Tuesday, June 20, 2006

To the barricades!!

Mary Catherine Ham quotes Wayne LaPierre saying those words that scare the living bejeebus out of every red-blooded American patriot: "We're From the U.N. and We Want Your Guns"
The U.N. will gather in New York City this July for the 2006 Small Arms Review Conference. Doesn’t the name alone make you nervous? The U.N. is “reviewing” guns. If you don’t own one, doesn’t it make you want to go out and buy one just so you can be ready for whatever Kofi’s got planned?

Wayne LaPierre is plenty nervous, which is why he’s written, “The Global War on Your Guns: Inside the U.N.’s Plan to Destroy the Bill of Rights.” Sound alarmist?

His critics think so, claiming that the aim of the conference and its supporters is only to deal with the “illicit” sale of small arms, so it would have no effect on any legally traded arms. But check out the U.N.’s own explanation and see what you think (emphasis mine):

By unanimously adopting the UN Programme of Action to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (UNPoA), in 2001, the UN Member States committed to collecting and destroying illegal weapons, adopting and/or improving national legislations that would help criminalize the illicit trade in small arms, regulating the activities of brokers, setting strict import and export controls, taking action against violators of such laws, and better coordinating international efforts to that end.

Sounds like there’s some wiggle room in there to me. I got to talk to LaPierre, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, about his new book and the new fight facing gun owners.

LaPierre has been charting the U.N. gun-ban movement since the mid-1990s, when all of the nuclear freeze non-governmental organizations (NGOs) morphed into gun-ban groups and “hijacked the disarmament machinery of the United Nations,” he said.

The philosophy of these groups, LaPierre said, is that the right to own a gun should be solely the right of governments, and they despise the fact that the United States remains a country in which private citizens can keep a handgun at their bedsides.

In a recent debate LaPierre did with Rebecca Peters, who is heading up the NGOs’ gun-ban efforts, Peters told him that Americans need to give up on the notion of self-defense because it’s something that only happens in movies.


Longtime fans of the Daily Duck will remember my Christmas present to myself last year, a .357 Ruger revolver, that officially ushered me into the proud ranks of American gun ownership and standby militiaman for freedom. Now its personal. Time to start using language like "boy, those UN fascists really chap my hide!" This is the first time that my hide has been chapped, and I don't like it.

But seriously, who is this Rebecca Peters, and why does she want my gun?

Rebecca Peters: Nations disarm as laws tighten
After Port Arthur, Australia set off a universal gun-control revolution
April 28, 2006

TODAY we remember the Port Arthur murder victims in church services and vigils, prayers and concerts, books and documentaries. The cross listing their names overlooks the memorial garden, a quiet place for contemplation and tears in honour of those so brutally slain on April 28, 1996.

Another memorial to those killed and wounded on that awful day is less visible or tangible but powerful nonetheless: Australia's nationally uniform gun laws. Out of horror and insanity, something positive and rational was forged.

Ten years later it is hard to believe the indifference to public safety embodied in the old gun laws. In those days civilians could buy military weapons and there was no limit on the number of guns an individual could stockpile. NSW, Queensland and Tasmania had no registration for rifles and shotguns, so it was impossible for the police to know if someone had a gun (or 10).

A judge in a domestic violence case might order that firearms be seized, but in the absence of registration the perpetrator could claim not to have any guns and the matter would end there. In other states and territories the laws were stricter, but could be evaded simply by travelling to one of the three permissive states to shop for weapons.

Throwing out this rickety framework was a pioneering step for Australia alongside Canada, which was also overhauling its law in the wake of a massacre by an alienated and angry young man with easy access to military assault rifles. Both countries have experienced a drop in gun violence as a result.

In Australia and Canada, policy-makers involved in the reforms said they were reading "the mood of the nation". During the past decade this same mood has spread throughout the international community, with significant gun law reforms passed or proposed in dozens of parliaments.

Gun law reform now is similar to domestic violence reform in the 1980s, when country after country realised their policies were antiquated and indefensible. South Africa, Britain, Nicaragua, Montenegro, Germany, Cambodia, Mauritius and Brazil have recently toughened their gun laws. In Belgium, Paraguay, Liberia, Guatemala, Burundi, Portugal, Senegal, Macedonia and Argentina (among others) the reforms are under way.

Particularly striking is the case of Brazil, which has one of the highest rates of gun violence, with nearly 40,000 gun deaths in 2003. That year the gun law was tightened, with spectacular results. Gun deaths dropped for the first time after 13 years of rising continuously; by the end of 2004 the rate had fallen by 8per cent, which translated into more than 3200 lives saved.

The gun control revolution has also reached the UN, where a process to reduce the proliferation and misuse of small arms kicked off in 2001. The UN process is developing global norms to regulate the world's estimated 650 million guns and has produced an international agreement on the marking and tracing of weapons. We expect further progress from the five-year review conference to be held this June in New York.

These UN conferences are attended by government officials, non-governmental organisations supporting tougher firearm regulation and the National Rifle Association of America.

