Pharyngula

I’m not a fanatic about gun control—guns are dangerous tools, but so are chainsaws—but sometimes…man, sometimes I think we ought to put more restrictions on them to keep them out of the hands of dangerously stupid people. Take this story, for instance. A police officer hears a noise in his basement, suspects it’s an intruder, and the idiot takes a shot at whoever it is. Unfortunately, it turns out to be his 18 year old daughter sneaking into the house after a late night out.

So basically this guy was firing a handgun in his house at someone he hadn’t even tried to identify, using deadly force before he was at all confident it was necessary. He’s an incompetent boob, a danger to his family, and he shouldn’t be employed in a position where we have an expectation of responsible weapon use. Now that bozo is a walking argument for gun control.

Fortunately, the tragedy was minimized here because he only took out his daughter’s knee rather than slaughtering her.

(via lolife)

Comments

  1. #1 RickD
    May 31, 2007

    The problem is that the guns, by and large, do not solve the problem that they are intended to. Guns are purchased mostly not to make people more secure, but to make people _feel_ more secure. But the problem with caving in to fear is that it always has room to grow. Thus we now have the absurd situation where the nation with the largest and most powerful military machine in the history of the world is inhabited by people living in a constant state of fear from imagined threats and/or real threats blown completely out of proportion to their risk level.

  2. #2 reason
    May 31, 2007

    PJ…
    But this argument can be extended a LOT further.

    It is the problem of course with extreme Libertarianism, all people just aren’t rational all of the time. We actually do need some restrictions on us for our own good. (Drunk driving is a good case in point).

    But there are other aspects – competence for instance. You need a current (and suspendable) licence to drive a car (also controlling a deadly weapon). That that is not needed in some parts of the US for firearms is absolutely crazy!

    As for the self-defence argument – do people practice in the dark when half-drunk and uncertain, against terrified and well-prepared opposition? That is the odds you face if you are relying on firearms against an intruder. And the more people rely on such protection, the more likely the intruder is to be armed. Arms control is a bit like innoculations against infectious but now rare diseases, it carries a very small extra risk for an individual, but makes everybody safer. The problem with individualistic thinking is it is not even aware of the external effects of actions, so by only looking at individual effects it come to false conclusions about total impact.

    There is also the issue of to what extent unnecessary access to weapons should be allowed. I don’t think anybody thinks everybody should have access to nuclear weapons. Or that nobody should have access to kitchen knives. So the matter of principle argument is gone. It is a just a question of practicality,where is a sensible place to draw the line between individual convenience and public safety. Rational people can disagree about it.

  3. #3 reason
    May 31, 2007

    It seems to me that the US is infected with absolutist thinking (either THIS or THAT). You have heard too many slippery slope arguments. A slippery slope argument, if you really think about it, is an argument for extremism. It can’t be understood any other way.

  4. #4 csrster
    May 31, 2007

    I keep tellin’ y’all, “America’s Dumbest Cops”, there’s a packet to be made in it.

  5. #5 Jeffrey Boser
    May 31, 2007

    Does anybody else suspect that this story is just that, a story? I got the feeling that there is something else going on with this man an his daughter. Police officers go through a lot of training with regard to their firearms, and are almost never so reckless as to shoot before identifying or warning the target.

  6. #6 Luna_the_cat
    May 31, 2007

    Jeffrey Boser: I am familiar with the case of an American policeman who gave his *loaded* gun to his 3-year-old son to play with, and argued with his wife that this was safe “because a three year old isn’t strong enough to pull the trigger.”

    Being a policeman, even a policeman with training, does not mean that the individual is necessarily not a moron.

  7. #7 Dunc
    May 31, 2007

    Police officers go through a lot of training with regard to their firearms, and are almost never so reckless as to shoot before identifying or warning the target.

    Funny (but not “ha-ha” funny) – I know quite a few forces / ex-forces types who’ve worked with armed police (in the UK, where armed police are a rarity and are supposedly trained to very high standards) and every single one has said that the police firearms officers scared them silly with their incredibly poor weapons discipline. Fingers on triggers, safeties off, waving the weapon around carelessly…

  8. #8 Mike Haubrich
    May 31, 2007

    I took a home security training course a few years ago; presented by a company which sells legal versions of pepper spray, and learned a few things about guns and intruders.

    1. If you are awakened suddenly by an intruder, at night, in the dark, the intruder has been accustomed to and has had time to adjust to a low light level. The intruder can see much better than you can.

    2. A gun can only have a narrow focus, where as spray has a wide distribution.

    3. People who rely on guns for home safety most often have their guns taken from them, because the criminal is more experienced in this.

    4. Most “intruders” killed are members of the gun owners’ families. There are no “takebacks” in gun deaths. A family member recovers from pepper spray, although he or she may be pretty angry.

    I have never had a gun for protection in my house. There are other, better ways that don’t have such high risks.

  9. #9 wÒÓ?
    May 31, 2007

    ZOMG pwned.

  10. #10 wÒÓ?
    May 31, 2007

    ZOMG pwned.

  11. #11 amstrad
    May 31, 2007

    I have a friend who is an ER doctor (he was a resident at the time). He was getting really tired of treating gun shot wounds for innocent by-standers of gang violence.

    His solution: teach the gang members to shoot better. Less innocent people shot and less criminals over time… (the problem is you are left with a small number of really good shart shooting thugs).

  12. #12 seaducer
    May 31, 2007

    Jeffrey Boser:

    Google NYPD shootings, check out Amadu Dialo (sp) incident and if you still think police are well trained and disciplined we can talk about it. BTW this is but one incident, and I am not arguing cause here, just how poorly they executed once they decided to open fire, and the lame way they responded to “return fire”, from a dead guy.

    Police academies are way too short, there is way too much other stuff to teach recriuits, and continuing education with regards to firearms training is non-existent. Go to a range, qualify against paper targets, keep your beat.

    I am ex-military, combat arms with some special forces training and police scare the s**t out of me. The average soldier gets I don’t know how many more hours of training than a cop does, and that is just wrong. Dangerous for the cop, dangerous for the innocent bystanders. And I think the main problem is that they don’t have near enough training.

    And as someone who has worked with cops, SWAT at that, I am going to second Dunc’s remarks. The saying “Cowboy Up” was used, and lived by some.
    That being said, most of the cops there were very professional. Most, not all…

  13. #13 mndean
    May 31, 2007

    Barney Fife lives!

  14. #14 marcia
    May 31, 2007

    “guns are dangerous tools, but so are chainsaws”

    Chainsaws are used to cut wood.
    Cars are used to transport.
    Guns exist for one reason only: killing.

  15. #15 seaducer
    May 31, 2007

    Mike, I will take issue with point number one, if you are sleeping your eyes are also adjusted to low light levels (if you don’t believe me next time you have to pee at 3AM turn the light on and don’t look away from it…

    The rest of your points are good, but I will add, you know the layout of your house well, the intruder doesn’t, use that to your advantage to get away.

    Seriously, get your family out of the house if you can. Unless you have rediculous amounts of training you are playing with you life. And even Spec Ops guys have been killed by crack junkies.

  16. #16 Nan
    May 31, 2007

    Gun deaths caused by idiot gun owners are the logical outcome of the technological imperative: when a device exists, it must be used. People who buy hand guns for protection have already defined their world as being a dangerous, hostile place that sooner or later will compel them to shoot someone. Unfortunately, that someone is more likely to be a family member or a friend than the dreaded home invader they’ve spent most of their adult life anticipating. Even more unfortunately, they’re never going to believe the statistics telling them that because most of have crawled out of the same lunatic pool as the fundies that don’t want to believe any scientific data, be it natural or social.

  17. #17 Stwriley
    May 31, 2007

    We actually do need some restrictions on us for our own good. (Drunk driving is a good case in point).

    reason
    I agree with you in almost every regard except the one quoted above. The point of regulation should never be to protect us from ourselves, but to protect others from our ill-advised (okay, stupid) actions. Thus it’s not illegal to get falling-down drunk (or shouldn’t be) even though that’s not a very good thing to do to yourself. It is illegal (and should be) to drive drunk because you’re likely to cause physical harm to someone else when you do.

    It’s a fine line that civil libertarians have been treading for a long time, and one too often decided in the wrong ways in the U.S. (i.e., we try to keep people from ingesting “illegal drugs” that harm only themselves but don’t regulate over-the-counter supplements by which unscrupulous individuals have demonstrably harmed others without their consent.) It’s a matter of making the proper distinctions between harm and risk, something that America has been pretty bad at for quite a while. The best discussion of this I’ve ever seen was a delightful book by Peter McWilliams, Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do.

    Unfortunately for PZ’s idea of keeping guns out of the hands of morons, it’s tied up in this whole debate in a way that is distinctly unhelpful. The ardent Second Amendment crowd (the NRA and their imitators) have pushed an interpretation of that Constitutional right that is, following reason’s definition, an extreme slippery slope argument. Problem is, they have been allowed to define the terms and so now the common sense, balanced position of allowing widespread gun ownership but regulating it with strict training and responsibility laws is all but impossible, despite the fact that for many historians this is exactly what we see as the prevailing idea the went into the Second Amendment in the first place, that clause about a “well regulated militia” being critical.

    It comes down to the triumph of emotion over reason (and I’m hoping that no poster here is using the handle “emotion” or I’m in trouble) and the general distrust of logical solutions that is part and parcel with American anti-intellectualism and religiosity. When we win the battles against superstition and distrust of rationality, we’ll win this fight too. Until then, I’m afraid we’ll just get more morons with guns.

  18. #18 Caledonian
    May 31, 2007

    When people regularly used guns for hunting, they ensured that people were properly trained in their use – it was conducted within the family. The idea of having a central authority oversee such training would have been utterly foreign to the writers of the Constitution.

    The problem isn’t that idiots are allowed to buy guns without receiving training, it’s that there are idiots.

  19. #19 Howie
    May 31, 2007

    Darwinian selection in action (almost)? Stupid people less likely to have surviving progeny?

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    May 31, 2007

    I might be wrong, but I heard a rumor that this was a home-schooling family .

  21. #21 Stwriley
    May 31, 2007

    On the theme of repelling home invaders, I’ll share a story that I think points out just how useless a gun might be compared to other means of defending yourself in the unlikely event you actually need to.

    Back in the mid-80’s, I lived for a short while in Miami (sorry to all you South Floridians for this, but Miami was a different place then.) During that time the city was pretty crime-ridden and in the course of our stay, my wife and I had our cars broken into three times (once thieves stole the radio and then came back the next night for the cables, which is about as bold as you get), my wife was purse-snatched, and our apartment was broken into while we were sleeping (the point of this intro.)

