Diving into the gun control debate

In the wake of each high-profile mass shooting, we go through a ritual spasm of gun control talk, but you may notice something interesting. No one on either side ever seems to offer any remedies. Sometimes there’s talk about banning a certain weapon configuration or some similarly vague and irrelevant proposal, but you almost never hear a political figure describe a meaningful option for changing the way we handle weapons.

One reason that public energy tends to dissipate into little more than a collective wail is the thick smokescreen of disinformation about gun regulation. With a new post at Forbes I tried to tackle the ten biggest lies in the gun debate. It was a lot more challenging than I anticipated.

On another note, I’m interested in your thoughts about the forum feature on this site, Off Topic. It hasn’t taken off as I anticipated. Should it stay? Does it just need more awareness? What do you think?

 

79 Comments

  1. Going off topic to my favorite topic, rhetoric or persuasive speech:

    In this article, David Brooks says an ‘attractive community’ is the most persuasive form of communication.

    Build it, and they will come.

    He cites some standards for being an ‘attractive community’, including some that commenters here practice.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/opinion/the-art-of-thinking-well.html

    I like the community here and am always interested in what its members have to say.

    1. Brooks is a good writer and I believe he is getting more thoughtful and therefore more interesting to read as he matures. I’ve ordered the book referenced in the article “How to Think”, in hopes it will help me be more open-minded and better understand those who think differently than me.

      I admit to a sense of futility in trying to understand how anyone can look at this man (T) and not see him in full, sordid display. Maybe the book will shed some light on my mental and emotional shortcomings in this area – especially as it appears that there are 38 months yet to endure. I cannot bear the thought of a second term…Mueller’s investigation appears the only hope to topple T but the evidence required and, more significantly, the will required (by Congress) are pretty tall mountains to scale.

      1. Posting Off Topic on T’s threats to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and the consequences this could have to further roil foreign affairs. T thinks he can get away with doing whatever he wants to whoever he wants. Can he abroad?

    1. Exactly, but they rationalize that easily by separating themselves as “real Americans” from people who disagree with them. although sometimes they just rely on ignorance when they claim that America is a Christian country, ignoring clear evidence in their revered Constitution that it is not.

  2. In other news, another major campaign promise is being met with the repeal of the “War on Coal.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/09/epa-scott-pruitt-abandon-clean-power-plan-obama

    My initial reaction is that, like most, if not all, of the President’s actions, this is all show and no substance. Coal is dying, but Obama was not the one wielding the dagger. Advances in natural gas and renewable energy will ensure that people and investment dollars will not be coming back to Kentucky or West Virginia unless another major use for coal is found.

    1. Whoa, maybe I’ve misunderstood the Clean Power Act, but I understood it to be far more reaching on discharge into air and streams, with the goal of reducing CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming. Coal has a place in it in that their sludge discharge was regulated under Obama in this act, but the regulations were pretty broad in their environmental sweep.

      1. Rolling back the efforts against global warming, which is an existential threat, is a crime against humanity. I truly hope that other governments, who have more resources than the citizenry, move forward with regime change, by any means necessary. The U.S. is a rogue nation.

  3. I think it is important to clarify a misconception of Switzerland as a gun owning country. Guns in private homes for the vast majority are weapons provided to active soldiers by the military and stored at home. Since Switzerland still has a draft, a lot of people are active military. The regulation requires that every year every service member does a practice shooting at a shooting range, or pays a penalty. You can call this a strange system, but it has nothing to do with the gun culture we have here in America. There is no gun debate and there is nobody who believes that they need guns to guard against government overreach. Very few people would think they need a gun for self-defense and these military weapon are unsuited for self-defense as the ammunition is handed over to the service members in a sealed container that they have to return unopened.

      1. Sounds like a typical internet troll who became entrenched in his own trollery. The cutting off of friends and family and surrounding himself with people who feed his ego and bolster his opinions is telling and probably quite common.

      2. What is sad is that family didn’t see what was happening to him. Yet, it must be very difficult to intervene when someone is in this fugue state. This situation speaks to the extreme – what of all the T supporters who are our neighbors and (former) friends? What bothers me the most is the complete shutting down of any semblance of honest, intellectual scrutiny of T’s many personal issues. To adopt a “You’re all just picking on him all the time…attitude” without giving credence where it stares at you, is pretty hard to take.

        Polarization is increasing and I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t even know if I want to stop it. There has to be some factual basis upon which we draw lines of acceptability….and that doesn’t begin to touch the competency, moral and ethical issues that surround this man. Maybe my problem is I read too much.

