their trucks. They returned fire until the police could make it to the top of the tower and finish the job.

        Open carry of scoped sniper rifles at concert venues is the obvious solution to the situation. Within the first few volleys people in the crowd were pointing at the shooter’s window, but nobody had a rifle at hand.

        But the problem we’re trying to solve is really an unsolvable one. A nutcase in the 1% who is devoted to scoring kills can spend ten years looking at the tactical situation to find the holes we haven’t plugged. People like that would buy a huge truck, put it in a garage, and then spend two years welding armor and swing arms with powered blades on it so they could cut a sixty foot swath through a densely packed crowd. They’re the kind of person would would build an arsenal of trench mortars from scratch and strike a stadium from over a mile away. They’re the kind of person who would build a drone to drop carfentanil laced BB bombs on a marathon.Report

    • Damon in reply to DavidTC says:

      For me it’s never been the “NRA excuses”. Unless you want a massively oppressive society, you’re never going to eliminate the ability of one person to kill some one, or many, if that person is willing to die as well.

      I’m more likely to die or be maimed driving than getting shot. Hell, I’m more likely to be shot in a bad neighborhood than in a mass shooting.

      I don’t mind those oddsReport

      • Nevermoor in reply to Damon says:

        Certainly gun control is inconsistent with libertarianism (at least as I understand the philosophy), but at the same time, good gun control really does result in far fewer mass shootings and does mean that the unavoidable crazy people do a lot less damage.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Nevermoor says:

          I think philosophical and political strains of libertarianism might offer differing answers to that question. Phil. Libertarianism is interested in determining the largest consistent set of liberties accorded to everyone in society. Pol. Libertarianism is interested in minimizing government restrictions of liberty full stop (seems to me).Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

            Phil. Lib. would examine what the functional liberty at question is. Pol. Lib. is concerned with keeping the screws from getting tighter while the Phil. Lib. folks come up with an answer.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Nevermoor says:

          538 looked at the claim and decided it was hard to truly determine a causation, since such events were astonishingly rare beforehand.

          That’s not to say we shouldn’t do something, but what the UK and Australia did is not necessarily the path forward for the US (although they can be informative).Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Nevermoor says:

          the unavoidable crazy people do a lot less damage.

          Only if they’re not in control of the government. 😉Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

      It is also going to be a hell of an indication if we _can’t_ get any sort of gun control after this.

      After Virginia Tech we figured out what had gone wrong. Shooter was mentally ill, everyone knew it and had told the system, it was just that the system’s right hand didn’t tell it’s left. We passed gun-control/information-exchange laws to stop that from happening again.

      This time I don’t see what we do if we’re interested in stopping it, as opposed to just the symbology.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to DavidTC says:

      Like many have said, if we can’t get gun control after Sandy Hook. We can’t get gun control after anything.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        …if we can’t get gun control after Sandy Hook. We can’t get gun control after anything.

        After Virginia Tech everyone lined up and increased gun control because there was an identifiable solution.

        That’s the part which was missing in Sandy Hook, and in Pulse, and probably this time although that’s not certain yet.Report

        • KenB in reply to Dark Matter says:

          There’s bipartisan support for banning the bump stock (and also a run on them in anticipation of a ban).Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to KenB says:

            There’s bipartisan support for banning the bump stock…

            That’s fine as far as it goes, but how hard is it to make these things?

            Are we relying on the next mass murderer to follow the law?Report

            • DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

              A bump stock is somewhat complicated to make yourself…well, except for 3-D printers, I guess, which makes it trivial.

              A device that does basically the same thing as a bump stock but attaches to the outside of the gun is also trivial.

              As I said, you can, in theory, do ‘bump automatics’ against walls. Or your own torso. You just have to get something to hold your finger at exactly the right point where if you pull the trigger, the rifle goes back, hits something behind it, bounces forward, and your finger ‘pulls the trigger’ again, and repeat. This is pretty hard to do without a mechanical aid keeping the rifle under control, yet still moving enough, and your finger at exactly the right point. But it could literally just be something that the gun basically sits inside. (Which is, when you think about it, what the stock of a gun really is, something the actual gun sits inside.) It wouldn’t even obviously be anything to do with guns, just a weird shaped box that’s only half the size of the gun.

              But it’s even worse than that. These devices are restricting themselves to using the mere recoil of the gun to do everything, just like designed fully-automatics do.