    I awoke when I heard the thief out in our living room (it was a small five room apartment) and immediately jumped out of bed and seized the first thing that came to hand. As it happens, this was a stage sword (I was working as a fight choreographer at the time, and yes, PZ, I was choreographing a pirate fight, no kidding.) I ran to the bedroom door and popped into the living room, only to see the intruder about six feet away, standing over my wife’s purse (which he had just been going through) and I promptly fell into an en garde position and brandished my three feet of steel at him. He, of course, did what anyone would do when suddenly presented with a naked man, long hair flowing, pointing a long sharp sword at him; he ran like hell. I, being someone who occasionally allows my adrenal gland to get the better of me, gave chase, yelling like a pirate on a boarding party and waving my sword at his rapidly retreating back. Unfortunately, the parking lot outside was crushed shell and I wasn’t wearing shoes (or anything else for that matter) and even adrenalin couldn’t keep me going over that.

    The moral of this story? Three feet of good steel is actually much more likely to be useful in the confined space of a residence than a gun, and you’re not too likely to poke something you haven’t identified yet if you have to actually use it. In the above incident, if the man hadn’t run, he’d have likely been run through by me before he could have done anything to harm me, whether he was armed or not. Of course, I’m a well-trained swordsman so my reactions would have been exactly that if he had attacked. I’m glad it worked out the way it did, because even though this guy had violated my home I’m happy that I could avoid actually hurting him. Still, we didn’t have any further problems at our apartment building with break-ins, so prehaps he spread the word that there was a crazy man with a sword living there. I hope so.

  22. #22 reason
    May 31, 2007

    Stwriley…
    I concede your point (partially). I meant what I said collectively (hence US), and meant that we cannot trust the judgement of a drunk about his driving competence.

    Caledonian

    You are clearly a sucker for punishment. Don’t you want to revise what you said?

    It would seem the implication is that all idiots should be identified and strangled at birth.

    It’s like saying the problem isn’t lack of roofs, the problem is rain.

  23. #23 reason
    May 31, 2007

    Stwriley…
    great anecdote. It made me laught. Must be a great party starter.
    Wonder if it is true…

  24. #24 PZ Myers
    May 31, 2007

    That’s reassuring, Greg. I’m sure that if they are a home-schooling family, this incident will prompt them to immediately schedule instruction in gun safety…taught by Dad.

  25. #25 Caledonian
    May 31, 2007

    It’s like saying the problem isn’t lack of roofs, the problem is rain.

    No. The problem isn’t that no one’s taught the idiots not to drown in the rain – the problem is that we think we ought to have an authority direct us to expend ourselves tipping their chins down.

    Why is this person permitted to be in law enforcement when he doesn’t apply basic principles of responsible gun use? This question isn’t being asked nearly enough in this thread. What standards are applied to our police that let such an idiot through?

  26. #26 reason
    May 31, 2007

    Caledonian…
    The fact that this guy was in the police force is incidental to the story.
    There ARE and WILL ALWAYS be a good number of idiots in the world. The systems we build need to allow for that fact, or they are idiotic systems.

  27. #27 forsen
    May 31, 2007

    Other factors aside, going Black Mamba on burglars is ofc much cooler than pointing a gun at them.

  28. #28 Stwriley
    May 31, 2007

    Caledonian,
    I’ll concede that the point about training may not be 100% effective as a way to weed out all the morons, but I thing it would get a fair number of them because, if it was properly rigorous training the morons would be less likely to pass and thus be allowed to own guns. This is a point that hasn’t really been tested so we’ll have to leave it as a hypothesis for now and hope that it can be tested in the future.

    You are quite wrong, however, on the nature of gun training in early America for the majority of citizens. Most citizens lived in the more densely populated coastal zones and did not hunt themselves; that was a phenomenon of the relatively sparsely populated frontier regions. Most citizens received what firearms training they had and owned guns because it was a legal requirement in most colonies (and the states they became) for militia service, for which all able-bodied men were liable. Central authority (the colony or state in this case, though also the federal government after the Constitution) was critical to this process, for it was their organization of the militia that prompted and formed such training.

    The Constitution’s writers clearly put regulation of the militias into the Constitution itself (not the Bill of Rights, where the Second Amendment naturally resides) and intended that Congress should act to make the militias and their training better and more efficient. This did not happen in practice, for a variety of reasons, but the intent is quite clear both from the document itself and from what we know of the debates of the Constitutional Convention. So the argument that regulating guns now based on that idea is wrong is unsupportable.

    I’m afraid you have fallen prey to a myth about gun ownership and use that has been pushed for a long time by the anti-regulation forces. But it is a myth, no more valid than the myth of American exceptionalism. It is a very appealing myth too, one that seems to show the self-reliant spirit and the proper role of the family in raising their children to be good upstanding citizens and defenders of the nation. It also doesn’t stand up to the facts of history.

  29. #29 Caledonian
    May 31, 2007

    How will you eliminate the idiots from the system you build?

    Some problems simply do not have solutions on a society-wide scale. Idiocy needs to be identifying and resisted on an individual level, because it cannot on any greater level while retaining a healthy society.

    Consider what idiot-proofing our civilization would actually require.

  30. #30 TheBlackCat
    May 31, 2007

    When the constitution was written the guns of the time were horribly inaccurate muzzle-loading ball muskets and far more inaccurate muzzle-loading ball pistols. Remember the famous line “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”? That is because the muskets at the time wouldn’t have been able to hit the enemy unless they were that close. Modern high-quality rifles are accurate up to several miles. Cartridges had not been invented yet, revolvers and Gatling guns were half a century away, and other semiautomatic and automatic weapons hadn’t even been dreamed of yet. The guns were much harder to load and use, far less accurate, and had less stopping power. To think that they wrote the constitution thinking of easily accessible, armor-piercing, full automatic AK47’s is silly. Even modern handguns are far beyond anything they could have anticipated. They wrote that part of the constitution based on the weapons they had at the time, and perhaps those they expected in the next couple of decades (there was at least one scientist/engineer in the constitutional convention, and a number of ex-soldiers). Now I’m not saying we should limit weapons to just muskets, I’m saying it is hard to use that clause to justify allowing full access to any weapon anybody might want. It says “the right to bear arms shall not be infringed”, not “the right to bear any arm”.

  31. #31 Caledonian
    May 31, 2007

    You are quite wrong, however, on the nature of gun training in early America for the majority of citizens.

    I think that rather depends on how early we’re talking about. And even later militias didn’t give out guns to all and sundry, just the people who didn’t possess their own. Training had more to do with maintaining military discipline than proper gun use.

    This article might be informative.

  32. #32 Bob
    May 31, 2007

    I remember a story from about 30 years ago…

    Very similar…a man heard a noise..saw a shadow…and fired away.

    The “intruder” had time to gasp “oh Daddy” before collapsing…

    She had gotten up to tend to the family dog…

    At least he still had his gun to keep him company… (I wonder if his wife left him?)

  33. #33 reason
    May 31, 2007

    Consider what idiot-proofing our civilization would actually require.

    A bit like blogs really!

  34. #34 Stwriley
    May 31, 2007

    reason,
    Fair enough, we were actually saying the same thing in different ways (i.e., keep the drunk from hurting someone else.) Sorry to jump on your original, but it’s a sore point with me, the line between good and misguided regulation.

    On my Miami story, yes, it’s quite true. And it is one of my wife’s favorite party stories (she always stresses the naked part, of course.) But somewhere, in the bowels of the Miami-Dade police department records room, is a police report on the incident, and I have a funny feeling that the cops stressed the naked part too. I’m sure it gave the investigating officer a good laugh (though to be fair to his professionalism, he did try to hide it at the time.)

  35. #35 Kseniya
    May 31, 2007

    Something similar happened up here (in nearby Framingham) a couple of years ago.

    IIRC…

    A man, having just returned home one evening after an out-of-town business trip, was getting ready for bed when he heard someone or something moving around inside the house. He quietly pulled his trusty home-defense handgun out of his dresser drawer, shut off the bedroom light, and tip-toed out into the hall. He saw a large form moving in the darkness, so he took aim and fired.

    The homeowner had neglected to turn off his alarm and inform the local police that he’d returned from his trip a day early, so an officer was sent to investigate the silent alarm, which the homeowner had himself tripped when he entered the house.

    I’m happy to report that the officer survived despite his being critically wounded by the shooter.

    Gun deaths caused by idiot gun owners are the logical outcome of the technological imperative: when a device exists, it must be used. People who buy hand guns for protection have already defined their world as being a dangerous, hostile place that sooner or later will compel them to shoot someone. Unfortunately, that someone is more likely to be a family member or a friend than the dreaded home invader they’ve spent most of their adult life anticipating. Even more unfortunately, they’re never going to believe the statistics telling them that because most of have crawled out of the same lunatic pool as the fundies that don’t want to believe any scientific data, be it natural or social.

    I agree completely, but I have to ask: Are there any reliable statistics on the subject? Every gun-control advocate “knows” that home-defense weapons are far more likely to be used against family members or acquaintences, but my googling turns up many sites that adamantly claim the studies which demonstrate this are flawed or rigged. What’s the truth? Do we know?

  36. #36 Dural
    May 31, 2007

    “A former Springbok rugby player was charged with murder yesterday after he mistook his daughter for a car thief and shot her dead in the family’s driveway.

    Rudi Visagie, 44, apparently assumed that his daughter Marl, 19, was asleep when he heard her Volkswagen Golf being driven away at 5am on Sunday from their smallholding in Maggiesdal, a rural area in Mpumalanga province.

    He got out of bed, took his 7.65mm pistol, and fired a shot through the bedroom window, police said.

    When he went outside he discovered his daughter slumped behind the wheel.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/southafrica/story/0,13262,1224059,00.html

  37. #37 Chet
    May 31, 2007

    If you are awakened suddenly by an intruder, at night, in the dark, the intruder has been accustomed to and has had time to adjust to a low light level. The intruder can see much better than you can.

    How does that make any sense? If an intruder wakes you up by breaking in, he’s just come in from the outside streetlights. But you’ve been laying there in the dark for hours.

    How on Earth do you conclude from that that the intruder’s eyes have adapted to the darkness faster than yours? It takes nearly a half-hour for the eye to adapt to darkness, and it does happen while you’re asleep, too. While he’s been casing the joint outside, in the streetlight, you’ve been staring at the back of your eyelids. Your eyes are much better adapted to the darkness than his are.

    Sounds like a line of corporate bullshit, to me.

  38. #38 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    I must agree completely with the good Prof. A tragedy in my own family is at least one powerful anecdote which can be used in support of his contentions.

    Last Saturday morning I was firing up the chainsaw and my mis-use of the choke caused it to back-fire. The backfire traveled two blocks and killed a little girl sleeping in her crib. It turns out the baby was a relative of mine, a “natural” child of my errant youth.
    Yup, those chainsaws are as dangerous as firearms, every day.

