Guest Post: Bloomberg’s Gunfight

I asked my good friend who is hyper liberal in almost all ways (except for gun control) to write something explaining the argument why “guns are good.” To many who live outside the US (and many who live there as well), the prevalence of guns seems like a scary mistake, part of redneck culture and sign of a failed or failing state

But are there legitimate arguments for widespread gun use? Mr. Rober Swan, a former U.S. Marine and Professor of Community Policing as well as anarchistic muralist, marathon runner, and recovering academic currently living in Oregon., is here to explain the case for guns.

It’s a long read, but worth it. While I personally disagree with him rather vehemently, I do think he makes some interesting points and I’ve definitely gained a deeper understanding of the issue.

(At) Home on the Range

(At) Home on the Range

Bloomberg’s Gunfight
—by Robert Swan

“It’s controversial but, first thing is all of your, 95 percent, 95 percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25. That’s true in New York, it’s true in virtually every city in America. And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed.” —Michael Bloomberg speaking to a largely white, wealthy audience at the Aspen Institute (Colorado) [Ignoring the profound inaccuracy of his data, Bloomberg has since advocated the disarming of all minority males between the ages of 15 & 25, regardless of criminal record]

Guns.  For many lefties in the U.S, the very idea (let alone the reality) of firearms evoke a great deal of concern, if not horror and outrage.  Why?  There are many reasons for the left’s generally profound aversion to guns but the most obvious and basic reason is that firearms are designed, exclusively, to kill other living creatures.

I get that.

But why is a white, male billionaire—with an abysmal policing and crime-control record in New York City and a clearly racist policy intent— telling us how to control gun violence?  And, more importantly, why are we (lefties) listening?  Admittedly, the left is not always aware that the prepackaged and recycled anti-gun message they subscribe to in the policy process today has become a uniquely Bloomberg product—complete with racist & classist characteristics and include a fairly vast expansion of the American penal and juridical system.  Nonetheless, the fact that Michael Bloomberg—who, over the years, has identified as a Republican, a Democrat and an Independent (e.g., whatever works)—is the primary financial driver behind the current spate of new, state-level gun control policies should give us pause.

As a lefty myself (I am left…far left…of President Obama)—and as a former U.S. Marine and Professor of Community Policing—I understand all too well the horror that guns inflict upon our world.  Whether we are talking about war, mass shooting events, suicide or neighborhood-level crime, the profound waste of life is paraded before us every night on cable news networks, and all day, every day on social media.

In addition to these distorted, for-profit visions of mayhem, some of us have actual (as opposed to vicarious) experience with gun violence.  As a professor of criminal justice and policing living in central California for two years, my sleep was frequently punctuated by 3:00AM gun battles between the Norteños and Sureños, two ferociously combative criminal gangs that have made a battleground of California.

….and yes, they had weapons and ammunition magazines that violated California’s rigid firearms restrictions…but I digress….

I won’t delve into crime data too much here, since I think that we can all agree that guns are destructive and that people will, with some frequency, use guns for nefarious purposes.  They always have and they always will.  However, I think if we’re honest, we can also agree that most gun owners in America do not use their firearms for nefarious or destructive purposes—if we limit our agreement on that to strictly person-on-person violence.  (e.g., I acknowledge that my vegan and vegetarian friends likely find hunting to be a destructive, if not nefarious, pursuit).

What I would like to address here is the political and social value related to one’s ability to possess firearms in a democratic society. Indeed, what is largely forgotten, misunderstood or intentionally neglected in the typical narratives surrounding guns is that the right to legally possess and deploy guns represent something much larger than a right to kill and maim.  In fact, the right to own a firearm in the U.S. represents an opportunity for citizens to exercise a freedom usually reserved for military and law enforcement in other countries.  This freedom has, traditionally, conditioned our sense of individual responsibility and efficacy in relation to individual and collective well-being. Importantly, the cyclical, distorted and heavily mediated national discussion over firearms has had a large impact on the many debates regarding the limits of freedom (more generally) in the U.S.  It is through these hysterical media discussions—and resulting policies— that the moral entrepreneurs seeking to politically profit from gun violence are able to infantilize an entire nation.  After all, if you can regulate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, what can’t you regulate?

The fierce opposition to firearms restrictions is not—as the anti-gun internet trolls would have you believe—about gun-loving rednecks who want to stock-pile weapons for a zombie apocalypse or government overthrow.  Rather, the ferocity of the gun debate is related to citizen resistance to a creeping fascism; a softening of our resolve to be responsible for our own actions.  It is about fighting to remain a grownup in an increasingly childish and selfish society.


The Symbolic Value of Gun Ownership:  “Yup, Grownups Live Here”

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”—The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Before I address the practical value of legal gun ownership in the U.S., it is useful to trot out a few statistics, tropes, myths and symbolic realities related to gun crime and the legal right to own a firearm.

First of all—and though I (sort of) promised not to talk crime statistics—it is useful to point out a few, important gun crime statistical confusions.

Contrary to President Obama’s assertion that “mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.  It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency,” in fact, mass violence has been declining in the U.S since the mid-1990s and mass violence (and violence in general) does happen in advanced countries and, with some frequency.  Of course, it all depends on how you define “advanced.”  Russia, for example, has a homicide rate 2.4 times greater than the U.S. and Brazil’s homicide rate is almost five times higher.

That being said, one really shouldn’t compare crime rates between completely different rule of law systems.  In comparing our system to a similar system like, oh say, Britain we might be able to make some assertions about gun crime that do not distort the issue.  Even though the U.S. has the most guns (88 per 100 citizens), the gun homicide rate in the U.S is only 2.8 per 100,000.  In England and Wales, the gun homicide rate is considerably lower at .07 per 100,000 and Northern Ireland is at .28 per 100,000 citizens.

Interestingly, both the U.K. and the U.S.—all in the name of promoting democratic freedom in developing countries— are major exporters of small arms, which means both are spreading the love beyond their own borders…but I digress (again)…

However, when factoring in all other crimes, Britain actually has three times as much crime as the United States.  So, while we might argue that fewer guns means fewer gun crimes, we can’t say that fewer guns equals less crime.  In fact, one might make the argument that more guns equals less overall crime.  Some do make that argument, but that’s beyond the scope of the argument here.

Crime and statistical literacy is also a huge deficit when it comes to public discussions on crime. In fact, most people don’t understand how crime is distributed. For example, many foreign nationals appear to fear becoming a victim of a violent crime if they visit the U.S.  Well, that may be a valid fear if you plan on vacationing in the shittiest parts of Chicago, L.A., Boston, Stockton or Cincinnati, but generally speaking, most people are not at risk for victimization at the hands of gun wielding thugs.  In fact, most people in the United States are quite safe primarily because crime is unevenly distributed and tends to be concentrated in specific areas.  Any simple internet crime mapping tool will tell you that (or a good travel agent).

So, now that the unequal distribution of risk idea has been sorted out, let’s talk about why the U.S. is prone to more aggressive types of criminal behavior. Gun-wielding criminal behavior in particular.  The good news is that criminologists Stephen F. Messner and Richard Rosenfeld have already written a book about this (5th or 6th edition, actually) called “Crime and the American Dream.” In this macro-level criminological research, guns are not the primary villain.  The economic system is.

