Saturday, June 5, 2010

My response to the KBFC

As is probably obvious if you've seen the last thread but one, the tragic events in Cumbria on Wednesday have led me to get embroiled in yet another exchange with Arizona-based gun enthusiast Kevin Baker and his ever-delightful Fan Club. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon rebutting various points at Kevin's blog, but as has happened on previous occasions his gang seem to multiply with water, so I'm (not for the first time) going to bail out of a trainwreck of a comments thread and instead give my thoughts here on some of what has been said over the last few hours.

Someone calling themselves 'The Happy Rampager' told me this -

"Let’s face it, you’re the type who puts his own satisfaction ahead of other people’s lives. Mine, the 12 dead, everyone in the UK whether they agree with you or not. You also think you can fling mud to hide the fact that you hold other people’s lives in contempt. What sort of person does holding other's lives in contempt make you?"

A comment that's plainly beneath contempt, but it's worth just pointing out the supreme irony of it being said by someone who clearly puts the personal satisfaction and pleasure of owning a gun before everything else, including other people's lives, safety and peace of mind. The 12 people he referred to were gunned down by someone who owned weapons on exactly the same legal basis as he does. It seems quite likely that without a gun licence, Bird would not have succeeded in killing so many, and perhaps would not have killed at all. There is, therefore, at least an arguable case for asking legal gun owners to accept some small disappointment in return for greater public safety and reassurance. Is 'Happy Rampager' prepared to be socially responsible and make that sacrifice? It seems not, and perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise given his deeply unfortunate choice of moniker.

The poster Ken (who has been making some utterly baffling points all day) followed up with this observation about me -

"Why, it makes him a slave who knows he is a slave, can imagine nothing else, and will not rest until everyone else is likewise enslaved (as witness his ill-disguised glee over National Health coming to America)."

I wasn't trying to disguise my glee - yes, I do believe that health care is a basic human right, not just a perk for the well-off. I'm not quite sure what the value of all this high-minded stuff about the 'freedom of the individual' is if someone is too ill to do anything with that nominal freedom. But the Alice in Wonderland notion of being 'enslaved' by a decent standard of universal healthcare is indeed one to conjure with!

On the broader issue of liberty, I wrote at some length last year about what a limiting freedom it is that can only be guaranteed by the constant possession of a firearm, along with non-stop vigilance and the readiness to use the weapon at any time. That really is a counsel of despair, and yet it's precisely the sort of world more lax gun laws would condemn us to, as people would probably have to consider purchasing a gun whether they 'freely' wanted to or not - because they'd need one to protect themselves against all those countless 'decent, law-abiding' gun-owners they'd suddenly be having brushes with on a daily basis. There must be a deeper, richer freedom out there to be won than that.

'Geek with a 45', in response to my suggestion that it is legitimate for the authorities to disarm private gun owners if mandated to do so by democratic legislation, had this to say -

"No, Democracy, in and of itself, is not the highest value. While it is may be necessary for a free society, it is hardly sufficient."

Agreed, the rights of individuals and minorities need to be enshrined, otherwise you can end up with extreme outcomes like a majority ethnic group making a 'democratic' decision to wipe out the minority. But, in truth, Europe on the whole does a better job than the US of protecting the rights of individuals - by far the most important of which is the right to life. No European country other than Belarus takes the lives of its own citizens, whereas unfortunately most US states still have the death penalty on the statute book.

On the issue of guns, there are two potential rights that can be afforded citizens, but that plainly clash with each other - a) the unlimited right to amass tools for the purposes of self-defence, and b) the right not to be attacked, and perhaps even more importantly, not to have to live in constant fear of being attacked by fellow citizens. Which of these rights should be accorded precedence? I'd say the latter, every time.

Ed "What the Heck" Man, at the end of an interminable exchange in which he imagined (bless him) he was toying with me, finally answered my question -

"I never claimed that these items were as quick and efficient as a gun. (Though in this latest incident, it's entirely possible to kill more people in the same time frame using a baseball bat than this guy killed using his guns.)

What they do accomplish is also to multiply force, even if not as much as a gun does. So even if a person doesn't have a gun available, they can (and will) still find a way to kill. Agreed?

When faced with someone intent on committing violence, how do you stop them? (Remember, you've already agreed that violence comes from the individual's intent, not the gun.)


That point has already been dealt with on the previous thread. Without a phenomenal number of private citizens undergoing a phenomenal level of training, it is simply not very likely that just any old bod with a gun is going to stay cool enough to bring such a frightening and totally unanticipated situation to a clean end. It may even make matters much worse, and lead to more lives being lost. But even accepting your flawed premise for a moment for the sake of argument, your fellow poster Matt gave the game away - he claimed that, in America, people are stopped from committing these massacres "ALL the time". Whereas this was only the third incident on this scale in the UK in the last twenty-five years. Quite clearly, quick 'stops' to these situations on most occasions would not be sufficient to offset the number of lives lost as a result of the hugely greater number of gun attacks occurring in the first place.

Britt said -

"You banned all handguns in 1997. Yet there are still handguns in the UK. In fact, there is more handgun crime every single year. Explain that Jimbo. Handguns banned means zero handgun crime? Right?"


No, it means fewer handguns, and less handgun crime, than would have been the case had the ban not been implemented. That is not the same thing - as has been repeatedly pointed out to Kevin - as saying the level of handgun crime has fallen in the UK since the late 1990s.

Scott Ganz -

"James Kelly demonstrates this mental hitch rather well, focusing entirely on THREE incidents of legally-owned guns being used in atrocities while THOUSANDS are murdered in less sensational ways."

This (ie. the disproportionality point) was something else we went into last year, and it was one of the few points that Kevin made that gave me some pause for thought. However, having reflected on it, the view I came to was that even if only a small number of lives can be saved, these incidents still justify relatively draconian gun laws because the right to own a luxury item like a gun simply isn't important enough. It's not like the brutal logic of weighing up the mind-boggling number of traffic deaths in a year against the huge benefits to society of easy travel.