  39. #39 HP
    May 31, 2007

    I’m with Jeffrey Boser in post 5. Not so much on the “police are highly trained” bit, but the idea that there’s something else going on here.

    Hypothesis: Cop has a daughter he can’t discipline. She sneaks out at night, uses drugs/alcohol, etc. He hears her sneaking in late one night, and decides to teach her a lesson. Not stupidity or imcompetence, but intentional recklessness. If I were the local DA, that’s the angle I’d pursue.

  40. #40 reason
    May 31, 2007

    Calendonian…
    I consider you a bit of an enigma. How can you hold so strongly to the holy writ of the constitution when laughing at people for holding to the holy writ of the bible. Of laugh at people for believing in fairy tales, while being so dogmatic a Libertarian yourself.

    Lighten up a bit, dirty compromise is a necessary part of living with other people. If you don’t want to compromise, find your own planet.

  41. #41 Kseniya
    May 31, 2007

    And furthermore…

    “People who buy hand guns for protection have already defined their world as being a dangerous, hostile place that sooner or later will compel them to shoot someone.”

    Indeed. This is why the United State military is in Iraq.

    I do agree, but I also know a few women who own handguns for protection, not as a reaction to a generalized fear, but as a reaction to having been stalked by very dangerous men. One of these women moved from Georgia to Wisconsin [insert geographical stereotypes jokes here] to get away from the situation. I know her pretty well, she’s extremely bright, witty, and sweet, and I am quite sure has no desire to use her handgun – it’s that she refuses to be a victim. The one thing she can’t protect herself against, however, is accident. She might shoot her own husband in the kneecap one night. I can’t change her mind about that, though…

    😐

  42. #42 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    I have noticed an alarming tendency exhibited by the commentors here on this subject. Several of you have recounted actual experiences with firearms.
    This is not an acceptable method of discourse when firearms are the subject. My freakin’ Gawd, people, next you’ll be brandishing charts and statistics!!

    When guns are discussed, the only admittable evidence is the precis of old TV show plots and movie scenarios, along with imaginary victories over desperately colored intruders. What You would have done, anotherwords.

    Facts are out of place here! And watch out for drive-by chainsawings! Duck! Hit the ground when you see the arborist’s truck!

  43. #43 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    You’ll have to excuse me if I seem somewhat cynical on the subject of firearms and their use. You see, it was a few years after I got married I found out my wife, she shot her first husband! Missed his femoral artery by a quarter of an inch! I wondered why my brothers-in-law used to point their fingers at me and go “boom” and then tottally crack up at the family bar-b-que!
    Anyway, I get the garbage (and recycling) out to the curb, pronto, every Tuesday night, which he didn’t, but it also might have been some confusion with the above-mentioned recyclables which incited my wife. She’s a very enviornmentally conscious girl.
    And when I come home, and see her draped over the couch, Gibleys in one hand, Glock in the other, I can only count myself a lucky guy! She can cook, too!

  44. #44 Stwriley
    May 31, 2007

    Caledonian,
    I know Konig’s article well, being a military historian by both training and profession. The problem is what he has to say supports my contentions. His work focuses on refuting the rather extreme views of Churchill (who has contended that gun ownership was unregulated in the early national period.) I wrote above about the intent of the Constitution writers and the background that they came from on this question (the colonial militias that they had seen and led during the Revolution.) I also noted that the regulatory intent was not carried out, mostly because of the tense federal/state balancing act of the early republic period but also because the militia itself was becoming impractical as a tool for military action.

    The core of Konig’s argument, though, is the same as mine; that the right laid out in the Second Amendment is inherently tied to the idea of the militia and it’s regulation. Just because the practical nature of the early republic meant that many of those legally liable for militia service chose not to and paid fines rather than attend does not change the historical background of either the Constitution or the nature of the universal service ideal. It is also well to remember that “military discipline” is not divorced from proper gun use; indeed, proper gun use (the drill manual that Konig refers to is a good example, since there was no difference in this period between drill and gun handling) was viewed as the same thing by then current military experts (including no less a figure than George Washington.)

    As far as the “militias giving out guns to all and sundry” comment, that is a straw man that I never even mentioned. Did local authorities keep guns for those who could not afford them? Yes, and that goes back well before 1793 (it is in fact found in the provisions of the earliest militia laws dating to the 1630’s.) But it is also beside the point, since those are not privately owned arms at all and that is what we are discussing. Your pointing to Konig’s article shows that you haven’t really been following my argument at all, since I’m arguing against the same thing he is as well, the idea (in his case expressed by Churchill) that the individual right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment is somehow outside of state or federal regulation and is not tied to the militia system. And when you have (as Konig points out) militias actually supplying guns to citizens for their service period, then my contention that this is where they are getting their training in their use is supported, not refuted.

    You’re walking out on a very shaky limb here, Caledonian, and I’m afraid that I’ve been sawing away at the base of it. I’d suggest that you admit defeat on this point before you get so far out that you find yourself in rhetorical freefall.

  45. #45 jimBOB
    May 31, 2007

    Now I’m not saying we should limit weapons to just muskets,

    Actually, this has long been my favored way of interpreting that ridiculous amendment. Allow all and sundry to have muzzle-loading ball muskets. Regulate the hell out of all other firearms.

  46. #46 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    To interpret the intent and practical implications of the 2nd Amendment look at the English Protestant-Catholic turnovers and their effect on military manning.
    The 2nd Amendment was to insure that no-one would be barre from serving in the militias or the Army because they did not embrace the prevailing religion or creed and would not take an oath to it.
    It has very little to do with individual gun ownership. How this fact became obscured I don’t know, but it probably has something to do with the NRA and their campaign of obfuscation.

  47. #47 HPLC_Sean
    May 31, 2007

    Killing used to be a skill. Whether it was with a musket, a sword, a knife or bare hands, it used to take a good amount of training. Now, anyone can do it. Even a child.
    Take guns off the street. Poof! No more VTech/Columbine incidents, gangbangers will have to kill each other the hard way, and no more shooting your own family by accident.

    Vioxx arguably “killed” 1,000 people in the US and it was yanked off the market. That’s how many gun crimes there are in a single day (368,178 gun crimes in 2005 divided by 365 days in a year = 1009)!

  48. #48 Nan
    May 31, 2007

    “I agree completely, but I have to ask: Are there any reliable statistics on the subject? Every gun-control advocate “knows” that home-defense weapons are far more likely to be used against family members or acquaintences, but my googling turns up many sites that adamantly claim the studies which demonstrate this are flawed or rigged. What’s the truth? Do we know?”

    If you try scholar.google.com for your search instead of just plain google you’ll find links to articles in publications such as the International Journal of Epidemiology. Popular web sites may attempt to brush off studies critical of the wide spread availability of firearms in the U.S. as flawed or biased, but when multiple reputable peer-reviewed journals report similar findings, I tend to trust the scientists. Granted, there are a number of studies that reviewed data sources such as medical examiners’ records and concluded there were possible problems with reliability of that data, e.g., gun deaths that were homicides were clearly recorded as such but “accidental” death records didn’t always differentiate between self-inflicted (possible suicide) or not self-inflicted. Overall, though, studies make it hard to escape the conclusion the misuse of firearms constitutes a public health issue in the U.S.

  49. #49 Jim Wynne
    May 31, 2007

    If there’s any doubt that there are law enforcement officers who are also morons,this video of a DEA agent shooting himself in the foot–literally–in front of a classroom full of kids should get rid of it.

  50. #50 Emotion
    May 31, 2007

    It comes down to the triumph of emotion over reason …

    Woohoo! I win!

  51. #51 Jim Lippard
    May 31, 2007

    Stwriley: You’re not living in Wisconsin now, are you?

  52. #52 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    We must never, never treat guns as a public health issue. We must treat guns as a totem object, or cult phallus, something which helps us to dream and become who we are.
    And make our ex-wives (and sometimes current spouses) what they should be: dead!

  53. #53 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    And those who,
    In shaking hands with you,
    Shake hands with you,
    like this!

    They’d none of ’em be missed!
    They’d none of ’em be missed!

  54. #54 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    And watch out for those random chainsawings, they’re a motha…Shut yo mouf!

  55. #55 Kseniya
    May 31, 2007

    “If you try scholar.google.com for your search instead of just plain google …”

    Ah yes, thank you Nan, I overlook that obvious choice because I am sometimes dense and lazy…

    Overall, though, studies make it hard to escape the conclusion the misuse of firearms constitutes a public health issue in the U.S.

    Even worse, this issue negatively impacts our “peace ranking!”

  56. #56 Flex
    May 31, 2007

    Caladonian wrote, “The problem isn’t that idiots are allowed to buy guns without receiving training, it’s that there are idiots.”

    The corollary, of course, is that all of us act like idiots on occasion.

    I certainly admit to have done some incredibly idiotic things in my life. Like setting a jerrycan of gasolene alight. Oops!

  57. #57 James
    May 31, 2007

    Maybe he’d just come back from a successful mission and was emulating Jephtha

  58. #58 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    So far as I know, my wife’s first husband has never called his shooting “idiotic”. He usually just trembles, and runs away whenever her name is mentioned. Probably because, as it happened, she charmed the Judge right out of the charges and into a “case dismissed”! “Love ’em right, or leave ’em alone” he admonished the prosecuter, and let my wife loose without stain on her character, let alone her blue dress.
    And then I happened along, and the devil in the blue dress got me!

  59. #59 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    At least I have been spared her tender ministrations with the chain saw!

  60. #60 Duff
    May 31, 2007

    One more short story to illustrate that even highly trained firearms handlers can make serious mistakes. While in the military taking a course in the use of a personal side arm, our instructor, while emphasizing the need to be careful on the range and always keep the weapon pointed down range, shot a hole in the ground a foot from his toes. He almost burst into tears, he was so embarrassed.

  61. #61 MikeM
    May 31, 2007

    The thing that always bugged me about the second amendment is that, it seems to me, if you can afford any given weapons system, the second amendment seems to imply you should be allowed to purchase it. What is implied in the second that says you can’t own a bazooka, or mortar, or a Stinger, or, for Pete’s sake, a nuclear missile or an F-18? In pre-1800 America, they did not anticipate we’d have such potent weaponry available.

    I’m wondering what the religious right are saying about this case. Looks to me like this 18 year old was not honoring her mother and father, so the father took it upon himself to stone his daughter. The Bible allows that. Right?

    I have never owned or fired a gun. It just does not appeal to me.

    As far as the argument that anyone breaking in will be able to see better than anyone sleeping in the house, in my case, that’s definitely true. I can barely see the digital alarm clock on my nightstand when I first wake up. My vision isn’t that bad, but when I first wake up, I can’t focus on anything. I don’t think this argument is as weak as some make it sound. In my case, all it took is a very light prescription; many have worse eyes than I do.

