Gun nuts of the world, UNITE!

There’s something eminently cool about being able to lecture to a Secretary of Labor. I love the internets!

BTW, I realize my first reaction to the VT massacre is unusual. My first thought when I hear of such tragedies is wonder why someone with a concealed weapon didn’t stop the shooter. This was impossible in this case because on the VT campus, and most other school campuses, concealed weapons aren’t allowed.

I don’t think I’m ready to argue they should be allowed; I don’t think I’d take a gun on campus even if I could.

College campuses are suppose to be sanctuaries of learning where brutal realities like deep, homicidal depression remain abstractions, studied in the Psychology department by students in lab coats. Being free of reality, being caught up in abstractions, frees students to be creative, to try connecting dots that aren’t connected, or thought to be connected, in the mundane. Carrying a gun is a recognition of reality. Carrying a gun on campus would help destroy the purpose of the University.

9 thoughts on “Gun nuts of the world, UNITE!”

  1. Neat argument you have going over there.

    I’d contribute:
    1. A deranged person can always find ways to kill people. Guns are more convenient for killers, and can allow them to attack more people than, say, a knife.

    2. You frequently argue that increasing the cost of X decreases the frequency of X, citing some voodoo law called “supply and demand” or something. Increasing the cost of a car decreases the number of cars sold. Increasing the cost of smoking decreases the number of smokers. If you consider the difficulty of obtaining a firearm as part of its cost, doesn’t increasing the cost of firearms decrease the number of firearms in circulation?

    Here’s a thought experiment: Consider a vending machine on every street corner that dispenses weapons. $1 gets you a loaded MAC-10. $2 gets you a loaded AK-47. $5 gets you an RPG with three rounds. Cash only, instant anonymous delivery. Would we be better or worse off?

    I’d argue that the defining characteristic of civilization is the freedom to travel unarmed.

    I’d also argue that cultural norms provide far more protection than our self defense weapons, our weapons laws, or our police. These incidents happen because someone breaks the norms, not because the police “let one get through.”

  2. RE 1. If the deranged wanted to inflict maximum deaths while minimizing cost, they might consider poisoning a water source or creating a deadly gas cloud. I don’t see your point.

    RE 2. Yes, raising the price of a guns via gun control reduces total demand for guns in the short term. My point is gun control increases the price for good guys way more than it increases the price of guns for bad guys. The static benefit of gun control is that there are fewer guns in the short run. I claim there is a dynamic side-effect. When the ratio of good guys to bad guys with guns decreases, criminals will be more likely to commit gun related crimes. For example, a rapist is much more likely to subdue a woman with his gun if he thinks she is defenseless. The higher the likelihood of her being armed, the less likely he is to attempt to rape her.

    In the longer run, given the fact gun laws are imperfectly enforced (i.e. bad guys can get guns illegally) gun control can actually increase gun related crime. I believe this is what the data in the UK is telling us.

    RE your definition of utopia civilization: I think the definition of civilization is the fact I can trust my fellow man not to commit violence against me whether or not one or both of us is armed.

  3. I think we agree on point 1 then. My point was that in these cases, the shooter has the ability to choose a more efficient method, yet opts for a gun. I suspect that it’s the highly personal act of shooting someone rather than the body count that drives these individuals.

    I don’t really buy into the correlation between gun ownership and crime rates in either direction. As Michael Moore pointed out in Bowling for Columbine, Canada has similar gun ownership rates and much lower crime rates. Then again, Somalia has much higher gun ownership *and* much higher crime rates.

    I’d like to see a breakdown between “crimes of passion” and premeditated acts. My take on it? Gun ownership deters premeditated violent crime, but increases the damage done in crimes of passion. That’s right: sometimes people flip out and attack other people without considering the consequences. You might make the case that widespread possession limits the damage done during crimes of passion: a crazy person will be quickly gunned down by armed bystanders. I’d argue that this doesn’t seem to play out in heavily armed societies.

    Also: carrying a gun doesn’t help much if you are hit by stray fire.

    Re: your definition of civilization: If you trust your fellows that much, why go to the trouble of carrying a weapon? It seems like a pain in the ass. You have to buy a gun, you have to buy bullets, you have to spend time on your weekends practicing. You have to exercise all kinds of safety precautions to make sure that you don’t accidentally shoot yourself or someone else. Your holster gets caught on stuff and scratches up your leather couch.

    All that said, I’m not actually in favor of taking everyones’ guns away without a magically massive readjustment of social norms in this country.

