[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Friday, 2016-06-24

So you want to make the world safer, part 2

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms,Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 09:08

From time to time, people who either don’t own firearms themselves, or who are protected by armed guards, call for “reasonable gun control”: licensing, registration, training requirements, and other bureaucratic hurdles. These calls usually follow highly publicized but statistically rare incidents of mass murder.

There is no criminological evidence to support the idea that registering firearms or licensing the people who buy them would prevent murders. Nor would requiring training.

And really, think about it: the Orlando mass-murderer had no criminal convictions. If he could legally buy a firearm, then he could also legally obtain a license. And registering his firearms would not have prevented any of his murders — we know very well who killed his victims. As for training, his marksmanship appears to have been excellent. None of the measures introduced under the banner of “reasonable gun control” would have reduced the body count in Orlando.

Who would be impacted by “reasonable gun control”? The poor. Who would not be impacted? Murderers, and the wealthy.

Consider this: about two-thirds of the intentional homicides in the USA are committed with firearms. If 100% of those were prevented (and not committed using some other weapon), the USA’s intentional homicide rate would still be higher than Denmark’s, Ireland’s, the UK’s, Norway’s, Sweden’s, Italy’s, Australia’s…

That fact might lead one to suspect that our problems have a deeper cause than merely the weapon most murderers choose. One might even think that our intentional homicide rate might be a symptom of a serious sickness in our society. People who complain about firearms and blame them for our intentional homicide rate make as much sense as medieval peasants who thought a pleasant smell would combat the black death.

But no one cares about that. Everyone wants easy answers that don’t cost them anything. People with guns want more. People without guns want less.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Thursday, 2016-06-16

So you want to make the world safer

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms,Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 16:35

(Note: I have linked to supporting references throughout this. These references are, with one exception, respected news outlets, scholars, and the US government itself. The one exception is a link to what “gun owners know”, which is a link to a pro-gun web site.)

You have heard about the mass murder in Orlando, and you have decided that this is a tragedy. You are right: it is a tragedy. 49 people were killed or mortally wounded in about ten minutes. It normally takes over a day for that many people to be murdered in the USA (about 27 hours, actually).

So you want to take action and do something about it, to prevent mass murders like this one from happening again (and perhaps prevent the isolated murders of 45 or so people every single day, as well).

Mental Illness

Perhaps you think we need better treatment for the mentally ill. You are right: we do. How we treat the mentally ill (or rather, don’t) in the United States is deplorable. Far too many mentally ill individuals find themselves ensnared in our prison system (I think we can all agree that what we have is not a “justice system”).

However, as a group of people, those with mental illness are far more likely to hurt themselves — or be hurt by someone else — than they are to cause harm to anyone. Being a young male is a far more reliable indicator of someone posing a danger to others (a young, poor, uneducated male even more so).

So while we do need better support for those suffering from mental illness, would that support have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

Assault Rifles

You have heard from countless entertainers and politicians that assault rifles are the cause of so much death. You want to ban them. No civilian needs a “weapon of war”, right? However, there is a problem with that argument: these weapons have already been banned from civilian ownership.

It has been illegal since 1934 (The National Firearms Act) for civilians to own assault rifles without special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department. They are subject to a $200 tax every time their ownership changes from one federally registered owner to another, each new weapon is subject to a manufacturing tax when it is made, and it must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in its National Firearms Registry. To become a registered owner, a complete FBI background investigation is conducted, checking for any criminal history or tendencies toward violence, and an application must be submitted to the ATF including two sets of fingerprints, a recent photo, a sworn affidavit that transfer of the NFA firearm is of “reasonable necessity,” and that sale to and possession of the weapon by the applicant “would be consistent with public safety.” The application form also requires the signature of a chief law enforcement officer with jurisdiction in the applicant’s residence.

Additionally, civilian purchase of newly manufactured assault rifles was banned entirely in 1986 (Firearms Owners’ Protection Act). Assault rifles which were manufactured prior to the Act’s passage are regulated under the National Firearms Act, but those manufactured after the ban cannot ordinarily be sold to or owned by civilians at all. And since the number of assault rifles that may be owned by civilians (subject to the long list of requirements above) is fixed or decreasing, the price of those weapons is quite high: $10,000 or more, typically.