In fact, it is our particularly virulent form of capitalism, combined with diminished social safety nets, our collective disconnect from the well-being of…well… the collective, and a culture of “winning at all costs” that has led us to where we are today.  Recall (if you saw it) the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Will Ferrell.  In one flashback scene Ferrell’s father tells him that “If you ain’t first, then your last.”  That’s America in a nutshell.  Guns, then, are simply an efficient way to be “number one” when all other legal pathways to success have been blocked—typically through some kind of legal or economic subterfuge inherent in the American political and economic system.

In addition to comparisons between the U.S. and other advanced countries using Messner & Rosenfeld’s criminological ideas, we also know that more diverse countries have more conflict.  Conflict, from a Marxist perspective at least, usually means more crime.  Less diverse advanced countries have far less crime than the U.S. simply because there is more consensus on collective goals.  In the U.S., we have an absolutely terrifying record of economic and political oppression by elites and almost no point in our history have we reached a consensus on anything (Hell, we’re still fighting battles over the confederate flag for crying out loud).

Do we need guns?  In my opinion, we only need guns for symbolic reasons, though there are many other practical reasons to own guns (e.g., self-defense, hunting & etc.).  For me at least, the symbolic Constitutional placeholder role is enough to keep gun ownership legal in this country.  The question really is, do we want to do away with our right to own guns?

Yes, the right to own a firearm in the U.S. is firmly entrenched in the U.S. Constitution and recent U.S. Supreme Court cases (See: D.C. v. Heller).  The courts have cited a number of practical and constitutional reasons for maintaining this right, but what does having this right mean in terms of symbolic value?  Well, it means at least a few things:

1) It means grown-ups live here.  Not only do we have the right (in theory) to speak, pray and associate freely (not to mention enjoy the right to a fair and humane justice system), but we also (in theory) have the right to carry and deploy firearms in order to defend those rights.  For example, I would argue that the outcome in South Carolina would have been much different if at least ONE person in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church had been packing heat. High capacity heat.

In short, (and to borrow from a right-wing trope for a minute here), the Second Amendment is not about the right to hunt or target practice (see: Tench Coxe, a contemporary of James Madison).  That being said—and regardless of the internet “revolution” gossip surrounding the Bundy standoff with the BLM (e.g., armed insurrection)—an interpretation of the Second Amendment does not (with any seriousness today at least) suggest that a large-scale, armed revolt against the U.S. government should or could occur—especially given the size and capability of the U.S. military.  But what it does mean is that the right to own guns is an individual right, a right to act in defense against violent attacks upon your person (or others) based on race, gender, ethnicity, political beliefs, sexual identity or sexual orientation.  It is a tool that individuals can use when faced with unjust violence at the hands of unruly mobs or individuals.  It is a tool that need never come out of the toolbox and serve only as a symbolic reminder that you are, in fact, a grown-up living in a free society (like the Swiss!).  This is how the Second Amendment has traditionally been used, not as right-wing extremists have depicted…or the way it has been depicted in really nifty zombie apocalypse TV shows.

While there continue to be vigorous legal and political debates on the meaning of the Second Amendment (and appropriate restrictions), ultimately, being a grown-up in America is tightly coupled to the right to own and deploy firearms, as well as to all other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.  Eviscerating (or attempting to nullify) the Second Amendment seems to be less about increasing public safety than it is about decreasing public power.  It is no accident that Bloomberg’s gun control policies and proposals seem to be guided by a patriarchal and infantilizing impulse—it is the general zeitgeist of all Sugar Daddies after all. Everywhere.  Always.

“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”—Tench Coxe writing to James Madison on the 2nd Amendment as an individual right.

2) The right to own firearms in the U.S. context also means that because you are a grown-up exercising your right to own and potentially deploy a firearm that you will be held accountable for your actions.  In our system, “rights” also include “responsibility.” This, then, is the essence of the “freedom” trope found so often in pro-gun narratives.  They have a point.  If the rights of citizens are reduced through infantilizing public policy (e.g., reductions in the opportunity to be responsible for your actions though the evisceration of your right to act in the first place), then a key element involved in being a free person has been removed.  Yep, in this country, it’s all fun and games until you yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater (or, alternatively, let a round fly accidentally from your concealed six-shooter while watching that movie).  To try to prevent the misuse of a given right by removing that right is both tyrannical and, frankly, nonsensical (as evidenced by gun crime data…er, hem…Chicago!).


The Political & Social Value of Gun Ownership: Personal Efficacy and Political Action

Contrary to media portrayals of gun owners, most of us spend a fair amount of time thinking about the responsibility that comes with gun ownership—if for no other reason than our handling of firearms has the ability to significantly impact the lives of others.  This level of responsibility is consistent with the other responsibilities people in a democratic society are given (e.g., paying taxes, driving a car, voting & etc.).

In my experience, people who live in states with heavy-handed and overly restrictive gun laws are the angriest, least efficacious, least trusting (paranoid, actually) and least mindful people I have ever met. What seems to be lacking in these states are feelings of trust (about anything); high levels of fear; and, importantly, low-levels of personal and political efficacy among the general population (though, interestingly, elites never seem to feel marginalized in these states.  See: voting participation data for California, for example).

These may be false correlations but it is my opinion nonetheless.  It is such a strongly felt opinion that after only two years I left a tenure track teaching job in California because of it.  Indeed, I may have short-circuited my academic career over it.  However, it is also my opinion that there is nothing more detrimental to human efficacy than a distrustful governance system emboldened (and empowered) by a coercive political culture.

The political cultures in these states tend to be fairly coercive across policy domains, not just in relation to firearms.  This is an important cultural feature to be aware of because, as some criminologists have argued, coercive political cultures are usually related to citizens’ distrust in each other and in their government.  Coercion (as a governing tactic) is the last resort in states in which voluntary, collaborate action is no longer possible—or perceived by the state to be no longer possible.  Thus—paradoxically— the problem of gun violence goes largely unresolved in states possessing coercive political cultures because, as criminologists and political scientists are well aware of, effective crime control is a co-produced outcome achieved through the voluntary collaboration of citizens and a state’s penal and political systems (e.g., community building and community policing are effective gun violence reduction strategies that embraces the co-production idea.  SEE: Boston Gun Project & David Kennedy’s work).

The social and political outcome described above are not due simply to firearms restrictions, of course, but, the over-regulation of firearms in these states tends to correlate with the over-regulation of everything else.  California is a good case in point, and, as I stated earlier, the catalyst for my current thinking on the relationship between gun ownership and personal and political efficacy.  What is interesting is that as ineffective as current gun control proposals and policies actually are (see: California, New York & Illinois for examples), they continue to dominate the interests of state legislatures—even in states that don’t have much crime at all.  Why?

                        Purchasing a Firearm in California:

  • Generally, all firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a California licensed dealer under the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. California law imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a purchaser or transferee.
  • Purchasers of handguns must provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a drivers license or other DMV-issued identification), and either (1) possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with their recently purchased handgun or (2) qualify for an HSC exemption.  (Pen. Code, § § 26800-26850.)

