Monday, February 19, 2018

Scary Guns

A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.—George Washington
Since it’s President’s Day, it seems appropriate to start this discussion with George Washington’s words on the subject of the day

The hue and cry for gun control, in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida, is deafening but unconvincing. Emotions of course run high after such a senseless massacre. But sometimes things that seem like the “obvious” solution when you’re high on emotion look a lot less sensible when you calm down and look at facts.

I’m not a gun expert. What I do is look at the factors that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization. Those are the northern hemisphere of the Spherical Model. The southern hemisphere is made up of all stripes of tyranny, poverty, and savagery.

The school shooting was savage. Any response that is southern hemisphere by nature—such as coercion—will not lead away from savagery up to civilization.

Since that is a principle I know—or, rather, is a theory I believe plays out in society—I am looking for facts to either prove or disprove the theory. Facts are less emotional, and therefore more logical. Feelings have their place, but I won’t allow them to take society southward into tyranny and all bad things if I can help it.

So I’ve been gathering some facts. There is a short piece at by contributor Henry Racette, with some statistics that give perspective to start with:

At the current rate, an American high school student faces a risk of being murdered in a school shooting in a year of about 0.0014%.
That’s about one in 71,000.
Based on last year’s crime statistics, the overall probability of a person in the US being murdered in a year is about 0.005%.
That’s about one in 20,000.
Also based on last year’s crime statistics, a citizen of St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, or Detroit—including children in those cities—has a risk of being murdered in a year of about 0.049%.
That’s about one in 2,000.
If the current rate continues, there will be about two dozen school shooters this year—based on a reasonable definition of what constitutes a school shooting. Their total victims will constitute about one half of one percent of all United States homicides.
Overall, in the United States, about 16,000 murders will be committed this year. Most of them—about two-thirds—will be committed by males between the ages of 17 and 35.
The 30 most violent cities in America represent about six percent of the US population but account for about a quarter of all murders.
There is nothing trivial about school shootings, but there is also nothing typical about them. If we wish to reduce their frequency, we have to find ways to reach the last 0.0003% of the male high school population. Put differently, 99.9997% of the young men in our high schools are not in danger of becoming school shooters.
Let’s look at the two dozen who are and try to understand their pathology. But let’s not mistake them for normal. Most of the other 99.5% of murders in the United States this year will be more typical, more predictable, and more preventable.
What we’re looking at in school shootings are outliers. Oddities. Atypical events.

They’re horrible. If we can find a way to prevent them, we should do so. Maybe it’s time to consider metal detectors and armed guards in every school, and possibly teachers who voluntarily qualify to carry concealed weapons. These and other measures that don’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens might actually work.

As Brandon Minoff, a young man from the high school, said about football coach and security guard Aaron Feis, who was killed, “If coach Feis would have had a gun or any of the other security guards would have had a gun it definitely would have been less fatal," he said. "[The shooter] and coach Feis were face-to-face and he just shielded kids instead of having the ability to kill the shooter."

In the immediate aftermath, we were told the killer had not had a criminal record. That wasn’t exactly true. He had a long record of incidents, 39, many violent, in his home over many years. But as a juvenile. Yet the moment he turned 18, that record was hidden from people who may have needed to see it, such as the gun seller doing a background check. Police and other authorities knew of his record. The FBI had received what now appear to be credible tips about the killer’s plans to carry out a school shooting.

Do we need to get better at identifying these threats and finding ways to prevent? Absolutely. If there is a law that needs adjusting, it may be that violent youth crime shouldn’t be hidden just because a person reaches a particular birthday, since a birthday is no guarantee of change in behavior. It may need to be case-by-case. I don’t know. Those kinds of things could be debated in legislatures.

But the debate tends to be, instead, on “common sense gun laws,” often meaning getting rid of those “assault rifles.” The term lacks definition. There is no legally defined such thing. But the term is used to imply scary, military style weapons, with great capacity to do mass murder. Many of the people making these arguments just lack facts. So let’s start with more information about these guns.
This 5-minute Glenn Beck video clip is from 2013. The whole thing (below) is useful visually. I’ll describe a few parts of it:

Glenn picks up a scary looking metal gun, which he terms an “assault rifle,” and also a rifle with a wooden stock, which he says is a 22.

Paul Michael, owner and instructor at Strictly Defense, says. “They’re both the same caliber. They both can do the same damage. One just looks different from the other.”

The 22 holds 17 bullets. The other holds a high-capacity magazine of 20 bullets. Not much difference.
Of the collection of guns displayed on the table, Glenn suggests, if he took all the wood-stock guns off the table and left the metal ones, you might look at that collection and say the owner was a madman. But if you take away “the spooky black shotgun” and replace it with “this nice shotgun,” then people would assume the owner was a hunter.

What’s the difference between the two shotguns? Michael says, “Cosmetics. They’re both the identical shotgun. They’re both Remington 1100s.” The only differences are a synthetic (black) stock, an extended barrel, and extended magazine tube. Why the black? Glare. Some hunters believe the game can get a glint off the shiny metal parts, so they prefer a matte black finish.

There’s further discussion about a hunter-looking rifle and a slightly smaller black gun. The rifle is more accurate. The black one is less accurate, but lighter weight, easier for a woman or a less experienced gunman to use in a pressure situation. In other words, it’s good for self-defense. It has the added self-defense benefit of the pump sound, which can scare off an intruder who suddenly realizes someone has a gun ready for him.

