Built on Facts

Children, Guns, and Pools

In the United States, there are about 4 million 8-year-old children. To the extent that statistical averages hold true, around 640 of them will die this year. The largest single cause is motor vehicle accidents, killing a quarter. Cancer will kill another sixth, heart disease around fifteen percent, drowning will kill four percent, fires will kill about the same, and so it goes. Fewer than one percent will die of accidental discharge of firearms, about the same as inadvertently poison themselves with household cleaners. This year, one of them was named Christopher Bizilj, and he lived in Massachusetts. He was killed at a firearms expo this week when he was allowed to fire a demonstration Micro Uzi. The recoil caused him to lose control of the gun as it was firing; one of the bullets killed him. It is a hideous tragedy of unimaginable horror.

Conversely, irrationality in the face of horror has been used to justify everything from medieval pogroms to warrantless wiretaps. It is a source of new horrors all its own, and it’s precisely the thing scientists should strive to avoid. And it’s precisely the thing our own Greg Laden doesn’t avoid:

Ah, Mr. Gun-Nut Moron, it is obvious why this happened. Because your gun-loving attitude, which we presume you passed on to your child, made it happen. Why just the other day, I think I heard you saying “you can pry my guns out of my cold dead hands.” I wonder if you had to pry this gun out of the cold dead hands of your child?

Cost of a bullet: 9 cents. Cost of your son’s life: The price you pay for your politics.

I could say the same thing with equal statistical justification about the drain cleaner under your sink or the step ladder in your closet. I could say the same thing with five times the statistical justification about your swimming pool simply by raw numbers of deaths. But no one proposes banning those things because they don’t look scary.

Like drain cleaner, chain saws, cars, and almost every other dangerous product, guns have important uses. Self-defense, recreation, hunting (though clearly not with an Uzi), and protection against tyranny, among others. And this serves not to excuse the father, but to further indict him. He should no more have let the child shoot the gun than he should let the child use a chain saw. Even the most vague cursory knowledge of firearms would make it obvious that a small machine gun is in fact one of the most difficult firearms to handle due to its vicious recoil and continuous fire. Were I the district attorney, I’d prosecute the father and possibly the range supervisor for negligent homicide. There is no excuse.

Neither is there an excuse to assault a fundamental freedom because of tragedy resulting from criminal negligence. It’s precisely the same reaction that gave us every civil liberties problem Greg very justifiably loathes about the Bush administration. May we be consistent in our desire to never give up freedom for security.

Notes: Machine gun ownership is very heavily restricted in the US already. Purchase requires a very rigorous background check, licensing, fingerprints, photos, and a tremendous amount of money. Crime with illegal machine guns is very rare; crime with legally owned machine guns is essentially nonexistent. They are simply not weapons which are well suited for most crime by virtue of their size, expense, and difficulty of effective use. The gun control debate is thus mostly fought over much more mundane one-shot-per-trigger-pull pistols, and deaths due to homicide rather than accidents. [That’s obviously a much more interesting subject, but not one I’m going to treat in this post or the comments. I’ll save it for later. You may debate each other in the comments if you wish, but keep it rational, cited, and civil.]

By basic physics and even cursory understanding of guns, the Micro Uzi is one of the most difficult guns to handle. Small size means less mass, and correspondingly greater recoil for a given shot. The Micro Uzi itself has a greater than average rate of fire, compounding the difficulty. An 8-year-old should still be on the air rifle stage of learning about guns, and I reiterate my opinion that prosecution is in order just as I would for a father who let his kid play with a circular saw.

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Laden
    October 28, 2008

    Matt: I don’t see how a smart guy like you could imagine that the number of kids who die in car accidents (or via any other cause) has the slightest bearing on the number of kids who die in some other manner. These are utterly unrelated issues.

    Sorry to have pushed your hot button, by the way. But I would have thought a science guy would not have one of those.

    The point of my post is this and nothing else: Dad is a moron for letting the third grader play with an Uzi. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m not giving an inch. Oh, and it is true that I’m only guessing that Dad is a gun nut, but I’d take pretty much any bet on that and I’d win!

    (The fact that I’ve been to the Westfield gun club is not a factor here. It was a long time ago.)

  2. #2 bigjohn756
    October 28, 2008

    This kid’s father was unconscionably stupid and should certainly pay the penalty of criminal charges as well as the extremely severe penalty of losing his son because of his own idiocy.

    Unfortunately, because of an incident such as this, we ‘Gun-Nut Morons’ must now listen to the dogmatic gun haters spew their invective with no knowledge of, or regard for, any facts. This is a purely knee-jerk reaction and I find that it comes, in many cases, from some very well respected skeptics who would never consider such an unfounded reaction on any other subject.

  3. #3 Moopheus
    October 28, 2008

    “protection against tyranny”

    How does that work? You: rifles, shotguns, pistols. Overweight middle-aged white guys. Tyrants: Heavy artillery, armor, air power, naval power, bombs, nukes. Trained professional armies and police forces.

    Good luck with that.

  4. #4 dean
    October 28, 2008

    I’m still trying to figure out how a father, and a person from the gun fair, could possibly think that letting a young child “play” with any loaded gun could possibly be a good idea. has there been any explanation of this? it sounds like there was plenty of stupidity (and negligence) to go around.

  5. #5 camello
    October 28, 2008

    i agree with #3 and hence i don’t see how you can possibly refer to it as “fundamental” freedom. there’s nothing more fundamental about it than the liberty to smoke crack, euthenasia, abortion…etc. the point is, society decides what liberties are worth enforcing and which ones aren’t based on practical matters not their being “fundamental,” which is a meaningless criterion.

  6. #6 kevin
    October 28, 2008

    I googled for “You can have my drain cleaner when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.” but didn’t get any hits. Or, well, actually I got the one about electric toothbrushes, so nevermind, I guess you are right.

  7. #7 Zifnab
    October 28, 2008

    How does that work? You Iraqi Insurgent: rifles, shotguns, pistols. Overweight middle-aged white Arab guys. Tyrants: Heavy artillery, armor, air power, naval power, bombs, nukes. Trained professional armies and police forces.

    Good luck with that.

    Haha! Yeah, those stupid Iraqis. When will they learn?

    Seriously, though. Ruby Ridge? Waco? Oklahoma City? These are how attempted resistance to the US Government ends. We’ve lived for half a decade under increasingly draconian and extra-Constitutional policies. All the ammo in the world won’t shut down Gitmo or keep the NSA out of your email. Modern civil rights are won in the court house, in the voting booth, and at the kitchen table. Ghandi had more success freeing India from the British than Ho Chi Men had in freeing Vietnam from the French. MLK won more civil rights than Malcolm X.

    Clutching your Uzi to your chest and watching Rambo movies isn’t going to secure your Freedom of Speech any more than Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee Iron Fist Kung Fu is going to liberate Tibet.

  8. #8 Zifnab
    October 28, 2008

    the point is, society decides what liberties are worth enforcing and which ones aren’t based on practical matters not their being “fundamental,” which is a meaningless criterion.

    There is a certain “fundamentalism” of some rights – that is to say there are some rights you need in order to have other rights. If you have the freedom to own your own printing company, that doesn’t mean much without Freedom of the Press. If you have the freedom to consult with a lawyer, who cares when you’re striped of Habeaus Corpus rights? Simply being enfranchised with the right to vote doesn’t hold much water in Cuba when only one guy is allowed on the ballot.

    “Fundamental” rights are the bedrock of a legal system. You have the “right” to live unmolested by your neighbors and this gives rise to laws against murder, rape, assault, and theft. You have the “right” to own property and this grants you 2nd Amendment priviledges as well as personal freedom to travel in your personal vehicle with your own gas or to take up residence in your home or to create an income generating business.

    So I would argue that there are in fact fundamental rights that give all the other little peripheral rights meaning. And while there is nothing innate about them – you have the “right” to trial by jury in so far as your government is willing to gather a court together for your convenience – they are fundamental to the society that you live in. Without a bedrock of enforced code, evaluating individual questions of law breaking becomes an exercise in favoritism and whimsy.

  9. #9 Woody Tanaka
    October 28, 2008

    “Unfortunately, because of an incident such as this, we ‘Gun-Nut Morons’ must now listen to the dogmatic gun haters spew their invective with no knowledge of, or regard for, any facts.”

    Actually, we do have knowledge of at least a couple of facts:
    Fact one: An 8-year old child was permitted to fire a fully automatic weapon.
    Fact two: The child’s father permitted said 8-year old child to handle and fire this weapon.
    Fact three: Said 8-year old child is now dead of a gun shot wound to the side of his head.

    What conclusions can we glean from those facts?
    1) Some parents are too stupid to find their asses with both hands.
    2) Some parents are more in love with their guns than they are with their own children.
    3) The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is negligent for permitting bullshit events like this to go on in the state.
    4) This father, this “instructor” and everyone associated with this event and facility should be brought up on charges.
    5) The death was a predictable result of a “gun culture” that is willingly and negligently blind to the pervasive irresponsibility that it has created and in which it thrives.
    6) This kid’s dead for no fucking reason whatsoever, except for the wasted sperm donor who was his father doesn’t have the sense God gives a dead dog.

    And now you, as a gun owner, have to hear about it. Boo-frickin’-hoo. I feel a tear welling in my eye for you. It is so unfortunate that this massive inconvenience befell you, merely as a result of this child blowing the side of his skull off. Truly. The cross you must bear must be overwhelming.

  10. #10 Matt Springer
    October 28, 2008

    Some of your list is true, Woody, but 5 & 6 are specifically the thing I am trying to show are simply statically wrong.

    “The death was a predictable result of a “gun culture” that is willingly and negligently blind to the pervasive irresponsibility that it has created and in which it thrives.”

    Were this so, a country where something like half of households have at least one gun would have more than 0.78% of accidental shooting fatalities in the 5-14 year old cohort. But that’s all there is – the same as drain cleaner deaths. This doesn’t make the situation less tragic of the father any less responsible, but the numbers are important. For every 8-year-old who dies by gun accident there’s five who drown while swimming recreationally – and there’s many fewer pools than guns. I don’t see senators Kerry and Kennedy clamoring to have the feds concrete all those in.

    Greg: “The point of my post is this and nothing else: Dad is a moron for letting the third grader play with an Uzi.”

    Wholly agreed.

  11. #11 Woody Tanaka
    October 28, 2008

    “Were this so, a country where something like half of households have at least one gun would have more than 0.78% of accidental shooting fatalities in the 5-14 year old cohort.”

    Nonsense. First of all, you simply assume that a rate of 0.78% is indicative of responsible gun ownership, but you base that conclusion on comparisons to things, like pool drownings and accidental poisonings, that are not analogous. You can’t draw any valid conclusion from them. One could just as simply say that because the rate is above 0.01% (or any other arbitrary figure), it indicates pervasive irresponsibility.

    Second, you assume that all of these gun owners are part of the “gun culture” I was criticizing; I would assert that they are not. There is a vast, vast difference between someone who responsibly stores a pistol for home protection, trigger locked, etc., and some jackass who gives his third-grader an Uzi.

    But here is the important point: You “[w]holly agree[]” that “Dad is a moron for letting the third grader play with an Uzi” — but “Dad” was not alone in this. This event was not the result of one “rouge” idiot father. This was an organized event — organized no doubt by people intoxicated by this “gun culture” and attended by a so-called instructor — and supported by a vast cadre of lawyers, lobbyist, politicians and others dedicated to prevent even sensible restrictions on gun ownership, gun shows, etc.

    And apparently not one of these “responsible gun-owners” thought to prevent “Dad” from letting his 8-year old handle live military weaponry. None. Quite the opposite, they assisted in it. They are the ones who are engaging in wholesale irresponsibility that I spoke of. And if the net result of their irresponsibility is “only” an accident rate of 0.78%, that that is 0.78% too much.

  12. #12 Mike the Mad Biologist
    October 28, 2008

    Isn’t it illegal to convert a semi-automatic to automatic? I’m confused as to how this gun was firing legally. (Granted, many people illegally convert their guns).

  13. #13 Nomen Nescio
    October 28, 2008

    #12: it is indeed illegal to convert a semi-auto weapon to fully-auto (unless you’re licensed as a machine gun manufacturer, but very few people are). this particular gun was never so converted; it was a machinegun to begin with.

    it is, in most but not all states of the USA, legal for private citizens (i.e., not police departments or the military) to own machine guns. however, the background checks and licensing paperwork involved is comparable to getting a secret-level security clearance — and the supply of machine guns you can buy at the end of that has been artificially limited to only those particular weapons that were available on that market in 1986. since then, no new ones have been allowed into the NFRTR, which is a federal registry of machineguns, in which any machine gun that changes hands between private citizens must be registered. (supply and demand being what they are, machineguns have of course become rich boys’ toys since 1986. even the cheapest ones cost thousands of dollars, with no apparent upper limit.)

  14. #14 The Ridger
    October 28, 2008

    The predictable result of seeing too many movies where the hero fires his Uzi one-handed while running through a warehouse and over roofs…

    Dad was probably NOT a gun-owner.

