Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baker blows his top

Well, it seems I've made considerable progress - Kevin Baker actually read my response this time, as evidenced by this intensely funny 4,300 word ranting retort which repeatedly brands me a bigot.

When someone starts equating your opposition to private gun ownership with anti-Semitism (yes, really) it's probably high time to heed Marcia's advice, and get on with enjoying Christmas. Just before I do, though, one of Kevin's grandiose assertions is so exquisitely ironic in the light of recent history that I simply can't resist having a very small nibble...

"That's because James does not understand the difference between warfare and despotism. Governments (and terrorists) use WMDs on other populations, not on their own soil."

In that case, clearly Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons attack on his own people at Halabja - used endlessly as a justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was a figment of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney's imaginations. Just to refresh Kevin's memory, here's the Wikipedia account of an incident which blows a hole in one of his articles of faith, ie. that privately-owned handguns are a meaningful protection against 'governments gone bad', because tyrannical governments always sportingly refrain from using WMDs against their own people...

"The Halabja poison gas attack (Kurdish: K├«myabarana Helebce), also known as Halabja massacre or Bloody Friday, was an incident that took place on March 16, 1988, during the closing days of the Iran–Iraq War, when chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government forces in the Kurdish town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The attack killed between 3,200 and 5,000 people and injured around 7,000 and 10,000 more, most of them civilians; thousands more died of complications, diseases, and birth defects in the years after the attack. The incident, which has been officially defined as an act of genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq, was and still remains the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history."


Oh, but wait - Kevin has suddenly remembered this rather huge problem. A few paragraphs later he hurriedly backtracks -

"James does not understand that governments tend not to bomb or gas their own population centers. Oh, Saddam did it, but he only gassed Kurds, not, say, downtown Tikrit."

So despotic regimes only "tend" not to do the blindingly obvious and quell revolts using the weapons at their disposal. Or, to put it another way, they don't do it, except when they do. Oh-kaaay...

Oh, and to answer Kevin's final question - "coming from a bigot, this is not a surprise. How's it feel, James?"

How's it feel to have so much in common with the likes of Alan C Baird? It feels fabulous, Kev. Thanks for asking. Happy Christmas!

65 comments:

tris said...

That has to be the funniest thing I've read all year...

"James Kelly = bigot " Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !
Of all the people on the blogosphere to label with that word, I would have thought that you were the very last to be deserving of it.

I fear that your friend must equate the meaning of the word "bigot" with "not agreeing with me".

Marcia said...

As the old saying goes, 'there are more out than in. I agree with Tris - and do have a good time away recharching your batteries for 2011.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm the son of a Jew, though raised in the Kirk. I've used guns, but I am in favour of dun control

I don't think being in favour of Gun Control equates to anti-Semitism

Anonymous said...

Freedom and whisky gang thegither said Robert Burns

Freedom and guns go together say the US libertarians.

Hmmm - which would I prefer?

James Kelly said...

Thanks, Tris, Marcia and Anon.

For the record, Tris, my "bigotry" apparently relates to my "hatred of Americans" and my "hatred of gun-owners". On the latter point, if Kevin genuinely can't see the distinction between wanting to disarm gunowners and hating them, it's a fairly obvious sign of immaturity on his part. An analogy would be my support for the ban on smoking in public places - in a sense, that means I want to "disarm" smokers of their cigarettes in certain circumstances. Does it therefore follow that I "hate" smokers? That would include my own mother, for starters!

The "hating America" bit relates to comments I made about the atomic bombings of Japan. There are a couple of huge ironies in the way Baker tackles this point - he starts by using a lengthy quote of mine in which I criticised Americans for slipping into a kind of circular logic of thinking that the bombings can't possibly have been war crimes, simply because they were carried out by the US, and the US doesn't do that sort of thing. My words could hardly have been more prescient, because Baker then goes on to attack me using exactly that logic. It doesn't even occur to him that he needs to explain why I was wrong about the morality of the bombings themselves - the only salient point seems to be that I was attacking an action of America, and that alone is sufficient to put what I was saying beyond the pale. It's extraordinary how "Americanism" is a de facto religion for some - any criticism of the creed is blasphemy and will provoke utterly irrational fury.

The second irony is that, later in the post, Kevin defends himself on the charge of regarding black people as innately more violent than white people by declaring that "facts aren't racist, they're just facts". Well, a touch of consistency wouldn't go amiss here - how, then, can facts be bigotry? Does the factual observation that the government of Germany carried out a genocide of the Jews in the 1940s make me an anti-German bigot?

(A third irony, of course, is that Kevin himself notes at the start of his post that I hold dual US/UK citizenship. It seems I'm even bigoted against myself!)

While I'm thinking of it, another bit that made me laugh was on the issue of statistical evidence, with Kevin drawing a hair-splitting distinction between the academic studies I've cited (which are terribly, terribly unrealiable, don't-cha-know) and the "raw statistics" he uses. But what exactly is a study in this context other than an interpretation and analysis of raw statistics? Er, isn't that exactly what Kevin does in his own posts? In which case, I'd have to concede he has a point - some "studies" are clearly rather more ideologically-filtered and agenda-driven than others!

James Kelly said...

I wrote the above comment before seeing the Burns-themed comment - so thanks to the second Anon as well!

Anonymous said...

I don't get it, James. Are you saying in an ideal world no-one would have guns? If so, this is a laudable sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur.
Unfortunately, our world is far from ideal.
I do believe every citizen has the right to defend themselves, their loved ones and their property by the measured use of proportionate action.
If my house was broken into and my wife and children threatened I would have no hesitation in doing what was needed.
I live in the country, and at one point had to work away from home. I bought an Anics Skif 3000 CO2 pistol - powerful enough to drive a steel ball-bearing through a phone book at 15 feet - and we all learned to use it. (My youngest daughter - 13 years old, then - was far and away the best shot).
This was at the time an old lady in the nearby village of Galston had her fingers gnawn off by two junkies looking for funds, and I was terrified of something comparable happening to my loved ones.
Until the police can assure society that no violent crime will take place then the need for self-defence is self-evident.
If you outlaw weapons, the only people with weapons are outlaws.
Bill Pickford.

Nate said...

On the latter point, if Kevin genuinely can't see the distinction between wanting to disarm gunowners and hating them, it's a fairly obvious sign of immaturity on his part. An analogy would be my support for the ban on smoking in public places - in a sense, that means I want to "disarm" smokers of their cigarettes in certain circumstances. Does it therefore follow that I "hate" smokers? That would include my own mother, for starters!

I don't think "hate" is the right word, but it definitely shows a deep disrespect for your fellow citizens' capacity to run their own lives.

Both of these sentiments (banning guns and banning smoking) are basically expressing the viewpoint that you not only know better than these people what's good for them, but you want the government to enforce upon them the choices you're sure will be better for them and everyone else. This certainly isn't hatred, but it's pretty disrespectful of their capacity to reason and choose for themselves from among the myriad options that life presents us with.

Now I imagine you'd respond that these activities present public dangers, and you'd be right — but why focus on guns and cigarettes? Doesn't the distribution of Mein Kampf present a public danger as well? How about hard liquor? Knives? Fatty meals and sugary drinks? Fireworks? Nail guns? Narcotics? Souped-up motorcycles? What's the social value to any of these things? Should all of them be banned too? What's your line in the sand for things it would be inappropriate to ban on the basis that you think it's too dangerous for society to allow?

By wanting to ban certain activities or products, you're basically saying that you know better than people who want to engage in them or buy them what's really in their best interest, and that furthermore, that if you still want to do them anyway, you should be a criminal. To be honest, I find that sentiment rather insulting, and I think that's what Kevin was trying to say, however clumsily.

James Kelly said...

"This was at the time an old lady in the nearby village of Galston had her fingers gnawn off by two junkies looking for funds, and I was terrified of something comparable happening to my loved ones."

Thanks for you comment, Bill, but I'm interested in your use of the word 'terrified'. It seems you're looking for the same thing that I think would be desirable in a civilised society - a freedom from fear, or at the very least a freedom from that intensity of fear. I've been told by Kevin and others that striving for that objective is illegitimate or even delusional, but their use of language gives them away - clearly the possession of a gun for self-defence purposes is a comfort and reassurance to them.

The differences between our two sides, I'd suggest, is therefore merely which method we consider to be more effective in reducing the level of threat, and whether we think the aim ought to be to reduce the threat for ourselves and our immediate family, or to take a collective approach that reduces the level of threat for everyone. Ultimately, of course, my contention is that the latter approach benefits the individual as much as the collective, and thus is the rational one to follow.

Until the police can assure society that no violent crime will take place then the need for self-defence is self-evident.

How about if the police could assure you that you'd be in less danger - not no danger - if people didn't take these ultimately counter-productive defensive measures in such huge numbers? Realistically, that's the position.

James Kelly said...

"I don't think "hate" is the right word, but it definitely shows a deep disrespect for your fellow citizens' capacity to run their own lives.

Both of these sentiments (banning guns and banning smoking) are basically expressing the viewpoint that you not only know better than these people what's good for them, but you want the government to enforce upon them the choices you're sure will be better for them and everyone else."


Nate, I thought you were missing the whole point until you added "and everyone else" - but that shouldn't be an afterthought, that's the heart of the issue. If people aren't infringing the rights of others, then their freedom to do what they want should be absolutely respected. But for the reasons we've discussed so many times before, the possession of a gun isn't a fact in isolation, it's something that has a profound impact on other people. Similarly, the issue with smoking in public places isn't the interests of the smokers themselves (although admittedly it's a side-benefit if the ban improves their health) - it's the interests of the people around them, who aren't being given a choice whether to breathe in the smoke and put themselves at risk. An absolutely clear-cut example of one person's freedom infringing the freedoms of others.

Nate said...

It doesn't seem so clear at all. Like I said, what about hard liquor? The fact that lots of people drink and drive causes thousands of fatalities every year in my country. Aren't those losers interfering with not only their victims' right to life, but everybody's freedom from the fear of fiery death on the road? Do you think alcohol needs more restrictions? If not, why not? Drinkers' drinking tangibly interferes with my safety on the road and diminishes my feeling of safety when I drive.

Everything people can do has or could possibly have a detrimental impact on others. As I asked, where do you draw the line? I mean, the car culture of the state I live in is "something that has a profound impact on other people."

Moreover, who made you the arbiter of what's best for me? It's clear enough from these debates that your definitions of what's best differ substantially from those of myself and many others. If you're so sure that the idea of regulating other people's behavior to prevent their interfering with the rights of others is such a great idea, what's your plan for how this power won't fall into the hands of those who might have a very different definition of "rights" or "harm", to say nothing of politicians who may simply be corrupt or immoral?

James Kelly said...

Aren't those losers interfering with not only their victims' right to life, but everybody's freedom from the fear of fiery death on the road?

Of course they are. That's why drink-driving is illegal and can lead to lengthy spells of imprisonment - I'd suggest that constitutes a "ban" by any standards!

Do you think alcohol needs more restrictions?

