Sunday, December 30, 2012

Defining the Problem


We at Milpub recently had a 134-comment thread on the Newtown shooting tragedy; after 134 comments it is clear that we are neither able to define the problem nor are we even able to agree if there is a problem.

Ranger hearkens back to 1973, when he commanded the 3rd Army Marksmanship Training Unit. It became apparent to him at that time that the leadership of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was transforming itself and its magazine, The Rifleman, into a Right-wing mouthpiece for the Republican party.  The magazine shifted its focus in the 1970's from the shooting sports and gun collecting to political matters.  Soon, the agenda became aligned with the Christian Right, an affiliation which has been maintained through today.

This far-Right stance was adopted after Nixon's 1968 Presidential election politicized and radicalized a fraught nation with his law enforcement emphasis.  This focus was a thinly-veiled racial agenda since being tough on crime meant being tough on black criminals.  The nation was riven, Right and Left; the divisiveness continues today, hence the problem agreeing upon the "gun issue".

Ranger will try for a definition by asking the questions:

  • Do we have a gun problem?  Of the 300 million guns estimated to be in private hands, perhaps 30 million are "kill your neighbor" guns.  Let us assume that the 270 million collector and curio firearms are not the problem. (These guns are still regulated the same as the neighbor-killing guns.)  Therefore, is the problem with the weapon itself, or its maintenance? 
  • Do we actually have a "gun storage" problem?  Should we require legally-acquired firearms and ammunition to be properly secured away from casual contact?  Would this reduce the number of tragic random shooting episodes?
  • Should we allow firearms in households where a member is adjudicated criminally insane, or even mentally defective?  Should these homes be subjected to special regulations?  Who will define the status of the mentally defective?  Can a person be a head case yet still adjudicated non-violent and not a danger to himself or others?
  • What sorts of mental disability would invalidate one's gun rights?  Should soldiers suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) be denied gun ownership?  What about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)?
  • Should safe handling courses and hunter safety courses be required before firearm possession?  If so, who will teach the courses and create the program?  

Well, it is a start. These are the sorts of issues that we should discuss, and probably even enact into law before considering more Draconian measures like weapons bans, magazine restrictions and all of the other initiatives being bandied about by the anti-gun lobby.

If we pass laws that require education and safe handling, to include safe storage and this does not work to mitigate the spree killings that have our public up in arms, then it will be time to consider tightening up the requirements of ownership even further.  But short of these initial efforts it seems injudicious to pass by the simplest controls which have proven effective in countries like Canada and Germany.

Doing other than this is similar to starting a presumptive war without first exhausting all diplomatic possibilities in order to avoid the ultimate conflict.

We should contemplate all possible solutions before jumping headlong into a needless battle.


  1. Ranger -

    The fact that the leadership of the NRA have become right-wing mouthpieces is well within their rights. The problem I have with the NRA and the GOA and several other organizations is that they pimp for, and take millions from the assault weapon manufacturers.

    And yet they pretend that their financial contributions to politicians are coming from their membership. The media seems to buy it for some reason

  2. Let's face facts. For the firearms industry, which contributes significant money to the NRS and GOA, it money, money, money. They are in business to make money, not to be guardians of anyone's fundamental rights. If the firearms industry were primarily the guardians of Constitutional rights, they would be leaders in promoting, amongst other Constitutional causes, racial equality. How much lobbying money have they spent on that?

    The specifics of how and when the NRA and GOA became shills for industry and a Far Right agenda is something with which I have no familiarity, as I have never been a "joiner", and these two groups are among the many in which I have not held membership. But, since all too many organizations have become political shills, I'm quite ready to accept jim's take as spot on. I am sure the Religious Right has more money to spend on, no less incentive for, luring the NRA into their camp than, say, the Roman Catholic Church or Universal Unitarians. It's a very solid "marriage" of convenience.

  3. Mike,
    To me the NRA should be like a religion and not allowed to preach from the pulpit, but Mike is right of course,since their stance is protected by the BoRights. But pls bear in mind that they since 1871 worked hand in glove with the DCM and now the CMP to promote civilian marksmanship. I'll even twist the knife here and say that this function was approved and funded by Congress since day one (1871). The NRA is a faith based initiative funded by US appropriations as much is a welfare mother.
    Oh boy, here's the sticker-they promote National Match shooting which is military rifles and pistols which are sold thru their auspices. These rifles are sold thru the present CMP program.
    To all anti-gunners i ask, when's the last time a NM rifle was used in a rampage?
    Any way back to my theme( I just want to start the NY right.
    The NRA then is like the AM LEG/VFW/DAV et al and are Congressionally mandated, and it cranks my brain that they have all gone christian right. It ain't just the NRA. I quit The SASS which has affiliated with NRA and shouts their garbage. The NRA Prez writes monthly essays in the Cowboy Chronicle.
    Some how something very American has been high jacked. The shooting system was started by Gen'l Burnside and now it's run by shills. The purpose was to teach soldiers to shoot BEFORE thet enlisted and to improve our force readiness.
    WHO CAN ARGUE WITH THAT?But it's been high jacked.
    The NRA does have some GREAT programs but they are run by politicized people that i just don't like and this started when i rubbed shoulders with them at regional and the National Matches.
    These programs include shooter and hunter safety and gun handling courses.
    To Mike and Al,
    Same to Chief if his ass is off his shoulders.

