Oct 05 2017

The Gun Debate Revisited

Gun-deathsAfter every mass shooting there is a renewed debate and call for better gun control, and pushback from gun owners who say, “Now is not the time to get political,” and “There’s nothing we can do to stop gun violence, it’s the price of freedom.” Then precisely nothing happens until we get distracted by something else and forget about gun violence until the next headline-grabbing shooting.

Clearly whatever we are doing is not working, and it is the oft-cited definition of insanity to do the same thing and expect a different outcome. So what are we doing wrong?

First, we have to acknowledge that there is a problem. There are about 33,000 gun deaths per year in the US. This is more than any other wealthy country – only war-torn banana republics have higher rates of gun deaths. There were 477 mass shootings in the US in 2016.

About two thirds of gun deaths are from suicides. That is a large portion, but that still leaves 11,000 non-suicide gun deaths each year in the US. Gun homicides are a huge problem, not diminished at all because gun suicides are an even bigger problem. About 20% of gun deaths are crime and gang-related homicides, mostly young men killing other young men. Also, about 1,700 women are killed each year from gun-related domestic violence.

I reject the notion that this is the best we can do, that this is the price of freedom. Other Western democracies seem to enjoy freedom without anything close to the same rate of gun violence. So why has this been such a hard problem to solve?

I don’t think there is a simple answer. We can point at individual factors, and certainly I agree that the narrow-minded gun lobby is part of the problem. But I think there is a reason this vocal minority has been able to stave off effective gun policy – because there is a deeper dysfunction in the entire political landscape.

To clarify – family therapists often talk of the “identified patient.” Families come to them often with the narrative that one family member is the problem and they need to be fixed. They are the identified patient – but the therapist recognizes that there is a family dysfunction that needs to be addressed. That one member is not the problem, just a focal point for the deeper dysfunction. They then focus on every member and the family dynamics.

Perhaps we need to do the same thing with the gun debate. To oversimplify for the sake of discussion, there are two broad sides in this debate, those who promote gun freedom and those who promote gun control. In reality, there are many people who simultaneously believe in both, but these are the two sides of the debate. From my perspective it seems that the two sides don’t communicate well and neither side has a great solution.

The dysfunctional relationship goes like this – gun proponents argue that regulation is not effective, gun opponents don’t understand guns and propose simplistic laws, the real problem is mental illness and other social ills, and law-abiding responsible gun owners should not be punished. Gun control advocates argue that the US has a unique gun problem, the gun lobby stands in the way of effective gun control, and no citizen needs to have access to the kinds of guns that were used in the Las Vegas shooting.

Both sides have a point, but both also have a limited view, they mostly talk passed each other, and nothing real happens.

Part of the problem is that the data is incredibly ambiguous. A recent article in the Washington Post by a researcher reviews the complexity in the research. The bottom line is that it is not clear from the data if proposed regulations would be effective. Advocating for ineffective gun regulations makes it easy to oppose gun regulations.

But this is where the gun lobby, in my opinion, gets it profoundly wrong. Instead of helping write knowledgeable, fair, and effective gun control laws, they just criticize efforts to do so. They love pointing out the sometimes trivial and sometimes meaningful errors that gun opponents make in discussing guns.

“Silencers” only exist in the movies. Real guns use “suppressors” which still leave a loud noise and don’t raise the danger of guns. “Assault rifle” is an arbitrary category. It’s a “magazine” not a “clip.” Got it.

OK – so help craft meaningful regulations that would actually reduce the lethality of legal guns without unfairly or unnecessarily inhibiting the freedoms of responsible gun owners. Gun manufacturers should get involved also. Shouldn’t everyone want to reduce those 33,000 gun deaths?

Obviously guns are not the whole problem. We need to address mental illness, suicide prevention, gang violence, and domestic violence. Absolutely. But all of those problems are made worse by the ready availability of guns and inadequate protections.

If the issue (and politics in general) were not so polarizing, both sides should be able to come together and craft regulations that are effective and represent a meaningful compromise. There is some low-hanging fruit, like universal background checks. A majority of Republicans and Democrats favor such regulation.

The gun lobby needs to abandon its ridiculous “slippery slope” argument as an excuse to oppose any and all gun regulations. They also need to stop their opposition to gun violence research. That is just obstructionist.

Gun law proponents also need to recognize that this is a complex problem and simplistic bans on scary-sounding gun features are not likely to be effective.

Working together perhaps we can find a way to make it really hard to convert a semi-automatic weapon into one that is effectively fully automatic, like was used in Vegas. This will probably necessitate changes in gun design to make it essentially impossible to do such conversions.

Gun owners need to be honest about what they want their guns for – hunting, target shooting, pest control, and self-defense. None of these uses require a gun that is optimized for killing the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. I will leave the details up to the experts, but there should be a way to design civilian guns for civilian uses.

Gun safety regulations are also a no-brainer. And we should be able to keep guns out of the hands of violent and unstable people. Gun owners will have to accept some minor inconveniences to make this happen – that is the nature of compromise.

We’re never going to reduce gun violence to zero, and we do have to accept a certain amount of risk for our freedoms. But we can certainly do better. This should be an issue that can bring both sides together to craft effective evidence-based regulation through meaningful compromise.

I know that’s wishful thinking, but it doesn’t hurt to point it out.



112 responses so far

112 thoughts on “The Gun Debate Revisited”

  1. bachfiend says:

    I expect that Michael Egnor will make his usual appearance, claiming that the problem isn’t that there are too many guns in America. The problem is that there aren’t enough guns. Now, if there were enough members of the audience armed with high powered rifles, then they could have returned fire on the sniper in the hotel…

    I’m a little bemused by the graph showing gun homicides per day adjusted for population. It’s obvious to me that all the countries at the bottom of the graph with low gun homicides all use the metric system. The one outlier, the United States, at the top of the graph with high gun homicides, uses the imperial system. The frustration having to use such an archaic system of measurements is the obvious cause.

  2. Dan Dionne says:

    I agree on pretty much every point. I’m one of those people who often ends up in the middle of these debates–I served in the Army, I’m not afraid of guns, I have some knowledge about them, and I enjoy shooting. But I don’t own one (don’t see the need where I live) and I’m in favor of improved, effective gun control measures.

    Like you said Steve, there are bad arguments on both sides. It makes me wonder what the psychological origins are. I feel like, for a few people, the “liberal” gun control motivation includes an over-the-top, deep-seated fear of guns. Like it’s some kind of terrible creature that will hurt you if you touch it. Perhaps there’s an element of instinctive disgust here too; an association with murder, bloodshed, warfare, and tyranny. Therefore, the more military-style the weapon looks, the worse it must be. Scarier-looking means more dangerous. This emotional reaction hardly describes ALL gun control proponents, but it accounts for some.

    Of course, there’s an emotional reaction on the other side too. I know full well the feeling of power and excitement that comes with slapping in a mag and ripping the charging handle. Like you’re ready for action and can take on all comers. If you’re comfortable with guns, you feel safer having them around, and more competent and formidable with one in your hand. I think a lot of gun rights advocates conflate these feelings of security with ACTUAL safety. This kind of deep emotional attachment might be at the heart of toxic gun culture and the gun rights agenda.

    Anyway, that’s just my little hypothesis. I don’t have any evidence for any of it, other than the emotional arguments both sides often use. And to be clear, it’s worth getting passionate–gun massacres are horrifying. The rate of gun violence in the US is deplorable. People are suffering and dying, including children. Firearms make maiming and killing so much easier, both physically and psychologically, that gun regulation has to be part of the harm reduction equation.

  3. Yes, but guns are often in metric, their ammo size given in mm.

  4. Kabbor says:

    “Shouldn’t everyone want to reduce those 33,000 gun deaths?”

    Sadly no. People selling the guns have a financial interest in this number being as high as possible. The NRA and related groups and companies benefit tremendously from the culture of fear that the potential for gun related violence creates. The more people are worried about getting shot, the more likely they are to want a means to defend themselves.

    As an outsider to American politics, I don’t live with the consequences of profit-driven fear mongering, but it seems to me that this is a major problem that needs to be addressed. That there are institutions that want you to be deeply afraid of both the government and each other is a problem. But as I said I’m an outsider so take my view of the situation for what it is, an outsider looking in.

  5. w3woody says:

    I always like to point out an interesting statistic into these gun control debates every time someone brings up the high murder rate in the United States.

    If you look at the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics (https://ucr.fbi.gov), specifically at table 12 for 2016 which reports the number of murders by state and by type of weapon (including firearm, knives, hands/fists, and other weapons) at this location (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/tables/table-12), you find something interesting.

    Sucking in the data into Excel, we find the total number of reported murders in the United States as 15,070 murders or 4.66 murders per 100,000, of which 11,004 murders were committed by some sort of gun.

    This leaves 4,066 murders committed by some other weapon than a firearm.

    And a non-firearm murder rate of 1.26 per 100,000.

    Now if we assume that every. Single. Firearm. Murder. would never take place if firearms were eliminated–a proposition I find highly unlikely, since as you note many of these deaths are gang-related, and I suspect if guns were never invented they’d simply resort to knives and baseball bats and more hand-to-hand combat–our murder rate is still higher than that of Europe.

    More realistically, if we assume the lack of firearms reduces the murder rate by a factor of 4 for firearm related murders–that puts us in the 2.11 per 100,000 rate, twice that of Serbia.

    And Serbia has the second-highest rate of private gun ownership in the world, just behind the United States.

    This strongly suggests to me that in the United States we have a murder problem, not a gun control problem. And if you look at detailed maps showing the per-capita murder rate in the United States, you find the highest murder rates concentrated in a small handful of areas-which suggests to me a cultural problem, not an ownership problem. (https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-enPRABOsAOc/V9rQOBvuggI/AAAAAAAA448/O3ABEmsx96YSrSxnGnIulSMKwN-LmpL5ACLcB/s1600/homicides.png)

  6. Lobsterbash says:

    When I see fair arguments in favor of intelligent compromise on gun rights/control, I assume the author is taking a purely practical perspective. Otherwise, the holy grail is to pick apart the second amendment for the sham it is today. I applaud discussion about honesty, as far as why civilians want to own guns in the 21st century. Don’t pretend that the antiquated/defunct original political context, justifying the right to bear arms, is your reason and right to have them now.

    Strict constitutional adherents need to be more introspective and strongly consider the spirit of Article V of the constitution. If we absolutely have to “bear arms,” then do it right and recodify from the ground up. Adhere do your own principles.

    Otherwise, the more reasonable among us can easily see that they cause more pain, suffering, and loss than is justified.

  7. woody – that is a false dichotomy. It is also obstructionist. Sure, let’s address the underlying social causes of violence. That does not mean we cannot also address the role that guns play in amplifying the deadliness of that violence.