One of the most powerful lobby groups on Capitol Hill in Washington, the NRA appears to be no less influential on the US delegation at the UN. Even very modest declarations on small arms are opposed by the US. For example, a resolution expressing concern about the effect of weapons proliferation on humanitarian activities and development was passed with 177 votes in favour and one (the US) against.

The NRA has characterised this small arms process as a mission "to confiscate civilian firearms worldwide and impose on Americans the lesser, inferior, global standard of freedom". The UN and my own organisation, the International Action Network on Small Arms, are known as "the enemies of freedom".

According to NRA board member (and former congressman) Bob Barr: "That's really their ultimate agenda: to bring the United States down from the pinnacle of freedom to simply being another one of these socialist states." This last is a reference to Britain, Australia and Canada, countries dubbed by the NRA as "formerly free nations".

Such ranting by American gun loons may seem to be a long way removed from Australia, unless you remember our own Gympie-based version screaming on television in May 1996: "The only currency that you can purchase freedom back with is blood!"

Then and now, whether in Queensland, Tasmania, Texas or elsewhere, we have paranoid, hate-filled people living in our societies. All the more reason to have strong controls on guns.

Rebecca Peters is the director of the International Action Network on Small Arms. She led Australia's National Coalition for Gun Control from 1992 to 1997.


No, the fact that we have paranoid, hate-filled people living in our societies is precisely why I want a gun. Where did she study logic?

They came for the guns, and I said nothing. Then they came for the cricket bats...

55 Comments:

Blogger Brit said...

The American obsession with the 'right' to own a lethal firearm is as unfathomable to me as the rest of the world's obsession with soccer is to you.

The whole 'self-protection' thing just seems so improbable.

If someone does break into your house (and assuming the burglar is unarmed and thus wouldn’t shoot you dead as soon as you appeared in your jim-jams sleepily brandishing your blunderbuss), and if you hear him before he hears you, are you really going to have the time and presence of mind to nip down to the rifle cabinet, scrabble around for the keys, find the ammo, load the gun and thus either shoot or chase off the offender? Does that ever happen? Maybe it happens a lot, I stand to be corrected. For effective protection, wouldn’t you actually have to sleep flat on your back with one eye open and a loaded pistol under your pillow - like a paranoid, hate-filled person (eg. Tony Martin)?

Strikes me that it would be more honest if NRA types just admitted that they wanted to keep their guns because they’re really fun toys.

I do know that I’m glad Britain’s streets aren’t awash with guns, since our thugs do quite enough damage with beer bottles alone.

Having said that, the most (only?) enlightening thing in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine came when he went to Canada. Up until that point, he’d been working on the assumption that America’s sky-scraping gun-crime rates were directly related to the easy availability of firearms. Then he went to Canada and found they had just as many guns and none of the crime. Which doesn’t mean that America wouldn't be safer without the proliferation of pea-shooters, but it did suggest the argument wasn’t so simple.

June 20, 2006 1:55 AM  
Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Duck wrote: "No, the fact that we have paranoid, hate-filled people living in our societies is precisely why I want a gun. Where did she study logic?"

The logic is that if you can have a gun so can those paranoid, hate-filled people. If you confront such a person, would you rather confront one armed with a gun, even if you have one yourself, or an unarmed one, even if you are unarmed? Since such people, if armed, are likely to shoot first rather than waiting for you to take the first shot, surely the safest thing for everyone is for neither of you to be armed, then neither of you will get killed.

June 20, 2006 3:12 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I would rather that nobody in America have a gun.

However, since that won't happen within my lifetime, I favor backround checks and waiting periods coupled with right-to-carry laws.

I suspect that the American love affair with firearms has to do with our pioneer past, as well as with our tradition of hunting for sustenance.

As for "appearing your jim-jams sleepily brandishing your blunderbuss", I submit that if you don't know that he's there long before he's in the house, then your home defenses have already failed.
(Which is not to say that most Americans' idea of "home security" is anything more than locking the windows and doors).

June 20, 2006 6:18 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Brit;

I would note that the UK is an example of the slippery slope in this area that would be considered too outré for parody, what with the pointy knife regulations.

As for self defense, there are those who argue that it is, in fact, very frequent. One can also note that American burglars have a far higher avoidance of burglarly while people are home than the UK, which supports the theory of guns being a deterrent.

The key here is that you don't have to have everyone do a good job at home defense, just a sufficient number.

P.S. As for guns in the UK, hasn't gun related crime greatly increased since guns were banned? And bobbies didn't pack heat until then, either, right?

June 20, 2006 7:46 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

There are those who argue all sorts of things about guns.

But it's bleedin' obvious that even at 'soaring rates', gun crime in the UK is negligible compared to the US, and it's also bleedin' obvious that if the UK had as many guns per head as the States, gun crime rates would be similar.

Pro-gun arguments like the self-defence one remind me of the fox-hunting debates in the UK. The hunting lobby made all sorts of irrelevant and obviously silly arguments, such as that hunting was the best way of controlling 'pest' foxes.