              If you don’t live within that restriction, if you are willing to use external power to make a gun fully automatic…

              You can basically make any semi-automatic fully automatic with a small slow electric motor and a few plastic spokes, that attaches such that the spokes just keep pulling back the trigger. Push a button, motor starts rotating, trigger gets pulled repeatedly, tada, it’s a fully automatic. There are probably plans out there to 3-D(1) print 90% of that to attach it to a gun, and you just stick a small motor, switch, and battery in and solder some wires. Hell, you could probably build the entire thing out of LEGOs.

              Weirdly, I’ve never seen anyone mention this, although I have seen ‘Gatling cranks’ which are the same concept except a hand crank. Those are is apparently for people with three hands, because damned if I know how you’re supposed to hold the rifle while doing that. I’m suspecting pushing a small button to run a tiny electric motor is not manly enough to be popular with the sort of people who do these things.

              And now I wonder if anyone’s thought of a Gatling crank with an disengagable flywheel….spin it up, the flywheel rotates freely, then do something like tilt the gun sideways (Or, rather, have the gun sideways to start with, and tilt it level) so the flywheel slides down a shaft, catches on gears, and engages the trigger spokes. Thus allowing someone to actually aim while using the thing, and even stop shooting by tilting back the other way. (It’s admittedly not the sanest control mechanism, but whatever. You could also stop it by grabbing the flywheel, although gloves would be smart there.)

              Another option, off the top of my head: Attach an electromagnet behind the trigger, have it disengage when the trigger touches it by using the body of the gun as an electrical circuit or just a press button, and re-engage on a slight delay. Click click click click click click.

              And, of course, if you’re willing to open the action of the gun, you can do this much easier. I was just suggesting stuff that could be clipped on, so the gun is legal 99% of the time. (Actually, it might be legal even with the stuff clipped on, the laws seem to be really dumb in this regard. As long as you do not modify the actual action of the gun, you appear to be okay. You can do any sort of ‘automatically repeatedly pull the trigger’ you want, as far as I can tell.)

              There is functionally no way to stop a small piece of metal from being pulled automatically by mechanical means. This is, when you think about it, very obvious. The frickin Ancient Greeks probably could have come up with my flywheel idea!

              1) It’s kinda funny, we have people weirdly worried about 3D printing guns, which is still something that is not very possible considering the material we use for consumer 3D printers, which you can basically subject to an explosion and muzzle pressure…exactly once. If you are lucky. Meanwhile, no one talks about how easy it is to 3-D print things that modify existing guns.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to DavidTC says:

                The Gatling cranks are use-able with a bipod-mounted rifle because your front hand is no longer needed. I use a bipod-type setup for turkey because I need a free hand to scratch my slate call and I also use it for deer because I want more stability for shots over 100 yards. I believe I saw bipods on some of the guns the Las Vegas shooter used.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:


                If you poke around gun blogs, people have thought of all this. However, almost everything you mention runs afoul of the BATFE, which means it can not be manufactured for sale or legally home built.

                Of course, if you are planning on committing mass murder, a BATFE reg outlawing the construction of such a device in you garage is probably pretty far down on your list of concerns.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                However, almost everything you mention runs afoul of the BATFE, which means it can not be manufactured for sale or legally home built.

                Really? Because I was under the impression that bump stocks were legal because they did not modify the action of the gun, they did not actually change anything about the behavior of the trigger mechanism…they just made the action slide back and forth so that it repeatedly got pulled.

                If modifying the stock of the gun to do that is not illegal, it’s hard to see how adding something to the gun is.

                Or is there some sort of specific rule against electronic trigger devices? Or even a rule against building something to pull a gun’s trigger at all? (Which would actually explain why people are building things to use the recoil.)

                I mean, it sounds like a reasonable rule, although one that is totally unenforceable.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

                My understanding is anything that would drive the mechanism outside of human action is prohibited. So an electric motor or a flywheel would get the thumbs down from the BATFE. Same with anything that would be internal to the firearm (the device has to be external to the action).

                To be honest, the criteria the BATFE use is kinda vague and what they approve or deny is somewhat arbitrary and capricious. And the agency is not always very forthcoming with an explanation as to what they didn’t like about a device, so it can be difficult to get a feel for exactly where the boundaries are.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                My understanding is anything that would drive the mechanism outside of human action is prohibited. So an electric motor or a flywheel would get the thumbs down from the BATFE.

                I think an argument can be made that a human-powered flywheel is, in fact, human action. It’s on a bit of a delay, but as long as the human cranks it up, seems legit.

                And now I’m wondering about a setup that has humans turn a crank to charge capacitors to later operate something electronic.

