Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, May 1, 2014 8:30 pm

War, huh! Good God, y’all. What is it good for? Gun sellers’ bottom lines.

Well, that and right-wing seditionists.

At its convention in 1977, the NRA rejected its history as a club for hunters and marksmen and embraced activism on behalf Second Amendment absolutism. Rejecting background checks and allowing “convicted violent felons, mentally deranged people, violently addicted to narcotics” easier access to guns was, said the executive vice president that year, “a price we pay for freedom.” In 2014, 500 days after Newtown and after a year of repeated legislative and judicial victories, the NRA has explicitly expanded its scope to the culture at large.

The NRA is no longer concerned with merely protecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms – the gun lobby wants to use those arms on its fellow citizens. Or, as the NRA thinks of them: “the bad guys”.

It is useless to argue that the NRA is only targeting criminals with that line, because the NRA has defined “good guys” so narrowly as to only include the NRA itself. What does that make everyone else?

I’m actually a gun guy. Grew up with long guns, did target shooting. Carried concealed earlier in my career when I was covering some people I was worried were serious bad guys, and I still support the right of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed — if they’ve been properly trained in the use of a firearm. Problem is, a serious percentage of gun-holding Americans either have not or have decided not to care what they were taught; as several years of covering the Knife & Gun Club for various newspapers taught me quite well, the American public is in no way, shape or form a well-regulated militia.

Now, that position puts me well to the right of pretty much all my liberal/Democratic friends and not even on the absolute left fringe of the pro-gun crowd. (Some people support gun ownership but want strict limits on concealed carry, for example.) But to Wayne LaPierre and his minions, it makes me the enemy, someone they’re trying desperately to find a way to shoot legally — not me personally, understand, but people like me, anyone who disagrees with them.

You can call that Second Amendment absolutism. You can call it fanaticism. You can call it irrationality. I call it batshit freaking insane, flirting with treason. And if you want to know why police chiefs historically have favored gun control, it’s because they have to clean up after the messes that the Wayne LaPierre disciples of the world, whether or not they are, in fact, NRA members, tend to create.

LaPierre has decided to use this nightmare apocalyptic vision he outlined in his speech at the convention to get people to buy more guns, grow more paranoid, be prepared to see any reversal as an existential threat, to be met with deadly force, even in the teeth of the lowest homicide rate in decades. This is the behavior of a man who is neither sane nor law-abiding, and more innocent Americans are going to die because of it.


  1. “…you want to know why police chiefs historically have favored gun control…”

    Two points:

    1. Police chiefs are more political animals than law enforcement officers. Actually you probably should call the law enforcement bureaucrats. The fact is that survey after survey has shown that a majority of real, line officers do support private ownership of firearms.

    2. Some police, particularly those of the bureaucratic mindset, want gun control for the same reason that Japanese Samurai wanted sword control. Their vision was unarmed peasants who’s only choice – other than immediate death – was to bow down before them.


    Comment by lwk2431 — Friday, May 2, 2014 7:10 am @ 7:10 am

  2. Ah, another brave Rand-worshipping pseudonym heard from.

    Just as I’ve met and worked with police chiefs who did not particularly favor gun control, I’ve also met and worked with line officers who have told me privately that while they could never say so in front of their colleagues, they want private ownership of handguns banned — not out of some get-the-guns philosophy, but because long-gun owners tend to be significantly more responsible. I don’t share that position, as I’ve said, but I was intrigued by the number from whom I’ve heard it.

    Question: Do you think my position is reasonable — legal concealed carry, with certain location restrictions, minimum age requirements (18), and mandatory training? Yes or no? If no, why not? Because the status quo is getting tens of thousands of Americans killed intentionally, suicidally and accidentally every year, most of whom would still be with us were a gun not in the picture.

    One other thing: Over the years I looked at thousands of firearm-larceny reports. In not one case, ever, was a firearm stolen from a locked vehicle or gun safe. I’m not trying to make any larger point over that besides the fact that when criminals get guns “on the street,” that how those guns got there, but I find it an interesting statistic.