    Purchasing a Firearm in Oregon:

  • Buying from an FFL (Guns store/ dealer):
  • A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun. To purchase a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Must be Oregon Resident.
  • Pay $10 background fee.  Wait 10-30 minutes.
  • Leave store with firearm once background check clears.
  • Until August 9th, 2015, Oregonians are still allowed to privately buy and sell firearms to each other with no background check.

The Left is Taking Marching Orders From a Scoundrel…whaaaat?

Both the political left and political right in America seem alarmingly oblivious to the nasty history of gun control and seem equally oblivious to the positive role firearms have played in America’s historical fights for equality. Indeed, gun control has profoundly racist roots (see: “Negroes and the Gun: A Tradition of Black Arms by Nicholas Johnson).  How else do elites (government and business) cling to political power than by disarming disgruntled populations?  In the case of African Americans, gun rights have traditionally been denied (often violently) because political and economic elites correctly assumed that an armed, marginalized population would be dangerous to their interests (see also: “slave catchers,” black resistance and the origins of modern law enforcement).

Michael Bloomberg has continued the tradition of stripping African Americans of their guns, first in New York (e.g., “Stop and Frisk”) and now, nationally through his shell groups, Mom’s Demand Action & Everytown For Gun Safety.  Admittedly, not all liberals understand the relationship that Bloomberg has to current gun control policies.  Most people aren’t even aware of his abysmal racial record in New York City.  But Bloomberg understands them.  He is well aware of the left’s dogma surrounding gun control and has used it, I would argue, against them.

Today, Bloomberg’s policy ideas are designed—at least implicitly— to limit firearms access to all people of color as well as to members of the poor and working class, regardless of race.  These are the most marginalized populations in America and, thanks in part to America’s general “war on crime,” and specifically, to America’s nonsensical “war on drugs”, many people in these groups have become legally disenfranchised for low-level drug felonies (which of course, makes them ineligible to either vote or own firearms).  The public safety messages broadcast by Bloomberg and his cynical crew are, really, thinly disguised calls for racial exclusion that pander (shamelessly) to the always poignant fears of the white middle class.  The left—to my chagrin— is particularly gullible to Bloomberg’s message.  But, in their defense, it is a message that is typically cloaked behind the image of self-actualizing mom’s trying to “save the children.”  The King of Sugar Daddy’s has actually coopted the very notion of motherhood (e.g., Mom’s Demand Action) and put it in service to elite interests!   It’s pretty fucking clever, actually.

By most accounts, Michael Bloomberg is a clever scoundrel.  For the lefties (like me) who pay attention to these things, Bloomberg’s “Stop-and Frisk” policies in New York City were touted as effective crime control but, in fact, were both ineffective at reducing gun violence and horribly destructive to communities of color and police legitimacy (see: ACLU New York).  For ten years Bloomberg stubbornly forced his cops to engage in this behavior, and for ten years communities of color were oppressed and marginalized by these race-based stops, searches & seizures.  So, then, one has to ask: “Why are left-leaning groups taking marching orders from Bloomberg and his well-funded shell groups, Every Town for Gun Safety and Mom’s Demand Action?”  Well, there are a number of factors at play here, but I’ll start with the theoretical.

Some critical sociologists have hypothesized that the way elites control the general population in a democratic system is “by proxy”, rather than directly (as is the case in true dictatorships, usually though the use of terror campaigns, mass incarcerations, executions, mass torture and arbitrary arrest).  It is also, for some sociologists, a gender and class issue.  To fit the Bloomberg Plan into a theoretical framework such as this, is not difficult: 1) Billionaire White Dude; 2) Empowers (through money and political support) upwardly mobile white women (Mom’s Demand Action); & 3) …to divide the working class and poor on the issue of guns.  More importantly, as Mom’s Demand Action recruitment messages indicate, this strategy also divides the poor and working class by gender, as the MDA appeal to poor and working class women is pretty simple: “Do something about violence against children.”  Certainly, it seems to be true that if you want to push an agenda all you need to do is trot out dead children… in this case, it is not designed to “save children” but, rather, to divide the households of the poor and working class by offering a false sense of efficacy to women who otherwise possess very little (if any) power.


Universal Background Checks and the Politics of Trust

In what world are policies designed to increase the number of restrictive laws—while simultaneously decreasing public safety and public trust—acceptable?  Well, the world in which wealthy elites seek to control increasingly unhappy and marginalized populations (see: John Irwin & “rabble management”).  As scholar Donald Black has asserted over and over again for decades, the best way to disable a society is to increase the distance between individuals by increasing the amount of formal law that separates them in the first place. Simply, law is a barrier to personal efficacy and collective action.  In some cases, this is a good thing (see: “Crime as Self-help, by Donald Black).  However, too much law is coercive to healthy social systems.  In criminal justice and political science, this translates in to the evisceration of informal social control (e.g., collaborative social networks) while simultaneously increasing the importance of formal social control (e.g., police and prisons).  Welcome to Bloomberg’s world, where more law means more cops, more courts and more prisons (but not necessarily less crime or healthier communities).

As Bloomberg’s moral and political entrepreneurs know all too well, adding more restrictions on gun ownership is a good way to go if you want to diminish the health of a given political culture.  Recently, in Oregon—a political culture that has traditionally enjoyed strong, left-leaning libertarian impulses— Senate Bill 941 (with generous financial backing from Bloomberg) was fast-tracked (as “emergency” legislation) through the Oregon legislature and signed by the governor this year. In simple terms (though the law is anything but simple), SB 941 requires police background checks on the private transfer of firearms. Traditionally, Oregonians have been trusted to conduct these transfers on their own.  Not anymore.

The emergence of SB 941 was especially confusing given that Oregon has enjoyed a declining violent crime rate for some time, to include gun homicides and robberies (UCR, 2013). My confusion was resolved once I realized the role that Bloomberg (and his “astroturfing” strategy) played in pushing his agenda in Oregon.  “Astroturfing,” in a nutshell, is a fake “grassroots” effort designed to manipulate public opinion for private gain. In particular, “astroturfers” try to manipulate public opinion by using false or misleading data and marginalize anyone who disagrees with them.  It is an effective trick, especially among a largely media-illiterate population.

Unfortunately, the astroturfing efforts by these Bloomberg-backed groups are not true efforts to do anything about crime, but, rather, are efforts to radically change our political culture. The resulting culture of control (Garland, 2001)—as is the case in California and New York, for example—will become increasingly punitive and coercive.  In short, the politics of trust (or distrust, as the case may be) has come to Oregon.  While Bloomberg’s rhetoric may assert that the “NRA is resisting positive change in Oregon,” the truth is that many Oregonian’s are—without any NRA influence at all (they contributed nothing in defense of SB941)— resisting Bloomberg’s effort to foment distrust among the poor and working class.  Simply, Bloomberg’s effort to eviscerate informal social control and divide the poor and working class in Oregon did not go unnoticed.  The four State Senators currently enduring a recall effort can attest to that.


Back to being a grown up….

