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    By Fred Phillips | February 11th 2013 07:48 AM | 63 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Fred

    After a dozen years as a market research executive, Fred Phillips was professor, dean, and vice provost at a variety of universities in the US, Europe...

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    I’m going to go out on a limb, and write about guns. Specifically, handguns and so-called “assault weapons.”

    I’m not going to opine about what the law should or shouldn’t be, but only about the personal advisability of owning these kinds of firearms.

    Likewise I make no comment about shotguns and single-action rifles. If you enjoy owning them for skeet or target shooting, I’ve got no argument with you, and in fact I agree those activities are kind of fun. If you like them for dove or deer, more power to you, even though I don’t share your passion for hunting.

    Pistols

    Those statistics that say people in pistol-owning homes are far more likely to get shot, or to experience a tragic accident involving a child, than to shoot a hostile intruder? I tend to believe them. But we don’t even need to go there. Let’s focus instead on firearms training.

    There are at least 52 million gun owners in the US1. Most of them know they should take gun safety training and regular target practice. (It’s universally recommended by police departments3.) How many do? How many start and then slack off?

    Here’s a clue: In the USA, 44 million people smoke cigarettes2. All of them know they should quit. Obviously they have not quit. It’s easier not to. Now I ask you again to estimate, how many Americans keep up their gun handling skills on a regular basis?

    I’m sure you’re diligent about safety and training, as you are an intelligent reader of Science2.0. But your slacker neighbor, he should be making you nervous. My dumbass neighbor sure keeps me nervous.

    As said neighbor keeps her gun in her purse or nightstand drawer, one nightmarish headline would read, “Robbery victim shot while reaching for weapon.”

    Or even worse, “Phillips shot as neighbor discharges gun through apartment wall.”

    Your own training is not the end of the story, though. My good friend “Martin” and his girlfriend are in love, though she doesn’t share his interest in gun collecting and shooting. Martin is absolutely committed to gun safety and training. One night they thought they heard an intruder in the house. Martin told “Angela” to stay put. He took his pistol (yes, from the nightstand) and started to search the rooms. He saw a shadowy form. His finger had started to tighten on the trigger when he realized it was Angela, who’d come to “help.” Yes, true story. There was no intruder, maybe just a cat in the garbage cans.

    “Scariest moment of my life,” Martin told me, “I almost shot her.” Martin’s extensive training did not affect Angela’s behavior. Angela knew the four basic rules of gun safety, but her lack of training in tactics nearly got her killed.

    A pistol in the house is a danger to friends and family, even with all the training in the world. Without all the training, it’s not even a means of self-protection. It is a lazy shortcut to a false feeling of protection.

    Automatic rifles

    Leave aside the 2nd Amendment and Framers’ intent. And we all know that if you hunt deer with automatic weapons you are not exactly a person of good sporting character. The only thing worth arguing about is your conviction that you need advanced weaponry to protect yourself against a predatory government.

    Newsflash: The government is not afraid of you, no matter how many Uzis you’ve got stashed in your basement. In a moment, we’ll talk about what the government is afraid of, but for now please understand the government will always trump you, weapons-wise.

    If they do find your basement full of automatic weapons, law enforcement will be more concerned about the possibility of a school shooting than of an armed insurrection. That’s simply because statistically there have been many more school shootings than armed uprisings.

    No, you say? They’ve suppressed news of local uprisings, and fear of school shootings is just a pretext to get your guns? Sorry – I come back to the point that the government is not afraid of your guns.

    Instead, the government goes after the likes of Julian Assange, he of Wikileaks fame. The government is nervous as hell about Mike Janke, whose startup firm Silent Circle offers a surveillance-proof peer-to-peer encryption capability for the masses. The key to organizing an uprising is the word organizing. It requires access to information, and it requires communication. If the US government were malevolent (it mostly isn’t, but if it were, in some imagined future), it would worry about your communications and not about your armament.
    cartoon
    And parenthetically, the loudest anti-government statement I can recall was the Oklahoma City bombing. That guy used fertilizer, not guns. I condemn his action roundly, and mention it in this context only to emphasize: He used fertilizer, not guns. Farther back there was the attempted secession of the Confederacy, and there the point was not that the North had more guns, it was that the North had superior capacity to manufacture even more guns. Which I assume you don’t have, in your basement.

    So join the 21st century and get over the guns-against-the-government thing.

    In sum, there are excellent reasons not to own a handgun or multiple-action long gun, no matter what the future brings in terms of new legislation, and regardless of how you interpret the second amendment.

    I know this is a loaded, hair-trigger issue, puns definitely intended. So for the sake of your fellow readers, commenters please address the points raised here, and don’t start tangential arguments about the law, the Constitution, Waco, etc.

    Coming soon: Another self-protection-oriented article.
    _____________________
    1 More exactly, there are 52 million gun-owning households in the US, many with two or more gun-owning adults and teens. (Wikianswers.com)
    2 CDC statistic.
    3
    For example, www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2013/02/05/kessler-police-recommend-new-gun-owners-get-training-safety-tips/

    Comments

    wow. science in the Web-site name, but complete lack thereof in the article.

    Fred Phillips
    Note, first, that the article is filed in Science 2.0's Random Thoughts category, and second, that the blog's theme is the interplay of technology&society. The guns topic is right on theme.
    Hank
    You can't create a closed system about a Constitutional right and then say 'do not talk about the Constitution' - it would be like my saying we should ban Mike Janke's website but don't bring the First Amendment into it.  :)

    Subjective interpretation of the Constitution won't get anywhere.  Just change the Constitution.  The 2nd Amendment is not about skeet shooting or deer hunting or anything else, as it is written, so it simply needs to be rewritten.  