In fact, the only serious argument, and a very good argument, for keeping fox-hunting was that it was a custom, a culture and a way of life, and the city folk who wanted to ban it should keep their noses out of it.

In the US gun debates, surely the crux of the matter is this: you don't want inner-city gangstas to have guns with which to shoot you and each other; but you do want to maintain the culture wherein honest, law-abiding country folk have the right to shoot a few harmless rounds on the range at weekends.

The problem is, it's practically very difficult to have the first without restricting the second.

In Britain, a majority eventually decided that ending the perceived cruelty of foxhunting outweighed the importance of maintaining an ancient aristocratic culture.

Likewise, in the end it will be up to Americans to decide when or if the balance tips, and the desire to reduce gun crime outweighs the desire to protect gun culture.

We don't have a gun debate in the UK, despite the burglaries when people are at home, because we don't have a gun culture.

June 20, 2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger David said...

The following are from the UN's International Crime Victims Survey. The numbers represent the percentage of the population who had experienced the subject crime during the course of the year. The first number is from the UK, the second from the US.

All Crimes: 30,9 v. 24,2

Car Theft: 2,5 v. 1,9

Theft from car: 8,1 v. 7,5

Burglary: 3,5 v. 3,3

Attempted burglary: 3,0 v. 2,6

Robbery: 1,4 v. 1,3

Personal property theft: 5,0 v. 3,9

Sexual offenses: 2,0 v. 2.5

Assault and threat: 5,9 v. 5,7

These results are confirmed by the DOJ's very comprehensive Cross National Studies In Crime And Justice, which tries very hard to compare apples to apples and shows the US with among the lowest property crime rates of any of the eight nations studied. The reason appears to be because all of our criminals are in jail.

Basically, the US has significantly less crime than England and Wales, except that we have a lot more murders. According to the DOJ study, here are the homicide rates per 1000 people of the nations studied:

Eng. & Wales: .011
US: .083
Aus: .017
Can: .02
Neth'ds: .01
Scotland: .023
Sweden: .019
Switzerland: .011.

Brit: Michael Moore was just wrong about Canadian crime rates. Canada, too, has more crime than the US, nor is its murder rate as low, compared to ours, as Moore claims.

June 20, 2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger M Ali said...

It's not the presence of guns in a society that's a problem but the kind of people in it using the guns.

I read somewhere that the vast majority of US counties experience no cases of homicide. You can guess where they did occur.

As for the effect of guns on crime, I haven't seen anything really convincing about their effect, especially when you try to control for all the other factors.

June 20, 2006 10:35 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It's a love affair. Why should we expect people to behave any more sensibly when they're in love with guns than when in love with a woman?

I stopped hunting when I was 17 when it suddenly struck me that everybody I went into the woods with was drinking, and that seemed like a bad idea.

I know lots and lots of people who got shot while hunting, have never known personally anyone murdered with a firearm. The people I have known who were murdered were all killed with knives, except one who was stoned to death.

The domestic violence aspect is one area where US practice has definitely improved. Taking guns away must have saved innumerable families. Can't prove a negative, but when I was a young reporter, the slaughter of a whole family by gunfire by an aggrieved husband/father was a weekly occurence in the South (and frequent elsehwere). Now, it's rare enough to be surprising when it happens.

Another thing that has changed is that firearms, like Toyatas and toasters, are much cheaper and more reliable than they used to be. When I was a cub reporter, a lot of disputes that might have ended in homicide didn't because somebody's $2 pistol wouldn't work.

All the pistols work nowadays.

The same effect, outside the US, has made gunboat diplomacy a lot harder.

All that said, LaPierre is a stone cold maniac who wants to assert the right of his members to hunt kindergarteners with a machine gun (it's happened).

June 20, 2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

The murder stat is the only telling one.

As Ali says, there are too many other factors to take into account re the other crimes to draw conclusions about the lack of guns. Not least, the extremely high proportion of urban living in the UK.

I'm not disputing that we have a lot of criminals, and we're all glad they're not armed.

June 20, 2006 10:56 AM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: I'm not suggesting that guns are the only factor. As I noted, a bigger factor seems to be that more of our criminals are in jail. Depending on the crime, guns are more or less of a factor. In the crimes that don't involve the criminal and the victim being face to face, guns clearly aren't much of a factor. On the other hand, the evidence that burglary with the homeowner present is much lower in the States, and tends to be less violent, because of the prevalence of guns, is pretty well established.

Different strokes for different folks, but I don't think that many Americans would be so unconcerned about a generally high level of crime.

June 20, 2006 2:27 PM  
Blogger Flint said...

In the US, guns are used basically for four things: recreation (plinking/target shooting/competitions), hunting, collecting, and (WAY down the list) self-defense. The problem with confiscation is that all four of these are lost. The benefit is, presumably and eventually, those intending to shoot at me will experience rising prices for their guns.

