CATEGORY: Guns

Inconceivable: civil gun control debate – does gibberish trump reality?

Andre the Giant Posse decal

“I do not think that word means what you think it means.” Fezzik, in The Princess Bride

In response to my recent post, President Obama expresses optimism: now in super-sized gibberish, my friend, mentor, fellow Scrogue (and Executive Editor), and all around swell guy, Sam Smith, had this to say:

Come on, Frank. Sometimes we simply misspeak. You’re going to let that, in a case where you know the man knows what he’s talking about (you think he came from Chicago’s south side without knowing a little about guns?) trump the reality of what we know about our society’s gun situation? I like my leaders to be articulate, too. I think I proved that from 2000-2008. And I don’t want government acting out of ignorance. But, not to put too fine a point on it, there’s a difference between making a typo and not knowing how to spell potato.

I tried like hell to reply in brief, but I just could not do it. When someone of Sam’s intellect and formidable wordsmithery weaves such a wonderfully complex statement, one steps into that minefield either with great caution or a short lifespan. As I have yet to develop the talent of pithy caution, I find myself yielding to the temptation of yet another epic post (by modern blogging standards).

Sam, you are the master of brevity. So many points demanding a response in so few words! I do hope you’ll accept this rebuttal in the respectful spirit in which I offer it.

Did the president misspeak?
Do I know the man knows what he’s talking about?
Did President Obama learn about guns by osmosis?
Do we agree on what the reality of America’s gun situation is?
Am I going to let a misspeak trump said reality?

Sometimes we misspeak. Yes, we do. Maybe he did. The best evidence I can find is that in the past he has referenced “high capacity clips,” which may or may not indicate a solid understanding of their function since, after all, in the CBS interview he goes on to suggest, in the same breath, that magazines fire off rounds. If we had magazines like that, we wouldn’t need guns ;)

Obama to NBC’s David Gregory: I Support High Capacity Clip Bans

In any event, misspoken or otherwise, his emphasis is on the volume of ammunition discharged from some device or other. As I note at the end of my “gibberish” post, the difference between volume discharged using either 30-round or 10-round magazines is effectively negligible*. At best, a ban on 30-round magazines is just an arbitrary and capricious regulation that would, in part, satisfy left wing fear mongers, rile right wing fear mongers, and ultimately make no difference in public safety. At worst, such a ban is just an arbitrary and capricious political stunt that not only resolves nothing about public safety but also dangerously furthers the pretense that rights, misunderstood or otherwise, can be justly restricted or infringed on the basis of little more than vehement sentiment, all with the intent to shore up fellow Democrat reelection potential (yes, I’m a mind-reader…it’s a trick possessed by all the best cynics). If such restrictions could be accomplished in the public interest without qualifying as infringement, I have grave reservations that the president that presides over a pile of issues like signature drone strikes, secret kills lists, assassination of US citizens, abridgment of due process, indefinite detention, and a system of justice that recognizes two different standards of law depending on one’s wealth is the one to achieve that balance.

* I’m still waiting for a couple grand in funding for my proposed live-fire test.  The rifle I can borrow, but none of my “gun nut” friends actually happen to have a sufficient number of magazines or the needed web gear or other accessories necessary to safely replicate the act of a psycho shooting hundreds of rounds in a few minutes.  Go figure.  They also won’t just give me nearly $1,000 worth of ammo.  Cheap bastards.

One thing both parties have in common: wimping out on tough votes

I have my doubts that any real and meaningful gun control legislation will actually make it to his desk, but this kind of sloppy fear-mongering speech is perfectly suited to a Dem GOTV effort when the time comes. As such, I honestly doubt that he cares whether or not he meant “high clip clip,” “high magazine magazine,” or “high-capacity clip/magazine.” The effect is the same. As a friend rephrased his “misspeak,”

I think it’s an issue of bamboozlery by jargon-fu: “More goodness! Less badness! Ban the Wand of Random Slayings, for it is witchery!”

I know the man knows what he’s talking about. I know no such thing. He’s never served in the military or on a police force, and is alleged to “do skeet shooting all the time.” Never mind that skeet shooting is a shotgun sport and has zero relevance to an understanding of semi-automatic rifles and/or the magazines used with them.