    All Obama and Dianne Feinstein did by politicizing a tragedy was give a huge boost to firearms companies, which were already doing well before his reelection due to claims he was going to try and ban guns in his second term.
    I know times are different, but the monarchy wasnt afraid of american colonists. The lack of successful uprisings doesnt mean it could never come to that. Im not a wacko on the matter, but lets just pretend that a government could go really bad, what are people ever supposed to do? Wait for the next altruistic superpower world police country to come about and save us?

    I dont think the times or technology has made the second ammendment irrelavent. I dont sympathize with terrorists, but they sure do get a lot done against the most technologically advanced military on the planet with some basic weapons.

    But seriously, hank is right, it was never about hunting so why bring that into it.

    And for the record, they are assault weapons and that is exactly what we have constitutional right to own.

    Gerhard Adam
    And for the record, they are assault weapons and that is exactly what we have constitutional right to own.
    ... and where exactly is that specified?  Are you suggesting that this should extend to fully automatic weapons?  Rocket launchers?  Tanks?  Define what you think is a reasonable position for those thinking they need to defend against the government?
    I dont sympathize with terrorists, but they sure do get a lot done against the most technologically advanced military on the planet with some basic weapons.
    That's got to be one of the silliest reasons I've ever heard.  I always find it interesting to consider how much Hollywood influence goes into such statements.  Are you prepared to become a terrorist?  That's what it would take, since the only way one becomes one of the "founding fathers" of a new nation is to win such a war.  So, are all these future "patriots" prepared to become terrorists, traitors, and criminals?  If not, then they don't know what they're talking about.
    ...but lets just pretend that a government could go really bad, what are people ever supposed to do? Wait for the next altruistic superpower world police country to come about and save us?
    You won't have any choice.  Are you truly naive enough to believe that the paltry weapons stocks that private owners hold are a match for any military action?  In case people have not been paying attention, that's precisely why insurrections require foreign aid, especially in the area of weapons.  So, despite private fantasies, imagining that a platoon of soldiers is going to be intimidated by some amateur with a shotgun demonstrates how little people understand about such matters.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Are you suggesting that this should extend to fully automatic weapons?  Rocket launchers?  Tanks?  Define what you think is a reasonable position for those thinking they need to defend against the government?

    Yes, though I don't expect it to happen (though there are people who have tanks and artillery). While I'd rather be armed than not if the Government decides we're the enemy, I'm more worried that the Government might decide to abdicate its duty to protect my family and I. And if a gang of thugs show up at my door, I'd rather have a mini-gun than a single shot rifle.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Is this before or after you come home from work?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I work from home :)
    Never is a long time.
    JohnK.
    Consider some of the things that are going on in the world now.
      #1  The government is claiming that authority to target and kill American citizens with drone attacks with no due process of law.  This is not a political issue.  This is a terrifying claim of power by the government.   If it is Obama or Bush doing it, the result is still a major violation of government power.  Such things have likely happened in the past, but to openly claim such power is really a terrifying step.

      #2  Syria is an excellent argument in why the populace needs the ability to protect itself from an abusive government.  The number of dead there is now over 60,000.  That percentage of the population applied to the United States is almost 1 million dead.  That started with peaceful protests against an oppressive government.  The government opened fired and that simply deepened the resolve of the people to oppose the government.  The lack of weaponry was one of the greatest problems facing the rebels.  Small arms make a difference in such a war.  While the government has aircraft, the rebels have been able to stop them by taking or destroying airbases.

      #3  The greatest causes of forced death in the past 100 years is oppressive governments.  Consider the         numbers.
               
                  China:  1958 - 1976:  70 million between famine and direct oppression.  Famine was caused by The Great                                                       Leap forward which was a change in policy towards farming.

                  Stalin:  A common estimate is 20 million, but in reality the number was most likely double that at over 40
                               million killed directly by the government.  This does not include the number killed during the actual
                               revolution.

         The list goes on with many instances of millions being killed by their own governments.  I would also like to note that in almost all the cases of socialist / communist mass killings, the starting point is always with government propaganda against the rich.  China called in land reform and counter-revolutionary activity.  People who wanted to grow their own food and ignore government direction at farming have been extensively killed in both China and Russia.

         Good government is one that always enhances the freedom of the individual.  Taking away freedom is always an indicator of things getting worse.  Guns are simply a freedom that people should have.

         Let me ask a reverse question.  What percentage of the Earth's population live under a government you would trust to ensure your freedom?  I suspect the number is shockingly low.

    Gerhard Adam
    Nobody is talking about taking away people's weapons, nor their right to possess them.  Any notions about protection against government are fantasy.
    Such things have likely happened in the past, but to openly claim such power is really a terrifying step.
    True enough, but it isn't just governments making such claims.
    The lack of weaponry was one of the greatest problems facing the rebels.  Small arms make a difference in such a war.
    Based on what evidence?  Small arms aren't even sufficient for law enforcement in many criminal engagements, why would you think that this makes a material difference in a military encounter?
    The number of dead there is now over 60,000.  That percentage of the population applied to the United States is almost 1 million dead.
    The problem with such claims is that they never change, regardless of the state of armament.  What is missed is that the majority of individuals will always be non-combatants and represents the collateral damage that invariably occurs.  Rebels and governments are always armed.  It's civilians that represent the majority of such deaths, and unless the suggestion is that every individual man, woman, and child must be armed and become a combatant, then I don't see how this argument changes anything.  More importantly, it is unrealistic to presume that all individuals must agree with the rebels.  Even the American Revolution didn't presume that 100% of the citizenry supported overthrowing English rule.