  4. jim-

    Back in the 50's, I learned firearms safety and basic marksmanship in the Boy Scouts, in an NRA co-sponsored program. Found it educational and I enjoyed the discipline of range marksmanship. Never really got into hunting or the like, nor gun collecting or "membership" in the NRA. On Oct 12, 1960,I swore into the Corps, and from that day until 30 Sep 1995, DOD provided me with a weapon, safety training and marksmanship requirements, so I had no need for membership in an organization that promoted firearms safety and marksmanship. My employer did that as a matter of principle, so why should I pay dues for a duplication of services? Thus, the NRA's "evolution" into a political force never came on my radar scope until quite recently, and to be frank, I was gobsmacked at first.

    However, upon closer look, they are not the first organization to become politicized in the past decade or two. You mention VFW and the Legion, for example.

    Not all organizations have had the integrity to take the stand of The Marine Corps League. Summarizing the League's National Bylaws, the National MCL Commandant wrote:

    As the 2012 political campaigns heat up this Spring and Summer in anticipation of the General elections in the Fall, I wanted to take a moment to remind you that, as a matter of League policy, Marine Corps League members wearing any part of the League uniform or identifying themselves as members of the Marine Corps League, cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program, or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; give interviews to the press or speak at any event promoting a political candidate or movement.

    Not everyone, nor every group, has been bought out or co-oped by the Wingnuts.

  5. jim-

    As a contribution to "defining the problem", might I suggest that the term "anti-gun" be limited to identify those who are just that - against guns, rather than a broad brush stroke covering any and all people who express even the slightest reservations about unlimited and unregulated access to firearms?

  6. Al,
    Thanks for the MC League info.
    They meet in Tallahassee on mondays in the local GOLDEN CORRAL.
    I always hear them hitting the beach in their little cubicle.

    I took NRA training courses while i was on active duty. Coaches clinic pops to mind. The Small Arms Firing School at Cp. Perry was run by the USMC types and was a NRA/DCM program. My 1st exposure was 1965 as a cadet.
    At 3rd Army we ran a NRA postal match to select the 3rd Army ROTC Service rifle team. Incidentally we won the NM that year, so the conclusion i must draw is that the programs are good , but they must lose the attitude.
    I too learned to shoot in the Boy Scouts with 1922m2's provided thru the DCM FREE OF CHARGE b/c we were Scouts. The 1922 is a 22 version of the 03 or NRA National match rifle of the 1930's variety.
    Samo samo for the ammo that we used to get thru truck delivery by the case.
    The problem is that we have disconnected good programs from the mainstream of American life.
    For example Lisa met me b/c she couldn't find anyone to teach her gun handling and safety in the area. She had no idea of the NRA/CMP functions. So she ended up with me!!
    I know that the USMC provided you weapons for 30 plus years, but my posts are about firearms ,NOT CLUBS.

  7. jim: The problem is that we have disconnected good programs from the mainstream of American life.

    When it comes to firearms, you have indeed identified one problem in the great stew that is American Violence. I rarely hear my "Pro-Gun" ( as in absolutely no limits, please) friends talk about marksmanship or safety. Rather, they rant on about the need to protect their TV's and xBoxes from thieves, glorify bizarre stories of a woman who allegedly fatally shot a purse snatcher six times in the back as he fled with her purse, need to be prepared to defend themselves from a tyrannical government of the future or rave on about how, without question, armed teachers would prevent another mass shooting. One very vocal advocate of these uses, served with me, and was an unsafe on the range, barely qualified (hard for an Army Officer to at least not "paper qualify in 1970) on the annual trip to the range. (BTW, it was 6 years in the Corps and 29 in the Army - I gave up a lot to be able to fly).

    One of the things I lamented in the Army was the abandonment of the KD range, as, IMHO, the discipline gained on that range spilled over into other areas of life. Further, one gained respect for the precision of a firearm if used within it's design parameters. Hell, it reached a point where rather than "qualifying" annually, most Soldiers only fired for "familiarization".