The White House’s curious silence about Obama’s claim of skeet shooting

Did President Obama learn about guns by osmosis? With no evidence of which I am aware that he has a history of owning or using firearms in any capacity, how would he know a little about guns by virtue of coming from Chicago’s South Side? Since I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have exactly zero racist bones in your body, I know you’re not suggesting that our black president picked it up by virtue of his presence in an area with a 93% African American population.  Maybe he learned it from the criminal element in Roseland during his community organizer days?  Or maybe he favored more well-to-do haunts in South Side and learned about guns, especially semi-automatic rifles, from those who would advocate for their use in self-defense, given the lay of the land? I think we can agree all of those propositions are preposterous. I know that in my case, it took training to effectively take down, clean, maintain, and operate an M-16, an M-60, an M-203, and 81mm and 60mm mortars, as well as countless hours memorizing details from my Blue Book. The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters, Drill Sergeant! Nothing about being in their proximity conveyed diddly squat to my knowledge. Maybe he’s different.

Do we agree on what the reality of America’s gun situation is? You ask if I’m going to let “that” (your antecedent: “misspeak,” my antecedent: “his exact gibberish, as spoken”) trump some form of reality, particularly the “reality of what we know about our society’s gun situation.”

First, you’re good. Very, very good. Bring ‘em on board with “we” speech :) It would be very easy to step on that mine. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I am part of that collective pronoun in this case (an unusual occurrence between us). Never mind the epistemological skepticism I bring to the table about knowledge and the known. Like Socrates, I know that I know nothing.  Like Rachel Maddow, I am fascinated when different parties look at the same body of information and derive entirely different conclusions.

Here’s some snapshots of the reality I see:

~45 million US households with guns (taking the low estimate)
~260 million guns

How many gun owners are there in the United States of America?

We don’t actually know how many gun owners there are.

Gun rhetoric vs. gun facts

For ease and convenience, let’s just say that’s 45 million owners, averaging 6 firearms per person (even though, in all reality, the number of owners is going to be higher, yielding a lower average number of guns owned per owner).

~1.5 million “assault weapons”

How many assault weapons are there in America?

For the sake of argument, let’s maximize the number of “assault weapons” (and skip what the hell that phrase even means, since I think it signifies nothing more than “looks scary”) owners by assuming each owner only owns one (that’s one ugly alliteration). That would be one “assault weapon” for every 30 owners of firearms (even though the reality is that some folks own more than one, the ratio stays the same). That would be 3.33% of firearm owners owning “assault weapons,” although that percentage would actually be lower if we accounted for owners owning more than one.

Number of firearm homicides in 2010: 11,078

CDC FastStats: Assault or homicide?

For the sake of laziness and lack of data, let’s just assume that to be typical of any given year, even though Gun rhetoric vs. gun facts  indicates otherwise. After all, 2010 firearm homicides were at the lowest rate they have been since at least 1981. Let’s maximize murderers by assuming one murder per murderer. Let’s even assume that every single one used an “assault weapon,” even though there’s nothing to suggest that is the case. We’ll completely ignore minor quibbles like type of homicide (first degree, 2nd, etc.), convictions, and the assumption that over time, some percentage, however small, would be overturned on appeal, or, counter to the gun control cause, were actually part of legitimate self-defense.

Murderers as a percentage of firearm owners: 0.02% (or 2 out of every 10,000)
Murderers as a percentage of “assault weapon” owners: 0.74% (about 7.5 per 1,000)

Now, since mass shootings are the particular type of murder that triggered this latest round of gun control frenzy, let’s take a look at some relevant numbers (read: not from the dishonest Brady Campaign, which inflates the number of school shootings, rather casting their track record for fact-based advocacy into doubt).

Number of mass murders since 1982: at least 61

A guide to mass shootings in America

If the percentages were paltry in the first examples, prepare your mind for some extra zeroes.

For the sake of maximizing the fear factor here, let’s assume each of 61 mass murders had two shooters. That would give us 122 mass murderers. Never mind that MoJo indicates that only 2 mass shootings involved 2 shooters. We’re going for fear here. Correct down if you like extra zeros.

Percentage of gun owners that mass murder: 0.0003% (rounded up!), or, in other words, 3 per million.

No, let’s have those extra zeroes, after all.  63 shooters in mass shootings is 0.00014% (1.4 per million) of the low-end estimate of 45 million gun owners.  Okay, no extra zeroes, but there’s an extra significant digit to make the point.  If we go with the high estimate of 80 million gun owners, we get that extra zero: 0.00007875% (7.8 per 10 million).

If we go even further into scary territory and assume that in every one of these cases a scary looking an “assault weapon” was used by the mass murderers (actually, only 35 according to MoJo), we’re talking about a much *ahem* bigger percentage…0.008% (or 8 per 100,000).