  62. #62 Phil
    May 31, 2007

    Here in Cleveland we’ve had two recent cases of gun use which demonstrate why it’s a bad idea to point to any one incident and decide it’s the paradigm case for anything at all:

    1) A middle-aged man in a bad neighborhood, returning home from the store, was confronted by two armed youths on his front porch, who demanded his wallet and all his money. Unfortunately for them he had a concealed carry permit, and he promptly drew his gun and shot one of them, killing him. (Vandals then drove this man from his home while candlelight vigils were held for the late, would-be robber, who was already on probation for aggravated robbery.)

    2) Just last weekend, when police were called to investigate reports of a fight at a party about a mile from my house, a man pumped four shots from a handgun into a police officer who never even had a chance to draw his own weapon, killing him on the spot. The shooter was a guy who has apparently been in and out of the legal system for violent assaults for the last 15 years.

    What do those prove? Not much. The first case shows a guy doing exactly what CCW permit holders say they want guns for: Defending himself from criminals. The second shows a guy who had access to a weapon he should never have had, and who killed a cop with it. No answers here, just more complications to the question.

  63. #63 Aerik
    May 31, 2007

    1) Hear a noise.
    2) Grab gun.
    3) Sneak down the hall/stairs/whatever.
    4) Aim.
    5) Fire.
    6) Turn on lights.

    Several things wrong with this cop’s thinking that I can now only hope officers should be trained for. He has a teenage kid. Is he really so engrossed in a “daddy’s little girl” mantra he can’t imagine she’d sneak out (and back in)? Couldn’t he have yelled “I have a gun!” ?

    “I don’t know who it is is, therefore I should shoot.” Arguments from ignorance are bad enough in pseudo-science, but when it has a gun behind it, that’s literally terminally stupid.

  64. #64 Mister
    May 31, 2007

    Wow, can anyone say “Rules of Engagement”?
    Just, wow.

  65. #65 Kseniya
    May 31, 2007

    Phil (#61)

    Your point is well made. It’s extremely rare for a single incident to prove anything, and I don’t think many of our blogmates would disagree. However, I thank you for adding some compelling evidence to support one of my own firmly-held beliefs, which is this:

    The gun-culture claim that “An armed society is a polite society” is one of the greatest lies ever told.

  66. #66 Mooser
    May 31, 2007

    It’s extremely rare for an anecdote which can’t even be linked to a local news story to prove anything.

  67. #67 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    Unfortunately for them he had a concealed carry permit, and he promptly drew his gun and shot one of them, killing him.

    That’s called “excess of self-defense”. It’s a crime, and punishable as such.

    OK, maybe not in the USA. What do I know. Certainly not in southern Florida, where you actually have the right to shoot first and ask questions later.

  68. #68 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    Unfortunately for them he had a concealed carry permit, and he promptly drew his gun and shot one of them, killing him.

    That’s called “excess of self-defense”. It’s a crime, and punishable as such.

    OK, maybe not in the USA. What do I know. Certainly not in southern Florida, where you actually have the right to shoot first and ask questions later.

  69. #69 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    “An armed society is a polite society”

    Sure. It holds very moving funerals, with eulogies even for Jerry Foulwill.

  70. #70 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    “An armed society is a polite society”

    Sure. It holds very moving funerals, with eulogies even for Jerry Foulwill.

  71. #71 Sean
    May 31, 2007

    Ahh, guns. One of the subjects where otherwise rational people start acting like creobots. There are legitimate arguments to be made in support of a variety of levels of gun control. Unfortunately those arguments get mixed in and diluted with absolutely false claims.

    Just as I often ponder when encountering a new creobot, are these claims being made because one is ignorant, mislead, or simply lying for the perceived greater good?

    Modern high-quality rifles are accurate up to several miles

    This one just jumped out at me more than most. The longest shot ever recorded was made by a trained Canadian sniper firing a dedicated bolt action .50 caliber sniper rifle and the support of four additional soldiers. Assisted by thin high mountain air, it was a few yards over one and a half miles. It took three shots.

    I live in hunting country. I hear way too many hunting stories year round. Shots made at 1/3 of a mile are considered superb long range shooting. Up that distance to around 2/3s of a mile with a custom tooled rifle and one is considered a long range god.

    Accurate up to several miles my tender derriere.

  72. #72 Anonomouse
    May 31, 2007

    LOL #8

    “I took a home security training course a few years ago; presented by a company which sells legal versions of pepper spray, and learned a few things about guns and intruders.”

    I wonder what you would have learned if they were trying to sell you a Baseball Bat.

  73. #73 Sean
    May 31, 2007

    Guns exist for one reason only: killing.

    Recall the lot of them. They appear to be defective.

    Working from memory. Roughly 200 million civilian owned guns in the United States. The peak firearm homocide annual total was about 20,000 back around 1990.

    I suppose if one includes animal killing the ratio shifts significantly, but hunting is generally considered another issue.

  74. #74 Jamie
    May 31, 2007

    In 2005, 43,443 Americans were killed by cars. 5,849 of those were non-motorists (pedestrians, cyclists etc.)(http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/). The vast majority of these fatalities could have been avoided if people were smarter, drove slower, payed more attention etc. Why should we not ban cars for the same reasons that are being advocated for gun control? Is it simply because transportation is deemed a more valid purpose than self defense or hunting? Is it more valid to the point of justifying the loss of 40,000 people a year in this country? We went to war in Iraq over 3,000 deaths in 9/11 (not really, but that’s what most American believe), and yet we don’t bat an eye about 40,000 deaths a year in car crashes. Personally, I feel safer in the homes of peaceful gun owners than I do in the cars of most drivers – though I guess I’m biased living in SoCal.

    Also, won’t outlawing guns means that the cops and the criminals will be the only ones with guns? This story was about a cop, right? Why should we trust them with guns anymore than we trust your average joe? It’s the cops that will be using their guns to take away other(mostly peaceful) people’s guns, right?

  75. #75 stogoe
    May 31, 2007

    Florida’s fucked up. It’s a perfect example of my Libertarian joke:

    Q:What did the Florida Homeowner say to the guy who was walking away from him on the opposite side of the street?

    A:BAM! BAM! BAM! He was, uh, threatening me.

    On another note, there seems to be something, uh, lie-ish about Sean.

  76. #76 Azkyroth
    May 31, 2007

    Jamie:

    Two points. First, as has been observed, guns are designed to kill. Especially handguns, which are useful at more than close range only in experienced hands, and are specifically designed to be carried concealed and used on humans. I’m not aware of any sane person in the US who has ever proposed a ban on long arms. Comparing a machine that exists to carry one or more persons and cargo from point A to point B and is dangerous only when mishandled or malfunctioning and only as a side-effect of the characteristics necessary to accomplish its job in a universe with real-world physics (high speed, substantial mass, and finite maneuverability), to a machine that is designed for no other purpose than to put a small piece of metal through something else at a velocity sufficient to inflict a great deal of physical damage on that something, is completely nonsensical.

    Second, cars are ALREADY heavily regulated through licensing, registration, and so on, and people who have proven that they cannot or will not consistently operate them in a fashion that does not endanger others are not allowed to do so. If the same requirements were established for handguns, I doubt very much whether we’d even be having this conversation.

    Third, this would have been prevented if police (like other citizens) were prevented from possessing or employing personal handguns while off-duty without stringent licensing, so appealing to the fact that this guy was a cop doesn’t make any sense. Of course, this idiot should not be on the police force in the first place, but that’s a separate issue.

  77. #77 Rey Fox
    May 31, 2007

    Fourth, as far as I can tell, no one is proposing BANNING guns.

  78. #78 Sean
    May 31, 2007

    On another note, there seems to be something, uh, lie-ish about Sean.

    What, I do not qualify for concern troll today?

    Could you be a little more exact in your criticism? What exactly do you take issue with?

    Or do you only spew drive-by insults before disappearing?

  79. #79 Leon
    May 31, 2007

    Several years ago, I took a course in Defensive Pistol; the focus was on using a gun to defend yourself and your family in the event of a break-in. The instructor (a police officer, if I remember right, but it’s been a while) stressed that you NEVER pull the trigger first thing.

    You identify who’s there, as best you can.

    If you’re sure it’s not a family member or something, you shout, in your loudest, most authoritative and not-taking-any-nonsense tone of voice,
    STOP!
    DROP THAT WEAPON!
    GET OUT NOW!!

    This way, you don’t shoot someone by mistake, you give the intruder plenty of notice to GET OFF your property, and you establish–if any witnesses (e.g. neighbors) are within earshot–that you tried to get the intruder to leave, if it does come to pulling the trigger.

    There’s no excuse for this guy acting the way he did. A policeman, of all people, should know better than to shoot without warning at someone he can’t see clearly.

  80. #80 Leon
    May 31, 2007

    Guns exist for one reason only: killing.

    That’s news to me. I used mine to put holes in a number of paper targets, which was a great way to spend part of the occasional Saturday. Was I misusing my firearm?

  81. #81 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    Three feet of good steel is actually much more likely to be useful in the confined space of a residence than a gun,

    anybody else manage to twist that into:

    Something long and hard is always more useful that a short barrel and hair trigger.

    nobody?

    well, at least my girlfriend appreciated it.

  82. #82 Leon
    May 31, 2007

    HAHAHA!! Good one, Icthyic.

  83. #83 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    That’s news to me. I used mine to put holes in a number of paper targets, which was a great way to spend part of the occasional Saturday. Was I misusing my firearm?

    so you bought yourself an official target pistol with target loads, Leon?

    cause otherwise, that’s not what the weapon was built for.

    …and as to Sean’s idiotic argument in #70…

    I own an awful lot of things i don’t use on a regular basis.

    by your logic, all those should be recalled to, since I’m not using them.

    shorter and sweeter:

    your argument is a red herring.

  84. #84 Luna_the_cat
    May 31, 2007

    Yes, Ichthyic, thank you for that tea-snort-over-the-keyboard moment…!

  85. #85 Kseniya
    May 31, 2007

    Sean, correct me if I’m wrong, but hunting does involve a bit of killing. True? Or False?

    There is such a thing as sport-shooting, yes, just as bows and arrows are now used primarily for sport. But IMO the issue is moot. Everybody knows that guns were designed for opening coconuts.

  86. #86 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    Everybody knows that guns were designed for opening coconuts.

    No, no, no…

    Everybody knows that T-Rexes were designed for opening coconuts.

    gees.

  87. #87 Kseniya
    May 31, 2007

    Yeah yeah, but Ichthydude! After, you know, the Fall, when T-Rex became really cranky and had to be extinguished by The Flood, or like, whatever, Adam had to find another way to open coconuts, so he invented the blunderbuss and cultivated grapenuts for ammo and then traveled to China to invent gunpowder. Without Adam’s tireless efforts, there’d be no Pia Coladas or Mounds bars today. Praise God!