  15. #15 Nomen Nescio
    October 28, 2008

    oh, and i forgot one thing:

    (Granted, many people illegally convert their guns)

    why should we grant that? is there any evidence that this is at all commonly done? FWIW, it is by law not an easy thing to do; if a firearm is “readily convertible” to fully automatic, the law considers it a machinegun already, even if not yet converted.

    (the BATFE, the federal regulatory agency with authority over firearms, gets to decide what counts as “readily convertible”. they have in the past considered “eight hours’ work in a machine shop” to be “readily convertible”, although when speaking of the BATFE one should not consider prior opinions to carry any precedential weight, as they have a habit of changing their minds without notice.)

  16. #16 Doug k
    October 28, 2008

    some two score years ago I used an Uzi in training. As a fit strong 20-something I had difficulty controlling it – basically left hand is on top of the weapon, pushing down hard.
    I’m not surprised the kid lost control. Hopefully the state will bring charges against everyone involved with the ‘expo’.

    Important uses ? guns are for killing things, they are quite simple-minded. Owning killing devices is not a fundamental freedom, but a privilege. I speak as a hunter and veteran.

  17. #17 Nomen Nescio
    October 28, 2008

    guns are for killing things

    and anuses are for defecating, not intercourse.

    i don’t care what a thing is originally intended for. or at least, not nearly so much as i care what it actually sees use to accomplish, or even more specifically, what you happen to be doing (or have done) with it. in many cases the originally intended use is impossible to discern anyway, the designer or builder being dead.

    Owning killing devices is not a fundamental freedom, but a privilege

    i was going to point to the second amendment, but then i realized you said “killing devices”, not even specifically “weapons”. did you stop to think at all of just how many kinds of devices may be more or less easily used to kill with before you wrote that? perhaps you should have.

  18. #18 Waterdog
    October 28, 2008

    Why in the world is owning a gun a right? Because you were brought up that way? From a non-American perspective, I find that attitude very difficult to understand.

  19. #19 Matt Springer
    October 28, 2008

    Because the right to protect one’s own life is about as fundamental as human rights get. Frankly as an American I’m perfectly aware that there’s a lot of nations that don’t have freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, elections, jury trials, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and many other rights we take for granted. I regret that this is the case.

    America is far from perfect, but you’d be hard pressed to find a freer country. That it recognizes a right to arms is one of the truest demonstrations of its commitment to treat its residents as free citizens, not subjects.

  20. #20 Nomen Nescio
    October 28, 2008

    Why in the world is owning a gun a right?

    why exactly shouldn’t it be?

    because they’re dangerous? yes. so are lots of other things.

    because they’re the most dangerous thing you can own? they aren’t, but for the sake of argument — some thing or other always will be, necessarily.

    because they’re somehow uniquely dangerous? everything’s unique in some respect or other; which kind of uniqueness are you referring to, and why should it be relevant?

    because they’re somehow too dangerous for regular people to own? you’ll have to prove that to me; i disagree, i think regular, private citizens can in general be safely trusted with them. statistics seem to bear me out, as the vast majority of guns in private hands do no harm whatsoever.

    because not allowing them would somehow help something or other? help what, and what evidence is there for that?

  21. #21 Carl Brannen
    October 28, 2008

    8 years old should be looking at bolt action .22 at most, no autoloaders. And I can’t imagine that this was fully auto.

    And it’s not just children that shouldn’t be handling short guns in heavy calibers. At the local gun range where I lived in Bellevue, a man decided to teach his girl friend how to shoot. He chose his .44 magnum S&W monster. She put a round in the target, a round through the ceiling and the third round through his neck, killing him.

  22. #22 Carl Brannen
    October 28, 2008

    Regarding the rate at which people are killed by guns relative to other things, yes, this information is very important.

    If humans regularly lived to age 10,000 we’d be a lot more careful about a whole lot of things. The planet kills us fairly quickly no matter what we do, and it kills our children every now and then as well. The only way of assessing whether a given rate of death is excessive is to compare it with other rates.

    If the internal combustion engine hadn’t been invented until just now, it would be impossible to get laws passed that would allow people to drive the dangerous things around, what with the high weights and speeds, and the dangerous fuels. However, the modern death rate due to automobiles, as a percentage of the population is quite comparable to the 19th century death rate due to horse driven traffic.

    I’m still amazed that someone would give a fully auto weapon, much less an Uzi, into the hands of an 8-year-old.

  23. #23 Nomen Nescio
    October 28, 2008

    when teaching a beginner to shoot, loading just a single round to start them out with should be the obvious thing to do, i’d think. why that didn’t happen in this case — and in the case mr. Brannen reported, too — quite escapes me.

  24. #24 Moopheus
    October 28, 2008

    “Haha! Yeah, those stupid Iraqis. When will they learn?”

    They learned that rifles and pistols aren’t enough. Mortar grenades, IEDs, car bombs, etc., are the weapons of choice in this war. This is the kind of funny thing about the gun-rights people–they tend to be very focused on guns, but not so much on “arms” generally in the military sense, even though that is the use the 2nd Amendment is addressing explicitly. They buy into that “defending freedom” rhetoric even though the government has pretty much banned the ownership of whole classes of weapons, basically anything that could actually be a threat to the government. Yeah, all the guns haven’t kept the Constitution from getting raped.

    Oh, and you forgot to include the MOVE guys in Philadelphia.

  25. #25 Paul Murray
    October 28, 2008

    A classic case of bad math on the part of Mr Matt Springer .

    This “Fewer than one percent [who] will die of accidental discharge of firearms” includes kids from families whose parents are not gun-nuts.

    What matters is not the total number of kids killed, but the likelihood that a kid will die from firearms *given that its parent is a gun-nut*.

    Mr Springer’s logic would lead one to conclude that since fewer than 1% of children die from poisoned kool-aid, it’s safe to join Heaven’s Gate.

  26. #26 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    In fact Mr. Murray, I’ve been more generous than warranted with the statistics.

    A full third of US households own guns, while a much, much smaller percentage of houses contain swimming pools. Running the numbers with your suggested Bayesian priors would show that in fact a given house with a swimming pool is vastly more likely to result in accidental death than a house with a gun.

    The bloodbath due to car accidents still puts them both to shame even correcting for the fact that car ownership is more widespread than gun ownership.

  27. #27 John
    October 29, 2008

    I’ve spent 31 years in law enforcement. The first shooting incident that I responded to was an accidental shooting where a 6 year old killed his 8 year old brother while playing with a sawed off shotgun. I’ll never forget the child laying on the front porch of his house with his eyes open while a fly hovered around his face. As tragic as this incident was, I’ve never thought that guns should be banned. I do think that they need reasonable regulation and that the public needs gun education. I’ve tried to teach my children (who are now grown) to be responsible when and if they are around firearms. The U.S. Constitution speaks to the issue of “the right to keep and bear arms”. The courts have made ruling on just what that means. Various levels of government have passed laws attempting to regulate their use. Some of these laws I personally think are reasonable and some are not. The recent accident involving little Christopher is so sad. As a father, I can only imagine the pain and guilt that his father is going through. Tonight, you may want to say a prayer for Christopher and his family. And tomorrow you may want to hug your kid and teach him or her some basic firearms safety in case they ever find themselves around a firearm.

  28. #28 Paul Murray
    October 29, 2008

    You are absolutely right about home swimming-pools. I don’t know about over there in the states, but here in Oz there are strict laws enforcing difficult-to-climb fences and spring-loaded self-locking gates for exactly that reason. Oh, and there’s a cultural thing where we regard teaching kids to swim as important – don’t know if that applies over there.

    Be that as it may, it’s a red herring. Yes, pools are dangerous – but that has nothing to do with my comments about your math on guns.

    640 8-year-old kids died this year, less than 1% – lets say 5 kids – from accidental discharge of guns which, for simplicity, we might assume are all household guns.

    So, of the 640 kids, about 635 died of non-gun related causes: 212 of them in gun-owning homes. So that’s 212:5 = if your 8-year-old dies and you own a gun, theres about a 2% change that it was as a result of an accidental discharge.

    roughly.

    However, that’s very contingent on your 1/3 figure and contingent on gun ownership and chance of dying from other causes being independent, which likeley they are not.

    *if* it is true that poor people, or people with curly hair (or whatever) are a) less likely to have a household gun and b) more likely to have their 8-year-olds die from other causes, then that completely skews the figures.

    Mind you – you are quite right, really. The main cause of gun death among children at the moment is not kids with guns at home having accidents, but kids who happen to be Iraqi being shot by Americans.

  29. #29 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    It’s so statistically small as to be irrelevant either way. Those average five deaths are all tragedies, but they comprise fewer than two weeks worth of automotive accidents. And if you want to run per-gun-household statistics, if your 8-year-old dies and you have a swimming pool, what is the chance he died of drowning? And yet we ban neither pools nor cars, despite the fact that they’re not fundamental rights.

    The irrelevant Iraq quip is both factually wrong and morally abhorrent, and both insults the American (and a few hundred Australians) forces in Iraq and excuses the terrorists who spend the vast majority of their effort killing their own countrymen. As such, I’m not going to be put up with it here. You have your own site, and you can use it if you want to spread that kind of rot.

  30. #30 Feynmaniac
    October 29, 2008

    “Because the right to protect one’s own life is about as fundamental as human rights get. Frankly as an American I’m perfectly aware that there’s a lot of nations that don’t have freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, elections, jury trials, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and many other rights we take for granted. I regret that this is the case.

    America is far from perfect, but you’d be hard pressed to find a freer country”

    The US finishes first in the industrial world for death rate by fire arms. It also finishes first for the homicide, suicide and accidental firearm death rate. Most of the nations on that list are just as free, some arguably more so, than the US. It seems like many nations are able to maintain the rights of their citizens without having a “gun culture”.

  31. #31 John Morales
    October 29, 2008

    Not mentioned above is the simple fact that guns are designed for a specific purpose: to kill.

    This is not true of motor vehicles, household cleaners, swimming pools etc.

  32. #32 Irene Delse
    October 29, 2008

    “How does that work? Iraqi Insurgent: rifles, shotguns, pistols. Overweight middle-aged Arab guys.”

    Not so overweight and middle-aged, actually. A lot of the Baathist insurgents were in Iraq’s army before it was disbanded. (Another bright idea from the Bush administration, BTW…) Say rather: a lot of young, fit, military trained Arab guys.

  33. #33 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    The US finishes first in the industrial world for death rate by fire arms.

    statistics as cited by wikipedia. tsk, tsk. this is precisely the sort of controversial, politicized subject wiki does least well at, too.

    why only include the world’s industrialized (by what measure?) nations in the statistics, though? are firearms only dangerous if you live in a rich country? because that’s what your wikipedia page lists; Russia isn’t on the list, even though you’d be hard pressed to say it lacks an industrial economy. Russia also has much stricter gun control than the USA, much lower rates of private firearms ownership, and much greater rates of violent death, homicide, and homicide by firearms specifically. why exclude that country? why exclude Brazil, why Mexico? those latter two are at least included in the separate list of “developing” countries (the difference being defined purely in terms of GNP per capita) further down the page; the two lists together come nowhere near to listing all the world’s countries, i note.

    why, for that matter, focus on total firearms death rate? that includes suicides (which, i assure you, has no real connection to firearms availability — witness Japan) and justifiable homicides (which, ceteris paribus, ought to track violent crime rates). guns are not viruses, that they could be treated so simplistically; they do not cause death randomly and without ethical implications. people use them to cause deaths for human reasons, which no court in the world would take for granted were random and ethically neutral just because a gun was involved somehow (making it “firearms related”).

    wikipedia having now been cited as a reliable source, it’s perhaps time to post a link to gunfacts. it’s a secondary source, but it tends to pick more varied and more authoritative primary sources than wikipedia.

  34. #34 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    the simple fact that guns are designed for a specific purpose: to kill.

    even assuming this were true for all guns (it isn’t), why should it be relevant? why should the original intent of a designer — who may no longer be among the living, for all we know — matter more than the impact of the item designed on society, for good and bad?

    this argument borders on magical thinking, calling an item malicious or dangerous because the intent held in its creator’s mind is perceived or assumed to have been a malicious one. that’s no basis for public policy in a modern state.

  35. #35 Woody Tanaka
    October 29, 2008

    “And if you want to run per-gun-household statistics, if your 8-year-old dies and you have a swimming pool, what is the chance he died of drowning? And yet we ban neither pools nor cars, despite the fact that they’re not fundamental rights.”

    We also don’t put 8-year olds in NASCAR racers without so much as a seatbelt, and tell them to floor it, and after they predictably crash the vehicle, cry “This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don’t know why it happened.”

    We also don’t breed a culture that glories in such irresponsibilities, as is the case with the guns.

  36. #36 Donalbain
    October 29, 2008

    Couple of points:

    1) Comparing a drain cleaner to an uzi is stupid for one simple reason. The drain cleaner, if used as designed by the manufacturer will not kill someone. An uzi will.

    2) The fact that a kid is allowed to hold an uzi DOES say something about the culture that child is brought up in. The child saw the uzi as a “cool thing” to play with. His father agreed with that assessment. That is a result of the culture that family lived in.

    3) Protection from tyranny? I laugh. I laugh heartily. What protects citizens from tyranny is not owning guns. It is the fact that the military are good guys and won’t allow themselves to be used by a tyrant. If they changed their minds and agreed with the tyrant, you would be dead wether you had a gun or not. They have bigger guns, better guns, guns attached to planes. And more to the point they know how to use those guns to take down armed resistance.