That’s as bad as I can make the numbers look. My apologies to those with parenting, or at very least, more sympathetic sensitivities that I lack, but when it comes to governance, I’m more concerned with populations over time (however sloppily) than I am with specific children of specific individuals. The degree of tragedy involved is not diminished one iota, but I feel that the policy ramifications are entirely different once we get away from the emotional appeal baggage implicit in the catch phrase, “what about the children?”  Seriously, doctors are more dangerous by the numbers (logical fallacy and apples to oranges, free of charge).  Actually seriously, if the goal is to protect the lives of children and the quality of those lives, there are probably more efficient and effective means of effecting that change than by way of gun control legislation founded in specious reasoning, just as pro-lifers would actually prevent more abortions by supporting reproductive rights.  Pity we won’t get the right wing on board with either of those proposals.  Why does the GOP hate children? I digress.  Or do I?

Another part of the reality I see is that, compared to a great many things that get compared to guns when it comes to control, gun rights have this perverse uniqueness: the inclusion of the word infringed (as in, “shall not be”) in an amendment to our constitution.  It is unlike driving a car.  Freedom of movement is guaranteed, but not the means of conveyance.  It is unlike voting, which, while it should not be infringed, started out that way and only progressively became less so.  It is unlike assembly, which doesn’t have that stipulation and gets infringed far too commonly.  It’s not like speech, for if it were, it would be regulated similarly, meaning that there would be no presumption of motive or guilt beforehand and damages would only be assessed when damage occurs.  If it’s like any other right, it’s like that of freedom of/from religion insofar as our federal government can’t seem to help overstepping its bounds, else we wouldn’t have tax laws respecting religious establishments.  If anything, by this stretch of my reasoning, the government would only be able to legislate to expand gun rights insofar as there’s no restriction on making laws respecting them, only on infringement.

Sadly, when I see the Second Amendment being discussed, I see all manner of gross oversimplification, misunderstanding, and assumption of understanding across the spectrum. I make no claims to fully understanding it, which, humility be damned, is perhaps the most honest thing I’ve seen in print about it.

There’s an historical context for the inclusion of this amendment that gets ignored.

The heritage of our right to bear arms

Let the ad hominem commence! Not from you, naturally, but surely someone who bothers to read this far will shout, “Stearns!? You’ve gotta be shittin’ me!” I’ve not yet read the sources cited in this document, much less checked my understanding of them against that of modern historians of differing persuasions, so I cannot vouch for the soundness of the reasoning. On the other hand, a) I don’t know anyone else who has, and b) I haven’t seen this historical account debunked.  To my perhaps ill-informed eyes, Stearns’ article makes a compelling case. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.  If anyone can point me to a well-established source to the contrary, I would greatly appreciate it.

There’s that wee matter of awkward syntax in the amendment, of which it’s possible the Justices that decided District of Columbia v. Heller made a complete hash. For better and worse, that hash is now precedent.

There’s the militia clause hole in the amendment, big enough to drive an APC through, that, were the apparently typical (squeaky wheels, and all that) arms-bearing advocate to pay attention, would probably spook them if they looked too closely…that even if we buy their reasoning in bulk, there’s the little matter of them being held accountable to the states, meaning no right to act on their own as a “militia” without orders to do so by a chain of command established by the state. So much for justified insurrection without an order from the governor. Sorry, Ted.

There’s the recent bit of history making the rounds that the second amendment was only included in order to appease those worried that the feds were going to make keeping slaves really damned difficult by screwing with their slave patrols.

The Second Amendment was ratified to preserve slavery

Without having yet read Madison’s proceedings of the US Constitutional Convention, much less the ratification convention proceedings for all thirteen colonies, I am not yet well-informed enough to know whether or not the reasoning presented by Thom Hartmann is actually sound.

All of which is to say, complexity, complexity, complexity! And the reality I’m to see is that mass murders are sufficient reason to skip all the complexity and move to gun control because reality.

I don’t see that. I see that something awful happens, 61 times since ‘82 or 11,000 times per year, but that its done by percentages of the population that, in other contexts, I believe many would agree are negligible. 3 people out of every million did a thing! One “blanker” out of 12,500 “blankers” did a thing! Now let’s rush to monkey with the codification of our rights, however poorly understood it is by the masses, which necessitates that opposite ends of the punditry spectrum will engage in the rashest, ugliest emotional appeals to win the day via “politics by high school popularity contest” reasoning.

Something tells me that’s a somewhat different view of the same set of facts, and maybe even a different subset of the facts, than the one you are using. For the moment we appear to not share in a consensus reality.  To be fair, I’m sure I haven’t done justice to your position, but I look forward to you setting that record straight.