I suppose that if I engaged in none of these four activities, then I should be in favor of seeing gun costs for criminals become increasingly less affordable (unfortunately, sometime long after my expected lifespan). But I engage regularly in the recreation and collecting activities, and I carry a pistol (and a permit to carry it) wherever I go, in the fervent expectation that I'll never need it.

Peter Kirk's logic almost, but not quite, makes sense. Yes, all else being equal, I'd rather the violent wingnut and I both be unarmed. I'm also able to notice that this isn't going to happen; what IS going to happen after 'official confiscation' is that one of us will still be armed, and it won't be me. Nor will I be able to enjoy collecting, plinking, or hunting.

These are things I enjoy regularly; criminal shootings look bad by statistical comparison perhaps, but remain vanishingly rare events in our lives. So I'm making a tradeoff. I recognize that like any other tradeoff, this one has a downside. For me, it's a bargain. YMMV.

June 20, 2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Here are some comparable murder statistics.

We're 24th highest, about 3 times the rate for Canada and Britain, and over 8 times Japan.

Now excuse me for making a heretical statement Brit, but it shouldn't be a nation's priority to have the world's lowest murder rate. Lets look at some other death statistics by country, namely, automobile deaths and suicides. Here is a table which compares these statistics, among others. I put them together in a spreadsheet and found some interesting facts.

Automobile deaths in the US are nearly four times the murders, at a rate of 15.2 to 4.3 per 100,000 people. This number could be reduced by quite a lot if we reimposed a 55 mph speed limit on all roads. Why don't we? Because people are willing to make certain tradeoffs between risks and freedoms. It is the same in other countries. Germany, which has a low 1.2 murder rate has a death by automobile rate of 11.1, about 10 times the murder rate, yet it has no speed limit on its autobahns. Is the freedom to drive fast any more sacrosanct than the freedom to own a gun?

Another surprising figure is the suicide rate, which for most nations is much higher than the murder rates. I added murder and suicide rates for each country to see how the US compares to the gun control countries on total violent deaths. In many cases we come out ahead. The US combined rate for murder and suicide is 16.1, ust a little bit over its death by automobile rate. Denmark scores an incredible 21.5, as does France. Japan, with such a tiny murder rate, almost catches the US with a combined rate of 15.8. England and Wales comes in at a placid 8.3. Canada is not far behind the US at 14.3.

Now what does that say about the tradeoffs that each nation makes? I'm not sure, but it certainly looks like people who can't kill other people end up killing themselves.

Now as flint mentioned, most people buy guns for sporting purposes first and self defense second. Which was the case with me, I use my revolver for plinking at the target range. My neighborhood has such a low crime rate that I haven't had a need to worry about self protection for these many years. But I'm sure that at least 50% of my neighbors have shotguns or deer rifles. It hasn't made any of us more violent, and I'm sure that it has had a lot to do with keeping the incidence of burgulary so low.

I'm all for efforts to lower the rate of gun crime, but not at the cost of feeling secure in my own home. Just as we all accept the horrendous body count due to automobile ownership and freedom of movement, I can accept that there is a certain level of gun deaths that go with my freedom to live securely in my home. A tradeoff of more home burgularies for less murder is not acceptable to me.

June 20, 2006 6:13 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

In connection with this and the Supremes' decision on no-knock raids last week, I was reminded of a jury I served on.

The defendant was a smack dealer, and when the cops raided his house, there was a loaded rifle or shotgun behind the door in every room, plus a pistol. The arsenal filled a grocery shopping cart (which came into the court's possession how? I was always curious about that).

I'm of two minds about whether I'd want to do no-knocks as a cop. On the one hand, it doesn't give the target a chance to grab the closest rifle and start shooting. On the other, the first no-knock raid my paper covered, back about 1970, involved a young cop who was shot through the heart when the inhabitant heard the door breaking down.

The cops were on the wrong floor; in that case, it was a law-abiding citizen defending himself from apparent burglars.

I guess the moral of these two stories, taken together is, if you're gonna depend on your heater, make sure you're a quick draw and a dead shot.

There are worse ways to be murdered than with a gun. I covered the trial of Herman Yap, the coldest man I've ever seen, who plucked his boss's head off his neck with a clamshell dredger.

June 20, 2006 7:22 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

We are very concerned about crime, and the causes are well known: heroin addiction; and repeat offenders coming out of prison with a worse heroin addiction than the one they went in with.

A very large number of crimes are committed by a very small number of people.

But like in the States, it's an urban problem. Comparing the UK as a whole (60 million people in an area smaller than, say, Oregon)to the US as a whole is not really like-for-like. A more relevant stat would be to compare London to NY, or Birmingham to Chicago, etc.

-----

Duck:

Sorry, but automobile death and suicide rates are pretty irrelevant - or are you suggesting that if the Japanese had more guns their suicide rates would be lower?

However, you're right that like most things, it's a question of balance - hence my conclusion that it will be up to Americans to decide the balance between preserving their generally harmless, rural gun culture (which I don't personally understand, but I accept its validity) and tackling gun crime.

