Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stand down from Warp Factor Four, Mr Baker

Well, it seems my guess as to the identity of the mystery visitor from Tucson was bang on the money - Kevin Baker has left a long comment on the previous thread. As ever, let's go through it point by point (weary sigh)...

"I see you're still outstandingly skilled at avoiding the point."

Really? Well, let's recap then. We have a situation where a man driven by a paranoid, hate-filled ideology murders dozens of innocent people with legally-obtained firearms. According to you, the main issue we have to address is that those innocent people shouldn't have run away - and then you accuse others of being outstandingly skilled at avoiding the point? Brazen, Kevin, I'll give you that.

"When rampage shootings occur (almost always in disarmed victim zones) they continue until one of two things happens: the shooter decides he's finished, or a good guy with a gun shows up and stops him. The only other way such shootings stop is when the shooter is overwhelmed by his potential victims."

Kevin, focusing on how shootings stop is a counsel of despair, which if I may say so rather misses the point. What is rather more salient is how they start, or if you like, how they were enabled. This one, like so many others, was enabled by legal access to firearms. It's no coincidence, therefore, that violent gun deaths are disproportionately high not in "disarmed victim zones" as you put it, but in heavily-armed territories such as the one you live in.

"So, "the strictest gun laws in the world" didn't prevent Cumbria's massacre, and Norway's gun laws didn't prevent this massacre."

What a peculiar way of putting it. First of all, to the best of my knowledge the UK's gun laws are not "the strictest in the world" - I believe that honour (and it's a great one) may well belong to Japan. And the UK's laws didn't prevent Derrick Bird carrying out a massacre for a very simple reason - they permitted him to own the guns he used to kill. From which there are only two possible rational conclusions to choose between...

1) The laws weren't strict enough to prevent the massacre, and therefore should be tightened further.

2) The laws weren't strict enough to prevent the massacre, but should be left as they are because the risk of avoidable deaths is somehow outweighed by the right of a minority to enjoy their weapons.

There is no third option that allows you to claim that Bird's murderous actions were brought about by the law denying him access to other weapons - that's logic-bending nonsense, and you know it.

"We bear the primary responsibility for our own safety. The State can help, but the State cannot wrap us in swaddling our entire lives."

In a democracy, we are the masters of the state - it is not a foreign entity. In the UK, we exercise the responsibility for our own safety largely by collective means, rather than the individualistic cowboy tactics you prefer to put your faith in. Which strategy is more successful, and therefore more responsible? The respective violent death rates in our two countries will assist you with that one.

"If you accept that you have a duty to your society, to your fellow-man, then defending them against attack is morally right."

Regardless of which side of the gun debate we fall on, surely the true moral imperative we should be focusing on here is the responsibility of the individual not to kill others. The fact that you seem more interested in the victims' "immoral" actions in doing what they could to save themselves in a state of almost unimaginable stress does, I'm afraid, tell us rather a lot about your philosophy.

"Breivik is at fault here, no doubt about it..."

Well, that's big of you.

"...but the death toll is as high as it is because we no longer teach people - average people - that it's important for all potential victims to be as dangerous as they can. No, we teach them to wait for the State to save them.

And you can see how well that works."

Oh, I can indeed. Homicides in 2009 :

Scotland 79
Arizona 324

Gun deaths in 2009 :

Scotland 2
Arizona 198

Next question?


  1. Technically, you should make those figures per capita to make them comparable but given the small difference in population size between Scotland and Arizona, the point is certainly valid.

  2. The population of Arizona in 2009 was 6,595,778; and of Scotland was 5,194,000.

    However, the point is still undoubtedly made because of the vast difference between the quoted statistics in our two jurisdictions.

    Did I ever mention, James, that I love it when you take someone's post apart, line by line and show it up for the nonsense it is.

    I just hope I never write something that you feel the need or inclination to debunk.

    Mr Baker: It seems to me that I should not need to make a decision to run, or not run, from someone to whom, though my government, local or national, I have given permission to keep a gun.

    There is no need for anyone, except perhaps farmers, trappers, and soldiers, to have guns (and I'd much prefer that even these few had none).

    As for having the right to kill animals or birds for the fun of killing something... well, I dread meeting someone who likes to kill for fun.

  3. Tris,

    Someone who is capable of using a gun to kill an animal for 'fun' is capable of using a gun to kill a human being in anger.

  4. Absolutely true, Anonymous.

  5. Thanks for your kind words, Tris - as you know, I very rarely disagree with you, so I hope you never feel the need to debunk me either!

    Anon : you're right, I should have given the per capita figures, although of course LPW's post that I linked to gives the population data.

  6. Kevin has now replied to this post on his own blog - my response can be found here.

  7. @Tris and Anonymous 10:47PM:

    You exemplify the people unable to distinguish between violent and predator and violent but protective.

    It's an issue of fundamental principles. Ours differ so much that we can't discuss anything of use except those first principles.

