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Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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School Shootings

Is the rise of school shootings in America a case of too many guns or a simple failure to keep guns away from kids? Gun locks and gun safes exist.

That's not a rhetorical question. I actually wonder about the answer.

I assume 90% of the kids who become school shooters get their weapons from adults who left them unguarded. Correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.

I know you're furiously trying to determine if I am pro-gun or anti-gun so you can decide how much extra to hate me. So let me state my position as clearly as possible:

I am pro-data.

And the data is incomplete.

Obviously there's a strong correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths. But how much of that is causation as opposed to correlation? One can never know if Americans own guns because we're violent people or we're violent because we own guns. Isn't it likely to be some of both?

Common sense says that having guns lying around the house makes gun violence more likely. But we don't know if the accessibility factor is 10% of the story or 90%. Maybe the rate of stabbings would skyrocket if guns disappeared and that would close some of the violence gap. My point is that it's hard to size the problem of gun risk, and that matters because the goal is low risk not zero risk. If we wanted zero risk in all things at the expense of personal freedom we would fill every swimming pool with bubble wrap.

We also can't know if gun ownership will ever protect future citizens from the tyranny of the government. One argument says that the army has the biggest guns and so citizens are effectively defenseless if the government becomes a dictatorship. Therefore, owning a gun doesn't protect you from the government.

The counterargument is that if an American becomes a dictator, every one of his friends and extended family members would be bullet-riddled by the end of the week courtesy of the gun owners. What would be the point of becoming a dictator in a country where you can't leave your enclave and you just killed most of the people you care about with your actions? I think gun ownership does add a thin layer of protection against a risk of a dictatorship by rational leaders, but that risk is of unknown size. How do you value the thing that might happen but doesn't?

We also don't know what would happen if we went hog-wild with gun control. Would we suddenly become Great Britain and prefer slapping each other with open palms instead of shooting? Or would it turn into another Prohibition fiasco? Nothing sells more guns than the threat of gun control in the future.

In the long run, all violent criminals will be caught every time. That's the payoff from our creeping lack of privacy. When that day comes, rational adults such as criminals will be doing less shooting because there is no hope of getting away with it. And if we keep guns away from kids, with mandatory gun locks for example, that helps with the school shooting problem.

Once the rational criminals and the kids are neutered, that leaves only the irrational adults with guns as our remaining problem. And probably the best defense against that bunch of nuts involves owning your own gun. But I can't back that assumption with data.

Anecdotally, I have one friend who gunned down a would-be rapist who broke into her house. And I have another friend who would have been raped by an intruder if her boyfriend hadn't coincidentally spent the night and taken out the intruder by hand. A gun would have worked if he hadn't been there. But those are anecdotes not data.

The only thing I know for sure is that the "It is in the constitution" argument is misplaced. No matter what the founders had in mind at the time, we have the option to change it. So the question is what makes sense today, not what a bunch of hemp-smoking slave-owners thought hundreds of years ago.

I'm curious if you think you have enough data to form an opinion on the topic of American gun control. Gun control qualifies as common sense, but in my experience common sense in the context of insufficient data is irrationality in disguise.

To be fair, both sides of the debate have insufficient data and so they must default to using what they feel is common sense but isn't. (If it were common, both sides would agree.). So I don't think irrationality is limited to one side of the debate.

Scott

 
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Jun 19, 2014
[The problem then becomes, who is that qualified authority, and what makes them qualified? ]

[I don't see that as a particularly difficult hurdle to clear. You already have the FDA. I work at a medical company, and the FDA burdens us with all sorts of regulations that actually help us ensure the safety of our equipment. It shouldn't be too far fetched that a similar agency could be set up for gun ownership.]

Oh, this is hilarious in ways you can't imagine. Have you ever heard of the BATF?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureau_of_Alcohol,_Tobacco,_Firearms_and_Explosives

Why alchohol & tobacco is lumped with guns and bombs, I know not, but the organization you desire exists. It's also notoriously corrupt, incompetent & politicized. Your faith in the abilities of government oversight knows no bounds, it seems.


 
 
Jun 19, 2014
In regard to the effects of a total gun ban in Australia, the real effects are, at best, mediocre; and more likely worse, hidden by fraudulent crime statistics.

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16407
 
 
Jun 19, 2014
Scott wanted to focus on school shootings, but honestly, that’s no fun… I’m glad we all ignored that and just talked about whatever we wanted, even when it meant ignoring what the other person said because, to paraphrase, they don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.

It was a fun exercise in irrationality!
 
 
Jun 19, 2014
Scott wanted to focus on school shootings, but honestly, that’s no fun… I’m glad we all ignored that and just went talked about whatever we wanted, even when it meant ignoring what the other person said because, to paraphrase, they don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.