  8. BenjaminL says:

    I grew up in a family with a lot of guns. We used them for everything from vermin shooting to self defense (my dad owned a chemical lab that was frequently cased by drug makers). I have no problem with reasonable discussions about gun legislation, but it still boils down to the fact that many anti-gun people, including politicians, advocate confiscation which would be a violent brutal authoritarian mess. As well as pretty much impossible to achieve and leave the State as the only armed force in the country. Does this mean we give up trying to end gun violence in America, no. That’s why I support having a real look at what works in a way that doesn’t destroy the Bill of Rights.

    I really like Steve’s approach, but he, admittantly less than most other celebrity Skeptics, often does not carry the same skepticism he has towards Church over to the State. It is naive given numerous historical examples to believe that those opposed to private gun ownership will stop after a few ”common sense” measures. They have not done so in the past.

  9. Tony Meijer says:



    Or, if you don’t want to jump to xkcd:
    Geographic profile maps that are basically population maps.

  10. mufi says:

    Dr. Novella: While your analogy to family therapy is interesting, what if a family member rejects any treatment that the therapist prescribes (e.g. based on a principle of individual freedom, using fallacious slippery slope arguments to defend it)? That picture seems closer to the situation that we in the US are actually in, not the picture in which all family members are equally difficult.

    To put a finer point on that: Your examples of flawed arguments from gun lobby arguments ring true to me, but not your claim about gun law proponents, which leads me to question the “both sides do it” framing of this article. Indeed, what you say here sounds a lot like what I recall hearing from gun law proponents:

    Gun safety regulations are also a no-brainer. And we should be able to keep guns out of the hands of violent and unstable people. Gun owners will have to accept some minor inconveniences to make this happen – that is the nature of compromise.

    Some concrete examples would help us both, but for now I can’t shake the sense of a false equivalence here.

  11. mufi – As I clearly stated, the problem on the pro gun control side is that we have weak and inconsistent evidence for any specific regulation, and many proposed regulations are cosmetic or simply ignorant. Specific example – banning “silencers” probably won’t save any lives, just ruin gun-owner’s hearing.

    But also, I did not make an equivalency argument. Even with the family example – it does not imply that all members are equally responsible for the dysfunction. The point is to concentrate on the family dynamic, rather than just point fingers at one individual. And again, my premise is that whatever we are doing it not working, so let’s try something else.

    Banging our head against the wall over pro-gun obstructionism has not been effective. Sure, counter their bad arguments, call them out. But we also need to be honest about the errors and limitations on the gun control side, and see if we can agree to come to the table over common ground. Any time we try to get two sides together to compromise over common ground, you can misinterpret that as a false-equivalency argument. But that ultimately is just an excuse to continue in the dysfunctional status quo.

  12. danstheman says:

    “Gun owners need to be honest about what they want their guns for – hunting, target shooting, pest control, and self-defense. None of these uses require a gun that is optimized for killing the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. I will leave the details up to the experts, but there should be a way to design civilian guns for civilian uses.”

    Thank you for the reasonable and fact-based thoughts. However regarding the above statement, while the reasons listed are the main motivations for gun ownership, there is another one that is usually left out of this discussion:

    Some of us find the prospect of only the government and law enforcement having effective weapons while the citizens are largely disarmed to be dangerous and terrifying. History has shown numerous examples of governments that became violently and brutally oppressive, and some of us believe that it is naive and dangerous to assume that this could never happen here. And therefore that the people should maintain the ability to resist and even violently overthrow such a regime, or at least have a fighting chance of doing so, if that ever becomes necessary. This is probably a minority viewpoint among gun owners, and I’m sure considered extreme by most people, though I really have no idea how many gun rights proponents hold this belief.

    The obvious consequence of this belief is that all the arguments about citizens not having a legitimate use for military grade weapons or combat specific features do not apply. This is not an easy or popular belief to hold, since we must accept an unavoidable death toll as the price of having such a right. Even if we make drastic improvements to mental health care, law enforcement, and society as a whole so that crime and violence go way down, it is inevitable that a crazy person with no criminal background will go on a rampage at least once in a while, and availability of these weapons means that horrific tragedies will occur. It is a terrible price, but as the descendant of holocaust survivors who had most of my ancestors slaughtered by the Nazis, I believe it is a price that is worth paying.

    I don’t really know where to go from this point, since this belief is incompatible with most gun-control measures, but perhaps it will at least give you insight into why some people oppose even what you might see as no-brainer restrictions on combat weapons. I do however support some level of mandatory training for gun owners.

  13. danstheman says:

    That said, I do agree that we have a murder problem more than a gun problem. I think the more we can address all the other socioeconomic problems to make a more fair and equitable society, reduce poverty, improve our justice system, improve health care, reduce tribalism and discrimination of all kinds, and in general just make a kinder, nicer society, then violence of all sort will be drastically reduced as a result, even if everyone is armed to the teeth.

    Which is to say, there’s no easy solution, and the way forward is simply to address all our other problems and make the world a better place. And for that we need people to appreciate using reason and science. Which increasingly seems like an uphill battle in this country, but is more important now than ever. So keep up the good work!

  14. mufi says:

    Dr. Novella: Who are the gun law proponents if not those who propose gun safety regulations? And if they only proposed banning silencers – and every one, regardless of their expertise on the matter – then you’d have a valid point. But since they also propose all the rest – including any regulation that you support, your point strikes me as trivially true, as in:

    We should enact effective gun safety regulations, not ineffective ones.

    Who could possibly disagree? The gun lobby would, as they have in the past.

    So, while I would certainly agree that “both sides [should come] together to craft effective evidence-based regulation through meaningful compromise”, I only see one “side” making an effort to do that.

    The other side prides itself on no (“out of my cold dead hand”) compromises and on slippery slope arguments. I don’t know how to shift their position, and your answer seems to be that we should admit that gun control advocates aren’t always right. Sorry, but I lack confidence in that solution.

  15. Mufi – I did not offer that as a solution. I offered no solution, only my prediction that nothing would happen. What I described is what should happen, but I don’t know how to make it happen. This article is really just at the first step – recognize that what we have done before has not worked, focus on the dysfunctional communication and strategies, and try to move forward. This will, of course, require both sides be reasonable, and I agree with your characterization of the minority of gun freedom absolutists.

  16. mufi says:

    Dr. Novella: Fair enough. I sense there is a political asymmetry here, which renders the “minority of gun freedom absolutists” disproportionately influential, but that’s a whole other can o’ worms.

  17. icabod says:

    No one ever seems to ask “How did the gun laws fail?” It’s always “pass more laws.”
    When I researched the number of gun laws, 20,000, 9,000 were common. However 300 also appeared. As with with cases, the bias of the authors was important. As example, the 300 excluded laws by states and communities. Last there was a lack of agreement on what a “gun law” was.

    Turning to the “identified patient” concept, a psychatrist I worked with observed that the identified patient was often the most healthy of the family. Think about that.

    Notice how 2/3 of the gun deaths are often mentioned in passing. One study states that each suicide is matched with 25 suicide attempts. Worse, these are only the ones reported. Males are over represented in the gun suicides as they chose more lethal means.

    The question then is, do we have a gun problem or a mental health problem?

    The remaing 1/3 of the deaths are related to gangs and criminal activity:
    “According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), gang homicides accounted for roughly 8,900 of 11,100 gun murders in both 2010 and 2011. That means that there were just 2,200 non gang-related firearm murders in both years in a country of over 300 million people and 250 million guns.

    The question then is, do we have a gun problem or a crime problem? This returns us to gun laws. In high crime cities that have strict gun laws, the gun charge is often plea-bargained away. In Chicago, it’s a 50-50 chance that a gun charge will result in jail. Plus a third of all gun charges are dismissed. Further, crowded jails and budget cuts result in many being release early. Do we then have a gun problem or a legal problem?


  18. helenaconstantine says:

    This article is uncharacteristically useless. The problem is that corporate interests are allowed to make campaign contributions. The money paid out by the NRA (which is surprisingly small), and the threat of that money being directed against anyone who favors gun control, is what makes political action impossible.

    The Second Amendment allows American citizens to have the weapons necessary to form a militia. It says nothing whatsoever about private gun ownership. All it does is authorize the National Guard. I realize that especially now that the court is entirely politicized and partisan, but anyone who can read can see what the text means.

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The solution, incidentally, is to completely ban all guns in the United States. If people want to target shoot or hunt, let them use muzzle-loading rifles. That ought to appeal to their fetish for American tradition. Also the energy of the police could be redirected to ferreting out guns owned by criminals and away from harassing poor people.

    Dr. Novella ought to speak to the reasons a person would want to own 30 or 40 guns. There is no practical reason. Perhaps it’s because of some psychological disturbance, a need to bolster a sense deficient sense of self or identity.

  19. mufi – there is no question that is true. That is the one factor on which there is broad consensus, the minority view holds sway for various political reasons. We need to find a way to break their stranglehold so that the majority common ground can prevail.

  20. IanH says:

    To add to what w3woody wrote, we should consider the causes of violent crime as well as the means. One of the strongest causal factors of violent crime (as well as all other causes of mortality) is income inequality. This is one of the more recent studies, but a Google Scholar search for violent crime and income inequality will return many more

    Perhaps leaning on this research and addressing that significant cause of violent crime and suicide in tandem with what we typically think of as gun control measures would be more successful because it could be honestly sold as a good faith, evidence-backed attempt to solve the problem.

    To Steve’s point about making guns less easily converted to automatic firing, this had been done before when a 1986 law banned new manufacture of open bolt firearms because they could be easily converted to automatic fire by welding or jamming the firing pin forward. Making modern closed-bolt semiautomatic designs harder to convert would require fire rate limiting, which would add mechanical complexity and reduce reliability. My feeling is that the only way to reduce overall fire rate is reducing magazine capacity and requiring a mechanical interlock to allow spam magazine changes.

  21. MosBen says:

    Steve, while the WaPo article is a good starting point for a discussion, we should be careful not to put too much stock in it. While there may not be strong evidence that any single piece of proposed legislation will have a significant effect in reducing gun violence there is pretty strong evidence that the large number of guns in the US and their easy availability is a significant contributor to our gun violence problem. As the below article asserts, the greatest success of the NRA isn’t in beating back any kind of gun reforms, it’s in reframing the debate into such narrow terms that the only options we discuss are the kinds of small bore ideas that realistically won’t make a huge dent in overall gun violence.