This many words in, the long and short of it is this, as far as I’m concerned. Either President Obama does not know what he’s saying, which would explain his lack of fluency in the terminology, in which case he’s a sorry advocate for any position on it, except for that bit about him occupying the biggest bully pulpit in the nation, or he does know and, even without misspeaking, is making the case for infringing on a right using tragedy as a platform in aid of advancing what, exactly? Oh, in part, a pointless limitation on magazine capacity that does nothing, ultimately, to address the number of rounds sent downrange unless, and that’s the key, unless the argument is then necessarily driven to include consideration of not only so-called “assault weapons” but any and all semi-automatic firearms. Otherwise capacity is really just a moot point.  Far more likely, in my estimation, is that he’s just wasting his political capital on go-nowhere legislation in order to score political points for his party and/or distract us from other issues, like maybe failure to see to the prosecution of bank fraud, or maybe CIA drone ops, or maybe something leading up to Syria or Iran, or maybe some presidential intuition that Dow at 14,000 is a bubble ripe for bursting hot on the heels of a retracting economy and lousy job numbers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m uncomfortable enough with our constitution for, among other reasons, the ones I’ve seen summarized from Founding Finance by William Hogeland  (dammit fellow nameless Scrogue, write that shit up! ;) ) that I don’t want to exacerbate the problem by tinkering with it on anything but the soundest of bases. Infringing on the “rights,” so-called or otherwise, of tens of millions of people because a relative handful of people are sick and/or evil will do nothing to resolve much bigger, more pervasive social issues than x number of dead children, however awful the immediate circumstances.

Am I going to let a misspeak trump reality? No, but that depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Afterword: One point I failed to address in our apparently different views of reality was my usual “because tyranny” position, as I thought it lacked relevance in the flow of my argument. Even so, I still think this bears pointing out. Time and again I see the response to “gun nuts,” when the “because tyranny” case is raised by the “usual” arms-bearing advocate, take the form of, “lol, you idiot, like you could stop the US military.” I find such a view tremendously short-sighted. When I speak of resisting tyranny, I don’t mean as presented by any form of our government as it’s currently recognized by anyone, least of all a tyranny at the hands of King Seekrit Mooslim Kenyan Hussain Obama (as our more benighted citizens would have it). However, if history is any guide (see: Why Nations Fail, below), nations do occasionally fail for a host of complex reasons, thus the probability that our own may fail one day is greater than 0%. Should that happen, and likely enough *knock on wood* not in our lifetimes, something will fill the void. That something may well be tyrannical in form. If so, what passes for the left at that time will probably wish it had retained the most generous interpretation of the right to keep and bear arms, especially if that new, non-US tyranny should take shape from religious extremists or corporatists champing at the bit to turn their most Dickensian fantasies into reality.

Note: Thanks to wufnik for the recommended reading, Why Nations Fail by Acemoglu and Robinson. By all means, read wufnik’s review  and follow-up, then read the book, consider criticisms of the work, and proceed cautiously.  I’ve read it and cannot recommend it highly enough, errors and all, although I could never do it the justice wufnik rendered.

—-

Image credit: Photo of Andre the Giant Posse decal by John W. Schulze, licensed under Creative Commons.

11 comments on “Inconceivable: civil gun control debate – does gibberish trump reality?

  1. I don’t see how you can dismiss magazine/clips/those things that hold the bullets capacity limits out of hand. We’ve had a couple of recent examples of shooters being stopped while their weapons jammed (Clackamas Town Center, Jered Loughner). I’m sure there are people who can change them quickly under controlled settings, but if that’s the case, aren’t you just saying that it’s not that big of an inconvenience for owners? What’s the positive case for high capacity whatchamacallits?

    My problem with “let’s keep the guns in case of tyrannical government” is that we have 200 years of world history regarding violent revolution to look back on. Almost none of it worked out well, even for the left. I’d even lean towards the suggestion that the left was worse than the right when it came to overthrowing tyrannical government and implementing something even more awful. I mean, I’d rather live under Sinahouk than Pol Pot.

    • The reason I dismiss the case against high-capacity magazines out of hand is because the case against them is based on a false premise, in particular, the premise positioned by the president. His argument against them is, if I might take the liberty of correcting his phrasing a bit, that they enable a shooter to fire hundreds of rounds in a few minutes. Quantity/time = rate. My argument is that if the difference in rate is effectively negligible when comparing 30-round vs. 10-round magazines, for instance, then regulating high-capacity magazines is arbitrary and capricious.