    In short, many people replaced what was once "respect" for firearms with a lustful obsession for them. If you wish to categorize my view of firearms, I suggest you say "respect", as I am in no way "anti". As a result of that "respect", I find a lot of people who misuse or disrespect them, either in the employment of them, or in the reasons for possessing them.

    I would not be surprised that a NM firearm would not be used in a shooting rampage, as you claim. How many NM competitors have such low respect for their weapons? It takes discipline to compete in a serious match.

    So, in addition to the problem of violence, might I offer the change in the perception of firearms as a concurrent problem? Not just by those who wish to limit firearms, but those who "worship" them. There is a huge difference between "respect" and "worship".

  8. I think that perhaps the first step we would need to take would be to come up with a widely accepted practical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I think the biggest hurdle to ever getting down to ANY sort of horsetrading on what constitutes some practical measures for reducing the level of firearms casualties comes from the widespread conviction among the pro-firearms advocates that "The Constitution says I have a right to own guns.", full stop.

    To which my reply would be (and is) "Yes it does, but for some reason you guys think that the right to bear arms is the only constitutional right that is virtually without limit."

    The Constitution also give you the right to practice your religion - but not if your religion involves human sacrifice.

    You have the right to free speech, but you can still be prosecuted for incitement or conspiracy, and you can be sued for libel.

    Every right is subject to limitation when it begins to threaten others, and in Heller, which is the most commonly cited precedent in the "I can weapon up however I please" argument the Supreme Court said, yeah, there IS an individual right to gun ownership BUT that the government can put reasonable restrictions on that right.

    And my other problem with this argument is this: we all know that if this shooter turns out to have a Muslim name, plenty of Americans, including plenty of gun owners, will be more than happy to give up all kinds of rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

    Have the government read my email?

    Have my cell phone company turn over my call records?

    Check which books I'm taking out of the library?

    Make me take my shoes off before getting on a plane, just because some idiot tried to blow up his sneakers?

    Sure, do what you've got to do!

    But FOR GOD'S SAKE don't make it harder to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, because if we couldn't do that we'd no longer be free!

    I'm sorry, but it's really hard for me to lend much of an ear to one side of the argument when it comes with that sort of baggage. The "anti-gun" people may be nuts on the subject but, as with the Occupy folks, at least they seem to be shouting at the right buildings...

  9. Chief-

    Has anyone really put forward a "case" for unfettered firearms in the name of protecting themselves, or anyone, for that matter, from "terrorists"? Perhaps one of the benefits of living here - don't have to be as bombarded with the stupids are you are in the States.

  10. "Perhaps one of the benefits of living here - don't have to be as bombarded with the stupids are you are in the States."

    Amen to that brothers.

    jim, since I don't have anything to add to what I've already said, I'll just read along . . .

    Happy New Year to all . . . and sure hope it's better than 2012 was . . .

  11. Al: Well, I believe there has been some bloviating along that line but I also think you have to divide these responses into the "yes, but this individual ALSO thinks that the North Koreans might invade North America" a.k.a the tinfoil hat response, and the "others".

    I think that Mumbai is a pretty convincing answer to the whole "armed people can/will stop small-arms terrorists" trope for those who can't take the hint that an armed guard didn't stop Columbine, either. The two attackers from the CST massacre killed a total of 13 armed police officers, while the four gunmen at the hotels and Nariman House managed to kill two National Security Guards, the Indian special operations cops, before buying it.

    The likelihood of some sort of "armed citizen" actually shooting it out successfully with a genuinely prepared terror-group black op specialist (as opposed to getting pure-dumb-lucky, or a mall-shooting nutter) is low enough that I don't think that anyone outside the tinfoil-hat contingent is willing to argue for that as a justification for the "unlimited-possession" position.

    But I don't really think there is or has to be that level of analysis going on here.

    The folks on the one side are dogmatic, hammering on the point that the 2nd Amendment says "keep and bear arms", period, without dragging in the whole question that Heller and other precedents keep open, which is the degree to which the Federal and other governments may regulate which type and number of arms the People may keep and bear.

    These folks are to the one side what the "ban 'em all" folks are to the other. But I think the problem here is that I don't believe that the complete-ban supporters have any sort of ear in D.C. or anywhere else outside a handful of blogs and the occasional youth hostel. But the "no-limits" 2nd Amendment purists DO have some traction, between the armaments producers and organizations like the GOA.

    So, to summarize, I don't think there is a serious constituency out there for the "guns will protect us from Mumbai" line of reasoning. If anything, that argument is part of a larger smokescreen designed to make the smaller question of reasonable regulation ideas harder to discuss. And there ARE people with reasonable objections to firearms regulation, but they by-and-large don't make this argument because they realize how ridiculous it is.