    I feel like there’s a bit of false balance going on in your piece. Gun control advocates would jump at any kind of legislation that could reasonably have even a slight impact on reducing gun violence. Gun rights advocates refuse to even consider any kind of reforms. The classic anecdote that I give is that in the mid 2000s when Philadelphia was going through a particularly nasty rise in gun violence there was a bill to require that if a gun is stolen, the gun owner would be required to report the theft to the police. The pro-gun lobby beat it back and it failed.

    Additionally, the fall back position of gun-rights people is to argue for addressing the gun violence problem through the mental health system. Except that just a few weeks ago during the healthcare debate these same politicians were trying to cut mental health funding as part of the Obamacare repeal. It’s just a dodge to avoid any discussion of gun control.

    Ultimately, the amount of gun violence that we have is a choice. Maybe the right to bear arms with no regulation at all is so important that it is worth the crazy amount of people who die from gun injuries in this country. But in choosing to do nothing those lives are the implicit sacrifice that gun rights advocates are willing to make, and we should be honest about that.


  22. BurnOut says:

    helenaconstantine – [The Second Amendment allows American citizens to have the weapons necessary to form a militia. It says nothing whatsoever about private gun ownership. ]

    Sadly, SCOTUS ruled (incorrectly in my opinion, and I think yours as well) in DC vs. Heller that the 2nd opinion does guarantee a personal right to own a firearm, independent of membership in a militia.


    Interesting podcast on the topic: opening arguments #21. http://openargs.com/oa21-second-amendment-masterclass-part-1/

  23. MosBen says:

    Another annoying response that is trotted out when mass shootings happen is that the shooter would have gotten hold of the guns no matter what the regulations were. This strains credibility. The Vegas shooter seems to have been a middle to upper middle class guy who amassed a large amount of guns legally. There’s no reason to assume that if the legal routes to gun purchases were barred that he would magically develop connections to illegal sources of guns. This is even more true for teens who commit mass shootings by using guns that they take from the homes of their parents or grandparents. There’s no reason to simply assume that a teenage who decides to commit a mass shooting instinctively knows some illicit gun runner who can supply them with guns, or have the cash on hand to buy the guns and ammunition. And when we look at suicide, guns make suicide more effective, and lack of access to firearms reduces suicide fatalities. And despite what gun advocates might think, when someone attempts to commit suicide and does not succeed, often they don’t keep trying over and over again until they succeed.

  24. tb29607 says:

    I have wondered if holding gun owners accountable for the results of giving guns or gun access to felons, mentally ill, and/or children would help. Promoting this in terms of “with freedom comes responsibility” could be effective since secure storage is part of responsible gun ownership. This would in no way eliminate the problem but seems a reasonable place to start.

  25. MosBen says:

    BurnOut, yes, but the Supreme Court can overrule decisions in which the court previously came to an incorrect ruling. In Lawrence v. Texas the court explicitly said that its decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which had upheld anti-sodomy laws that were used to prosecute homosexuality, had been wrongly decided at the time and was wrong in 2003, when Lawrence was decided. Heller is a particularly bad opinion, with the reasoning clearly working backwards from the majority’s desired result. The sad reality is that there is a decent chance that if Clinton had won the presidency that there would be a durable liberal majority on the Court. Garland, or some other moderate liberal would have replaced Scalia, and there’s a decent chance that Kennedy would be replaced with another moderate to liberal justice, which would put decisions like Heller on the chopping block.

  26. BBBlue says:

    I think the way death by firearm statistics are often represented is counterproductive in terms of any chance we have for creating effective gun control legislation.

    34,000 deaths (total) is more alarming than 12,000 (total minus suicides), and far more alarming than 2,800 (homicides committed by those who were not already convicted felons). And then there is 477 mass shootings in 2016, which seems like a ridiculously large number, until you realize that the vast majority of those are not of the Las Vegas variety and instead, most likely fall into the category of general violent crime committed by convicted felons.

    It’s not that 34,000 or 477 are wrong, it’s just that they are often presented in a way that leads to distrust and fails to distinguish among underlying causes. If around two thirds of firearm-related deaths are due to suicide and the majority of homicides are committed by convicted felons, why spend even a moment at this point talking about bump stocks, suppressors, or the way a gun looks? Is that really going to move the needle?

    Republicans dig in their heels and Democrats waste political capital on ineffective legislation. A pox on both their houses.

    These are two of the most relevant articles I have read since the Las Vegas shooting. http://53eig.ht/2fIiCmi and http://nyti.ms/2ynnl8H.

    The NYT article suffers a little from “experts say,” but I still think universal background checks and banning sales to convicted felons is where politicians need to unite, at least for now. If I hear another talking head or politician say “bump stock”… I’m going to say something really profane.

  27. michaelegnor says:

    Actually, I have a modest suggestion.

    Fact: nearly all of the gun violence in the US is committed by the Democrat demographic in Democrat-governed municipalities. Take away Democrats in Chicago/WashingtonDC/Baltimore/St.Louis/LasVegas…etc, and you take away nearly all gun violence in the US.

    It ain’t the NRA that’s blowing people away. In fact, I can’t think of a single member of the NRA that’s ever been convicted of murder with a gun (I’m sure it’s happened, but I don’t know of one).

    Face it, liberal Dems own gun violence in the US. Own it.

    So how about this:

    If you’re a liberal Democrat, shut up about gun violence in the US and get local: fix gun violence in the municipalities and cultures you govern and inhabit. Make gun violence go away in Chicago, Baltimore, Washington DC, etc, etc.

    Then, after you’ve cleaned up your own house, lecture the rest of us law-abiding gun owners about how to reduce gun violence.

    When it comes to stopping gun violence, I don’t really care what the people who run things in Chicago have to say.

  28. RickK says:

    tb, interesting idea. A bill that gives NRA, gun manufacturers and gun owners a target reduction in gun deaths per year. And if they’re not met in N years, guns get regulated like cars, and gun use regulated like driving.

  29. MosBen says:

    BBBlue, small bore legislation will by its very nature have small bore results. A problem like gun violence won’t be fixed by a small tweak in what kind of pistol grips are allowed, but after literally decades of the gun-rights advocates fighting back more significant legislation the gun control advocates have consistently narrowed their focus to smaller and smaller targets that, they hope, might find a crack through the opposition. But so far gun rights advocates have shown no willingness to consider any kind of legislation which has the effect of in any way limiting gun ownership.

    As for the statistics, I think that the full 34,000 and 477 are perfectly reasonable. We should be clear that a lot of gun deaths are suicide, but those are deaths worth preventing, and limiting access to guns would do that. Furthermore, eliminating gun violence committed by felons seems to come with lots of assumptions that would need to be supported. Reducing the number of guns in society makes them harder for everyone to obtain, not just non-felons.

  30. MosBen says:

    Egnor, you’re still kicking around, even though you have no intellectual integrity? Should I check back on that post about storage for alternative energy production where you refused to admit to being wrong, doubled down, and then left? Maybe you finally got around to posting a mea culpa, but I suspect not. Come back when you have developed some honesty.

  31. MosBen says:

    tb29607, unfortunately the NRA fights back against these kinds of regulations as well, even when there’s no actual punishment, just a requirement that a lost or stolen gun MUST be reported by the owner. And, of course, gun makers are legislatively protected from law suits against them, unlike cigarette manufacturers.

    Moreover, I’m skeptical that a market-based solution like that is really going to be effective. Taking Obamacare as an example, the approach of regulated insurance markets with an individual mandate can work, but the experience that we’re seeing is that what really happens is that it becomes a complex system with lots of little fiddle-y bits. This creates both lots of little areas where things can go wrong and also lots of areas which opponents can target to undermine the law. As soon as you set up a system that’s supposed to incentivize individuals, the NRA, or gun manufacturers to alter their behavior in order to reduce gun violence you’re going to start to see waves of exceptions, of special carve outs for certain groups with good lobbying, of extensions of time, or of future sympathetic administrations deciding not to enforce fines, etc. And on top of it all, such a system is no more acceptable to groups like the NRA than a straight up buy back program.

  32. BigPill says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, Steve. I take your point that “that the data is incredibly ambiguous”; however, there is a lot of qualitative data out there that points to possible solutions.

    I feel that Canada provides an excellent case study for gun control measures in a similar population. In Canada we have magazine size limits, mandatory coursework, spousal approval, record checks & different registration procedures for different classes of firearms.

    Australia is often cited as a country where gun control worked. Australia does have a lower rate of gun violence than Canada, but I doubt the measures taken in Australia will ever be palatable in the US, but I’m sure there are other places around the world that might provide some insight into compromises around access to firearms that could be implemented in the US.

  33. BBBlue says:


    Reducing the number of guns in society makes them harder for everyone to obtain, not just non-felons.

    This runs head-on into the Second Amendment. Many, particularly those who live in countries where possessing guns is not protected by their constitution, see this a common-sense, reasonable approach, but unless I misunderstood your meaning, it is a non-starter in the United States.

    We need science-based legislation that is consistent with our legal precedents and which have popular support.

  34. shawmutt says:

    “About 20% of gun deaths are crime and gang-related homicides, mostly young men killing other young men. ”

    I’m just curious where you get this number from and what you are trying to say by stating it. The homicide rate data shows most killings are intraracial, with blacks killing each other at a much higher rate than whites. In fact, the white homicide rate is about even with European countries. It’s not until a tragedy like Vegas happens that the white people get all up in arms (pun intended) and start lumping in the inner city folks with the total number of murders. 99% of the rest of the time black folks are minding their own business and killing each other, to supply the scared white folks with scary sounding large homicide numbers. Meanwhile, the white folks are sipping their craft beers and complaining about the uppity…players…taking a knee during the NFL to protect systematic racism.

    Most of the violent crime in this country is a direct result of bad legislation. From Jim Crow laws, to red lining by federal, state, and local governements, to abolition, to the war on poverty, drugs, etc. These types of random acts of violence cannot be legislated away by trying to take away one of many tools. Honestly, given the history of this and other governments, I don’t trust them to make “sensible” laws. I don’t need to look any further than the bad CT gun laws after Sandy Hook and the Assault Weapon ban of 1994 to justify that feeling.

  35. Johnny says:

    Admittedly I’m not an American and have no special regard for the Second Amendment, but I don’t see why it is assumed that guns should be widely available for civilians, which both sides in the American debate seems to assume (they just differ on the details). Of course certain occupations, like the police and the military, as well as certain societal groups, like hunters, need guns, but the average person in society? I don’t see why, but I’m open to be persuaded by argument.

  36. Beamup says:

    Gun owners need to be honest about what they want their guns for – hunting, target shooting, pest control, and self-defense. None of these uses require a gun that is optimized for killing the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. I will leave the details up to the experts, but there should be a way to design civilian guns for civilian uses.