My argument is that the right to own guns is an essential right and responsibility in the American democratic system.  Primarily, this is because it is through the preservation of this right that citizens maintain their sense of individual efficacy; their sense of gravitas; their basic sense of responsibility for the well-being of others.  Smart phones and video games won’t do it (unless what we really want are a nation of distracted children).  You don’t need to own guns in order to appreciate the contribution the right to owning them has conferred on the nation as a whole.  Though admittedly, it is hard to see that through the fog of mediated mayhem.

Of course, my argument may not resonate with some, and may, in fact, create feelings of hostility in others (Hello internet trolls!).

I get that.

However, as a lefty, non-hunting, non-criminal, non-violent progressive person, I have found myself defending this right more and more, which puts me at odds with the people with whom I usually agree (hello social progressives!)… and in bed with folks I don’t (hello angry rednecks!).

The issues surrounding gun ownership and gun violence have become too dichotomous, too polarized, too distorted.  “Balancing” safety concerns has come to mean eviscerating a key Constitutional right.  Anomalous gun crime events (which are declining) have become overemphasized and the role that a healthy government—fueled by a critical, efficacious citizenry—has been minimized or ignored altogether.  Unfortunately, our collective fear of guns is greater than our fear of bad government—a perverse and paradoxical outcome for citizens who think themselves freedom-loving, independent thinkers.  Right now the dangers to our democratic system do not originate from the barrel of a gun but, rather, from Bloomberg’s wallet and the misplaced middle-class white fear he panders to.

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6 responses to “Guest Post: Bloomberg’s Gunfight

  1. I started to read this thru but after couple paragraphs realized nothing new here. I am liberal, american, raised in Texas, sold guns 22 years mostly for hunting and sport, and use to waterfowl hunt myself. Guns just dont make a country safer regardless of all the numbers you can find to support having them. The number that is the largest is the US has more than 50% of all the guns in the world and no its is not the safest country to live in. Weapons that were designed for the military are not hunting rifles. In the last 30 years of all the mass shooting not one armed citizen has stopped it. There have been police off duty and a marine that shot the terrorist after the shooting. If anyone thinks if for some reason there needs to be a civil war because of the federal government somehow has gone bisurk is smoking too much dope. All anyone besides those that are controlled by the NRA which is now a weapons manufacturing lobbyist is about some regulations not banning guns. I grew up in the south and the men around me that fought in WWII and Korea just did not want to walk around with a six gun on their hip. They were just not afraid of the people around them. Today in my opinion bunch of scared men that think somehow they can defend themselves. What! A bad guys walks up behind you and shoots you in the back. Your asleep at home, a bad guy breaks into your home while your asleep. There you are in bed and you wake up with a gun in your face bang your dead with your gun in the safe so your kids dont shoot themselves or you! You want a gun to hunt or enjoy say trap or skeet cool I do too. You want to have a shotgun with buckshot in case you do catch someone trying to break into your home cool. (buck shot wont go thru your walls to kill your neighbors next door) BUt dont think carrying a gun to the store, school, church , beer joint, bar makes you safe. By the way even in the old west ride into town usually the sheriff wanted required you to leave your six shooter with him!

  2. A Note from the Author: Well, I understand your point (and agree with some of it), though some of the data is incorrect (e.g., US does not have 50% of the world’s guns, though private legal ownership of firearms in the US is higher than other advanced countries) . Additionally, the (fairly recent) Clackamas Town Center shooting in Oregon was stopped by a person with a concealed carry license. (See: Nick Mel, armed citizen on the scene…here is the police report-http://media.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty_impact/other/combined.pdf)

    There are a number of documented cases of CHL holders stopping crime events before they even start (you can google that and find loads of documented cases…and by documented, I mean actual police reports). All of that being said, my argument was primarily a gun ownership and governance argument, not a conceal or open carry argument. I hope you will read my entire argument, and I do realize it is a lengthy one. Thanks!

  3. Ahimsa posted this a year ago, and I wrote most of a response and then got sidetracked. (Life was busy then.) I just found the text file I’d written it in, so I finished it off and am posting it now, very late.

    *

    Here are my thoughts, as a non-American:

    1. It’s interesting to read about how the debate over gun legislation in the USA is the result of a pernicious form of political profiteering, a skewed media treatment, and all that, but I fail to see how it’s different from any other issue in that respect. *Literally* every other issue, from fracking to nuclear power to GMO foods to climate change, is subject to all kinds of distortions in the media, to all kinds of political and corporate jockeying.

    Likewise, the jockeying happens on both sides. The NRA and Republicans have their Bloombergs too, and in spades. Either it’s an issue about American politics generally–and one that deserves to be addressed across the board–or it’s something that only offends one when it’s the other side of the debate doing it. The latter is bad-faith argument. The former is disappointing, but we can’t let it cripple a discussion of the issue.

    In other words, this is a meta-issue you’re choosing to acknowledge in this one case because it suits you.

    2. The criticism of Bloomberg–and his revolting racism and classism–are fair, but it’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish to subtly suggest that everyone who calls for stricter control of guns has simply fallen for a deceptively packaged fasict agenda; that’s as much a false assumption as the one you decry, that the left assumes every gun rights advocate is a rifle-toting redneck hick.

    Which is to say, it’s a tempting tactic, painting the other side as holding their opinion only because they’re dupes, but it’s wrong. People who are for increased gun control in the U.S. generally have a very good set of arguments, mostly based on solid results from the rest of the developed world. People who argue for a decrease in gun control, or maintenance of the current standard in the U.S., tend to make that argument as if the rest of the developed world doesn’t exist, and there’s a good reason for that: the arguments only really float if you’re (willfully or otherwise) trapped in a parochial discourse that ignores all the examples and cases around the world.

    Including the Canadian case, by the way. We have hunting. We have tons of rifles. We also have strict control of firearms, and handguns are (generally) banned. It’s worked out quite well for us, despite some stupid wording in some of the laws.

    3. It’s all very well and good to talk about citizen resistance to creeping fascism–something I think all sensible progressives ought to get behind–except, well, what would be an even better form of citizen resistance to creeping fascism in the form of gun ownership might be… ACTUAL CITIZEN RESISTANCE TO CREEPING FASCISM.

    Clinging to the Second Amendment when loads of other rights continue to be eroded as they have been for the last decade and a half–rights more recently recognized, and more recently abrogated, thus rights more fragile and susceptible to authoritarian attack–seems a bit like fiddling while Rome burns. Worse, the cynical utilization of gun control by the right as a wedge issue has succeeded in doing what it was designed to do: distracting people on those sides of the political spectrum from how much they have in common, and how much the politicians on both sides are horrendously beholden to (and under the thumb of) corporate interests.

    (Especially given the single-issue focus that so many gun-rights advocates seem to display when it comes to the securing of their rights.)

    4. There are serious problems with this part of your argument:

    However, when factoring in all other crimes, Britain actually has three times as much crime as the United States. So, while we might argue that fewer guns means fewer gun crimes, we can’t say that fewer guns equals less crime. In fact, one might make the argument that more guns equals less overall crime. Some do make that argument, but that’s beyond the scope of the argument here.

    This is a massive nonsequitur, and also a red herring.

    We both realize, I presume, that Britain’s higher crime rate could be explained by any number of factors, ranging from different types of economic inequalities, different social problems, or indeed different definitions of what constitutes crime?