  12. Chief,

    Not sure it's possible to come up with a widely accepted interpretation of the 2nd. There are certainly the "gun nuts" out there, but I've run across plenty of people who think "militia" means the 2nd is a wholly collective right and therefore any gun prohibition is acceptable. I don't think there's real consensus on this issue but most people seem to be somewhere between those two extremes.

    And I think Heller provides some guidance. We already have virtual bans on automatic weapons and several classes of military weapons. If I understand Heller correctly, the take-away is that regulation is ok, but bans are not ok. That leaves a lot of room for additional restrictions on weapons as well as regulation of transactions and ownership.

    The problem, as ever, is that there is little agreement over what to do at the national level, so changes at the State and local level are probably the only feasable avenue for the time being.

  13. Andy-

    The 2nd Amendment was written over 200 years ago, by folks in a time when slavery was considered proper. Not equating the two, but suggesting that times do change, as does the issues a given wording might address. Thus, before there was a 2nd Amendment, there was Article 5, which tends to say that the authors of the Constitution knew that times could change and/or their wording may become less appropriate.

    I'm not saying trash the 2nd Amendment, but rather that it is not the "Inspired Word of The deity, Inscribed in Immutably Stone". Funny thing about many of those who equate the Constitution to a certain "Book", regularly and routinely create new "Translations" of that "Book" into English using inaccurate translation to promote a sectarian agenda. jim's railing against "hypocrisy" could find a good target here.

    Also lost is that the authors of the Constitution did not intend to govern us from their graves, but rather wrote a document, consented to by their contemporaries that only exists by the consent of subsequent Americans. To be able to keep that consent over the generations, without revolution, they included Article 5.

    The US was birthed in violence, in a major part reacting to the tyrannical excesses of the "Divine Right of Kings". We have simply replaced that with the tyrannical excesses of the "Divine Right of Moneyed Interest Groups". I am gobsmacked that the Koch Brothers are able to invest millions to sway elections in a jurisdiction in which they have no legal constituent standing. Rather than legally cast their two votes just where they live, they extra-legally buy tens of thousands of them wherever they please. If that isn't a form of an excess of tyranny, I don't know what is.

  14. Al,

    I'd be fine with changing the 2nd amendment. Hardly anyone wants to do that though probably because they understand what an uphill climb it would be be.

    Instead we get tripe like this:

  15. I don't have anything to add other than to applaud jim's continuing efforts to get the US public to face the consequences of their choices.

    Happy New Year!

  16. Andy: Instead we get tripe like this:

    Well, we have seen abuses of the Constitution's alleged intent in the form of House and Senate "Rules" that allow, for example, a minority to block the express will of a majority.

    There is indeed a root to much of our governmental dysfunction in the Constitution, be it explicit provisions, provisions lacking or provisions that may be outdated. While I would not go so far as to say "Give Up", I would, indeed, suggest "Revisit". It may be time to move the constitution from "Sacred" to "Respected", or something like that.

    Again, IMHO, Article 5 says it all. It was originally designed to be amended as necessary to make government by the consent of the People. Prof Siedman does, indeed offer examples where such consent has been lacking, and the extra (or un) Constitutional measures arising therefrom.

  17. To all,
    To understand the complexity of the issue just look at Chiefs attack on owning a stock pile of ammo.
    He's most negative , and i must ask why?
    What if someone stock piles?
    Has this caused any massacres or resulted in dead kids?
    Is this just a personal dislike that i should care about when discussing the issue?
    Why even raise the issue if it doesn't cause problems? It's just another layer of (u fill in the word).
    Now look at the Fed. I think recently the SSA or IRS bought a very large supply of .357 /125 grain /high velocity plus p type ammo ( HOLLOW POINT)for their agency use. Obviously not for killing terrorists ,but obviously killing rounds.BTW remember when law enforcement carried .38 jacketed rounds?
    Why don't we lay the up gunning of America on our police and LE policies?
    Why isn't this a point of contention with those proposing limits on my rights?
    I guess that you all are aware that dum dums are illegal in war , but our gov't is fitting out agents to use these outlawed rounds here in the Homeland?
    There's way too much emotionalism in this argument.
    I realize this and try to keep the discussion realistic.
    The 357 rounds are real.

  18. jim

    A major "problem" is American society's predilection for pure and simple violence upon our fellow man, at home and abroad. Hell, violence is an all too frequent answer to someone cutting in ahead of another person on the freeway.