  88. #88 frodo
    May 31, 2007

    ichty….ich…tschyt, whatever, you know as well as I do that coconuts were designed to be opened by T-Rexes, just like bananas were designed to be opened by creationists.

  89. #89 marquer
    May 31, 2007

    I have taught firearms handling to novices.

    Among the rules which they must memorize rigorously before I will even let them near a weapon is this:

    YOU MUST BE CERTAIN OF THE IDENTITY OF YOUR TARGET, AND MUST BE AWARE OF WHO OR WHAT MAY BE FURTHER DOWNRANGE FROM YOUR TARGET. IF EITHER CONDITION DOES NOT HOLD, YOU MAY NOT FIRE.

    I have been collecting examples for years of childish and inept and unprofessional gun handling by cops. This is just another in a long line of them. Want to stop hearing these stories? Start taking badges from cops who are careless. Don’t let them hide behind the blue wall. I can guarantee that if you dig into this guy’s past, you would find instances of reckless use and rule breaking which had gone unpunished.

  90. #90 Science Avenger
    May 31, 2007

    I’m with Sean – nothing reduces the level of discourse like guns, getting otherwise intelligent people to say absurd things. This one jumped out at me:

    People who rely on guns for home safety most often have their guns taken from them, because the criminal is more experienced in this.

    This from the guy selling pepper spray, and its about as objective as you’d expect from someone describing a competing product. Burglars aren’t looking for a fight, and the vast majority of them faced with a homeowner brandishing a gun are going to do the same thing the Miami burglar did when faced with a homeowner brandishing a sword – run like hell. Only a guy enjoying a PCP high is going to try to grab a gun out of someone’s hand.

    Guns exist for one reason only: killing.

    What political claptrap. Objectively, guns exist to propel a piece of metal at high velocity at an intended target. The most common target is…a target, a piece of paper with lines drawn on it. Here is a breakdown of gun deaths in the U.S. Notice:

    1) The total is around 30,000. 30,000 out of 300 million. That’s 1 person in 10,000. Yes, every death is tragic, but as a national issue, it just doesn’t warrant the attention it gets.

    2) 57% of the deaths are suicides. So whatever overall risk we all have of dying by gun, if you don’t plan on killing yourself, you just cut it in half.

    3) The number of accidental deaths is microscopic. So tragic as it is when a child finds dad’s gun and shoots her schoolmate, it’s irrelevant to a discussion of public policy.

    4) Notice how strong the correlation is between the age of the homicide victims and the ages traditionally associated with high crime. By the time you are 45, your risk of being murdered with a handgun is 1/5 what it is when you are 20. It is VERY hard to reconcile that relationship with the idea that its all about the guns.

    And while anecdotes might be entertaining, they are illustrations, not evidence. As such, I offer one friend’s experience. He was home and heard a noise, looked out the window, and saw a young man who had broken into his car rummaging around in it. My friend’s car had been broken into before, so he was extra peeved. He went and got his gun, walked outside to within 30 or so feet of the car, pointed the gun at the kid and yelled “Son! You’re about to DIE!”. The kid looked up, saw my friend pointing the weapon at him, jumped out of the car and ran like hell down the alley he presumably came from. My friend went on about his day, and no, his car was never broken into again.

    No one died, the gun performed a purpose without killing anyone, and it won’t show up in any of the crime statistics. From my experiences with, and the story’s I’ve heard from the many real gun owners I know, (as opposed to the TV caricatures that so many here think represent reality), I suspect my friend’s incident was far more typical than was the subject of this article, or even your typical murder.

    And no, I’m not a gun nut. I own one gun, it was given to me as a gift, and it sits now somewhere in my closet, having not been shot in years. I don’t even like guns, and frankly, if they banned them tomorrow I really, personally, wouldn’t give a rat’s posterior. Here in Texas that practically makes me a commie. I just know a lot of gun owners, and I’m an actuary, and just too much of what is said about guns makes no sense to either sensibility. So a gun in the house is more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. So what? So is the family dog, your sword, or your bathtub. Hell, for that matter, given the really bad drug bust flubs that happen, so are the cops! It doesn’t do any good to get good data if you’re asking the wrong questions, or getting your information from movies.

  91. #91 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    you know as well as I do that coconuts were designed to be opened by T-Rexes, just like bananas were designed to be opened by creationists.

    i see no reason both couldn’t be true.

    I gain joy in your revelation, brother!

    hallelujah!

    Do you think it possible that creationists were specifically designed to open bananas, too?

    but of course!

    it’s obvious to anybody who has any common sense.

    😛

  92. #92 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    … and of course, miniature bananas were designed to be opened by…

    PYGMIES AND DWARVES!

  93. #93 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    utterly flawed logic.

    the most common usage of a product does NOT define its intended usage.

    as i mentioned above, there are target weapons and ammo specifically designed to be used as target weapons and ammo.

    otherwise…

    I think before being critical of other’s thoughts on this, you should apply a bit of logic to your own.

  94. #94 dkew
    May 31, 2007

    Re #34:
    Officer shot investigating false alarm

    By Megan Woolhouse, Globe Staff | July 15, 2006

    SHREWSBURY — A Shrewsbury police officer answering a burglar alarm call with his partner early yesterday was mistakenly shot by the homeowner, the president and chief executive of Ragsdale Motor Group, authorities said .

    The wounds were not life-threatening, but the episode shook the small town’s police department, which has not had an officer injured by gunfire in 31 years.

    “We respond to thousands of calls like this every year,” Police Chief Wayne Sampson said yesterday. “We don’t want anything like this to happen to anybody.”

    Mark Ragsdale was distraught when he realized his mistake, Sampson said. The chief said that Ragsdale gave officers a statement and was not taken into custody or charged, although the investigation continues. Police said he is licensed to carry the firearm. Ragsdale is the son of George M. Ragsdale, the founder of Ragsdale Motor Group, and owns several dealerships in central Massachusetts.

    Assistant Town Manager Michael Hale and police held a press conference yesterday afternoon to detail what happened:

    Police received a call at 2:31 a.m. from an alarm company alerting them to a problem at 17A Farmington Drive in one of the town’s newer subdivisions. What police did not know was that Mark Ragsdale had returned home unexpectedly from a vacation and accidentally set off his house alarm. He was alone at the time.

    Officers Stephen Rice and his partner, Ryan Chartrand, went to the home and were met by one of Ragsdale’s neighbors, who told them he was on vacation. The neighbor unlocked the door to let police investigate. Sampson said the officers did not announce themselves, thinking a burglary may have been occurring.

    As Rice reached the second floor, he was shot once in the abdomen just inches below his bulletproof vest. Police said Ragsdale fired a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun and the bullet struck Rice at close range, knocking him down.

  95. #95 marquer
    May 31, 2007


    Guns exist for one reason only: killing.

    How about knives?

    I ask because last year, a burglar with a goddamned big and sharp knife was in our back yard at oh-dark-thirty. I found, the next day, where he had cut through heavy straps and such with the blade.

    After our yard, he went to a neighbor’s yard, and was climbing in an elevated bathroom window, of an obviously occupied house, when he slipped and made a giveaway sound that alerted the person sleeping in the next room.

    That person then used a gun to chase the guy out of the house.

    Do you think that, if my neighbor had not been demonstrably able to deploy potential killing force, that this scary guy with a big knife would have just peaceably and politely departed the premises? “Oh, so terribly sorry to have disturbed your rest. I’ll just be on my way now. No, no, don’t trouble yourself, I’ll let myself out and lock up.”

    I’m really happy to have a gun that’s capable of killing, among its several uses. Not because I want to kill anyone — I would be delighted never to have to even come close — but because often what is required for personal safety is to be in demonstrable possession of the capability to do harm to an assailant. There are such assailants who won’t stop, short of realizing that they face someone with that capability.

  96. #96 Sean
    May 31, 2007

    Kseniya. True. That would be why I mentioned hunting in my own post.

    Usually the ‘Guns are designed…’ line does have the word ‘people’ at the end. In the finest sense of scientific research, I have utilized a Google Fight between ‘guns killing’ and ‘guns killing people’. Massive victory for people killing 22 million to 1.5 million. 🙂

    Anyway, in that case, I would have completely ignored hunting uses for firearms. I was going to add more, but got bogged down trying to find a quicky method of guesstimating what percentage of firearms are used for hunting. Total animals killed each year is measured in the hundreds of millions, but the bulk (by numbers, not mass) are small birds such as quail, grouse and doves. Those hunters bag hundreds with a single shotgun. Any idea how to break that down or find such numbers already crunched?

    And Ichthyic, thanks for the love. I will try not to dismiss your points so casually and in such a distorted manner.

    1. That was sarcasm. Sorry if calling for the recall of all firearms as being defective was too subtle.

    2. Even were I serious, objects not used on a regular basis seem in a different category than objects which are not fulfulling their one reason for existence. I have never used one of my home fire extinguishers. They are staying. A recently purchased mouse trap does not trigger when the bait is eaten. It is being returned as defective.

    My view on the world: Inanimate objects have no meaning. They have no purpose. They have no reason. The sentient human being who designs or crafts an object has a meaning, purpose and reason. The sentient human being who uses an object has a meaning, purpose and reason. Sometimes these two people even have a meaning, purpose and reason which coincide, but the inanimate object really could not care less. Come to think of it, I am pretty sure it could not care more either.

    You want a red herring, look at the original #13. What value does that have but to create an emotional response which distracts from core issues?

  97. #97 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    but because often what is required for personal safety is to be in demonstrable possession of the capability to do harm to an assailant

    see the “three feet of steel” story earlier posted.

    also see:

    aluminum baseball bat

    chain saw (i rather liked that one)

    I bet you can think of others.

    can’t you?

    How about knives?

    reading for comprehension, you might have seen me post no less than twice:

    the most common usage of a product does NOT define its intended usage.

    so now I have to add:

    and vice versa.

  98. #98 Mechalith
    May 31, 2007

    First off in response to marcia (#13) :
    “Guns exist for one reason only: killing.”

    This is true, but it doesn’t make a gun an less a tool. It’s just a tool meant to do something that most people find distasteful.

    Something I personally have a hard time with is that I don’t own a gun but the ability to do so should I choose is something I’m loathe to give up. I think gun control is a good thing. Criminals should not have access to firearms (as futile as the attempt to keep them saparated tends to be), people who cannot demonstrate basic proficiency and common sense with them should probably be prohibited from having them, etc…. but I still want people who have a clear record and are considered competent to be able to get a gun if they want it. This is a subject that no matter what side of the debate you’re on, being rational and unemotional about it is extemely difficult, and sadly very few even try.