It was a fun exercise in irrationality!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 19, 2014
[We have enough trouble enforcing the myriad laws we already have. If people won't obey there will always be enforcement issues.]

We should close all fire departments.
We have enough trouble running police departments. If people won't stop using fire, there will always be fires : P
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 19, 2014
[If your idea of compromise is "we want most of your gun rights, but we'll compromise and only take a few without giving anything in return"...then we're probably done. However true compromise is possible--for every law you want that bothers a gun owner, either repeal some other restriction, or add something positive for us. Despite "shall not be infringed" gun owners already have a lot of infringements. ]

creighto has clarified that for me now. Any blanket restriction, strict or otherwise, that targets irresponsible gun owners but unfairly punishes responsible gun owners only serves to polarize the debate further.
We need a way to distinguish between the two.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 19, 2014
[The problem then becomes, who is that qualified authority, and what makes them qualified? ]

I don't see that as a particularly difficult hurdle to clear. You already have the FDA. I work at a medical company, and the FDA burdens us with all sorts of regulations that actually help us ensure the safety of our equipment. It shouldn't be too far fetched that a similar agency could be set up for gun ownership.

Enforcement would be the real challenge. But again, I don't see why its not doable in a reasonable fashion.
 
 
Jun 19, 2014
[How did you miss that?]

I blame the commenting system.
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
(In other words, status quo. If you're really not willing to even consider whether there is room for improvement, I guess we're done.)

If your idea of compromise is "we want most of your gun rights, but we'll compromise and only take a few without giving anything in return"...then we're probably done. However true compromise is possible--for every law you want that bothers a gun owner, either repeal some other restriction, or add something positive for us. Despite "shall not be infringed" gun owners already have a lot of infringements.

If you want registration, be honest and call it that, not "background checks that incidentally allow tracking every gun".
If you want backgrounds to be checked, settle for a system that can't be used as registration and maintains a presumption of innocence, and doesn't cost us extra. Give up something in exchange.

Some things you could give up that don't really affect violent crime (I'm not asking for all of them):
End restrictions on imported guns that don't apply to domestic guns
Universal carry license recognition, similar to driver's licenses.
End restrictions on out of state gun purchases where the purchase would otherwise be legal in both states
End the silly "order of assembly" rules where a gun can be illegal based on things it used to have, and an identical gun legal.


 
 
Jun 18, 2014
[What I'm saying is that we already do as much to prevent unstable people from obtaining firearms, legally or otherwise, that we can practially achieve within our legal framework.]

[In other words, status quo.
If you're really not willing to even consider whether there is room for improvement, I guess we're done.]


I'm not unwilling, I just have enough experience in the regard to know what to expect.

[[That's because he was mocking your position by attempting to put into another perspective that you might better understand.]

I actually thought I was mocking you by dum**g things down : P
Didn't realize that we weren't the only two left in this thread. ]

How did you miss that?
 
 
Jun 18, 2014

[Thats a really interesting comparison. At first glance one might say that the risk of dying of an overdose is lower than a gunshot, and hence its an unfair comparison. But I'm guessing that accidental overdoses occur much more often and therefore are taken too lightly. So you make a good point.]

Thank you.

[Regarding gun safes, I'm beginning to think that your stance is more a result of frustration than it is a beef with stricter regulations per se.]

That is a fair assessment. It would be more accurate to say that I'm frustrated with people who don't understand trying to come up with new regulations, surely with the best of intentions, that do not gain anything while making my life harder. I'm not frustrated with liberals, per se; most are just ignorant of firearms.

[For example, I think the case can be made that double safes require you to be more deliberate when opening them. It could therefore be seen as a safeguard against clumsiness and stupidity.]

I suppose that such a case can be made, but there is no evidence that two locksets are better than one in this regard, and the downsides are very real. Furthermore, that argument has nothing to do with the official reason that the reg exists.

[Naturally, that would offend and frustrate gun owners like you who actually are responsible and don't need a double safe to remind them that guns are dangerous.]

Indeed. I'm not particularly unusual, BTW.

[Try and imagine this for a second: what if you were allowed to sidestep the strictest of regulations because you've proven time and time again, to some qualified authority, that you can handle the responsibilities of gun ownership?]

The problem then becomes, who is that qualified authority, and what makes them qualified? I'm a former marine with decades of experience around firearms (and explosive devices as well), I have a CCW permit from Kentucky. I am, personally, at least as qualified to make such determinations as the average police officer; yet my arguments are irrelevent within any legal context. How much experience is enough?
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
Honestly, my dad and my grandfather took gun shooting classes in middle school out on the football field. Everyone carried a gun or shotgun in their cars and the principal, coach and other teachers kept guns in the desk drawers. We didn't have an endless rash of school shootings from 1940 to 1975.