There was, predictably, quite a reaction when I pointed out that the right to proportionate self-defence is enshrined in law in the UK.

Ken : You lie.
Kevin Baker : No, he doesn't. Well, "enshrined" is a complete fabrication . . .
Ed : You know, I could have sworn that you were arguing for banning shotguns and .22's. Furthermore, I could have sworn that we were challenging you on imposing that desire on others through government force. Are you now changing your tune on that?

Don't be obtuse, Ed. The comment from Kevin, meanwhile, is slightly baffling - the law does indeed provide for proportionate self-defence, and it's as "enshrined" as any law can be in a country that does not have a written constitution.

And back to Ken again. He asked me why, if I believed so strongly that private gun ownership was undesirable, I didn't simply unilaterally go and confiscate people's guns, without any need for legislation. (What a fascinating insight into the mindset of the KBFC.) I pointed out that I believed in democracy and the rule of law, as opposed to 'might is right' and the imposition of one's will by force. But it turns out that Ken doesn't seem to see any distinction whatsoever between democratically-mandated action by the authorities (eg. the collection of taxation), and an individual arrogantly taking action by himself -

"How is any action on the basis of "Do this or I'll imprison/kill you" appropriate? To say that it's okay for the (G)overnment is to say that some people are more equal than others and enjoy prior claim to the property of their lessers. On moral grounds, taxation under coercion is most certainly theft.

Ability is certainly heterogeneously distributed, but on what basis can the legitimate claim that 'Government Agent over there is a better person than regular people, and therefore enjoys a prior claim to my life and property?'"


But, Ken, as I've already pointed out, it's only in your country (well, yours is the only major one in the western democratic world) that the government reserves the extraordinary right to literally take the lives of its own citizens by judicial means.

UPDATE (couldn't resist this one) :

Carnaby : With the conclusion that we ought to increase the restrictions on legally owned firearms. Well, given that logic, how do we solve the following problem here in the USA: you're (anyone) far, far more likely to be shot in the US by a black person than a white person. Furthermore, you are far, far more likely to be shot by a black person using an "illegal" gun than anyone using a "legal" gun. Your solution, James?

A massive policy effort to raise the educational and living standards for black people up to the national average, and then the differential will disappear over time. Unless you're about to tell me that black people are somehow innately more prone to violence. Of course, rational gun control laws would reduce the problem in itself, without the slightest need for racial discrimination in its implementation.


Phew. And, that ladies and gentlemen, was my response to a small selection of the points raised by the KBFC!

66 comments:

  1. I think you may have earned yourself a glass of water, James!

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  2. Christ, these people are nuts. The police couldn't stop the guy in three hours, but they reckon if only they'd been there with their guns, they'd have got the thing sorted?

    *Puts plans to emigrate to Florida on hold.*

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  3. The Happy RampagerJune 5, 2010 at 6:25 AM

    Hello James! Why not be honest and post the whole of my comment, rather than being underhanded by only posting PART of it out of context?

    Here's what I said -

    "James, you said, “Answer - Because I believe in democracy and the rule of law, rather than 'might is right' and imposing one's will by force.”

    The irony being that someone like you, who believes that guns are not suitable for those who might find themselves faced with serious threat, believes very much that ‘might makes right’, believes wholeheartedly in the rightness of ‘imposing one’s will by force’, and believes that nothing should get in the way of brute violence.

    The question is whether you can claim the ‘moral high ground’ when you’re the sort of person who doesn’t want people, such as Bird’s 12 victims, to be able to stop a nutter like Bird from killing them. This latest atrocity happened exactly as you wanted it to. You don’t want Bird to be deprived of a gun half as much as you want his victims to have been deprived of guns, with which to stop him. Stopping the Derrick Birds of the world isn't important to you. Stopping his victims, is.

    Let’s face it, you’re the type who puts his own satisfaction ahead of other people’s lives. Mine, the 12 dead, everyone in the UK whether they agree with you or not. You also think you can fling mud to hide the fact that you hold other people’s lives in contempt. What sort of person does holding other's lives in contempt make you?"

    Unfortunately for you, your response just goes and proves me right, see you say nothing about the chances any of Bird's victims would have had had they been armed. You say nothing because to say anything about would make it obvious that you don't want them armed, either, tough shit whether they get killed or not.

    Of course, if this is NOT true, that you WOULD want any of those particular 12 people to have had a gun of their own to hand so that they could have (A) stopped Bird and saved their own life, and (B) stopped Bird and saved the lives of all the defenceless people he would otherwise have gone on to kill, step up and say so, my man, step up and say so.

    Of course that would require you to put away this idiot idea that people who approve of guns do so for no reason whatsoever (lovely bit of dishonest argument from you there), rather than being able to deal with nutters like Bird (as well as any other manner of threat posed by violent criminals), which, again, you considering not worthy of mention just shows how you put other people's beneath your self-gratification.

    You'll have to forgive my nick, it's one I chose long before this sort of incident started hitting the news.

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  4. believes that nothing should get in the way of brute violence.

    What, other than the law making it as unlikely as humanly possible that dangerous people have a gun handy? That strikes me as a rather more promising strategy than what you've got in mind.

    Now, to answer your question directly, no I do not think it is appropriate for private citizens to be carrying loaded firearms around with them on the streets. If you'd read my responses to other people, you'd have seen that I don't believe that would make anyone any safer - quite the reverse. From what we know about this case, the earnest idea you have that Bird would have given his victims enough time to save themselves had they been carrying a gun in their handbag or whatever...well, words fail me.

    You've got some distinctly odd ideas in your head about the motivations of those of us who believe in the strictest practicable gun control laws. What exactly is the 'self-gratification' in wanting to make people safer? Even if our only concern was ourselves as individuals (and you'd be quite wrong to assume that), what exactly is 'selfish' about wanting to be safer? Is that really less important than your right to have a gun?