    Another point. to HPLC_Sean who said that killing used to take/be a skill (implying that it no longer does) I say ‘bullshit’. A resonably determined assailant can kill someone with a knife in very little time at all, with effectively zero training. What it used to be is much more personally dangerous and difficult both psychologically and physically. Killing a person with a gun is (and should be) traumatic for the person doing it, but it is inherently somewhat detached and doesn’t take much exertion. After making the choice to shoot it takes an eyeblink and the thing is done. Knifing or worse, beaing someone to death takes time, and it’s tiring. Plus, you have to actually touch the person you’re actively trying to snuff out. Indeed, forcing gang warfare to resort to knife and chain and fist might well cut down on violence and certainly eliminate accidental deaths…

    unfortunately it’s a fantasy that a perfectly good way to kill someone is going to go away anytime soon. Zip guns, home-built bombs, crossbows made with modern materials… I sometimes marvel at the ingenuity of my fellow man when it comes to dealing death. I know of no other species so effective at finding new ways to anihilate things, even amongst other tool users, and only a very few fictional creatures. (who are, afterall, our own creations as well)

    I think the answer lies not in removing the tools as in training to use them properly and attempting to remove that causes of the problems they sometimes create. (liscense the things, try to cut down on crime in general, etc.) The problem of course, is how and unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to that.

  99. #99 Tatarize
    May 31, 2007

    I love gun debates. Somebody always offers to kill me with a baseball bat. I honestly think that the second amendment is pretty clear. You are allowed to bear arms. I firmly believe this should allow private citizens the right to own nuclear weapons. Though, I think there are practical concerns therein. The original amendment was to make sure we can overthrow the government and I think that ship has sailed.

  100. #100 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    That was sarcasm.

    so hard to tell these days.

    bjects not used on a regular basis seem in a different category than objects which are not fulfulling their one reason for existence. I have never used one of my home fire extinguishers. They are staying. A recently purchased mouse trap does not trigger when the bait is eaten. It is being returned as defective.

    so you intend to continue your sarcastic argument by attempting to justify the core of it as logical.

    interesting.

    your recently purchased mousetrap has been returned because it was found to be defective by experiment. have you tested your fire extinguisher?

    doesn’t apply in any way, shape, or form to your earlier “sarcastic” argument.

    nice try, though.

  101. #101 frodo
    May 31, 2007

    ichty… iaqoerh… iszhtgy… it’s not only possible, it’s entirely plausible.

  102. #102 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    Somebody always offers to kill me with a baseball bat.

    oh? I missed that. did someone offer to kill you with a baseball bat?

    *looks*

    still don’t see it.

    I firmly believe this should allow private citizens the right to own nuclear weapons. Though, I think there are practical concerns therein.

    yeah… damn those practical concerns!

    you are so close to agreeing with arguments FOR gun control…

    just ask folks who live in the UK.

  103. #103 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    ichty… iaqoerh… iszhtgy…

    http://www.yourdictionary.com/ahd/i/i0013500.html

    😉

  104. #104 frodo
    May 31, 2007

    Well, the general fishiness of your name doesn’t make it any easier to write.

    And I have to ask: Do you believe in The Landscape? Susskinds book is the only place where I’ve come across loveley fishiness.

  105. #105 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    The total is around 30,000. 30,000 out of 300 million. That’s 1 person in 10,000. Yes, every death is tragic, but as a national issue, it just doesn’t warrant the attention it gets.

    Ah, really?

    Compare that “1 person in 10,000” figure to those of a couple of other countries. And weep.

    57% of the deaths are suicides. So whatever overall risk we all have of dying by gun, if you don’t plan on killing yourself, you just cut it in half.

    For my tastes, the suicide number is too high, too… what if you couldn’t simply go, buy a gun, and shoot yourself? What are the chances you’d really jump from some high place?

    And on that whole self-defense issue. In the USA, do the police not come when you call them? Over here it’s a serious option to just let the robber proceed and call the police when he’s gone. But it’s a rather hypothetical one anyway — burglars tend to make sure that you’re not in your home before they enter. Weapons, usually fake, are chiefly carried by bank robbers over here.

  106. #106 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    The total is around 30,000. 30,000 out of 300 million. That’s 1 person in 10,000. Yes, every death is tragic, but as a national issue, it just doesn’t warrant the attention it gets.

    Ah, really?

    Compare that “1 person in 10,000” figure to those of a couple of other countries. And weep.

    57% of the deaths are suicides. So whatever overall risk we all have of dying by gun, if you don’t plan on killing yourself, you just cut it in half.

    For my tastes, the suicide number is too high, too… what if you couldn’t simply go, buy a gun, and shoot yourself? What are the chances you’d really jump from some high place?

    And on that whole self-defense issue. In the USA, do the police not come when you call them? Over here it’s a serious option to just let the robber proceed and call the police when he’s gone. But it’s a rather hypothetical one anyway — burglars tend to make sure that you’re not in your home before they enter. Weapons, usually fake, are chiefly carried by bank robbers over here.

  107. #107 Leon
    May 31, 2007

    Wow, Ichthyic, you’ve sure got a raw nerve on this issue. ‘Course, most people do, it seems, so you’re in good company I suppose. I don’t get why this is such a polarizing issue in modern politics, but be that as it may…

    As someone mentioned above, firearms are designed to shoot a projectile at a target. Their primary intended uses are for killing, threatening violence (hopefully for defensive purposes), and target practice.

    Likewise, what’s the purpose of bows and arrows? A good stout bow and hunting arrow can be very deadly indeed (as bow hunters will attest), but they’re just as useful for target practice.

    I’m not saying that just because guns aren’t necessarily used for violent purposes means they’re basically harmless–I’m just objecting to the assertion above that killing is the only reason they exist.

  108. #108 Wolfger
    May 31, 2007

    Yes, you are right. This bozo is a walking argument for gun control. Fortunately, there are also walking arguments against gun control.

  109. #109 Wolfger
    May 31, 2007

    Darn it, I screwed up the URL somehow.
    Walking arguments against gun control.

  110. #110 Sean
    May 31, 2007

    so you intend to continue your sarcastic argument by attempting to justify the core of it as logical.

    interesting.

    your recently purchased mousetrap has been returned because it was found to be defective by experiment. have you tested your fire extinguisher?

    doesn’t apply in any way, shape, or form to your earlier “sarcastic” argument.

    nice try, though.

    Let me try again.

    I have a purpose and reason for owning a firearm. It is to make a bang and accelerate a small piece of metal. Should a newly acquired firearm not do that, it will be returned as defective for not meeting my purpose and reason for owning it.

    I have a purpose and reason for my fire extinguishers. They are to sit in out of the way spots and keep their little needle in the green zone. As they are multiple years old, they will be disposed of at the transfer station should they not serve my purpose and reason for keeping them.

    The mousetrap was to release stored potential energy when a little plastic knob was nudged by a mouse. They would not release their potential energy short of application of nearly enough force to break the knob. They will be returned for not meeting my reasons and purpose for owning them.

    Yes, I will get sloppy in my writing and will reference an inanimate object as having an inherent purpose. I also get sloppy sometimes when talking with a creationist and use language implying evolution has a goal or purpose. In neither case should my poor grammar be held against the point I am trying to make. *grin*

    And on a related and humerous note, I did ‘test’ one of my fire extinguishers a few years back. Was dry fitting a couple brackets and a shelf in the kitchen. Really should have gotten some help. The bracket caught the ring attached to the pin. The shelf landed end on the depressable style trigger. That was one white powdery kitchen. Amazing how much came out in the split second before the shelf fell off the trigger. Otherwise I do just look at the gauge and trust the engineer’s purpose and design is correct.

  111. #111 Phil
    May 31, 2007


    Unfortunately for them he had a concealed carry permit, and he promptly drew his gun and shot one of them, killing him.

    That’s called “excess of self-defense”. It’s a crime, and punishable as such.
    OK, maybe not in the USA. What do I know. Certainly not in southern Florida, where you actually have the right to shoot first and ask questions later.

    1. It most certainly is not a crime, and in fact the Cuyahoga County prosecutor declined to press charges, as well he should have, since it was a clear-cut case of self-defense.
    2. The two were threatening and attempting to rob him at gunpoint, on his own property. How would you suggest he defend himself? I can imagine pepper spray being useful against a single assailant, but against two armed men? Not going to happen.
    3. Cleveland is not in South Florida. (And they say Americans are bad at geography?)

    And on that whole self-defense issue. In the USA, do the police not come when you call them? Over here it’s a serious option to just let the robber proceed and call the police when he’s gone.

    Um. There are not nearly enough police in the world, let alone in the US, for them to come calling as soon as some threatened citizen yells “Help me!” And robbery isn’t the only crime people are threatened with. It’s one thing to say, “Just let them take your wallet.” It’s entirely another to say, “Just let them rape you.”

    Caveat before anyone gets tricksy: I am not a gun owner, nor have I never been, and I believe in robust licensing requirements. But I also believe that anyone who meets the requirements should be permitted to own a firearm.

  112. #112 Gregory
    May 31, 2007

    Per the CDC…

    Although firearms-related* injuries in the United States have declined since 1993, they remained the second leading cause of injury mortality in 2000, the most recent year for which complete data are available (1). Of 28,663 firearms-related deaths in 2000 — an average of 79 per day—16,586 (57.9%) were suicides, 10,801 (37.7%) were homicides, 776 (2.7%) were unintentional, and an additional 500 (1.7%) were legal interventions or of undetermined intent.

  113. #113 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    Wow, Ichthyic, you’ve sure got a raw nerve on this issue.

    don’t mistake “raw nerve” with “standard demeanor”.

    I’m just a blunt guy.

    exposing my “raw nerve” would likely get me banned, and maybe reported to Homeland Security.

  114. #114 Ichthyic
    May 31, 2007

    I have a purpose and reason for owning a firearm. It is to make a bang and accelerate a small piece of metal. Should a newly acquired firearm not do that, it will be returned as defective for not meeting my purpose and reason for owning it.

    also has nothing to do with the statistics used in your “sarcastic” metaphor used in your earlier post, now, does it.

    keep movin’ those goalposts.

  115. #115 Nomen Nescio
    May 31, 2007

    Guns exist for one reason only

    why should this matter?

    Kant argued that the motivation, the purpose if you will, for an act was central and fundamental to that act’s moral value. but even if we agree with Kant (and we might not), firearms are not acts, they’re inanimate objects.

    why should the purpose their designer and/or builder had in mind be significant to the debate at hand?

    i happen to own (by proxy) a pair of shotguns. neither of them have ever killed anything; are they being misused or abused, since they are not fulfilling their reason for existing? i would even argue that neither of them ever can kill anything, any more than it was Lizzie Borden’s axe that did the murders. am i then at fault, even partially, for those shotguns not doing what they were meant to?

    the “guns have only one purpose” argument gets brought up with moderate frequency, and it’s usually answered by pointing at (for instance) target-shooting arms whose sole purpose is punching holes in paper. i’m starting to think it would be better answered with a simple “why should we care?”

