Dear America: you are insane

US schools weigh bulletproof uniforms: ‘It’s no different than a seatbelt in a car’.

That is all.

 

38 responses to “Dear America: you are insane

  1. Fear does funny things to people. To be frank, I think it’s turning most of my fellow Americans into mush-brained idiots, who just want ‘SOMETHING’ done, no matter whether that something makes any sense or not.

    I suppose we can blame years and years of partisan politics for some of this, but mostly it’s that we’re letting fear drive too many of our decisions.

  2. Actually, it seems that gun control is hardly even a partisan issue any more. Both Republicans and Democrats see the need for change, even if they disagree on some details. The problem seems to be that the 2nd amendment is protected by bribes from powerful vested interests (i.e. gun manufacturers) whereas the far more important 1st is not, since it’s hard to grow fat and powerful on other people’s freedom of expression.

  3. @MikeTaylor – Actually, gun control wasn’t the thing I was thinking of. ALL of American politics has become extremely partisan – most of Congress and the Senate seem to have NO FREAKING IDEA what the word ‘compromise’ means anymore.

  4. Michael, what you describe certainly matches my (limited) understanding of how US politics is going. Which of course makes it all the more tragic and abhorrent that even when a sane and necessary law change does have support from both sides, it still gets defeated by bribes.

  5. IIUC it’s not because of the gun manufacturers (they’re too small an industry to make large campaign contributions) but because of the owners, who are numerous (25% of the population), unusually well-organized, and paranoid about restrictions. (They’re also mostly rural, which slightly increases their influence in the Senate.)

  6. It would be nice if we could agree on gun control in *cities* then. It doesn’t bother me so much if people in the (far off) country have small arsenals.
    But the thought of each of my neighbors having semi-automatic rifles is not something that makes me happy.

    But meanwhile, while I’m on the fear train–what really worries me is 3D printing. I think it’s the most awesome thing. But I think it’s gonna be the end of any attempt to regulate guns. Once the tech is good enough to print most or all of the parts you need to make your own gun with all the parts fitting smoothly and it not blowing up in your face when you try to fire it–once they reach that point, it won’t matter how illegal it is. The genie’s not going back in the bottle.

    The only thing for it that I see is regulating the supply of ammunition instead. But if anyone in Congress were even talking about that, do you think they’d be taken seriously?


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  7. “It would be nice if we could agree on gun control in *cities* then.”

    Absolutely. I live in a city where the nearest gun store is a 45-minute bus ride to the outer suburbs, one way. Which means a day off work to buy a gun. And another day off work if the “instant” background check returns a “deferred” response, or just isn’t running on that particular day.

    A carry permit class takes a day, though there are trainers who offer classes on the weekends, and in the city. But the range qualification requires a range, and there are none, within the city limits, so that’s another day off work.

    And then another day off work to go downtown to apply in person.

    The system is very carefully structured to make it as difficult as possible for those who need firearms the most from obtaining them and carrying them legally. And that is fundamentally unjust.

  8. I don’t understand how the system you describe penalises “those who need firearms the most”.

  9. The people who are most in need of firearms for self-defense are not the rural hicks out in the country, or the rich white guys from the suburbs, but the ordinary working folks living in the crime-ridden inner cities. But it is in exactly those crime-ridden inner cities in which the hurdles that must be passed in order to legally carry a firearm for self-defense are highest.

    I live in a state in which there is a pre-emption law. Cities do not have the authority to regulate the ownership and carry of firearms, that is reserved by the state legislature. But cities do have the authority to impose “reasonable” zoning regulations, and the city in which I live has imposed “reasonable” regulations that make it impossible to open either a gun store or a shooting range within the city limits.

    So if you live in the suburbs, and have a car, buying a handgun, or finding a place to practice with it is easy. But if you live in the city, and have to rely on public transportation, it’s a significant burden.

  10. “But it is in exactly those crime-ridden inner cities in which the hurdles that must be passed in order to legally carry a firearm for self-defense are highest.”

    That certainly seems like a restriction that cuts both ways.