    Without weapons of any sort, the ability to perform violence would be limited to fisticuffs and strangling. A club increases the ability to inflict violence considerably, as does a knife. A simple, single shot firearm allows that violence to be inflicted at greater than arm's length. Specialized ammo raises the potential damage even further. A 100 round magazine in a rapid fire semi-automatic weapon increases the level of violence possible in a given amount of time exponentially. That's just plain and simple "physics", if you will. That's why we equip our soldiers with M-16 derivatives, machine guns, mortars, etc rather than muzzle loaders. Gotta make the force more lethal. A platoon today probably has the fire power/minute of at least a Revolutionary War Battalion.

    Ideally, the best solution would be to determine why America is a generally more violent society than say, modern day Switzerland, and apply that solution to our society. Then, people wouldn't be seeking the most effective and efficient means to act out their violent desires. In the meantime, perhaps, is it so irrational to think of limiting peoples' firepower/min as a way to reduce lethality while trying to increase civility to reduce violence in general?

    Unfortunately, the very discourse is far from civil and regularly irrational.

  19. jim

    I would also note that in many US jurisdictions, a police officer who discharges a firearm, without regard to whether or not someone is killed or injured as a result, is usually subject to a more intense investigation than a home owner to kills an intruder with a firearm. So, don't raise the red herring of what LEOs may or may not be armed with. They will generally be held much more accountable than someone hiding behind a "Stand your ground law", where the person shot is generally considered "guilty until proven innocent."

  20. I agree with the statements above about the 2nd amendment, until there is a SCOTUS ruling that better defines it, the individual will always win. So the questions that jim posted about who should be allowed to have guns is a tough one.

    Because I think that is unrealistic, I don't think we will see any effective Federal laws. IMO, good, stop trying. Allow states and local governments to make laws that work for them. Ranchers in Montana should not be under the same restrictions as a banker in NYC. I see no issue with "gun free zones" established by local governments. If an urban city wants to impose a gun ban within city limits, go for it. Good luck trying to enforce it, but it could work. For those who want guns for hunting and for shooting ranges, I bet entrepreneurs can set up gun lockers at ranges or outside city limits for hunters.

    Another question for jim to add, beyond do we have a gun problem. Reminds me of when we had a commanding General come to our HQ, and we were trying to convince him to give us money to build a new parking lot. What we wanted was a parking lot closer to the building, we had enough spots, but they were across a soccer field. The CG said, "You don't have a parking problem, you have a walking problem."

    Are we defining the problem correctly? Do we have a gun problem? Or are we, as suggested above, just simply a more violent society? Sadly, I think we are. And I don't feel it has anything to do with violent video games, that is just a symptom, and our violent nature has been our history (native Americans, lynchings, etc, etc). The US is 2nd in the world in reported rapes, and 1st if you normalize by population. 82,000 woman a year report being raped. The gun violence stats that we throw around, those are only deaths. What about gun inflicted wounds? If you can use current battlefield survival rates as a rough guide, there have to be at least 7-8 Americans wounded per every homicide victim.

    Ideally, the way to solve the problem is to remove all guns from America. That won't happen. IMO, gun restrictions and better handling laws will work like pad locks. They will keep honest people honest. Not saying we shouldn't try it, but they won't be terribly effective and won't be addressing the root problem. How can we determine if we are truly a more violent society, and if so, how do we become less violent? If we can honestly say that we are no less violent than other countries, then perhaps the anti-gun people are right, and all we have to do is turn in our guns and we will live happily ever after.

  21. Ok, beyond the rhetorical questions I submitted above, here is what really perplexes me:

    How are Americans different from Canadians? Why do they have such a significantly lower number of deaths from gun violence?

  22. bg

    US as compared to Canada. One hint can be gained from what the actual "Birthing Process" was and what the "Birthing Document" said each of the two governments were established to provide:

    Birthing Process:

    Violent Revolution


    A Rational Act of Parliament

    Purpose of government:

    Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness


    Peace, Order and Good Government.

    Violence is not as prevalent in Canada to begin with.

    A portion of Americans probably own firearms for a violent reason, as protection of the home with a firearm is, of itself a violent form of protection. Canada never had anything resembling the 2nd Amendment or a notion of unrestricted rights to any and all firearms. Canada today has 1/3 the number of firearms per capita that the US has, and pretty comprehensive firearms laws. (

    I would venture to guess that two factors come into play in Canadians generally accepting firearms limitations: Reasonable (in the population's view) restrictions that provided for the general well being from before "Day One", and "Peace, Order and Good Government".

    My thanks to the eminent Canadian historian, the late Pierre Burton, for the "Birthing" understanding. Ever since reading him, my understanding of the two countries has improved.

  23. Al, so if Canadians are not as violent as Americans, how do you explain hockey? :)

    I guess I have a hard time accepting that there are such significant cultural and psychological differences between Americans and Canadians based on how their government was formed.