    Incidentally, the only reason I didn't quote you and the others in full is that the post was going on forever - I had linked to the comments thread anyway. No need to see a conspiracy in every corner.

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  5. Your conflation and red-herring artistry fails, sir. Responses are filed @ TSM.

    -gwa.45

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  6. "What, other than the law making it as unlikely as humanly possible that dangerous people have a gun handy? That strikes me as a rather more promising strategy than what you've got in mind."

    Hence why The UK has an ever growing violent crime and murder rate, and that's even AFTER the cops doctor the numbers.

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  7. If you'd read my responses to other people, you'd have seen that I don't believe that would make anyone any safer - quite the reverse.

    Well, this is exactly what the US gun control lobby has been teaching for years. Guess what? It is completely false and been shown to be the case in every instance where gun laws were relaxed, especially concealed carry. Sure, there are incidents with guns but you miss the disproportionate numbers of incidents where people aren't victims because of a gun. This isn't insignificant but not widely recognized because the news only reports sensationalist stories like nutcases on rampages. Your views, meant to combat horrific but numerically insignificant instances of violence, actually put more lives at risk because you don't understand the real value to society. Seriously, step back from the molehill to see the mountain.

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  8. Good grief, it took me five minutes just to decipher your code.

    This is both switch and bait and a red herring. Executing a duly convicted individual for his crimes cannot be conflated for the systematic legal denigration of personal rights of innocent individuals, whether they are in a minority category or not.

    Predictable (and frankly rather weak) attempt to gloss over a blatant contradiction. While it may be inconvenient that I've pointed out that people with your beliefs tend to have no problem at all with the state violating the most fundamental right of the individual, it's scarcely "switching" or a "red herring". It goes to the very heart of the area of philosophy that was raised.

    Next, he falls back to a familiar construction, which this group has already adequately dismantled, that he somehow has a right not to be afraid of his neighbor's possessions.

    Would you have a problem if your neighbour possessed chemical weapons? How about an artificial virus? Your philosophy is so extreme that I'm guessing your answer would (incredibly) have to be no, but even your government has a problem with private citizens possessing such deadly weapons. There isn't a state in the world that doesn't impose a limit on its citizens' "right to bear arms" - it's just the extent of the limit that varies.

    As a matter of interest, does America have a right to be concerned about the weapons Iran possesses? If so, why?

    By the way, your 'sarcastic' reference to fearing your neighbour's lawnmower made me laugh out loud. Haven't you spotted that it's your fellow travellers who would have us believe that any old 'tool' is just as deadly as a gun in the hands of a man determined to kill?

    I certainly don't regard guns as a 'dismissable triviality', but I do regard the pleasure of owning one as trivial when compared to the greater public good of restricting ownership.

    Finally, on your charge of self-righteousness - well, that takes the biscuit. Haven't I been hearing for the last forty-eight hours that those of you who are willing to take the responsibility of the world on your shoulders by defending yourselves with a gun are morally superior to the majority of us who don't (aka the 'snivelling cowards')?

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  9. To clarify, the above is a response to Anon (Geek with a 45) - there were two other comments while I was writing it.

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  10. "Hence why The UK has an ever growing violent crime and murder rate, and that's even AFTER the cops doctor the numbers."

    Do I have to remind you yet again just how much higher the murder rate is in the USA? Pointing out trends is all very useful as a sixth-form society debating point, but it's not going to distract anyone from the elephant in the room.

    6Kings - "It is completely false and been shown to be the case in every instance where gun laws were relaxed, especially concealed carry. Sure, there are incidents with guns but you miss the disproportionate numbers of incidents where people aren't victims because of a gun."

    I'll just make the same point I made to Kevin last year - it isn't good enough to show that liberalising gun laws yet further in parts of America doesn't necessarily increase the level of gun crime. The test is whether it comes down to a lower level than a comparable society that doesn't have lots and lots of legal guns sloshing around in the first place.

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  11. "Now, to answer your question directly, no I do not think it is appropriate for private citizens to be carrying loaded firearms around with them on the streets."

    'Appropriate', This sort of language makes it very plain that it's not about public safety or individual safety for you, it's about you putting your values ahead of other people. I also assume, although you don't actually say so, that you'd go so far as 'oh well, if my from-on-high state protection doesn't work, you'll just have to get shot and die', I think that's a safe assumption because I can't possibly imagine you saying, 'since my prohibitive approach has been shown not to work, I'd be OK with the victims having a gun in that case so that they stood a chance of NOT BEING KILLED',

    I mean, that's right isn't it? If it came down to it, you'd be far happier with people being killed than saving their own lives. If this is wrong, all you have to do is say, 'no, I'd rather they saved their own life, using a gun, than be killed',

    'the earnest idea you have that Bird would have given his victims enough time to save themselves...'

    Translation - 'my low estimation of the possibility of them being able to save themselves justifies perfectly why they shouldn't be given the chance at all. They'll just have to get shot and die.'

    'I do regard the pleasure of owning one as trivial when compared to the greater public good of restricting ownership.'

    So wanting to be able to protect my & other's lives is a 'trivial pleasure' to you? Another confirmation that other people don't matter a damn to you. Only your own opinion does.

    You must be aware of how weak your position is, if you have to keep LYING, portraying the pro-gun side as merely desiring a frivolous 'pleasure' and IGNORING the reasons why they value guns i.e. protection.

    THR

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  12. My prohibitive approach has been shown not to work? By the incident in Cumbria? In which a man killed twelve people with legally-owned weapons? What has that got to do with prohibition?

    Much of your comment is beneath contempt. I'd just ask you to reflect on what possible motivation anyone could have in wanting gun ownership to be restricted other than public safety, and then ask yourself how you can possibly justify your outrageous claim that I don't care about the lives that were lost.