    You left out a couple of the claimed purposes for gun ownership. One being the forcible overthrow of the government, which requires civilians to have equal firepower to the armed forces. This is a relatively fringe position (even if you limit it to the subset who are claiming some future hypothetical need after a dictator takes over) but a consequential one. Especially given its resonances with the Revolution. Also those who believe they will need to defend their bunker from huge mobs of the unprepared after the imminent collapse of civilization.
    Some people even take this to the extreme that civilians should be allowed to own tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and the like (I’ve spoken with a couple, and they really are sincere in that belief).
    Simply preserving the status quo is in many ways an accomplishment, much less making it more rational. When there are those arguing that the Vegas shooter’s arsenal should be the norm, and being taken seriously, scaling things back a bit seems even more out of reach.

  37. MosBen says:

    BBBlue, first, it only runs afoul of the Second Amendment if it involves some kind of involuntary taking. If every gun owner decided tomorrow that the responsible thing to do would be to turn their guns in to be melted down there would be no Second Amendment problems. And even a compulsory buy back program would only run afoul of the Second Amendment as interpreted in the Supreme Court’s Heller decision. The Heller decision is a terrible decision not just because the result is bad, though it is, but because it’s a particularly bad piece of legal reasoning that seems clearly to have started with the majority’s preferred result and worked backwards from there. The court can, and should, overturn that decision, though given the current makeup of the court that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

    Even if Heller was overturned we would, of course, still have the Second Amendment on the books, and it’s going to mean SOMETHING. But that still doesn’t mean that something like a buyback program, even an involuntary one, necessarily is unconstitutional, especially depending on the details of the program. Say, for instance, that there was a mandatory buyback of all guns other than single shot hunting rifles and and shotguns. Those two exceptions would be permitted, but with a mandatory registration and training program. Other types of guns would, of course, be permitted to be maintained in caches under the control and management of the state National Guard forces, which is the militia envisioned by the amendment.

  38. MosBen says:

    shawmutt, of course you are right that there are a lot of sociological issues which contribute to violent crime, but there’s also good evidence that the ready availability of guns makes violence much more deadly. Reducing the number of guns in society might not solve all issues with violence or crime, but there’s good reason to believe that fewer people would die as a result of remaining violent crimes. Even if all the problems with poverty, drugs, etc. still remained, it would be better if we had fewer people needlessly dying.

  39. shawmutt says:

    MosBen, you say “ready availability of guns makes violence much more deadly”. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree here (it wouldn’t be the first time), but it seems that there are a lot more guns since the assault weapon ban was allowed to sunset in 2004. Millions more guns, billions more rounds of ammo. In addition, most states have become “shall issue” states (meaning pass a background check, get a permit) and there are about 15 million conceal carry permit holders. Finally, 13 states have gone to “Constitutional Carry”, meaning there is no prerequisite to carrying a gun around at all times. So, not only are there more guns, but there are more guns “on the street”. By your logic, we should see an uptick in violent crime, however violent crime levels are lower than they have been for decades.

    I’m not trying to make the argument that “more guns means less crime”, but I don’t think the argument that “more guns means more crime” is valid either.

  40. MosBen says:

    shawmutt, my response is that however we might reason it, the research as I understand it seems to support the conclusion that increased gun availability is strongly correlated to increased gun deaths. Obviously something as broad as crime is going to have a lot of inputs and confounding factors and while you’re right that for a long time we were on a decline in murders (though it’s worth noting that 2016 did see an uptick), there could be a lot of factors involved in that single metric. Like a lot of issues, my reasoning will only take me so far, after which I’m willing to turn it over to the experts in the field. So if there’s an article that you’d like to link me to which covers a more comprehensive review of the available evidence than what’s in the below article I’d be happy to read it, but I find this Vox article to be pretty reasonably thorough.


  41. shawmutt says:

    “One being the forcible overthrow of the government, which requires civilians to have equal firepower to the armed forces.”

    This simply isn’t true. Look at Vietnam. Look at Afghanistan. In addition, should something like this happen, you are asking US soldiers to kill US civilians. It will be messy.

    How much of a disadvantage would a population have with no knowledge of firearms? I’ve shot an AR maybe 3 times in my life, but those times I have shot it I’m relatively accurate due to extensive practice with other firearms. If shit hits the fan, and I’m handed a M16 or equivalent, I’ll know how to shoot it.

    But, no, not the forceable overthrow of the goverment so much as a check for the government. Honestly, I don’t trust the government to be able to enact legislation with the citizen’s best interest at heart. I look at Mexico, with their strict gun laws, and the fact that their government, police, and cartels are in cahoots and are pretty much running the country to the ground. I look at our history and the history of other countries. Sometimes the world is changed in a single day. Sometimes restrictions are tightened over time until the populace can’t do anything but starve and die. We have it very good right now, and people tend to not think of storms when the sea is calm.

  42. shawmutt says:

    So if there’s an article that you’d like to link me to which covers a more comprehensive review of the available evidence than what’s in the below article I’d be happy to read it

    Thanks for your responses. I’ll have to look around, all I have at the moment is John Lott stuff and articles like this http://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-day-more-guns-less-gun-violence-between-1993-and-2013/.

    It just seems counter-intuitive to me, but I’m a person who still struggles with the Monty Hall problem so that’s not saying much 😉 I hear all these media outlets screaming about more guns = more crimes, but I get confused when I’m looking at the stats and just not seeing it. To steal from Dara O’Briain, the numbers are going down but the fear of crime is going way up.

  43. praktik says:

    Its interesting that Americans are so fearful of abrogation of a “freedom” to own arms.

    But are happy to relinquish freedoms to put what they want in their bodies.

    The claim to know freedom better than other nations is a very fragile one, when many places in Europe treat things differently that are restricted more in the US.

    If I was taking nations off a menu?

    Ummm… I’ll skip the one with the gun freedoms and go to the one with the drug and sex freedoms.

    Way more fun.

  44. praktik says:

    Here in Ontario. I can’t even walk down the street with a beer!

    The heart cries for freedom.

  45. JimV says:

    Several years ago I saw Grover Norquist, on the PBS Charlie Rose Show, say something like this, about the Republican coalition: some of us want lower taxes; some want abortion illegal; and some want to fondle their guns. I don’t care about guns or abortion but I’ll vote for people who do as long as they also want to lower taxes.

    On statistics, another interesting one that has been brought up in the wake of the LV shootings is that 78% of adult Americans do not own a gun; 19% own half of the (civilian) guns; and the remaining 3% own the other half of the guns. (E.g., the LV shooter, who had over a dozen guns in his hotel room.)

    In my own anecdotal experience, growing up in a small community of mainly dairy farmers, there were two gun deaths I was aware of there in my teenage years. One was a teenager who accidentally shot his uncle as they were preparing to go deer hunting, and the other was an enraged, jealous high school senior who came to his former girlfiend’s house with a 22 rifle and shot the girl in front of her mother. (He then ran away but was later captured and sentenced to 20 years in prison.)

    As I think about these cases now, it seems to me they illustrate two problems with guns: they are very dangerous but very familiar and common which can make people forget their danger; and they make impulsive acts very quick and easy to perform.

    Automobiles have similar characteristics. I don’t see why we shouldn’t test, license, and periodically retest and re-license gun owners. (With different levels of license for different gun types, just as commercial truck drivers need special driving licenses.)

  46. Fair Persuasion says:

    @ Michael Egnor,

    Be sure to tell the woman with the Glock wearing the 2nd Amendment baseball shirt, you can’t shoot me, I’m a Republican. I wish you everlasting life.

  47. Steve Cross says:

    Automobiles have similar characteristics. I don’t see why we shouldn’t test, license, and periodically retest and re-license gun owners. (With different levels of license for different gun types, just as commercial truck drivers need special driving licenses.)

    THIS … a thousand times THIS.

    Even the strict constitutionalists have to have noticed the “well-regulated” part of the second amendment.

    Also, a serious question. Why is it that one of the oft quoted ‘reasons’ for gun ownership is self-defense? Some proponents even advocate more guns in more places as the best way to prevent or at least minimize the severity of incidents.

    Yet we rarely, if ever, hear about guns being used successfully for that purpose. I’m sure there must be some instances, but they must be few and far between because we never hear any gun advocates spouting this type of anecdote in support of their beliefs.

    I’m sure that at least 99% of the time, guns are useless for self-defense because the aggressor has the initiative and a HUGE advantage. This was especially true in Las Vegas where even the trained and well-armed police still had a very difficult time trying to control the situation. Amatuers would have almost no hope of doing anything at all the least bit useful or constructive.

    And I say all of this as someone who was raised around firearms and still owns rifles, pistols and shotguns. But at least I’m smart enough to realize that NO ONE is physically able to pull off the fantastic acts of “self defense” that Bruce Willis manages in the movies.

    Yet too many of these insecure wannabes (IMHO) think that a gun is ALL that is required to become instantly qualified to be a “hero”. Let me tell you. I’ve been to enough target ranges to realize that very, very few can accurately hit a target even when under ZERO pressure. I can only imagine how poor their aim would get if someone else was actively shooting back at them.

  48. KillCurve says:

    At the beginning of the WaPo article there is a short blurb about the author (Leah Libresco) and a reference to her recent book detailing her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. I’m sure I’m probably victim to some logical fallacy, but that seriously undermines my confidence in her general analytic skillset.

  49. tb29607 says:

    Steve Cross,

    This is the best report I have found regarding gun owners preventing crime. It reports 67,000 crimes per year stopped by gun owners which is not trivial but a bit shy of the 2 million number cited by the NRA.

    And of course everyone has anecdotes like my concealed weapons teacher who claimed to have taught one of Dylan Roof’s victims (of Charleston mass shooting infamy). The day of the shooting was the first time the victim did not carry since getting a permit. Not sure if I believe the story but many gun advocates use this type of report to promote their viewpoint.

  50. LaPalida says:

    Steven, this is far too nuanced and reasonable. I think that the only way that a shooting like this could have been prevented is if everyone had a legal right to personal rocket launchers. Clearly if everyone owned one this tragedy would have been prevented as someone would have been able to take him out before he caused so much damage. In fact he probably would have thought twice about doing this if he was aware that everyone had a rocket launcher which they openly carried.

  51. BillyJoe7 says:


    You forgot the smiley.
    Someone’s going to think you were serious. 😀

  52. BillyJoe7 says:

    Congratulations to everyone for giving Michael Egnor the treatment he deserves.
    Ridicule and dismissal.

  53. SteveA says:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    A compromise might be a step forward. If you want to own anything other than a handgun or hunting rifle, you join a state-regulated ‘militia’ (essentially a private gun club that conforms to strict standards) and keep all your heavy duty firepower there.