    So, despite claims to the contrary, such "defense" is never as clean as proposed.  The simple reality is that any rebel or insurrection is a criminal act or traitorous until such time as those individuals can win such a conflict and write history to proclaim their own heroics. 

    Again, while many in the U.S. invoke the "founding fathers" as some sort of model, it is sobering to realize that a bit of bad luck and slightly different circumstances, and Benedict Arnold would be the hero with George Washington being the traitor.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Fred Phillips
    That's right, John, the population of the US is very low as a fraction of world population, and I was careful to say "US government" in the article. By implication, I am advising US gun owners and would-be gun owners.

    I agree with your thoughts about the reality of oppressive governments elsewhere. Nonetheless, it is communications, not armaments, that change things. The Arab Spring in Egypt and elsewhere is one point of evidence. Another is the attempts of China, and earlier, Burma, and other governments to stifle Internet traffic. And now the International Telecommunications Union is trying to let all governments control the Internet.

    Please let's see some passion about this to match the passion spent on guns.
    JohnK.
    I have been equally active in opposing the restrictions on the Internet.  The difference is that we all agree that the government shouldn't be able to regulate the Internet.  That lessons the discussion that takes place on this site about the topic.
    Oppressive governments always want more power.  I think it is always a bad idea for them to have more power.
    Gerhard Adam
     I think it is always a bad idea for them to have more power.
    I fully agree.  However, perhaps the first step is to stop voting the same people into office and buying into the red/blue cheer-leading nonsense that passes for political discourse in this country.  While people are so worried about keeping their weapons as a hedge against tyranny, they vote the same "tyrants" into power, while continuing to squabble amongst themselves to ensure that they stay distracted from the real issues of government.

    While the government grants themselves the powers you describe regarding drones, the populace gets their panties in a bunch over lame issues like gay marriage, abortion, and gays in the military.  BTW, my contention that these are lame issues is based solely on the fact that there is no valid argument that can be made in this country for denying ANYONE their rights.  So, before we worry about a tyrannical government taking guns, perhaps we should be worrying about those self-same citizens so willing to deny rights to others.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I think the intent of the 2nd ammendment was clearly to protect ownership of firearms, not military vehicles explosives, missles or weapons of mass destruction.

    I personally believe that the effort to put down a resistance of covilians with paltry weapons stocks would require orders that our military would cease to obey. You dont win by might or brute force. You would need to exhaust the governments will to attack its own people.

    I have no delusions or hollywood fantasies or romanticized vision of such a situation, and Im not one to believe that we are anywhere near such a situation. Im not a doomsdayer or an aspiring founding father of a new nation or anything of the sort, so please dont put me in the tinhatter category. I know those guys and laugh at them (look up rim turner's republic FOR th usa for example.

    I think we have to be willing and ready to defend our own freedom in the off chance that should ever come around. I dont know that i would ever be ready to become a rebel against the government, but i certainly hope that " you cant win" doesnt stop people if the time came. Such an attitude would be a free ride for a government going wrong.

    Hank
    Let's hope that 'the criminals will still be able to get guns' mantra holds true in that case - we could all become criminals. I generally think it is a bad idea to make casual criminals of honest people, which is what these gun laws will do. It won't protect anyone, that is for sure.  I am a lot safer on the streets of gun-toting America than I am in England, Wales and Scotland, where guns are banned.
    Gerhard Adam
    I personally believe that the effort to put down a resistance of covilians with paltry weapons stocks would require orders that our military would cease to obey. You dont win by might or brute force. You would need to exhaust the governments will to attack its own people.
    What??  What scenario [including the American Revolution] has ever resulted in the military refusing to obey orders?  The first time you level at weapon at authority [regardless of your personal beliefs] you are a criminal or a traitor in the eyes of that authority.  Do you really believe that any military is going to put down their own weapons to protect your ideology?

    Mundus vult decipi
    I don't want to interfere in a discussion abound the 2nd amendment ... but the idea that armed civilians could stop an army sounds silly.

    In 1914, when the Germans invaded Belgium, they captured the city of Louvain (which still has a nice library paid with donations by Americans - many thanks!). One night gunshots were heard. There were unconfirmed reports about irregulars shooting at German soldiers.

    The Germans burned the city center down. Inhabitants of Louvain were subject to mass shootings, regardless of age or gender. More than 200 citizens died, and there were deportations as well.

    That's what an army does when it's confronted with armed civilians. Of course, Lidice and Oradour-sur-Glane were worse. Good luck! Your neighbours will love you.

    Nazis also carried out a host of horrific feats if conscience. I dont think their reign of terrir is what we should expect if the us military is ordered to attack its own population.

    The only scenarios i see where the population would really rise up would be such dire straits such that significant military dissention would exist. They wouldnt lay down arms for my ideals. It would have to be our ideals. Like i said, Im not crazy or a "patriot" that cant wait for a revolution. Im saying that if our shared ideals were being trampeled, it would offend generals on down. Wouldnt becthe first time a military revolts against its government.

    Gerhard Adam
    Wouldnt becthe first time a military revolts against its government.
    That begs the question, since it doesn't depend on an armed populace "resisting" tyranny.
    Nazis also carried out a host of horrific feats if conscience. I dont think their reign of terrir is what we should expect if the us military is ordered to attack its own population.
    You are missing the point.  The Nazi's were a supported government.  The military followed its orders, and the Germans fulfilled their role as citizens too.  Just for the record, I'm German, having been born there, so this isn't some arbitrary anti-German sentiment.