      I’m completely unconcerned with whether or not the difference between magazines presents an inconvenience for owners. Since we’re talking about the modification of a right as it is recognized by the federal government, in particular, a restriction of a right, then I think any case to do so should be based on solid reasoning. When framing the issue in the context of “that which enables a high rate of fire” (however poorly defined), by all rights President Obama should make the case not just against 30-round magazines, or even 10-round magazines, but against semi-automatic firearms.

      That, however, would be a push that doesn’t serve the election chances of his party very well, and gets to the heart of my problem with his presentation of the issue. As I see it, a solution that doesn’t actually address public safety is one being proposed solely for political gain. For those watching from the pro-gun side, that effectively translates to government restriction of rights for political gain. Even were I not pro-gun I would have a huge problem with that.

      As for your point about the undesirable nature of violent revolution, we completely agree. And yes, the left has a pretty crappy track record in that respect. Even so, I’m left with a conundrum. It’s not my own current government which worries me. In a SHTF scenario, should social order break down to the point where centralized government is unable to reassert control, something, quite possibly something awful, will fill the void. We might not want our children to grow up subjected to the current dangers of madmen, but do we want some future generation left to the ravages of pillage and rapine without adequate defense? Sure, it might not happen, but it could. I just think we need to exercise at least as much forethought as did the framers of the constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      • Thanks for the response! Sorry if I was sounding flippant, I’m trying to come to a decision about some of these things myself, but truth be told, I’m not far off from where the Prez is at. What do you say to someone who points out that Christina Taylor Green (little girl shot in Tucson) was hit with the 13th bullet of 33 round magazine? He was stopped while reloading. If he’d only had a 10 round magazine, Christina may not have been shot. That’s a pretty compelling argument to me. If the counter is that it’s a right in the Constitution, that’s kind of neither here nor there. If the Constitution is getting in the way of saving lives, people are going to figure out a way around the Constitution.

        I understand when people say “I need a gun for home defense”, I don’t have a have a problem with that. But it’s harder for me to wrap my mind around “I need 33 bullets in my gun to do it.” Why?

        I’m sympathetic to the idea that having some guns might be useful if the righties ever go nuts on us, but in the end the real determiner is going to be where the military hardware ends up.

  2. As I note at the end of my “gibberish” post, the difference between volume discharged using either 30-round or 10-round magazines is effectively negligible*.

    Well, I guess the determiner here is how many rounds is “enough.” Let’s say we both have M1s. Let’s say you have a few 10-round magazines. Let’s say I have a few 30-round clips duct taped back to back. Ready, set, go. Let’s further say, without elaborating, that my opinion here isn’t purely theoretical. Your belief that we are on roughly equivalent footing is interesting, and it is one that does not align with my experience.

    Since I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have exactly zero racist bones in your body, I know you’re not suggesting that our black president picked it up by virtue of his presence in an area with a 93% African American population.

    You may assume a few things. First, there are such things as “high-crime neighborhoods” in America. I tend to expect that people from those neighborhoods, or who have spent time in them, probably have a slightly higher walking-around familiarity with guns than people from safer neighborhoods.

    This doesn’t mean I think everybody there has guns, or knows guns, or is a criminal or a thug or a G. If you grow up in a neighborhood with a lot of drugs, you probably know more about drugs than I do. If you grow up in a neighborhood where all the kids play soccer, you probably have at least a basic awareness of soccer that does not exist in places where they don’t play soccer. If you grow up in a farming community, you probably know more about tractors than I do.

    I may be wrong, but I do suspect that people who spend time in high-crime neighborhoods perhaps are more likely to know a little about guns. I’d make the same assumption about Mr. Obama if he’d grown up in the northern end of Davidson County, NC, in a little place called Wallburg. That’s where I’m from, and my walking around assumption growing up was that there were guns in every house, and that the people who lived there knew how to use them, and given the ambient hateful white trash levels of the place that they were more than willing to use them.

    Since the word “racism” has unfortunately been introduced into the conversation, let me add one more layer of context. I certainly DO make a connection between guns and race in some cases. Crime correlates heavily with poverty, and in a country like the US, where so many blacks have been systematically denied the same kinds of educational and economic opportunities that whites have, race and poverty can go hand in hand. Where one finds poverty, low education and the associated higher crime rates, one isn’t at all surprised to find a certain familiarity with guns.

    I’m pretty certain that the ability to recognize the implications of deep-seated institutional racism don’t make me a racist, but let me know if this needs further clarification.