    Like that's going to happen.

  8. And just how many people have to die unnecessarily to maintain the self-image of a minority as "violent but protective"?

  9. Curious as to why the strict laws to killing another Norwegian citizen didn't prevent the shooter from killing? Surely that law is effectively enforced & yet he decided to ignore the law & kill right away. Why do assume that further restrictions would have prevented his insane desire to kill innocents?

    I wonder what the statistics would be if we remove spill over murders from the Mexican Cartel drug wars currently going on? I'm not in any way saying that they are responsible for all gun related crimes, but Arizona isn't an island, it in fact borders a dangerous, 3rd world nation & the most populous state in the US. Not exactly Apples to apples comparison.

  10. Yes, Mr Baker. Our fundamental principles are at poles apart, and I hope you'll forgive me for adding... thank god.

    It seems to me blindingly obvious that a society in which guns and ammunition are freely available is likely to be more violent than one where their availability are restricted.

    Quite apart from statistics which show this, the complete obviousness of it jumps off the page at me.

    If there isn't a gun in the gun cupboard at home, it's much more difficult when you lose your temper with school friends, teachers, colleagues, team members, politicians, or whomsoever, to run home, open the cupboard, take the gun and associated ammo and engage in mass murder.

    That's why slaughter on a grand scale is relatively rare (although not unknown) in Scotland.

    Angry people here come home and, finding that the nearest thing to weaponry is a pea shooter, they resort to kicking the cat, or their little brother, whichever is nearer.

    It's a blow for the cat, and it's always a bummer being the youngest, but overall it's safer for society.

  11. Oh, Tris, I concur with you completely. I'm very happy that I don't share your fundamental principles. It prevents me from saying things like:

    "It seems to me blindingly obvious that a society in which guns and ammunition are freely available is likely to be more violent than one where their availability are restricted."


    "Quite apart from statistics which show this...."

    Really? Which statistics? Please, point me to them. Because the statistics show that Scotland is "the most violent country in the developed world," at least according to the UN.

    Someone living in Scotland is over three times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than someone in the U.S., taken on average.

    It may be "blindingly obvious" to you, but really, try doing some actual research. You'd be amazed.

  12. "2) The laws weren't strict enough to prevent the massacre, but should be left as they are because the risk of avoidable deaths is somehow outweighed by the right of a minority to enjoy their weapons."

    No, that is not what we are arguing, and that's a completely straw man. We are saying that the laws can NEVER be strict enough to prevent the massacre, and they should be further loosen so not only can people defend themselves from the massacres, but also defend themselves from common criminals.

  13. Kevin : Yes, your Herculean efforts to move the conversation away from homicide and on to generic "violence" are duly noted. But I'm afraid it's deaths we're concerned with here, and we've discussed Scotland, the UK's and America's respective placings on the homicide league table often enough. America has 5 homicides per 100,000 in the most recent figures, whereas Scotland has just 1.5 - and that figure has declined year on year since 2006. What's that - a decline in homicide in a country with strict gun control? Has the world gone mad?

    But I do find this newfound fetish of yours for the idea that Scotland is the "most violent country in the developed world" really interesting. Let's assume for the moment that the idea has some validity - how on earth do we then explain the phenomenon of the most violent country managing to have such an extraordinarily low homicide rate relative to the US? Oh, let me guess - is there some sort of mysterious "cultural" factor that means thugs will beat you senseless, but like noble savages have an innate moral code that inhibits them from actually killing you? Or is it more plausible to think that there's probably a more prosaic reason? You said it yourself -

    "Maybe if the Scots had guns they would kill each other at astronomical rates. Given their obviously hyper-violent culture ...."

    You're going to live to regret that little "joke" - you've hit the nail right on the head, Kevin.

    Matt : "No, that is not what we are arguing"

    I never said that it was, so I'm afraid the straw man has been constructed by you, not by me. The point I was making is that it is demonstrably nonsensical for Kevin to claim that gun control legislation has "failed" to prevent a massacre like the Cumbrian one, when the very simple reason it failed to do so is that the weapons used were not blocked by that legislation. The only rational conclusion that can be drawn from that (ie. I was making no comment on the irrational conclusions that might be drawn by your side of the argument) is that the legislation was not strict enough to prevent the massacre. There is then a legitimate question of whether there are counter-arguments against making it stricter, but the idea that you can reach an alternative conclusion that a man killed twelve people with legally-owned firearms because the law on gun ownership was TOO STRICT is perverse beyond words.

  14. PMain : "I'm not in any way saying that they are responsible for all gun related crimes, but Arizona isn't an island, it in fact borders a dangerous, 3rd world nation & the most populous state in the US. Not exactly Apples to apples comparison."

    Given that, according to Kevin, Scotland has the most "hyper-violent" culture in the western world, a direct comparison between Scotland and comparatively peace-loving Arizona certainly can't be "apples to apples" - which makes Scotland's much lower homicide rate all the more mystifying.