  37. #37 MattNotSpringer
    October 29, 2008

    First off, where does that guy buy ammo? I want to know where I can find rounds for 9 cents a piece!

    Now that that’s off my chest, it’s not at all the fault of the culture, but the stupidity of the parent. There are plenty of kids who are taught to use guns responsibly by their responsible parents. This guy was not responsible.

    Donalbain doesn’t seem to realize that private ownership of guns does prevent tyranny. The first thing Hitler did before killing Jews was to ban and confiscate guns from private owners. This makes resistance nearly impossible. Furthermore, Donalbain’s position is basically that guns can’t save you so roll over and die. I’d rather die fighting for my freedom than live under a tyranny.

    To think that we’ve become so civilized that we don’t need guns and that we’ll never have the threat of tyranny is foolish. Look at the City of Chicago. They banned guns outright, yet have the highest murder rate in the country. How were Jennifer Hudson’s family members killed and where were they? Oh, right. They were GUNNED DOWN in CHICAGO, a city which has BANNED GUNS! I guess the killers decided to break the law. Silly killers.

  38. #38 Woody Tanaka
    October 29, 2008

    “it’s not at all the fault of the culture, but the stupidity of the parent. There are plenty of kids who are taught to use guns responsibly by their responsible parents. This guy was not responsible.”

    Baloney. The so-called parent was not alone in this; this was an organized event at a facility that should known better, with an “instructor” who permitted this to happen. They all believed that giving this Uzi to an 8-year old was “responsible” behavior. That’s one of the reasons why the gun-show gun culture as it exists now is toxic: because it blinds them to the idiocy and sheer irresponsbility of giving a gun, especially one like this, to a young child to shoot for fun or for “sport.”

    Further, the bogeyman alternative that point to — banning guns — is not the only alternative to glorifying Wild-West irresponsibility with military grade weapons.

  39. #39 Mike_F
    October 29, 2008

    The father deserves a Darwin award (http://www.darwinawards.com/), although unfortunately he does not qualify on a technicality.

    Anybody who thinks that private ownership of guns prevents tyranny or anarchy is invited to visit Somalia, Yemen, tribal border regions of Afghanistan/Pakistan, etc. Unfortunately the U.S.A may progress to ever closer resemblance to such places if Mr. Springer and his ilk continue to have their way…

  40. #40 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    “Comparing a drain cleaner to an uzi is stupid for one simple reason. The drain cleaner, if used as designed by the manufacturer will not kill someone. An uzi will.”

    As has been pointed out, this is magical thinking. A gun doesn’t have some mystic aura of telos which poisons the air around it.

    And in any case it’s not true. I personally know many, many gun owners who have put probably millions of bullets through their guns in the aggregate. I myseslf am an occasional recreational shooter. None of us have ever shot at another human being. The manufacturer’s purpose for a gun is to shoot bullets. Far and away the main use for bullets is to put holes in paper down the range. Killing people is simply something they can be used for if needed, but which occurs very, very rarely.

    The suicide rate mas been mentioned. Many suicides use guns, but the actual suicide rate in the US is low. Considerably lower than nearly gun-free France, Germany, Austria, and many other first-world nations. If we’re going to blame guns for the homicide rate, shall we give them credit for the low suicide rate as well?

    UPDATE: “Somalia, Yemen, tribal border regions of Afghanistan/Pakistan, etc.”

    Seriously? Guns aren’t even in the top 50 reasons those places are fubared. It’s ethnic/tribal/religious conflict that existed before guns and will continue to exist so long as people are willing to kill over ethnicity, tribe, and religion. After all, it’s not like France’s very strict gun laws prevented people from those very countries from starting armed urban warfare in France just last year.

  41. #41 MLP
    October 29, 2008

    “The irrelevant Iraq quip is both factually wrong and morally abhorrent, and both insults the American (and a few hundred Australians) forces in Iraq and excuses the terrorists who spend the vast majority of their effort killing their own countrymen. As such, I’m not going to be put up with it here. You have your own site, and you can use it if you want to spread that kind of rot.”

    Wow Matt your starting to sound much less the reasoned thinker I thought you were then a ideologue you may reveal yourself to be. To say it is “morally abhorrent” that we have killed large numbers of civilians who did not attack us is so sad. While we have also killed many people who had violent intents and actions towards America and it’s citizens is a true statement to espouse such blameless support of our countries actions is exactly the kind of nationalism that we are supposed to be preventing. But on the main topic your basic tenet seems fine.

  42. #42 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    “to espouse such blameless support of our countries actions is exactly the kind of nationalism that we are supposed to be preventing”

    I think I may have been misunderstood. America has not been blameless in Iraq, far from it. I was only responding to a commenter who specifically said that American forces were not merely involved in killing people as part of war, but that they were deliberately targeting civilians – children at that.

  43. #43 Zifnab
    October 29, 2008

    Seriously? Guns aren’t even in the top 50 reasons those places are fubared. It’s ethnic/tribal/religious conflict that existed before guns and will continue to exist so long as people are willing to kill over ethnicity, tribe, and religion. After all, it’s not like France’s very strict gun laws prevented people from those very countries from starting armed urban warfare in France just last year.

    Well, that’s the rub isn’t it? Restricting guns doesn’t seem to be a panacea against armed violence. Meanwhile, gun ownership doesn’t seem to do much in terms of defending civil liberties.

    So what do we do? What place should firearms hold in our society? In the original case – the one in which an 8-year-old boy blew his own brain out – I would think we could collectively agree that guns were being misused and that we, as a society, would do well to regulate against future occurrences. Perhaps legislate against minors – or even people without licenses – from handling automatic weapons.

    Matt, your reaction seems to be to plug your ears and shout “Don’t take my guns”. Frankly, that’s fucking immature. My sister once spilled her nail polish all over the couch and her first reaction was to hide all her other nail polish bottles because she was afraid my parents would take them away. I feel like I could draw some sort of analogy between the two situations.

  44. #44 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    “Matt, your reaction seems to be to plug your ears and shout “Don’t take my guns”.”

    Not at all. My reaction is to calmly put forth some numbers in an effort to head off hysteria by use of facts. The success of this effort seems to be mixed.

  45. #45 Chris P
    October 29, 2008

    I jusst don’t understand the obsession for guns. There aren’t enough animals to hunt – we’ve shot too many and why would a so called Christian nation thinks it’s cool to shoot people.

    Guns are a mechanical invention that occurred at a particular time in history. Self defence is reasonable but guns are rather fatal and unselective.

    I think moving to the future we should work to eliminate them. If you want meat you can go to the grocery store like everybody else. The hunting thing has got entirely stupid.

    Why to kill one deer do you have to drive long distances in a dually pick-up towing a trailer full of ATV’s loaded to the brim with all sorts of made in China camouflage crap and cases of beer.

    It’s just a macho guy thing. By the way fishing is now almost as stupid. Controlled torture of a limited population of fish.

    I’m not impressed.

    The future should be better than having guns – and indeed is in other countries. We all know the one about Switzerland and how everybody has guns – but they forgot to mention that they aren’t allowed to keep ammunition for them in the house.

  46. #46 Renee
    October 29, 2008

    Here here!

  47. #47 Paul Johnson
    October 29, 2008

    this gets back to my problem with interpretations of bowling for columbine. the movie clearly portrayed that guns themselves were harmless but that society as a whole needed to change to have the capacity to use them responsibly. just ask michael moore of his perspectives on canadian gun ownership.

  48. #48 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    I jusst don’t understand the obsession for guns.

    which obsession would that be? if you could point us at it, perhaps one of us might try to analyze it for you.

    There aren’t enough animals to hunt

    indeed, about 80% of gun owners in the USA do not hunt. target shooting and competition is more popular than hunting, these days.

  49. #49 Carl Brannen
    October 29, 2008

    On the subject of “There aren’t enough animals to hunt – we’ve shot too many …” I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a computer programmer down in California. He told me that shooting deer was illegal in the state. I told him he was out of his mind. But I did ask for information on the hunting season the next time I was at a hardware store.

    One of the little things you may notice when you move between a big city and a small city / rural area is the prevalence of pigeons. In big cities they are protected and everything is covered with bird poop. (They also carry diseases and get wiped out by the over crowding.) Their best solution to the problem is to get falcons but this has very little effect overall.

    In rural areas pigeons are considered nuisances and the local children are encouraged to shoot them. If this didn’t happen, the harvest would have that much less food and that much more bird poop. Rural folks know about the food chain and understand man’s part in it. City folks think that meat comes in little plastic wrapped styrofoam packages and do not understand that farms have to be protected from animals who would otherwise eat the food grown there.

    Most city folk do not realize the consequences that city laws have when they are applied to rural areas. For that matter, the rate at which people fire guns must be much higher in rural areas but the rate of violent or accidental deaths is lower.

    If the US forbid the hunting of deer, the death rate due to motor vehicle collisions with them would eventually exceed the death rate due to homicide with guns. As it is, more than 500,000 collisions with deer occur per year here. Most of those collisions are in rural areas and involve rural folk not city slickers who think that there aren’t any animals to shoot.

    The people who live in big cities tend to have a great deal of knowledge about people and their attitudes are developed around this. Rural folks have a great deal of knowledge about the natural world and know much more about animals. Clearly anyone who thinks that there aren’t very many animals to shoot must live in a big city, where, in fact, there ARE huge numbers of animals to shoot but where the laws and customs forbid it.

  50. #50 jayh
    October 29, 2008

    I’m only guessing that Dad is a gun nut, but I’d take pretty much any bet on that and I’d win!

    how many people are ‘gun nuts?’ How many people are gun enthusiasts?

    Well you can bet that dad was a nut. As would be a dad who let an 8 year old try a motorcycle. But the majority of gun owners, like the majority of motorcycle owners don’t do this. And while these people may be very enthusiastic about their interest, they are not represented by the abherrent behavior of the individual above. Do you think that the others at that show agreed with this guy?

    Being a gun (or motorcycle, or knitting) enthusiast does not automatically mean you have no morality or sense. And it is a shameless strawman stunt to slam everyone together.

  51. #51 Anonymous
    October 29, 2008

    Responding to #33 “this is precisely the sort of controversial, politicized subject wiki does least well at, too.” – False. Wikipedia is very good at the controversial subjects precisely because so many people are looking over them. Obscure subjects are far more likely to have problems.

    Moreover, there’s a simple reason to only include the countries with high GDP/capita. There’s a strong correlation between low GDP/capita and higher violent crime rates. So looking at only a segment (in this case those with high GDP) provides a rough way of correcting for the problem.

    That said, I’m inclined to agree with Matt. Statistically speaking guns aren’t that dangerous to children.

    Note also that even small low caliber guns can have serious recoil. There a lot of videos on youtube for example of people getting seriously injured or simply looking like fools for not anticipating the level of recoil. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one could lose control of an Uzi. Whoever let the kid anywhere near this was grossly irresponsible. But that isn’t a valid comment on the legality of guns or what sort of gun restrictions we should have.

  52. #52 MattNotSpringer
    October 29, 2008

    The gun culture is one which teaches kids responsibility. I bet the parent has never even handled a gun before the gun-show. Every gun class I’ve attended strongly stresses the responsible use of firearms, especially around children.

    You anti-gun Obama supporters out there have this idea that a piece of metal, plastic, and wood magically turns a rational person into some kind of insane monster. It’s metal, plastic, and wood.

    Now when it comes down to it and there’s a riot in your town because Obama lost (or won) don’t ask me if you can borrow a gun to defend your home. Just call 9-1-1 and everything will be okay.

    Remember, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

  53. #53 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    “If you want meat you can go to the grocery store like everybody else. The hunting thing has got entirely stupid.”

    I’ve never hunted myself, but one of these days I’m going to write up a post about the comparitive environmental impact of hunting versus factory slaughterhouses. There’s actually been some research in this area, and you might be suprised. Carbon footprint, preserving natural forests, local production of food, antibiotic/hormone free meat, you name it. Hunting wins in every category. And from a strictly humane perspective, the life of a duck shot by a hunter is infinitely better and more natural than the life of a duck crammed in a metal cage and force fed before slaughter. That meat you get from the store is not exactly the height of human kindness. PETA is a generally a bunch of lunatics but they’re not wrong about conditions in the meat industry being pretty awful.

  54. #54 Coriolis
    October 29, 2008

    This discussion is sounding exactly like the discussion that happens when some religious nutjob decides to kill his kid by praying instead of getting a doctor.

    And in both cases, the real problem is the same. A few people have pointed this out already (and none of you pro-gun folks have deigned to address this), so let me say it quite simply:

    The problem isn’t that some moron got his kid killed by handing him a uzi. The problem is that there was a big event with a bunch of people and none of them apparently thought it appropriate to go up and say to the moron to not give a uzi to a 8 year old. That’s the problem.

    The same as with the fairly recent case where some stupid religious people got their kid killed by praying – the problem isn’t that some idiot parents decided to do this. The problem is that there is a culture that protects those types of morons, instead of their kids.