    I wonder if you understand how laughable the phrase “a firearm for self-defence” sounds to English ears.

  11. “That certainly seems like a restriction that cuts both ways.”

    None of these restrictions on legal purchase or carry pose the slightest impediment to those with criminal intent. It’s far easier to get a gun from your friendly neighborhood gun dealer, and it always will be.

    These laws only disarm the people who aren’t a problem.

    “I wonder if you understand how laughable the phrase “a firearm for self-defence” sounds to English ears.”

    At this point, in English law, there is no longer a meaningful right to self-defense, whether with or without firearms. And England is a far more violent place than it used to be.

  12. At this point, in English law, there is no longer a meaningful right to self-defense, whether with or without firearms.

    And yet here we are with our firearm-related death rate less than one fortieth of yours.

  13. And you with yours worse than the Philippines, Montenegro, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe.

  14. You’ll find no objection from me at the idea of increasing penalties for engaging in violent crime, whether with or without firearms, or for increasing enforcement efforts against violent criminals. What I object to is the notion that placing restrictions on the behavior of one individual who has no history of crime or violent behavior can be justified because of concerns of what someone else might do.

    For the government to tell person A that he cannot do X because of what B or C has done can never be just.

  15. Is it just for the government to tell person A that he cannot own bombs because B and C have set them off in a public place?

  16. Of course not. Just like it’s not just for the government to tell person E that he cannot carry a cricket bat, because F and G have used them to bash the heads of a couple of gays.

    Laws restricting where bombs can be used I fully support. Laws regarding safe storage and handling, ditto. I don’t object to licensing requirements, provided that the standard of issuance are objective, and not subject to the arbitrary discretion of the issuing authorities.

    But blanket bans are never acceptable.

  17. “Laws restricting where bombs can be used I fully support. Laws regarding safe storage and handling, ditto ”

    Cool. But earlier you wrote:
    “None of these restrictions on legal purchase or carry [of firearms] pose the slightest impediment to those with criminal intent. It’s far easier to get a gun from your friendly neighborhood gun dealer, and it always will be.”

    It seems like your stance is different on bombs than on guns. What’s more you wrote “Laws restricting where bombs can be used I fully support.”

    And I’m reminded of those (as has been pointed out by gun advocates) totally useless “gun free zone” signs. I mean, really what’s the point?

    So… which is it? Are you pro-limited regulation? Or are you anti-regulation on the grounds that it will never be completely effective?

    From what you wrote you might be anti-regulation on the grounds that it might be done arbitrarily:
    “I don’t object to licensing requirements, provided that the standard of issuance are objective, and not subject to the arbitrary discretion of the issuing authorities.”

    I don’t see any reason to speculate that it would be any more or less arbitrary than–say the rationale behind who can or cannot have a drivers’ license. State governments almost always come down hard on drunk driving–as in just one or two instances of being caught drunk driving and you might have your license removed.

    You might feel that’s perfectly justified or you might feel it’s a bit arbitrary. For my part, I think it’s somewhat arbitrary when you consider that there are other distractions that could impair your ability to drive a motor vehicle just as much as being drunk but for which the penalties are not nearly so strict, if at all. (I’m thinking of both very tired driving or texting while driving.)

    Even so, you don’t see me “up in arms” about the strict drunk driving law. Because regardless of how overly-punitive it might seem to me, there’s a really easy way to avoid getting gotted by this law: don’t drive while drunk. I shouldn’t be driving drunk anyway *because it’s ridiculously dangerous*.

    IMHO, having a bunch of guns–especially semi- or fully automatic guns all jam packed in, say, an apartment building where everybody is already unemployed and angry is a Bad Idea.

    But I’m digressing a bit…
    Lastly, you wrote:
    “But blanket bans are never acceptable.”

    Hey–I’m obviously pretty anti-gun. But even though I might *personally* be happier with some blanket ban on *all* firearms– that is not what I’m asking for. Firstly because it has no chance in hell of happening, secondly because–yes the bad guys would still have guns–, and thirdly because it seems overly punitive to me. Oh yeah–there’s also that 2nd amendment thing. These days I trust the founding fathers that wrote the Bill of Rights about 1,000 times more than I trust every Representative and Senator of Congress combined.