    Even more significant is that the Nazi's represent the prefect example of just how difficult it could be to overthrow the ruling elements [i.e. consider the assassination attempts of Hitler].  That's why I get annoyed with people that have Hollywood fantasies about what revolutions and tyrannical governments are all about.  Do you think no one thought about assassinating Stalin?  or Mao?  Even Castro's overthrow of Batista was considerably more complicated despite the incredibly small geographic area that would have to be controlled.

    The fantasy part of this, is that everyone behaves as if such dissent will be clear-cut, with fixed lines of demarcation, and the overwhelming support of the citizenry.  That won't occur.  Even the most ideal circumstances suggest that 50% would still support the government against 50% of the rebels.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I suspect if this time ever comes, it will be more like 90/10 or 99/1 (Support/Oppose) until it's too late.
    Never is a long time.
    Fred Phillips
    I tried to head it off, but I knew comments would devolve into argument about the Amendment and paranoia (some of it quite justified) about governments around the world. To refocus: Is it or is it not a good idea to own handguns and automatic rifles? Including those "semi-automatics" that with a little DIY cleverness become fully automatic.

    Hank raises a good point about my attempt to separate this question from questions of law: If these guns were against the law, part of the "Is it a good idea?" consideration would be, "I might be a criminal if I do." But that is only one consideration.

    So the question stands: Is it a good idea to own them?
    Hank
    If the goal is to prevent deaths, suicide or homicide, we have to ban knives or, in your example in the article, fertilizer.  

    The common denominator in all these shooting sprees is just not just guns, it is psychiatric medication.  While a mentally ill man was shooting up a school in Connecticut a man in China was stabbing dozens of kids. Elementary school children are tiny, they were not all dead in China because he did not want them all dead, not because he lacked a gun. Rifles are a tiny fraction of gun deaths - semi-automatic or not - and number one for deaths with handguns is suicide. 

    Would banning guns prevent mental illness or murder?  If not, the money we will waste on lawsuits and people rushing to buy guns would be better spent on mental illness treatment.
    Gerhard Adam
    I don't know of anyone that is seriously talking about banning guns, in this or in any other context.  Yet, the mental illness angle is irrelevant when gun advocates don't even support background checks, nor tracking of illegal weapons, nor anything that would ensure that law-abiding citizens are those in possession of these weapons.  There won't be any more money spent on mental illness, and if the NRA's position becomes prevalent, you'll simply see an increase in lawsuits as individual citizens increasingly become vigilantes and innocents get caught in the cross-fire.

    So, it appears that the gun advocates don't care to solve the problem, but instead rationalize their fervor by claiming that it is about self-protection against tyranny.

    I also don't think it's simply about "preventing death", but rather to ensure citizens that there is at least the simplest effort of ensuring that guns aren't being provided to those that are irresponsible or ill, simply because it's a second amendment right that doesn't require any scrutiny.  Is the only solution truly just an arms race? 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Fred, I think it's impossible to even have a dialogue if no one is willing to meet halfway.  What possible interpretation can there be when background checks aren't to be done?  What can be determined when the ATF is basically gutted and illegal guns are allowed to be sold, without regard? 

    Even the argument that "existing laws should be enforced" rings hollow when Congress has ensured that the ATF has no authority or personnel to do so.

    In the end, it isn't really about guns, but rather it's about a small vocal minority that thinks that their personal entertainment and/or paranoia should be the basis for determining national policy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Fred Phillips
    I agree, Gerhard. And then they turn around and excoriate the understaffed ATF because it allowed US guns to go to Mexico.

    This article was my attempt to meet halfway, by separating the legal/Constitutional/political stuff from the personal decision to own two specific kinds of guns. None of the comments have changed the article's thrust: There's no earthly reason for owning these things.
    In the end, it isn't really about guns, but rather it's about a small vocal minority that thinks that their personal entertainment and/or paranoia should be the basis for determining national policy.
    Again, agreed. Not to mention trying to compensate for penis inadequacy. But a nice, long conventional rifle should suffice for that.
    MikeCrow
    If you're referring to "Fast and Furious", it was a plan to let criminals have a lot of high powered weapons (some of which I think were illegal automatic weapons), if you don't have the staff to operate a project like that, you don't do it. Being understaffed is no excuse for those actions.

    I heard a story, to be honest I don't know whether it was true or not. But during the LA riots, a shop owner successfully defended his store with a semi-automatic rifle, he sat on the roof of his shop and shot at the looters attempting to enter and destroy his life's work.
    During hurricane Katrina, I heard of similar stories of citizens protecting their families and property from looters with semi-automatic weapons, when the government abdicated there responsibility to provide protection, worse still using their record of gun ownership, they went to citizens homes and confiscated their only means of protection their legal guns.
    Sure those were both trying times, but whose to say that it won't happen again, in trying times of course.

    And where is the outrage at the President playing Judge, Jury, and Executioner? While when 3 terrorist were waterboarded, which they lived through, ultimately providing information that led to killing Bin Laden, it was the end of all things good and right. I don't really mind terrorist getting blow to bits, nor do I really mind them being waterboarded, just note some of those bits were from American citizens.

    The point is there's only one person I trust to really look out for my best interest, me.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...when the government abdicated there responsibility to provide protection, worse still using their record of gun ownership, they went to citizens homes and confiscated their only means of protection their legal guns.
    OK, let's not paint with too broad a brush here.  This was ordered by the New Orleans Police Superintendent and he was clearly operating well outside his authority when he did so.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the federal government passed a law specifically to prohibit such seizures invoked under the guise of local states of emergency.

    I don't think anyone supports such actions or ideas, however, here's an important point in all of this. 