Yes. As I mentioned last year when the same comparison was raised, the Scottish Government were trying to introduce minimum pricing per unit of alcohol to reduce binge drinking. Unfortunately they failed, but I was fully supportive of the idea.

"Moreover, who made you the arbiter of what's best for me?"

If what you're doing genuinely is only about you, then I - by which I presume you mean society collectively - am not the best arbiter. But your question has a flipside - if what you're doing has a profound and negative impact on others around you, who made you the arbiter of what they should have to suffer?

"If you're so sure that the idea of regulating other people's behavior to prevent their interfering with the rights of others is such a great idea"

But your side of the argument believes in that as well, Nate - you want private property to be respected, for example, and you believe (as do I, incidentally) that you would suffer "harm" if it was not. That requires enforcement and a regulation of the behaviour of others. I'm struggling to see the difference of principle.

Nate said...

That's why drink-driving is illegal and can lead to lengthy spells of imprisonment - I'd suggest that constitutes a "ban" by any standards

It's not a ban on alcohol itself, it's a ban on drunk driving, which is totally logical. Similarly, in this country, we have a ban on shooting people for reasons other than self-defense. However, you would go farther and advocate a ban on guns themselves, while (so far at least) you haven't advocated a ban on alcohol itself.

I'm totally supportive of your logic on alcohol. I guess what's puzzling to me is this: for alcohol, you rightly want to criminalize the actual negative act of drunk driving, not its purchase or consumption; you permit the item, but criminalize it misuse. But for guns, you follow a different standard. You say that guns ought to be banned because they can lead to shootings. By that logic, shouldn't alcohol be banned because it can lead to drunk driving? Why hold guns to a different standard that they can't even be allowed in society, while for alcohol you allow it in society but criminalize it misuse?

if what you're doing has a profound and negative impact on others around you, who made you the arbiter of what they should have to suffer?

Quite right, and I fully agree with you. I think we differ on just what has a negative effect, though. For example, when I went to the shooting range last weekend, I fired several hundred rounds of ammunition at paper targets alongside about 15 other people. None of us were injured. Nobody went off and committed a robbery or murder. Nobody's property was vandalized and no stray rounds killed schoolchildren or nuns. It was a mundane act of recreation that had a negative impact on nobody. Can you identify who was actually harmed by that act? If not, do you really want to ban it?

But your side of the argument believes in that as well, Nate - you want private property to be respected, for example, and you believe (as do I, incidentally) that you would suffer "harm" if it was not. That requires enforcement and a regulation of the behaviour of others. I'm struggling to see the difference of principle.

No it doesn't. All it requires is my ability to defend my property. I don't want to regulate the life out of other people, nor do I need to for my property rights to remain intact; I just need to them to stay away from what I own, and I need to retain my ability to defend it should they insist.

James Kelly said...

"It's not a ban on alcohol itself, it's a ban on drunk driving"

Similarly, a ban on smoking in public places is not a ban on smoking itself, but that important distinction was glossed over earlier. If a ban on drink-driving is "perfectly logical" to reduce harm to others (despite the fact that it plainly involves the curtailment of freedom, external enforcement and the regulation of behaviour) then why does the same logic not apply to a ban on smoking in public places?

"But for guns, you follow a different standard."

Absolutely, Guns are different. They are designed to kill. Alcohol, while it can kill, is designed for refreshment. We've had this discussion before - it's much easier to weigh up costs and benefits in relation to guns, because their good function and harmful potential misuse is one and the same thing, ie. their capacity to kill. Is gun legality leading, as a result of more of the "right" people being shot (ie. in self-defence), to fewer of the "wrong" people being shot? If the reverse is true, then gun legality is irrational.

All it requires is my ability to defend my property.

And if you're unable to do so, you don't want any external help from the authorities whatsoever? No legal entitlements in relation to property at all? You don't believe in jail sentences for burglary, for example?

"Can you identify who was actually harmed by that act? If not, do you really want to ban it?"

I've specified the harms caused by gun legality a number of times, and no, firing rounds of ammunition at a shooting range is not one of them. I even accept that it's a matter of some regret that the gun ban in the UK has deprived people of the ability to take part in sporting activities they used to enjoy, but it's a relatively trifling sacrifice when weighed up aginst the prize of enhanced public protection.

Nate said...

If a ban on drink-driving is "perfectly logical" to reduce harm to others (despite the fact that it plainly involves the curtailment of freedom, external enforcement and the regulation of behaviour) then why does the same logic not apply to a ban on smoking in public places?

Does it really involve the curtailment of freedom? As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." I fully support laws that make it illegal to brandish a firearm on the grounds that it is an implicit threat; I treat drunk driving the same way — it is the threat of a collision. On the subject of smoking, I went to a college in which more than 50% of the population smoked. If I saw a smoker approaching, I would go a different way. If there was a crowd of them, I would go around. They weren't violating my rights or threatening me, so why should I care? If they were violating my rights by smoking in public, would I be violating their rights if I broke wind and made them nauseous?

it's much easier to weigh up costs and benefits in relation to guns, because their good function and harmful potential misuse is one and the same thing, ie. their capacity to kill.

I just can't agree. You're treating killing like a universally undesirable thing while I believe you have to draw moral distinctions between different kinds of killings; there's a reason why homicide and murder, for example, are different terms and connote different things. Killing can be a good thing if it prevents even greater violence. It can be monstrous thing if it is initiated out of agression for no good reason.

Since we both agree that guns are for killing and make it far easier than using a cupcake or a church newsletter, what we're in fact disagreeing on is whether the smaller number of self-defense episodes is worth the price of supposedly less gun crime.

I know we've gone over the statistics a hundred times before and I won't raise the dead over it. Needless to say, I believe the data in my country show hundreds of thousands if not millions of episodes of self-defense with a firearm and I won't simply sweep them under the rug, whatever their true numbers may be.

And if you're unable to do so, you don't want any external help from the authorities whatsoever? No legal entitlements in relation to property at all? You don't believe in jail sentences for burglary, for example?

You bet I do, as I too believe that the state should protect private property rights. However, when the state acts in this capacity, it's using the same moral justification that I do. The state has the right to punish burglars because I have the right to punish burglars!The state is merely a creation of individuals for their mutual protection. In my estimation, it has no special moral entitlements that individuals do not themselves possess.

What I don't want is a law that requires restrictions on what my neighbor can do on his property on the grounds that it might interfere with mine.

Finally, let me mention that I greatly enjoy these debates! It's so infrequently I get the opportunity to really spar like this with someone on "the other team" so to speak.

James Kelly said...

Thanks, Nate - I enjoy these sort of exchanges as well.

A few points - there are all sorts of rules, conventions and regulations of behaviour that apply in public spaces, not merely to enhance safety but to ensure 'fair play', so I don't really see what makes a ban on smoking in such areas qualitatively different. For instance, you have to observe the speed limit, drive on the correct side of the road, wait your turn in a queue, etc. As for the idea that you can just turn away from an approaching smoker, that may not be such a big deal in an open air setting, but when you're talking about a closed space like a pub or a bus, it's a different matter entirely. The choice you're left with then is a grim one - either accept potentially severe damage to your health over a long period, or don't use buses or go to pubs anymore. That's a massive curtailment of personal freedom and choice.

"Killing can be a good thing if it prevents even greater violence."

I actually conceded that point - that was what I was getting at when I talked about "the 'right' people being shot". But as you know, I've written a number of posts explaining my extreme scepticism about suggestions that the defensive use of guns significantly offsets the additional deaths caused by gun legality.

"You bet I do, as I too believe that the state should protect private property rights."

But in that case we arrive full circle. It means you believe in the state "regulating other people's behavior to prevent their interfering with the rights of others", which means that the question you asked me earlier also applies to you - "what's your plan for how this power won't fall into the hands of those who might have a very different definition of 'rights' or 'harm', to say nothing of politicians who may simply be corrupt or immoral?"

"The state is merely a creation of individuals for their mutual protection."

The state is a creation of individuals to enforce whatever rights and responsibilities they collectively see fit (subject to constitutional limitations) to further their mutual well-being. There's nothing special about private property that sets it apart from any other rights we might discuss - it's an ideological construct, which the law gives meaning to and the authorities enforce. Incidentally, I'm not sure many people on either side of the argument would truly regard 'interfering with what people do on their own property' as a breach of some absolute principle - laws still apply on private property. Acts of violence are still prosecuted, and to return to an example I've used before, what if someone decided to put neighbours at risk by storing smallpox samples in their shed...?

Mike W. said...

How's it feel to have so much in common with the likes of Alan C Baird? It feels fabulous, Kev. Thanks for asking. Happy Christmas!

I seriously hope that's sarcasm Mr. Kelly. I wouldn't want to align myself with a vile, intolerant, violent bigot like Alan C. Baird. Then again you two have much in common.

James Kelly said...

Ah. Explanatory footnotes were clearly required for Libertarian Visitors. I apologise for the shortcoming. Yes, it was sarcasm, Mike, but certainly not in the way you mean. I read Baird's very funny article and its more serious follow-ups, and I'd be more than happy to associate myself with the spirit of them.

Epsilon Given said...

To go back to your original post: the argument that you propose--that we shouldn't have guns, because they would do no good in a fight against tyranny--is a slimy one--whatever the reason given. The reason you give is that modern armies have chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, so we might as well give up any hope of fighting them. Others would add fighter jets, tanks, artillery, and soldiers trained to fight as reasons why we should just give up when tyranny is staring us in the face.

When you say we might as well disarm, because it's impossible to fight a modern government, you are saying that, when a government starts herding us into the box cars, we should just go along, because it's useless to fight for our lives.

From the sounds of things, if England dropped a bomb on one of its own cities, you would just accept it--because it's impossible to fight such a beast. I, however, would consider it an extreme act of tyranny, and a reason to pick up arms, and do what I can to overthrow that government. Perhaps, in the process, they will nuke more cities--but if they do, so what? There are only so many cities they can nuke, and I would rather die fighting a government that will nuke its own cities, than to live, cowering and in fear, as a slave to a government that uses such atrocious methods to force the population to do their will.

Epsilon Given said...

Now, to address one of the tangents in the comments: James, you claim that banning guns will make you safer. Really? Your own country has banned guns, and violent death has risen since then--including handgun violence.

One writer has pointed out that, when you control for cities like Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Detroit, and New Orleans--cities that have, for decades, been run by Democrat Party machines--the rate of violence goes dramatically down, and the United States becomes one of the most peaceful countries in the world.

Then consider this: Chicago, New York, and Washington DC have had strict gun control laws for decades, yet they are known as centers of United States violence, while America's rural areas are awash in guns, but have very low violence rates.

Yes, it's counter-intuitive: owning guns may prevent violence, and banning guns might not prevent--and may even encourage--violence. You keep on stating, though, that "collectively", banning guns will "reduce fear". This doesn't work, because when I am unarmed, I fear encounters with thugs (who will, at a minimum, be armed with fists and feet); I also fear what a government can do to me more than I fear what random criminals--and especially random citizens I meet, who aren't criminals--will do to me.

James Kelly said...