  4. Chris brings up several good points. My personal favorite is the majority of weapons are owned by a small minority of owners. Thing about that is, you can only effectively shoot one firearm at a time.

    A good friend growing up in the East Texas Piney Woods had several firearms. He once told me that trying to fire 2 pistols simultaneously was a fool’s errand. Far more damage can be inflected with one gun used effectively than by showboating .

    This leads us to the Vegas tragedy. The only scenario where large numbers of assault weapons are useful is when one man is randomly pumping long bursts of fire into a sea of people. Without the huge group of people, essentially trapped in a bunch, long bursts of fire are useless. In the Army, we were taught to fire 3 round bursts. After that you won’t be hitting much. With a trapped mass to shoot at however, long bursts can be devastating.

    Now about the number of firearms involved. If you fire any weapon on full auto at the max fire rate for very long, the barrel heats up to a dangerous level. The weapon may jam or explode. Thus you must change weapons to allow the one you are firing to cool.

    The Vegas tragedy provided me an answer for a question I have asked for years. Why does anyone need a closet full of military grade weapons? Sad how a completely irrational act would provide the only rational answer.

    1. “Why does anyone need a closet full of military grade weapons?”

      For a mass killer, yes, you need them because a single rifle can’t sustain a high rate of fire very long without exploding or jamming.

      But for the vast majority of gun owners who are not killers, they’re more like a collecting hobby, sort of like people who collect beanie babies or something. Actually, after knowing a few gun enthusiasts, their obsession with getting the latest models, and the latest accoutrements to them, etc. etc. reminds me of nothing so much as little girls collecting Barbies and their related paraphernalia (disturbing, I know, since these are grown men, but, well, there you go :-). And the times when they do pull their guns out, go to a range with some buddies, and fire off a few rounds is remarkably equivalent to the neighborhood girls getting their different dolls together and having a tea party, complete with letting friends play with their latest purchases, and discussing the next season’s must-have accessories.

      I don’t say this to insult gun owners (although I’ve ribbed my gun owning friends about it), but because it makes a difference in the policy debate. I’m a staunch gun control advocate, but we do ourselves a disservice when we automatically assume that anyone with more than a few guns is either a killer-in-waiting, or a “patriot”-type wingnut militia member. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I sincerely believe that the normal, law-abiding, gun owners in our communities would be natural allies to passing some sensible control measures. But they get turned off by gun control advocates when those advocates automatically lump them with the crazies just because they happen to enjoy collecting guns. We can debate which came first (did normal gun owners choose to politically ally with the crazies, or did the rest of us push them there by demonizing gun ownership of any kind?), but gun control advocates won’t get anywhere unless we actually accept responsible ownership as a normal, respectable behavior.

      Full disclosure: I don’t own any guns. But I’ve gone out to the range with friends to go shooting, and it’s loads of fun. I’d love to eventually buy a sniper rifle and learn the art of long distance shooting, because I think it’s an amazing skill. However, being an Indian i.e. brown man, I hesitate to end up on some FBI watch list by walking into a gun shop and buying a Barrett M82. Like I said, the 2nd amendment only applies to white people.

      1. “they get turned off by gun control advocates when those advocates automatically lump them with the crazies just because they happen to enjoy collecting guns”

        The thing is, as soon as you buy a gun, you are a member of that group. And it is not up to a person advocating for common sense gun laws to begin each sentence with, “don’t take it personally, I’m not talking about you, specifically”. The person on the other side should be able to come to that conclusion by themselves. I believe most do. (Resisting snark)

        David Frum’s article on the rules of debate frames some of the problem.
        https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/the-real-common-sense-tactics-the-debate-is-missing/542229/

        A revelation I’ve had recently, is that it is not about the buying of guns, but the selling. The progun industry has played this ju juitsu trick for a long time that we are trying to keep honest, responsible people from buying guns.

        When you turn it around and ask, Has the seller some responsibility about who buys the gun from them? it puts it into a different light. And I assume if they can make that judgment, it holds that everyone has that same responsibility. It does not make a judgement about buying or keeping.

      2. I should qualify a couple of things. I have owned firearms for decades. Often one for hunting and another for home defense. Now my last hunting gun does the home defense job just fine.

        As for collectors, my son recently got into handguns and has a few cause he enjoys tinkering with them.

        This last episode would have been hard to stop. If only ATF could have had info on the sheer number of assault weapons and the amount of ammo this guy was buying, maybe something could have been done.