    Your only legitimate excuse for removing these militia weapons from the premises would be to take them to a firing range (assuming the club didn’t have its own). You could also make it a rule that the ammunition for ‘militia’ weapons could only be bought at the range it was going to be fired in (you’d also have to account for the folk who fill their own cartridges).

    It’s pie in the sky to think that gun-owning Americans are going to give up their weapons, but more reasonable to draw a line between the pistol-packers and hunters, and those who want the freedom to own ‘militia’ weapons.

    I’m sure the vast majority of gun-owning Americans were as shocked and horrified by the LV shootings as anyone else. If I were one, I’d be only too happy to put some distance between myself and machine-gunner.

  54. BBBlue says:


    Some super-owners are dedicated collectors with special rooms to display their assortment of historic firearms. Others are firearms instructors, gunsmiths, or competitive shooters, who need a variety of firearms in the course of work or competition. Some gun owners have a survivalist streak, and believe in storing up weapons, as well as food and water, in case of a disaster scenario. Others simply picked up a handgun here, a shotgun or hunting rifle there, and somehow ended up with dozens. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/19/us-gun-ownership-survey

    A bit unfair to use mass-murdering psychopath as an example the way you did; a sick person and extreme outlier.

    Also, the Azrael study you cite has yet to be peer reviewed and published. That’s suppose to happen this fall, but as far as I can tell, it hasn’t happened yet. Doesn’t mean those statistics aren’t valid, but never a good sign when selected data are trickled out into the media well before the entire study is published.

  55. MosBen says:

    SteveA, the serious argument that I’ve heard in response to a proposal like that is that when the government becomes tyrannical they will know where all of the guns are stored and it will be easy for them to get them.

  56. Johnny says:

    Still nobody has told me why guns should be available for purchase by the ordinary person. It seems both sides in the American debate just assume it, differing only about the degree to that guns should be available.

    Requiring persons who want to own a gun to acquire a gun lisence and a valid reason for owning one is perfectly reasonable. Some variant of that is the case in most democracies in the world.

  57. RickK says:


    The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution specifies “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Subsequent court rulings have interpreted that to mean that it is unconstitutional to infringe on an individual’s right to “bear arms.”

    America was for a long time a frontier culture, and more recently large segments of America see private ownership of guns as necessary for personal defense or to aid resistance against an authoritarian government.

    This is all pretty well documented and within easy reach of Google.

    Are you asking for individual commenters to explain why they personally own guns?

  58. MosBen says:

    Johnny, I think that saying that both sides assume that guns should be available for purchase by the ordinary citizen is overstating things a bit. As you may know, the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution deals with the “right to bear arms”. Whether this amendment represents an individual’s right to own guns or whether it represents an intent that there should be an armed militia that is not controlled by the federal government is a hotly debated issue. Unfortunately, in a Supreme Court decision known as District of Columbia v. Heller the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the 2nd Amendment does represent an individual right to own guns. Now, as an attorney I can tell you that I think that Heller is a really awful decision, both in its outcome and the reasoning that the court used to reach it, but it is at the moment the law of the land.

    Beyond that, the National Rifle Association has been extremely successful in the last few decades in influencing both public opinion and the positions of elected politicians, especially Republicans, regarding the propriety of gun control legislation. They have managed to not only defeat attempts at passing new legislation, but in redefining the terms of the debate to narrower and narrower terms.

    To the extent that both sides of the debate “agree” that individuals should be able to own guns it’s a combination of one side strongly believing in that position and the other side trying to confront the reality of the Supreme Court’s holdings and their continued inability to push through any legislation, let alone sweeping legislation that would actually take guns out of the hands of individual owners.

    As for your last paragraph, the pro-gun lobby, and people who support it, largely believe that no restrictions on gun ownership are reasonable. A licensing requirement would inevitably result in someone who wants to own a gun not be permitted to due to some failure to meet licensing standards, and these people believe that the right to own guns cannot be infringed for any reason.

    And, of course, none of this touches on the theories relating to the need for the populace to be armed for the inevitable day that the federal government becomes tyranical and civilians are required to perform an armed insurrection. This is, I would say, a totally ridiculous idea for a number of reasons, but it is a sincerely held belief by a rather large number of people.

  59. BillyJoe7 says:

    I’ve had a personal connection to four shootings, two of which resulted in death.

    The first was my younger brother’s mate who went hunting with his brother and was found with a bullet hole in his head. He left a suicide note. No one knew why.

    The second was an old man across the road who suffered from throat pain that his doctor couldn’t diagnose or cure. He shot himself through the neck and missed everything. As far as I know, he didn’t try that solution again.

    The third was a young lad who stood in the middle of the road in front of his girlfriend’s house threatening to shoot himself if she didn’t come out. She didn’t and he did. He got over his pain in an instant, she has lived with the pain ever since.

    The fourth was a young adult male who had had enough and shot himself through the mouth with a shot gun. Pulling the trigger moved the barrel sideways and he blasted a gaping hole in his left cheek. He didn’t try again either, even though he was left severely disfigured.

  60. RickK says:

    Why do so many people (like Egnor for example) discount suicides in gun violence statistics? Shouldn’t we WANT to make suicide more difficult? Would any of BJ7’s incidents have occurred if the person had to contemplate using a knife rather than a gun?

  61. tb29607 says:


    I agree that self directed violence is still violence and so should count, mostly it seems discounting suicide is ideologically motivated. Also not included are accidental firearm deaths which I think I remember seeing were in the 30-40,000 deaths/year range but I can not locate the source so that needs to be confirmed.

    I had 2 friends shoot themselves in their early 20’s and a friend’s older brother shot himself in high school. A few years ago local teenaged boys learned that a rope quickly tightened around their neck would quickly cause a loss of consciousness. This became the boys’ suicide method of choice for a while (girls stuck with overdosing) so I am not confident that suicide rates would drop dramatically (at least in kids) without gun access.

    In the pediatric ICU I see the gun shot injuries from all sources and if the child survives the results are usually tragically disabling and/or disfiguring. The accidents are all to often the result of the child’s friend or sibling playing with a hunting rifle, mom’s felon boyfriend “cleaning” the piston she had to buy for him, or a mentally deficient family member picking up and discharging an unsecured firearm. Often young males are using their parent’s weapon when committing gun violence. It bothers me that gun owners are not held accountable.

  62. MosBen says:

    Most of the discounting of suicide deaths comes from misunderstandings about suicide. A guy from high school just posted a long rant from Ted Nugent (sigh) about gun violence and it included a dismissal of all suicide by gun as deaths which would happen no matter what. This simply isn’t true. Guns make suicide much more likely to be effective. But when suicide attempts are ineffective most people do not continue trying until they succeed, and there’s probably good reason to think that that number would go down further with more money for intervention and mental health programs. Restricting access to guns would increase the survival rate of suicides, which would decrease the overall number of suicide deaths. These are lives that absolutely can be saved.

  63. Average Joe says:

    I like MEgnor’s reasoning but he got it wrong. most gun murders are committed in cities, most cities are Democratic based on voter turnout, then most gun murders are democratic, it’s a Democrat problem. Oh sooo close.
    Rather, the vaaaast majority of gun murders are men. That correlation is much stronger than assuming a gun murderer in a city is a Democrat. Ergo Egnor, it’s a male thing. Math rules, you drool so STFU

  64. larkasaur says:

    Gun control works well in Germany. Gun owners are carefully pre-screened and pre-tested; yet many people own guns, and the death rate from guns is only 2% of the rate in the USA.

    From https://www.thelocal.de/20160616/five-things-to-know-about-guns-in-germany-us-gun-control-laws

    “To get a gun, Germans must first obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) – and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy – or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

    “Applicants for a license must be at least 18 years old and undergo what’s called a reliability check, which includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have mental illness or any other attributes that might make them questionable to authorities.

    ” The also have to pass a “specialized knowledge test” on guns and people younger than 25 applying for their first license must go through a psychiatric evaluation.

    “One must also prove a specific and approved need for the weapon, which is mainly limited to use by hunters, competitive marksmen, collectors and security workers – not for self-defence.

    “Once you have a license, you’re also limited in the number of and kinds of guns you may own, depending on what kind of license you have: Fully automatic weapons are banned for all, while semiautomatic firearms are banned for anything other than hunting or competitive shooting.

    “Under the reforms passed in the wake of a 2009 mass shooting, gun owners are also subject to continued monitoring by the government with officials able to ask gun owners at any time to enter their private property and check that they are properly storing their weapons.

    “But even given Germany’s strict gun policies, the country was still home to the fourth-highest number of legal guns per capita in 2013, falling behind just the United States, Switzerland and Finland.

    ” But even given the relatively high amount of guns in the country, Germany has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths each year …

    “in the US, firearm homicides surpass 11,000 people killed each year or roughly 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people, according to GunPolicy.org.

    “In Germany, that rate barely reaches 0.07 deaths per 100,000 people.

  65. BBBlue says:


    In California, if a child gets access to a gun and the child causes death or great bodily injury to the child or any other person, the following may apply:

    (a) Criminal storage of a firearm in the first degree is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years, by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine; or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. http://bit.ly/2xZkGRZ

    A guy who was found guilty of this gave a talk about it as community service. He was an avid recreational shooter and hunter who wanted to work for Fish & Game. Was careless and stored a gun under his mattress and a child was killed. Ruined his career prospects and he can never legally possess a gun again. All states should have severe penalties like this.

    According to the CDC, there was a total of 489 accidental firearm deaths in 2015 and 100 for the same year involving those 19 years old and younger.

  66. tb29607 says:

    A bit off topic but does anyone know if a self driving car could be used to deliver a car bomb? Seems a more effective way to kill lots of people and the bomber would not die in the process.

  67. CKava says:

    I’m with mufi and others who read the piece as offering a false equivalence. There are caveats that allow Steve to argue otherwise but the general sentiment of the article seem clear… both sides are wrong in different ways and the data is just too inconclusive/messy concerning specific interventions for firm conclusions to be drawn.

    This is one of those rare cases where Steve seems to be letting his American cultural background interfere with his critical thinking (as with his ‘logical’ preference for Fahrenheit but thats another issue!). That individual policies may be ineffective and public outrage funnelled into misguided interventions is certainly correct, but it seems equally true that increases in regulation or any measures that decrease the prevalence of firearms would ultimately help reduce gun violence (suicidal or homicidal).

    Many of us from outside the US can recognise the sacred value attached to guns by a substantial portion of the US population, but the way that this is presented (including by advocates for gun control) as if it is some inalienable and unalterable fact remains puzzling. Societies values can and do change, even in the face of popular outrage and discontent. Abortion is now legal in almost all Western nations, including the US, this was not the case half a century ago and how likely would legalisation of gay marriage have seemed 30 years back?