    They put that in there in the 2nd amendment, then that’s cool. Keep your guns.

    But which kind? Where do you draw the line? When they wrote that they were thinking something like a flintlock rifle.

    Do you think the 2nd amendment should allow you to posses a Howitzer?

    If I use my bear hands I probably couldn’t kill even one unarmed man in a minute–especially if he’s facing me and prepared. If I have a fully-automatic weapon, I can kill and kill and kill and kill. By the time you’ve finished reading this sentence, I was able to shoot a dozen people. And right about *now* is the first you’ve had a chance to even *go* for *your* gun. Will you stop me? Or will I shoot you first?

    Wait–you mean you *forgot* to bring your gun with you!? You didn’t see it coming? Oh well. *shrug* Fat lot of good all those gun rights did for you.

    Because when it comes down to it, unless you’re living your whole life with a gun in your hand, the person that’s ready to fire always has the drop on the person that’s not.

    But at least if it were very, very difficult for me to get my hands on the high artillery, I wouldn’t be able to kill nearly as many people before you had a chance to try to kill me back.

    Don’t you think that’s worth something, jdege?


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  18. > “Laws restricting where bombs can be used I fully support.
    > Laws regarding safe storage and handling, ditto ”
    >
    > Cool. But earlier you wrote:

    > “None of these restrictions on legal purchase or carry
    > [of firearms] pose the slightest impediment to those
    > with criminal intent. It’s far easier to get a gun
    > from your friendly neighborhood gun dealer, and it
    > always will be.”
    >
    > It seems like your stance is different on bombs than on guns.

    Laws restricting the possession or carry of firearms are
    pointless. The people who won’t carry, when it’s illegal,
    who will carry when it’s not, are by definition law abiding
    people who pose no threat to public order.

    We have states where no permit or license is required for any
    citizen to carry a loaded firearm, and those states are not
    noticably more violent than states that forbid carry. Quite
    the contrary. The only thing these laws accomplish is to
    give the ignorant a false sense of security.

    Still, the ignorant make up a large segment of the population,
    and I can accept permitting laws, provided that they have
    objective standards, and are not subject to arbitrary discretion.

    > What’s more you wrote “Laws restricting where bombs can be used
    > I fully support.”

    > And I’m reminded of those (as has been pointed out by gun
    > advocates) totally useless “gun free zone” signs. I mean,
    > really what’s the point?

    > So… which is it? Are you pro-limited regulation? Or are you
    > anti-regulation on the grounds that it will never be
    > completely effective?

    I, like most gun owners, fully agree with laws against the
    discharge of firearms in populated areas, other than at
    properly-constructed firing ranges. Provided that such laws
    have an exception for self-defense. Just because I think
    that people should be allowed to carry in parks, schools,
    libraries, etc., does not mean I think that people must be
    allowed to engage in impromptu target shooting in those places.

    > From what you wrote you might be anti-regulation on the
    > grounds that it might be done arbitrarily: “I don’t object
    > to licensing requirements, provided that the standard of
    > issuance are objective, and not subject to the arbitrary
    > discretion of the issuing authorities.”
    >
    > I don’t see any reason to speculate that it would be any
    > more or less arbitrary than–say the rationale behind who
    > can or cannot have a drivers’ license.

    There’s no reason to speculate, that issuing authorities
    have frequently and repeatedly abused their discretion
    to deny without cause is a matter of record. Until Heller,
    Washington DC required a permit to possess a pistol, and
    flat-out refused to issue permits. Until McDonald, Chicago
    required a permit to possess a permit, and refused to even
    accept permit applications. After they lost in McDonald,
    they changed their laws to allow permits, but included a
    requirement for live-fire training – and outlawed shooting
    ranges within the city limits.

    > State governments almost always come down hard on drunk
    > driving–as in just one or two instances of being caught
    > drunk driving and you might have your license removed.