Would placing even stricter limitations on the civilian ownership of these weapons have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

“Assault Weapons”

Perhaps you have done your homework, and have learned the difference between an assault rifle and an “assault weapon”. An assault rifle fires multiple rounds while the user holds down the trigger. An “assault weapon” is an ordinary rifle that cosmetically resembles an assault rifle. So if we ban “assault weapons”, that should make us all safer and save lives, shouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, there is a problem with that. While “assault weapons” cosmetically resemble assault rifles, they are functionally no different from ordinary civilian rifles. This rifle…

Ruger_Mini14

… and this rifle…

Bushmaster_AR15

… are functionally the same. Banning one but not the other would be like banning red lead paint but not blue lead paint. They are, for all practical (rather than cosmetic) purposes interchangeable. So would banning “assault weapons” have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

High Capacity Magazines

There is one functional difference in the two photographs above: the second rifle has a larger magazine, which is the container that holds the ammunition. Perhaps limiting the size of the magazine would have an impact on the number of people murdered. Unfortunately, there is a problem with that. There already was a ban on larger magazines, enacted in 1994. From 1994 until 2004, there was a ban on the manufacture of magazines holding more than 10 rounds (as with the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, existing magazines were grandfathered in). The result on violent crime? If there was one, it was too small to measure.

Furthermore, mass-murderers are not deterred by small magazines: they just bring more of them. One of the two murderers responsible for the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 carried 13 ten-round magazines. The murderer responsible for the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 carried a backpack filled with 19 ten- and fifteen-round magazines for his pistols. To my knowledge, it has not been reported how many magazines the murderer in Orlando carried, but since he fired at least 200 rounds of ammunition, it is certain that he reloaded several times.

We shall have to look elsewhere if we want to save lives.

Rifles

So if assault rifles are already banned, and “assault weapons” are nothing more than ordinary civilian rifles, and banning “high capacity magazines” has no measurable effect, perhaps what we want to do is ban all civilian rifles. Surely that would save lives, right? It might. Around 4.5% of murders in the USA are committed with rifles. But that leaves over 95% of all murders committed with something else. Surely we can do better?

All Firearms

If we want to hope for even a single-digit percent reduction in the number of people murdered in the United States, and we want to accomplish that by banning (or drastically restricting the ownership of) something, then it is clear that we would have to target all firearms: rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Approximately 68% of murders are committed with a firearm. While that still leaves a large number of murder victims on the floor, at least if firearms were made unavailable, it should have some impact on the majority of them, shouldn’t it?

But we can’t grandfather in existing weapons, as the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act did. Recent studies have found that only 3% to 11% of criminals who used a firearm during the commission of a crime purchased the weapon legally. The rest obtained them illegally, and the easiest way to illegally obtain something is to steal it. So to cut off the supply of the 89% or more firearms used in crimes, we would need to not only ban the sale of new firearms, we would need to confiscate all or most of the hundreds of millions of firearms which are currently legally owned.

Feasibility

Would confiscating all or most of the firearms in the United States truly save lives? Opinions are divided, but I suspect that it might. Would the cost be worth it, for our legacy as a nation once “founded on the natural authority of the people alone“? I am not so sure. Is it legally feasible? Not with our current Constitution, no. Regardless of one’s opinion of the history or intent of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the legal reality is that it does guarantee a right to keep and bear arms of some kind to individual citizens. Eliminating that legal right would require the repeal of that Amendment. It isn’t impossible: A Constitutional Amendment has been repealed before. I do not think it would be easy, but I could be mistaken. Would the individuals who currently own those weapons voluntarily hand them over, without resorting to violence themselves? I suspect not. On the other hand, the TSA gropes and ogles travelers by the millions, and we as a nation have permitted it with barely a complaint, so perhaps I am mistaken about that, as well.

Conclusion

I hope that you have learned something from this. If nothing else, you have learned that neither assault rifles nor “assault weapons” have a statistically significant role in the deaths of innocent Americans. They are, at most, emotional phrases used to grab your attention. You have also learned that the phrase often used to placate gun owners, “No one wants to take your guns”, is a falsehood. It must be, because no other course of action based on tighter regulations would have even a hope of making us safer from the risk of being murdered with a firearm (and that is our goal, is it not?). Most people pressing for stricter regulations on firearm ownership know this. Gun owners know it, as well. So hopefully you will not be repeating any of these phrases in the future.

I have little doubt that the Second Amendment will eventually be repealed. I do not think I will live to see it. When or if it happens, I hope the people responsible for carrying out the ensuing police actions, and the people against whom those actions will be taken, will be wiser than we are.

See also: So you want to make the world safer, part 2

Friday, 2015-10-02

A brief review of the facts related to violent crime in the USA

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 16:20

A brief summary, which is all that I intend to say on the matter for the foreseeable future:

Should we provide greater support for the mentally ill? Yes.
Would it make a significant difference in violent crime? No.
Are gun owners without criminal records a danger to society? No.
Are the mentally ill a danger to society? No.
Does the USA have the highest intentional homicide rate among “developed countries”? No.
Is the rate of intentional homicide in the USA higher now than ever? No.

Is intentional homicide tragic? Yes.

Do I wish there was less of it? Yes.

Can we wave a magic wand and make it go away? No.

P.S. As a student of criminology, it vexes me terribly when people trot out the same old banners any time a tragedy makes the news (lately, I just look away until the shouting is over). This article by Mark Manson makes some excellent points that I am usually not patient or calm enough to make.