    Ironically, you picked the wrong example, if this were a case where it was truly an innocent and unlucky accident, than I’d agree that shit happens. Of course such cases are irrelevant minority, since properly maintained guns don’t usually go off for no reason.

  55. #55 Moopheus
    October 29, 2008

    “Donalbain doesn’t seem to realize that private ownership of guns does prevent tyranny. The first thing Hitler did before killing Jews was to ban and confiscate guns from private owners.”

    Then ownership of guns didn’t prevent tyranny by your own example. People had guns. Tyrants were came to power. People with guns did not fight the tyrants with their guns. They had their guns taken away from them. If the guns were so valuable as a defense against tyranny, how could that have happened? The guns did not save them from the tyrants.

  56. #56 Zifnab
    October 29, 2008

    The gun culture is one which teaches kids responsibility. I bet the parent has never even handled a gun before the gun-show.

    You sure they stress responsibility? Sure it wasn’t just one of those “survival of the fittest” things where only the guys who remember to hit the safety make it long enough to breed?

    Every gun class I’ve attended strongly stresses the responsible use of firearms, especially around children.

    And they also remind us to “Just Say No to drugs!” See how well that worked. :-p

    Now when it comes down to it and there’s a riot in your town because Obama lost (or won) don’t ask me if you can borrow a gun to defend your home. Just call 9-1-1 and everything will be okay.

    Ah. Now we get down to it. You’ve got to keep your guns close because a Scary Negro is running for President. When Obama wins (or loses) and people start running around naked in the streets with their machetes and their cheap liquor, robbing our convenience stores and raping our white women, as those crazy Obama supporters are inevitably wont to do, I’ll just throw my pillow case over my head, hop in my pick up truck, and head over to the local Freedom! Whiskey! Sexy! rally and we can figure out what to do from there. How’s that?

  57. #57 Bexley
    October 29, 2008

    As someone above posted I’d like the answer to the question of why you dont apply your arguments to more classes of weapons.

    You have the right to bear arms but the only arms you can legally bear are guns. Why not argue in favour of other classes of weapons too?

    One of your arguments is that guns can be used to defend liberty – yet you dont use this argument to argue in favour of more relaxed legislation on mortars, rpgs and other weapons.

    Without these other classes of weapons you’re not going to get far with guns alone when facing off against well trained and equipped troops. Therefore I’d argue your defend liberty argument is a red herring.

    “Donalbain doesn’t seem to realize that private ownership of guns does prevent tyranny. The first thing Hitler did before killing Jews was to ban and confiscate guns from private owners. This makes resistance nearly impossible. Furthermore, Donalbain’s position is basically that guns can’t save you so roll over and die. I’d rather die fighting for my freedom than live under a tyranny.”

    This looks like argumentum ad hitlerum to me. Where’s your evidence that had guns been around Hitler’s excesses would have been curbed? In fact who would have used them? The Jews were largely lulled unsuspecting to their deaths and it seems unlikely they would have taken up armed resistance in time. This is why the Warsaw Ghetto uprising only occurred in 1943 after many jews had been deported and killed – when it had become obvious what was happening.

    Those who did try to kill Hitler used explosives rather than guns in any case. (including the first attempt by a trade unionist in 1939).

    None of this is to argue one way or the other over how much gun control there should be. My point is more that subconsciously you accept giving up some freedoms (eg the right to bear RPGs!) for security. Your opponents just draw the line in a different place.

  58. #58 DuWayne
    October 29, 2008

    First off, thank you Matt, for providing some well reasoned sanity to this discussion. This is a subject that brings out fringe loonies on both sides and it’s good to hear from someone who is both intelligent and reasoned.

    Chris P spewed,

    It’s just a macho guy thing.

    My partner would laugh her vegetarian ass off, at that descriptive being used on me. I’m such a macho jackass, that when I hit a deer with my car, several years ago, I ran home (because it was close and I don’t carry guns and didn’t have a large knife with me) and got my pistol – then I spent three hours tracking it in the dark, so I could put it out of it’s misery. Why? Because I cannot countenance any unnecessary suffering of other living creatures.

    I decided to learn about and get into hunting, because of something a somewhat less hysterical than PETA, animal rights advocate said to me. This guy basically told me that until I’ve taken the life of an animal myself, I am just insulating myself from the results of my eating choices (never mind that I was eleven and didn’t make my own eating choices most of the time, I think he was really trying to make a point with my dad). It really stuck me and I decided that I had to have that experience.

    So that fall, my dad enrolled me in a hunter’s safety course and found someone my folks knew to teach me and take me hunting (my dad not being into guns or hunting). I passed with flying colors and we went to Meijers and I bought my first shotgun and got my first hunting license (small game).

    I didn’t go hunting because it was macho, I went to learn more about and become more connected to the food that I eat. And later in life, when I was on the road (hitchhiking) and often didn’t have the means to get food, hunting served to fill my aching belly with more than just edible, wild plants.

    Death is a natural part of the cycle of life and everything that dies, is ultimately consumed by something, eventually. Quite aside from humans, there are plenty of animals that kill just for a meal. Choosing to take a more proactive role in such a cycle isn’t inherently a “macho” idea and I would argue (not based on evidence to be sure, so take it as it is) that most people who hunt aren’t trying to be macho neanderthals.

    There aren’t enough animals to hunt – we’ve shot too many…

    Are you honestly that stupid? Seriously?

  59. #59 Siamang
    October 29, 2008

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had to have all my household guests hit the ground because someone decided to do a “drive-by swimming” in my neighborhood.

    On the other hand, I have, in fact had that happen with guns.

  60. #60 DuWayne
    October 29, 2008

    Oi, I missed this gem,

    If you want meat you can go to the grocery store like everybody else.

    Because factory flesh farms are just great.

    I take a great deal of care about the meat that I eat, because, as I mentioned before, I am not into animal suffering. It is hard and usually prohibitively expensive, to eat meat that is raised and killed in a fashion that I consider humane (note, I do not knock other people’s choices, I just choose to consume with my conscience). As I really can’t afford the time to hunt, since the six year old was born, I just don’t eat much meat. Most of the meat that I do eat, is meat from animals killed by my hunter friends. The rest comes from the cows that I occasionally buy a stake in, when I can afford it.

    I have even taken my six year old to meet the cow that we bought into a couple years ago. We talked about meat and where it comes from and he understood that the cow I pointed out to him, would be killed in a few weeks and part of it would be eaten by us. (He is also allowed toy guns, but only if he treats them as if they are real. He knows more about gun safety, than your average adult American.)

    You accuse people like me of having a macho complex. Well guess what, I find your cavalier attitude about flesh farms as repulsive (if not considerably moreso) as you find my gun collection.

  61. #61 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    You have the right to bear arms but the only arms you can legally bear are guns. Why not argue in favour of other classes of weapons too?

    one step at a time is politically smart. once the right to own firearms is secure, we can shift our attention to other arms in due course.

    and — not that it really matters — but for what it’s worth, i’m voting for Obama this year. he’s not my ideal candidate, i’d much prefer somebody actually on the political left, but it seems he’s as good as i’ll get this time around. i still support the right to keep and bear arms, because i’ve been a self-identified socialist through eight years of the dubya administration, so i know i’d have to be a bit daft to willingly be disarmed on top of everything else.

  62. #62 Chris P
    October 29, 2008

    DuWayne likes killing things because it makes him more connected? As I said – Macho.

    Apparently he also cannot connect with the fact that we have already shot several animal species into extinction.

    But facts aren’t pro gun owners strong points. Like the fact that you are more likely to be shot if there is a gun in the house.

    Addicted to one particular mechanical invention – not interested in a better method.

    No I don’t want to ban them but they’re still false security. Can we move on from the cowboy justice.

    Reminds me of a friend whose alarm went off in his house – grabbed his gun and found an intruder – well actually no – it was his mother-in-law opening the window in the dark to get some fresh air. Almost though.

    Didn’t they run a study and say that Republicans were more scared than Democrats?

  63. #63 DuWayne
    October 29, 2008

    Siamang –

    About four months ago, I was walking up to our local MAX (Portland’s light rail) stop to meet my family and help momma carry stuff home. As I was approaching the corner, I heard what sounded like fire-crackers going off and it wasn’t until I heard the scream that I realized shots had been fired – though I did get a good look at the vehicle they came from. I was less than thirty feet downrange from where the shots were fired. None of them hit the people who were the targets, but one managed to hit a lady walking to pick up her daughter, in the leg. I was the first to actually respond to her and get pressure on the wound.

    My family would have walked across that intersection less than six minutes later, had it not happened. I was about fifteen seconds or so from the corner when it happened and downrange from the gun. As it was, I had to explain to my six year old, why I was coming home covered in someone else’s blood – after I quickly explained it wasn’t mine.

    Doesn’t make a lick of difference in regards to my attitude about guns. I support the right to own them and support reasonable and comprehensive gun control measures.

  64. #64 Bexley
    October 29, 2008

    “one step at a time is politically smart. once the right to own firearms is secure, we can shift our attention to other arms in due course.”

    So where do you draw the line on classes of weapons? Would you be in favour on allowing the right to bear rpgs/explosives? These are weapons that an insurgent might find useful too.

    If you do draw a line – why do you draw it where you do and is this logically consistent with your arguments in favour of guns?

    Although directed at you (a pro-gun commentor) some of them could equally be directed at gun-control commentors too with some adaption. i.e. why DON’T they favour more restrictions on other items that cause as many/more fatalities?

    I rarely come across logically consistent positions in these debates so would be interested if people (on either side of the debate) could logically argue why they draw the line where they do.

  65. #65 Bexley
    October 29, 2008

    When I said insurgent above I meant anyone trying to fight a modern army (including people trying to fight a tyrant).

  66. #66 DuWayne
    October 29, 2008

    Chris P –

    DuWayne likes killing things because it makes him more connected? As I said – Macho.

    Ok, so you really are that stupid. And I never said that I like killing things, I said that was my motivation to go hunting.

    Nothing macho about it. Indeed, it is the antithesis of the macho mindset, that wants to mindlessly wander the woods and shoot stuff. And it led me to be a lot less cavalier about where my food comes from. Also led me to eat a whole lot less meat.

    Apparently he also cannot connect with the fact that we have already shot several animal species into extinction.

    No, I’m well aware. Which is why (when I am not as financially fucked as I am at the moment) I support pro-hunting organizations, such as the Sierra Club. Organizations that are strong supporters of conservation and making sure we don’t shoot any more species to extinction.

    But facts aren’t pro gun owners strong points. Like the fact that you are more likely to be shot if there is a gun in the house.

    Which is why I don’t keep any for self-defense. It doesn’t make me any more likely to be shot, if they are kept in a secure vault, disassembled and the ammo is in a lockbox, inside the vault.

    Addicted to one particular mechanical invention – not interested in a better method.

    Not in the least, I also have bow hunted and while I didn’t actually manage a kill, I even tried spear hunting.

    No I don’t want to ban them but they’re still false security. Can we move on from the cowboy justice.

    Good gods, you paint with a broad brush.

    Didn’t they run a study and say that Republicans were more scared than Democrats?

    While I am voraciously anti-republicrat, despising repubs a bit more than dems (I tend towards a liberal stance on most issues), that was a load of bullshit. I give it the same validity as “studies” that claim red states have lower aggregate IQ’s than blue states, which is to say, none at all.

    But what does it say of your own intelligence that you come and spew a lot of vast generalizations?

  67. #67 MattNotSpringer
    October 29, 2008

    Some people in this thread didn’t seem to get it when I pointed out that there are still murders committed with guns when guns are banned.

    Siamang complains about drive-by shootings, but the right to bear arms may just keep those drive-bys from becoming home invasions.

    Guns are not a false security. 9-1-1 is false security. Many people are murdered while on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator instead of defending themselves against intruders. LEOs generally take a few minutes to respond from the time you call 9-1-1. Why wait? You could be dead. Are you just gonna cower in the corner and pray the bad guy is nice to you? Or are you gonna point to your “no gun zone sign” posted on your front door?

    The point that the resistance used explosives instead of guns to try to kill Hitler is silly. Where did they get those explosives?

    GERMAN SOLDIER: Jews stop! Are you carrying guns?

    JEWS: No. Just some grenades and RPGs.

    GERMAN SOLDIER: Oh, whew. I thought I was going to have to arrest you. Carry on.

  68. #68 Moopheus
    October 29, 2008

    “So where do you draw the line on classes of weapons? Would you be in favour on allowing the right to bear rpgs/explosives? These are weapons that an insurgent might find useful too.”

    Yes, let’s. See, that’s the point–the second Amendment doesn’t make distinctions of classes of weapons, but our law does. Obviously, it’s not in the government’s interest to basically allow the formation of well-armed and equipped private armies (“yes, I need a tank brigade for, uh, self-defense.”) no matter how “well-regulated.” So your rights have already been seriously limited. So you need more weapons, organization, preparation. Of course, thinking along these lines is what drives people to spend there time marching around in the Michigan woods playing Militia until someone ends up in a bunker somewhere getting their asses firebombed by the ATF.