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  13. I'm really genuinely curious about this, James:
    If I gave you a loaded handgun today and told you that you had to carry it around, and for some strange cosmic reason (on a game show, God told you to, whatever, etc) you had to comply, what do you think you would do? How would you react? What effect would it have on your personality and day-to-day dealings with others?

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  14. Nate, I think I could sum it up by saying I'd feel less free. At the most basic practical level, I'd have to be constantly vigilant to ensure that it didn't fall into the wrong hands, thus putting myself and others in danger. Effects on personality...I'd guess I'd become less trusting, more guarded, more fearful, etc.

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  15. Exactly, that's what I thought. Now, do you think the same holds true for everyone else? Would everyone else feel less free and more fearful carrying a gun?

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  16. Different people have different temperaments, absolutely - but I think the majority would feel the same as me, and I don't believe in creating a world where people feel compelled to carry a gun against their wishes, due to their knowledge that half the people they'll be encountering on a daily basis will have one. That's a profound diminution of freedom, not an enhancement.

    There seems to be a mindset among Kevin's disciples that an individual can carry a deadly weapon around with them for 'defensive' purposes and that this is somehow magically a fact in isolation, one that has no impact at all on anyone around them.

    The impact is massive.

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  17. Massive for everyone or massive for just you? Even in the left-leaning hippie college where I went to school, less than half of those I talked to professed any type of fear regarding firearms, and the rest either already owned them or actively wanted to.

    You're also assuming that people who carry guns at least primarily do so against their own wishes, because they feel it is necessary but would profoundly prefer to leave their weapons at home, or, even better, get rid of them entirely. That's quite an assumption.

    There seems to be a great deal of projection going on here. You're fearful so you assume everyone must be. You're uncomfortable with your neighbor having or carrying guns so you assume everyone must be. You feel that if you carried a gun it would be against your wishes so you assume that everyone who does feels the same.

    What I want to call attention to is that your position essentially boils down to, "I don't like guns, I fear people who have guns, I believe that almost everyone feels as I do, and therefore guns should be prohibited over the wishes of the crackpots who disagree so that the rest of us can feel safe."

    It all seems very illiberal to me.

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  18. Whereas your position boils down to "I enjoy guns, I believe most do on the basis of spurious anecdotal evidence, and therefore all must be condemned to a world in which they are surrounded constantly be people carrying deadly weapons whether they like it or not".

    For a scientific view (no 'projection' of any kind involved) of where the balance of opinion on guns lies in this country, take a look at the latest post on UK Polling Report. 69% want even tighter regulations than we have at the moment, and 31% want a complete ban. Just 4% thought the existing laws should be relaxed.

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  19. We are all surrounded by things that we do not enjoy. Such is life. I am "condemned to a world" in which newspapers can publish opinions I find odious and disgusting. I am "condemned to a world" in which vitriolic religions preach that my very existence is an abomination due to my ethnic background. There is nothing I can do about these things, no matter how much I may disagree with the opinions expressed.

    Is public opinion really the best judge of what laws should be made? In my own country, public opinion 200 years ago was that black people were property, and even 100 years ago feelings regarding women were similar. Were these positions morally justified by virtue of having been believed by the majority? A majority here still believes that gay people do not deserve to be able to marry or serve in the military. Are they correct because they outnumber the more liberal ones?

    You say that the majority should be able to prohibit weapons ownership to bolster their feelings of safety. Tell me… should that same majority be able to strip the right to free speech if rogue newspapers begin printing horrendous vulgarities that offend their sensibilities? If a majority decided that the right to a fair trial was becoming too burdensome, would it be appropriate for that right to be stripped from the accused? Do you believe that everything should be subject to a majority vote if the majority feels strongly enough that a minority's actions negatively affect them?

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  20. I am "condemned to a world" in which newspapers can publish opinions I find odious and disgusting.

    Those odious opinions don't carry bullets. There is a qualitative difference there.

    Is public opinion really the best judge of what laws should be made?

    That wasn't actually a point I made. You asked me if I thought everyone felt the same way as I do about guns - I said no, but that I thought the majority did. You challenged that, so I simply provided the supporting evidence. That's the only reason I pointed to opinion poll evidence - although it has to be said those numbers are absolutely overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination.

    On your latter points about whether it would be legitimate for the majority to overturn fair judicial process or free speech, the answer is no - have a look at the bit of my post where I concede that democracy is not sufficient to protect the fundamental rights of individuals and minorities. Owning a gun simply isn't one of those fundamental rights, in my view.

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  21. Why doesn't everyone just learn martial arts? You can get fit at the same time.

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  22. The odious opinions may not carry bullets, but the right to due process and a fair trial allows criminals to go free on technicalities every day. That's certainly a dangerous thing, right? Why then is the danger associated with allowing obviously guilty criminals go free because their rights were violated so much less disturbing to you than the danger associated with permitting private citizens arms? If people have a fundamental right to life, how can you justify releasing dangerous people who would diminish that right? Perhaps that is subject to "brutal logic."

    And the right to own a gun for self-defense certainly is a fundamental right in my country; our bill of rights explicitly calls it out and our supreme court re-affirmed it two years ago and they're getting ready to do it again.

    That's not the case in your country and you don't think it should be; I understand that. You've indicated the right to one's own life is a fundamental right, and you've further indicated that we have the right to protect and defend those lives with proportional force. Now, what if proportionate force would be insufficient to protect life? What takes precedence, the right to life, or the importance of not using disproportionate force?

    For example, consider the classic example of a fit and healthy 20 year-old who intends to rob and murder a wealthy 80 year-old grandfather, battering him to death with a pipe. Proportionate force would dictate that the grandfather has the right to strike his assailant as hard as he is being struck. But what if he is physically unable to do that? His decreased strength makes his use of force very much not proportionate, even with the same weapon.

    What would you suggest for this hypothetical poor sod? If you agree that he has the right to defend his life, what would you suggest for him given that he cannot muster even proportionate force without a superior weapon? What if disproportionate force is necessary to keep himself alive? Tragic or justified?