Yes, it's counter-intuitive...

I'm glad you at least accept it's counter-intuitive (which is to put it mildly) - the likes of Bill Whittle would earnestly have us believe it's just plain "common sense".

I'd be intrigued to know - if "England" (sic) decides to drop the bomb in my general vicinity, what precisely is my alternative to "just accepting" it, guns or no guns? That's kind of the nature of the beast - when a nuclear explosion hits you, guns are about as much use as "fists and feet".

"I, however, would consider it an extreme act of tyranny"

I'm delighted to say we are in complete accord on that point. Where we part company, however, is in your cheery optimism that in the event of a nuclear holocaust you would be in any fit state to go off and "overthrow the government" with your trusty handgun.

To answer your first question directly, yes, it is fairly hopeless to think in terms of the citizenry literally "fighting the government" in the modern world. A popular revolution in a country like the UK or US would only work if a portion of the armed forces/police switched sides - the government just has too many options for suppression otherwise.

That's not to say the citzenry are in a powerless position. I don't accept your counsel of despair. It's simply that our safeguards must and should be considerably more sophisticated than the utterly redundant Second Amendment one you cling to for comfort.

James Kelly said...

To move onto your statistical point, this is the absolute classic of the voodoo statistics that Kevin and his ilk adore to peddle. The US has a murder rate two-and-a-half times greater than that of the UK? No problem, that'll all be down to culture, and nothing whatever to do with gun control. But wait a minute - the violent death rate in the UK is going up? Oh well, that must be entirely to do with gun control, and nothing whatever to do with cultural changes, or the whole range of other possible factors.

To call that mindset "magical thinking" barely does it justice. A second prime example is your apparent belief that the differential between rates of violence in US cities and rural areas can be entirely explained by the difference in gun control laws, and will have nothing whatever to do with (ahem) the difference between cities and rural areas.

On the "freedom from fear" point - it seems that's exactly what you're seeking (a reduction in fear, at any rate) through your right to own a gun for defensive purposes. So you share with me the goal if not the method. That ought to be sufficient to earn a scathing rebuke from one or two of your fellow travellers.

Epsilon Given said...

"I'd be intrigued to know - if "England" (sic) decides to drop the bomb in my general vicinity, what precisely is my alternative to "just accepting" it, guns or no guns? That's kind of the nature of the beast - when a nuclear explosion hits you, guns are about as much use as "fists and feet"."

That's assuming that the nuclear explosion will hit you. Last I checked, there are a lot of cities, both in England and in the United States. If a nuclear bomb, or mustard gas, or some other method of terror, is used against an American city, those who are alive will be free to attack and destroy the Federal buildings, the Capitol, and any other outpost of Federal control, and they will have the weapons, and the numbers to do it.

If it happened in England, what would you do? Or, since you thoughtfully added the "sic" to my comment--if England decided to bomb Scotland, what would you do?

And all this assumes that tyrannies will resort to such weapons. How much easier will it be to depose a tyranny, if the tyrant won't use those weapons--for whatever reasons?

Epsilon Given said...

"To move onto your statistical point, this is the absolute classic of the voodoo statistics that Kevin and his ilk adore to peddle."

Just who is peddling voodoo statistics? What statistics do you use to back up your claims? Your claims always rest on "I don't want to be afraid" and "banning guns will make us safer"!

"To call that mindset "magical thinking" barely does it justice."

Yes, it's true that using statistics is fraught with all sorts of perils. It's why I tend to distrust them. Having said that, it's you who makes the the claim that we'll be safer by banning guns...yet, when we have example after example where banning guns does nothing to make us safer, and perhaps even puts us in peril.

In the last few decades, various States have made guns more and more legal--and we have purchased more and more guns--yet violence has dropped during this same time period. Meanwhile, guns are de facto banned in places like Chicago, New York, and (formerly) Great Britain--yet violence only increases. You see this, and then conclude that "guns must be banned"--if that isn't wishful thinking, I don't know what is!

With regards to culture: Great Britain has done a lot to destroy the culture of self defense. You are no longer recommended to help someone who is being assaulted; if you are the one being assaulted, rather than call out "help, help!" you are expected to call out "call the police!" as if the police can arrive in time to save you. If you defend your life from intruders with a shotgun, miles from police help, you are put into prison. If you are a little granny in a wheelchair who manages to frighten off some hooligans with a toy gun, you are arrested and charged with "inciting fear".

Wouldn't these things embolden criminals in Great Britain? Is it any wonder that violent crime in Great Britain is on the rise?

"On the "freedom from fear" point - it seems that's exactly what you're seeking (a reduction in fear, at any rate) through your right to own a gun for defensive purposes. So you share with me the goal if not the method. That ought to be sufficient to earn a scathing rebuke from one or two of your fellow travellers."

Ah, but there's a difference: I am merely pointing out that your course of action actually produces fear, while I wish to be left alone, to figure out the best ways to address my fears. In particular, I have a duty to protect myself and my family. While I don't have an imminent fear that I will be mugged (after all, I'm no longer walking the streets of Birmingham, or Coventry, or Nottingham--or even Ontario, Canada or Albany, New York), if I don't prepare for the potential mugging or home invasion, I subject my family to undue risk that could result in their deaths--or the death of their primary provider, which would result in unnecessary hardship.

I suppose I could live in fear--because people carry guns around me, and I don't even know it!--but I trust my fellow citizens to responsibly handle weapons. I have to: we live in a world of objects that can, in an instant, become improvised weapons--up to, and including our fists, feet, and teeth. And I'm a smallish guy, without much strength. If I didn't trust everyone around me, I would die from fear!

James Kelly said...

Epsilon, I do feel I should warn you at this stage that in previous exchanges I've had on the nuclear point, most of your fellow travellers haven't even bothered with the line that "the survivors would ruthlessly hunt down the perpetrators with their trusty handguns", presumably because they know how utterly risible the idea is. They've instead assured me that a 'government gone bad' would (terribly sportingly) refrain from using the weapons at its disposal in the first place.

However, you (and indeed Joe Huffman) claim to believe that guns are an effective defence against nuclear weapons. So let's pursue that rather extraordinary logic for a moment - why, then, aren't "fists and feet" a sufficient defence against guns? The refrain from your side is always "guns don't kill people, people kill people" - in which case, why do you need guns to defend yourself? If any old "tool" will do for an attacker, why does the same not apply to a defender?

Hint - the whole paradigm is garbage. The potency of a weapon does matter, and you know that perfectly well. Fists aren't as potent as guns, which is why you feel you "need" guns for self-defence. Guns are nowhere near as potent as nuclear weapons, so if you were being consistent about it, you'd say you "needed" your own private nuclear weapons to defend yourself against that threat. But you can't say that, because you know it would be insane, so you have to find another way of holding this line that one of the functions of guns is to protect you against the government - even though logically they can't possibly do that in an age of WMDs. It's sophistry, plain and simple.

"those who are alive will be free to attack and destroy the Federal buildings, the Capitol, and any other outpost of Federal control, and they will have the weapons, and the numbers to do it."

When the German Jews were being "evacuated" in the 1940s, what did the rest of the German population do about it? Not a lot, with a few noble exceptions. And that's in spite of the fact that they (by your terms) were "free" to defend/avenge their countrymen, since Hitler had very helpfully liberalised the gun laws for non-Jews in 1938.

"if England decided to bomb Scotland, what would you do?"

What intrigues me more is what the hell you think you're proving with that utterly bizarre question. Do you think your idle bluster that you can "do" something in the wake of a nuclear holocaust makes you morally superior somehow? Perhaps you ought to read the segment of Kevin's rant (sorry, "essay") in which he rails against those who delude themselves that every problem can be fixed if we only put our minds to it.

James Kelly said...

"Just who is peddling voodoo statistics? What statistics do you use to back up your claims?"

I take it from that comment you haven't been following this 'debate' very closely. In the early stages, I repeatedly made the point to Kevin that, since he (unlike me) claimed to be able to literally "prove" his philosophy beyond doubt with statistical evidence, the onus was on him to actually do so, rather than producing a load of hocus pocus numbers and relying on the magic word "culture!" to excise any evidence that wasn't quite so helpful. However, since I was being constantly harangued to engage with the statistical arguments, I eventually did so. Kevin's response? "Studies" aren't "reliable", apparently. Indeed, it appears that the only statistical "evidence" that is "reliable" is Kevin's own personal interpretation of the numbers. Who'd have thunk it?

"if you are the one being assaulted, rather than call out 'help, help!' you are expected to call out 'call the police!'"

Aye, that's right, Epsilon. And we're expected to "lie back and think of England" while we're being murdered as well. (Don't scoff - Kevin actually said that a couple of months ago.)

"Ah, but there's a difference: I am merely pointing out that your course of action actually produces fear"

Still no difference, I'm afraid. That's precisely what I'm pointing out about the course of action of those on your side of the argument. Except that the fear it produces (and it's a rational fear) is in other people, not yourselves - so that's apparently quite all right.

Epsilon Given said...

"However, you (and indeed Joe Huffman) claim to believe that guns are an effective defence against nuclear weapons. So let's pursue that rather extraordinary logic for a moment - why, then, aren't "fists and feet" a sufficient defence against guns?"

Yes, let's pursue this logic for a moment: Why are guns an excellent defense against fists, feet, and even knives and swords? Because, in order to hurt someone with those things, you have to get up close and personal to that person--and the closer you are to a person, the more dangerous the situation is. Longbows and crossbows change the dynamic quite a bit...but they are rather bulky to carry. Rifles and pistols are a lot less bulky, and pistols in particular are easy to carry.

Now, let's consider nuclear tactics, shall we? Just what is a nuclear bomb--or any weapon of mass destruction--good for? Covering a wide area with destruction. It works best when the area in question has a high population density, but naturally, it can be used to bomb wilderness where rebels are suspected of hiding. But do you really expect that such a tool to be effective in the day-to-day enforcement of laws, that a tyranny is required to have? What is a tyrant going to do--hide in a bunker while reducing the entire country to radioactive slag?

No, nuclear weapons cannot enforce a tyrant's will. A tyrant will still rely on an army, and that army will still be susceptible to rifles and pistols. Even if that army also has artillery, fighter jets, and tanks, because the Citizen Militia will always outnumber the number of soldiers--if it is not disarmed. James Madison calculated the ratio to be 25:1, during the time of the ratification of the Constitution. I see little reason why that ratio has changed over the years (indeed, someone recently calculated that the "army of hunters" from three states--not particularly populous states, mind you--totaled more than 2 million, which is larger than the United States Army).

I don't need personal nuclear weapons, because they are way too blunt of an instrument to be effective at much of anything--whether it be personal self defense, or fighting a tyranny. If I had the money to build one, though, do you really think I won't be able to--despite government restrictions on them? The only thing keeping people from building these things on their own is the expense to do so. Sadly, it's also the only thing that keeps individuals from privately developing their own private anti-missile technology!

Epsilon Given said...

"When the German Jews were being "evacuated" in the 1940s, what did the rest of the German population do about it? Not a lot, with a few noble exceptions."