    Comment by Lex — Friday, May 2, 2014 7:30 am @ 7:30 am

    • “…another brave Rand-worshipping …”

      Not sure why you say “Rand-worshipping”? I am certainly capable of saying good things about her and admire her struggle with trying to define the concept of individual rights, but I am far from being an Objectivist. For one thing I am not an atheist. I spent years challenging Objectivism with real Objectivists. But again, there are many parts of their attempt to define principles that I admire.

      ” legal concealed carry, with certain location restrictions…”

      I think that people with concealed carry permits or licenses should pretty much be able to carry wherever they want (including schools), with the restriction that _private_ property owners should have the ability to restrict carry on their property. In Texas we have fairly wide latitude and I can even pick up my wife who is a teacher on school property carrying concealed as long as I stay in my car when I pick her up. But Texas also has the provision that a private business or property owner can post an official “30.06” sign which makes carrying on that property criminal trespass (any other kind of sign that is not official “30.06” has no legal force whatsoever). I have to wonder why, how did they come up with calling it a “30.06” sign (30.06 is as I am sure you know one of the most popular rifle cartridges in America!)???

      We have at least one school district in Texas where the principal has been able to authorize concealed carry holders to carry on school property with no adverse effects after several years of practice.

      “…mandatory training?”

      In Texas you have to attend a class which you could do in one day (a long day – they’ve shortened a little since). That class did _not_ teach gun proficiency or handling. But it _did_ test it. You had to display a minimum proficiency before the instructor. I think that is reasonable. We don’t have a problem with concealed carry in Texas that I know of (and I have permit in Texas).

      “…tens of thousands of Americans killed intentionally, suicidally and accidentally every year, most of whom would still be with us were a gun not in the picture.”

      If I remember correctly over half of the firearms deaths in America every year are suicides. I always thought that the argument that guns facilitated suicide sounded reasonable, that is, until I saw a statistic that simply blew that out of the water. You have people comparing different countries re gun deaths and suicides and the U.K. is often used in that comparison, the U.K. having considerably less every year (and in fact they had far less when guns were easily available in the U.K.).

      If you compare gun suicides between the U.S. and the U.K. the results will be very lopsided making the U.S. look bad.

      Problem is though if you compare suicide by _all_ means there is very little difference, and I don’t know that difference is statistically significant. Last results I saw put the U.S. rate as 12.0 per 100,000 vs. 11.8 for the U.K. Guns are much, much more easily available in the U.S. than the U.K. If guns really facilitated suicide then any rational person would expect the U.S. rate to significantly different. It isn’t.

      Accidental deaths and homicides have dropped dramatically since the 1990s. Homicides are about half now compared to then and accidental deaths have dropped significantly in the last decade or so. The trend still continues as far as I know.

      Every thing has benefits and costs. If many people own guns by the very nature of human beings there will be tragedies. If you give people cars their will be accidents and innocent young children will die. If you let people build swimming pools in the backyard it is beyond any doubt that some kid will fall into one and drown.

      The problem is that so few are looking at the benefits, and in fact it is hard to know for sure exactly what they are today. In the 1990s Dr. Gary Kleck did ground breaking research on uses of guns in self defense. Remember crime and homicide was about twice what it is now. His research suggested over 2 million defensive uses per year and upwards of 400,000 lives saved. We can argue all day (and many have) over just how valid his research is, but it was a wake up call that many Americans use guns for self defense and that fact is never recorded in official statistics. Also in the vast majority of cases the gun is never fired. The intimidation factor of a potential victim has a gun deters the would be aggressor.

      So yes bad things happen when a lot of people own guns. But a lot of really good things happen too. From what research I have seen the good far outweighs the bad, therefore I don’t see a lot to be gained by more onerous laws for the most part. I did write a suggestion for universal background checks on my blog though. The basic idea is to encode on a driver’s license whether a person is qualified to purchase a firearm, and do it on _everyone’s_ license regardless of whether they may plan to buy a gun. If you go to my blog and search for “universal” you will quickly find it.



      Comment by lwk2431 — Friday, May 2, 2014 4:45 pm @ 4:45 pm

  3. Well we agree on a fair bit, so there’s that.

    I called you “Rand-worshipping” because you were praising her work on your blog. This is a problem not only because Objectivism is horseshit, but also because the woman COULD NOT WRITE. She DESPERATELY needed an editor.