There is another element to the equation however, which has yet to be addressed: I suppose since we're talking about Moore we could call it the Columbine Question (we had our own which prompted gun reform: Hungerford, 1987.)

That is, in that balancing act, how much weight do you give to the relative possibility of the unthinkable happening?

The unthinkable happens rarely, but in the Columbine area it must have been a hard-nosed 'ol boy indeed who found any joy in 'plinking' after 1999.

June 21, 2006 1:43 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

The pro-gun history of the States and anti-gun traditions in Britain and Canada both lead to ideological posturing and interfere with taking a pragmatic approach, especially in facing up to how different this issue can look in urban and rural settings. I'm more open than I used to be, but I still have a hard time seeing the case for guns in cities. The free citizen in a rural setting or small town taking cautious and safe care to protect his family is a long way from an urban tenement or British estate teeming with Saturday Night Specials. Also, from an individual perspective, a lot depends on how responsive and fast you think your police force is (and how tight your neighbourhood is).

But I agree with Duck that there are definite limits to my duty to help keep national crime statistics down (to impress the UN?), especially as David's research hides the concentration of violent crime in urban cores and aboriginal communities. But guns are a big problem for domestic violence and I'm still waiting to meet my first pro-gun woman.

June 21, 2006 2:18 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brit
The point about the auto statistics is to show that autos are far more dangerous than guns, and that auto deaths can be managed downward by more restrictive driving laws, but most nations don't impose those restrictions with anywhere near the vigor that they impose gun restrictions. Hypocrisy, no?

The suicide question is an interesting one. The main point I would draw from it for countries like France and Denmark is that they have a much bigger problem with suicide than they have with murder, and they should probably work on discovering ways to lower that rate with much more vigor than they apply to being the most peaceful society on the planet.

Is there a connection? Maybe in a highly indirect, circular fasion. To broadly generalize, high suicide rates would correlate with social conditions that make it difficult for people to find meaning in their lives. Socialist, statist societies take personal control over life events away from individuals and give them to the state bureacracy to manage. Decisions like personal protection, or employment. The state says "don't plan for your own safety, or for your economic security, because we will provide these things for you".

Now, much as you may think that the American attitude toward self-reliance in home protection is a delusion (I'm not conceding the point), it gives a sense of self-empowerment. A sense of control over one's destiny is a pretty basic prerequisite for establishing a sense of meaning in your life.

It's not just this issue alone, but the whole spectrum of decisions that impact your life. You add up all the ways in which a socialist state deprives individuals of these basic decisions of self determination, and you can see how a citizen of a nanny state might lose a sense of meaning in his life.

June 21, 2006 7:30 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Duck:

I can't help thinking that Harry's right and you're a bit blinded by love in this one.

On the auto point: first, guns are quite useful I suppose, but you can't take the kids to school in one and fill it up with groceries on the way home.

Second, I've don't know if France has less restricted driving laws than the US - I don't think there's much in it. More likely they just break the laws they do have. But by your reasoning the slack left by harsher driving laws would anyway be taken up by depressed frogs topping themselves because of their lack of self-empowerment.

Talking of which, that argument rings true but is edging towards a Freudian angle which doesn't speak well of American masculine insecurity: I've got a big pistol and I don't fire blanks!

Anyway, it's a myth that America has more freedoms than anywhere else. Sure, you can pack a popgun in your pants, but you can't put a few quid on a horse race, and no 18-year old can neck a pint of absinthe... it's no wonder you all go round shooting each other.

June 21, 2006 7:48 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

it's no wonder you all go round shooting each other.

Not so much each other, but we are ever on the lookout for foreigners. Particularly ones with funny accents...quite the stout-hearted crew you have here, Duck. If you ever get out to Colorado Springs, look me up, we'll go out to Dragon Man's shooting range. He's a Class III dealer, so you can indulge your filthy irrational perverted passions at 500 rounds per minute. Beer afterwards is on me, ammunition you're on your own.

June 21, 2006 2:30 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Joe

Now that sounds like a deal! Maybe we can hold an upcoing Ducktoberfest there.

Brit
If you're gonna get Freudian, I'll have to invoke the "He who smelt it" rule and say that the guy who brings up a phallic allusion first has the complex. You must be suffering from a bad case of pistol envy.

It's not about freedoms per se, but about control over your own destiny. Sure, the average Brit has the freedom to get blotto at any hour of the day or night and pass out on the street, but if a bloke breaks into his flat at night he can't just skewer the guy with his medieval reproduction crossbow. He has to run out of the house and call the authorities from the corner pub lest any agressive action in defense of his home be judged grounds for prosecution for burgular abuse.

It's all about tradeoffs, mate!

June 21, 2006 3:35 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Joe:

First, I don't have an accent, you do.