I have no idea who Mark Manson is. I hope I won’t be embarrassed by linking to his blog.

P.P.S. Reading pro-gun people and anti-gun people argue is like listening to a flat-earther argue with a creationist.

Wednesday, 2013-08-28

Kel-Tec KSG 12 ga. shotgun

Filed under: Firearms — bblackmoor @ 11:37

If I hadn’t just dropped way too much money on a couple of courses, I would seriously consider picking up one of these. I haven’t bought (or even wanted to buy) a new firearm in years, but this is a really neat design. I don’t hunt, so the fact it wouldn’t be legal to hunt with is not important to me.

Intentional homicide rates

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 08:47
Facts

It bothers me when people are inaccurate. It bothers me more when people who are ostensibly on my side don’t have their facts straight. For example, here are some statements from someone against ‘gun control’:

“It’s a fact that we are number 3 in the world in murders.”

This is not correct. The USA is not even among the top 100 countries in the world when it comes to the intentional homicide rate. You have to arbitrarily exclude large portions of the world (the entire continents of Asia and Africa, for example) to place the USA in the top 50. Even excluding the entire continents of Asia, Africa, and South America, and every country in Micronesia and the Caribbean, only places us in the bottom half of the top 20.

“If you remove Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, and Detroit from our total, we would be 4th from the bottom in murders. Guess which 4 cities have the strongest gun control laws? You got it. The same 4.”

The four cities in the USA which have the highest rates of intentional homicide are, in descending order:

1) New Orleans, LA
2) Detroit, MI
3) St. Louis, MO
4) Baltimore, MD

Are these the four US cities with the worst infringements of citizens’ right to own and carry firearms? That, I do not know, but I rather doubt it (New York City and Chicago are both pretty egregious — I would hate to think that St. Louis and Baltimore are worse).

Friday, 2013-08-16

Crime rate falls while firearm sales go up

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 14:06
Gun Crimes Plummet Even As Gun Sales Rise

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Thursday, 2013-07-04

CDC report on firearms and violence

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 12:41

Earlier this year, President Obama signed a set of executive orders targeting gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. Among them was an edict commanding the CDC to do a comprehensive survey of studies regarding guns and gun violence in the United States. Clearly, once the CDC produced the hard evidence that the US was a violent nation of wild-west shootouts, the American people would be eager to approve and fund future research while embracing strict gun control legislation.

At least that was the plan. The study, which was compiled by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council under the CDC’s direction, was recently completed and released. The anti-gun crowd has been awfully quiet about it. Could it be that it didn’t support their bogus hypothesis?

In a word, Yes. The CDC’s numbers basically back every pro-gun rights argument made over the course of the last year.

(From Obama orders CDC gun violence study, study shreds his position, CainTV)

Thursday, 2013-04-25

Idea for a political cartoon

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 10:39
No one wants to take your guns!

I have another idea for a political cartoon. On the right hand side of the cartoon is a gate with the sign “Glue Factory”. A horse is on the left side of the cartoon, wearing a blanket that says “2nd Amendment”. A guy in a suit is pulling on the horse’s bridle, trying to lead it to the glue factory. The man in the suit has a voice balloon saying, “What are you worried about? No one wants to get rid of you. Just take one more step!”

“No one wants to take your guns” is bullshit, and everyone on both sides of the fight for and against that particular civil right knows it. We all know it’s a lie. It’s an insult to the intelligence of anyone that hears it, right up there with “separate but equal”.

Saturday, 2013-04-20

A letter from a leftist to the gun control Democrats

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 11:06
teach gun skills

The author of this letter to “gun control” Democrats is a left-leaning supporter of reproductive rights “who participated wholeheartedly in the Occupy movement and in the national campaign to expose ALEC”. They make six suggestions on how to better present the argument for gun control in the USA. It’s worth reading.

Wednesday, 2013-04-17

Stoplights vs. Firearms

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 19:27

An image or “meme” equating traffic lights to restrictions on firearm ownership has been showing up recently in the usual places. I find this disappointing, because it’s such an absurd analogy.

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the essential difference, that vehicles are for transportation (important, yes, but is it a basic human right?) while firearms are for defense of one’s life (an essential human right). Setting that aside, a traffic light’s purpose is to prevent an operator of a vehicle from driving their thousands-of-pounds of metal into the direct path of others’ rapidly moving thousands-of-pounds of metal, because this would be a direct and imminent danger to the lives of other people. This is completely reasonable. An equivalent (or nearly equivalent) analogy would be some form of signal intended to prevent a firearm from being fired at other people, or where other people are quite likely to be. And, in fact, we do have laws that serve this exact purpose, although they take the form of general prohibitions rather than signals. And these, by and large, are also reasonable.

The people who “like” and redistribute images like this one, alas, are anything but reasonable.

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