    The carry law in my state sets a BAC limit of 0.04 – half
    that for a DUI, and I and other gun owners supported it.
    We have no problem whatsoever with having permits pulled
    because of demonstrated irresponsible behavior. Or having
    them denied in the first place.

    But what we had, prior to our shall-issue laws, was people
    being denied for no reason whatsoever. And that’s simply
    unjust.

    > Lastly, you wrote:
    > “But blanket bans are never acceptable.”
    >
    > They put that in there in the 2nd amendment,
    > then that’s cool. Keep your guns.
    >
    > But which kind? Where do you draw the line? When they
    > wrote that they were thinking something like a flintlock
    > rifle.
    >
    > Do you think the 2nd amendment should allow you to
    > posses a Howitzer?

    When the 2nd was ratified, privately-owner artillery
    wasn’t exactly common, but it was far from unheard of,
    both in the US and in the UK. Most merchant ships carried
    at least a few cannon, and privately-owned warships were
    in common use.

    > If I use my bear hands I probably couldn’t kill
    > even one unarmed man in a minute–especially if
    > he’s facing me and prepared. If I have a
    > fully-automatic weapon, I can kill and kill and kill
    > and kill. By the time you’ve finished reading this
    > sentence, I was able to shoot a dozen people. And
    > right about *now* is the first you’ve had a chance
    > to even *go* for *your* gun. Will you stop me?
    > Or will I shoot you first?

    Do you know why we’ve never had a mass shooting
    stopped by a permit holder, in all the years of
    shall-issue permits? Because if there are armed
    civilians present, the shooter is stopped before
    he’s killed more than a handful of people.

    > Wait–you mean you *forgot* to bring your gun with
    > you!?

    If I’m wearing pants, I’m carrying. And given that
    something like six million of my neighbors also have
    permits, if I’m in a crowd, it’s unlikely I’m the
    only one.

    > But at least if it were very, very difficult for
    > me to get my hands on the high artillery,

    You might end up just lighting a match to a gallon of
    gasoline. Happy Land Social Club, anyone?

  19. WyrdWyrd wrote:

    If I use my bear hands I probably couldn’t kill even one unarmed man in a minute.

    I probably couldn’t either, if I used my bare hands. But with my bear hands, I reckon I could take out half a dozen or so.

  20. jdege writes:

    Laws restricting the possession or carry of firearms are pointless.

    You keep saying this. If this is what you believe, I’m puzzled about how you explain why gun deaths in America, where guns are hard to get, are forty times as common as in Britain, where they are not. Do you attribute it to, I don’t know, British politeness?

    Just because I think that people should be allowed to carry in parks, schools, libraries, etc., does not mean I think that people must be allowed to engage in impromptu target shooting in those places.

    Then what would be the purpose of carrying in those places? Beyond the obvious, I mean.

  21. Ten years ago, this month, Minnesota passed a shall-issue law – requiring that permits be issued to anyone who met certain objective standards, and was not disqualified by law.

    Under the prior law, the police chiefs had absolute discretion to deny without cause. Many chiefs used this authority to deny everyone, except for their friends and political contributors.

    On Dec 31, 2002, Minnesota had 11,381 permits, mostly issued to professional security guards or to residents of rural areas. As of Apr 30, 2013, Minnesota has 138,563 outstanding permits.

    In 2002, Minnesota’s murder rate per 100,000 people was 2.2. In 2011 (the most recent numbers available), it was 1.4. We have more than ten times as many people lawfully carrying guns, and we have fewer murders. Total violent crime dropped from 267.2/100k to 221.2/100k over the same period.

    Did allow more people to legally carry result in less crime? There are plenty of confounding factors. Correlation does not prove causation. But lack of correlation does prove lack of causation. The argument that allowing more people to carry will result in increased violence has been proven false.

    Meanwhile, the murder rate in the UK, per 100,000 people is 1.2, not all that much different than Minnesota’s. And your violent crime rate is 2034/100k – which is flat-out absurd.