    After all, you don’t really explain much about “all other crimes” such as, say, mentioning the fact that things as innocuous as teenagers cursing at, say, neighbors or a random passerby adult who spits at them, are subject to ASBOs… pseudo-legal repercussions for vaguely-defined pseudo-offenses, as in, even more creeping fascism. I’d wager the higher “crime” rate in the UK would be an expression of that, rather than some second-order effect of much stricter gun control in the US. (Besides, it would make more sense to lump together all violent crime in the two nations. (And, also, I’m curious where you get your statistics. The stats I’ve seen peg violent crime, homicide, and even general crime significantly higher in the US.)

    http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/United-Kingdom/United-States/Crime

    https://dispellingthemythukvsusguns.wordpress.com/

    A helpful debunking that discusses legal definitions of “violent crime” to explain the popular myth in the US that the UK is more violent is to be found here:

    http://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2013/01/12/fact-checking-ben-swann-is-the-uk-really-5-times-more-violent-than-the-us/

    Indeed, a similar dynamic applies in Korea: violent crime is smaller-scale than in the UK or Britain, but it’s both underreported (among women and poor people) and overreported (among anyone with enough money and criminal smarts to claim long-term injury to extract long holidays from work and monetary compensation from their assailant, without it even having to go to court, because of how the legal system here emphasizes pre-court settlements under police supervision).

    But in any case, mentioning and then dispensing with the argument allows you to see the post with a claim but not back it up… which is helpful since the claim appears to be wrong according to the sites I’ve seen. It’s a poor-faith move in any argument, and would cost you points in a serious live debate, because any competent opponent would skewer the argument and your credibility in one fell swoop.

    (And that’s to say nothing of the differences in crime reportage. In the (first world) country where I currently I live, altercations of the sort that would rapidly be broken up by Canadian or British police never get reported, and there’s been a sharp uptick in the stats for sexual violence, but mainly because people are reporting assaults more (and police are actually bothering to register those reports instead of abusively dismissing them). In other words, crime statistics are complex, and require a nuanced reading.)

    Then we land back in the swamp of provincialism:

    So, now that the unequal distribution of risk idea has been sorted out, let’s talk about why the U.S. is prone to more aggressive types of criminal behavior. Gun-wielding criminal behavior in particular. The good news is that criminologists Stephen F. Messner and Richard Rosenfeld have already written a book about this (5th or 6th edition, actually) called “Crime and the American Dream.” In this macro-level criminological research, guns are not the primary villain. The economic system is.

    In fact, it is our particularly virulent form of capitalism, combined with diminished social safety nets, our collective disconnect from the well-being of…well… the collective, and a culture of “winning at all costs” that has led us to where we are today. Recall (if you saw it) the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Will Ferrell. In one flashback scene Ferrell’s father tells him that “If you ain’t first, then your last.” That’s America in a nutshell. Guns, then, are simply an efficient way to be “number one” when all other legal pathways to success have been blocked—typically through some kind of legal or economic subterfuge inherent in the American political and economic system.

    I hate to break it to you, but there are places where society is even more subject to that kind of pernicious, dog-eat dog, win-at-all-costs mentality. South Korea (where I’m sure you know Ahimsa is now living, but where I also live) actually takes it to new heights. Hell, it’s so profound that it’s become an explicit part of public schooling: kids are aware from an early age that they are in competition with their peers academically and socially, and you see cases of sabotage and of friends betraying one another as normative. Westerners who talk about the aloneness of the big city have it easy compared to Korean kids, who are alone even in their friendships, and from as early as grade school.

    I have often felt thankful that guns are prohibited in Korea, because if they were not, there would be much more violent crime than there is. Indeed, in South Korea, the one place where fatal mass violence does semi-regularly occur is, not coincidentally, the one place where relatively free access to guns is possible: on military compounds, inhabited by enlistees. The reasons for that kind of mass violence are beyond the scope of this comment, however, beyond observing that their being, likewise, rooted in a mentality of extreme social atomization, is clearly due to the access to weapons that facilitate mass violence.)

    Instead, however, I’ll just note this: Korea is even more socially atomized, even more lacking an economic safety net, and indeed even more brutally unfair when it comes to economic and social failure than the USA: at least in the States if your brother maxes out his credit card debt and leaps off a bridge leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt behind, you’re not going to get approached by his debtors demanding that you pay the debt you’re legally responsible for (unless you complete a certain obscure legal procedure). The debt trap here is extreme, and it’s becoming almost impossible to recover once you fall into poverty in South Korean society.

    And yet, SOMEHOW, the crime rate is fairly low compared to the US, and gun violence is so rare that it’s front page news every time it happens. A shooting that occurred in my small, podunk town in March 2015–the first I’d heard about outside a military base in all my fifteen years here–was so astonishingly unusual it was nationwide news for a day, and, frankly, everyone in town said, “What is this, America?”

    All of that is to say that there are two serious problems with your claims of cultural exceptionalism (the US being especially dog-eat-dog) as a cause of gun violence:

    1. Lots of places are even more dog-eat-dog than the USA. Indeed, I’d argue given just the population of China and India alone, most of humanity lives in conditions far more dog-eat-dog than the USA.
    2. It does not take into account the general cultural enfranchisement (or even valorization) of gun violence in the USA.

    In any case, the symbolic function of gun-ownership seems, to me, to be also a bit of a red herring, since we can subject it to one simple question: how well has the symbolic tradition of gun-ownership done in terms of safeguarding the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Americans? It’s impossible to say definitively, since we cannot perform an A/B experiment, but we can compare with other societies that have fewer guns but have had experiences with terrorist attack like the the one that set America down the road it’s currently on.

    From what I can tell, the creeping fascism in Britain is somewhat different in character (people seem not to mind CCTVs the way many Americans would, and there’s a concerted effort to control youth in the form of the aforementioned ASBOs), but not particularly more extreme in degree. Several other European nations have had trouble with terrorist attacks and have not suffered particularly worse encroachments on their freedoms. The guns, even as a symbolic bulwark, are doing a piss-poor job.

    What would far better demonstrate that Grownups Live Here would be a more grown-up national debate, a more grown-up national political life, a more grown-up media, and so forth. I’m saying this as an outsider, and I don’t mean to be insulting, but I grew up watching American and Canadian television, and, well, as many issues as I have with Michael Moore’s depiction of Canada in Bowling for Columbine (and I have a lot: I’ve never left my house without locking the door, for one thing), the contrast between the newsmedias of the two countries (and the level and tone of national debate set by them) seemed quite accurate to me for the time. What I’m saying is that what looks to you like grown-up, to me looks juvenile in that particular way that only the juvenile can and must mistake for grown-up.

    I mean, any society that took until this year to decide that being a grown-up is tightly coupled with the right to own weapons designed to kill people, but not tightly coupled with the right to marry whoever your choose, or, say, consume whatever inoffensive intoxicant you might wish to use at a given time, frankly has a messed-up understanding of what “grown-up” means. America being more stringent about who’s allowed to buy cigarettes than who’s allowed to buy a killing weapon? That’s crazy by the standards of the rest of the developed world.