    I don't know, I guess I don't know enough Canadians to draw a conclusion on Canadian culture or their tendency to violence. (maybe that is the problem, all the Canadians that I know I meet playing hockey). I only have statistics without enough context to understand them.

    And as far as the American problem, I think it is hard for someone like me in the military to understand:

    1. How the average American thinks/feels
    2. How anyone can see a gun as anything other than a tool, therefore, the fault lies with (or within) the user

  24. bg

    We lived for 15 years close to the WA - BC border and made numerous friends in BC, both military and civilian. Spent at least 2 months every summer cruising Canadian waters and mingling with the inhabitants. Significantly different culture. I wish I could remember which of Burton's 30 some books addressed the "Birthing" difference, but if you wish, he did 2 volumes on the War of 1812, and I think it surfaces in there, as well as his volume on the Trans-Canada Railroad. Even if I have the volumes wrong, his writing is splendid and well worth the read.

    I'd also note that Britain and Canada had nearly a century to observe events south of the border before crafting the BNA of 1868. Perhaps they learned something "constitutional" and "cultural" from our evolution up to and through the Civil War?

    As I mentioned above, my initial opinion toward firearms was formed by Boy Scout marksmanship ("Bull's Eye" not "human silhouette" targets) and safety training. While there was one WWI and numerous WWII and Korea vets in my family, none were "hunters" or "gun collectors", so household firearms were not the norm. We did have registered pistols for those who carried the family business receipts and payrolls to and from the bank, but those were kept in the safes at the business locations, and the folks who carried them were licensed and underwent a training program by the Sheriff's dept.

    My 6 uncles were all either auxillary police volunteers or Civil Defense wardens in the late 40's and 50's. Funny thing is that the combat vets chose the unarmed CD, while the non combat vets were armed auxillary police (weapons kept at the village police station).

    Yet, I was encouraged to participate in Boy Scout marksmanship and safety training. Probably to gain the same respect for firearms found in the rest of the family.

    In my six years in the Corps, we referred to our personally assigned firearms as "weapons", as that was the purpose of the firearms we were issued. Marksmanship was a sign of the profession, not a hobby or "sport" at the time. If you were damn good, you were expected to represent your unit in competition to display professional competence.

    So, my "bursting radius" experience with fire arms was focused either on the discipline of marksmanship or use as a "weapon", and I did both.

    A firearm is, indeed, a "tool", bg. However, it is a multi-purpose tool, based on what the user wishes to do with it. In the military, we try to maximize the firepower of our forces by providing them with more capable "tools" so that a given size force can deliver the greatest possible fire upon the enemy.

    Canada seems to feel that such a level of firepower is not needed by the populace to have "peace and order", so via "good government" (according to their cultural norms) they set limits on civilian firepower. Thus, to receive a permit for certain firearms for "home defense", you have to make a solid case that existing police protection is significantly inadequate. Not a commonly issued permit.

    (To be continued)

  25. (continued)

    I'm not sure there is an "average American's feelings", as "feelings" are not interval quantities. The nature of our governance should be a "majority" issue, unless some fundamental rights are involved, but then, what's a "fundamental right", and do some rights take precedence over others? If unfettered access to any and all firearms is the foremost "fundamental right", then we simply have to live with what people choose to do with these "tools". Personally, and only personally, I do not see having to arm myself to protect my stereo as Liberty nor the Pursuit of Happiness. I see it as human ugliness. I got shooting at others with fatal intent out of my system in RVN.

    As one of my profs said, "Some things that seem to be engraved in stone are just the accidents of history". I would offer, since it is unique to the US versus all other "modern" states, that the 2nd Amendment might very well be an accident of history, now affording "rights" and involving firepower levels that the authors could never have imagined, no less intended. But those guys are long dead and gone, so any attempt to ascribe eternally precise intent to that one sentence is pure and simple bullshit, as they aren't here to ask for their views based on today's world. Again, those guys thought slavery was spot on and noble, but gave us Article 5 knowing that they could be wrong on specific bits and pieces, either in initial intent, or as a result of a changing world. To me, that's the greatest wisdom of the authors of the Constitution - the admission of human frailty admitted freely by Article 5. By it's very design, it is a work in progress.

  26. Al, thanks for the perspective. It is a frustrating conversation because I don't feel I am any closer to understanding why US is more violent than other cultures (assuming it is) and what can feasibly be done if we determine that the 2nd Amendment needs to be updated and that the availability of guns is the problem.

    I wonder if abolitionists were equally frustrated pre-1860. Is that fair analogy? If so, it is going to be a long road before we see real movement on this one.