  116. #116 Ramona
    May 31, 2007

    You know, responsible gun owners DO exist in the US. Not everyone who owns a gun is an incompetent moron who sits around and chugs beer all day while kids play cops and robbers with loaded handguns. Living in the sticks, I know many people who hunt (and yes, they eat what they kill) and target-shoot at the local gun range. For some, it really is just a hobby… not intended to ever be used on a person.

  117. #117 Caledonian
    May 31, 2007

    Guns have at least two purposes: to shoot at things, and to intimidate people.

  118. #118 The Ridger
    June 1, 2007

    FWIW a cop told me once that if you want a gun in your house to protect your family, you don’t want a handgun. Not unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time getting good with it, and you want to keep it loaded next to your bed. What you want is a pump-action riot gun, which you leave loaded but with no shell chambered. Then, when you hear the intruder, you chamber the shell. At which point, he said, hearing that rather unmistakeable sound most intruders leave because you don’t have to be good with a shotgun, and you don’t have to be close, and you can shoot through the door … and your little kids don’t have arms long enough to pump it and load it. And you don’t have to look at somebody and try to get up the nerve to shoot him. The cop said that’s the real reason handguns are bad for house defense; most law-abiding citizens can’t kill somebody unless they’re genuinely attacked, not just because the guy’s in the house, and by the time you’re ready to shoot, he’s probably got the gun. Or you shoot and hurt him, and then he’s mad.

    Not that shooting through the door is a good idea if you have a teenager who might be breaking curfew, of course…

  119. #119 Kent Kauffman
    June 1, 2007

    I don’t understand the big argument against guns. See post #108 or google it if you want to see the stats yourself. If you don’t own a gun, don’t live in a house with a gun, and aren’t a 16-25 year old male involved in, how shall we say, underground activities, your chances of being killed by one are exceedingly small.

    Put simply, if you don’t want to get killed by a gun, don’t buy one.

    Personally, I don’t own a gun because my grandfather committed suicide with one, and I keep my distance. But, arguing against others owning guns seems a like arguing against drug use. The people mainly just hurt themselves.

  120. #120 Jaimie
    June 1, 2007

    I wish one of you engineer types would invent the non-lethal equivalent of a handgun. I would certainly trade my gun for a version that would decisively incapacitate, rather than kill, an assailant with the speed, range, portability, accuracy etc. of a firearm. I think a lot of handgun owners would also choose a non-lethal option if a really effective alternative were available.

    I don’t expect that all of you have had experiences that would make you feel as if it were important to have such a tool for self defense, but hopefully you will consider the possibility that you may have been more fortunate than some.

  121. #121 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    I wish one of you engineer types would invent the non-lethal equivalent of a handgun.

    there is a company in San Diego that has been experimenting with a “plasma taser” (yeah, a phaser), for many years now.

    supposedly, they have models that can stop not only people by dephasing electrical impulses to muscles, but also have models that can stop cars, too.

    it’s no joke, but it must be impractical tech, as I still haven’t seen any police or military buying into it wholesale, and it’s been around for years now.

  122. #122 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    ah, here ya go:

    http://www.hsvt.org/

    seemed like a great idea to me.

  123. #123 Chelsea
    June 1, 2007

    I’m sorry people, but super regulating guns won’t do anything to slow down criminals using them. Would needing an extra permit or four be more likely to stop the guy robbing the bank, or the guy standing in line at the bank? The pro gun control argument is about as effective as the war on drugs was.

  124. #124 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    I’m sorry people, but super regulating guns won’t do anything to slow down criminals using them

    why not try it for a while and see?

    seems to have worked to reduce gun violence in many other countries, like the UK, for many years (though I hear rumors things may be changing of late on that front).

    what were the possible results of the Brady Bill, for example, given the limitations it inherently had.

    was there any data indicating it had an impact one way or the other?

    since we have never had any draconian gun regulations EVER, how can we say they wouldn’t have a positive impact?

    certainly could be worth experimenting for a while, if the anti-gun law nuts would be willing to back off for a while and see.

    how many lives saved would be worth it, I wonder?

    still, I rather agree with Jaimie that it would simply be preferable to switch to effective non-lethals entirely.

    then regulation would be far less of an issue, as mistakes would be far less irreparable.

  125. #125 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    IOW:

    put phasers on stun, captain.

  126. #126 arachnophilia
    June 1, 2007

    i’m sorry to say, but i think that’s a better argument for more quality in police training and standards than gun control. maybe this imbecile shouldn’t have had a gun — but shooting someone without identifying them isn’t a characteristic we want in our police officers, is it? shoot first, ask questions later?

  127. #127 reason
    June 1, 2007

    I’m sorry people, but super regulating guns won’t do anything to slow down criminals using them.

    Are you sure? See my argument earlier about criminals being more likely to have a gun, and more likely to use it, if they think someone is likely to try to shoot them.

    Secondly, and in the short term more importantly, the police can start arresting people and locking them up before they commit crimes if they are caught carrying a weapon.

  128. #128 Sebastian
    June 1, 2007

    Chainsaws are tools for cutting wood that, if used incorrectly, can injure or kill someone, which makes them dangerous in unskilled hands.

    Guns are tools for injuring or killing someone that, if used incorrectly, can injure or kill someone you didn’t intend to (or possibly fail to injure anyone) – which makes them dangerous at all times, the skill of the wielder only deciding whom they endanger.

    As for your larger point, I used almost exactly the same story as a hypothetical case in a discussion with a pro-gun friend, except in my example it was a son, not a daughter.

    The problem with the old “I need a gun to defend my home” argument is that life isn’t like the movies; you don’t walk into a well-lit room to surprise a guy wearing a black-and-white striped sweater and carrying a sack labeled “$”, who is thus clearly identified as a valid target for your righteous gunfire.

    In real life the room is dark, and you as the house-owner are hampered by the knowledge that most of the people you are likely to encounter inside your house are not people you want to injure or kill, even if they are sneaking around in the dark. A real intruder, on the other hand, is not thus inhibited, because he knows for a fact that anybody he encounters is not somebody he cares about and furthermore is highly likely to pose a risk to him.

    A gun is not a defensive weapon; it cannot catch or deflect a bullet someone else has fired (except by freak accident, of course). A gun is inherently a weapon of offense. The only way you can defend yourself with a gun is by shooting FIRST, which puts any halfway ethical person at a disadvantage, because they have to make certain that they are really in danger. Thus the home invasion scenario above is heavily stacked against the home owner and in favor of the criminal.

    The friend with whom I was arguing also cited the old chestnut “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.” I told hin that this was exactly the situation where I live, and it allowed me to sleep comfortably at night, because I meet very few outlaws in my daily routine, but lots and lots of irresponsible assholes who should never, ever be allowed even in the vicinity of a gun.

  129. #129 Nomen Nescio
    June 1, 2007

    Sebastian, #124:

    I meet very few outlaws in my daily routine, but lots and lots of irresponsible assholes

    really? i meet very, very few of either category. nearly everyone i normally interact with is a responsible, mature adult who can actually be trusted with a weapon.

    The Ridger, #114:

    Not that shooting through the door is a good idea if you have a teenager

    shooting through a door is never a good idea. it might be nominally acceptable if it’s a screen door you can see through, but not otherwise.

    the four rules of firearms safety:

    1. there is no such thing as an unloaded gun. (if there were, you might be tempted to treat the unloaded kind differently from the loaded kind, and then it would only be a matter of time before you treated a loaded one wrongly. so they’re all loaded.)
    2. never point your muzzle at anything you would not want to shoot. (or at least would not be willing to tolerate having shot. because the bullet only comes out the muzzle, and goes reasonably straight. so long as you obey this one, even if you slip up with all the other ones, nothing too valuable will get shot. muzzle discipline!)
    3. keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. (because the trigger really does only have one use, to make gun go boom. no point doing that until you’ve taken aim. trigger discipline!)
    4. know your target, and know what lies beyond. (the bullet’s got to stop somewhere, but it might have to go through a bunch of stuff before it’s stopped. it is the shooter’s duty to know what all will be punctured, and where the bullet will end, before the shot is fired.)

    news watcher’s trivia game: in any report of a shooting, try to identify which (if any) of the four rules were violated. all too often it’s at least one.

  130. #130 Jurjen S.
    June 1, 2007

    Ichthyic wrote (post #120):

    [Gun control] seems to have worked to reduce gun violence in many other countries, like the UK, for many years (though I hear rumors things may be changing of late on that front).

    That’s disputable. Most western European gun laws date from 1900-1930, and available data indicate that the amount of gun crime in the countries in question was already very low prior to the introduction of said laws, and probably lower than it is now. Particularly since 1990, western Europe has seen an increased influx of guns illicitly brought in from former Eastern Bloc countries, and a concomitant rise in illegal gun ownership.

    David Marjanovi? wrote (post #102):

    And on that whole self-defense issue. In the USA, do the police not come when you call them?

    Sure they do, but it’s a big country, with much lower population density than, say, western Europe. In rural areas, it can easily take the cops half an hour to get to you. Also, budget constraints have led to cutbacks in the number of police. In an extreme example, the Oregon State Police has fewer than ten men assigned to the coastline, which is some 500 km long.

    But it’s a rather hypothetical one anyway — burglars tend to make sure that you’re not in your home before they enter.

    I don’t know where you live, but in the UK and the Netherlands, the percentage of burglaries which are “hot” (i.e. committed while one or more residents are home) is over 40%. In the US, it’s something like 17%.

    The Ridger wrote (post #114):

    FWIW a cop told me once that if you want a gun in your house to protect your family, you don’t want a handgun.

    I can name you a cop who’d disagree: Massad Ayoob, author of In The Gravest Extreme and a police captain in New Hampshire. Shotguns are okay if you’re holed up in a “safe room,” but if you’re going to check out a strange noise in the kitchen, long guns are more difficult to maneuver round corners, or bring to bear quickly, they’re easier for an opponent at close quarters to grab (and twist the muzzle off-target), and they require both hands to operate, which makes it difficult to use the phone to call the cops if you’ve got the intruder at gunpoint. Ayoob recommends that if you keep only one gun for home defense, it be a handgun. Oh, and your kids will work out a way to rack your shotgun, for example by setting the slide against an immoveable object and leaning/pushing into the gun; Ayoob managed that with his dad’s pump-action at age 6.

  131. #131 Science Avenger
    June 1, 2007

    Ichthyic sad: utterly flawed logic. the most common usage of a product does NOT define its intended usage. I think before being critical of other’s thoughts on this, you should apply a bit of logic to your own.

    Oh. You’re suggesting when setting public policy on an object, the intentions of those that create the object are more important than the intentions of those that actually use it.