What did the Jews do about it? Near the end of the war, in Warsaw, at least, the Jews decided to stand up to the Nazi army, and they managed to hold the Nazis at bay for a while. In the end, they were defeated--but what would have happened, if from the start, the Jews did that? Technically, you don't need arms to fight back--as one person who lived through the Gulags attested, they could have used axes, shovels, and so forth.

Granted, being armed will not guarantee an overthrow of tyranny--the Cossacks of Russia were armed, but they were still defeated by the Red Army--but, unlike the Kulaks, they fought back, and they had the means to do so.

Admittedly, guns won't guarantee that we'll be able to fight off tyranny--but we also have to have the mindset to do it. The only country in Europe who had the right mindset was Switzerland--who armed all their citizens, told them to fight to their last bullet, then to use bayonets, and to finally treat all claims that Switzerland surrendered as propaganda not to be believed.

Churchill, on the other hand, was confident that, if the Nazis had successfully invaded England, it would have accepted the new rulers, just as France had done.

""if England decided to bomb Scotland, what would you do?"

What intrigues me more is what the hell you think you're proving with that utterly bizarre question."

Let me rephrase this: If Enland decided to bomb Edinburough, what would you do? Or, what would you do if Scotland decided to bomb London? Would you accept these acts, or would you do what you can to undermine your government?

The mindset you seem to represent is that governments today are all-powerful, and if a government decides to do nasty things, we should just sit back and take it. It is that attitude, though, that gave us the Soviet Gulags and Nazi Concentration Camps. If we don't want these things to happen again, we cannot just sit back and take it!

James Kelly said...

OK, Epsilon, since you earnestly claim not to be able to see how a nuclear-armed government would be able to impose its will, I'll spell out a couple of scenarios for you. Firstly, the threat could well be more than sufficient. Perhaps a single bomb on a single city, with the promise that any further dissent would be treated in the same way.

Secondly, if an all-out nuclear holocaust did ensue, just how difficult do you think it would be to mop up a small percentage of irradiated survivors charging on Capitol Hill with their guns? It was you, let me remind you, who helpfully pointed out that your government also has "fighter jets, tanks, artillery, and soldiers trained to fight" at its disposal. The options for supression and mass-murder are, to put it mildly, mind-boggling.

"Why are guns an excellent defense against fists, feet, and even knives and swords?"

You've just blown an irreperable hole in one of the other Articles Of Faith of your side, namely that guns are no more effective in killing people than any other "tool". Thankyou. As it happens, I agree with you - guns are considerably more dangerous than fists or knives (which is the main reason why the UK ban is such a good thing). The sophistry only kicks in when you claim that guns are somehow a match for nuclear weapons.

Near the end of the war, in Warsaw, at least, the Jews decided to stand up to the Nazi army, and they managed to hold the Nazis at bay for a while. In the end, they were defeated--but what would have happened, if from the start, the Jews did that?

Joe asked me a similar question last year - my guess is that they would have killed a few more German soldiers in an ultimately heroic failure. They were in a hopeless position because the general population were against them, not just the government.

"Let me rephrase this: If England (sic) decided to bomb Edinburough (sic), what would you do?"

Die, I expect. The longer answer to that very silly question is the same as I gave the last time you asked it in near-identical form.

The mindset you seem to represent is that governments today are all-powerful, and if a government decides to do nasty things, we should just sit back and take it.

No, the mindset I represent is that in such an unlikely scenario you can, in practical terms, do nothing but "take it". Delusion is not a strength, Epsilon. But as I've pointed out before, I simply don't accept your counsel of despair. The chances of these things happening in an entrenched liberal democracy which respects the rule of law are vanishingly small - that is our collective "defence". The idea of a democratic Western government mass-murdering its own citizens with nuclear weapons is fanciful - but no more fanciful than the idea of a democratic Western government mass-murdering its own citizens with guns.

Epsilon Given said...

"However, since I was being constantly harangued to engage with the statistical arguments, I eventually did so. Kevin's response? "Studies" aren't "reliable", apparently."

Every pro-gun-control study I am aware of has serious flaws in statical methodology. I have just tried to figure out what data you use to justify your claims--and all I found was a link from Harvard that had a bunch of summaries of studies. No wonder Kevin found it unconvincing!

Statistics are rather funny beasts--they can be used to claim just about anything. This is why, when evaluating a study, it's so important to be able have access to both the data and the methodology.

Yet you expect Kevin to accept "studies" that are really just summaries of studies; indeed, I recognize at least a few of those studies that have been called out on serious flaws.

"My final question was - How many suicidal people have found a quick and easy way out due to having a gun handy, when otherwise they might have stopped to think for longer and found a better solution?"

As a bonus, I'll answer this question! When Canada made guns illegal, gun suicides went down, but the suicide rate remained constant. It turned out that more people just jumped off bridges.

And no, I'm not going to cite data, or hunt down a link for that. You seem to be the type perfectly willing to accept such studies on face value. That, and I'm feeling rather lazy right now.

""if you are the one being assaulted, rather than call out 'help, help!' you are expected to call out 'call the police!'"

"Aye, that's right, Epsilon. And we're expected to "lie back and think of England" while we're being murdered as well. (Don't scoff - Kevin actually said that a couple of months ago.)"

I'm not going to scoff: Kevin is right. Here is a catalog of examples of individuals denied their right to self defense: http://www.christianaction.org.za/firearmnews/2004-02_SelfDefenceInEngland.htm

And here's a report that explains how Britian's government recommends against calling for help when you are attacked. www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v26n2/cpr-26n2-1.pdf

"Still no difference, I'm afraid."

So I've instilled fear in you! Ban free speech! There's a big difference in what I advocate: I do not advocate State action to attempt to reduce fear. You do. My goal isn't to reduce fear, but to increase individualism, and in this case, individual responsibility to defend you and your own until the calvary (aka police) can arrive. The end result--reducing fear--is just a side effect, if it occurs at all.

Whereas you want to decrease fear by putting responsibility of safety solely in the hands of the police. The end result is that you actually increase fear, because hooligans can easily just arm themselves with fists, knives, clubs, and guns smuggled and home-made. And, if any honest citizen attempts to defend their life, Britain will arrest them for instilling fear in people!

If that's what trying to ban fear gets you, I want no part in it!

And no, it's not rational to fear someone carrying a gun, or even fear that someone might be carrying a gun. It's only rational to fear someone who is threatening you with violence--and, if you didn't provoke that violence, the only rational response to such fear is to flee if possible, and fight back if necessary (because sometimes flight is simply not an option).

Epsilon Given said...

""Let me rephrase this: If England (sic) decided to bomb Edinburough (sic), what would you do?"

"Die, I expect. The longer answer to that very silly question is the same as I gave the last time you asked it in near-identical form."

Discussing what you would do in a holocaust is not silly, in the sense that it can happen, and you can survive such an action. Perhaps you live in Edinburough, in which case, such an attack will likely kill you. So let's move the attack to another city: Dublin. Will you still take it?

If my country were to bomb New York City, or even the hills of Montana, and it was clear that it was the United States doing it, and not some terrorist, then do I have to just sit back and take it?

"No, the mindset I represent is that in such an unlikely scenario you can, in practical terms, do nothing but "take it". Delusion is not a strength, Epsilon."

That's the funny thing: you won't even fight back in the worst of scenarios. Indeed, based on this one scenario you say that overthrowing tyranny is impossible, so we might as well just disarm now, and jail those who refuse to be disarmed, because someday, a city could be nuked by its own government, and we wouldn't be able to do anything about it. Oh, and when we are shepherded into those boxcars, let's do so in an orderly fashion--no pushing or shoving please!

And this, despite the fact that I just gave an explanation of how problematic it is to use nuclear weapons against your own people. (And I didn't even discuss what would happen to the army--large numbers of whom would lose loved ones is such a holocaust, especially if such a holocaust spanned multiple cities in many States!)

I would agree that delusion is not strength. But you are deluded into thinking that citizens cannot, at a last resort, fight against a tyrannical government. You are deluded into thinking that, by disarming peaceable citizens, we'll reduce violence. You are deluded into thinking that life and liberty aren't worth fighting for--we shouldn't struggle to the very last breath for these things.

While I won't fault anyone for deciding not to start a suicidal revolution against a tyrannical government that everyone seems to accept, I would fault someone for refusing to fight for their own lives at the first sign of holocaust--whether brought on by mugger or by government--and I would fault anyone who would refuse to fight a tyrannical government that displays such blatant tyranny.

James Kelly said...

So let me get this straight - studies by Harvard are worthless, yet we're expected to accept Kevin's personal interpretation of the numbers - which largely consists of him magicking away anything inconvenient with the all-purpose excuse "culture!" - as so rigorous that it's not delusional for him to plaintively ask "why isn't being right good enough for us?!"

Oh-kaaay...

"And no, I'm not going to cite data, or hunt down a link for that."

A man after my own heart. I do have to warn you, though - according to the rules laid down by the Kevin Baker Fan Club, you appear to have just lost the argument.

"And here's a report that explains how Britian's government recommends against calling for help when you are attacked."

It just gets better and better - Harvard studies are meaningless, but some right-wing US nutjob is supposedly the unquestionable authority on how we do things in "Ye Olde England". By the way, I note the purported "advice" from the BBC is not in quotation marks. Now, I wonder why that would be?

"There's a big difference in what I advocate: I do not advocate State action to attempt to reduce fear."

No, you don't. You advocate personal action to reduce personal fears, and to hell with the negative effect on others. I did get the point, actually.

"hooligans can easily just arm themselves with fists, knives, clubs, and guns smuggled and home-made"

But hang on - haven't you already confirmed that guns are much more useful weapons? Contradictory arguments from the pro-gun lobby - I can hardly believe my eyes.

"It's only rational to fear someone who is threatening you with violence"

Another contradiction - if it's not rational to fear someone until they actually attack you, what do you need the gun for? You're defending yourself against a threat that you're telling me a rational person would regard as non-existent.

Incidentally, the fear of your gun is indeed rational, and not for the reasons you think you've refuted. I won't go round the houses all over again - it's contained in my previous posts.

As for your latest attempt to rehash the bizarre "what would you do" question, words fail me. Tell me, what will you do - you, Mr Epsilon Given - when the Klingons vapourise Tahiti?

Epsilon Given said...

"It just gets better and better - Harvard studies are meaningless, but some right-wing US nutjob is supposedly the unquestionable authority on how we do things in "Ye Olde England". By the way, I note the purported "advice" from the BBC is not in quotation marks. Now, I wonder why that would be?"

I also rely on actual English precedent, of actual English convictions of people who acted in self-defense.

Furthermore, just because something isn't put in quotes, doesn't mean it's not quoted--or, at least, not summarized.

But I don't see why you would care: you seem to think that fists and feet, and maybe the briefcase you are carrying at the time, is sufficient for all people to defend their lives, at all times.

Epsilon Given said...

"No, you don't. You advocate personal action to reduce personal fears, and to hell with the negative effect on others. I did get the point, actually."