Second, sure your imaginary blog persona sounds like the down-home, shit-kicking kinda guy who isn't afraid to sit on the barstool with his legs pretty darn wide apart, chew baccy like he means it, belch fulsomely in front of the chicks while scratching his denim-clad arse and proudly sport a 1984-vintage mullet and 'tache power combo beneath his ZZ-Top baseball cap, but what you don't know but I do is that I can tell by your name that your ancestors hail from what is by far the foppiest, most limp-wristed and girly-manish of all England's counties.

June 21, 2006 3:41 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

your ancestors hail from what is by far the foppiest, most limp-wristed and girly-manish of all England's counties.

What, no smell of elderberries? In truth, my father's folk were mongrels, of vaguely German extraction; my mother's pure Irish -- nothing but Whelans and Hearns as far back as the eye can see. The foppish surname is something of a mystery, we suspect it may in fact have been an alias that stuck. As for fair Shropshire County, I've never visited there, though my sister did many years ago, and got a free beer or two by judicious last-name-dropping. She had to buy her own chewing tobacco though.

June 21, 2006 4:02 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Another episode from my Second Amendment files:

I have in my shed most of the worldly goods of the late Jubal, a local gunslinger, Harley rider, dope dealer, pornographer, pimp and breeder of world champion rats.

When he got busted for dealing, the cops confiscated his arsenal, which was pretty impressive and included among other things a Tommy gun altered to full automatic and several sawed off shotguns -- just what you need to defend the manse.

He was depressed by that, and more depressed when his big stud rat died, so he got himself a dinky lil .38 pistol and shot himself in the head, although not before closing down a main highway for 12 hours.

At the disposal sale, I got all his ammo (which wasn't confiscated, don't ask me why), nunchaks, throwing stars, knives, swords, porn, power tools, rat pictures, roller skates (roller skates? what kind of bad dude roller skates?) etc.

I guess he could have done most of that stuff in the air of England that maketh man free, though toward the end he'd have had to slit his wrists and hang himself from a rafter.

June 21, 2006 4:26 PM  
Blogger David said...

I don't own a gun, but target shooting is a lot of fun and I think about buying one for recreation on a regular basis.

There are lots of pro-gun American women, and Smith & Wesson markets a line of guns to women.

June 21, 2006 5:35 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

Several areas in the US have made it easy for anyone to carry a concealed weapon.

Gun control advocates confidently predicted a blood baths in the 31 states that have permissive concealed carry laws.

Didn't happen; instead, it appears that the greater uncertainty facing robbers is sufficient to deter some of them.

Regardless, the fundamental problem with banning person weapons is the same one that renders pacifism such a futile position: defectors.

Given that guns are an immutable fact of life, taking them out of the hands of law abiding citizens cedes their safety to the whim of the predatory.

(Full disclosure: I do not own a firearm, nor do I plan on getting one. I am a shameless freeloader on gun owners.)

My next door neighbor is a country sheriff. He says there is no better way to get a robber out of your house than to chamber a round in a pump-action shotgun.

Here in Detroit, there have been attempts to pass a law completely indemnifying homeowners against any violence they might do to intruders.

The people that don't want law abiding citizens to have guns are the same ones that are deeply distressed about allowing those same citizens the full ability to defend themselves in their own homes.

June 21, 2006 7:52 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Skipper:

Hmmm - that business of the people in suburbia carrying weapons under their arms and 'deterring criminals' does remind me of Harry's joke about the man beating the drum to ward off elephants.

What about the same law in certain areasa of LA?

June 21, 2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Cute thread. Nobody here seems to own a gun, but just talking about them seems to bring out the inner John Wayne in us all.

June 22, 2006 2:46 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Well, no one but Duck. And my next door neighbor, and across the street neighbor, and my neighbor two doors down.

Which means half the households that live within shouting distance of me have guns, and of the other half, I don't know one way or the other.

And, considering my military career, it isn't as if I'm not familiar with firearms.

Brit:

So you think ceding the streets to predators is an improvement? We can see how well that has turned out.

I'm not sure I'd want to be a drug dealer in a heavily armed neighborhood, for fear of empowered parents.

I doubt the rate of concealed carry is very high anywhere, but the factor adds uncertainty. A predator would have no idea of which otherwise vulnerable woman just might have a force equalizer with her.

June 22, 2006 3:56 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, I turned my sawed off shotgun that I acquired by accident over to the cops, but it was such a hassle that the next one, I keep.

Hawaii has fairly onerous 'place to keep' laws, so although many people keep hunting rifles and shotguns, handguns are asking for trouble.

Our county averages less than one armed robbery with a firearm per year.

June 22, 2006 10:56 AM  
Blogger David said...

Even here in deepest darkest blue Massachusetts, the local pistol range is across the street from the local elementary school.

It's just an American thing, I guess.

June 22, 2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Nothing to report here, aside from the small arsenal that a crotch-displaying, tobacco-chewing, mullett-sporting, backside-scratching ZZ top fan with penis issues would be expected to have on his person, of course.

June 22, 2006 12:01 PM  
Blogger David said...

Is there a man so dead to beauty that his heart does not beat at least a little faster at this.

June 24, 2006 6:43 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"My next door neighbor is a country sheriff. He says there is no better way to get a robber out of your house than to chamber a round in a pump-action shotgun."