    63 shooters in mass shootings is 0.00014% (1.4 per million) of the low-end estimate of 45 million gun owners.  Okay, no extra zeroes, but there’s an extra significant digit to make the point.  If we go with the high estimate of 80 million gun owners, we get that extra zero: 0.00007875% (7.8 per 10 million).

    The problem with all this is that it’s emerging in a post that’s nominally a response to ME. You’re having a lively argument with a guy who doesn’t disagree with you. If you’d known me long enough you’d be familiar with how I went off on the idiots who wanted to drive Beavis and Butthead off the air after a little kid who had watched it burned the house down and killed his sister. I ran the math on how many kids burn down the house after watching B&B (for the moment skirting the question of what kind of parent allows a little kid to watch that show) and concluded that statistically, allowing kids to watch B&B was a profoundly good way to prevent house fires.

    All of which is to say, as I have noted before, that you’re treating me like someone who believes and advocates things that I neither believe nor advocate.

    Now if this post were framed as an indictment of what some other folks out there perhaps believe, it might be a little different case. In the meantime, I’m merely trying to make some nuanced, thoughtful points about the current “debate,” which I think we all agree is too prone to ideology and emotionalism and not enough given to rational consideration of the actual issues. And facts.

    Sadly, when I see the Second Amendment being discussed, I see all manner of gross oversimplification, misunderstanding, and assumption of understanding across the spectrum.

    No doubt. But do you see this from me? In a response to me, this is relevant.

    • Let me add something. In my initial comment, the one that inspired this post, I committed an error in logic. I suggested that Obama, as a result of his past experience in a high crime area, cold be expected to know a bit about guns. In doing so, I conflated aggregate and individual. Just because you live in an area where X is common, that doesn’t mean you can assume that person Y knows X.

      I’d have been better off making an argument that more explicitly relied on the statistical probability that I’m talking about in the comment above. Maybe Obama knows dick about guns, no matter what the state of his surrounding environs. Whatever the case, the point I was trying to make wasn’t made properly.

      • Before I approach your previous response, I just wanted to say thanks for the clarification of this bit here. You hit the nail on the head as to why I had some trouble with accepting the “osmosis premise” (my words, not yours). Now to take my time in crafting a thoughtful reply to your previous thoughtful response.

    • First things first. I get the feeling that somewhere in my reply something was taken personally. That was not my intent, and if I conveyed something in some way that did register as personal, the fault is mine for not communicating more clearly. I apologize, in that case, for not being so clear as to eliminate the possibility of offense.

      As I noted at the beginning of my response, you crafted a very intricately woven argument with great precision and an economy of language. In order to address what I took to be the various points, I organized my response as follows:

      Did the president misspeak?
      Do I know the man knows what he’s talking about?
      Did President Obama learn about guns by osmosis?
      Do we agree on what the reality of America’s gun situation is?
      Am I going to let a misspeak trump said reality?

      My ultimate goal was to address that final question, which, as you framed it, would read more like, “am I going to let a misspeak trump the reality of the gun situation in America?” Please correct me if I am mistaken. Questions two and three were more of a sideline, but it looks like we’ve perhaps resolved those separately, leaving only 1, 4, and 5. Again, correction is welcome if required.

      So, here goes.

      —-
      Frank: As I note at the end of my “gibberish” post, the difference between volume discharged using either 30-round or 10-round magazines is effectively negligible*.

      Sam: Well, I guess the determiner here is how many rounds is “enough.”
      —–

      I made an error in my phrasing there. I should have phrased that “difference between volume discharged over time.” President Obama is the one that made the case that high-capacity magazines enable a shooter to fire hundreds of rounds in a few minutes, making the issue one of rate, not overall volume. It’s the “rate” argument that I attack. If the difference in rate is insignificant, then a restriction on high-capacity magazines but not on low-capacity or, even more salient, semi-automatic weapons in general, is arbitrary and capricious. Since you were addressing my comment as it stood, however, I can’t argue the point as it’s not the case I meant to make. In any event, I don’t think volume would address the debate because we could be talking volume about bolt-action rifles and revolvers.

      I’m not sure what to make of the “equal footing” comment, but that’s okay. If you want me to understand it, please feel free to clarify.

      —-
      Sam: Since the word “racism” has unfortunately been introduced into the conversation, let me add one more layer of context.
      —-

      Please note, when I pulled that word in, that was my effort to circle the wagons in your defense. It might help if I explain myself. When I first read, “you think he came from Chicago’s south side without knowing a little about guns?” I was taken aback. I was taken aback, not because you said it, but because if it were anyone else who did I think it would have scanned poorly. I tested my assumption by asking the other person in the room about it. Here’s the exchange in brief.