I don't even advocate personal action to reduce personal fears. I advocate that we be ready to deal with threats to life and limb immediately, and not to wait until the officials arrive--because, by then, it might be too late.

This principle applies to much more than just carrying weapons. You should be trained in first aid, too, because if you don't act quickly enough, an injured or sick person could die before the paramedics arrive. You should know how to put out a fire, and have fire escape plans for every place you are--especially where you work and where you live. You should be trained to know what to do in a disaster, too.

None of these are meant to reduce fear--they are merely preparations for emergencies. Even so, the secondary effect is to reduce fear: being prepared significantly reduces fear when something happens.

James Kelly said...

"I also rely on actual English precedent, of actual English convictions of people who acted in self-defense."

No, you don't. In some of those six examples the article cites (and the fact it could only produce six tells its own story) the convictions had little or nothing to do with self-defence. I'm certainly not going to be impressed by dredging up the case of Tony Martin, who took it upon himself to 'execute' a burglar who was attempting to flee. And did the toy gun incidents even result in convictions at all? I note the very careful use of the word "arrested".

"Furthermore, just because something isn't put in quotes, doesn't mean it's not quoted--or, at least, not summarized."

So which is it, Epsilon - is it quoted, or is it "summarised"? Does the purported advice not to call for help when being attacked actually exist, or is it a figment of someone's over-active "summarising" imagination?

"But I don't see why you would care: you seem to think that fists and feet, and maybe the briefcase you are carrying at the time, is sufficient for all people to defend their lives, at all times."

I categorically do not think that. That view is, however, the logical extension of your own side's claimed belief that any "tool" is just as useful as a gun.

My own view on the 'defensive precaution' of owing and carrying weapons has two components to it - the first is the belief you claim to hold (but obviously don't) that if we imagined ourselves to be under constant threat we'd go mad. The second one is that taking the precautions you propose simply increases the risk of violent death for everyone, and is therefore spectacularly counter-productive.

"You should be trained in first aid, too, because if you don't act quickly enough..."

That's a much more worthy principle, Epsilon. There are certainly very few reports of anyone's first aid training being stolen by criminals for use in armed robberies, or of teenagers using their parents' unsecured first aid training to shoot themselves when they're feeling a bit low.

Epsilon Given said...

"So which is it, Epsilon - is it quoted, or is it "summarised"? Does the purported advice not to call for help when being attacked actually exist, or is it a figment of someone's over-active "summarising" imagination?"

Why does it matter if it's quoted verbatim or summarized? Especially when the summary so clearly matches British case law? Or are you going to make the case that, in Great Britain, an individual can carry a knife, or a bicycle chain, or a pop-cap pistol, for the purposes of self defense?

"I categorically do not think that. That view is, however, the logical extension of your own side's claimed belief that any "tool" is just as useful as a gun."

Our side has never said that any tool is just as useful as a gun. We have continually said that it's the most effective tool for self defense. An 18-year-old 250-lb male thug will consistently be able to use fists, clubs, knives, or whatever, to beat up, and even kill, any smaller victim--say, an elderly grandpa, or a petite 98-lb businesswoman, or a 110-lb male mathematician weakling--except when said victim has a handgun.

"The second one is that taking the precautions you propose simply increases the risk of violent death for everyone, and is therefore spectacularly counter-productive."

You have never established that banning guns actually makes people safer. When I said that, counter-intuitively, more guns reduce crime, I meant it: you would expect that onerous regulations on guns would make people safer--but the reverse is true.

You claim that banning guns will make us safer. If that is so, it's up to you to prove it. Statistically, the general trend is this: ban guns, and crime goes up; loosen the restrictions, and crime goes down.

To the extent that so many studies demonstrate that, if there's any sort correlation of the stringency of gun laws vs. violence, it's positive--that is, the more laws there are, the more violence there is--then gun laws are, at best, "spectacularly counter-productive".

"There are certainly very few reports of anyone's first aid training being stolen by criminals for use in armed robberies, or of teenagers using their parents' unsecured first aid training to shoot themselves when they're feeling a bit low."

The very same things can be said of gun training. On the other hand, there are reports of 2x4s and axes used to murder people--and these are important tools to have, in the event of an earthquake or other disaster, for light search and rescue. And how many teenagers--or even adults--have committed suicide from pills that could be found in first aid kits?

Nate said...

James, while you would hold that our advice to weaponize ourselves and our society constitutes a "Counsel of Despair", I would point to your responses to Epsilon's hypotheticals regarding governments turned tyrannical. You declared that in the event—however unlikely—that your government turned tyrannical and started mass murdering people, you would most likely die, and in any event, the only practical option would be to lie back and take whatever came because any potential resistance would be pointless.

It sounds very much like we Americans don't hold such a tight monopoly on Counsels of Despair!

James Kelly said...

I've got a heavy cold at the moment, so I'll respond in more detail to Epsilon at a later stage, but just to clarify - the counsel of despair is in thinking that we are powerless to stop a government turning tyrannical in the first place through democratic safeguards and the rule of law. The fact that Epsilon thinks he can (somehow) do something about a nuclear holocaust after the event doesn't make it any less of a counself of despair - because we will, indeed, mostly be dead by then. 'Lying back and taking it' in those circumstances is, for the vast majority, not so much an undesirable option as...well, compulsory.

James Kelly said...

OK, back to Epsilon's most recent comment...

"Why does it matter if it's quoted verbatim or summarized?"

Because if it's not quoted verbatim, it's highly likely to be a distortion, given the agenda of the person doing the 'summarising'. I thought the point I was making was blindingly obvious - apologies if it wasn't.

"Especially when the summary so clearly matches British case law?"

Forgive me, but what has alleged "British case law" got to do with anything at this juncture? The summary (if that's what it was) purported to be of official advice given to the public, not of case law. So I ask again - was that advice ever actually issued, or wasn't it?

"Or are you going to make the case that, in Great Britain, an individual can carry a knife, or a bicycle chain, or a pop-cap pistol, for the purposes of self defense?"

Again, I must confess I'm baffled. How precisely does that question relate in any way to your extraordinary claim that victims are expressly advised not to call for help while being attacked?

"Our side has never said that any tool is just as useful as a gun."

Words fail me. Even the most cursory glance at the previous threads in this debate will confirm for you that your side makes that claim endlessly. Yes, I'd know you'd dearly love us to believe that the weapon in the hand of an attacker is a complete irrelevance, but that the weapon in the hand of a defender is all-important - just another example of the magical thinking and contradictions that are at the heart of the gun lobby's case.

"An 18-year-old 250-lb male thug will consistently be able to use fists, clubs, knives, or whatever, to beat up, and even kill, any smaller victim--say, an elderly grandpa, or a petite 98-lb businesswoman, or a 110-lb male mathematician weakling--except when said victim has a handgun."

There's the difficulty in a nutshell. If you want to take into account the potential difference the gun in the hand of a victim would make (which I don't believe for a moment is what you think it is, incidentally), then we also have to take into account the difference a gun in the hand of an attacker would make. Gun legality makes both more likely. I trust you would concede that being "beaten up" by a thug, however awful, is a less terrible fate than being shot by one?

James Kelly said...

"When I said that, counter-intuitively, more guns reduce crime, I meant it"

I know you did. This isn't news to me, Epsilon - I've encountered your worldview before. You're just wrong, that's all. Some things that are counter-intuitive turn out to be true. Many don't.

"You claim that banning guns will make us safer. If that is so, it's up to you to prove it."

Let's try reversing that statement. "You claim that gun legality will make us safer. If that is so, it's up to you to prove it." Why does that make any less sense? Perhaps you've overlooked the fact that I live in a jurisdiction where a handgun ban is the long-established status quo. And it might be worth remembering how the 1990s ban came about - I doubt that many of the Dunblane families would agree with you that it hasn't been established that their children wouldn't have been safer had Thomas Hamilton not been in legal possession of handguns. Just like Derrick Bird, everything about his character suggests that if he hadn't been able to own guns legally, he wouldn't have owned them at all, and the tragedy would never have occurred.

"Statistically, the general trend is this: ban guns, and crime goes up; loosen the restrictions, and crime goes down."

Good grief. You won't accept Harvard studies as legitimate, and yet we're supposed to take seriously your personal impression of a "general trend". I come back to the point I've made many times before - Kevin flatly refuses to accord any significance whatsoever to the far lower homicide rate in the UK as compared to the US on the rather non-specific grounds of "Culture!", and yet when presented with a statistic that superficially suits his own case, all of a sudden none of the other possible factors (including those ubiquitous "cultural" ones) matter at all - it's quite simply absolute proof that gun control doesn't work. Please try to justify that ludicrous contradiction, Epsilon. Nobody else has.

To the extent that so many studies demonstrate that, if there's any sort correlation of the stringency of gun laws vs. violence, it's positive

Oh, so all of a sudden "studies" are perfectly reliable, except for the ones that aren't reliable, because they show the opposite picture. You'll have to forgive me, Epsilon - I'm struggling to keep up with all these twists and turns.

"and these are important tools to have, in the event of an earthquake or other disaster, for light search and rescue"

I'd refer you back to the answer I gave to Nate earlier - that's precisely why guns are qualititatively different from other 'tools'. Their 'use' is the same as the harm they cause - ie. they kill people.

Nate said...

The Vietnamese might dispute your characterization of a conflict against tyrannical government as hopeless. Witness their ability to hold off a modern industrialized army made up of planes, tanks, and, yes, WMDs. By your standards, shouldn't a U.S. victory in the Vietnam war have been a foregone conclusion?Shouldn't we have just nuked them if all we wanted was victory? Why didn't we then?

Do you really want to go down the route of examining the efficacy of modern guerilla and resistance movements? Today's governments and their armies are a lot more vulnerable to guerillas with small arms than you seem to believe, especially when you start to look at the history of South and Latin America.

James Kelly said...

I strongly suggest you ensure Mr. Kevin Baker never sees that comment, Nate. You seem to be fairly clearly implying that the US in the 1960s/70s was a "tyranny" - in which case you're now in line for a 4000-word Smallest Minority rant about how "bigoted" you are, and how much you "really hate America".

By all means lets discuss guerilla/resistance movements, but for any example to be relevant to the exchange Epsilon and I've been having, it would have to meet every one of the following criteria - a) the government in question would need to have turned its back on democracy, b) it would need to have turned its fire on its own citizenry, not on the people of another country (Kevin himself drew an absolute distinction between "despotism" and "war"), c) it would need to have access to WMDs, and d) the citizenry would need to have overthrown its government without any aid from a portion of the armed forces or the police. The Vietnam War fits c), but none of the others.

Nate said...

Maybe I'm not as ardent a member of the "Kevin Baker Fan Club" as you might imagine then! While I would not go so far as to imply that the U.S. was a domestic tyranny during that time period (although in my opinion, the draft was a form of slavery), what we did to Vietnam was deeply immoral, however you want to slice it and whatever label you want to put on it. In fact, I strongly believe that unprovoked war of any type is immoral, and the Vietnam war is one of the worst in our modern history, to go along with the Iraq war for sure. Maybe I'm not such a chest-pounding pro-American imperialist, eh?