    As for the purpose of carrying in schools, parks, libraries, etc., the obvious reason is clear, of course. People are victimized in schools, parks, libraries, etc., so they should be able to defend themselves, there. But the other reason is more common. If you tell someone they can’t bring a gun into a school, park, or library, where are they supposed to leave it, when they are visiting a school, etc., when they are carrying? If, say, you are a security guard, and you get a call from the school telling you that your kid is sick, and you need to pick him up. Where do you put your gun, while you’re on school property? Leave it in your car? If you don’t have a car, do you hide it under the bench at the bus stop? It’s safer to leave it in your holster, where it belongs.

  22. Regardless of the original reasons for the introduction of the 2nd amendment, I cannot accept that it is normative behaviour for a civilised and peaceable society to allow its citizens to walk around with guns. The purpose of a gun is to kill things and that fact doesn’t change whether the killing is done in self-defence, by accident or deliberately. This point cannot be emphasised strongly enough: it is a total abdication of social responsibility for a civilised country to enact laws which are extreme positive enablers of the most anti-social behaviour possible. The fact that America continues to do so means that – in this particular regard – it has to be counted among the most un-civilised societies in the world.

    Despite the 2nd amendment and its various interpretations, I would suggest the question Americans really need to ask themselves is: “do we think it is preferable, all things considered, to have our citizens armed or unarmed?” The rest of the grown-up world already knows the answer to that question, and it really cannot understand why America does not also know it.

  23. “This point cannot be emphasised strongly enough: it is a total abdication of social responsibility for a civilised country to enact laws which are extreme positive enablers of the most anti-social behaviour possible.”

    Exactly. It really is that simple, and many Americans’ inability to see this is the single most inexplicable fact about them. It’s not even a question. Meanwhile, this.

  24. Yeah I keep thinking of that point. It’s like what limit do you reasonably place on the “right to bear arms”? Unless they actually think the world would be a better place where everyone is armed with a nuke.

  25. I think the point where I realise there is no point discussing this with someone is the point where they say they need to carry a gun for personal defence.

  26. Well of course they “need” it. To defend all the *other* people with guns. It’s kinda like if you tried to explain “Peace” to daleks.

    Whatever you do, don’t look at these
    HitlerComparison
    collage-of-conservatism
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Gun_control

    And for just general horror the main page of the above referenced site:
    http://www.conservapedia.com

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  27. Conservapedia is the most astonishing thing. Every time I look at it, I become more certain it’s a very clever parody.

  28. You might be right, I guess. But I can tell you–people that believe and spout this stuff really do exist. New York is real too. (Arthur Dent had trouble with that one.)

    But on the gun control issue, I feel like this video (that makes me sad) kinda sorta makes all current forms of gun control moot.

    One of the main conservative arguments is always that regulation is pointless because people can still get guns if they really want them. I think up until now that argument has been more false than true. But I think they are going to get their wish. I think it will become fairly easy for anyone that wants to, to print a gun.

    At the moment the only parts they’re actually making are the part where the action happens and possibly a high capacity ammo clip. You can buy the other parts online, apparently at any age. Because it’s only the part that actually handles the chambering and firing of bullets that’s regulated. But by the time they get around to making it illegal to sell metal tubes with rifling on the inside, it’s possible that the 3D printing technology will have caught up to that.

    It feels like a genie out of the bottle situation. I think it could be got back under control if there were stringent regulation on the sale of *ammunition*. But I don’t have any confidence that Congress will even get around to considering that much less doing anything about it.

    Semi-jokingly I ask: is anyone working on personal force field technology?

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  29. “New York is real too. (Arthur Dent had trouble with that one.)”

    I lived in New York for years, and for most residents of the city it is actually much safer than pretty much anywhere in Britain. The simple truth is that the vast bulk of the US is a much safer and less violent place than the UK. But the US has pockets of extreme violence, much of which is committed by the extremely violent against the extremely violent. I’m not saying that that is a good thing, but I can walk down city streets in the US and enjoy a kind of safety which is impossible in any city in England- hell, it’s impossible in most of your villages.