We don't have mass shootings at gun ranges or gun shows or gun sporting events or hunting events or hunting clubs on and on.

I honestly don't see how access to guns is the underlying issue. It seems to be a cultural shift plus a complete lack of personal protection ability by the general population.
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
[You're not hurting my feelings... you hurting my brain! I beleived the things you've said about your experience with guns, which, if true, demonstrate the actions of a responsible gun owner. On the other hand, you apparently know my intentions even though I've explicitly said otherwise.]

I've already noted that I can't know your intentions, but I do know the results.

[You also assume some things about me based on my position, which you have assumed wrongly.]

Do I now? And what would those inaccurate assumptions be?

[The car reg example was an example of how far we'll regulate safety (without it raising a stir) for a very small number of deaths. While the car/gun analogy has some problems, which you've pointed out, I was not makeing that analogy. But again.. my head is hurting... Oh - I don't know a single person who wants to take all firearms away from citizens, and I do run in a liberal crowd.]

Then you're not paying attention. I'm not saying that liberals you know wish to ban firearms, I'm saying that you're support of liberals who do so encourages their efforts.

http://gunssavelives.net/blog/gun-laws/no-one-wants-to-ban-or-confiscate-guns-huh-these-quotes-from-anti-gun-leaders-say-otherwise/


[I'm sure there may be some out there, but mostly I think this is fear of the pro-gunners.]

Motive is irrelevant.

[I don't recall seeing a massive media effort to portray gun owners as fat redneck blah blah blah. I guess we both notice what we want, right? That's why data is important. A couple hundred "no-shots" fired versus 30,000 gun deaths. Interesting. Also, would "the potential postponement of violence be a success in it's own right" for suicide, which you said guns didn't increase the frequncy of attempts, only successes. :) Ah my head is hurting... ]

That's cognative dissonace. Again, the availability of firearms has no effect on the attempts for suicide. Suicide is always the result of mental health problems, this is not a gun regulation issue. We already do everything we can, within our existing legal framework, to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining weapons. The weak point isn't in how we regulate firearms, but in how we identify and handle mental illness. We once had a much more effective framework for the mentally ill, and we rejected that framework as being un-American & incompatible with a free society. Just read some history. I'm not unwilling to consider new ideas, I just haven't seen new ideas that I find acceptable.
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
[It is intended to prevent children from "accidentially" getting ahold of a loaded firearm *out of one locked cabinet*. Of course, there isn't actually a case wherein a child accidentally opened daddy's gun safe to base this regulation upon; and the double safe rule is a burden upon gun owners with children (to whom it applies, which is not everyone). It's an irony that this rule can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for gun owners, result in the practical uselessness of a home defense firearm (not loaded when something goes bump in the night, and owner would have to open 2 safes to make ready) and at the same time we, as a society, don't require that medicine cabinets are lockable in those same homes. A lockable medicine cabinet is only about $20 more than a regular one, as compared to several hundreds of dollars for an extra ammo cabinet; meanwhile there were 71,000 accidental overdoses *of children* from legal meds during 2005. ]

Thats a really interesting comparison. At first glance one might say that the risk of dying of an overdose is lower than a gunshot, and hence its an unfair comparison. But I'm guessing that accidental overdoses occur much more often and therefore are taken too lightly. So you make a good point.

Regarding gun safes, I'm beginning to think that your stance is more a result of frustration than it is a beef with stricter regulations per se.
For example, I think the case can be made that double safes require you to be more deliberate when opening them. It could therefore be seen as a safeguard against clumsiness and stupidity.
Naturally, that would offend and frustrate gun owners like you who actually are responsible and don't need a double safe to remind them that guns are dangerous.


Try and imagine this for a second: what if you were allowed to sidestep the strictest of regulations because you've proven time and time again, to some qualified authority, that you can handle the responsibilities of gun ownership?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 18, 2014
[What I'm saying is that we already do as much to prevent unstable people from obtaining firearms, legally or otherwise, that we can practially achieve within our legal framework.]

In other words, status quo.
If you're really not willing to even consider whether there is room for improvement, I guess we're done.


[That's because he was mocking your position by attempting to put into another perspective that you might better understand.]