  27. As to "violence" the US does top the developed "western" countries in murder, at 4.2 per 100k population. Gun ownership in the US is 88.8 per 100 population

    Some others, in descending order (With guns per 100 pop in parens): Israel - 2.1 (7.3), Belgium - 1.7 (17.2), Canada - 1.6 (30.8), Greece - 1.5 (22.5), UK - 1.2 (6.2), Italy 0.9 (11.9) and Germany 0.8 (30.3)

    Obviously not a linear relationship, but we do have nearly 3 times as many guns per 100 people as Canada and Germany, and 2.6 and 5.3 times higher murder rate than the two respectively.

    There are a hell of a lot of variables to control for to even begin to come to any conclusions about violence alone, no less the contribution of specific means, but you can't control for a variable that is a "sacred cow". As you point out, I am just offering fatalities as a measure, not all serious assault.

    And, any reduction in this violence is going to have to arise from within the society. The abolition question in the US, unlike Great Britain some 50 years prior, was addressed by violence, was it not? And Britain probably profited more from the slave trade than any other nation.

    I don't know the answers, but one question seems quite clear: Why is the US an unusually violent society?

  28. Al,
    Your stats on US gun ownership are meaningless UNLESS it's broken down by type of weapons.
    The vast majority of guns in America are curios and collectors.
    I will believe this until proven otherwise.
    Figures lie and liars figure.
    We have had police shootings here in Tall Fl where local police have cut loose with MP 5's in fast food parking lots. This on full auto mode. They weren't discharged or disciplined.The blue wall rules. We have had zero citizen mp5 's loosed anywhere in town.
    You believe what you want about police violence , but try to get stats on police violence , or on the number of folks killed by LE and it's difficult to find. Look for police deaths and the figures are centralized.
    At the Fl FDLE training center the swats wear cutsie black t shirts with sniper cross hairs with people in the center. Their reverse says-"we still make house calls" with the picture of a team busting down a homes door with a battering ram.
    This may not cause you concern Al , but it seems clear to me that this goes beyond the concept of protecting and serving.They wear these shirts in my cities restaurants.
    The swat team members shop in grocery stores with their gun fighter crap hanging from their bodies.
    Not good.IMO.
    My check of Canadian law shows auto belt feds as being controlled,BUT still available to shooters. Canada has IPSC shoots.
    Maybe i'm reading this wrong!
    imo the constitution allows the states to have gun laws , but i cannot find any mention of local or city govt's having this power.
    To all, I find it interesting that the folks that hold the Const. as a living breathing mutable document fail to apply the same elasticity to the bible.
    I think we are violent b/c our Christianity encourages just war and killing.
    I have a art on guns at RAW today, but didn't inflict this on you all.

  29. jim: - "Your stats on US gun ownership are meaningless UNLESS it's broken down by type of weapons."

    Rather than rest on my "beliefs", as you say you do, I clearly stated:

    There are a hell of a lot of variables to control for to even begin to come to any conclusions about violence alone, no less the contribution of specific means,....

    and I added, because it is statistically true:

    but you can't control for a variable that is a "sacred cow".

    I deny no one their right to "beliefs". But when they try to assert them as "proof positive", I walk away.

    I would also note, jim, that you are going to find that those who state the Bible is infallible and literal also tend to hold the Constitution in the same regard, or at least the 2nd Amendment. Trying to paint American "Christianity" with a single brush stroke is a joke, as there are some 30,000 "denominations" of same that obviously are not in universal agreement, or there'd only be one. Time to do some reading, my friend. Your "beliefs" about their "beliefs" are far from factual.

  30. I would argue, rather, that we are a society with unparalleled private access to simple, effective ways to kill other private citizens.

    Are we more "unusually violent" than the Mongols were in Poland? Are we more "unusually violent" than the Russians when they killed thousands of Jews in pogroms? Or Turks when they massacred tens of thousands of Armenians?

    I doubt it. Humans have always been violent; that's one of the reasons that "governments are instituted among Men" - to control that shit.

    So I'd suggest that Al's tracking numbers have a LOT to do with "how violent we are". Killing another human with a knife, or an axe, or your hands is damn difficult. With a firearm?

    Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

  31. In fact, so easy that 67% of US homicides are with firearms.

  32. Al,

    Why is the US an unusually violent society?

    Not an easy question to answer, especially since violence is more than just murder.

    The statistic's aren't totally reliable given data and reporting differences, but from what I've read, the US is comparatively a lot better in terms of rape and robberies than much of Europe but is worse in assaults except, perhaps, for the UK (having lived in the UK, I can tell you that assaults are very common). Again, hard to tell for sure though since data are far from perfect which makes valid comparisons difficult.