  69. #69 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    So where do you draw the line on classes of weapons? Would you be in favour on allowing the right to bear rpgs/explosives? These are weapons that an insurgent might find useful too.

    first off, let me mention that i’m not personally that closely wedded to the “armed uprising against a tyrannous government” argument. maybe because i wasn’t born and raised in the USA, but that line of thinking has never seemed very credible to me, nor necessary for supporting the right to own weaponry either. i’d argue for the right to own firearms even in the absence of that argument.

    i think the weapons control laws currently in place in the USA (on the federal level, at least) make for a fairly good compromise. to recap: fully automatics regulated to the point where they’re all but banned; anything that fires explosive projectiles even more so, as are the projectiles themselves; firearms over a certain caliber (currently 12.7mm rifled bore) generally regulated, with exceptions (shotguns, smoothbores, some elephant guns). all modern firearms banned from felons and some non-felon violent criminals, as well as people known to be mentally unstable. sales records kept in a system that allows guns to be traced back and forward through most legal sales, but not centralized, because the various police agencies in this country do have something of a history of abusing such powers and data.

    technically, you could own an RPG in the U.S. under current law, but the red tape you’d have to put up with would make it a pointless exercise. well, the launcher itself you could probably buy as surplus or scrap without any paperwork — it’s the explosive rocket that’s just about banned. artillery is subject to similar restrictions, and i’m fine with all of the above. it’s none of it perfect, but it’s a workable compromise, and in a democracy that’s as close as you’re likely to get.

    (explosives are regulated fairly strictly too, but i don’t think they’re generally considered weapons as such, just inherently dangerous materials that often need trained and licensed users as well as careful storage methods. smaller amounts of certain less difficult to handle explosives are sold relatively freely — including firearms propellants and black powder — and this doesn’t seem to create much of a social menace, so i’m fine with that.)

    i’d suggest improving the background check system (NICS) and making it available to private citizens who want to sell their weapons to other private citizens. i’d like it if sound suppressors were less tightly regulated, so shooting ranges would produce less noise pollution and shooters might preserve their hearing a bit better. other than that, i’d mostly suggest tweaking the regulatory agency (the BATFE) itself in comparatively minor ways.

    i don’t really know what you mean by “logically consistent” position on gun control. i’m mostly looking for a compromise that produces satisfactory results and doesn’t annoy too many people politically, i don’t really care to derive it from first principles by strict inferential rules or anything.

  70. #70 MattNotSpringer
    October 29, 2008

    Moopheus,

    I’ve heard more than a few people use those arguments as support for disbanding the ATF. The idea being that the ATF has a history of using tactics against American citizens which often resemble those of some communist countries and their lack of respect for life, especially those of children.

    Just relaying the message.

  71. #71 Woody Tanaka
    October 29, 2008

    “The gun culture is one which teaches kids responsibility. I bet the parent has never even handled a gun before the gun-show.”

    Nope. The kid had, with his father’s blessing, experience with rifles and handguns. Before age 8. I guess he was a quick study, you know, moving up to military-grade weaponry before the 4th grade.

    Your statement is the perfect example of what’s wrong with with too many pro-gun people: You assume that because you are “responsible”, that whenever brains end up on walls and floors because of guns getting in the hands of kids, you just waive it away by assuming that this wasn’t one of the “responsible” gun owners.

    The thing that those who are truely responsible must realize is that many of the people you pass at your next gun show are the kind of people who are too stupid to keep their kids from playing with these weapons; or leave them loaded and unlocked, in places where they can be found; or are the kind of people who hear a noise at night and blow the brains of their own child who’s sneaking in the window after being out past curfew.

    YOU might be responsible, but you’re a damned fool if you think the rest of the gun owners are, too. You want the laws to treat all of you as being as responsible as the most responsible gun owner out there, when the opposite should be true. And the net result is that kids die senselessly.

    The “gun culture” which you so mythically claim teaches children about gun safety, resulted, in this case, in a facility that permitted third graders to fire Uzis, under the supervision of a so-called instructor. That, alone, belies your contention. Far from protecting this kid’s safety, the gun culture actively promoted steps which directly led to him blowing his own brains out. That’s the real “gun culture.” Not the NRA-fundraising-brochure bullshit myth you’re peddling.

  72. #72 Greg Laden
    October 29, 2008

    Matt: What you are failing to understand here is that this is not a statistical issue or question. This is a question of simple causality.

    I’m sure the Westfield gun club follows the law. The law could disallow automatic weapons, or disallow children’s access, or disallow some reasonable combination of these dangerous weapons and children. And/or the father/instructor could have made a very different decision than the one they did. But no. Because (see number 10 above) of the gun culture, such reasonable laws are considered extreme and would never be implemented.

    You and all your gun toting NRA hooligans killed this child, Matt!!!

    OK, that’s a bit extreme. But you do understand, I hope, this really is a simple easily circumscribed and described situation. Had a reasonable set of laws been in place this would not have happened.

  73. #73 Chris P
    October 29, 2008

    I’ll spread all the generalizations I like Duwayne, because people like you claim that it doesn’t apply to them.

    I see what I see and given that I am right over 95% of the time – I’ll stick to it.

    I’m sick and tired of waking up to the sound of guns going off in the National Forest on a Sunday morning. I’m sick and tired of people bragging about “offing” prairie dogs for fun.

    Until the gun people control themselves properly they do not get my respect. More people in America get killed with guns by other Americans than by terrorists.

  74. #74 Feynmaniac
    October 29, 2008

    Nomen Nescio #33,

    “statistics as cited by wikipedia. tsk, tsk. this is precisely the sort of controversial, politicized subject wiki does least well at, too.”

    Wikipedia cites an article from the International Journal of Epidemiology. The article was an 8 page pdf file. Wikipedia had a better presentation style so I decided to cite them and if someone were curious of where they got their info they could easily see the citation provided there.

    “why only include the world’s industrialized (by what measure?) nations in the statistics, though? are firearms only dangerous if you live in a rich country?”

    The measure is explicated noted : countries with a GNI of greater than $15,000.
    I was responding to argument that gun control was essential to fight against tyranny. Many counties on the list have functioning democracies, tighter gun control, material wealth and lower death by guns.
    Finally, comparing the US to poor countries would serve little purpose since it would be comparing apples and oranges.

    “Russia isn’t on the list, even though you’d be hard pressed to say it lacks an industrial economy.”

    The list was for industrial countries which, as mentioned, was defined as countries with a GNI of over $15,000. Russia has a GNI of $5,7800 therefore doesn’t make the list.

    If you think Russia is an industrialized nation take it up with the CIA World Fact Book who doesn’t include it in their developed countries list and the IMF who puts Russia in the “Emerging and Developing Economies” list.

    Semantics aside, Russia is hardly a functioning democracy. Again, the point was to show that many countries are able to maintain liberties of their citizens and also have strict gun control.

    “why, for that matter, focus on total firearms death rate? that includes suicides (which, i assure you, has no real connection to firearms availability — witness Japan) and justifiable homicides (which, ceteris paribus, ought to track violent crime rates).”

    There were also subcategories of gun death rate by homicide and unintentional killing. The US finished first in both those categories too.

    The US also has more guns per person than Germany, France, Italy, Canada, UK, Sweden, etc. and a higher gun death rate (homicidal,unintentional, AND suicidal) than all those countries. Clearly availability of guns and gun related death are related. Then again I guess you can always argue that reality has a liberal bias.

    “wikipedia having now been cited as a reliable source, it’s perhaps time to post a link to gunfacts.”

    Wikipedia, with all its faults, at least tries to maintain neutrality. Your solution is to cite a website that has a clear ideological bent. Furthermore, you didn’t cite a specific page on this website that contradicts any of the arguments I provided. Its main page says it has “Gun Facts has 94 pages of information”. Do you honestly expect me to read all of that?

  75. #75 DuWayne
    October 29, 2008

    Woody and Greg –

    I can’t speak for Matt, because this is the first time I’ve ever been to his blog and I know nothing about his views on guns, other than what I have read here. But as a proponent of responsible gun ownership, a gun owner and one who has been teaching his six year old about gun safety since he was four,* I am also an ardent supporter of gun control laws. I think that everyone involved in putting that gun in that child’s hands should go to prison for it.

    I will take the experience of the six year old further, because it is relevant to Matt’s point about gun culture teaching kid’s responsibility. My six year old has severe ADHD and has some further undiagnosed neurological problems (I have ADHD and have been (mis?)diagnosed bipolar) that we are trying to sort out. He is a tough kid to deal with sometimes. Behavioral issues that are frustrating to the extreme.

    When we decided to let him have a toy gun, the only reason I agreed to it, was so that we could teach him about gun safety and responsibility. He is required to treat it as though it is real and follow my rather draconian rules of gun safety, or it gets taken away and thrown in the trash. Indeed, such was the fate of the first one, after he pointed it at the cat. He didn’t get another for six months and only after he was able to tell me all the rules, from memory.

    It was too much for him, for the most part, so he didn’t take it out very often. But then he got a little older and decided that he wanted to use it more often. He is very proud that he is allowed to have it and moreover, that he got one that shoots mini-paintballs, for target practice. He loves to talk about how responsible he is and how being responsible helped him get the (now not so) new gun. And he is very responsible with it and about it. The funny thing is, that same sense of responsibility has bled over into other aspects of his life.

    He actually gets himself ready for bed, without being told. He grabs a diaper and tries to change his brother, when he smells wee – unfortunately, brother is a handful when he gets changed and it doesn’t always work out well. About half the time, he picks up whatever he’s playing with, before he gets something else out. Suffice to say, we wondered if he would ever do anything like that, based on his behavior and the problems we have had.

    Now I am certain that if not the toy guns, it would have been something else. We would have found some way of getting him hip to the notions of responsibility and discipline. But for him that’s what did it (we’ll see what happens with our plan for family judo class). That and the idea that he would love to go hunting with me someday – in spite of the fact that he has been known to cry, after accidentally killing an ant.

    I think the problem that a lot of people have with this discussion, is that it is nearly always inundated with extremists on either side and people just assume that if you aren’t all for, then your the other extreme. In discussions of the same news stories, on different blogs, I have been accused of being a gun loving redneck and a librul who wants to steal all our guns.

    I’m neither. I am pretty adamant about my right to own guns and use them, for my part, as a hunter and at the range. But I am also for reasonable and comprehensive gun control laws, including laws that would have (possibly) prevented this tragedy. It’s not either or, there is a whole hell of a lot of in between.

  76. #76 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    Feynmaniac, why should we take a epidemiology journal’s word on the subject of firearms? guns are not an epidemic, and neither are the deaths guns may be used to effect. wouldn’t it be far better to cite a journal on criminology instead? that would be an authority in the relevant field; an epidemiologist is not necessarily any more credible on this subject than some random pseudonymous commenter on a blog somewhere.

    sorting countries by the nature of their governments or the wealth of their economies is useful if you’re assuming these factors can vastly overshadow the availability of firearms as influences on death rates. that’s basically conceding my point, which is that firearms availability is at most a very minor influence on death rates, and that if we wish to lower those death rates we’d be better off focusing on the greater influences. specifically, lower overall violent crime rates (they’re at forty-year lows in the USA at present, thankfully) which seems most easily done by improving the economy and lowering unemployment. (vote democratic!)

    the point of mentioning Russia specifically is to note its strict gun control laws and low firearms ownership rates. these don’t seem to be helping Russian crime and death rates much, though, do they? hence, factors other than guns and gun control may have far greater weight, QED.

    gunfacts is partisan, yes. if you seriously want me to believe that an epidemiology journal stepping out of its field to pronounce on matters of firearms is any less partisan, i think i have a bridge for sale you might be interested in. gunfacts is quite openly partisan, lists primary references that are credible authorities on the subject, and comes with a handy index for you to narrow your search with.

  77. #77 DuWayne
    October 29, 2008

    Chris P –

    I’ll spread all the generalizations I like Duwayne, because people like you claim that it doesn’t apply to them.

    Well moron, they don’t actually. You seemed to be accusing me of being a republican for fucks sake, something that couldn’t be further from the truth – my distaste for the dems, is because they are too conservative on a great many issues. You also accuse me of being macho, something that would make most anyone who knows me, laugh their asses off. I look especially macho, when I go out for coffee in a long, light skirt – truly I do. You seem to think that I’m a total, all out gun nut who must have guns around to feel safe – I’m not and wouldn’t. I protect my family, by making sure our home is secure and by knowing my neighborhood police officers (they know to be suspicious if strange people are around my place). I protect my family by making sure that my guns are very well secured, so that it would be nearly impossible to use them for home or personal defense – because that isn’t why I own them.

    I see what I see and given that I am right over 95% of the time – I’ll stick to it.

    Stupid and arrogant, great combination.

    I’m sick and tired of waking up to the sound of guns going off in the National Forest on a Sunday morning.

    Go figure, I have never fired a gun in any national forests, please direct your anger at the assholes who do.

    I’m sick and tired of people bragging about “offing” prairie dogs for fun.

    I am often sorely tempted to try and get all macho on assholes that shoot any animal for fun. You may have missed that point, but I think we’re clear that I have far more respect for my fellow, non-human lifeforms than you do.

    Until the gun people control themselves properly they do not get my respect.

    I see, so because of some percentage of fucking morons with guns, who can’t control themselves, all of us are bad guys. Hell man, I am all for stricter gun control laws than we have now. And just like my stance on safe sex, I am a gun safety nazi.