    Get that beam out of thine own eye my friend…

  132. #132 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    so, if people suddenly decide to use garden hoses for enemas, then garden hoses legitimately should be defined as designed for enemas.

    yes siree bob.

    great logic there.

    phhht.

  133. #133 Science Avenger
    June 1, 2007

    David Marjanovi? said: Compare that “1 person in 10,000” [US annual gun death] figure to those of a couple of other countries. And weep.

    I weep only because it’s such an invalid comparison to talk about “gun deaths”, because doing so implicitly assumes that none of those deaths would have occurred without the guns. The insights revealed by the fact that nations with no guns have no gun deaths is minimal at best. We have to look at all deaths to get a feel for the value of banning guns, otherwise a shift in the methods employed by attackers can give very deceiving results.

    For example, suppose Fantasy Nation typically had 10,000 gun deaths a year, and suppose somehow the government had managed to pass and succesfully enforce a gun ban the next year, and true to the press, gun deaths dropped to 0. Has this been a succesful program? No, if deaths by other means increased by 10,000, since that would mean we didn’t save any lives, we just changed the way they died. After all, let’s not lose sight of the objective, which is fewer deaths period. Gun deaths aren’t worse than bat deaths, or car deaths, or knife deaths, and shouldn’t be treated that way.

    For my tastes, the suicide number is too high, too… what if you couldn’t simply go, buy a gun, and shoot yourself? What are the chances you’d really jump from some high place?

    Interesting question. Does anyone have the data on suicides by other means, and how they change as guns become more or less available? We do know that people kill themselves by a variety of means along with jumping off bridges, such as pills, slit wrists, hangings, and taking a nap in a closed garage with the car running (my personal choice if it ever came to that). So just like with homicides, if we are to measure the effect of gun bans, we have to look at all the deaths, not just those by gun.

  134. #134 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    Particularly since 1990, western Europe has seen an increased influx of guns illicitly brought in from former Eastern Bloc countries, and a concomitant rise in illegal gun ownership.

    that’s not an argument against gun control, however. that’s an argument for better enforcement of existing laws.

    hence illegal gun ownership, as you mention.

    also why i mentioned I thought things have not been so rosy of late, but again, this has little to do with the gun laws in force, and more to do with statistics on gun violence.

  135. #135 Science Avenger
    June 1, 2007

    Ichthyic: so, if people suddenly decide to use garden hoses for enemas, then garden hoses legitimately should be defined as designed for enemas.

    I’m saying the whole issue of “defining X as being designed for Y” is a red herring. If people are using garden hoses for enemas, and this is causing a public health problem, thus prompting a debate over whether we should ban garden hoses, it’s not much of a counter argument to say “but, but, but, that’s not what they are designed for!” Who cares?

    As a real world example, take the ingredients for making crystal meth. In some jurisdictions, these items have been banned or made more difficult to purchase to try to cut down on the meth usage and benefit society as a result. Does it matter in the slightest that all these items were designed for another purpose? Of course not.

  136. #136 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    The insights revealed by the fact that nations with no guns have no gun deaths is minimal at best. We have to look at all deaths to get a feel for the value of banning guns, otherwise a shift in the methods employed by attackers can give very deceiving results.

    again, logic can be applied and a reasonable conclusion reached:

    Is it easier and quicker to kill someone with a gun than a baseball bat?

    yup.

    so should we expect higher death tolls when guns are common?

    yup.

    sure, you can go try to verify that if you wish, and it’s an admirable and correct thing to try and do. However, I think the assumption that limiting guns would reduce deaths to be quite logical, simply based on how they kill.

    and yes, for the same reason (quick death), limiting “car driving” would also limit deaths drastically.

    but the two are not comparable in a legislative way.

    oh, wait, come to think of it, they ARE. hence speed limits, safety belt laws, design safety laws, etc.

  137. #137 Science Avenger
    June 1, 2007

    Reason said: See my argument earlier about criminals being more likely to have a gun, and more likely to use it, if they think someone is likely to try to shoot them.

    Do you have any data to back this claim? It seems to credit criminals with far too high a level of rationality, and far too high an appetite for conflict. My money says most criminals who think Potential Victim A is armed aren’t going to arm themselves to take him on. They are going to find Potential Victim B who they think isn’t armed. And that assumes they think that far ahead at all, which seems a stretch. Most criminal minds don’t seem to work much past “I want X, there it is, let’s grab it quick”.

  138. #138 Caledonian
    June 1, 2007

    I can use the handle of a screwdriver to hammer nails, but that doesn’t mean it was designed for that function.

    When considering policy, we certainly should look at how people use things. But policy isn’t the context – the context is how guns can be used and what they’re intended to be used for by the designers and purchasers.

  139. #139 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    problem, thus prompting a debate over whether we should ban garden hoses

    since NOBODY is proposing banning anything, THAT is the red herring.

    “but, but, but, that’s not what they are designed for!” Who cares?

    obviously you do, but so far you aren’t making a good argument.

    BTW, crystal meth is an extremely poor example, since in fact, it IS designed specifically for drug abuse (you can’t buy it in the drugstore, or get a prescription for it)

    now methamphetamine, OTOH, was not. maybe that’s what you meant?

    and if that’s what you meant, you are still not gettin the point.

    hmm.

    guns are not and have never been designed as anything but a tool for killing, with the notable exceptions of target weapons.

    so, no, people are NOT abusing the designed usage of a gun when they use it to kill anything.

    your use of a prescribable drug as an example is exactly the same as my use of the garden hose enema.

    are you sure you can’t see this?

    cause if not, there is really little left to discuss.

  140. #140 Science Avenger
    June 1, 2007

    Sebastian said: The only way you can defend yourself with a gun is by shooting FIRST, which puts any halfway ethical person at a disadvantage, because they have to make certain that they are really in danger. Thus the home invasion scenario above is heavily stacked against the home owner and in favor of the criminal.

    Bad premise. One can also defend oneself with a gun by merely brandishing it, which likely happens very often, since most people’s reaction to being confronted with an armed defender is to call off the attack (ie run). This isn’t the movies, where all conflicts are fought to the death. The movies don’t often show the bad guys running away because it’s boring, not because it’s realistic.

  141. #141 Caledonian
    June 1, 2007

    Very little about the popular depiction of firearms is accurate. The physics alone… peh.

  142. #142 MarkA
    June 2, 2007

    I am reminded of a anecdote I heard from someone who lived in a small town next to a maximum security prison. Whenever the siren went off, indicating an escape, people would go out and put their car keys in their cars. Smart people in that town, eh?

  143. #143 Jurjen S.
    June 2, 2007

    Ichthyic wrote (#130):

    that’s not an argument against gun control, however. that’s an argument for better enforcement of existing laws.

    That’s as may be; my point, rather, is that it’s fallacious to suggest that the difference in homicide rates between countries is entirely the result of differences in gun control laws, as you did when you said that regulating guns “seems to have worked to reduce gun violence in many other countries.” It’s interesting to note, moreover, that when it comes to violent crime in general, the United States comes off quite well in comparison to many western European countries; in the 2000 ICVS, the United States came behind Australia, the UK, Finland, France and the Netherlands in percentage of population who had been the victim of violent crime (including assault, sexual assault, robbery).

    Post #135:

    since NOBODY is proposing banning anything, THAT is the red herring.

    Nobody in this thread, perhaps, but there are numerous instances of certain gun “control” advocates making statements welcoming any gun control legislation as “a good first step,” or words to that effect, which suggests that their goal is rather more than “common sense” measures alone. We’re not talking about all gun control advocates here, but we are talking about some fairly prominent members of the gun control lobby. But pro-gun control groups count on support from a large number of people who favor some gun control measures, but not outright prohibition, so it’s not politically expedient for the leadership of such groups to openly admit that that is their ultimate goal.

    Science Avenger wrote (#129):

    Does anyone have the data on suicides by other means, and how they change as guns become more or less available?

    The WHO has a table of suicide rates by country; method is not listed, but the US does not do sinificantly worse than most industrialized nations with tighter gun control, and better than many. France, Germany and Japan do worse than the US, for example. In fact, the Japanese male suicide rate is double that of the US, despite Japan having some of the most restrictive guns laws in the world.

  144. #144 Robert
    June 2, 2007

    Two reasons that gun control will ultimately fail (especially in this century):
    http://www.reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome

    http://fab.cba.mit.edu/

  145. #145 Science Avenger
    June 3, 2007

    Ichthyic said: I think the assumption that limiting guns would reduce deaths to be quite logical, simply based on how they kill.

    Yes, it is, but logical assumptions are not always true, which is why we collect data and, I don’t know, do science. Maybe we have overestimated the amount of death reduction that would result from limiting guns due to a bias in how the reduction is distributed in society. To use an extreme to make the point, a reduction of guns is unlikely to produce fewer deaths if we only removed guns from police officers.

    More realistically, if the gun ban is not total, it is logical to assume that it would be disproportionately effective among the law-abiding, and the effects of such on the total death rate is far from intuitive.

    I just think before we go deciding that people don’t have a right to own item X that we have good solid evidence that the payoff of doing so would be substantial.

  146. #146 Science Avenger
    June 3, 2007

    Ichthyic said: crystal meth is an extremely poor example, since in fact, it IS designed specifically for drug abuse (you can’t buy it in the drugstore, or get a prescription for it)

    Oh good Lord. I wasn’t talking about the crystal meth, I was talking about the ingredients used to make it, which were NOT designed for that purpose. Sudafed for example. If we are going to discuss limiting people’s access to Sudafed, the relevant issues are what people are ACTUALLY using Sudafed for, and the effects of that usage on society. What Sudafed is DESIGNED for is completely irrelevant idealistic nonsense.

    guns are not and have never been designed as anything but a tool for killing, with the notable exceptions of target weapons.

    Who cares? If people start using THEM for enemas, we need to take that into account when deciding how to reglate them.

    so, no, people are NOT abusing the designed usage of a gun when they use it to kill anything.

    Who cares? Are the people killed with baseball bats less dead because that isn’t what baseball bats are designed for?

    And there’s nothing wrong with killing, per se, so again, who cares?

    your use of a prescribable drug as an example is exactly the same as my use of the garden hose enema. are you sure you can’t see this? cause if not, there is really little left to discuss.

    Am *I* sure I can’t see it? Bud, your posts are my Exhibit A on how the issue of guns can sometimes make even the most otherwise intelligent people say completely ridiculous things, and be unable to grasp fairly simple arguments. So yeah, if YOU don’t get it yet, you’re right, there’s little left to discuss.

  147. #147 Joseph O'Sullivan
    June 5, 2007

    A few years ago a man took the entrance exam for the police academy in Connecticut. On the basis of his score on the exam he was denied admission.

    The problem with his score was that it was too high. Apparently he was too smart to be a cop.

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