See, I'm probably more with you than against you on a lot of stuff regarding the deep disappointment that is the United States of America. It seems to me that this isn't really much of a free place at all, at least not in the ways that matter to me. For example, if I go and build a house on my own piece of faraway rural property, it can be bulldozed and razed to the ground if I fail to get a permit for construction, follow the byzantine building codes, and pay property taxes on it. I could write an angry email to my friend complaining about the government and be put on a secret list of supposedly dangerous people who are either barred from flying or at the very least hassled for no reason at airports, and also potentially be barred from gun ownership if some here get their way. I can engage in a multitude of consensual or private acts that harm nobody, such as taking drugs, betting money on a poker game, or shooting a BB gun at a phone book in the backyard, and be fined or jailed. I can earn a living privately by selling products and services I create to others who want to buy them, but I become a felon if I don't pay the 16% social insurance taxes, the 9% state income tax, the 20% or so federal income tax, the 15% capital gains tax, the 10% state sales tax…

The only problem is that among industrialized nations, I can't really think of a better place for the particular aspects of freedom that I value. It may be disappointing, but everywhere else seems worse.

Anyway.

To get back to the insurgent/guerilla war thing, you've sketched out quite a restrictive set of criteria there, such that I don't think any known historical events could possibly fit them. But that misses my point, which is to demonstrate in general that armed guerilla fighters pose a real danger to a repressive government, whatever the type. Whether it be a socialist revolution against fascists, a pro-western uprising against communists, or a just-plain-pissed-off revolution against a non-ideological despot, all I want to stress is that governments of any type are vulnerable to irregular fighters with small arms. Communist, democratic, despotic—you name it, I don't think it makes much of a difference when thousands of motivated armed people start trying to destroy a government's power apparatus.

James Kelly said...

The reason for the restrictive criteria is that Epsilon was arguing that it is perfectly possible for an armed population (by itself, without assistance) to overthrow a tyrannical government that has the full resources of a country like the US available to it. Perhaps you can think of an example of that happening, but I can't. The best (only?) example of a 'government gone bad' being toppled in a modern superpower was the failure of the Soviet coup in 1991, which was due to insufficient support from various arms of the state. The popular uprising in that instance was largely unarmed, in any case.

Epsilon Given said...

"I've got a heavy cold at the moment..."

I hope you recover. I have the sniffles right now, too. Perhaps one of us infected the other... :-)

"The counsel of despair is in thinking that we are powerless to stop a government turning tyrannical in the first place through democratic safeguards and the rule of law."

I could think of several countries that became tyrannical, regardless of "democratic safeguards" and "the rule of law". Nazi Germany is the firt that comes to mind. So do a large number of various governments, that were taken over by coup d'etat.

"The fact that Epsilon thinks he can (somehow) do something about a nuclear holocaust after the event doesn't make it any less of a counself of despair - because we will, indeed, mostly be dead by then. 'Lying back and taking it' in those circumstances is, for the vast majority, not so much an undesirable option as...well, compulsory."

But does such a threat in the distance mean that we might as well just disarm right now? And not just disarm, but force others to disarm, too? It is this compulsoriness that I object to. You have consistently argued that, because there's an obscure possibility of dictatorship by mass destruction, there's no point in being ready for revolution--as though all uses of mass destruction will make revolution impossible, and as though all situations involving revolution will involve such devices.

I have merely tried to make the point that, if weapons of mass destruction are used, that not all is lost. Indeed, there will still be plenty of "wiggle room" if the situation appropriately calls for revolution.

Epsilon Given said...

""Especially when the summary so clearly matches British case law?"

"Forgive me, but what has alleged "British case law" got to do with anything at this juncture? The summary (if that's what it was) purported to be of official advice given to the public, not of case law. So I ask again - was that advice ever actually issued, or wasn't it?

""Or are you going to make the case that, in Great Britain, an individual can carry a knife, or a bicycle chain, or a pop-cap pistol, for the purposes of self defense?"

"Again, I must confess I'm baffled. How precisely does that question relate in any way to your extraordinary claim that victims are expressly advised not to call for help while being attacked?"

I'd encourage you to look at the list of cases I previously linked to. To provide a summary:

-- A young man convicted of carrying weapons, for carrying a bicycle chain (among other things) for self defense. This, despite having notified the police, and having been beaten up.

-- An elderly man, in the process of being strangled, convicted of carrying a weapon, for using a sword in his cane to fend of the attack that would likely have resulted in death.

-- A man, armed with a toy gun, held two burglars while waiting for police; he was arrested for "using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate."

-- An elderly woman who used a toy pistol to scare away groups of teenagers who threatened her was arrested "for putting someone in fear."

-- A man, living in a farmhouse, shot two burglars and killed one. His sentence was harsher than the burglars who broke into his home.

-- Another man, set upon by a gang of youth, killed one in self defense, was sentenced to manslaughter.

-- Yet another man lashed out with scissors against a heavily-built man with a history of violence, in a fight that was pretty one-sided. The attacker died, and this man was convicted of manslaughter. The conviction was overturned on a technicality, rather than on the fact that he was defending his life.

The details of these cases are given in one, if not both, links I previously gave.

Please forgive me if I believe the claim that the BBC said you should defend your life with "a briefcase, a handbag, or keys", and that you should yell "call the police" instead of "help, I'm under attack!" Even if you are under attack in these circumstances, what are you going to use to come to someone's aid? A briefcase, handbag, or keys?

And if I killed someone in self defense (whether for myself or others) with a briefcase, a handbag, or keys--or any other weapon I may have--under the juristiction of Great Britian, should I expect to be treated any differently, than the people in these cases?

Epsilon Given said...

""Our side has never said that any tool is just as useful as a gun."

"Words fail me. Even the most cursory glance at the previous threads in this debate will confirm for you that your side makes that claim endlessly. Yes, I'd know you'd dearly love us to believe that the weapon in the hand of an attacker is a complete irrelevance, but that the weapon in the hand of a defender is all-important - just another example of the magical thinking and contradictions that are at the heart of the gun lobby's case."

As I made that cursory glance, I have to agree: you're right that there are those who believe this. Unfortunately, it's too easy to view guns as magic talismans that ward off evil. Having said that, owning a gun, and being trained in its use, at least gives you a fighting chance.

""An 18-year-old 250-lb male thug will consistently be able to use fists, clubs, knives, or whatever, to beat up, and even kill, any smaller victim--say, an elderly grandpa, or a petite 98-lb businesswoman, or a 110-lb male mathematician weakling--except when said victim has a handgun."

"There's the difficulty in a nutshell. If you want to take into account the potential difference the gun in the hand of a victim would make (which I don't believe for a moment is what you think it is, incidentally), then we also have to take into account the difference a gun in the hand of an attacker would make. Gun legality makes both more likely. I trust you would concede that being "beaten up" by a thug, however awful, is a less terrible fate than being shot by one"

No, I will not concede that being "beaten up" by a thug is less terrible a fate than being shot by one. Whether you get shot in the head by a thug, or have your head bashed in by a hammer, you're just as dead. Many people have survived gunshot wounds; whether this is more or less worse than getting beat up, depends on the circumstances.

I will concede this, however: whether a thug has a bat, a rope, a chain, or even a gun, if that thug is attacking me, I'll be much better off if I have a gun. It doesn't guarantee I'll never get hurt--it just means that the odds are evened out!

Epsilon Given said...

"""When I said that, counter-intuitively, more guns reduce crime, I meant it"

""I know you did. This isn't news to me, Epsilon - I've encountered your worldview before. You're just wrong, that's all. Some things that are counter-intuitive turn out to be true. Many don't."

You seem to mis-understand the meaning of "counter-intuitive". Intuition is something that we expect to be true. If it's counter-intuitive, it's because something is reverse from what we expect it to be true. Intuition, for example, tells us "Banning guns reduces crime". You like to brag that Great Britain has less crime than America. The problem with that, though, is that crime has increased after you banned guns--including deaths by guns.

If banning guns will make you safer, shouldn't crime in Great Britain have decreased?

""You claim that banning guns will make us safer. If that is so, it's up to you to prove it."

"Let's try reversing that statement. "You claim that gun legality will make us safer. If that is so, it's up to you to prove it." Why does that make any less sense?"

This reversed statement makes a lot less sense because freedom to own and carry weapons is the default. So is freedom of speach, freedom of religion, freedom to own property without fear of confiscation, and writ of habeus corpus--that is, the right to be free of arrest without warrant or probable cause.

If there's good reasons to curtail these freedoms, it's the burden of those who demand these curtailings to demonstrate benefit. The burden is squared when you, like I, dismiss statistics. I'll be giving a few reasons later as to why I dislike statistics, as a whole--and why I still use them, somewhat, anyway.

But I'll even take it a step further: that these freedoms are so important, that they need to be preserved, even if they are abused.

Or are you prepared to make the case that, because I feel that freedom of speach is deadly, it must be suppressed--and then give you the burden of proof to preserve freedom of speach?

"Perhaps you've overlooked the fact that I live in a jurisdiction where a handgun ban is the long-established status quo. And it might be worth remembering how the 1990s ban came about - I doubt that many of the Dunblane families would agree with you that it hasn't been established that their children wouldn't have been safer had Thomas Hamilton not been in legal possession of handguns. Just like Derrick Bird, everything about his character suggests that if he hadn't been able to own guns legally, he wouldn't have owned them at all, and the tragedy would never have occurred."

Oh, I'm well aware of this event. I've often wondered what would have happened, though, had the teachers owned pistols, and been trained in their use. Are you aware of the Luby's Massacre? It's the event that convinced Texas to legalize concealed-carry permits. Suzanna Hupp saw her parents die because the law forbade her from carrying a pistol, and she decided to follow the law that day. At one point, early on, she would have had a clear shot, but she didn't have her gun with her.

You seem to be unaware that, if you really want to kill a lot of people, there are better ways to do it. Say, with box cutters and airplanes. Or with bombs scattered hidden about a school. Indeed, the scary thing about the Columbine Massacre is that we were lucky that the only deaths were due to shootings. If the two young men had fully carried out their plan, the death toll would have been much higher.

Epsilon Given said...

""Statistically, the general trend is this: ban guns, and crime goes up; loosen the restrictions, and crime goes down."

"Good grief. You won't accept Harvard studies as legitimate, and yet we're supposed to take seriously your personal impression of a "general trend". I come back to the point I've made many times before - Kevin flatly refuses to accord any significance whatsoever to the far lower homicide rate in the UK as compared to the US on the rather non-specific grounds of "Culture!", and yet when presented with a statistic that superficially suits his own case, all of a sudden none of the other possible factors (including those ubiquitous "cultural" ones) matter at all - it's quite simply absolute proof that gun control doesn't work. Please try to justify that ludicrous contradiction, Epsilon. Nobody else has.

"To the extent that so many studies demonstrate that, if there's any sort correlation of the stringency of gun laws vs. violence, it's positive

"Oh, so all of a sudden "studies" are perfectly reliable, except for the ones that aren't reliable, because they show the opposite picture. You'll have to forgive me, Epsilon - I'm struggling to keep up with all these twists and turns.