                Like I’ve said in previous discussions about this: I see no real solution except to limit the magazine size, which basically means no removable magazines at all. (Because it is trivial to modify removable magazines to be longer.)Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to DavidTC says:

                Myself, I’d go with a wound spring to drive it, with its own trigger to start and stop it. But your point is right on — anyone with a bit of mechanical aptitude can design/fab a device that converts a semi-auto weapon to (almost) full-auto by mechanically pulling the trigger rapidly.Report

            • KenB in reply to Dark Matter says:

              Well, I was just responding re the political process question — it’s likely that there will in fact be new “gun control” legislation due to this incident. How effective it might be is a separate topic.Report

              • pillsy in reply to KenB says:

                I saw Dana Loesch, who is a paid NRA spox, blaming Obama for bump stocks being legal yesterday. I think the writing is on the wall for them.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to pillsy says:

                Kellyanne Conway was pushing the same line.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Morat20 says:

                Then ride Cleek’s law to making Bump-stocks illegal?

                Maybe not the gun legislation you want, but the kind you could get.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Not really. Banning bump stocks (something I’m pretty certain I could make with the right Lego set) is meaningless.

                It’s worse than meaningless. It doesn’t address the actual problems, but does give everyone an excuse to declare it solved and move on.

                I don’t know what you can do to fix the problem — I mean I have ideas, ranging from “politically possible assuming sanity breaks out” to “requires King of America to be crowned” levels — and I know that, bluntly, there’s probably not even a tiny patch job solution that’s really politically possible.

                But I can object to purely symbolic non-solutions designed to close the subject entirely, until the next massacre. Which should be next week or so.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Morat20 says:

                I think your assessment of the political efficacy of small victories is wrong; very wrong.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Morat20 says:


                I agree the bump-stock thing is incredibly pointless, so does that make Feinstein wrong for pursuing it? Would she be better off not going for the quick, emotional win, instead of putting in the hard work to do something meaningful? I say yes, she should wait.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I think she’s correct to pursue it. I also think the NRA would be correct to pursue labeling it a “gun control measure” and claim it as a concession.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Stillwater says:

                I have a different read. The gun crowd, myself included, understand how silly this is which then makes us not take her very seriously. I would really, really like to see a Democratic politician that understands guns and talks our language. That would be a step towards progress.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I would really, really like to see a Democratic politician that understands guns and talks our language. That would be a step towards progress.

                If you think progress can be made why not ask one of the GOP CCers who speaks your language to make the case?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                And there ya go. NRA now calling for further review of “whether these devices comply with federal law.”Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Stillwater says:

                Interesting. The 2010 letter could be withdrawn as far as I know and no legislators would have to get their fingers dirty, and the NRA maintains what I think is its position that ‘we don’t need any new laws, just enforce the ones already on the books.’Report

              • Stillwater in reply to PD Shaw says:

                If you haven’t read it yet, the statement is here.

                One interesting thing about it: the quality of writing is higher than anything the current WH has produced.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I dunno, honestly. I mean the way I look at it? Real wins are impossible. No amount of hard work, effort, politicking, or whatnot will change that.

                Despite all the screaming about gun-rights being under assault, they’re not — they’ve been massively expanded the last two decades. And 60 dead people might get what amounts to an incredibly pointless symbolic change that will do nothing.

                I suppose the real question is: Since it’s a clearly being done to make people feel like something is done, will it make people feel like something is done?

                Me? I’d prefer Americans face reality. But then, I’m not an elected Rep whose constituents are demanding some symbolic fix so they can go back to ignoring the issue.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to KenB says:

                I’ll make a prediction that bump stocks will be withdrawn from the market due to public relations concerns and fear of liability. It looks like it is being pulled from on-line sales at larger hunting chains.

                On the liability issue, I would point out that federal law provides qualified (not full) immunity for sellers/manufacturers of (a) lawful firearms; (b) ammunition; and (c) component parts of either. It seems to me that this is a defeat device that is sold as an accessory since it cannot be a component of a legal firearm. Whether or not I’m right, I think a lot of businesses will see this as having high risks for a novelty item.Report

              • KenB in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Interesting — does that mean we should expect lawsuits against the manufacturer(s) of the bump stocks Paddock used?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to KenB says:

                Wasn’t the Sandy Hook lawsuit ended with a judge saying “not only no, but ‘loser pays'”?Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

                I don’t think so, but didn’t follow too closely. Legislation has to be passed to create “loser pays” situations.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I was thinking of a different victim of a different mass shooting.