    Should citizens have fired on police officers to protect their weapons?  Anyway see the contradiction here?  The point is that unless and until someone is prepared to move to the state of full scale revolution, then you can argue, you can sue, you can protest, but invariably one will have to operate within the law.  Having guns is no protection against such government actions, regardless of how ill-conceived some individual's [police superintendent in this case] authoritarian decisions are.
    And where is the outrage at the President playing Judge, Jury, and Executioner?
    I think there is outrage, but unfortunately there are far too many people that support precisely those kinds of actions under the illusion that they will be safe.  Whether it be political renditions, or going to war, as long as the public perceives that something is being done [and it isn't particularly visible to them] they are willing to let all manner of legal and ethical considerations slide.  They justify it by claiming that the victims are all terrorists, despite having no such knowledge or information available.  Everyone becomes an "enemy combatant" whether or not they are.  After all, in our society today, it appears that accusation [within the public eye] is often synonymous with conviction.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I don't disagree, but NOPD was the government agency in charge, and what's to stop the FBI or ATF at the Presidents wishes to do something similar (other than the constitution which some are suggesting is out dated, while they're suggesting the 2nd needs changed).

    As for the droning (tm pending :) ) as I said I don't have a lot of problem with either, but the drones are a lot less discriminating, and final, for better or worse. It's the hypocrisy that bothers me more.

    I feel like as long as there's a balance between the anarchists and the anti-gun crowd, the greens, and the non-greens, we keep the pendulum from swinging to far one way or the other. But there are times when I think it's swinging too far the wrong way.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    I don't disagree, but NOPD was the government agency in charge, and what's to stop the FBI or ATF at the Presidents wishes to do something similar...
    Well, for one thing, the logistics of it.  However, there's always a danger of reading too much into it when local authorities get crazy.  It's no different than the whack-a-doodle sheriffs declared that they wouldn't enforce any gun restrictions that Congress passed.  Besides being unfit to wear a badge, it is also something that someone can't get too worked up over, because they are whack-jobs.

    I do agree that the balancing of extremes helps ensure that the pendulum doesn't swing too far in one direction or another, but that's still no substitute for actual dialogue.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    It's no different than the whack-a-doodle sheriffs declared that they wouldn't enforce any gun restrictions that Congress passed.

    Like how the INS doesn't enforce immigration laws for reasons that include (but not limited to) the President telling them not to?
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps, but then I suppose its no different than all those companies that are defrauding the government.  After all, if they're withholding taxes, there's got to be a SSN.  So, they are routinely filing falsified documents, because they prefer the cheap labor over the laws.

    Not too many people would cross the border if it wasn't for the virtual guarantee of finding employment.  But then again, these are jobs Americans won't do ... oh, wait... I thought they didn't know they were hiring illegals?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Yes, Yes, but those companies are not the ones that are suppose to be enforcing the borders.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Do they not have an obligation to obey the law?  Take away the incentive and the borders are much easier to manage.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Sure they do, but what happens if they turn those people over to the INS?
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    They don't have to turn over people.  They don't even have to engage the law.  They only have an obligation to not hire them without proper documentation.  It happens to every one of us.  Try to get a job without a valid social security card.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Fred Phillips
    As usual, Mr. Cro, you raise good points. You are echoing Gerhard's call for a moderate path; no one should argue with that.

    Yep, Fast and Furious was a really bad idea.

    And the drones, oh jeez. We really need in-depth analysis and discussion on the drones. Why don't you write a S2.0 column on it and get us started?
    MikeCrow
    I have been really slow at producing new works, insert your random list of various excuses why, I feel like I won't do the topic justice, but maybe I can work up enough to get the bombs to fall from the sky :)
    Never is a long time.
    Thor Russell
    Great article! and of course you upset people
    Thor Russell
    Fred Phillips
    Thanks Thor.
    BTW, interesting that all the comments above address the automatic weapons. Nobody's arguing about the handguns.
    It amazes me... What fred considers meeting halfway. "No earthly reason to own them" erc.

    Im not sure calling your opponent paranoid is considered diplomatic. I do know that creative use of statistics ( lumpin suicide in with accidental death and homicide), and doing your best to "head off" your opponents argument by deaming it irrelevant is a bit sketchy. Did you seriously think its okay to talk about whether or not we should have a right, and exclude discussion of why it was created as a right an why it may be a reasonable right? What is it you wanted to discuss?

    Your absurd quote effectively displays why we have a constituion. Ar some point people that are so certain that they know better than everybody else will decide that their superior intelligence requires that they engineer society for the rest of us. Fortunately its pretty tough to undo what was done in the constitution. Try to change the 2nd ammendment and youll see vocal, but youll also fibs that maybe you dont have the numbers you thought. Ifits just a vocal minoruty, draft up an ammendment; it should pass easily...

    Gerhard Adam
    Im not sure calling your opponent paranoid is considered diplomatic.
    Diplomatic?  When gun advocates think that even the most reasonable proposals are some insidious plot to take their weapons from them?  I'd really be interested in hearing a "non-paranoid" argument for a change.
    Did you seriously think its okay to talk about whether or not we should have a right, and exclude discussion of why it was created as a right an why it may be a reasonable right? What is it you wanted to discuss?
    Oh get over it.  It's a fair question, especially when one considers that it's perfectly fine for an individual to possess extra capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles, but you can get arrested for possessing nunchuks?  Is about a citizen's right to protection, or merely a special interest for a particular kind of protection? 

    Check out this rationalization

    2. The bill's sponsor maintained that the nunchaku "is designed primarily as a weapon and has no purpose other than to maim or, in some instances, kill."

    The court's decision meant that New York had a rational basis for banning nunchucks.

    http://injury.findlaw.com/product-liability/nunchucks-and-the-law.html

    Good thing that guns are used in basket-weaving, I guess.