    Mystifying until you remember that we have strict gun control legislation, that is.

  15. Mr Baker:

    The statistics you quote, whilst having the legitimacy of the UN, are flawed, based as they were, not on crime figures supplied by governments, but on telephone interview survey.

    Additionally, they are out of date. (They were published in 2005 and used information that was 5 years old at that time.)

    Over the last 4 years the crime rate in Scotland has dropped, and over the last 10 years the "West" has accepted a number of ex-Eastern Block countries, whose transition from Communism to EU membership, has been for some of their population, a difficult and excluding process, with attendant crime and violence increases. I imagine that a proper study now would show a different result.

    However, as James says, you appear now to have conflated violent crime and gun crime, where the two, with respect, are different kettles of fish.

    I know that there are certain areas of certain cities in Scotland where boys habitually carry knives, which themselves are dangerous enough in a teenager blinded by anger, frustration, drink, drugs, jealousy, hatred...

    By making it difficult for people to lay their hands on a gun, we can save them from doing the kind of mass murder that guns are capable of and knives are not.

    Once a knife is thrown it is no longer in the hands of the thrower. Once a bullet is fired, the next one may be along shortly.

    I work with unemployed young people in some of the roughest areas of a small (by American standards; population around 150,000), post industrial city on the east coast of Scotland: Dundee). Some of my clients have drink, drugs and/or crime issues on top of unemployment and poverty.

    In ten years I've seen blades but I've never seen a gun.

    I'm glad that, as I make my way back to my car on dark nights, it never occurs to me that I might get a bullet in my back just because I happened to be there when someone finally "loses it".

  16. Tris:

    A calm and cogent answer. Thank you. You are aware, however, that there is a major controversy over the accuracy of the national crime statistics and the crime survey statistics? That there has been proven fraud in the crime statistics reported by multiple agencies? That more serious crimes have been recorded as less serious and less serious crimes have not been recorded at all? That the national crime statistics do not include data for offenders or victims of age 15 and below?

    I keep getting accused of "conflating violent crime and gun crime." Yes, I understand why you see it that way, but I have a hard time understanding why getting shot is somehow an entirely different class from being stabbed or raped or curb-stomped by a gang of feral youths. This whole exchange with James came from one story about a young father who was beaten to death by such a gang for having the temerity to ask them to stop vandalizing his property.

    You're glad that, on a dark night it never occurs to you that you might get shot in the back. I congratulate you. But do you concern yourself about getting stabbed or beaten or raped? Because that still happens. And you have no way to defend yourself against a gang, or a criminal with a broken bottle, for that matter. You're not even allowed pepper spray.

    Oh, one last thing and I'm done here. Mass murder with knives? Entirely possible. China is having a very hard time at present with it. Do a Google search on "China knife attack" without the quotes. Granted, the death tolls don't come close to Norway's, but they rank up there with the numbers for most "spree" shootings. And you've seen blades.

    You're not worried about one of them "losing it"?

  17. "This whole exchange with James came from one story about a young father who was beaten to death by such a gang for having the temerity to ask them to stop vandalizing his property."

    And it also began with an exchange about Andrew de Vries, the innocent young Scottish businessman who was shot dead in Texas for having the temerity to bang on someone's door and ask for help when a bit drunk and frightened. Astoundingly, your fan club still defend the homeowner's actions as "self-defence against a violent criminal". That's the kind of insanity your philosophy leads to.

    And can you really not understand why being murdered is several orders of magnitude worse than being assaulted? No, Kevin, I think you can understand that. I really do. The only argument you seem to have left now is that a US-style murder rate in Scotland (ie. one almost three times higher than we currently have) would be a price worth paying for being able to "defend ourselves" better. Can you not appreciate how ludicrous that sounds?

    "And you have no way to defend yourself against a gang, or a criminal with a broken bottle, for that matter."

    In almost any situation where you are faced with a violent attacker, the best strategy is escape - if that's at all possible. Unfortunately, it's substantially less likely to be possible if the assailant has a gun rather than some other weapon. Now, are you more likely to face an assailant with a gun in a country with gun control, or without?

    "Mass murder with knives? Entirely possible."

    But with far less potential for a huge number of victims, as you note yourself, thus undermining your whole argument - more guns do indeed mean more deaths.

    "And you've seen blades.

    You're not worried about one of them "losing it"?"

    I'm sure Tris is worried about that, but I'm sure he's also more optimistic about the statistical likelihood of himself and others getting out of that situation alive.

    "A calm and cogent answer. Thank you."

    As opposed to a reply featuring a photo of a woman beaten to a pulp, accompanied by a caption claiming "this is what James Kelly calls mere bumps and bruises"? I'm gratified you can now spot a calm and cogent reply when you see one, Kevin. Perhaps, in spite of all appearances, you have learned something from this exchange after all.

    Oh, and if you really are "done here" (I make that the seventeenth time?) - fare thee well, you take the sunshine with you.