    Or, for that matter, how about Japan? There you had a society with a centuries old social order based around a military class that was permitted to openly carry swords and a host of sacred/traditional values associated with the owning and carrying such weapons. Yet the state still successfully implemented a ban that abolished sword carrying practices within a relatively short period (a decade). Japan isn’t a perfect analogy, since it is culturally very distant from the US and that ban took place over a century ago but it seems to be a good illustration that dramatic social change even in very conservative countries that attach sacred values to the right to carry weapons is possible.

  68. BBBlue says:

    CKava- Name another country that as has the right to bear arms written into its constitution and whose highest court has affirmed that right.

    For now, attempting to change that reality is just tilting at windmills. One day, that may change, but for now, we need to focus on pragmatic solutions that have a reasonable chance of succeeding.

  69. bachfiend says:


    ‘Name another country that as (sic) has the right to bear arms written into its constitution and whose highest court has affirmed the right.’

    Well, strictly speaking Americans’ ‘right to bear arms’ isn’t written into the constitution. It’s an amendment forming part of ‘the bill of rights’ (which consists of the first 10 amendments), and as such can be amended. And the Supreme Court could change its composition, and its mind.

    Whether this would ever happen is a different question.

  70. BBBlue says:

    bachfiend- Of course, you are right, but as a practical matter, challenging the 2A would be a waste of time and political capital. Why even talk about 2A when we can’t get universal background check done?

  71. MosBen says:

    BBBlue, because there isn’t really good evidence that smaller bore legislation will make a significant dent in the gun violence problem. Right now it’s basically impossible to get any gun control legislation through Congress because the Republican Party, and several Red/Purple State Dems, simply oppose any gun control legislation out of hand. So to the extent that we’re going to make efforts in the short term it should be in showing people the evidence that the proliferation of guns and the role that they play in our culture is a significant driver of our gun violence problem. If Dems take control of the White House and Congress, we need to push them to nominate and confirm pro-gun control members of the trial, appellate, and Supreme Courts. If Clinton were president instead of Trump the Court would likely already be flipped, or at least would likely be flipped by the end of her term. The current Supreme Court is likely to overturn Heller, but it’s therefore all the more important to ensure that the next time we elect a president we elect one that will move the courts towards doing so.

    If Republicans ever decide that they could support some kind of gun control legislation, then great, but I don’t see much reason to go for a less than half measure which stands as much chance of passing as something that could have a significant impact on the problem.

  72. LaPalida says:

    @BillyJoe7 Who says I’m not serious? 😛

  73. CKava says:

    Name another country that as has the right to bear arms written into its constitution and whose highest court has affirmed that right.

    Apparently there are three countries that retain the right to bear arms in their constitutions, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. With the US being the one that imposes the least restrictions on the ‘right’.

    But I’m not really sure why you think that invalidates my point. I’m not saying it would be easy to alter America’s gun culture or that it wouldn’t require dramatic legal changes. I fully recognise that there are massive institutional and political obstacles and a significant portion of American’s regard it as a sacred value. I do not however think this makes America unique when you look across cultures throughout time.

    I’m also not arguing for/or against pragmatic steps. I’m only arguing against the general air of American exceptionalism that surrounds the issue; as if it is simply impossible that US gun control could ever happen and that all other countries are irrelevant to consider as comparisons. My issue with such thinking is that the same sentiment could be applied to any number of intractable issues in any number of countries, and yet change still happens all the time.

    I don’t think the US has reached the zenith of its cultural and political trajectory quite yet…

  74. Bill Openthalt says:

    CKava —

    Apparently there are three countries that retain the right to bear arms in their constitutions, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States

    I guess that having a written constitution signals a level of political discourse and cooperation that makes legal personal weapons unnecessary.

    I don’t think the US has reached the zenith of its cultural and political trajectory quite yet…
    Good to see some people remain optimistic 🙂

  75. BBBlue says:

    CKava- Your bias and the source of your criticism of Steve’s comments is revealed in your use of “sacred.” Gun ownership is a legal right in the United States, not a sacred one, and to the extent gun ownership is a cultural phenomenon, that is only so because of that legal right.

    Our constitution and its amendments have proven to be very durable. I realize that some constitutions elsewhere are often quite malleable and may be subject to frequent, profound changes as cultural norms change, but not here. That does make the Second Amendment exceptional, not in the sense that it is necessarily good, but it is exceptional in the context of not being typical, even when compared to provisions in the constitutions of Mexico and Guatemala.

    I think that exceptionalism negates any consideration of addressing this issue by modifying the Constitution, especially if that would include the confiscation of arms from law-abiding citizens. It is far more likely, and more in keeping with our legal traditions that, state by state, gun laws will be enacted so that most if not all state gun regulations will be similar to those we have now in California.

  76. MosBen says:

    BBBlue, “to the extent gun ownership is a cultural phenomenon, that is only so because of that legal right” is a massive overstatement. First, public opinion on whether individual ownership of a firearm as well as the legal protections for individual ownership have changed quite a bit over the country’s history. It’s only relatively recently that both have aligned with the pro-gun rights argument, and it seems much more likely to me that cultural changes and advocates like the NRA have had a lot more to do with driving changes in the law than the other way around.

    The Constitution is “durable” because the mechanisms for amending it are extremely difficult to successfully navigate. It is difficult to amend, therefore it is rarely amended. That may be a bug or a feature depending on a given person’s view of the document itself.

    But as I’ve described in my previous posts, while the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller does not look likely to be overturned now, it would likely have been pretty close if Clinton had won the 2016 election, and if the Democrats can ever put together two presidential administrations in a row there’s a decent chance that the Court’s makeup will tilt enough for it to be close again. And even within the Heller framework there’s a reasonable argument that a massive buyback program could be set up in a way as to pass Constitutional review.

    The solution to both medium and long term goals for gun control proponents is simply to elect more politicians who support gun control vocally, which at this point eliminates most Republican party nominees.

  77. BillyJoe7 says:

    Here is a tweet in the form of a video which illustrates the false equivalence position:


  78. Johnny says:

    @RickK: “Are you asking for individual commenters to explain why they personally own guns?”

    Not really. And people here as a reply cite the Second Amendment. Yes, I’m well aware what the Second Amendment says, but it is in itself not an argument. The fact that it exists now and has existed historically is no argument in its favor. In fact, the American gun/shooting problem strongly suggests that reform is necessary. In how many other liberal democracies is the Second Amendment viewed as something to be emulated, something that people would want in their country?

    Imagine a recently created self-sustaining human colony on Mars. It would have to make laws. When it comes to its gun legislation, what policy would you recommend that they adopt, and why?

  79. RickK says:


    I’m not sure what you’re asking? If you’re looking at this from a modern liberal perspective and just asking “how can this be?”, you’ll get nowhere. Millions of Americans believe quite firmly in their right to own firearms, even some that don’t own them themselves. It’s a fact, it’s a thing. If you want to apply some “in a perfect world” argument to claim reform is necessary, you won’t get far.

    You first have to understand the social, cultural and historical backdrop to the American gun obsession because that’s the reality we’re dealing with. And it is only within the context of that reality that change can happen. In that reality, the Second Amendment is absolutely an argument – one upheld and clarified by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  80. MosBen says:

    RickK, the Second Amendment is a legal issue, not a moral issue or substantive issue about how best to reduce gun violence. Yes, it is difficult to change the Heller decision, but since it is for all intents and purposes impossible to pass smaller bore legislation as well I don’t think that it can realistically be called less practical. Yes, many Americans believe that all Americans should and do have the right to own as many guns as they wish with little to no regulation. Any possible solutions, even small bore solutions, start with convincing at least some of these people that the insistence on Americans being able to own as many guns as they want with little to no regulation is one of the biggest factors in our gun violence problem We need to convince these people to vote for politicians that will support judicial nominees that will undermine or overturn Heller, as well as voting for legislation that will have the effect of reducing the number of guns in our society.

    The reality that we’re dealing with now is that lots of people think that the source of the problem is mental health treatment funding, or that Americans are inherently violent, or that certain racial/economic subgroups are inherently violent, or that people who commit gun violence are magicians who can pull a gun out of their hat, or that “good” people with guns outweigh the benefit of gun regulations. The task is to show them that to the extent that any of these points are valid, they’re only valid around the margins, and possibly not at all. The problem is that we have too many guns. People need to understand that before any legislative or judicial solution is viable.

  81. RickK says:

    MosBen – I agree completely. I’m not the problem here – not a gun owner and not deluded into thinking that people with guns are safer than those without.

    I was responding to Johnny’s comment: “In fact, the American gun/shooting problem strongly suggests that reform is necessary. In how many other liberal democracies is the Second Amendment viewed as something to be emulated, something that people would want in their country?”

    That strikes me as a naive question. If some large number of American citizens didn’t want the Second Amendment (and all the guns that go with it) we would have the gun problem.

  82. CKava says:

    Your bias and the source of your criticism of Steve’s comments is revealed in your use of “sacred.” Gun ownership is a legal right in the United States, not a sacred one, and to the extent gun ownership is a cultural phenomenon, that is only so because of that legal right.

    I’m using ‘sacred value’ as a technical term to refer to “any value that a community implicitly or explicitly treats as possessing infinite or transcendental significance that precludes comparisons [or] trade-offs”. That would apply to gun ownership for a significant amount of the American public and it does not simply flow from the legal precedent as you suggest. There are plenty of legal rights that people possess that are not afforded the same emotional and cultural attachment. (I’m curious what you think my use of the term has ‘revealed’, though?)

    Moreover, although the constitution may be rarely officially amended, it is constantly being reinterpreted. Thus, if the makeup of the supreme court was to change, as MosBen notes, you would likely see changes to how the 2nd amendment is interpreted. I would highly anticipate that US gun control laws in 100 years will look very different from now. The US is also not unique in investing significance in old laws and institutions- see things like the House of Lords in the UK or the views of virtually every conservative political movement across the world.

  83. Bill Openthalt says:

    The USA is actually rather heterogenous, and the significance of old laws and institutions such as the flag is what holds it together. That’s why the current protest against the national anthem is worrisome.

  84. MosBen says:

    Bill Openthalt, you know that they’re not protesting against the national anthem though, right? Also, the significance of old laws has no effect on keeping a country together if the old laws are unjust or the people don’t share a common sense of morality or values. The players are protesting *during* the national anthem because it draws attention to the injustice that they believe should be addressed. That some people would rather be allowed to ignore the injustice referenced by the players should be the worrisome thing.

  85. BBBlue says:

    CKava- I was going with Merriam-Webster, not Tetlock.

    I most often hear “sacred” used in this context as a pejorative, that people who value the right to bear arms have elevated it to an inappropriate level of sanctity. Not much different than candidate Obama dismissing a group of people he didn’t count as supporters by saying:

    “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” http://bit.ly/2fZPEOV

    Really, “infinite or transcendental significance” is not much different, it still implies something less than a rational belief system.