      —-
      Me: What do you make of this?
      Them: Racist.
      Me: It was Sam.
      Them: Then that’s not what he meant.
      Me: I know.
      —-

      This, of course, left me flummoxed as to what could have been meant, hence my fishing expedition. Since that’s been resolved separately I see no need to belabor it here :)

      —-
      Sam: The problem with all this is that it’s emerging in a post that’s nominally a response to ME. You’re having a lively argument with a guy who doesn’t disagree with you. … All of which is to say, as I have noted before, that you’re treating me like someone who believes and advocates things that I neither believe nor advocate. … No doubt. But do you see this from me? In a response to me, this is relevant.
      —-

      Again, I think this is a case of me not communicating clearly enough. The key here is in how I opened the “reality” section of my response:

      —-
      Do we agree on what the reality of America’s gun situation is? You ask if I’m going to let “that” (your antecedent: “misspeak,” my antecedent: “his exact gibberish, as spoken”) trump some form of reality, particularly the “reality of what we know about our society’s gun situation.”

      First, you’re good. Very, very good. Bring ‘em on board with “we” speech It would be very easy to step on that mine. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I am part of that collective pronoun in this case (an unusual occurrence between us). Never mind the epistemological skepticism I bring to the table about knowledge and the known. Like Socrates, I know that I know nothing. Like Rachel Maddow, I am fascinated when different parties look at the same body of information and derive entirely different conclusions.
      —-

      All of the factoids following this intro were expressly by way of illustrating “reality” as I see it, especially in connection with whether or not I would let a “misspeak” trump it. A key failure on my part was in omitting a simple question: how do you see it? When I said that “I don’t know that I am part of that collective pronoun,” I can see how that implies more disagreement than is apparently the case. I equally did not know “I am not a part of we.” In this case, I can see how it would appear that I was both putting words in your mouth and having an argument with a position that you yourself did not assert.

      For clarity’s sake, if I am being asked if the reality I illustrated with factoids and opinion is one I’d let a “misspeak” trump, then yes it is. Of course, this goes back to what I’ve previously stated. If President Obama’s reasoning for limiting magazine capacity is specious, and if I have good reason to be cynical about his political motives (which I believe I do), then about all I can concede here is that he may or may not have misspoken, but that in either case his reasoning and language are part and parcel of fear-mongering for political gain. I take issue with politicians who propose “solutions in search of a problem.” I take even greater issue with politicians who propose non-solutions to real problems in order to advance an agenda for party advantage.

      Lest I accidentally imply that you feel otherwise, I should ask whether you a) feel the same, and b) whether you think that’s what is happening in this particular case.

      • In a nutshell, the question is whether Obama misspoke or whether he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If I wrote “their” when it should have been “they’re,” is it a typo or do I not know the difference.

        With members of past administrations, all too often the answer has been that they were legitimately uninformed (or, in some cases, butt stupid). Dan Quayle did not know how to spell potato. George Bush didn’t know…well, a lot of things. And when somebody proves to me that they’re an idiot, I move on. I have never voted for Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette because some years back, on the subject of guns, she made painfully clear that she had NO fucking idea what she was talking about.

        It’s not likely that good policy is going to emerge from a place of ignorance. So as I see it, we agree substantively of most of what’s going on. I have tended to believe that Obama knows at least a little about the gun issue. I don’t like many things about him, but as a general rule he’s intelligent as hell and while some of the people he has surrounded himself with have been corrupt hacks, they have not been dumb corrupt hacks. So I hear a misstatement and perhaps afford some benefit of the doubt. You’re more suspicious and have well researched reasons for being so. I accept that.

        What it boils down to, in the end, is what kind of gun policy makes the most sense for the US. I don’t see disarmament as being either practical or a very good idea. At the same time, we do currently have a policy that the gun industry wholeheartedly approves of, one that lets pretty much anybody purchase pretty much anything with pretty much no background check.

        This strikes me as problematic. The thing I think YOU have to tease out is a logical contradiction. If the “liberty/tyranny” issue is salient enough to discuss as a practical (or potentially practical) matter, then we have to admit that if push comes to shove, fighting off the prospective tyrant suggests that we have as many seriously terrifying weapons as possible in the hands of as many people as possible. Whatever your test might eventually demonstrate, 1000 rounds in taped 30-shot banana clips represents an edge over the same number of rounds in ten-shot clips. This is not theory on my part – I have played with both.