It's time I make myself crystal clear about statistics: I hate them. They are always flawed, and when they are compiled, they mask the motives, and the lives, and the events, and the free will, of those involved. Oh, I'll parrot them almost as quickly as the next guy, because I'm familiar with statistical methodologies and their flaws, but I distrust even those claims that seem to bolster my side. The funny thing is, you're just as guilty as Kevin: You eagerly accept anti-gun studies, but dismiss the pro-gun ones.

We are individuals with free will, for crying out loud! Every day, we make decisions, which when compounded, can easily make yesterday's statistics false. Indeed, we can even go so far as to decide to do something that hurts us financially, or even legally, because we decide that it's right thing to do!

Properly speaking, though, we're not even discussing statistics and studies--a lot of times, we're talking about "parameters": actual measurements of populations. Let's look at a couple of those parameters for the United States, shall we? By United States Census, we have a population of about 300,000,000. By FBI (or is it CDC?) measurements of dead bodies, about 30,000 people die from guns each year. What percentage of the population dies every year from guns? 0.01% -- Yes, that's one hundrenth of a percent of the population.

For statistical analysis to be valid, you typically need 1000 randomly selected people. What is 0.01% of 1000 people? 0.1 person. That is, one tenth of a person.

(to be continued...)

Epsilon Given said...

(...continued from before)

Just think about that for a moment: If we were to select 1000 Americans at random, and asked the question "Will any of these people die of gunshot wounds by the end of the year?", you will have only a one in ten chance that the answer is "yes"! Well, it isn't precisely one in ten, but we'd have to resort to funny probability calculations in order to figure out the correct probability--and my guess is that it would be about that anyway.

From this tiny number, do you really expect me to believe any study--for or against? I, for one, am fairly confident about "pro-gun" studies, and a lot less confident about "anti-gun" studies. Yet, you want to rely on studies like these to support your position on banning guns.

Here's a funny exercise: From each of these three categories, choose item: [High/Low] suicide rate; [High/low] murder rate; [Stringent/Lax] gun laws. Whatever combination you choose, you will be able to find a country that has statistics to match!

Now, why do I use statistics anyway? They may be flawed, but the give us things to think about. If you are familiar with the way statistics are created, and what their limitations are, they could almost give you a glimpse into things that you are studying.

""and these are important tools to have, in the event of an earthquake or other disaster, for light search and rescue"

"I'd refer you back to the answer I gave to Nate earlier - that's precisely why guns are qualititatively different from other 'tools'. Their 'use' is the same as the harm they cause - ie. they kill people.

In America, about 40,000 people die per year from car accidents. Take a moment to let that figure sink in. Now, realize this: more people die from devices designed to get us from point A to point B, than they do from devices designed to kill people--despite the fact that devices to kill people are so popular among murderers and suicides.

Just why is it that you fear guns? It's not as though they're all that likely to kill anyone!

Epsilon Given said...

A few thoughts:

With regards to mass killings, let's not forget these recent incidents: the swordsman in Japan, the knife wielder in China, and the man in China who made his own guns--each of which killed and injured a number of people, comparable to mass murders typical of gun-wielders--and each of which occured in places where civilian weapons are highly regulated.

With regards to crime rates: When you control for New York City, Chicago, Los Angelos, Washington DC--and throw in a few Decades-Democrat-controlled cities like Miami and New Orleans, that tend to have lax gun control laws, but still have high crime (including gun deaths)--you will be left with a United States that is heavily "awash" in guns, but is among the most peaceful countries in the world.

Even more peaceful than Great Britain!

With regards to nuclear holocaust: Regardless of the reason, it's a mistake to assume that nuclear attacks would leave populations absolutely desolate. Consider the book "Alas, Babylon", which followed a community in Florida, in the aftermath of a nuclear war. In a situation like that--where government completely collapses--individuals will need their own weapons, because there will be no police to call on in an emergency.

With regards to other holocausts: keep in mind that, over and over again, holocausts in the world have been caused with guns, poison gas chambers, machetes, even economic policy. It is a rare thing for holocausts to be caused by weapons of mass destruction!

I also see that James missed my oblique reference to the American Revolution--a war fought by redneck hillbillies against the Greatest Empire of the day. For that matter, James forgets his own history, when the Great Empire of its own day sent a great Armada to war against Great Britain, and Great Britain won the day by sending out pretty much anything that could float, to fight against that Armada.

Most recently, someone calculated that the number of hunters of three States--and not especially populous States, at that--numbered more than the entire United States Armed Forces. That number? Two million. The three States are Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The link: http://theblogprof.blogspot.com/2010/12/worlds-largest-army-hunters-from-mi-wi.html

James Kelly said...

I was about to sit down and answer your comment, Epsilon, until I realised there were in fact seven very long comments, not just the one I originally noticed. So as time is short, for the moment I'll just have to content myself with making the two brief points I was planning to...

"I could think of several countries that became tyrannical, regardless of "democratic safeguards" and "the rule of law". Nazi Germany is the firt that comes to mind."

I'd be interested to know what the other examples you have in mind are, because as I pointed out earlier, the Weimar Republic is absolutely not a good one. It was a fledgling democracy and an extraordinarily weak one at that - there were sweeping state of emergency powers in the constitution that allowed Hitler to quickly and easily establish a dictatorship while remaining almost entirely in conformity with the law.

"It is this compulsoriness that I object to."

As I've been pointing out to Nate over the last couple of days, one of the many objectionable things about the gun free-for-all in parts of the US is that you get to a point where there is a de facto "compulsoriness" about everyone having to live with guns on a day-to-day basis. Does your freedom to choose leave others with the same? A meaningful choice, that is, not a nominal one.

James Kelly said...

Oh dear, oh dear. Just been skimming through some of the rest.

You seem to mis-understand the meaning of "counter-intuitive".

Er, no.

Intuition is something that we expect to be true.

Er, yes.

If it's counter-intuitive, it's because something is reverse from what we expect it to be true.

Yep. Think I grasped that, actually, Epsilon.

Intuition, for example, tells us "Banning guns reduces crime".

Indeed it does.

You like to brag that Great Britain has less crime than America

Gun crime and homicide, you mean? There's very little need to 'brag' about something when it is a statement of plain fact.

The problem with that, though, is that crime has increased after you banned guns--including deaths by guns.

And on both counts the level of deaths is still vastly lower than the US. Get back to us when that changes - until then you're on extraordinarily weak ground here. One point you don't seem to be taking into account at all is that the level of gun ownership has always (in modern history, I mean) been much lower in the UK than in the US. So you simply can't take the baseline figures before the much-vaunted "increase" and pretend that they had nothing to do with the rate of legal gun ownership being dramatically lower than in the US in the first place.

And I ask for a third time - how can the general differential between deaths in the UK and the US be so easily explained away by "Culture!" without any possibility that it has something to do with the success of gun control, while the increase in deaths in the UK since the 1990s ban is apparently entirely attributable to gun control, with no possibility that it has anything to do with any of the other many possible factors? Until you come up with some sort of satisfactory justification for that brazen contradiction, your side has no credibility on this point whatsoever.

James Kelly said...

"Please forgive me if I believe the claim that the BBC said...you should yell "call the police" instead of "help, I'm under attack!""

Why should I 'forgive' you for that when it's now absolutely plain that you're totally unable to substantiate the claim you made? Yes, by all means, feel free to 'believe' whatever you like - but don't present it as fact when you haven't the faintest idea whether it is or not.

"And if I killed someone in self defense (whether for myself or others) with a briefcase, a handbag, or keys--or any other weapon I may have--under the juristiction of Great Britian, should I expect to be treated any differently, than the people in these cases?"

If it's legitimate self-defence, then yes - as I pointed out earlier, some of those cases that were dredged up (and it seems just seven were found over a span of thirty years) did not fall into that category. You seem astonished in the Tony Martin case, for instance, that the crime of manslaughter was more severely punished than the crime of burglary. I'd be considerably more troubled if it hadn't been.

Epsilon Given said...

I will not go point by point anymore, nor quote you--that's making the comments way too long, as you have observed. I will make these points, though:

First, you have never addressed a major point I made: that when you control for New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and Los Angelos--where guns are practically banned--as well as a few other American cities, America has far lower crime than Great Britian does. Including violent crime. Yet, we are also talking about rural America, which is "awash" in guns. Indeed, even in states like New York--it's easier to get access to a gun than in these cities.

These cities are, statistically, outliers: they have much higher rates of crime, including gun deaths, than the rest of America. And it isn't fair to blame these gun deaths on the lack of gun control, because most of these cities have very strict gun control measures.

If gun control prevents deaths, how do you explain the 30,000 death toll in Mexico, where there is currently a war of sorts being played out between the Mexican government, and drug lords? Mexico has a level of gun control that's only known in places like New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC!

Here's a comment that just needs addressing:

"As I've been pointing out to Nate over the last couple of days, one of the many objectionable things about the gun free-for-all in parts of the US is that you get to a point where there is a de facto "compulsoriness" about everyone having to live with guns on a day-to-day basis. Does your freedom to choose leave others with the same? A meaningful choice, that is, not a nominal one. "

Have you ever visited Vermont? I have. It's a very peaceful, very pleasant State to visit. It's also a State where anyone who could legally own a gun, could carry it anywhere, concealed or in the open, without license. And people have been free to do that since 1790, perhaps before. When I visited Vermont, I didn't feel all that much "compulsion" at all, really.

Perhaps the greatest level of compulsion I felt was when I was mugged on the streets of Birmingham (in Aston, if I remember correctly), when I was punched in the jaw, and my friend was pounced on by three or four people. He lost his wallet in that encounter. Later, my friend was talking to someone who lost his friend--something similar happened, except that the friend had his head smashed in with a hammer.

(Arrrg! Even when I'm trying to be brief, I go over the character limit...)

Epsilon Given said...

(Continued from "Arrrg!"...)

Nottingham and Coventry were a bit better--both are still somewhat scary places, but not as bad as Birmingham. Albany, New York is also a scary place.

Coming back to Vermont: in the year 2009, Vermont had a population of 621,760. Out of that population, 7 were murdered. This gives us a rate of 1.1 per 100,000.

The year that had the most murders, going back to 1960, was 1976. Vermont had a population of 476,000, of which 26 were murdered. This gives us a rate of 5.5 per 100,000.

These stats for Vermont, can be found at "http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/vtcrime.htm". I found them via Google.

Now, according to "http://www.nationmaster.com/red/country/uk-united-kingdom/cri-crime&all=1", Great Britian, in a year unspecified (but most likely somewhat recent) had 1.4 murders per 100,000 people. Unfortunately, I don't know how Great Britain compares to "highs" and "lows", since I cannot find that information. However, considering that England had 1,201 murders according to this website, and considering that Great Britain has a much larger population than Vermont, I would suspect that the rate doesn't fluctuate all that much.

In any case, are you sure you want to claim that having guns increases the murder rate? In looking at Vermont, I don't just see it!