    If your use of “sacred” wasn’t meant as a put-down, then “I don’t think the US has reached the zenith of its cultural and political trajectory quite yet…” certainly was, at least in suggesting that unless we get over our attachment to the Second Amendment, we will always be inferior in some way to countries that do not have such a right and people who value it.

    I don’t think your bias against the Second Amendment and Americans’ right to bear arms is substantially different than that of Richard Dawkins who recently tweeted: “Durn tootin’, great shootin’. Cool dude sertin’ he’s 2nd Mendment rahts. Hell yeah! Every country has its psychopaths. In US they have guns.”

  86. MosBen says:

    I mean, Dawkins is an asshole on the internet. This is known. The underlying point of his tweet, that America doesn’t have more violent people but does have a higher proliferation of guns, which leads to more violence, is essentially correct.

  87. CKava says:

    BBBlue- I was not using ‘sacred’ as pejorative but I would without hesitation say that support for gun ownership in the US is not usually based on rational, dispassionate analysis. Your own responses suggest that you regard the 2nd amendment not simply as a portion of a political document but rather as something akin to a text that encodes core American values and that therefore can never be altered or changed. This I would argue stands in direct contrast with the reality that the constitution is being endlessly reinterpreted and argued about. And again, I would stake a large sum that, regardless of the text of the 2nd amendment, US gun laws will look very different in 100 years.

    As far as saying that the US hasn’t reached its cultural/political zenith being a putdown, that would only be the case if you consider the current US cultural/political system to be already at pinnacle of human achievement. My point was not to argue that the US is inferior to other nations but rather that US society, like all other societies, will continue to change in the coming decades and centuries.

    That said, in terms solely of permissive gun laws and the prevalence of irrational attachments to guns, America certainly leads the way amongst Western nations. Acknowledging that is just accepting reality and it is also completely true that the people who suffer the most for it are American citizens not the rest of us living elsewhere.

  88. Bill Openthalt says:

    MosBen —
    You don’t get to dictate to others how to interpret your protest actions. Intentions don’t count, behavior does, and their behavior is disrespectful.
    The USA is not a racist country, but of course, a minority of its citizens are racist (like a minority are criminals). The players are people for whom the American dream has come true. They are rich and privileged, thanks to the opportunities their country gave them. They can protest against specific problems without espousing the populist and profoundly offensive suggestion that “Black lives don’t matter” in the USA, or that the country, its laws and institutions are inherently racist.

  89. ccbowers says:

    “You don’t get to dictate to others how to interpret your protest actions. Intentions don’t count, behavior does, and their behavior is disrespectful.”

    How can you evaluate behavior without incorporating intent? How can respect or disrespect be independent of intent? It seems that respect is all about (or at least mostly) about intention of behavior. I mean, the middle finger doesn’t have any special meaning to me other than what someone intends to communicate when they display it.

  90. CKava says:

    Bill- Do you not see any conflict in saying you don’t get to ‘dictate to others how to interpret … protest actions’ and then immediately saying ‘intentions don’t count… their behavior is disrespectful’. You, and others like you, clearly judge their actions to be disrespectful but why do you get to dictate what their protest really means for everyone else? Why do you get to unilaterally declare intentions to be irrelevant?

    Furthermore, almost every worthwhile protest I can think has been deemed ‘disrespectful’ at the time, including those that are later lionized, so it is likely impossible to protest in any visible/attention grabbing way without the act being labelled by some, even maybe a majority, as ‘disrespectful’.

    Your point that the protesting players have achieved the American dream and are now ‘rich and privileged’ should also alert you to the fact that there must be a serious sense of injustice if such individuals still feel the need to protest. It sort of reads like you are saying that because they are now rich and successful, the black players should shut up and be grateful they made it, or protest in ways that you approve of, but again why do you get to dictate that? If they feel that there is widespread discrimination against their communities, why should they find quieter ways to protest about issues you approve of? It isn’t your protest.

    And I say all this without being a supporter of a lot of the extreme rhetoric of black lives matter or other far left groups, but I still can’t quite parse your suggestion that the US is largely a post-racist country. I don’t think that all US citizens are racist, or that the issue of racism is evenly spread, but I’ve seen a lot of evidence that contradicts your claims. Obama may have been elected president (twice) but isn’t it somewhat notable that your current president is the very man who for years doggedly promoted the claim that Obama was not a real American? On recent evidence I can’t honestly see how anyone could think that racism in America is largely a non-issue.

  91. MosBen says:

    Bill Openthalt, that’s nonsense. Someone can think that a method of protest is disrespectful or otherwise ill advised (though there are tons of issues with that line of argument when it comes to race-based protests), but the underlying reason for the protest doesn’t change. If I’m carrying a sign that says “Get rid of X!” you can’t reasonably say “Why are you protesting Y?” The NFL protests began due to police violence against minorities, and to a degree inequality more generally. It was a statement on racial injustice in America in 2017. It is not a protest of the flag or the national anthem or whatever other things that opponents have latched onto.

    There’s a long and problematic history of white people telling non-white people how they can protest, or that they should be happy with what they have. And your belief that the US is a non-racist country with a minority of racist individuals is a common position, but it is not shared by everyone. A protest need not conform to the sensibilities or preference of the people who are least affected by the injustice that the protesters oppose.

    But again, trying to change the subject to protesting the flag or the anthem when they have been quite clear what they are protesting looks disingenuous. If you disagree with their arguments, engage with the arguments and point out why you think that they’re wrong. Don’t dismiss them by changing the subject.

  92. BillyJoe7 says:

    The flag and the anthem aren’t sacred.

    If the cause is right and circumstances appropriate, burning the flag or murdering the anthem Jimi Hendrix style can be legitimate forms of protest.
    People are more important than flags and anthems.


  93. Bill Openthalt says:

    BillyJoe7 —
    Countries have federating symbols, e.g the monarchy in Blighty, or the Constitution, the flag and the anthem in the USA (try and explain to a European that in the USA the anthem is played before every ball game). There is a large consensus that these symbols are “sacred”. This doesn’t mean they aren’t questioned — there are people advocating that the UK should become a republic, but there is a consensus across all major parties that the monarchy is a good thing.

    My point is that using these symbols as venues for protesting (perceived) injustices is not a winning strategy, because it detracts from the real cause of the protest and it risks polarising the political discourse (something both the Democrats and the Republicans have been very good at the last 6 or so years.) So as far as I am concerned, the circumstances aren’t appropriate.

    And the cause is only right if you subscribe to statistical equality of outcome, and to the ideology that absence of equal outcome is proof of racism (or sexism). The last decades have seen continuous and successful efforts to get rid of racist, sexist and all kinds of discriminatory laws, to ensure equal opportunities for all, and to compensate for past injustices.

    CKava —
    If rich people protest the condition of poor people with whom they have only something trivial (such as gender or skin color) in common, it usually means they don’t have a clue and are looking for attention. Colin Kaepernick is a case in point — meseems he was only trying to revive a flagging career.

    MosBen —
    I don’t care about what people feel or believe. There is no proof for “police violence against minorities”. The police are not targeting specific groups of people as a matter of policy, or even as a matter of statistical fact.

  94. CKava says:


    I notice you didn’t address the hypocrisy inherent in you complaining about players trying to dictate how others interpret their protest actions, while simultaneously dictating to others how protests should be interpreted. Still curious to hear why it is ok for you to lecture people about what protests really mean, while complaining that other people don’t get to tell you how to think.

    If rich people protest the condition of poor people with whom they have only something trivial (such as gender or skin color) in common, it usually means they don’t have a clue and are looking for attention.

    Are all the NFL players protesting from rich backgrounds? Have you done extensive research into their personal backgrounds to determine that? I sincerely doubt it. As far as ‘looking for attention’, you do note that protesting seems to be harmful for people’s careers? Kaepernick wasn’t drafted this season and the owner of the Dallas cowboys recently announced he would bench anyone protesting during the anthem. The protests also aren’t popular with the majority of fans, so if the goal is to ‘get attention’ for selfish career reasons, it would seem a rather counterproductive tactic for professional footballers. In fact, despite people being capable of having more than one motive, I would strongly suspect that a sense of injustice is motivating many of the player’s actions. Whether they are basing their views on accurate information is an entirely different issue, though it is one you seem to conflate.

    Colin Kaepernick is a case in point — meseems he was only trying to revive a flagging career.

    As above, how does protesting revive his career? He hasn’t been drafted. And your assessment also runs counter to most other assessments I’ve seen of his ability. Even accepting your account, does that apply to all the other black players protesting too? They are all just media hungry sub-par players seeking the spotlight? Your biases here seem rather self-evident.

    I don’t care about what people feel or believe. There is no proof for “police violence against minorities”. The police are not targeting specific groups of people as a matter of policy, or even as a matter of statistical fact.

    You have to be living under a rock to believe there is “no proof” for police violence against minorities. There is a mountain of proof that has been amassed over recent decades in America. Whether that equates to nationwide bias, or the extent to which it is reflected in the statistics, are different issues and there are genuine debates surrounding what the statistical evidence shows the. Regardless, to declare that there is ‘no proof’ is to be wilfully ignorant. It is true that there are mitigating factors surrounding certain high profile cases that are ignored and that public outcry is an unreliable indicator of guilt, but none of that equates to there being ‘no proof’ of discrimination against minorities by various police forces in the US.

  95. RickK says:

    The football players find themselves with a voice, and they’ve chosen to use it to protest an injustice they identify with. Sure, they could save st voice for promoting energy drinks and sports cars. But they didn’t. And I don’t have a problem with that. I do have a problem with a president who feels the NFL protests are a major issue on his communication agenda. THAT is playing for attention rather than dealing with substantive issues.

  96. SteveA says:


    They might have a voice and every right to use it, but in this case I don’t think it’s being used appropriately.

    I’d rather drink a bottle of caster oil than sit through a football match, but I would guess that most people who watch these events for pleasure do not relish the opinions of virtue-signalling players being forced down their throats (even if briefly). These games are escapism, an opportunity to leave the real world behind for a while.

    The same people would object equally if the same players unfurled a Coca Cola banner between them during the anthem.

    There’s a time and a place.

  97. BillyJoe7 says:


    “My point is that using these symbols as venues for protesting…injustices is not a winning strategy, because it detracts from the real cause of the protest and it risks polarising the political discourse…So as far as I am concerned, the circumstances aren’t appropriate”

    It has always been a winning strategy.
    It’s a game of Activism and Diplomacy. If there was only Diplomacy, most movements would either never get off the ground or they would develop frustratingly slowly. In-your-face Activism, forces everyone to pay attention to the problem. And it makes the Diplomats look reasonable. There may be push back against the “unreasonable” or “strident” Activists, but the fall back position then becomes that promulgated by the Diplomats. Without the Activists, the Diplomats could be safely ignored and no one would have to do a goddamn thing.