    Saying that guns should be banned but people have the right to defend their lives with proportionate force is basically saying that stronger people have more of a right to life, as they are more able to proportionately defend themselves than weaker people

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  23. So, Nate, what you're saying is that for the weak in society, the only way they can feel safe is not only to have a gun, but to be thoroughly trained to use it properly? Not the first time I've used this phrase, but that really is a counsel of despair. What about the people who for temperamental reasons (and I'd guess this would be the majority of the frail and vulnerable) simply wouldn't choose to do that? What are they going to do in this world you've just made many orders of magnitude more dangerous by ensuring a significant percentage of people are armed to the teeth? Are they just going to be told "we can't protect you anymore, and if you're not prepared to cast off your crutches and protect yourself, that's a matter for you"? Your notion of guns making people equal in their capacity to defend themselves is a classic 'equality of opportunity' rather than 'equality of outcome', and as with many meritocratic ideals it will simply make people less equal in practice and put society's weakest in more danger than they were before.

    "What takes precedence, the right to life, or the importance of not using disproportionate force?"

    That question is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as disproportionate force that is necessary to keep yourself alive, and that's the legal position in the UK. You can kill an assailant if that's the only way to stop him. But arming yourself with a gun in anticipation of a murderous assault that is almost certainly not going to happen to you is a different matter - and the point is if everyone does that, and you suddenly have millions upon millions of guns sloshing around, you increase the number of gun attacks that occur in the first place, and more of these vulnerable people you claim to be concerned about will lose their lives.

    And the right to own a gun for self-defense certainly is a fundamental right in my country; our bill of rights explicitly calls it out and our supreme court re-affirmed it two years ago and they're getting ready to do it again.

    That's not the case in your country and you don't think it should be; I understand that."


    Absolutely, and that's why I'm in a better position than Americans who take a similar view to my own, because unlike them I don't have to tie myself up in knots saying "I support the constitution, but..." A constitutional right to carry deadly weapons, and thus endanger the safety of fellow citizens, is an utterly irrational historical relic.

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  24. You keep talking about how important it is that people feel safe. Feeling safe and being safe are two very different things; you can feel blissfully safe in a very dangerously erroneous manner, and you can be terrified of perceived danger that doesn't exist.

    You've been very good about answering my hypothetical questions, and I thank you earnestly for that. I'd like to ask another. Purely hypothetically, and assuming that you could have only one, which would you prefer, feeling safe or being safe?

    There is no such thing as disproportionate force that is necessary to keep yourself alive,

    This confuses me. To return to my example, what kind of proportionate force can the 80 year-old use against the pipe-wielding 20 year-old that will keep himself alive?

    And you're right, in the United States we do have millions upon millions of privately-owned guns "sloshing about" — about 270 million according to gunpolicy.org. And yes, we do have a higher rate of gun murder and murder in general than the UK. But your postulate is that more guns equals more crime, right? So then, as we here in the United States amass even more guns year by year (around the order of 12 million annually), our levels of crime should rise, no? Since we now have millions and millions more guns than we did in, say, 1980, then we should have a higher level of crime now than we did then, right?

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  25. Nate and James,

    Please excuse me for butting into your fascinating conversation, but I was wondering if either of you would be so kind as to consider the following hypothetical situation.

    Let's say that somehow gun control laws in the UK are relaxed (which I assume is what pro-gun rights lobbyists in the US would like to see happen) so that every adult can easily purchase a firearm, receive training, and carry loaded weapons around to defend themselves at all times.

    In this hypothetical society, would our 20-year-old man think twice about assaulting our poor 80-year-old grandpa with a pipe because he thinks the the old man might have a gun on him and be physically capable of using it? Or would the ease of obtaining a firearm lead the 20-year-old to simply buy one and shoot the 80-year-old on sight, giving the old man no time to defend himself, as this is much quicker than approaching him with a pipe?

    Now, society is a complex thing and no amount of hypothesising on either side will ever tell us for sure what would happen. But I'm inclined to believe it's just as easy to argue the latter scenario as it is to argue the former, and I would love to hear a compelling case from the other side to convince me that I am in fact mistaken.

    Or, if I am allowed to be a little more controversial, why not also consider this second hypothetical question:

    Would gun rights activists be interested in seeing all the nations of the world armed with nuclear weapons?

    Let's consider the countries of the world as we would the citizens of a nation. Some nations are like the virile 20-year-old skilled at using a pipe (e.g. the US and the UK), and some are like the decrepit 80-year-old whom the 20-year-old would attack because they have something the 20-year-old wants (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq).

    As I understand it, the pro-gun rights logic would say that everyone should have the right to arm themselves with nukes because the weaker countries should have the right and the ability to use proportionate force against unwanted intrusions (and how else are you going to stop the US government except with the use of nuclear weapons?)

    Of course, a pro-gun rights person could say, "This is absurd, countries are not people and nuclear weapons are much more dangerous than firearms", but I would ask, "Where does this idea of proportionate self-defence start and where does it end? Why does having the ultimate deterrent make individual citizens safer but not the nations of the world?"

    And indeed, what if the 80-year-old is a paranoid maniac like Saddam Hussein who could shoot 20-year-olds pre-emptively because they might try to attack him. It's best if the 20-year-old gets in there first...

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  26. 'In which a man killed twelve UNARMED people with legally-owned weapons?'

    Fixed, to show just how your ban-guns approach made it easier for this man to kill 12 UNARMED people. To make it clear how your ban-guns approach FAILED public safety.

    'how you can possibly justify your outrageous claim that I don't care about the lives that were lost.'

    Simple. Because you didn't answer the question I put to you. You know, the one about whether, in the face of the clear failure of banning guns for self-protection, you would rather any of the victims would have used a gun to stop Bird from killing them, or whether you would rather they died because it's more important to you that they be disarmed.

    You didn't answer because your answer would have been the latter. It's more important that people be disarmed, and if their disarmament leads to their death, you couldn't give a s***.