    Again, the constitutional protection is to "bear arms", but that clearly has become more qualified as the technology has changed.  It would be absurd in the extreme to suggest that some of the high powered weaponry of the military should be available to civilians.  This is the basis for the arguments about "assault weapons", etc.  The constitution protects your right to bear arms, but it has no provisions that prevents the government from establishing the capabilities of those weapons you're allowed to possess.

    If you're talking about an outright ban, then you have a constitutional fight.  If you're talking about AR-15's you have a court interpretation and legislation.  Whether you think you should have them is a legal argument, not a constitutional guarantee.

    Actually it's much more interesting to read about and consider the role of the militia during the early years of the U.S. so that one gets a real context for the second amendment. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Right, and for as much as gun companies and the NRA are caricatured, they have not fought that fight.  Automatic weapons were banned in 1934 and challenges were perfunctory. There was also no real challenge to the 1994 'assault weapons' ban, just ridicule that they created a definition of 'assault weapon' so they had something to ban.  Actual assault weapons had been unavailable long before that, except illegally. And, as we see with drugs, making it illegal does not stop illegal people from getting something.

    The Constitutional culture of the day actually supports the people who worry about government and want to keep their guns. The first thing the British did was go after the guns of the people and garrison soldiers in their homes, so the Third Amendment may seem quaint today but it was not quaint then. It was one of many ways government exploited citizenry. 

    The modern notion that guns were protected in the Bill of Rights for hunting, skeet shooting or in case a foreign power invaded is revisionist history on the part of anti-gun people.  And they are anti-gun people, they can couch it as 'limitations' but we simply need to substitute abortion for guns and see how limitation becomes a different concern.
    Gerhard Adam
    ... making it illegal does not stop illegal people from getting something.
    Especially when the agency responsible is fundamentally gutted to avoid having those laws enforced.
    The modern notion that guns were protected in the Bill of Rights for hunting, skeet shooting or in case a foreign power invaded is revisionist history on the part of anti-gun people.
    Yes, but I seriously doubt that most people would agree with the position the framers did endorse, the militia.  The point was that guns served both to protect individuals and for hunting, etc.  So, the idea of possessing guns was hardly a foreign concept.  However, equally it was presumed that there would be a militia [i.e. citizen soldiers] to stand in lieu of, or to supplement a formal army.  This was one of the significant controversies of the time, in determining whether a militia was worth the bother.

    So, when that is considered in light of what the second amendment actually says, it also places a context on it, beyond the simple "enjoyment" of the public.  I'll bet the gun advocates would be screaming bloody murder if the government held them to the militia aspect of things.

    There's no revisionist history in considering the militia aspect of the amendment, especially when it was quite clear how that was viewed at that time.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    So, when that is considered in light of what the second amendment actually says, it also places a context on it, beyond the simple "enjoyment" of the public.  I'll bet the gun advocates would be screaming bloody murder if the government held them to the militia aspect of things.
    There's no revisionist history in considering the militia aspect of the amendment, especially when it was quite clear how that was viewed at that time.
    Sorry if I'm being thick but I don't understand what you are saying here about the militiia. Why would the gun advocates scream bloody murder iif the government held them to the militia aspect of things? What would the government be doing?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Given our current involvement in Afghanistan [and who knows where else future adventures will take us] one can readily imagine how "citizen-soldiers" might feel about that "obligation".
    The Militia Acts of 1792 were a pair of statutes enacted by the second United States Congress in 1792. The acts provided for the organization of the state militias and provided for the President of the United States to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection. This authority was used to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militia_Acts_of_1792

    Of course, lest anyone accuse me of revisionist history, or if Wikipedia isn't a good enough source.
    http://www.constitution.org/mil/mil_act_1792.htm

    Also contrary to some interpretations, it was NOT repealed in 1795, but was revised.
    http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/55/militia-clause

    Some of the key conflicts involved whether or not the states or the federal government would have the authority to call up the militia.  Federalists wanted this to be exclusively a state right, as a protection against the federal government.  This is NOT how it played out, and in 1795 the president was given the authority to call up such militias.

    Interestingly enough, it wasn't until 2008, that the Supreme Court actually ruled that service in a militia was not a requirement for qualification of second amendment protections.
    [District of Columbia v Heller]
    The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html
    The point being, that despite claims to the contrary, much of what was taken for granted, wasn't actually interpreted by the Supreme Court until relatively recently.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    The point being, that despite claims to the contrary, much of what was taken for granted, wasn't actually interpreted by the Supreme Court until relatively recently.

    But isn't that how it's suppose to be interpreted? It's allowed until it's specifically excluded from our rights?
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    True enough, but it's surprising that the Supreme Court ruled, relatively recently, regarding the militia interpretation.  If taken literally, gun ownership was justified by the requirement [or at least, the rationalization] of a "well-regulated militia"
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    And yet the SC, didn't rule it that way.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Right, which is why I pointed it out.  Nothing more.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Fred Phillips
    Hank, you're right!
    we simply need to substitute abortion for guns and see how limitation becomes a different concern.
    Yes (as someone posted on Facebook the other day), if women defended abortion clinics with guns, suddenly we'd see a lot more interest in gun control.

    And just for the record, yours truly did not claim certain uses are protected in the Bill of Rights. I was writing only about personal preferences.

    The commenter who thought this is not science does not understand that system science (and many organizational behavior theories) demand that complex problems be looked at through a number of "frames" or "perspectives." These include, at least, the Political, Organizational, and Personal frames. It's important to analyze these, so far as is possible, separately, without confusing one with the other. (This column is a stab at the personal frame.) Commenters have been having difficulty with this separation.