    I don’t mean to be insulting, but if you saw the video with Derek Jacoby and Ian McKellar commenting happily on the SCOPUS decision about same sex marriage, that’s an inkling of how most of the “advanced world” feels about this issue, too: McKellar, I think it was, commented about how, “It’s about time…” As in, “You’re finally catching up to the advanced world.” It’s not so much a case of backwardness, though: it’s about the juvenility of the debate. The things that pass for intelligent debate on the great issues of our time are usually stupid, because a lot of people just aren’t well-trained at logical thinking. But when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage, health care, and gun control, the absolute extremes of provincialism (and ignorance of the rest of the world’s status quo) on display in the debate within America frankly look like nothing so much as juvenility… not grown-upness.

    In a sense, perhaps, the comment by Louis CK is appopriate:

    You know when you say to a friend of yours, “You’re being an asshole,” and they say, “No, I’m not!” Well it’s not up to you if you’re an asshole or not! It’s up to everybody else.”

    That kind of applies, except of course swap in, “backwards.” You can, of course, say, “We have a right to be parochial and backwards!” but that’s not much different than saying, “I have a right to be an asshole!” You do, of course, have that right: but your populace will needlessly suffer for it, and fail to reap any discernible benefit, something that, if you only made the choice to widen your data sample beyond such a parochial range, would be immediately self-evident.

    To try to prevent the misuse of a given right by removing that right is both tyrannical and, frankly, nonsensical.

    That, of course, being an inerrantist interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. A fine document, of course, but to most of the residents of the advanced world, it once again looks particularly provincial and backwards of you lot to constantly be talking about it like it’s sacred scripture write by ancient gods, rather than an important legal document that is manifestly both the product of a given time and place, and (most emphatically) subject to (and ought to be subject to) careful and thoughtful revision from time to time.

    Lo and behold, it’s even an AMENDMENT that you’re all talking about! This, too, is one of those aspects of the discussion that, at least to me, seems juvenile in the extreme. To respect the Constitution, that is fine and probably a good idea, as the US Constitution is a good and inspiring text in many ways; but it baffles me how people hold it up as a document that cannot and must not be altered, as if it lists all rights that all humans can ever hold, when any cursory knowledge of it at all reveals it to be to some degree already a palimpsest… and a much better document for that palimpsest nature.

    (I would have no respect for an America that did not enfranchise women or nonwhites to vote, afforded blacks less than full citizenship, or in which the sale of alcohol remained prohibited… and I would hope you would not either.)

    In my experience, people who live in states with heavy-handed and overly restrictive gun laws are the angriest, least efficacious, least trusting (paranoid, actually) and least mindful people I have ever met. What seems to be lacking in these states are feelings of trust (about anything); high levels of fear; and, importantly, low-levels of personal and political efficacy among the general population (though, interestingly, elites never seem to feel marginalized in these states. See: voting participation data for California, for example).

    These may be false correlations but it is my opinion nonetheless.

    They may also be false impressions, note. I’d wager the perception is probably fueled by the frustration that people who advocate more restrictive gun laws feel when attempting to debate with someone whose approach to argumentation is so utterly frustrating and self-limited.

    (In other words, it’s a bit like how Christians think atheists walk around angry all the time; actually, when I meet fellow atheists, I find them usually quite relaxed, calm, and fun to be around… until some Christian starts trying to force-feed them Jesus nuggets. Most atheists I know well only end up filled with rage when Christians show up and start acting like assholes toward them.)

    So I’m afraid I have little regard for your offhand “opinion.” If there were a modicum of research to back up those impressions of yours, I might actually grace them with a more extended response, but there isn’t, period.

    Also, here’s a counter-impression for you: educated and intelligent people tend to be angry a lot more than stupid people. No, really: intelligence and education are both, in essence, about the ability to grasp connections between things. The result, in my experience, is that intelligent people see the broken shittiness of our systems, and experience frustration over them, much more than less-intelligent and less-educated people.

    (A great example, in my experience, is South Korea. There are a great many societal problems here that are apparent to some people, and completely invisible to others. Generally, it’s the smart and better-educated people who see the problems and are annoyed by them because they’re worldly enough to know it’s not this dysfunctional everywhere, and because they’re smart enough to know there are other ways to do things… and they’re frustrated because they’re surrounded by people who (because of their diminished intellect and lack of education) simply don’t know enough (or grasp the connections well enough) to see the problems, much less how to improve them.)

    If you find that insulting, well, think of it as the flip side of your silly implied characterization of people who prefer gun control as angry, inefficacious, untrusting (paranoid), and not-mindful.

    To your third major point: I share your distrust of elite controls; I share your misgivings about the classism and racism of the Bloombergs of the world. I just also happen to see that there are as many or more of those Bloombergs and controlling elites on the side that advocates the prolongation of third-world legislation regarding deadly weapons in America, and the prolongation of unnecessary gun violence in America’s cities. What frustrates me is that your misgivings are so limited, and so situational, that I can’t help but wonder why you fail to apply them more broadly?

    As for Universal Background Checks and the Politics of Trust, eh. I agree that legislation can be a tool for replacing organic community with artificial networks, but, well: the experience of living outside America (and, meanwhile, my experience of living as a visible minority in the second-most xenophobic society in Northeast Asia), have driven home that polities can be morons, and are prone to shooting themselves in the proverbial foot if you give them a proverbial gun.

    Which is to say, the world really is a madhouse. There are things that we probably should control, things that we shouldn’t trust (irresponsible, sometimes stupid) individuals to do responsibly. For most of the developed world, your grousing about SB 941 looks much more like a Southerner in 1870 grousing about how ending slavery totally sucked, because the need for a law like SB 941 seems self-evident to the rest of us.

    Also, I have to wonder if your claim about “astroturfing” being the real explanation for the apparent grassroots effort to bring about gun control, for two reasons:

    1. You assert it, but don’t offer real evidence. Do you have any that it wasn’t an authentic grassroots movement? That maybe Oregonians have simply changed their mind in the presence of overwhelming evidence outside America that more restrictive gun control is better than less?

    2. You talk about the manipulation of public opinion as if it’s necessarily and inherently a bad thing, where, in reality, the manipulation of public opinion can be used for good or ill, and indeed has been used for both throughout history. I get the feeling you despise this kind of manipulation because you believe people ought to be “free” to make up their own minds, etc. But you’re also assuming everyone does make up his or her mind, something that, if you’re an educator, you know isn’t true: plenty of people are very content to regurgitate received opinion, and will persist in doing so even after being shown all the evidence necessary to shown that they’re in error.

    Back to being a grown up: you’re right that within the American discourse, the debate has become “too dichotomous, too polarized, too distorted,” but I think the biggest problem is that it’s just so bloody solipsistic. The debate is conducted as if there are no test cases outside America, and in this way it’s a lot like the distorted, polarized, and frankly stupid debate over health insurance in America. Seriously, the rest of the first world looks on America in shocked disbelief: how can they do it THAT way when it’s so clear and obvious how many other better ways there are to do it? And how can so many of the people who’d gain the most consistently oppose it?