Only in America. When I was in Japan, I air-chambered a round, providing my own sound effect, and not one of the natives had any idea what I was doing. I never had anyone in America fail to grasp the meaning.

June 24, 2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You need better locks.

June 24, 2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

From today's Miami Herald:

'In thepast 12 months alone, 18 people who were 18 years old or younger have been murdered in gun-related violence. Thirteen were black; five were Hispanic. Most came from neighborhoods in Northwest Miami-Dade.

'The public and police are perplexed, especially since crime, including violent offenses, has declined locally and nationwide in recent years.'

June 25, 2006 11:39 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

I don't own a gun (never have, probably never will), but this is why I'm all in favor of people everywhere owning guns. Pundits complain about a few thousand dead due to too many guns, I think that has to be put in perspective of tens of millions dead due to too few guns.

(I know I'm a bit late to the discussion - I've been outta town).

June 26, 2006 11:27 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I dunno about that. I'm reading 'Charlie Wilson's War' by George Crile, and I haven't finished it and haven't decided how much of what I have read I believe.

But the argument is that the Afghans were unable to effectively resist the Russians with Second Amendment-type weaponry.

The history of the USSR in Hungary, in East Germany, in the Central Asian republics back in the '30s suggests that all this Minutemen fantasy stuff is just that, fantasy.

For that matter, the original Minutemen were failures, too. Middlekauff, 'The Glorious Cause,' concludes that the Army made the Revolution, and Walter McDougall in his very interesting 'Freedom Just Around the Corner' accepts Middlekauff's assessment.

June 26, 2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry,
The point isn't that a population armed with handguns has much of a chance against a foreign professional army (Russia vs. Afghanistan), nor even that well armed populations would stop every genocide/politicide. But it does raise the cost of pulling off a massive genocide/politicide by a government against some subset of its own citizens (or others who live under its control), and as a result might've prevented a few of the genocides of last century.

Can I prove it? No. This is one where you either believe it or you don't. I believe it.

June 26, 2006 5:57 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I think that it's not the ability of an armed populace to hold off a tyrannical government which is the major benefit of gun ownership, though I believe tht is a major deterrent. It is the psychological effect on the people of a tradition of assuming responsibility for defense of their freedoms that makes it harder for a government to organize those members of the population that join the armed forces and police to particiipate in a program of oppression against their countrymen. These men and women come to their duties in the armed services that the average citizen is not awed by their uniforms or their authority.

I think it is easier for a hunter to shoot a deer or a sheep than it is to shoot a lion. Courage and defiance earn respect, weakness and submission do not. Tyranny thrives on meekness of spirit.

June 26, 2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Got any specific examples in mind?

June 26, 2006 8:23 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Still nobody has addressed the Columbine Question.

June 27, 2006 3:57 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Columbine was one of those rare, terrible events which generate a lot of anger and passion but which are the wrong incidents to use when formulating policy. To ban guns on account of Columbine would be like banning knives on account of Jack the Ripper.

June 27, 2006 7:10 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

No it wouldn't. You can't commit that sort of massacre with a knife.

The Hungerford massacre prompted the banning of semi-automatic firearms in the UK plus other tightening-up measures.

If you don't review policy in the light of things like a mass murder, when do you review it? At the very least, it should be more difficult for minors to acquire guns.

Why are bombs illegal?

June 27, 2006 7:43 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

No link, but there was a radio report I heard part of yesterday that some huge fraction of gunfire deaths of young Americans occurs in 8 (out of about 3,000) counties.

I did not hear whether those counties had proportionately more or more powerful guns than the average county. I bet not.

BTW, from working in Iowa I happen to know (because my paper kept a list) the weapon used in the biggest mass murder (aside from Indian attacks) in that state: ax.

June 27, 2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

The Hungerford massacre prompted the banning of semi-automatic firearms in the UK plus other tightening-up measures.

If you don't review policy in the light of things like a mass murder, when do you review it?


It was reviewed, Brit. You may not recall, but Columbine occured as the Colorado state legislature was considering a "shall-issue" concealed carry law (basically any adult who does not have a criminal record and takes a safety course can apply for a concealed carry permit and be sure of getting it. This is what Jeff was referring to earlier, it's the law of the land in 31 out of the 50 states now.) The general assumption after Columbine was that it would have Hungerford-like effects, or at least some effect. The actual outcome, even here in Colorado, was minimal: the legislature passed the shall-issue law in the spring of 2003, and of course the Assault Weapons Ban (which in fact only banned certain cosmetics, like bayonets and muzzle brakes) expired this year. Meanwhile the the gun control movement appears to be pinning its hopes on the U.N. That's both an indication of how well-besieged it is, and I would say at least as much a political fantasy as any would-be Minuteman's. It's a very different country here.

June 27, 2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

The Assault Weapons Ban was a federal law, not a Colorado state law. My apologies, previous post didn't make that clear.

