About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

guns and butter

OK, let's wade into this debate, and let's say pretty bluntly, anyone who agrees with "best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun" post-Newton argument doesn't have the right end of this argument.  Reasonable gun control is perfectly reasonable, and we should have a whole lot more of it.

And I'm not the crazy one for saying this.

And FYI, I grew up in a small town in rural New York State, first day of hunting season kids would take off from school, the highway would be full of people doing the hunting thing, full of police doing spot checks that cars didn't have more dead deer than the allocation.  Wasn't my scene, but I'm not without familiarity with a culture of sport hunting.

However:

The common sense way to keep bad things from happening, the way that we keep any other bad thing from happening that you can possibly think of, is to make it more difficult for that thing to happen.  You want less speeding, you add speed bumps or other traffic calming measures, you have and enforce a speed limit that's lower in front of a schoolyard, you don't say that the solution to speeding is to soup up cop cars.  In fact, police departments usually have regulations on when cops can engage in hot pursuit.  You want less bank robberies, you add dye packs and glass partitions and security cameras, the NYPD has even gotten on some banks that they think make their banks too easy to rob in the name of customer service.

And you want less dead hunters, you get real strict on the idea that people went out to the woods in hunting attire.  You want people to take only as many deer as they are supposed to, you spot check on the highway on the first day of hunting season.

Since common sense is on my side, I think the people who want to argue that gun violence is the one bad thing that can be reduced by having more guns with more people in more places have the onus of explaining why gun violence is the exception to the common sense idea that you make things more difficult if you want them to happen less.

One person I know tweeted after last summer's movie massacre that the solution was clearly to have more concealed carry holders in the theatre.  What about friendly fire? Which the best-trained best-equipped US military still has happen every now and again.

So if you're going to seriously argue that the solution is that we have more people with more guns in more places -- well, we won't give all of them military training, but what kind of licensing or training requirements are you going to require of these people so that we can at least go some distance toward having friendly fire incidents in movie theatres that won't be too much worse than what the best military in the world might have.

Because let's say you've got multiple people with guns in that movie theatre?  The other people are going to be stampeding for the exits, they're not going to be ducking for cover and acting like a trained soldier who's just come under ambush. A second person starts shooting, are they taking aim at shooter #1 or are they part of a plot with shooter #1?  There are a lot of quick decisions to be made that should be given at least the attention that I got in a driver's ed simulator in high school.  IPDE -- identify prepare decide execute -- trained enough I can still tell you about it long after I stopped driving a car regularly.

But of course, most people who want more people with more guns in more places want it 100% on the honor system that the people will take gun classes and be trained and keep their guns securely protected when they aren't being used.  I'm sure they'll all do that, just like we all have 16-character passwords for our websites that are different and include a symbol, a number, and an upper-case.

There's also the fact that a successful functioning state is one where the state has a monopoly on the use of force.  Failed states are ones where lots of people have guns and group into their own militias and can act independently of the state.  We worry about a country like Libya becoming a failed state if the state doesn't gain control of the militias.  We worry about states like Somalia that are essentially failed because everyone has guns but the state  Yet, in the US, where we have a right to bear arms based on this language "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 current thought is that second amendment rights mean not only that we should have guns independent of any "well-regulated" or "militia" or "well-regulated militia."  We're told we have "second amendment remedies" to Obama or Obamacare? That doesn't sound like it goes along with "necessary to the security of a free state."

It's also suggested that the problem isn't our guns but our culture of violent movies and video games.  These violent games and movies are among our most successful exports to the rest of the world, yet the US has a uniquely high rate of gun violence.  There's a lot of searching to find excuses for our high rate of gun violence that don't come down to "we have more people with more guns in more places."

There are always counterfactuals.  The person who wasn't wearing a seat belt, so the person was thrown free of a crash and otherwise would have been killed.  But good public policy should be based on usual outcomes, on the better odds.

So why is limiting gun purchases to one a month crazy?  I think of growing up, I think of families having a gun -- a, as in one person -- and maybe passing one down like a family heirloom, not of having arsenals.  Cameras at gun stores don't strike me as more of an issue than cameras at the bank, both would film thousands of people doing things they are entitled to do and likely never capture a criminal but why is one worse than the other?  If we could spot check for killing too many deer, can't we stop thinking of silly reasons why fingerprinting guns or ammo or gunpowder is a miserable way to back-trace someone who actually does kill too many people?

Maybe I am crazy, I look at concentrations of policeman and say "what kind of dangerous thing is happening or about to happen here where I need all these policemen to protect me" and feel less safe in that kind of environment.

This post isn't full of links to this study or that study, this or that statistic.  I don't think I need them.  You want less of something to happen you make it more difficult for that thing to happen.  You want to say more guns are the solution, you need to tell me how you're going to train all those gun owners to make good decisions in the crunch.  I don't know if George Zimmerman was right or wrong under Florida law to take aim at Trayvon Martin, but don't you think it's strange to have the state of Florida giving him more or a right to shoot his gun than the police or a GI??

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