                Lonnie and Sandy Phillips sued Lucky Gunner (an ammo sales company) after the Aurora theater shooting. They lost. The judge ruled that they also had to pay the legal fees of Lucky Gunner.

                They wrote about it at HuffPo.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

                Ouch, $203,000 in legal fees to be dismissed at the start. I don’t know enough the particular lawsuit, but there were a lot of political lawsuits filed before the federal qualified immunity statute was passed that were intended to use the courts as forums to raise issues, attract donors and raise publicity for politicians.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to KenB says:

                I’m not familiar with this regulatory area, but I think I know how plaintiff’s lawyers think. I’ve also looked at the letter (pdf) issued by the ATF in 2010, and it doesn’t strike me as anything more than one bureaucrat’s opinion. The statute he is supposed to be interpreting is this one:

                The term “machinegun” means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term [machinegun] shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.

                Is the part intended to allow a gun to automatically shoot more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger?Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Will depend on the interpretation of “single function of the trigger” – the mechanical add-ons work by manipulating the trigger with multiple functions (to use the language of the statute). The trigger is pulled and re-pulled, albeit very quickly and mechanically. I suppose that is why they are legal. In my non-legal capacity, it would seem the statute would need changing if those add-ons would be made illegal under that definition. So, I’d opine the suit would likely fail on that point.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

                You may be right. Though I would observe you and the ATF officer use a mechanistic approach to ascertaining intent, and I suspect in the Courts the issue of intent will be subject to broader scrutiny, including marketing.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

                As per Stillwater’s comment above that the NRA is asking for reconsideration of the 2010 determination. This is an area fraught with perils for businesses when whether you are breaking the law depends upon the political winds.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Sure; we are all in an area fraught with perils when breaking the law depends upon political winds.

                My point was more along the lines of change the law, don’t try to sue the law into existence.

                I’m not sure how I feel about the NRA looking for a bureaucratic re-statement (which incidentally would make the legal sellers immune via ex post facto clarification, no?) … per the mini thread above, I read that as a pretty big tell that the NRA is vulnerable on this small element, and they know it.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

                The law is what Congress passed; the ATF letters appear merely to be informal opinions, that can be withdrawn at any time. Sometimes Congress authorizes an agency to make formal decisions, like listing scheduled drugs or hazardous substances. But this simply looks like a letter. A court might look at an informal letter and find its reasoning persuasive if the reasoning is consistent with its own interpretation of the statute. It may not be as persuasive if there are competing informal letters.

                I don’t think criminal enforcement is likely for ex post facto reasons; the main problem is all of the businesses in the chain of commerce are going to be sued under a theory of negligence per se, which is not covered by federal firearms immunity, and would make the actors liable for all injuries caused by the “machine gun,” assuming that the Ninth Circuit finds that the kit is an illegal part. And insurance may not pay any of the damage award.

                I’m not saying all of this will happen; I’m saying that this business is going to disappear as these risks are discussed. It may already have.Report

  15. Kolohe says:

    The Ozymandias gambit? I dunno.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kolohe says:

      One does have to wonder if the newspaper published the crank file, would it have mattered in the end…Report

      • North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        No, looking at the Watchmen in light of modern times it seems very unlikely that the newspaper (which-note was a kind of pre-mainstream National Review kind of outfit as I recall) would have mattered a ton had it been published. Consider:
        -Millions of people were dead.
        -Nuclear war had been averted.
        -A really mentally palatable alternative enemy had been offered.
        -No one on either side truly wanted to go back to the previous standoff.

        So the newspaper would have published the crank file and if anyone paid any attention at all it would have been to ridicule and dismiss it. Especially with the surviving heroes involved affirmatively intent on covering their tracks.Report

  16. Oscar Gordon says:

    Hey everybody, this was a really good discussion, and I truly appreciate everyone keeping it civil and smooth. I also hope everybody got something out of thinking about this.

    I’m gonna step back from this one for now (gotta get the Tech Tuesday ready and work is always a harsh mistress) unless someone tags me.

    Thank you for being willing to kick this around a bit.Report

  17. Oscar Gordon says:

    OK, just going to post this because it’s relevant. About how a psychotic break is not a sudden thing.

    This is not meant to undermine my hypothetical, but as more of an addendum to the whole question of motivation.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Yesterday there was an article that said there might be evidence that the shooter had been planning his attack for twenty years. If so, there’s really not much that we can do. A twenty year obsession is enough time for a person to invent multiple weapons.Report