  98. SteveA says:


    “It has always been a winning strategy.”

    Remembering the danger that your activism might lead you to be considered an ass-hat, and your fall-back position one that is two steps back from where you started from.

    Just saying.

  99. RickK says:

    “There’s a time and a place.”

    When Trevor Noah asked Tomi Lauren “what is the right way for a black man to protest?”, she dodged and never answered the question.

    The right time to protest is when you can do it without violence or destruction and when people will notice.

  100. MosBen says:

    In the gun control debate opponents of increased gun control often bring up funding for mental health programs in response. At best, this is irrelevant to arguments for increased gun control. Pro-gun control advocates would almost certainly support increased funding for mental health programs, but there’s not really much evidence that such programs would have a significant effect on reducing gun violence. In reality, this is almost always a dodge; a way to shift the conversation to a different subject to avoid engaging with the substance of the arguments made by gun control advocates.

    Similarly, when nearly any liberal group protests, especially non-white protesters, conservatives have a list of common rejoinders that allow them to avoid engaging in the actual issues raised by the protesters. They argue that the method of protest was inappropriate. The ascribe the actions of a small number of protesters to the movement as a whole. They argue that the chosen method of protest is less effective than some other method of protest which is never identified. And they claim that the protesters are protesting something other than their stated cause. It literally happens every time. If you find yourself making these arguments, you really need to take a step back and think about why you’re doing that instead of engaging with the substantive arguments that the protesters are making or trying to find a resolution that would lead to the end of the protests, even if you don’t necessarily agree entirely with their positions.

    As for the specific issue of wishing that protests would happen somewhere else, in some other way: that’s the whole point of protests. Protests are supposed to inconvenience or get the attention of people who are not part of the movement. The most successful protest is one which forces people to see that some of their fellow citizens are upset by an issue and at least reckon with the fact that these people are upset. If a protest was designed such that nobody who wasn’t in the movement already cared, it wouldn’t be a protest worth doing. And while people tuning in to watch a football game might wish that these protesters would do their protest in some other way, the protesters wish that they didn’t feel the need to do their protests at all.

  101. BillyJoe7 says:

    On 1st December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. How dare she. Those white folks just wanted to go for a nice comfortable bus ride and here’s this uppity black girl making them whiteys feel all uncomfortable with her confrontational act.


    Nothing happens if you don’t shake people out of their comfort zone.

  102. Bill Openthalt says:

    CKava —

    You have to be living under a rock to believe there is “no proof” for police violence against minorities.

    There is not a single police department in the USA that has a policy of singling out “minorities” (with the exception of sheriff Joe, but he was profiling Latinos). When police officers confront people, it is mostly because they have been called to a scene, not because they are patrolling neighborhoods looking for minorities to harass.

    Year on year, about two-thirds of the unarmed people killed by the police are engaged in acts of violence or property crime. Half of the people killed by the police suffer from mental issues. Race simply isn’t the determining element in police killings.

    According to the Washington Post ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/10/24/on-duty-under-fire/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.50c2ead81168 ), In 74 percent of all fatal police shootings, the individuals had already fired shots, brandished a gun or attacked a person with a weapon or their bare hands… and Another 16 percent of the shootings came after incidents that did not involve firearms or active attacks but featured other potentially dangerous threats. These shootings were most commonly of individuals who brandished knives and refused to drop them. Of the remaining 10% of cases, half are the result of people failing to follow orders, making unexpected moves, or accidents. For the final 5% there is insufficient data.

    Simply speaking, if you’re shot by the police you’re most likely committing a crime. And if more blacks are shot, it means more blacks are committing crimes. The real problem is not police systematically targeting minorities (they don’t), but the disproportionate number of black children growing up in broken families, attending low-quality schools, living in problematic neighborhoods (think gangs). Ironically, many of these neighborhoods are under-policed, because the police are afraid to enter them.

    The real problem is breaking the vicious circle of boys growing up in single-parent families to become absentee-fathers themselves.

  103. Bill Openthalt says:

    BillyJoe7 —
    A bus is hardly a symbol of the nation. I have nothing against people protesting what they perceive to be injustices, but in the specific case of high-paid, largely black athletes taking a knee, the injustices only exist in their minds, and they have chosen the wrong target (a symbol of the nation which made them successful). Of course, in 2017 the USA can count on their politicians (like the two stooges Clinton and Trump) to fan the flames, and the net result could be very dangerous for the stability of the country.

  104. MosBen says:

    No, black people are much more likely to face police violence even controlling for other factors.


    But that doesn’t even matter. US police are much more violent than police in other developed countries. If that violence is mostly falling on non-white citizens, and it is, then regardless of the underlying reasons for that violence it’s an issue that members of that community have every reason to be upset about. If the response to the NFL protests is a national movement to ease inequality, improve education, especially in poor neighborhoods, better police training to reduce the percentage of police interactions which result in the officer shooting someone, etc., and that has an effect of reducing the amount of police violence overall and as affects minority populations, then great. But that’s a far cry from claiming that NFL players shouldn’t protest the flag.

  105. BBBlue says:

    I would without hesitation say that support for gun ownership in the US is not usually based on rational, dispassionate analysis.

    Used to be that the most common answer to the question of why one owns a gun was hunting or target shooting, now the most common answer is fear. Are those reasons irrational? Fear may be under some circumstances, but for the most part, gun ownership is not an irrational decision.

    I don’t think your perception of our constitution is accurate as it rarely undergoes significant changes, and as interpretations are made, they usually expand rights not limit them. To outsiders, the controversy that often accompanies Supreme Court decisions must appear more profound than they really are in terms of challenging the fundamental liberties outlined therein.

    The Second Amendment and the decisions that support it simply conveys a right, and that right is neither rational or irrational. I never said that 2A could never change, only that it is far more likely and realistic to expect that change will come through states exercising their rights to make law.

    I think you also misunderstand the role of our constitution. It does not exist to encode core American values, it exists to establish a national government, divide powers between federal and state governments, and define individual liberties of American citizens. Taking away a liberty, especially one that is explicitly stated, is simply not a realistic proposition, although I will concede just about anything may be possible a century or two from now.

    Certain interpretations have been necessary to harmonize a 226-years-old document with modern America, but our values as they relate to individual liberties follow from the Constitution, not the other way around.

  106. SteveA says:

    “The right time to protest is when you can do it without violence or destruction and when people will notice…”

    And you can avoid coming across as an entitled virtue-signalling ass-hat.

  107. RickK says:

    Sorry SteveA, but that isn’t remotely relevant. The goal has nothing to do with being nice – it has everything to do with being noticed.

    Can you think of more than a few examples of people dominating attention and getting ahead by being asshats?

  108. MosBen says:

    First, SteveA’s use of “virtue signaling” as a pejorative is telling me plenty about his outlook. Literally any protest could be cast as “virtue signaling” by people who inclined to dismiss the basis for the protest or the people making it. Next we’ll hear about how these NFL players are SJWs…

  109. BillyJoe7 says:


    This thread may be past it’s use-by date, but anyway…

    “A bus is hardly a symbol of the nation”

    In it’s day, a bus in which blacks were segregated from whites was indeed a symbol of the nation, though in a negative sense by today’s standards. Blacks demanding equal rights was an affront to the sensibilities of the white majority who “knew” that they were an inferior race to be confined to inferior positions in society.

    “I have nothing against people protesting what they perceive to be injustices, but”

    Well, maybe they would object to you supporting their right to protest on condition that
    Maybe they would tell you to take a running jump. Maybe they would tell you they don’t need your support thank you very much. And maybe they would tell you to shove the conditions for your approval up you know where.

    “in the specific case of high-paid, largely black athletes taking a knee, the injustices only exist in their minds, and they have chosen the wrong target (a symbol of the nation which made them successful)”

    So, by what twisted logic does a lowly paid non-athletic black man have a right to protest and a “highly paid black athlete” give up that right? And who are you to say what injustices they have in their minds and that these injustices only exist in their minds. And, oh yeah, the symbol of the nation made them successful. Nothing to do with their own perseverance and persistence and hard work.
    As long as he isn’t highly paid. As long as he not a black. As long as he is not an athlete. And as long as he doesn’t upset your enjoyment of the game he’s been privileged to entertain you with.

  110. “Certain interpretations have been necessary to harmonize a 226-years-old document with modern America,”

    The 2A deals directly with a technology, “arms”, and that technology has changed dramatically since the Constitution was written. It is perfectly legitimate to consider the intent and interpretation of the 2A in the context of this dramatic change in its primary subject.

    Also – there is a very legitimate controversy over the meaning of, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,…”

    Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled on this, but they are not always correct and there are valid reasons to disagree with their decision, which may also be changed at some point.

    In any case, all of the posturing about rights and freedoms is largely moot because we already accept infringement on the rights of citizens to bear arms. Private citizens are not allowed to own rocket launchers, surface to air missiles, or nuclear weapons. They are also not allowed fully automatic weapons.

    From a practical point of view, the only real discussion is – where to draw the line. Clearly the current interpretation of the 2A is that the government can draw a line. That is also the desire of the vast majority of citizens.

    What I would like to see is an evidence-based and reasonable discussion about the risks vs benefits of precisely where to draw lines regarding the types of weapons that private citizens can own. This discussion needs to be technically well-informed, and also honest. That is not what we currently have.

  111. Teaser says:

    Came across this little gem today:

    Headline: After Texas Church Massacre Paul Ryan Claims ‘Prayer Works’

    Bottom line: Paul Ryan is clueless. His claim that “prayer works” while discussing the massacre of a church full of people praying is absurd on it’s face. But more important, Ryan, as Speaker of the House, has no business making misguided and misleading theological claims about prayers. Instead, he should do his job, and stop blaming the “secular left” for pointing out his obvious failure to serve and protect.

    Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/11/texas-church-massacre-paul-ryan-claims-prayer-works/#q6lqIlSqqwwGhMZx.99

    This statement by a governmental and political leader is a death knell for the American society.

    How can we as a nation ever recover from this level of deceit and manipulation?

    How can the systematic, programmed and willful obfuscation of facts ever be undone? Think of the now decades (generations) of propaganda that has been pumped 24-7 into the population. The FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, et al, segment of the US will never believe that they were specifically targeted and subsequently exploited, emotionally and intellectually, to inculcate a political ideology that fused the state with a toxic mix of religion, nationalism and bigotry.

    America is beyond a knight in shiny armor coming to the rescue.

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