    Only after all the frames have been clarified, can a "solution" (or often, more modestly, an improvement) be chosen that is maximally agreeable and maximally viewed as constructive as viewed from all the perspectives.
    Hank
    For as much was we can all academically discuss the motivations of social authoritarians, actions mean a lot more: In Missouri, Democrats absolutely want to confiscate weapons. They are going to create an arbitrary definition of assault weapon and then confiscate the newly illegal weapons.  90 days to comply.

    So maybe the gun nuts are paranoid but the way that bill reads, they are also correct for being paranoid.
    Gerhard Adam
    Clearly if something is deemed illegal then it doesn't make much sense to continue to allow it to proliferate.  So, that's not particularly relevant.

    Certainly you can argue that the definition is arbitrary and should be clarified, or even whether it is proper to make them illegal in the first place.  No problem.  But did anyone really expect that a weapon would be declared illegal and still allowed to remain in circulation?  Gun nut or not, I'm assuming no one can really be that naive.

    What would you suggest?  Making the weapons illegal and then still allowing them to be bought, sold, and used?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    So if the state declares a picture of your grandmother illegal tomorrow, they can confiscate it unless you turn it in within 90 days and that is no problem?  You seriously cannot see the issue or are you arguing for the sake of arguing?
    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, that's what "illegal" means.  If you want to argue about whether they have the authority to do that, then that's your prerogative, but you certainly can't claim that you have some intrinsic right to continue to possess something declared illegal.

    That's precisely why we have courts and why there's a Supreme Court, because if you disagree with a particular interpretation or implementation of the law, then you have a process whereby that can be challenged.

    The only "problem" here is that you don't like the law, and that's fine.  However, arguing that your personal feelings about the law also require it to have no substance simply doesn't follow.  We're not talking about whether it's the right thing to do, or whether it is reasonable.  The point is simple.  If it is illegal, then the state most certainly has the right to confiscate that illegal substance and any argument must be interpreted by the courts.

    Similarly, with this gun law.  One can argue whether Missouri's law is over-reaching and infringing on constitutional protections, or whether it is legally enforceable, etc.  However, unless and until it is struck down by the courts, it is a law enacted by those charged with that responsibility.  As a result, they have the authority to enforce that law [unlike the sheriff's that determined that they could overrule the courts by deciding which laws they wanted to enforce].

    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    While this is true, all it will do is put more guns into the hands of criminals, of both kinds, the ones that decide to sell their gun before it's confiscated, and the ones who decide to "lose" the gun prior to the Government agents showing up.
    Making various drugs and alcohol (during prohibition) illegal has/did not eliminated them. It just created more violent crime and criminals.

    And you keep bringing up that sheriff, do you think we forgot since the post up the thread, did you forget to include the President on his apparent willingness to ignore the laws he doesn't like, I find that far more reprehensible than a stupid county sheriff. And you're continuing reference to the one and not the other the worst kind of "Politics".
    Never is a long time.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    While this is true, all it will do is put more guns into the hands of criminals, of both kinds, the ones that decide to sell their gun before it's confiscated, and the ones who decide to "lose" the gun prior to the Government agents showing up.
    Why should tightening up the US gun  laws on who can have access to assault guns put more guns in the hands of criminals? That's what we did here in Australia in the nineties, after the Port Arthur massacre which is still one of the deadliest shootings worldwide committed by a single person. 
    Australians reacted to the event with widespread shock and horror, and the political effects were significant and long-lasting. The Federal Government led state governments, some of which (notably Tasmania itself and Queensland) were opposed to new gun laws, to severely restrict the availability of firearms. While surveys showed up to 85% of Australians 'supported gun control', many people strongly opposed the new laws.....Under federal government co-ordination all states and territories of Australia banned and heavily restricted the legal ownership and use of self-loading rifles, self-loading and pump-action shotguns, and heavily tightened controls on their legal use. The government initiated a "buy-back" scheme with the owners paid according to a table of valuations. Some 643,000 firearms were handed in at a cost of $350 million which was funded by a temporary increase in the Medicare levy which raised $500 million.[18] Media, activists, politicians and some family members of victims, notably Walter Mikac (who lost his wife and two children), spoke out in favour of the changes.
    Since then there have been considerably less mass murders and gun deaths and injuries taking place over here, so why shouldn't the same kind of gun policy work in America? 

    As Enrico subsequently confirmed in this earlier Science20 'Gun Violence is a mental health issue' blog with his calculations, every 5 minutes in America someone is shot with a gun and  80% of all gun shootings and injuries worldwide occur in America. So an American will probably have been shot while I was typing this comment and another will be shot every time it is read. 

    The gun politics in Australia still allows 5.2% of Australian adults (765,000 people) to own and use firearms for purposes such as hunting, controlling feral animals, collecting, and target shooting and the gun death and injury toll has reduced enormously. That means that there are now hundreds of Australians, both adults and little children who are still able to enjoy their lives but who would have been killed in the last decade if the Australian gun laws hadn't been improved.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    MikeCrow
    Why should tightening up the US gun  laws on who can have access to assault guns put more guns in the hands of criminals?

    Because many Americans will not turn over their guns, and even if the Gov pays for their guns, there will be people willing to pay a lot more for them. So more criminals will have additional guns, and there will be more criminals because they've kept their guns.
    Never is a long time.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    OK, so criminals have guns, they always have and they always will and the job of the police is to track down criminals and charge them and hopefully confiscate the illegal guns, unless you live in a lawless state and that's what you all want to live in? 

    Also criminals have wives and mothers who might be very happy to hand in their husbands and sons guns for money. Especially if these family members are being threatened or intimidated on a daily basis by their criminal husbands just possessing guns and/or they need or want the money. 