        This goal seems obviously at odds with the goal, however we define it, of civil order. I don’t confuse a highly publicized, spectacular school shooting with LOTS of school shootings. A million stories about ten dead people and one story on ten dead people = ten dead people. Nonetheless, at present the ubiquitous availability of weapons is not serving us very well. Your statistical analyses were apt, but there are also those cross-cultural analyses demonstrating how we stack up vs other industrialized societies on gun murders, and those numbers are not the sort of thing I think we ought to ignore.

  3. What I find missing in most discussions of “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is CONTEXT both textual and historical. Textually, the words “shall not be infringed” are at the end of a sentence that begins “A well regulated Militia, being necessary…”. Historically, the words were written at a time when a 12 shot repeating flintlock was the state of the art and a pretty rare weapon. What were those Founding Fathers thinking?

    I am in favor of a mandatory period of military service in a “well regulated militia” which would include the standard issuance of a rifle for all participants. The rest of us would have limited access to firearms and ammunition under a strict set of guidelines including background checks, registration, safekeeping requirements, limitations on number of weapons owned and further restrictions on handguns etc. Such a militia would provide the added benefit of keeping us completely safe from a tyrannical government armed with automatic weapons, helicopters, tanks, artillery and fighter planes.

    When we were at the brink of a total economic collapse in 2008 I couldn’t help but think that if things really fall apart the US will be one of the most dangerous places in the world. With all the firearms in private hands our government would have one hell of a time protecting us from EACH OTHER! Cold and hungry neighborhoods are one thing, cold and hungry neighbors with guns another thing entirely.

    We now have a Military Industrial Complex distorting our foreign policy and a Firearms Industrial Complex distorting our gun laws.

  4. Mr B, while insightful and well researched this was a tortuously convoluted piece for my feeble mind to digest. An hour in, halfway though, 4 windows open reading various links, and I felt as if I was riding a drunken kangaroo bareback through a dark jungle in a snowstorm. As a believer in direct action, e.g. purpose, mission, focus, I would have synopsized to, “Let us legislate to proven trend not random anomaly”.

    I understand it was primarily an à deux between you and Dr. Smith, but having both an equity interest in the subject matter and surviving a recent upbraiding from him myself for same I hung in looking for both substance and style that might confirm or sway my personal ethos and perhaps pick up a tool or two for swaying others in future exchanges. I’m a thought Magpie, the shinier the better to steal for nest lining.

    The current narrative on national gun control is absolutely dishonest. Those who can yell the lies loudest win, both sides in equal parts. I cringe at the “Molon Labe!” crowd and similarly the “Gun nut heartless motherfuckers just die bitches” crowd. Where is reason and discourse? Where is the middle ground of logical give and take?

    Guns are ubiquitous on an approximately even par with cell phones. High capacity magazines exceed that ubiquity, or I suspect they do anyway. Can’t we just be honest and face the facts? If the majority feel high cap mags are a significant threat to public order then outlaw them, all of them, and after such and such a date having one in one’s possession is an unequivocal felony.
    Conversely, if the elected representatives of the majority do _not_ feel high caps are a valid concern then we move on to better targets.

    I would feel much better about a clear unequivocal magazine law than the weasel worded half law recently foisted upon Coloradans which says old are legal, new are not, manufacturers should put dates on magazines but we don’t have the authority to legislate that, and oh by the way when you die someone should collect your now illegal previously legal personal goods and destroy them without compensation from the state but don’t get caught with them or it’s a felony except law enforcement has zero way of determining what is and what isn’t legal. Now that’s a shitty law and the NRA didn’t have a hand in stinking it up.

    Hmmm…It would seem riding a drunken kangaroo bareback through a dark jungle in a snowstorm.is more fun than I thought it would be…Tally Ho!

  5. Mr. D., thanks for the feedback. I confess to a tendency to go off the rails a bit (if not a penchant for understatement). My best hope when it comes to an issue this complex is to help bring down the temperature of the rhetoric and at least get all parties to consider some points that usually don’t get addressed. In the end, I expect that this issue, like so many others, will just boil down to sandbox politics, which is a pity in so many ways. The discussion I think we as a nation really need to have is whether or not rights are inherent, or if they’re just social constructs, or if there’s a mix of that in the way we see them. From my cynical perspective, it looks like gun rights are seen as a social construct, but that most of the others are inherent. What we won’t generally hear is a civil liberties advocate addressing gun rights as civil liberties.

    No wonder my writing is occasionally tortuous and convoluted. My head spins! I do hope you enjoyed the ride and at least gleaned a useful factoid or three from some of the various links I included.

Leave us a reply. All replies are moderated according to our Comment Policy (see "About S&R")

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s