    Back to your original point, and I think you agree with me here, if we’re at the point where we have to pack heat to go to an art history class, we’re fucked, and might as well disband the union.

  4. Heh. You caught me in one of my anarcho-capitalist moods, so yeah, disband the fucking union!

    Crimes of passion: there was a study comparing 21 y.o. male texan’s with and without concealed weapons permits. I think the cwp holders were something like 7X less likely to commit crimes. I’m too lazy to look up the citation but I think they discussed it recently at volokh.com.

    The point is that guns are pieces of equipment that take a lot of training to learn to use. Someone well trained won’t use a gun incorrectly. We trust my 16 year old sister with 2 tons of steel capable of moving at 80-90 mph down the highway, I think we can trust adults with less than a pound of metal.

    Civilization: I just don’t see why someone strapping a gun to their side disturbs people so… worse, I don’t see why people that are disturbed by it think they have a right to impress their preferences on everyone else. I don’t like dudes that wear their hat sideways. Does that mean I can force people to not do it?

    Trust: I trust cars won’t run me over when I’m crossing at a crosswalk, but I still look both ways before crossing. Trust isn’t the same thing as blind faith.

  5. Hm, a concealed carry license in Texas requires a training course and a background check. A license holder who goes to the trouble of going through an application process is probably a fairly responsible individual anyway.

    I’ll reiterate: I’m not worried about a responsible, properly trained gun owner deciding to flip out and shoot at me.

    Oddly enough, open carry seems to be illegal in Texas. In Texas! Why is this? If mere possession is such a deterrent, why conceal? Heck, why not mandate open carry?

    Presumably, your sister went through a little training and testing to verify that she was qualified (for a given quantity of qualification) to operate that machine. I’m pretty sure she didn’t just show up at the dealership with a bag of $20s and a hankering for a shiny new Buick.

    Trust: I trust that most people won’t actively try to hit me when I’m riding my motorcycle, but I don’t trust them to notice me. I also trust that there aren’t any land mines buried in the street, IEDs hidden in the bushes, or wires stretched across the road to decapitate me. This isn’t a level of trust that I could get away with in some parts of the world. That said, I’d really, really like there to be more stringent vehicular licensing requirements and competency tests in this state, but I guess I can’t have everything.

  6. In the context of this debate:
    Guns wielded by:
    1: Anyone not adequately indoctrinated in their safe use.
    2: Anyone not mentally fit to safely operate them. This includes intoxication.

    I have no issue with an armed, off-duty cop sitting at a table in the same restaurant as me.

    Expanding the context slightly, I rarely encounter armed individuals. Drivers worry me much, much more; I’d like to see more stringent licensing and testing requirements, and greater enforcement of existing traffic laws. I place much more concern on my trip to and from work than I do on being randomly robbed, mugged, shot, or decapitated by terrorists. Maybe my swarthy appearance helps more with the latter set than the former.

  7. You have no problem with an off-duty cop even if he’s “not mentally fit to safely operate” guns (e.g. intoxicated)?

    In California, to get concealed weapon’s permits you have to properly trained (and certified as such). To buy a gun, you can’t be a loon or a ex-con. What’s so magical about being a cop? Their, and I’m including armed security guards, training isn’t much more stringent than that required to get a CWP.

    What do you mean by “more stringent licensing and testing”? We have road tests, written tests and months of training, including provision driving periods. What more could you want?

    BTW, how do you know the people you encounter aren’t armed?

  8. I brought up the cop as an example of someone who is presumably trained in the safe handling and operation of a firearm. Please feel free to substitute “firearms instructor,” “competition shooter,” “professional bounty hunter,” or “responsible granny” at your leisure.

    We have *a* road test, *a* written test, *hours* of training, and a few optional months of provisional licensing for a certain age group. Repeat road testing is exceedingly rare, and repeat written tests only come up as reparations for moving violations.

    People can develop bad habits after they pass their tests. Peoples’ skills can also degrade, both temporarily (stress, medications), and permanently (age, diminishing eyesight, medical conditions). Right now, you can pass the tests at 16(ish), and it’s unlikely that your skills will be re-evaluated for a very long time. So yeah, I’d like to see people re-tested at intervals regardless of their record. I’d like to see more people cited for tailgating and unsafe lane changes. I wouldn’t mind seeing more license classifications for more vehicular weight and power classes. None of that is likely to happen in this country.

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