    Lately in Australia, we are being inundated with documentaries showing millions of homeless American people and their families living very unsafely in cars or in one room motels, many of them are working but still can't afford better accommodation, health services for their kids as well as food. Selling these millions of guns for cash could even help some of them in the short term and lower their own risk of being shot by a drunken husband, father, son or passing stranger in the car parks where they sleep every night. 

    At the moment, as I understand it, any known to be mentally disordered person like Adam Lanza can still quite easily go and buy an assault rifle from a shop, surely having to buy it from a criminal is an improvement as it makes it slightly harder and therefore lowers the risk? It certainly has been a big improvement and lowered the overall gun shot risk as a result of the new gun control laws in Australia. 

    Bikey gangs and the criminal underworld are still shooting at each other with illegal guns but the rest of the population has had a lot less gun massacres to contend with from mentally ill people with easy access to assault weapons, like Martin Bryant and a lot more children and adults are living in less gun threatening environments or still alive when they would probably have been dead if the Australian gun laws had not been tightened up over a decade ago.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    MikeCrow
    OK, so criminals have guns, they always have and they always will and the job of the police is to track down criminals and charge them and hopefully confiscate the illegal guns, unless you live in a lawless state and that's what you all want to live in?

    The problem is that whenever something happens and the police become preoccupied, there's plenty of looting that goes on. And then there are the riots, same kind of thing happens. So, I don't worry about normal times, I worry about being unprotected during the trying times.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    I don't have much use or sympathy for Americans that elect to selectively apply the law according to their own whims.   They don't mind when rights are denied other Americans [i.e. gay marriage, etc.], but then they have the audacity to decide whether they want to obey laws passed by a duly elected government?  They're a pathetic lot.

    They can join the nut-job in this story.  Then again, he probably just didn't agree with the current laws either.
    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/07/16881366-cops-19-machine-guns-grenade-launcher-seized-from-utility-workers-home?lite
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    And you keep bringing up that sheriff, do you think we forgot since the post up the thread, did you forget to include the President ...
    I won't explain why the President is on a different level than sheriff's.  I expect you know the answer and you know how silly your comparison is. 
    Making various drugs and alcohol (during prohibition) illegal has/did not eliminated them. It just created more violent crime and criminals.
    So, again ... should we follow the logic?  Laws against murder haven't stopped murder, so do we just throw up our hands and say legalize it?

    You're making the same mistake most people make.  The law cannot control behavior and it isn't intended to.  The law is only intended to describe the actions the state can take against an individual for violating it.  Anyone that believes a law has ever stopped someone from stealing, or committing murder, or even driving the speed limit is delusional.

    The law exists to define the actions/sanctions the state can take against individuals.  Even if a crime has been committed, only the state can decide whether action is to be taken ... not even the victim can decide otherwise.

    So, again, while you can argue all you like about the merits of a law, and whether it is enforceable, or whether it will create other problems ... great ... have at it.  Nevertheless, it changes nothing if the legislature of the federal government, or the state governments decides to pass a law.  Even if it is unconstitutional, it will remain enforceable until such time as it is challenged in the courts and the courts strike it down.

    One thing is clear ... it is not up to individual citizens to decide which laws they like and which ones they don't in determining how to behave.  If something is illegal, one can choose to ignore the law, but then they can't very well whine about it, when they get arrested for breaking it.
    ... the ones who decide to "lose" the gun prior to the Government agents showing up.
    Really?  Where does it say that government agents will show up?  or even that they would have any idea of where to show up?  If people don't want to turn in their "assault weapons", then don't.  However, they should also be aware that if a crime occurs, and that weapon is implicated, or some other crime occurs and law enforcement finds such a weapon on the premises, it will be no different than if they acquired just an hour before.  It will be illegal, those individuals will have broken the law, and they can argue with their attorney's over whether they think it was just or not.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I won't explain why the President is on a different level than sheriff's.  I expect you know the answer and you know how silly your comparison is.

    A sheriff is sworn to enforce the laws the local, state and federal law makers put into law. The President is sworn to uphold and enforce the laws Congress write, and either he, or prior Presidents sign into law. The President does not write laws, congress does. What President Obama does is far worse than a county sheriff does.

    You're making the same mistake most people make.  The law cannot control behavior and it isn't intended to.  The law is only intended to describe the actions the state can take against an individual for violating it.  Anyone that believes a law has ever stopped someone from stealing, or committing murder, or even driving the speed limit is delusional.

    Excellent point. We already have laws to punish people who commit crimes with guns.

    Really?  Where does it say that government agents will show up?  or even that they would have any idea of where to show up?  If people don't want to turn in their "assault weapons", then don't. 

    Until some Mo sheriff decides he can just look at Gun registration records, get a search warrant, and start showing up to collect citizens guns. Once such a law that they've written gets signed into law, there's nothing to stop them (Helen the laws provides no compensation) from doing that, do you think a liberal judge won't give them a warrant?
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    What President Obama does is far worse than a county sheriff does.
    Not at all, since the President is directly accountable to Congress, who apparently have elected to do nothing, or don't deem his actions to be illegal.  The President can take any action he chooses, unless and until Congress sanctions him.  The President also utilizes his attorney's to formulate the legal rationale for his decisions, again, precisely so that he can be accountable to Congress.

    So, your comparison is way off the mark. 
    The President is sworn to uphold and enforce the laws Congress write, and either he, or prior Presidents sign into law.
    That's an incomplete description, since the President does NOT have to wait for congressional approval in many of his actions/decisions.  This is especially true when Congress conveys even more power to the President. 

    So, perhaps you'd care to indicate what "crime" you consider the President to have committed?
    Mundus vult decipi