June 27, 2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "It is the psychological effect on the people of a tradition of assuming responsibility for defense of their freedoms that makes it harder for a government to organize those members of the population..."

Sure. But if you took such a group and disarmed them, they'd still be sitting Ducks. In fact, some genocides last century were preceded by disarming the group that was later slaughtered.

June 27, 2006 11:05 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Brit wrote: "Still nobody has addressed the Columbine Question."

I see it's been addressed above, but I have a slightly different take. I compare the danger (of dying) from everything to likelihood of dying in a car crash. Anything that's more than an order of magnitude less likely than dying in a car crash I simply don't worry about very much.

The likelihood of dying in a Columbine style incident (i.e. one or more lunatics going off on a shooting spree) is at least a couple of orders of magnitude less likely than the automobile fatality thang.

On the other hand, based on the last hundred years and having jewish ancestry, my odds of dying in a genocide are decidely higher than dying in an automobile crash.

June 27, 2006 11:16 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bret,
Disarming the populace is the problem. Whoever goes door to door to search for weapons is going to get shot at, and eventually killed. How many guns would they have to collect? 100 million? 200 million? How many troops would they need to get this done? Where are they going to get enough foolhardy people to do this?

Any government, whether a tyranny or a democracy, relies on the majority being either willing or frightened into being controlled by an armed minority. The job of the armed minority is only possible if one of these two is present. When the majority is neither frightened nor willing to be controlled, then the government will not be able to impose its will and will fall.

June 27, 2006 12:43 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "Disarming the populace is the problem. Whoever goes door to door to search for weapons is going to get shot at, and eventually killed."

Not so. A couple of excerpts from the piece I linked to earlier...

"The Cambodian people were already largely disarmed because guns had been prohibited from the time of the French occupation. Even so, the Khmer Rouge leadership wanted to make sure and took the extraordinary precaution of a nationwide house-to-house, hut-to-hut search to confirm that the country was indeed defenseless. Once it was sure, the army clubbed and bayoneted to death two or more million people, which amounted to almost a third of the country's population."

"Having systematically disarmed Armenians through a series of decrees over a twenty-five year period, the Turkish army and police were able to round up and kill over one million Armenians by a combination of overt murders and forced marches over hundreds of miles without food or water."

"Though it is a long step between being disarmed and being murdered--one does not usually lead to the other--but it is nevertheless an arresting reality that not one of the principal genocides of the twentieth century, and there have been dozens, has been inflicted on a population that was armed."

June 27, 2006 2:45 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Bret:

I don't follow that argument.

That even hardcore pro-lifers are prepared to tolerate a high rate of automobile deaths in a trade-off with the convenience of having cars does show that as societies we don't regard human life as completely sacred, true.

But it doesn't follow that we ought to allow anything that is less likely to kill you than a car.

As I understand it, one of the Beltway Snipers used to hone his marksman skills by legally 'plinking' at his local range. It would have been illegal for him to build, for example, a biological weapon in his basement, even though the likelihood of being killed in an act of germ warfare is many magnitudes smaller than that of being shot while putting gas in a car, never mind of being knocked over by one.

June 27, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

One thing I like in this thread is the insinuation that the anti-gun lobby are a bunch of wusses compared to the crotch-displaying plinkers...

...yet the key pro-gun argument seems to amount to: "I should be allowed to carry a firearm around with me because I'm frightened of my fellow man and too chicken not to..."

June 28, 2006 1:05 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brit,
Yes, owning explosives is illegal- well, not totally illegal, just controlled by license. Yet their are bomb recipes on the internet, and it is very easy to cook up your own bomb using hosehold chemicals available at the grocery or hardware store. Timothy McVeigh dis so, and so did the Unabomber. Which goes to show how useless such laws are in stoppint determined criminals.

We don't think you guys are wussies, just misguided.

June 28, 2006 5:33 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bret,
The quote makes my point. Cambodians were mostly disarmed before the final roundup. I'm not sure about how the Armenians were disarmed, probably by a law that they were stupid enough to obey. But the fact that the genocides did not begin until after the populations were disarmed proves the point.

June 28, 2006 5:36 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Common sense, innit. Of course you can't stop determined criminals but you can make it less easy for the impulsive nut to go on a killing spree because he doesn't like Mondays or has read too much Catcher in the Rye.

But anyway, to draw a line under this one, I'm playing Devil's Advocate to a large extent and for the most part we're talking at cross purposes: there's a big difference between banning guns where the general public has lots (the US); and decriminalising guns where nobody has them or wants them(the UK).

June 28, 2006 6:20 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Brit wrote: "But it doesn't follow that we ought to allow anything that is less likely to kill you than a car."

True. What I meant was that it is my subjective opinion (and therefore vote) that I don't much sweat activities that are substantially less likely to affect me than driving - an activity in which I participate willingly, nearly every day.

Owning guns is substantially less likely to adversely affect me than driving. Therefore, I personally would not vote to restrict that particular freedom.

It's just my personal metric.

June 28, 2006 4:17 PM  

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