    I’m not American, though, so all I can say is that none of the Americans I know who advocate for gun control do so out of misplaced middle-class white fear: not a single one. There, I think, you’re just making a false and unwarranted assumption. At least for the rest of the developed world, it’s got nothing to do with fear, or coercive power. It has to do with common sense, and with the commonsensical realization that restricting access to deadly weapons is probably a good idea not because of guns, but because of moronic shit that so many human beings do with them when granted too-easy access.

    And that may be the real bottom line: I think you probably see people as inherently sensible and logical, or you wouldn’t be capable of holding the political position you hold. I’m more cynical, but not because I come from an angry, repressive place, but rather because that is constantly reinforced by experience of human beings. It’s a bit like the debate over self-driving cars: the amount of reckless and illegal driving, and the number of deaths it causes annually, make self-driving cars (or at the very least, driver-assisting AIs) a no-brainer once the software is sophisticated enough, and the only real counterargument is, “Nah, most people are good drivers!” or, “But I LIKE driving.”

    You could argue that personal cars and personal guns are a right, but why? Why not personal airplanes flown as poorly as people drive their cars, or personal nuclear reactors run poorly by the same people who never mow their lawns? There are special cases where individual rights are abrogated for a more important purpose anyway, and they almost always are predicated the destructive capacity of a thing multiplied by the risk that that capacity will be unleashed by someone.

    To me, ignoring the 84,258 preventable gun deaths in America during 2013 (according to the CDC) looks like willfully ignoring of human stupidity and selfishness and ineptitude that’s on clear display, and the need to do something about it for the sake of simple common sense. I mean, if fewer than 3,000 people died as a result of 9-11, and the US was willing to spend trillions of dollars, invade multiple countries, and sacrifice the lives of many more citizens in response? Yeah, it makes no sense whatsoever.

    That’s how it looks from outside the goldfish bowl. *shrug*

  4. OK…I’ve (finally) read through your manifesto Gord and, rather than going point by point, I’ll continue to rely on my data and experiences over yours, Why else have an advanced degree? Why would I rely on a less reliable source for data than my own? I won’t. Rather than having a data contest (which I’d win), I’d like to re-frame this a little differently.

    What I am proposing is more freedom…freedom of the mind, freedom of the body, freedom to define our own values and just an argument for more (not less) liberty (Sartre) detached completely from the bureaucrats and risk managers that you support and whom run our world (Weber). Your argument begets conflict (see Hegel’s identify philosophy) by expressing the idea that those of us who hold the opinion that the freedom to own firearms are “other”….admittedly, I hold the same opinion about those who would oppose private gun ownership, albeit, I think I have a better argument for supporting my position (see: Sartre, liberty and Hegel’s general idea that we self-actualization through responsibility).

    Let’s talk values, since the moral certitude we both espouse is a bit problematic (on it’s surface at least)…We can compare our values and determine whose are better on this issue (yep, it’s true!).

    Sam Harris makes the argument that values can be assessed based on social outcome (e.g., he often compares religios values to make this argument). Let’s go with that for a minute… let’s compare our value statements (much synthesized):

    1) You advocate for more safety (less personal risk) and less freedom; I argue for more personal risk (less safety) and more freedom.

    2) You are OK with the ends not justifying the means (e.g., billionaire white racists pushing policies you like); and I am very much concerned with the means justifying the ends (e.g., why ban guns to reduce gun deaths, why not craft specific and focused policies to do the same thing? We know how to do it and I’ve been involved with some of them).

    3) You see dupes where liberty and autonomy are being defended; I see dupes where tyranny and organized coercion are being defended.

    4) You fail to see cultural and economic differences in your assessment and advocate a “one size fits all” approach; I do not. In the U.S., for example, we have almost no social/economic safety net…is it any wonder that crime is endemic here (though unequally distributed)? Is it any wonder that people are steadfast in owning firearms for self-protection? To gain a feeling of empowerment when no other option is available? The U.S. is not Canada or Europe….our rabid form of capitalism has bred all kinds of terrible social and criminal justice policies which justify the private ownership of firearms. The FIREARMS paradigm will not and cannot shift until we reform our economic system and create more economic security for citizens.

    5) Comparing guns, cars and airplanes as rights, is not accurate. Firearms are a right, driving and flying are privileges that are tightly regulated. Firearms are more or less tightly regulated depending on where you live in the states…but the real question is should we regulate rights at all? yes…but it is much harder to do …as it should be or we’d see the all of our constitutional rights regulated (See: free speech and Black Lives Matters situations to know what I’m talking about). I would argue that anything determined to be a right should remain unfettered by Webarian bureaucracy, cost-conscious risk managers, cynical billionaires and their dupes. When we open the door to to these nefarious creatures, we open the door to all of our enumerated rights.

    6) Cost benefit: You assert that we should have less freedom in order to save lives. How many lives? In a country of 315,000,000 is it worth the political, social and individual cost to our freedom to be autonomous, responsible adults? My argument is no. While you have conflated (inaccurately I might add), all gun deaths (suicides, homicides and accidents), each one of those demands a unique policy response…homicides (which is what most people care about) are only amount to about 12-14000 per year (again, in a country of 315,000,000…fairly insignificant)…and are unequally distributed. “gun bans” don’t address the causes of crime in Chicago, Detroit, LA & etc., but they do make people feel good. Some people anyway. and those policies do get people elected and re-elected without ever having an impact on gun crime (see California).

    OK…that’s the view from INSIDE the fishbowl. *shrug*

  5. Robert,

    I didn’t see this response until today. I’m a bit slammed, but I’ll try reply anyway:

    OK…I’ve (finally) read through your manifesto Gord…

    It’s no longer than what you wrote. *shrug*

    … rather than going point by point, I’ll continue to rely on my data and experiences over yours, Why else have an advanced degree? Why would I rely on a less reliable source for data than my own? I won’t. Rather than having a data contest (which I’d win), I’d like to re-frame this a little differently.

    If you have an advanced degree, then you surely know that:

    1. One must be careful not to confuse a more familiar source with a more reliable one, and must be aware of one’s own susceptibility to seeing what one wants to see.

    2. That for an argument to be creditable, it must grapple not only with supporting evidence, but also contradictory evidence.

    What I am proposing is more freedom…freedom of the mind, freedom of the body, freedom to define our own values and just an argument for more (not less) liberty (Sartre) detached completely from the bureaucrats and risk managers that you support and whom run our world (Weber).

    See, you’ve retreated into rhetoric here where it’s simply not necessary. I could mount a creditable semiotic analysis of your post, but it wouldn’t be anything but a dodge. (Besides, the philosophical legacy of Hegel should give us pause from the get-go.)

    The irony here is that the “freedom of the mind [and] freedom of the body” are things that people living in societies with strict handgun control seem to enjoy much more than most Americans do. They’re not guaranteed freedom from gun violence, of course: but they live in a world where someone being shot to death (whether in revenge, or for no reason at all) is incredibly rare.

    Meanwhile, “freedom to define our own values” is one of those red herring definitions of freedom Americans so love. Nobody contests your right to define your own values: it’s just that personal values aren’t entitlement. At some point, someone else’s values are going to cross the line when it comes to what risk you’re willing to tolerate. You would not be cool with your neighbor mounting a tactical nuke in the backyard, would you? How about a neighbor conducting ad hoc, amateur bioweapons research in her kitchen? I think once you heard that she’d gotten her hands on Marburg virus, you’d be all about defining the limits to which her values entitle her to putting you (and everyone else in your community) at risk.