    Murder is easier to compare since it is easy to quantify than other types of violent crime and we know the stats there. But digging a bit deeper, it's important to note that much of the homicide problem is concentrated in parts of larger urban areas - most places in the US are very safe.

    As to your question, I do think it's about culture. I think a lot of it is attributable to the legacy of slavery. Some is due to our history of immigration and the nature of the internal conflicts from the "melting pot." And we are a political union without the social advantages of a homogeneous nation-state that most European nations enjoy.

    The ease of gun access probably makes all these issues worse than they otherwise would be. But generalizing is problematic - When it comes to guns every place in America is not the same. I grew up in Colorado in a distinctly western cultural tradition. Guns were "normal" and not viewed as a problem. There is still a lot of that attitude in the west. There are a lot of small and mid-sized western towns with very high rates of gun ownership, yet very low crime rates.

    I don't pretend to know the causality for these differences. What I am confident about is that the simplistic, linear arguments about guns and violence, either pro or con, don't come close to telling the whole story.

  33. Andy- "I don't pretend to know the causality for these differences. What I am confident about is that the simplistic, linear arguments about guns and violence, either pro or con, don't come close to telling the whole story."

    No argument. jim has raised a very valid question by titling this thread "defining the problem". I have tried to point out that the "problem" cannot be defined if any aspect is ruled out of the equation. Having spent a few years practicing multivariate analyses, I know that unless you control for as many variables as possible, any conclusions will be weak, if not just plain spurious.

    It is a huge task to compare societies. As often discussed, rape statistics are based upon reporting rates. Is the significantly higher per capita incidence of RAPE IN Sweden vs the US do to reporting levels or just a more violent male population? Are rapes more or less likely to be reported in the military as compared to the population at large. Since unreported rapes are not a matter of record, one can only assume.

    Fatalities, however, tend to have, at least in most "civilized countries", a very accurate reporting rate. With a more accurate data set, it becomes easier to do an analysis. From there, as host of other variables enter into the equation – armed robberies gone wrong, vendettas, weapon used, etc.

    However, if we are going to try to use existing data to analyze for correlations in the realm of violence (see below re: "correlation"), then the more variables we can enter into the equation the more correlations and predictors we can rule in or rule out. Consider an analysis on earning potential. Ruling out the inclusion of gender and/or race, I’m sure you would agree, would give a very poor predictor for the earning potential for black females in general, or if race and/or gender have any impact at all. Or if race is a predictor due to education trends within a given race. And so on.

    I say "correlation" in so far as a controlled experiment in violence would be a difficult ethical task. In order to test a hypothesis of whether or not a given weapon “encourages” violence, you would have to allow the act of violence by people armed with one type of weapon versus a cohort not so armed. Thus, we tend to be limited to ex post facto research, which, in the field of human behavior, tends to be more amenable to finding correlation than causation. However, one can then take a “safe” approach to interpreting the correlation by applying policy which sees if a given approach, based on a correlation, reduces the undesired behaviors. In short, the only valid way to see if Canadian style laws would reduce firearms homicides in the US, would be to implement such laws and see, over time, what happens. Not saying this is a plausible policy decision, but just a valid approach to social science. Ranting about “bad cops”, invasions of foreign countries, etc as an excuse to remove a “sacred cow” from the equation is intellectually irresponsible and simply “Junk Science”. But then, we Americans have almost as much of a love affair with Junk Science as we do with guns, so is it no surprise that we use one mistress to protect the other?

    (to be continued)

  34. (continued)

    I am willing to admit that the general population, with help from special interest groups, vast amounts of special interest money and a profound reliance on “belief” versus intellect, are not interested in a solution, unless it imposes no limitations on individual desires. However, I will not allow that admission to lead me to be intellectually derelict. As a friend back in the States once said, “The Creator spent His good time and effort designing a brain and installing it in my head. I’m not going to tell Him, thanks, but I can do better on my own.”

    I don’t claim to know the answers. I'm just willing to entertain any and all questions possible until we have a better understanding of what the hell is going on, if anything. And I don’t claim that we can do anything once we know more. Just saying it’s worth a look. An honest look, which I never said would be easy.

  35. RAW Jim, and Mr. Hruska. I applaud you on your doggedness. Though I disagree with you two gentlemen, any debate needs to have all sides considered. You do it well and are polite. Something we need on the "internets." If we can't debate but rather go to confirmation bias websites nothing will ever get accomplished. I realize you are just as concerned as any here on reducing violence. I want PDKhan to post more articles.


  36. James,
    jim and hruska are 1 person, so that makes me double dogged.
    jim hruska aka raw

  37. bag over head