    But then, morons who throw out vast generalizations like you do, will never get my respect either, so we’re even.

    More people in America get killed with guns by other Americans than by terrorists.

    Which is why I support stricter gun control laws and much harsher penalties for the possession of and especially for the use of illegal firearms.

  78. #78 greg laden
    October 29, 2008

    I should clarify: By “gun culture” I don’t mean the culture of people collecting or otherwise messing around with guns. I mean specifically the extremist NRA suck-up all questions asked about guns and gun safety are indicators of commie pinko liberals who want to “take away our guns” reactionary shit. Which is, of course, a certain (how much?) percentage of people who collect/own/mess around with guns.

    When I think of the gun-owners/users that I personally know, it is a group of people the pretty much represents the whole range of people I actually know. There is not “gun culture” in this sense.

  79. #79 Donalbain
    October 29, 2008

    Feynmaniac, why should we take a epidemiology journal’s word on the subject of firearms?

    Because that is what epidemiologists study. They study things that effect the health and death of people in societies. And shockingly, gunshot wounds tend to effect the health and death of people in societies.

  80. #80 CCPhysicist
    October 29, 2008

    What a surprise, lots of comments. ;-)

    Just to be on the record, I am a liberal who supports the right to bear arms (and the right to bare arms, which also used to be banned in some places) *and* the need for the government to limit those rights by regulating who can legally own specific types of weapons (such as machine guns) as the Supreme Court has affirmed in the last century. It is silly to even think of banning hunting rifles and equally silly to think about unlicensed purchase of a Thompson, but I’m undecided about civilians openly carrying holstered handguns on the street and checking them when they go in a pizza parlor that serves beer, etc. What works in the rural west might not work in Austin. OK, I’m not undecided about that. Its in the middle (concealed carry … of a licensed Uzi?) that it gets fuzzy.

    Of course those rights come with responsibilities, one of which is to know what the heck you are doing! Like you said, there are times to shoot an air gun (although I would say a 22 rifle, since I think I first shot a 22 around the age of 8 or 10) and times to shoot a 50 cal handgun or a Thompson.

    Sadly, we now have a new nominee for the Darwin Award. That gene pool just got drained, but I don’t see it as the role of government to keep that from happening unless there is a chance we will end up paying for it. (Seat belt and helmet laws make sense because many victims end up as hospital charity cases, although I think any adult with a donor card should be allowed to ride without a helmet.) It is the job of trial lawyers to sort it out.

    However, I must disagree with “Crime with illegal machine guns is very rare; crime with legally owned machine guns is essentially nonexistent. They are simply not weapons which are well suited for most crime by virtue of their size, expense, and difficulty of effective use.” Machine guns are EXTREMELY well suited for crime. That is why they are so heavily controlled! A Thompson is very effective, as demonstrated repeated in Chicago about 80 years ago. Yeah, it’s heavy, but you can get stronger. Yeah, its expensive, but you can use one to steal the money needed to buy more of them.

    I mean, seriously, shooting ten .45 bullets a second? That must be somewhere between extremely effective and extremely entertaining.

    Machine guns are also extremely well suited for personal defense of our liberties against an invading bunch of terrorists or a government junta trying to take away our rights, but the crime problem is 9 zillion times more likely to impact us in the USofA – hence the Supreme Court rulings on that matter. The legitimate need for a BAR or Tommy gun or Uzi or M16 or AK47 is far outweighed by the criminal risk of such weapons, which is why you can’t just pay cash for one at Walmart like you were buying a knife.

    PS – Anyone else ever notice how being a “trial lawyer” is a really good thing when running for judge, but really bad when running for anything else?

  81. #81 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    “So where do you draw the line on classes of weapons? Would you be in favour on allowing the right to bear rpgs/explosives? These are weapons that an insurgent might find useful too.”

    While I didn’t want to get into a general gun control debate (just to discuss accident rates), I’ll go ahead and answer this because it’s an interesting question. Generally I don’t think there should be a strict cutoff on what weapons people can own, just a graduated license process. No check for steak knives, a criminal record check for regular semi-auto guns, very strict checks and safe storage requirements for automatic weapons, etc. This isn’t too far from what we have. The system has room for improvement, of course.

    I’d like to also comment on this, since it does speak to a statistical argument:

    “The US also has more guns per person than Germany, France, Italy, Canada, UK, Sweden, etc. and a higher gun death rate (homicidal,unintentional, AND suicidal) than all those countries.”

    There’s a difference between gun deaths and deaths. For instance, despite the fact that there are more gun suicides in the US than France, there are more total suicides in France than in the US. So if you’re going to kill yourself and you have a gun you’ll probably use it. But despite having very few guns Frenchmen still manage to kill themselves more often than Americans. Gun control doesn’t stop them. Unintentional deaths were the point of my post, and I tried to argue that the rate of those deaths was so small as to not warrant any more regulation that we put on swimming pools or drain cleaner. Homicides are the main issue of course, as both the gun homicide rate and the total homicide rate are quite high in the US. I think it’s much more complicated than a one-to-one correlation as there are many confounding factors (and even if there weren’t, I’d still view it as a fundamental right), but it’s certainly where gun control advocates have their best argument.

  82. #82 Nomen Nescio
    October 29, 2008

    Because that is what epidemiologists study. They study things that effect the health and death of people in societies.

    so epidemiologists study falls from construction scaffolding? they spend significant time studying highway accidents and airplane crashes?

    you’ll forgive me if i, a mere layman, think that doesn’t sound like something an epidemiologist would normally study. when did the term “epidemic” lose its implications of medical illness and contagious disease, exactly? perhaps it has, at least within the technical jargon of epidemiologists, but if so that’s certainly news to me. evidence, please?

    more to the point, if epidemiologists do study deaths by other means than contagious disease, we’ll have to ask whether they have modified their analytical tools, methods, and statistical assumptions to match the far wider and less clearly defined field you imply they are now dealing with. firearms are nothing like disease vectors, nor are what deaths firearms have any effect on anything like deaths by disease; any epidemiologist who really wanted to study such would be better advised to use the tools and methods of a criminologist for the purpose. when did the field of epidemiology subsume those? also, purely out of curiosity, why did it bother to?

  83. #83 John Morales
    October 29, 2008
    me: the simple fact that guns are designed for a specific purpose: to kill.

    Nomen Nescio: even assuming this were true for all guns (it isn’t), why should it be relevant? why should the original intent of a designer — who may no longer be among the living, for all we know — matter more than the impact of the item designed on society, for good and bad?
    this argument borders on magical thinking, calling an item malicious or dangerous because the intent held in its creator’s mind is perceived or assumed to have been a malicious one.

    Sophistry.

    First, guns, in the sense spoken of when talking about “right to bear arms”, are tools for killing. That paintball guns exist does not invalidate the point and I’m sure you know this; to claim that, for example, a Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver is not designed to kill is just ludicrous.
    And, though hunting may be a legitimate reason for gun ownership, I doubt many people hunt with non-lethal weapons.

    Second, for purposes of target shooting and competition, there is no need to have lethal weapons – surely non-lethal versions achieve that goal just as well (cannot a gun be modified to provide the experience of shooting a lethal projectile without actually doing so?).

    Third, as to relevance, I was addressing this claim:

    Like drain cleaner, chain saws, cars, and almost every other dangerous product, guns have important uses. Self-defense, recreation, hunting (though clearly not with an Uzi), and protection against tyranny, among others.

    See, none of the other “dangerous products” listed are only good for killing and entertainment.

    Regarding self-defence,this is superficially plausible, but what benefit does a victim gain over an assailant when the assailant is also lethally armed? Especially if the assailant expects the victim to be armed.

    It is ironic you accuse me of magical thinking.

  84. #84 Matt Springer
    October 29, 2008

    “See, none of the other “dangerous products” listed are only good for killing and entertainment.”

    Jack Daniels. ;)

  85. #85 John Morales
    October 29, 2008

    Heh, got me there Matt. I’ll certainly fight for the right to drink booze!

  86. #86 Carl Brannen
    October 30, 2008

    Putting a big sign on your door that says “owner is armed and dangerous” is likely to reduce the number of home invasion type armed robberies you get. These sorts of crimes are quite rare in those parts of the country where the populace is well armed. Criminals can think too.

    People from crime-ridden homicide record holding places like New York, Chicago, New Orleans, DC or LA really don’t have any business telling the rest of the country what we should do in order to avoid homicide. If anything, we should tell them.

    As far as weapons other than guns, it is still legal to own a quite deadly military sword in the US, and not uncommon, and they are used in the occasional homicide. They have the advantage of not requiring to be reloaded and are quite effective against an unarmed populace.

    And if the founding fathers had intended “the right to keep and bear arms” to exclude military class weapons they sure didn’t make a big stink about the 517 privately owned warships fighting on the US side in the war of 1812. The right to own military weapons has disappeared over the years without a modification of the Constitution largely because the reasons for outfitting merchant vessels with cannon has gone away, except during wartime. If the world situation again required merchant vessels to go around armed the US would probably find a way to make it legal again.

  87. #87 Chris P
    October 30, 2008

    If you live in an area that gets home invasions – you live in the wrong part of town – MOVE.

    So gunnies, how would a gun have helped me this evening when some asshole Republicans in a pick-up tried to steal my Obama sign?

    (Of course being smarter than brain dead right wing nuts my sign is attached to two 4 ft pieces of rebar)

    What am I supposed to do, shoot their tires out?

    Or call the police like I did?

    Right!

    Guns are backwards thinking solutions.

  88. #88 Cherish
    October 30, 2008

    @#34:

    this argument borders on magical thinking, calling an item malicious or dangerous because the intent held in its creator’s mind is perceived or assumed to have been a malicious one. that’s no basis for public policy in a modern state.

    So, I should be able to have a nuclear bomb and disregard the fact that its creator’s intent was malicious? You can take your justification ad absurdum without trying too hard.

    My grandfather taught gun and hunter safety for many, many years, yet he still nearly shot his foot off. His opinion was that guns were just fine…as long as they were under lock and key and no one touched them who didn’t have proper training. Even with the proper training, the user should still realize they are risking their lives as well as those around them.

    So why is it that, as a parent, I am told repeatedly to make sure that all my household cleaners are locked up tight, yet people will defend to the death (quite sadly) their right to be negligent and reckless with such an obviously dangerous device? If there is an attempt to pass any sort of legislation to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, even if it’s as common sense as, “Children under the age of 16 should not be allowed to handle weapons and between the ages of 16 and 18 must have an approved gun safety course,” it will be viewed as an assault to someone’s fundamental freedoms. It goes past the point of being ridiculous.

  89. #89 Matt Springere
    October 30, 2008

    It wouldn’t be so big a deal if such regulations weren’t used as a stepping stone on the road to prohibition. But in fact similar regulations already exist. Children under a given age (usually 17, I believe) can’t use guns without direct supervision.

    It also somewhat misses the point of my post, which is that just about any childhood safety regulation that doesn’t make sense for swimming pools doesn’t make sense for guns. Pools and many other normal parts of everyday life are much more dangerous. Prohibition of supervised gun practice for people under 16 has that problem, and in fact misses a good opportunity to instill safety from an early and impressionable age.

  90. #90 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2008

    numbers 83 and 88 take offense at my charge of magical thinking.

    neither of them explain how the line of argument i criticized isn’t magical thinking, or why it should be relevant to a debate on public policy. both of them, however, take pains to point out how upset they are that i called it magical thinking.

    the argument against private ownership of nuclear warheads, for instance, has nothing at all to do with Enrico Fermi’s intentions when he created the fission bomb. it has to do with overall public safety, and the lack of any benefit to such ownership that would outweigh the very significant risk to safety such ownership would incur. small arms are not comparable to nukes in these respects, hence this slippery slope cannot be applied unmodified against them.

  91. #91 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2008

    If you live in an area that gets home invasions – you live in the wrong part of town – MOVE.

    if you live in the wrong part of town, the most likely reason is that you can’t AFFORD to move.

    vote democratic, Chris P, then ask your representatives to tax you more in order to pay for a social safety net. that’ll do more good than just showing off your economic privilege online.

  92. #92 Dave
    October 30, 2008

    A couple non random thoughts:

    1) gun ownership rights are not a guarantee of freedom against tyranny, they are an artifact of the freedom that we have. Perhaps, as such, they are an imperfect measure of that freedom.

    2) Matt, you said: “Generally I don’t think there should be a strict cutoff on what weapons people can own, just a graduated license process.” I suppose you can weasel out of this one by pointing out the use of “generally” but I positive that you you don’t think that there is no cut off. I won’t bother to insult your intelligence by listing the ridiculous extremes that one can go to here; I do want to point out that there are individuals that have the financial resources to make such purchases. I’d rather that these out of scale devices – not matter how you define them – remain illegal when or if they happen.

    -dave

  93. #93 Zifnab
    October 30, 2008

    Matt:

    Unintentional deaths were the point of my post, and I tried to argue that the rate of those deaths was so small as to not warrant any more regulation that we put on swimming pools or drain cleaner.

    That’s the thing. I think if people knew of a better way of regulating swimming pools and drain cleaners, they would be implemented.

    Was there a major public outcry against “over regulation” and “nanny stateism” when public pools started making use of kiddy pools, lifeguards, and ‘adult swim’ time? How about when drain cleaners were required to have child-resistant caps?