    The fact that homicides have dropped a great deal since the early 1990s is wonderful but does not obviate the fact that our gun homicide rate is all out of proportion to those of most of the rest of the developed world. The statistics are available at the OECD site, and I invite — hell, implore — you to look at them.

    Suicide is more problematic to measure because culture can be as big a driver as weapon availability. (Check the stats on Hungary, for example.) But the fact remains that many American teens and young adults use firearms to commit suicide but might well still be alive had a firearm not been readily available.

    Finally, if you’re going to cite Kleck as an authoritative source, you’re going to have to explain the major inconsistencies between his claims and what we know about the incidence of situations in which it is even possible to fend off a crime with a gun. In short, you’re going to have to prove that Kleck has learned to count. Good luck with that.

    Comment by Lex — Friday, May 2, 2014 9:47 pm @ 9:47 pm

  4. “… you’re going to have to prove that Kleck has learned to count. Good luck with that.”

    I think it is along the lines of the old saying that, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

    “…the incidence of situations in which it is even possible to fend off a crime with a gun.”

    Just the other day in Austin, Texas a man who had been fired from a construction site came back with a gun and fired it at the foreman. The foreman had a concealed carry license and pulled his gun and returned fire sending the attacker to the hospital with life threatening injuries. Who knows how many lives are saved by incidents where the gun is never fired that you and I do not know about (the kind that Kleck tried to get some understanding of)?

    I have had the experience of dissuading thugs from victimizing me with a handgun. I also have a permit to carry a concealed hand gun in Texas.

    “[America’s] gun homicide rate is all out of proportion to those of most of the rest of the developed world.”

    Actually the story is a little more complex. The overall homicide rate in the U.S. was 4.7 per 100,000 last time I looked. But many parts of the country experience a rate much lower, and in fact comparable to much less violent countries. The overall American rate is hugely jacked up by the incredible violence in our inner cities where a drug and gang war has been in progress for several generations aided and abetted by failed social policies that have destroyed the two parent family.

    For example New Orleans has a homicide rate over 50 per 100,000. I might have been safer in Saigon during the Vietnam War than in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. But in the safe little town in Texas I live in now I am probably safer than most people anywhere in the world, and citizens here seem to own a lot of guns. But mostly the police are occupied writing traffic citations. :)



    Comment by lwk2431 — Saturday, May 3, 2014 11:37 am @ 11:37 am

  5. A shorter way of saying what you just said is that the gun homicide rate (and the overall homicide rate) is highest in the states with the loosest restrictions on gun ownership. That’s a fact, and one that does not bolster your argument.

    I’m pleased that you and others have been able to fend off crimes with guns. But anecdotes != data.

    Comment by Lex — Sunday, May 4, 2014 9:04 pm @ 9:04 pm

    • “…gun homicide rate (and the overall homicide rate) is highest in the states with the loosest restrictions on gun ownership.”

      More than likely the data you are using includes suicides which definitely overshadow in numbers the stats for homicide. If so, the result is neither surprising nor particularly useful.

      A much more useful statistic is to look at density of population and racial makeup. A recent study showed that areas with high population density where the racial makeup is greater than 30% black is the most single significant predictor of violence and homicide.


      “The firearm homicide rates are below 1 per 100,000 for census tracts with few African American residents and rises almost monotonically to rates above 20 for increasing African American population composition…. A firearm homicide rate of less than 1 per 100,000 is similar to that of European countries with severe restrictions of firearm ownership rights and rates approaching 20 are similar to that of the most violent Third World countries.The majority of the firearm homicides and the highest firearm homicide rates occur in the small subset of the census tracts with an African American racial composition of greater than 30%.”

      “anecdotes != data”

      Never said that it did. However since so many of the anti-gunners seem to claim all the time that these incidents hardly ever happen it is useful to show that is not reality from real world examples.



      Comment by lwk2431 — Monday, May 5, 2014 10:02 am @ 10:02 am

      • Also note that for years New Orleans had the highest homicide rate in the U.S. (and still is as far as I know) with a rate over 50 per 100,000. Clearly the Ninth Ward in New Orleans is more dangerous than some cities in war zones.



        Comment by lwk2431 — Monday, May 5, 2014 10:04 am @ 10:04 am

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