    In other words, you’re conflating, “I feel I ought to be able to X” with “I have an inalienable right to X.”

    Also, ultimately, your position is self-contradictory for one clear reason: the vast and overwhelming majority of victims of gun violence in America don’t look like you. You talk a good game complaining about billionaire white racists pushing policies, but on the ground, what you’re arguing is, “This tool of murder, which disproportionately is used against young black men, should remain as common in America as it is today.” Which, given what we know about the foibles of human nature, is the same as saying, “The epidemic of gun violence from which our nation suffers (and especially its black youths) should be allowed to persist.”

    As for your moral calculus, everything’s too boiled-down to be of any use, and the terminology is too skewed to represent anything I’m saying. See this:

    “1) You advocate for more safety (less personal risk) and less freedom; I argue for more personal risk (less safety) and more freedom.”

    That’s 100% skewed to your value system. It’s not even remotely a sensible representation of my position.

    Take the concept of “risk.” You speak of risk because it’s convenient to keep the question of social effects of widespread gun ownership theoretical: “risk” is precisely the word for keeping that consideration theoretical. But it’s not theoretical: it’s concrete. American gun violence actually exists, and there are statistics going back decades to show to what degree it does.

    Take the concept of “freedom”: you construct freedom almost wholly as “freedom to”–a peculiarly American tic–and fail to notice that “freedom from” is just as important and, really, just as foundational to American history. (Freedom from religious oppression was as much a motivator for the Pilgrims’ emigration to the US as freedom to practice their faith in peace.)

    Freedom *from* is a pivotal freedom. People who’ve lived in war zones–people I’ve known–attest to this constantly and loudly. That this doesn’t necessarily jibe with the experience of a white man living in Oregon doesn’t surprise me.

    The same sorts of problems plague the rest of your response, so I’ll keep my replies to your other points brief:

    2) You are OK with the ends not justifying the means (e.g., billionaire white racists pushing policies you like); and I am very much concerned with the means justifying the ends…

    This, I submit, is mainly because you have an enculturated sense of entitlement when it comes to a specific kind of weapon. (You haven’t stood up for your neighbor’s right to conduct amateur bioweapons research in her home, right?)

    Also, if you have problems with wealthy racists forming policy, I don’t see how you can participate in policy formation: it’s endemic in the Western world in any case, and particularly in America.

    3) You see dupes where liberty and autonomy are being defended; I see dupes where tyranny and organized coercion are being defended.

    Your implied definition of “tyranny” and “coercion” is special pleading: it’s not coercion when it’s bioweapons or backyard nukes.

    4) You fail to see cultural and economic differences in your assessment and advocate a “one size fits all” approach; I do not.

    Sorry, but this is straight-up provincialism, crossed with American exceptionalism. I’m all for recognizing that different cultures sometimes find differing solutions to their problems. But generally speaking, banning handguns and imposing controls on other kinds of firearms has produced generally the same result: a stunning lack of absence of firearms deaths, and lower homicide rates generally, across the board. The USA doesn’t lead the OECD in murder rates, but it’s four to five times as much as we see in Canada and most other member nations with stricter gun laws.

    https://www.quandl.com/collections/society/oecd-murder-rates

    Yes, crime is endemic in the US because of the lack of a social safety net. That is yet another thing that looks alien to the rest of the developed world, though.

    You’re arguing, “We have rabid capitalism. Therefore guns help us feel better about being trapped in this system.” It’s a bit like saying, “Well, I wouldn’t be shooting heroin if I wasn’t suffering horrendous pain throughout my body.” The heroin is not a solution, and is in fact counterproductive; arguing it’s a necessary stopgap is just senseless. I agree the insane economics has a lot to do with it, and needs to change. I disagree that a stopgap that at the very least facilitates a quadrupling of your murder rate (and inflicts that quadrupling disproportionately on minorities) is a sensible idea.

    5) Comparing guns, cars and airplanes as rights, is not accurate. Firearms are a right, driving and flying are privileges that are tightly regulated.

    But as I said, from outside the fishbowl this construction looks insane, because through most of the rest of the advanced world, all three are privileges that are tightly regulated, and it’s honestly working out a lot better for us than your system is working out for you. Sorry, but that’s the truth: every American–even the 2nd Amendment brigade–will admit thatr gun violence is a problem in America. It simply isn’t in most places at a comparable level of socioeconomic development worldwide.

    I would argue that anything determined to be a right should remain unfettered by Webarian bureaucracy, cost-conscious risk managers, cynical billionaires and their dupes. When we open the door to to these nefarious creatures, we open the door to all of our enumerated rights.

    And again, two problems:

    1. Your whole society is thoroughly run by cynical billionaires. There’s no policy that doesn’t have cynical billionaires supporting it. The gun lobby has loads of cynical wealthy white people supporting it.

    2. Your apparent allergy to bureaucracy in all forms is a sad American tic as well. No sane person likes a bloated or overpowered bureaucracy, of course: as a former academic, I’m sure you have as many bad admin stories as I have working in Korean universities for a decade and a half. But functional bureaucracies are great. They get the boring organizational shit done and they free us up to do the things we want and need to do. I dislike that the admin at the university where I last worked had stupid, byzantine publication quotas and that they were subject to no oversight whatsoever, but without some form of administrative branch, the university would have collapsed in a week flat.

    Examples of functional government bureaucracies outside the US doing things better than private companies in the US abound. Take the social safety networks of most Western/Northern-Hemisphere OECD countries. (Specifically, the British NHS, Canada’s healthcare system, and even the public health insurance system in Canada come to mind.)

    6) Cost benefit: You assert that we should have less freedom in order to save lives. How many lives? In a country of 315,000,000 is it worth the political, social and individual cost to our freedom to be autonomous, responsible adults? My argument is no.

    … and that’s an argument that’s easy to make if you’re a white man in Oregon. Also, increasing gun control isn’t mutually exclusive to addressing the other causes of crime in cities like Chicago, Detroit, and L.A. Rather, I’d argue any effort to impose greater control on firearms will necessarily have to occur in tandem with profound efforts to address the many causes of crime.

    In other words, I see you as saying, “This is a many-headed hydra: go chop off the other heads and leave this beloved-to-me one alone!”

    Oh, and conflating gun deaths (murder, suicide, and accidents) makes sense if you’re not a gun-loving American: the kinds of gun restrictions in place in most other first world nations result in us having far fewer of all three. Not none: we have hunting rifles and accidents and murders and suicides happen in Canada. But they’re a news event, an occasion for shock, rather than the unremarkable occurrence they are in the US today.)

    Anyway.

  6. I just want to thank you both for keeping this relatively civil. Gord and Bob, you are two of the most thoughtful people I know. I think we’d all enjoy having a drink together.

    But I think there’s not much point in continuing this conversation. Everyone has their firmly held opinion, and both sides disagree on the facts that back up those opinions. It’s probably best to leave it at that.

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