    Isn't that right, Jamesy-wamesy? Isn't that the sort of ugly person you are?

    THR

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  27. James, your responses are fascinating but rely on a lot of errors:

    "So, Nate, what you're saying is that for the weak in society, the only way they can feel safe is not only to have a gun, but to be thoroughly trained to use it properly?"

    No, that isn't what he is saying. He is saying it should be allowed if they are so inclined. Not everyone, you have shown this yourself, wants to arm themselves. That is perfectly fine but forcing disarmament for those that are comfortable and want/need that security is terrible, especially because your 'feel' it is better that way.

    "Your notion of guns making people equal in their capacity to defend themselves is a classic 'equality of opportunity' rather than 'equality of outcome', and as with many meritocratic ideals it will simply make people less equal in practice and put society's weakest in more danger than they were before.
    "

    Missed by a mile. Nothing can guarantee equality of outcome. Show me how equality of opportunity puts the weakest in a worse position? That isn't logical. There are hundreds of stories that show this to be false and you have nothing to stand on with this statement.

    "A constitutional right to carry deadly weapons, and thus endanger the safety of fellow citizens, is an utterly irrational historical relic."

    This is bullshit and irrational. There is no endangerment of fellow citizens. Where do you get this information? Do you think that normal people get around a weapon and suddenly murderous thoughts occur? More people carry every day and there continues to be fewer and fewer incidents of crime and an infinitesimal number of permit holders that are in trouble with the law. You have no basis for this other than your 'feelings' and Hollywood movies.

    "..and the point is if everyone does that, and you suddenly have millions upon millions of guns sloshing around, you increase the number of gun attacks that occur in the first place, and more of these vulnerable people you claim to be concerned about will lose their lives."

    Like I and others have said before, this is false and has been proven in the States multiple times. These are real world examples, not fantasies like you are dreaming up. The point isn't to require everyone to be armed, just allow those that have a want/need to do so to protect themselves. Do you fear your neighbors and fellow citizens so much that you would deny them protection against real threats?

    What it seems to boil down to is that you fear people and no matter what circumstances are, keeping people unarmed allows you to feel safe.

    I would bet that having some of us armed citizens as neighbors and friends would give you an idea how this worldview you have is skewed.

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  28. the point is if everyone does that, and you suddenly have millions upon millions of guns sloshing around, you increase the number of gun attacks that occur in the first place

    Again, so your hypothesis is that increasing the number of guns in the UK will result in more gun violence there, right? "That certainly hasn't been our experience in the United States.

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  29. Likewise, the hypothesis that "more guns = more deaths (in general)" completely fails based off historical observation here in the States: http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2009/07/graphics_matter.html .

    The number of firearms in common, public circulation has been steadily increasing every year, with firearm-related deaths growing at a rate almost identical to the population growth rate.

    On the other hand, once-Great Britain's firearm-related crime rate has been growing over seven times faster than its population rate (http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2009/11/how_it_plays_out.html), and once-Great Britain currently enjoys the title of "country with the highest violent crime rate... in the world" (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html).

    But, as with all facts, I will not hold my breath waiting for James here to acknowledge them.

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  30. To the people who left the latter comments (with the exception of the individual who is clearly just being a ***** for the fun of it) I will try to respond, but there's so much ground to cover I'll probably do it in a new post.

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  31. JP Scholten:

    The 20 year-old would refrain from attacking because fundamentally he is a coward who does not want to fight; he wants to win. He is willing to attack the unarmed 80 year-old because his size and strength advantage convince him that there will be no real challenge to him. The presence of a gun — even only a hypothetical gun — gives him pause because while it is indeed likely that he would still prevail, it is no longer certain in his mind. Whereas previously he convinced himself that he could win on strength alone, now he’ll have to be faster, get the drop on the old man, be a better shot, and kill his foe instantly before he can return fire. He would rather move onto a target he knows not to be armed, so he will pass the old man by. It’s just like how houses with louse barky dogs are less likely to be robbed: sure the dog might not stop an attack, the its presence hardens the target house enough to make it more worth it for a predator to simply find a softer target with no dog.

    On your next point, I’m probably going to catch some flak from other pro-gun people who might not go as far, but I do indeed think that most nations ought to possess nuclear weapons. Certainly not all of them; in the same manner that there are citizens who should genuinely not have firearms (small children, the insane, criminals, etc), unstable countries like Somalia should probably not have nukes. But among the responsible nations such as your own, why not? Has there ever been a nuclear exchange between countries so armed? Of course not, because the nations in question long ago realized that it would spell the doom of everyone involved. This is why the cold was was only a cold war. Does anyone really think that if the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had been limited to conventional weapons that the war would have stayed cold for very long? What would have prevented them from simply invading one another like most nations did up until that point?

    Now, in order for either of my above explanations to make any sense at all, you have to believe in the basic rationality of the actors. You have to believe that they calculate odds, that they try to maximize gain to themselves while minimizing losses, and that the presence of weapons is enough to tip the odds in favor of not attacking or moving onto a softer target.

    If instead you view these actors as governed more by emotion than logic, then obviously the solution is to try your very best to see that they don’t accidentally hurt themselves or someone else in fits of rage. And if they’re emotional, unstable, and untrustworthy by nature, and if you can’t “calm the beast” so to speak, then you can at least try to de-claw it. This is where I suspect the urge to disarm yourself and others comes from.

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  32. OK, I've written a new post about the nuclear weapons issue that JP Scholten raised. I still haven't got round to replying to the other points that were made, but I'll try to at some stage.

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  33. And I've now posted my more detailed responses here

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  34. A constitutional right to carry deadly weapons, and thus endanger the safety of fellow citizens, is an utterly irrational historical relic."

    Plenty of constitutional rights endanger the safety of fellow citizens. If we did away with all civil liberties and the gov. had no legal barriers to the arrest, imprisonment & murder of those citizens then some crimes might be prevented.