Using handguns, they discuss the difference between a revolver and a semiautomatic. With the revolver, it’s mechanical. You need to pull back the handle to load the bullet to be ready to fire by pulling the trigger. The semiautomatic uses gas pressure from the cartridge to load the next bullet to be ready to fire, so it does one step for you. Depending on your skill, the revolver can be as fast, or nearly as fast, as the semiautomatic handgun.

Neither of those is automatic—which means, like a machine gun, firing multiple bullets with a single trigger pull. Production and sale of automatic weapons to the public have been illegal for several decades. They are not technically outlawed, in that you can buy existing ones, for very high prices (around $20,000 and up compared to around $500 for a semiautomatic but otherwise similar gun), and with lots of paperwork about how it will be stored, who can touch it, how it can be transported, and how and where and under what circumstances it can be shot.

The Tommy guns of the 1920s might be what you picture. But since this law went into effect, no mass shooting in the US to date has used an automatic weapon.

We could add that,  those “scary guns,” aren’t the weapon of choice for gun crimes; handguns are used in 80% of gun-related crimes. Nicholas Johnson gives the full story is in this PragerU video:

Earlier in January 2013, Glenn Beck had another discussion with David Barton, of Wallbuilders, on natural law and self-defense.

Natural law is where we disagree with anti-gun people. And its irreconcilable. We are not granted the right to defend our own lives, loved ones, and property by government—not even by the Second Amendment. We are granted that right by God. And God-given rights are inalienable—they cannot be infringed legally, only by tyranny.

Rescinding the Second Amendment, as has been suggested again this week, would not take away the natural law—nor the natural reaction to fight off an attacker—that you know inside you is your right. Think about it. If someone is attacking your child, do you have the right to fight them off? You do.
If that person is using a gun against you or your child, don't you have the right to use a gun or other lethal force to fight back? If you’re saying, “Yes, but not a scary black gun,” then it’s on you to explain that distinction.

We’re not saying, “Tough luck! We just have to tolerate the mayhem.” Again, we should be talking about what can and ought to be done to prevent attacks. But you might be comforted to know that the anti-gun lobby (including the media) has been lying to you when they say, “More guns mean more gun deaths.”

Steven Crowder responds to an anti-AR-15 piece, and includes video from March 2016, in which he debunks a Vox video that tries to pass off propaganda as a dispassionate demonstration of facts—just not true ones. It’s longish, but it will help you understand why it’s easy to be manipulated if you don’t think things through. For example:

Ah, see, now this chart is comparing countries. But this chart is not about homicide; it’s not about firearm deaths. It’s only about gun ownership. All of this is designed to lead you into believing that gun ownership—legal gun ownership—results in increased violent gun crime. Important to note: If gun ownership as seen in this chart is so much higher, but the United States still ranks 28th in gun-related deaths, why is that the case? It also ironically unravels her own point. If gun ownership is so drastically higher in the United States, but we’re only 28th ranked in overall gun homicide rate, that means proportionally legal gun owners in the United States are committing fewer crimes.

Also doing some debunking is Ben Shapiro, in his show from Friday, February 16. He’s responding to a Bret Stephens piece in the New YorkTimes, which Shapiro says is the best argument around for getting rid of the Second Amendment, but it’s not a good one.

There’s this, for example:

Stephens cites a study in the American Journal of Public Health from 2013 to show the “states with high rates of gun ownership have disproportionately large numbers of death from firearm-related homicides.” But there’s only one problem with the study. This examines the statistics on a state level, which doesn’t make any sense, given that virtually all murder in the United States takes place not in the rural areas of states, but in the big cities. In those big cities there are very harsh gun laws. In the big cities, that’s where nearly all murder in the United States takes place, in big cities. So there is very little link, actually, between state law and state homicide rate, as Eugene Volokh of the Washington Post pointed out.
Shapiro uses John Lott’s website, the Crime Prevention Research Center, which goes through the annual death rate from mass public shootings, comparing the European countries to the US and Canada on a per capita basis, instead of sheer numbers. As Shapiro says,

One of the things that happens is that the United States is compared to Britain, for example. He says there are a lot more shootings here than in Britain. Right, but we’re a much larger country than Britain. When you actually look at the death rate per million people from mass public shootings from 2009 to 2015, according the Crime Prevention Research Center, the number one country was Norway, because they had that horrible Anders Breivik shooting. And then it’s Serbia, France, Macedonia, Albania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Finland, Belgium Czech Republic, and then the United States.
How about frequency? Forget about the number of dead. How about frequency of mass public shootings? So, if you look at the frequency of mass public shootings from January 2009 to December 2015, per million people, in order it’s Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Slovakia, Finland, Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic, France, and then the United States.
The average incident rate per 28 EU countries is 0.0602 with 95% confidence interval of 0.0257 to .09477. The US rate is .078 higher than the EU rate. But the US and an average for EU countries are not statistically different. In other words, we’re having about the same number of mass shootings as are happening in other countries, and we have significantly more guns. So this idea that everything lines up is just not statistically correct.
“Common sense gun laws,” and “No one needs an assault weapon” are code for “We want to ban all gun ownership for self-defense or any other purpose.” But despite what media and various celebrities would portray, the American public is very much against full-scale gun confiscation and outlawing firearm ownership. That's why, when Democrats had both houses and the presidency, they didn't even bring up gun legislation; they know the people won't stand for it. 

The more the anti-freedom people lie about what they really intend, the more likely they will lose the debate in a nation that knew better from its founding than to cede natural rights to a tyrannical government.

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