I actually thought I was mocking you by dum**g things down : P
Didn't realize that we weren't the only two left in this thread.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 18, 2014
I think gun owners are 'fraidy cats. I'm not joking. I think it's probably corralated. You're afraid of getting robbed/raped/shot by someone else/ etc, so you need protection. You're afraid that if we change the gun regulations, we're going to come get your guns, so you fight any change that doesn't loosen or get rid of regulations. You're afraid that the country is going down the tubes, and you need to be armed to take the country back in some weird lawless future.
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
@smg45acp
haha, Sure it is... but it looks like every major news organization that's reported on it recently agrees with Snopes. I'm sure godfatherpolitics.com has it right though. ;)

@creighto
You're not hurting my feelings... you hurting my brain! I beleived the things you've said about your experience with guns, which, if true, demonstrate the actions of a responsible gun owner. On the other hand, you apparently know my intentions even though I've explicitly said otherwise. You also assume some things about me based on my position, which you have assumed wrongly. The car reg example was an example of how far we'll regulate safety (without it raising a stir) for a very small number of deaths. While the car/gun analogy has some problems, which you've pointed out, I was not makeing that analogy. But again.. my head is hurting... Oh - I don't know a single person who wants to take all firearms away from citizens, and I do run in a liberal crowd. I'm sure there may be some out there, but mostly I think this is fear of the pro-gunners. I don't recall seeing a massive media effort to portray gun owners as fat redneck blah blah blah. I guess we both notice what we want, right? That's why data is important. A couple hundred "no-shots" fired versus 30,000 gun deaths. Interesting. Also, would "the potential postponement of violence be a success in it's own right" for suicide, which you said guns didn't increase the frequncy of attempts, only successes. :) Ah my head is hurting...
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
[How about this: how many of the existing measures against gun violence/accidents do you think we should ditch, using that exact same argument (i.e 'can't reduce risk to 0 anyway')? Where would you draw the line, and what would be your overall rationale? ]

How about the one about ammo & firearms being kept in separately locked, safe quality cabinets? It is intended to prevent children from "accidentially" getting ahold of a loaded firearm *out of one locked cabinet*. Of course, there isn't actually a case wherein a child accidentally opened daddy's gun safe to base this regulation upon; and the double safe rule is a burden upon gun owners with children (to whom it applies, which is not everyone). It's an irony that this rule can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for gun owners, result in the practical uselessness of a home defense firearm (not loaded when something goes bump in the night, and owner would have to open 2 safes to make ready) and at the same time we, as a society, don't require that medicine cabinets are lockable in those same homes. A lockable medicine cabinet is only about $20 more than a regular one, as compared to several hundreds of dollars for an extra ammo cabinet; meanwhile there were 71,000 accidental overdoses *of children* from legal meds during 2005. (http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/overdose/facts.html)

This is just one example of a useless regulatory burden that effects some (not all) gun owners. Furthermore, since the regulations are not consistant (or fact based), police forces often don't understand them themselves, nor know when to apply them correctly; resulting in unnecessary over-enforcement, which is discriminatory in it's own right.

This one effects me, BTW, which is why I am aware of it. There are others that effect other people in different ways. The perverse interaction of this regulation, with that of regulations concerning my CCW license; legally means that I'm only allowed to carry defensively when I'm in public, and not in my own home. Let that one sink in for a minute. I'll leave it to your own imagination as to just how strictly I adhear to this particular rule.
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
[[Carelessness, irresponsibility and yes, even mental in stability are general societal problems and such people shouldn't have access to automobiles, sharp instruments or take care of children. But they do. We can't eliminate all or even most risks and such arguments are fatuous.]

Thats just matter of negotiating where to draw the line. In that regard, your stance would be equally as ridiculous as the stance you paint me as having.]

That's because he was mocking your position by attempting to put into another perspective that you might better understand. Again, we actually try to limit the access of the known mentally unstable from sharp objects, caretaking occupations, and (to a lessor degree) a driver's license; within the contraints of our legal framework.
 
 
Jun 18, 2014
[You still seem to be missing my point. I'm already past the "lets ban all guns for everyone".
For clarity, let's focus on the mentally ill only. I'm saying, lets try to avoid giving guns to them. At the risk of sounding like mr Obama: if you have a gun, you can keep your gun. I'm only talking about preventing existing guns from falling into the hands of unstable people.

Are you still going to say that that wouldn't make gun rampages by the mentally ill less likely?]

What I'm saying is that we already do as much to prevent unstable people from obtaining firearms, legally or otherwise, that we can practially achieve within our legal framework. We know, in retrospect, that every single rampage shooter for at least 30 years, anywhere in the country, was either an undiagnosed mentally ill person, or obtained a firearm in an already illegal fashion (stole a weapon, bought a stolen weapon; or succesfully misrepresented themselves to authorities in a position to either make a determination about their mental fitness, their identity to the firearms dealer, or both). Failures of the system will always occur, because it's not perfect, and it cannot be perfect. We, undoubtedly, live in a dangerous and violent society; relative to many other Western nations. Such is the cost of such a diverse & free society, and differences in culture as well as opinion will occasionally rise to the level of physical violence. However, neither gun regulations of any quality, nor anything that we could do to improve mental health, is going to have any measurable effect on the nature of our socirty; regardless of your best intentions.
 
 
 
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