    Fortunately, in the U.S. we understand that liberty involves some measure of risk, and yet we choose liberty.

    Also, my carrying a handgun around in no way endangers anyone around me (unless of course they initiate predatory violence upon me)

    How do you explain, Mr. Kelly, how the U.S. is seeing dramatic decreases in violent crime at a time where we are also seeing record firearms purchases by the general public?

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  35. even if only a small number of lives can be saved, these incidents still justify relatively draconian gun laws because the right to own a luxury item like a gun simply isn't important enough.

    And what about the lives of those victims who could have effectively defended themselves with a firearm but were prevented from doing so by the policies you advocate?

    Your ridiculous "if it saves only a few lives" argument works both ways.

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  36. You must be aware of how weak your position is, if you have to keep LYING, portraying the pro-gun side as merely desiring a frivolous 'pleasure' and IGNORING the reasons why they value guns i.e. protection.

    Dishonestly is the default for Mr. Kelly & his ilk. Their position necessitates lying.

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  37. A constitutional right to carry deadly weapons, and thus endanger the safety of fellow citizens, is an utterly irrational historical relic.

    Absent some violent & aggressive action on my part against my fellow citizen, how would cimply carrying a deadly weapon "endanger their safety?"

    Unless you believe that a gun can jump out of my holster, aim, and fire at others all by itself, or perform a vulcan mind-meld on the carrier forcing him to commit acts of predatory violence against his will.

    I carry a knife on me daily. Does that also "endanger the safety of fellow citizens?"

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  38. I carry a knife on me daily. Does that also "endanger the safety of fellow citizens?"

    Yes. Did you seriously expect me to say no?

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  39. No, I did not, but it does show quite clearly that you are incapable of rational thought.

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  40. So that'll just be me and the bulk of the UK population, then?

    As a matter of interest, Mike, do you own a passport?

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  41. Care to explain (logically please) how carrying a knife, gun or other object "endangers fellow citizens?"

    Do you actually believe that my gun, knife, etc. can jump out on it's own and kill, or compel me to engage in predatory violence against my will?

    And yes, I do own a passport and I've been to London. Amazingly I was there for a week and saw sunshine the entire time.

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  42. Out of curiosity, do you have any personal exposure to guns, CCW holders, or law-abiding gun owners, or do you make your claims from a position of ignorance on the entire subject of guns?

    If carrying those items is so dangerous than I'm shocked that there wasn't a huge bloodbath at the last two NRA conventions I attended. Tens of thousands of Americans in close proximity, the vast majority of whom were carrying a gun, a knife, or both. Depsite this, there was not a single incident. Not one. Oh, and the crime rate in charlotte dropped while all those gun & knife toters were around.

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/05/19/1444226/events-last-week-attracted-85000.html

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  43. And yes, I do own a passport and I've been to London. Amazingly I was there for a week and saw sunshine the entire time.

    In that case, I hope you weren't 'rationally' carrying your knife around with you, otherwise you were not only putting people in danger, you were committing a criminal offence.

    "Out of curiosity, do you have any personal exposure to guns, CCW holders, or law-abiding gun owners, or do you make your claims from a position of ignorance on the entire subject of guns?"

    I have a number of American relatives, many of whom hold the same views that you do. And yes, I've visited them, but as you can imagine I didn't ask to admire their weaponry. Probably the biggest concentration of weapons I've seen was right here in the UK - by the security forces patrolling the streets in Northern Ireland. And I also know the town of Dunblane very well. So no, this is not an alien subject to me, although I'm very glad it's become more alien in recent years.

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  44. Still ignoring the parts of my comments containing inconvenient questions and evidence that disproves your beliefs.

    Is that how it works in your reality Mr. Kelly? If you ignore it, does it cease to exist?

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  45. Now, what "the heck" was Ed saying about projection?

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  46. But, as with all facts, I will not hold my breath waiting for James here to acknowledge them.

    Linoge. He will not click on your links, just as he will not click on mine. He cannot allow himself to acknowledge said facts.

    Remember, as I said in a previous post regarding the Sad but Predictable mentality of anti-gunners like Mr. Kelly,

    They live in a world ruled by their feelings. In such a world facts don't matter, reason succumbs to emotional outbursts, and logic is in short supply.

    ....

    "admitting he's got nothing would be far too emotionally damaging. For him it's more than just a basic logical, reasoned argument with facts, points, and counterpoints. He has to attempt to argue a factually indefensible position without tying himself in an emotional knot. Deep down he knows it's indefensible, which is why the progression of the discussion leads to evasion, projection, and self-inflating puffery via childish attacks on his dissenters. Such tactics, and then eventually running away from the discussion altogether are unavoidable given the mental gymnastics necessitated by his positions.

    We are seeing the mental gymnastics, the evasion, obfuscation, puffery and projection from Mr. Kelly all over this blog and at Kevin's. He has no choice, since his ideology backs him into a corner.

    In short, Mr. Kelly cannot allow his emotionally based positions to crumble by admitting he's wrong and acknowledging facts & objective truths.

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  47. "Linoge. He will not click on your links, just as he will not click on mine. He cannot allow himself to acknowledge said facts."

    You've gone on and on about this link that I supposedly didn't click/comment on - was it the Washington Times article? If so, I not only clicked on it, I read it, and I then commented on it. Incidentally, that article read more as a political manifesto rather than a proper journalistic analysis.

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  48. Supposedly?

    You have, as a matter of actual fact, not commented on what I cited from that article. In fact, you fail to provide rational responses to much of anything.

    Just saying "Yes I did" or "I believe this to be so" does not make it so. It would do you good to learn this.

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  49. Mike, you really should set up in business as a spiritual development coach. (You might have to keep your prices fairly low...)

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  50. the unlimited right to amass tools for the purposes of self-defence, and b) the right not to be attacked, and perhaps even more importantly, not to have to live in constant fear of being attacked by fellow citizens.