    Yet it seems like the NRA’s entire purpose is to oppose safety locks on guns because oh my god if it takes me half a second longer to get my finger in the trigger everyone in my house is going to die! :-p Things that are common sense for more lethal products become national issues of controversy because they want to be applied to a firearm.

    Some gun control laws commit serious overkill. But most are common sense extensions of existing generic rules and regulations. You don’t let an eight year old drink booze. You don’t let a guy with multiple DUIs get behind the wheel of a car. And yet both of these folks can wander down to your local gun show and load up on M-16 assault rifles. How does that make sense?

  94. #94 MattNotSpringer
    October 30, 2008

    “More people in America get killed with guns by other Americans than by terrorists.”

    More people in America die from ANYTHING more than by terrorists. You might as well have said lightning, bears, underwater basket-weaving, play-dough, flatulence, and deviled eggs.

    If you’re gonna let an 8-year-old shoot an uzi, you start with one round in the gun at a time. Have him get used to the recoil over time. (Even our military weapons have a three round burst mode.) Use a bench rest and hold the gun down so the recoil doesn’t take over like it did with this kid. Thinking you are responsible and acting responsibly are two different things.

    Sure the dad may have thought he was responsible, but he obviously didn’t act that way.

  95. #95 Donalbain
    October 30, 2008

    so epidemiologists study falls from construction scaffolding? they spend significant time studying highway accidents and airplane crashes?

    Yes.

  96. #96 Tulse
    October 30, 2008

    one of these days I’m going to write up a post about the comparitive environmental impact of hunting versus factory slaughterhouses

    When you do, be sure to calculate the impact if the total amount of meat produced by slaughterhouses was instead obtained by individual hunters. It is nonsense to suggest that the current levels of meat consumption in the US could be sustained through the hunting of wild game, and the attempt to do so would be an environmental disaster. We could no more produce the same amount of meat through individual’s hunting their own food than we could produce the same amount of clothing if everyone spun their own thread.

    so epidemiologists study falls from construction scaffolding? they spend significant time studying highway accidents and airplane crashes?

    Yes. Yes they do. That’s what epidemiology is about. (For example, I work in a injury prevention nonprofit, and we have an epidemiologist on staff.) Epidemiology is “the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations; and the application of this study to the control of health problems” (as noted here).

  97. #97 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2008

    okay, i stand corrected on what epidemiologists do. i am still unconvinced that the subject under discussion is primarily or predominantly a matter of health, whether public or private; it seems to me to belong far more naturally under the rubrics of public policy or criminology, depending on which approach you take to it.

  98. #98 Tulse
    October 30, 2008

    i am still unconvinced that the subject under discussion is primarily or predominantly a matter of health

    Death is pretty much the complete loss of health. Epidemiologists study those things that cause death (and other impacts on health) in populations.

    it seems to me to belong far more naturally under the rubrics of public policy or criminology

    There is nothing to say that issues cannot be studied in various different ways. The health impact of typhoid may have been an issue studied by epidemiologist, but it was also public policy that helped to reduce its effects on populations. Smoking and obesity are issues studied by epidemiologists, but these also have public policy implications. There is no hidden agenda here, no sneaky attempt to make this something it’s not — guns are things that have health implications, and epidemiologists study things that have health implications. That’s it.

  99. #99 Anonymous
    October 30, 2008

    The money acquired from hunting and fishing licenses goes right back into conservation.

    Without hunting, the deer population grows out of control and moves into residential areas resulting in destruction of flower beds and higher rate of car accidents caused by deer in the road.

  100. #100 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2008

    Epidemiologists study those things that cause death (and other impacts on health) in populations.

    in that case they can’t reasonably study guns directly, excepting in rare cases of mechanical malfunctions. guns are not the cause of killings done with them; you’ll need to study the motivations and justifications of human killers. the health implications of guns as such are only indirect ones, not direct ones, and this needs to be kept in mind.

    i mention this because the things i had imagined epidemiologists would most normally study — diseases — do kill directly. the other things brought up as being (to me, surprisingly) pertinent to epidemiology — car crashes, high falls — kill as inadvertent side effects of other, in themselves non-lethal, uses. but when a firearm kills, that was usually (though of course not always, as in the tragic case at hand) the direct intention of a human being, which surely must be considered relevant. that’s why the criminological angle seems to me as if it would be more useful.

    do the epidemiologists who study this issue take that into account? wouldn’t that rather dramatically expand and complicate their study, since they would have to account for a lot of sociology and psychology concerning the humans who pull the triggers? certainly the tabulated data on wikipedia which Feynmaniac linked to, way back in comment #30, doesn’t appear to concern itself much with these factors.

  101. #101 DuWayne
    October 30, 2008

    Chris P –

    If you live in an area that gets home invasions – you live in the wrong part of town – MOVE.

    Because folks who live in that part of town love it so much and stay for the ambiance. You dolt, people who live in that part of town, live there because they can’t afford to live elsewhere. Or do you honestly think that I, for example, kept my family in a neighborhood that is rife with gun violence because we love the location? Not that I use guns for self defense, but that may be the stupidest thing you’ve said yet and with this thread that’s saying a lot.

    Nomen Nescio –

    i am still unconvinced that the subject under discussion is primarily or predominantly a matter of health, whether public or private; it seems to me to belong far more naturally under the rubrics of public policy or criminology, depending on which approach you take to it.

    I think you’re missing the connection here. The public health aspects of the gun rights discussion is and should be, directly linked to the public policy discussion, as is the criminology aspect of the discussion. It’s not an either/or dichotomy, they are all aspects of the whole.

    I work in construction and have gotten several safety certifications (my old man is a private sector construction safety professional, retired from MIOSHA). Fall safety, primarily focused on safe use of ladders, is a huge public safety issue. A very small percentage of construction fatalities are anything besides falls (electrocution runs second). The moment that death or serious injury enters the equation, it is a public health issue.

  102. #102 DuWayne
    October 30, 2008

    Nomen –

    do the epidemiologists who study this issue take that into account?

    That is exactly what they do and yes, it very much complicates the study. But that is what epidemiologists do.

    Because I am very familiar with it, I will continue with the fall safety issue. This is a topic that epidemiologists have been studying for better than fifty years and they show no signs of slowing down. As my dad puts it, when falls reach zero occurrences, their job is finally over – or put simply – never going to happen.

    They study how ladders should be set, for different types of jobs and on different types of terrain. They study what motivates the “cowboy” mentality that so often leads to accidents. They even study different cultural influences on safety, in particular the machismo of many Hispanic workers, who are more likely than anyone else to be involved in a time loss accident in construction. Calling it complex is a major understatement.

  103. #103 Matt Springer
    October 30, 2008

    “I suppose you can weasel out of this one by pointing out the use of “generally” but I positive that you you don’t think that there is no cut off. I won’t bother to insult your intelligence by listing the ridiculous extremes that one can go to here; I do want to point out that there are individuals that have the financial resources to make such purchases.”

    Well, this is getting way off topic but actually I really do think there’s no cutoff. With ridiculous weapons come regulations of equal stringency.

    Detonating private nukes in your backyard for fun? Sure, so long as your backyard is on an uninhabited planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. That sort of thing. But of course that’s about a hypothetical as scenarios get, and I think man-portable machine guns of .50 caliber or less are a practical limit. And of course even then the law is gonig to have to be quite strict, as indeed it currently is.

  104. #104 Zifnab
    October 30, 2008

    And of course even then the law is gonig to have to be quite strict, as indeed it currently is.

    Current gun laws aren’t much more than extensive amounts of red tape. But they have dozens of holes in them. You can’t sell certain types of assault weapons, but you can sell kits to convert weapons from one type into another. You can’t sell guns with clips bigger than a certain size, but you can sell the clips individually. You can’t buy guns from a vendor without getting a background check, but you can buy all the guns you want at a gun fair. And you can transport guns across state lines, so if you don’t like the gun laws in state A just buy all your firearms in state B and hoof it over the boarder. And you can’t sell sawed-off shotguns – oh how will I ever get a sawed-off shotgun if all I can purchase is this shotgun and this saw?!

    Gun control laws rank – my mind – at about the same effectiveness as CD-Keys. Anyone with a novice’s degree of experience can circumvent the safeguards with ease.

  105. #105 Thomas M.
    October 30, 2008

    Thanks for this post, Matt, it’s good to see someone thinking logically about this subject.

    As for this…

    “If you live in an area that gets home invasions – you live in the wrong part of town – MOVE.”

    This is insulting. First of all, what if the person is too poor to move? Hell, what if they live in a city (ironically, likely to be one of the cities in the US with a pistol ban given that they have a higher crime rate than the rest of the US) where home invasions happen all over the city? More importantly, exactly WHY should people be forced to move out of their area of the city and let it be taken over by criminals? Should we not strive to make the area safer instead? And what is going to keep the criminal population from spreading to one part of the city to another if all the decent people just move out? Telling everyone to move out is putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. You may not choose to defend yourself, but that does not give you the right to tell other people that they shouldn’t either just because it makes you uncomfortable to know that they do so.

    “So gunnies, how would a gun have helped me this evening when some asshole Republicans in a pick-up tried to steal my Obama sign?”

    You are being extremely insulting if you think that anyone would actually be stupid enough to respond in a violent manner to this. A gun would not have been needed in such a situation and shouldn’t have been used as any ‘gunnie’ would tell you. The proper response was to call the cops. Now that I’ve answered your question – what are you going to do when someone breaks into your house and uses a gun that they have obtained (illegally, no doubt) against you and you have no means of defense? Will you be alive 20 minutes later when the cops finally get there? For that matter, what good will calling the cops do when three people jump you at random on the street? More importantly, why would you take away the right of someone else to defend themself because you aren’t comfortable doing so? (And yes, seeing to it that the general population does not have access to the same weapons that criminals do IS seriously impairing self-defense).

    The issue here at hand is very simple: If you wish to take away a right of some kind, or a freedom, or a ‘privilege’ or whatever the fuck you want to call it the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate A. That the freedom is causing harm and B. That removing this freedom will cause more good than harm. The problem here is that this evidence does. not. fucking. exist. Or at least, if it does, no one is willing to provide it when challenged to do so. If you wish to cross-compare other countries with the US you need to do a comparison of the crime rates in these countries pre and post-ban. If they had US like violent crime rates pre-ban and they all suddenly went down post-ban, you may have a case. However, I doubt this is the case given that I’ve asked for this information several times and got nothing but attempts to avoid the question in response.

    You also need to deal with the fact that there is no consistent trend within the US toward states with stronger gun control laws having lower crime rates, which would arguably be the case if less guns = safer. Furthermore, you have to deal with the fact that, among other things, it has been demonstrated that a state giving the right to concealed carry actually leads to a reduction in the number of police deaths. (I find this particularly relevant since many pro-gun control arguments and legislation are written in terms of ‘we’re trying to protect the police!’) http://www.terry.uga.edu/~mustard/police.pdf The reduction in police deaths after giving citizens the right to carry is slight, however, it is there and it certainly punches a hole in the common ‘IF YOU LET THEM HAVE GUNS TO CARRY THEY’RE GOIN’ TO BE KILLING COPS LEFT AND RIGHT, IT’S GOING TO BE SOMETHING OUT OF A WESTERN!’ rhetoric that is commonly heard. I can also point to a study that shows that gun shows (in other words, un-regulated guns being sold) do not result in an increase in murders or suicides afterwards. http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=6759 While I’m at it, since I listed some cities earlier, I’ll give an example on a state-wide level. Maryland, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and makes you go through living hell to get a ccw permit has the third highest violent crime rate in the country – or did in 2004 (SOURCE: http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank21.html). The bordering states Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania (rankings number 35, 36, and 23, respectively) have gun laws that are much, much less strict (go look up Wiki gun laws by state if you want the details) and suffer from much lower crime rates. Unless you can make a good case for blaming all of this exclusively on population density you need to explain what the hell is going on. We can play this same game with Massachusetts and get similar results: 18th in the nation; NY which also has extremely strict gun control laws is 21st in the nation; Vermont, where gun laws are the loosest in the nation is number 48 (though I am willing to attribute this at least partly to population density, it does not change the reality that if giving gun rights = higher crime rate, that the crime rate there would likely be much higher. After all, people kill each other in small towns, too.); Rhode Island (which has GL laws that aren’t quite as loose as the preceding states, but aren’t anywhere near as strict as Massachusetts – you just have to wait three or four months for a carry permit) is 40th; Connecticut also has pretty loose gun laws (the only trouble you’ll have is getting your carry license back if you get arrested for open carry) and ranks at number 34.

    Mind you, I’m aware that what I’ve done here is something of a patchwork quilt since I haven’t done all fifty states, came up with a strict ranking system for the gun control laws, and did everything possible to factor in population density when running the numbers, I don’t think I have done too badly given that the people arguing for gun control are arguing based on gut-feeling about what makes us safer than offering any sort of empirical evidence on the subject. I can point the way to more studies — and a couple of books — that show that this idea of ‘less guns in the hands of citizens = less crime’ is a Holy Grail, at best. As I said earlier, if you wish to take away a particular freedom, you need to demonstrate that it will do more good than harm. The available evidence indicates that it does far more harm than good. If you want to argue with it, show me something different.