It's actually kind-of maddening, trying to find these statistics for Great Britain. What I could find didn't specify year or population, either--just number of murdered, and (fortunately for me) the murder rate per 1,000. If I were the paranoid type, I'd almost suspect that there's a conspiracy to hide the murder rate. In the process of trying to find those statistics, though, I ran across headlines like these:

"Scotland has second highest murder rate in Europe" http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/sep/26/ukcrime.scotland

"Britain: From Bad to Worse" http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/3/21/205139.shtml

"Britain, Australia top U.S.
in violent crime" http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=8340

I'm not all that convinced that Great Britain is much safer than the United States.

Finally, I'll address this:

"You seem astonished in the Tony Martin case, for instance, that the crime of manslaughter was more severely punished than the crime of burglary. I'd be considerably more troubled if it hadn't been."

I'm more astonished that someone, who shot two people who broke into his home, is being charged with any crime at all. It is a long-standing tradition in most of the U.S. that someone who breaks into your home, is legally assumed to do you harm--and thus, killing such a person is automatically self defense.

Oh, wait! It's not just an American tradition! I remember reading it in "Blackstone's Commentary on the Laws of England"--it's an English tradition, or at least was, at one point. It's rather sad that it no longer seems to be an English tradition, because people who break into your home ought to be assumed to be there to cause you harm--if only because there are too many examples of people breaking into homes to cause harm!

James Kelly said...

First, you have never addressed a major point I made

But I have addressed that very point a number of times before. What you appear to be pointing out is that if you artificially exclude urban areas from the figures - especially those with high rates of poverty - the crime rate appears to be much lower. Well, that conjuring trick works just as well in Britain - exclude London, Birmingham, Glasgow, etc., and you get exactly the same effect. It's also true of just about every other country you can think of. Bearing that in mind, quite why differing gun control regimes should be your first and only port of call in trying to explain this phenomenon in the US is a bit of a mystery - especially as there are no internal border controls in your country, and guns can pass very easily between neighbouring jurisdictions.

"Have you ever visited Vermont?"

First of all, let me just briefly savour the supreme irony of a right-wing libertarian extolling the virtues of the "People's Republic of Vermont" and its glorious quality of life!

Yes, I have been there as it happens - it's my mother's home state, so I still have a number of relatives who live there. Same principle applies - cherry-picking a particularly affluent, rural area with a tiny population, and comparing it with the entirety of the United Kingdom is beyond ludicrous. The meaningful comparison would be with a region of the UK like the Highlands of Scotland - similar population sizes, similar rural/urban split. And I regret to have to tell you that, despite all the gun control in the world, the Highlands have mysterious failed to be overrun by barbarians and thugs - the murder rate is vanishingly small.

Mexico : I dealt with that red herring here.

"I'm more astonished that someone, who shot two people who broke into his home, is being charged with any crime at all."

Don't worry - that your bewilderment is genuine is coming across vividly. But in this country, inexplicable as it doubtless seems to you, the law of the land doesn't cease to apply simply because someone is standing on private property.

Incidentally, there's no need to tear your hair out about the respective murder rates in our two counbries - it's roughly two-and-a-half times greater in the US than in the UK, as no less a person than Kevin Baker has confirmed on a number of occasions. And I'm not quite sure how comparing Scotland's murder rate to the rest of Europe is going to get you off that particular hook!

This thread is now several weeks old, so I'm going to draw my own contribution to a close at this point.

Epsilon Given said...

I didn't just "cherry-pick" Vermont as an example. I chose it specifically because it is a State that has interesting gun laws--different from those of all other 49 States, as well as those from Great Britain. Although Alaska and Arizona now have similar keep-and-carry laws, those States adopted them only in the last couple of years.

While I have plenty of reasons not to live in Vermont--it is, after all, a "People's Republic"--but unchecked violence in the streets is not one of those reasons.

And that was the point I was trying to make.

Since it turns out that you've visited Vermont, you should have been able to tell me whether or not you were in a Continuous State of Fear while there. If not, you should have been, according to your reasoning. After all, any law-abiding citizen can be carrying a gun, open or concealed. And that's just scary, don'cha know?

If you think about it, though, when 7 people are murdered (it's not even clear if they were shot!), out of a population of about 490,000, you shouldn't be surprised that I don't have all that much confidence that gun control will somehow "magically" make that number shrink.

I would add this: it's precisely because of "cherry-picking" that I don't trust the studies you're so ready to trust. To the extent that I trust things like "More Guns, Less Crime" by John Lott (and studies by other criminologists) is because they describe enough of their methodology that I have some inkling of a confidence that they aren't cherry-picking.

"But in this country, inexplicable as it doubtless seems to you, the law of the land doesn't cease to apply simply because someone is standing on private property."

I'm fully aware that the law of the land doesn't cease to apply simply because someone is standing on private property. That's why I'm perplexed that a person was convicted of manslaughter for shooting two people who had broken into a private residence. The law of the land here says such a shooting is unambiguously self-defense, and at one point, that was the law of the land in Great Britain as well.

With regards to removing outliers: You're right: if we remove London, Birmingham, etc from the picture, Great Britain becomes much more peaceful. But, again, you ignore my point. America becomes more peaceful when we eliminate the cities that have strict gun control. It doesn't matter that people can get these guns from places where it's legal, because the places where they get the guns don't have the high rates of crime that the cities do.

Guns don't commit crime. People do. That will never change, no matter what laws are passed.

In closing: I don't blame you for not responding to this comment. I will probably have stopped soon anyway, if you hadn't. Otherwise, this thread would have grown exponentially.

Mike W. said...

Just who is peddling voodoo statistics? What statistics do you use to back up your claims? Your claims always rest on "I don't want to be afraid" and "banning guns will make us safer"!

James kelly doesn't bring facts. He has no evidence on which to buttress his claims. It's sad that he calls others facts "voodoo statistics" but its easier for him to do that than to actually provide a rational, factually based counterpoint.

Then again James conceded early on that none of his claims have any real validity. He admitted early on that his claims were based on vapor and could not be proven. Then he wonders why his positions have no intellectual merit.

James has failed miserably to back up his assertions throughout the entirety of this discussion.

Mike W. said...

I don't even advocate personal action to reduce personal fears. I advocate that we be ready to deal with threats to life and limb immediately, and not to wait until the officials arrive--because, by then, it might be too late.

Ah yes, preparedness and personal responsibility. Concepts that subjects in the UK have long since forgotten.

James Kelly said...

Ah. Clearly the words "I'm now going to draw my contribution to a close" have been interpreted as meaning "please come in for a free hit, Mike W". I'm happy to clear up that misapprehension for you.

"Then again James conceded early on that none of his claims have any real validity."

Link? No, of course you can't provide a link, because you've just made that up. Silly me. What I actually pointed out in 2009 was that I had done precisely what Kevin Baker claimed he wanted at the outset - debated on the basis of "philosophy". He, by contrast, was at that stage relying almost entirely on a discussion of statistical 'evidence', which he apparently believed was so overwhelmingly on his side that it was perfectly reasonable to ask "why isn't being right good enough for us?". When challenged on this supposed 'proof', did he even come close to meeting the extraordinary standard he had set for himself? You know my view - and others can judge for themselves. But if (as I infer from some of his bizarre asides) Kevin fondly imagines that his contrived debating points have somehow been the real-life equivalent of an "irrefutable John Galt speech", then I'm afraid he's wallowing in a grandiose wish-fulfillment fantasy, every bit as much as Ayn Rand was when she wrote her (by all accounts rather tedious) novel. Bless.

"Ah yes, preparedness and personal responsibility. Concepts that subjects in the UK have long since forgotten."

Hardly. Our sense of responsibility is to accept that everyone's safety is important, not just the safety of the selfish (and delusional) minority who want a gun constantly to hand to "feel safer", regardless of the risk that poses to everyone else.

James Kelly said...

Now that I've been drawn into a reply I didn't intend, I may as well deal briefly with Epsilon's points.

"If you think about it, though, when 7 people are murdered (it's not even clear if they were shot!), out of a population of about 490,000, you shouldn't be surprised that I don't have all that much confidence that gun control will somehow "magically" make that number shrink."

But you apparently believe that gun control somehow (?????) causes more murders. So in the Highlands of Scotland - which is the reasonable comparison with a rural state like Vermont, not the entirety of the UK (nice try, but that simply isn't going to wash) - a liberalisation of the currently very strict gun laws ought to lead to a decrease in the murder rate. In which case, the same problem you've presented to me applies - given that the murder rate in the Highlands is already vanishingly small, how is that even possible?

"To the extent that I trust things like "More Guns, Less Crime" by John Lott (and studies by other criminologists) is because they describe enough of their methodology that I have some inkling of a confidence that they aren't cherry-picking."

Which is as convoluted a way as you could have found of conceding that you do, in fact, take studies seriously when it suits you.

"After all, any law-abiding citizen can be carrying a gun, open or concealed. And that's just scary, don'cha know?"

Well, you said it. Hardly an irrational fear, either - as we've discussed many times, the difference between the gun death rates in our respective countries is utterly mind-boggling.

"But, again, you ignore my point."

No, Epsilon, I didn't ignore your point. I addressed it directly, and now you're simply repeating it unaltered. You've done that many times in this thread.

"It doesn't matter that people can get these guns from places where it's legal, because the places where they get the guns don't have the high rates of crime that the cities do."

I've looked at that sentence umpteen times, and I still can't work out what point you're trying to make. It "doesn't matter"? I'd respectfully suggest it matters a great deal to the huge numbers of people shot with guns carried over from other jurisidictions with no difficulty whatsoever.

"The law of the land here says such a shooting is unambiguously self-defense"

In which case I can only point out that since such a shooting is not self-defence (the robbers were trying to escape and Martin was clearly under no physical threat at that point) the US law as you describe it is demonstrably irrational. Rooted in ideology rather than fact - that would perhaps sum it up nicely.

"Guns don't commit crime. People do."

Very true. And they do it more often, and far more effectively, when they are able to do it with guns.

Mike W. said...

But you apparently believe that gun control somehow (?????) causes more murders.

Where did you get that from his comment? All we consistently prove is that your policy proposals do not work That is, they do NOT lower violent crime rates.

Now, if we're talking about it from a "murdered by their own government" perspective then there's no question that gun control directly contributes to murder. History bears this out.

James Kelly said...

"Where did you get that from his comment?"

From this, for starters...

"When I said that, counter-intuitively, more guns reduce crime, I meant it."

There are several other examples as well. Have you actually read this thread, Mike? As ever, what's rather troubling (from your point of view, I mean) is that you seem to honestly believe you're doing quite well here.

The moon is made of green cheese. We have consistently proved that the moon is made of green cheese. Your laughable claim that it is made of rock has been ripped to shreds, again and again. From a "go to the moon to find green cheese" perspective, there is NO QUESTION that green cheese directly contributes to the composition of the lunar surface. History bears this out.

James Kelly said...

Epsilon, this thread is now two-and-a-half months old, so I've moved your latest comment (with a brief response from me) to a fresh post.