    The "right" not to be attacked is not a right. Likewise, "freedom from fear" is not a right, nor could it logically ever be a right.

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  51. Why not? Because they can't be guaranteed in every case? That's as silly as saying the 'right to life' is meaningless because people regularly die of natural causes, accidents and homicide - it doesn't mean to say the state shouldn't protect people's lives as much as practicably possible.

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  52. My guess would be that there's a saturation point beyond which having even more guns around can't really make matters much worse. And, yes, I do say guess.

    Why should your position be considered credible if you openly admit that the crap you peddle here is nothing more than wild guessing, "shots in the dark" if you will?

    Someone like yourself who resorts to guessing and cannot back up his positions should not be considered credible.

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  53. There can hardly be a more outsatnding example of 'wild guessing' and 'blind faith' than to suggest that the UK's massively lower gun crime rate than the USA's has got nothing at all to do with our gun restrictions, or indeed to insist that easing those restrictions would somehow make things...better.

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  54. Who said anything about "gun crime." I thought we were talking about violent crime in general?

    Unless of course you think only "gun crime" counts. I mean who cares if someone is robbed, raped, murdered, carjacked etc. as long as the assailant doesn't use a gun that's fine right?

    Of course I've already shown you data showing that only 1.2% of murders in the UK were committed with firearms.

    BTW - Easing those restrictions has demonstratably made things better in the U.S. Perhaps you folks across the pond just can't handle freedom.

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  55. Care to explain (logically please) how carrying a knife, gun or other object "endangers fellow citizens?"

    Do you actually believe that my gun, knife, etc. can jump out on it's own and kill, or compel me to engage in predatory violence against my will?


    Simple questions James. Let's see if you can provide rational answers.

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  56. or indeed to insist that easing those restrictions would somehow make things...better.

    Do you have some evidence to suggest that increasing individual freedom will somehow make things... worse?

    We're easing restrictions here in the States and things are getting better. Perhaps you've forgotten why (and how) we threw off British rule. You forget that the Scots and Irish did the same to the Brits, and like us privately held arms played a role in their gaining independence.

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  57. It would appear James has now abandoned the discussion on virtually all of his posts.

    And thus, he has completed the final stage of "sad but predictable"

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  58. Mike, do you want to stop and have a think about just how stupid a "criticism" that is? You've been spraying comments all over the place randomly, on literally about ten different threads. No-one in their right mind would try to keep up with them all, even if they were making much logical sense.

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  59. James - You're still having issues with the simple questions posed to you.

    They really aren't that hard, but your inability to answer them says much about the weakness of your positions.

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  60. The only "issue" I'm having with you is that it's impossible to meaningfully respond to someone who leaves a million comments that never actually say anything. Two weeks on and you still pop up again for yet more of this pointless behaviour.

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  61. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRAw3VWVyD8&feature=player_embedded

    Probably one of the better arguments for this issue I've heard..

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  62. Well, that's 8 minutes and 21 seconds of my life that I'll never get back.

    "have you ever wondered why the people who really enjoy telling others what to do and how to live, those fun-loving intellectual elites, seem to be so in love with totalitarian states where people are unarmed, and where survival is utterly dependent on some of the worst people in the world"

    Is he talking about the likes of David Cameron? If so, while I'm not exactly the UK government's biggest fan, I think 'totalitarianism' may be getting a slightly bad rap. On the other hand, if this chap is really asking his viewers why 'the liberal elite' are so in love with leaders like Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin, then the phrase "straw man argument on stilts" springs to mind.

    Incidentally, he also glosses over the blatant contradiction that seemingly no-one can answer - how the hell does the Second Amendment's right to own puny firearms even begin to protect the citizenry against a government that has at its disposal weapons of the most unimaginable power, up to and including nuclear weapons? Safety from the government by means of physical defence is an illusion. What you're actually reliant on in the US is democratic safeguards - every bit as much (arguably more) than we are in the "unarmed, helpless" UK.

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  63. ...how the hell does the Second Amendment's right to own puny firearms even begin to protect the citizenry against a government that has at its disposal weapons of the most unimaginable power, up to and including nuclear weapons?

    Indeed. I recall to this day the horror as it unfolded on our television screens: the brave but feckless and underarmed Romanians shot like partridges, corpses lined up in windrows under the muzzles of the implacable state. I think it's a little unseemly of the Ceau┼čescus to commemorate it with an annual parade, though.

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  64. Oh dear, Ken. You really didn't understand what I was talking about, did you? Communist Romania didn't have weapons of mass destruction at its disposal in 1989, let alone the will to use them.

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  65. On the contrary: I understood it completely. The Romanians had little or no access to private arms. The correlation of forces there is effectively what it is here in all important respects.

    Is it your contention that the U.S. government would use WMD within its own borders against its own tax batteries? I call that a straw man strapped to a Saturn V and shot to the moon, but just for the heck of it, let's pretend it isn't. If you had such a government, what would you seek to do about it?

    That's a rhetorical question, by the way. I know exactly what you'd do. It's what you do every day: go on trying to convince yourself you're "safe" because your fellow citizens are disarmed, while whistling past the graveyard erected by the sociopaths with flags, badges, and WMD.

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  66. This is hilarious. You're totally oblivious to the fact that you're busily destroying the whole basis of your own side's argument. You claim that the idea that the American government would use WMDs against its own people - who you don't and can't deny would be helpless if they did - as an obvious straw man. Why? Presumably because it's laughable, and the image of American citizens having to rely on pocket nuclear and biological weapons as a 'deterrent' against their own government is silly beyond words.

    I agree with you. It is silly.

    Which should finally give you a glimmer of understanding of why most Britons react in the way they do when you earnestly invite us to believe that we are a "helpless" people simply because we don't arm ourselves to the teeth with guns on the off-chance that our democratic government might turn into a fascist dictatorship while we're not looking.

    I've expanded considerably on my thoughts on Mr Whittle's rather eccentric views here.

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