  106. #106 W. W Woodward
    October 30, 2008

    I do believe that the use of good sense is the key to safe handling of any of the dangerous items, including firearms, y’all have mentioned. You will notice; I used the phrase “good sense” rather than “common” sense as “good” sense seems, obviously, to not be very common these days.

    A firearm is a tool and it is only as dangerous as the person whose finger is on the switch. If the person attempting to operate the tool is incapable, due to age, mental or emotional incompetence, or other limiting factors of operating the tool in a responsible manner, that person should not be allowed by responsible persons to operate the tool. “You must be this high to ride this ride”.

    One would think that drain cleaner would have only one use, however back in the early ’70s an innovative East Dallas pimp forced one of his “girls” to drink drain cleaner. Turned out to be a pretty effective homicide weapon.

    Another Dallas “girl” was killed by a “john” who asphyxiated her by stuffing toilet paper down her throat.

    The government wasn’t here to protect the whores and it won’t be there to protect you either. Even if the legislature does decide to pass laws banning firearms, drain cleaners, and/or toilet paper.

    Anti-gunners, if you don’t want a gun, don’t buy one. Just don’t attempt to force your opinion (and that’s all it is) onto me. And, if the occasion ever arises where your life is in danger please don’t call me for help because I would bring my gun for my own self protection and I surely wouldn’t want to offend you by possessing it in your presence.

    Pro-gun people, quit trying to convince the anti-gunners of the error of their ways. You’ll only be wasting your time and will succeed only in pissing them off.

    Mr. Springer, You wrote a fine article and backed it up with impressive statistics as well as logical argument, however statistics and logic have about as much impact in resolving the gun controversy as in settling matters of religion.

  107. #107 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2008

    you know what annoys me about the neverending gun control debate? all the folks who feel a great need to rail against the deficiencies of existing gun control laws without knowing thing one about what they are. such ignorance always really gets my dander up.

    You can’t sell certain types of assault weapons, but you can sell kits to convert weapons from one type into another

    you can sell machine guns, provided that (1) the buyer has passed a background check so thorough it includes all but a body cavity search, and (2) the machine gun you’re selling is listed on a federal registry that was closed to new entries in 1986.

    you cannot sell a kit to convert a non-machinegun into a machine gun, unless that kit is listed on the aforementioned registry (such kits are legally considered machine guns in and of themselves), and the buyer has passed the same background check.

    you might be able to sell a piece of metal that claims to be such a kit but isn’t. if it actually works, you’ve sold what is most likely federal contraband and set yourself up for a decade in prison. if it doesn’t work, what’s the buyer gonna do, sue you for not selling them illegal contraband? but either way, you should fully expect to get a visit from the BATFE inquiring as to just what the blazes you think you’re selling. (rumour has it most of the folks offering such parts for sale are ATF sting operations. nobody with half a brain willingly risks finding out.)

    as for what you might mean by “other types of assault weapons”, unless you mean machine guns, you’ll have to define the term first. as far as i know, federal firearms law no longer includes the term “assault weapon” as a defined category.

    You can’t sell guns with clips bigger than a certain size, but you can sell the clips individually.

    no part of federal law regulates “clips”, to the best of my knowledge. by the way, the technical term is magazine; this matters, because “clip” is also a technical term related to firearms, and it means something different. us gunnies realize there’s widespread confusion between the terms, but indulging yourself in that confusion does serve to make you look ignorant of the issues you’re discussing — whether or not you actually are.

    you can buy all the guns you want at a gun fair.

    yes. the professional firearms dealers that constitute most of the sellers at your average gun show (show organizers normally charge table rent, often high enough that only dealers can make any profit there) will be happy to sell you as many guns as you can afford. the procedure is very much the same as if you’d bought them at those dealers’ storefronts, background check and all.

    if you run into a private individual selling their personal guns at a show, you can offer to buy those too. but by definition of “non-dealer”, they won’t be able to sell you just any quantity of guns; the BATFE does come down on unlicensed dealers, including ones that operate at gun shows. a few weapons now and then, you can sell, but if you look to be making a profit dealing in bulk, you’ll be asked hard questions by people in ugly suits.

    (you don’t have to go to a gun show to buy a firearm off a private citizen, either. you just have to find somebody who’s willing to sell. read the local classifieds section, that might be a start.)

    if you don’t like the gun laws in state A just buy all your firearms in state B and hoof it over the boarder.

    except, of course, that you have to be a resident of the state you’re buying in. yes, dealers check ID.

    oh how will I ever get a sawed-off shotgun if all I can purchase is this shotgun and this saw?!

    i dunno, pinky, but i suspect it’ll involve you committing a federal felony. (manufacturing an unlicensed class III firearm. ten years in the pen, that is. yep, people do get sent up the river on such charges. keep your barrels at eighteen inches minimum, and your guns at twenty-six overall, or mr. police officer will no longer be friendly to you.)

  108. #108 John
    October 30, 2008

    Re: #107 Nomen, Regarding the BATFE, the “B” and “E” are silent. The official abbreviation for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is ATF.

  109. #109 Zifnab
    October 31, 2008

    no part of federal law regulates “clips”, to the best of my knowledge.

    From the wiki entry on the assault weapons ban:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_Weapons_Ban#Compliance_and_avoidance

    The law prohibited detachable magazines with a capacity to hold more than ten rounds manufactured after enactment of the law from sale, transfer, or importation. One effect was the increased importation of large quantities of magazines manufactured before the ban from other countries[citation needed]. Former Warsaw Pact countries had large quantities of AK-47 magazines of various capacities that could fit a variety of both pre-ban and post-ban AK-47 variants. Existing stocks of pre-ban American-made magazines were likewise exempt from the ban; this resulted in a brief surge in domestic manufacture of high-capacity magazines before the law took effect.

    That said, I will refer to them as “magazines” rather than “clips” from here on out, because I respect your delicate sensibilities.

    As for the rest, perhaps my assumptions on “gun mod kits” were wrong, but the bottom line is:

    In March 2004, Kristen Rand, the legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, criticized the soon-to-expire ban by stating “The 1994 law in theory banned AK-47s, MAC-10s, UZIs, AR-15s and other assault weapons. Yet the gun industry easily found ways around the law and most of these weapons are now sold in post-ban models virtually identical to the guns Congress sought to ban in 1994.

    The Assault Weapons Ban was a complete trainwreck and a legislative embarrassment. Exactly that much wasted paper.

    As for private sale of firearms:

    the procedure is very much the same as if you’d bought them at those dealers’ storefronts, background check and all.

    No, no its not.

    Purchases from a non-FFL seller are not subject to the Brady Law, but may be covered under other federal, state, and local restrictions. This distinction prevails without regard to the location of the sale. Thus FFL sales at gun shows are still subject to NICS approval while private sales are not. The so-called “Gun Show Loophole” would be more accurately called a “Private Sale Loophole.”

    Private sales are not covered by the Brady Bill – the law that regulates the purchase and sale of firearms. Furthermore, a recent SCOTUS decision overturning the DC gun ban allows you to circumvent state laws that would otherwise restrict your ownership of said weapons. The result is a swiss cheese set of laws that don’t restrict gun ownership, but instead set up a series of hoops to jump through before you can lug your military-grade death penis into your Dallas book repository overlooking the next Presidential parade.

    And as for sawed-off shotguns:

    i dunno, pinky, but i suspect it’ll involve you committing a federal felony. (manufacturing an unlicensed class III firearm. ten years in the pen, that is. yep, people do get sent up the river on such charges. keep your barrels at eighteen inches minimum, and your guns at twenty-six overall, or mr. police officer will no longer be friendly to you.)

    Well yes. I suppose the guy busting down your door to rob your mattress, shot your dog, and rape your wife might get a little concerned with the police catching him. He could get in a lot of trouble for carrying around an illegal firearm. :-p

    I thought the fundamental argument against weapons bans was “but criminals will still get them!!!”, so correct me if I’m wrong. My point is that such laws are fundamentally useless when people who intend to break said laws to commit violent crimes aren’t going to adhere to them anyway. They are even more fundamentally useless when massive loopholes wipe away any semi-balance of enforceability.

    This has nothing to do with you being a “gunny” and everything to do with failed legislative attempts at regulating powerful firearms. Quit being offended over an imaginary slight.

  110. #110 Anonymous
    October 31, 2008

    “May we be consistent in our desire to never give up freedom for security.”

    “Like drain cleaner, chain saws, cars, and almost every other dangerous product, guns have important uses. Self-defense, recreation, hunting (though clearly not with an Uzi), and protection against tyranny…”

    Nomen I asked my question about logical consistency because of the two quotes above in Matt’s article.

    Basically 2 of Matt’s arguments in favour of guns are that:

    1) Gun control restricts liberty – we shouldn’t give up our liberty in exchange for security.

    2) Guns can be used to defend ourselves against tyrrany.

    My point was that these arguments should lead one to argue in favour of a much wider range of weapon classes being more freely available than they are. So why dont more pro-gun advocates who use these arguments do so?

    Now in many cases the arguments as stated arent what the person actually means. ie Matt has since written out his thoughts in a more nuanced way to make clear that he DOES favour greater restrictions on other weapon classes as they get more dangerous. He just happens to think guns arent dangerous enough to restrict them in the way that gun-control advocates want.

    Asking this questions is a way for me to work out whether to stay tuned in. If a person were to say that there should be no restrictions on owning nukes since that would infringe personal liberty (extreme example) then I know that Im not going to find any common ground. At that point its time to leave the conversation.

  111. #111 koszmic
    October 31, 2008

    Many commenters have pointed out the disconnect between comparing gun deaths to swimming pool drownings or “drain cleaner” deaths. They are right. It has to do with the chance and ability to correct a situation that turns bad. In the case of the awful gun death cited in the post, there was almost no chance to “retrieve” the situation once the kid lost his grip; how much time is there between the lost grip and the firing of the killing bullet? If a child begins to go under in a swimming pool, there is much more of a chance to save that child, in terms of time. I suspect a poisoning situation, though very dangerous, is also more “retrievable” in terms of getting medical help.
    So, though the various modes of death may be equal in terms of numbers, they are not at all equal in terms of needed safeguards. So, to Matt, I really don’t think it is correct to ” . . . say the same thing about swimming pools . . .” etc.

  112. #112 Nomen Nescio
    October 31, 2008

    zifnab, you’re not helping the appearance of ignorance here.

    * the 1994 assault weapons ban is four years expired, and so of mostly historical interest.

    * the 1994 assault weapons ban did not have anything to do with AK-47s, UZIs, MAC-10s, or any other fully automatic weapons. those were, and still remain, controlled under the 1934 National Firearms Act, as amended. the assault weapons ban concerned itself with semi-automatic weapons only. i’ll agree that it was a waste of paper, however; good thing it’s no longer in effect.

    * the procedure of buying a weapon from a professional dealer at a gun show is the same as for buying that firearm from that dealer’s storefront, which is what i said. the procedure for buying a firearm from a non-dealer is indeed different, but even there, it still makes no difference whether the sale takes place at a gun show or somewhere else, which i also said. most gun shows tend to have many more professional dealers offering firearms for sale than non-dealers, due to how these shows are organized. feel free to criticize my words, but please read them first.

    * i’ve read the Heller decision more than once, but seen nothing in it to interfere in the slightest with interstate sales bans, nor yet with state possession laws. where in the PDF of the ruling should i be looking, pray tell? (answering this should not be difficult — although the Heller ruling has over a hundred pages of dicta, most of it Scalia and Stevens playing amateur historians, the actual holding is quite compact.)

    * you say that having a patchwork of different firearms laws, varying from state to state, might be a problem? mister, let me introduce you to a problem gun owners have in some states: different municipalities having different firearms codes, including ones regulating transportation, such that the methods permissible for you to transport your pistol to the shooting range (and what manner of pistol you’re even allowed to possess) might change several times over between your home and said range. Ohio used to be notorious for this, although there’s been a lot of work to rectify that.

    Heller might actually help, in this regard: if it’s incorporated against the states, then outright bans on possession of pistols will be unconstitutional and stricken. that will mean fewer local regulations, and thus fewer conflicting sets of regulations overall.

    * “military-grade death penis”? why, thank you for that turn of phrase. it gives me a lot of leeway to work with before my words will seem even half as irrational and knee-jerk emotional as you now do. it also tells me i’m talking to any hypothetical third-party readers from here on out, and not to you. i’ll overlook the implied slander of me as presidential assassin, that merely improving my rhetorical conditions even further. (have you quit kicking your puppy yet, zifnab?)

    * what’s that? violent criminals are not worried about being caught and punished, you say? surely not — we should have to be shocked, shocked! that such villains won’t respect existing laws. let’s make some more laws for them to ignore, that’ll teach ‘em!

    no, on second thought, let’s not. let’s catch them and throw them in jail instead. and if an illegal shotgun in their possession at the time will let us send them away for an additional decade, i’m all for doing that. let’s not delude ourselves, however, that outlawing hacksaws will prevent criminals from shortening shotguns if that’s what they please to do.

  113. #113 Prof. Bleen
    November 22, 2008

    Interesting, but none of this gets at why the gun shows exist in the first place.

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