  30. And after that long exchange, Mike, you see why we’re insane. On this issue, as on so many others, Americans are entrenched in their views. It’s us-vs-them, the gun control nuts vs the gun nuts, and no one will change his/her view for anything — definitely not for the sake of facts, because the gun nuts make up their own “facts”. Which is what brought me to Switzerland this summer. I’m hoping to find a job, relocate my family to Europe, and thus get away from the ugliness that America has become.

    Wait, doesn’t Switzerland have a lot of guns too? Yes. But it’s the *mindset* that’s different. In American guns are for self-defense. In Switzerland guns are for national defense. Here in Switzerland you don’t carry your gun around everywhere on the off chance that you might prevent a mugging or a mass shooting. You keep your gun at home, in the dark corners of your closet, unloaded, in case the country is invaded.

    And despite the specter of an unarmed populace, the murder rate in Switzerland is one-seventh that of the U.S. The other day I walked home through Bern, from a very late church service, at 2 a.m. Nobody bothered me, except one guy who merely asked if I could spare a cigarette. It’s a very safe place, because people here don’t have guns and gun violence in their blood like so many Americans do.

  31. “It’s us-vs-them, the gun control nuts vs the gun nuts, and no one will change his/her view for anything — definitely not for the sake of facts, because the gun nuts make up their own “facts”.”

    It’s not a matter of facts, it’s a matter of fundamental principles.

    On one side, we have anti-gun researchers and on the other we have pro-gun researchers, and we get into endless arguments about the flaws in one side’s statistics, or the other’s. Kellerman vs. Lott, Ludwig vs. Kates. Over and over again.

    And it’s all beside the point.

    The fundamental truth is that for the State to forbid any action, by any individual, in the absence of evidence of a likelihood of harm by that individual, is simply incompatible with a free society.

    If nurse working third shift in an inner city hospital feels that she’d be safer carrying a gun, on her long dark walk back to her car, or while sitting alone at the bus stop, she has the right to do so. Even if she is wrong about whether she would be safer by so doing.

    It’s her life, and her choice.

    And for the State to be justified in telling her that she cannot, the State should have evidence that she, as an individual, poses a threat to others.

    Statistical arguments about what other people might do, if they were allowed to carry, has no relevance. She should be judged only on what she is likely to do, as determined by her own past behavior and past actions. Punishing one for the actions of another can never be just.

  32. @jdedge

    One of Kyralessa’s main points was that American’s tend to take up all-or-nothing, no-possible-middle-ground positions that make fruitful debate virtually impossible.

    Do you see that flatly stating “It’s not a matter of facts, it’s a matter of fundamental principles.” kind of proves Kyralessa’s point?

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  33. We’ve been having a very fruitful debate, and we’ve found a quite reasonable and popular compromise. It’s called shall-issue permitting. In the last 25 years we’ve gone from having eight states in which nearly any law-abiding citizen could obtain a permit-to-carry, if they chose to do so, to forty. The number of citizens carrying legally as a matter of course has increased by orders of magnitude. And over those 25 years, violent crime has dropped significantly.

    Kyralessa’s complaint isn’t that we’ve not been having a debate, nor that we’ve not been able to compromise and reach a consensus, but that she’s lost the debate, and she disagrees with the consensus.

  34. The fundamental truth is that for the State to forbid any action, by any individual, in the absence of evidence of a likelihood of harm by that individual, is simply incompatible with a free society.

    No it’s not.

  35. “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!”
    – Samuel Adams

  36. jdege, correlation is not the same as causation. Many potential causes for the drop in crime have been postulated. One of the most convincing I’ve read is that the elimination of leaded gasoline led, a couple decades later, to the drop in crime. Of course that too is just a correlation.

    Also, he, not she.

  37. “correlation is not the same as causation”

    True. But lack of correlation is proof of lack of causation. That crime went down as more civilians lawfully carried does not prove that lawful carry reduces crime – but it very definitely proves that lawful carry does not increase crime.

    In other words, there is no social benefit to restricting lawful carry. Violent crime are committed by criminals, and those who will carry, when allowed to do so by law, who would not carry, when not, are almost definitionally law-abiding citizens who pose no significant threat to society, whether they are allowed to carry or not.

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