      3. If nothing else, when an individual buys the number of semi-automatic guns Paddock did – which information was collected in a central, national database, this could trip an alarm. Assuming Paddock moved his purchases around, that still wouldn’t have mattered if the purchase was collected and tied to a single individual.

        I keep hearing gun rights people state: we don’t need any new gun laws on the books. Am I to assume that we are not enforcing the ones we have as well as lacking regulations that might tighten up the process? What is the goal here? To protect the privacy of the gun owner at the expense of averting a mass shooting? All of this could be computerized with thresh holds being set that are beyond average numbers. We will never prevent all mass shootings, but, are we even trying?

      4. Yes, Mike. I was just contemplating what would have happened if law enforcement had knocked on the door the day previous to the shooting. Assuming no gunfight at that time, there was no crimes committed. The hotel could request he take his arsenal and leave but until he breaks the window …

        I had a shotgun in my youth. It always bugged me that my kids might find the shells, even if I couldn’t remember where I hid them. So I got rid of it. My grandkids have shown me that kids and guns do not mix.

        I live in the city and gun violence goes on around me. But it has to do with drugs and the marketing of drugs or drunks shooting it out instead of drunkenly duking it out in the parking lot of the bar. I am very safe if I’m not in that parking lot.

        Seems that a searchable database is required for any possibility of catching a guy like this. Whether it is insurance or just catching anomalies like buying multiple military style guns, a national registry is needed. And THAT is what sets the gun nuts hair on fire. That database will keep them from protecting the nation from a tyrant. (Seems like they are too late on that one.)

      5. Here’s the solution to your problem as a “brown” man buying a gun: How about we arm every brown and black man with a gun and see how fast Congress moves on gun control?

        Really – the people who are most at risk feel they cannot own a gun because it will make them an even bigger target? The NRA has definitely won.

      6. “The thing is, as soon as you buy a gun, you are a member of that group.”

        I disagree. Unless they kill someone, they’re not part of the crazy killers group. And unless they join a militia and talk about overthrowing the govt, they are not part of the wingnut “patriot” group. Buying a gun doesn’t automatically make you a part of those groups.

        Regardless, my advice is mainly practical: you can’t win people to your side by first calling them deranged killers and wingnuts. If they *are* killers and wingnuts then by all means call a spade a spade. But I think if we recognize there are lots of gun owners who are neither, we may begin the process of making them our allies rather than allies of the groups that are truly dangerous (the killers and the militias).

        “it is not about the buying of guns, but the selling”

        This is the heart of the matter. The NRA does not care about gun *owners*. They care about gun *sellers* including manufacturers and dealers. Once you actually buy a gun, the NRA could care less what happens to you, which is why they don’t care that, due to their advocacy of the unrestricted right to *sell* guns, they’ve made all their members appear to be as crazy as the most extremist owners.

        This is why I’ve always said if you’re a responsible gun owner, the NRA is not your friend. They use responsible owners as a human shield / public face for their real clients, including shady dealers that profit off of looking the other way as they knowingly sell hordes of arms to illegal gun runners, and manufacturers who deliberately make guns and accessories to meet the needs of criminals.

      7. “Actually, after knowing a few gun enthusiasts, their obsession with getting the latest models, and the latest accoutrements to them, etc. etc. reminds me of nothing so much as little girls collecting Barbies and their related paraphernalia (disturbing, I know, since these are grown men, but, well, there you go :-).”

        Yeah, every hobby has its gear queers infected with GAS.

        That’s why I like the licensing and insurance idea of Chris’s. I’m pretty pro-second amendment but have no interest in owning a gun myself. If someone wants to own massive guns that rapidly fire hundreds of bullets, I feel their insurance costs and oversight should rise, to the point where it becomes prohibitively expensive to own too many too powerful guns. Leave the assault rifles to those backwoods YouTubers who like blowing up pumpkins and beer cans for Internet likes.

        Meanwhile, as a hobbyist photographer more than familiar with my own in-groups level of competitiveness, I would say one of the most useful counter-programming ads I saw was ‘this is how real men shoot animals’ meme:

        https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BkTQt21IEAALps2.jpg

        I feel gun control advocates should really think about funding major public interest campaigns to send better messaging about alternative methods of having the gun hobby without the association of being a gun owner. Even archery or paint-balling are perfectly reasonable alternatives.

        Everytown for Gun Safety and States United to Prevent Gun Violence have both had award-winning advertising with great messaging for gun violence. Neither of them seem to have Chris’s solutions as their listed goals. So I’m thinking of writing them asking for their consideration of those ideas and offering donations specifically for their ad campaigns.

        Politically I’m one of the reasons why gun control doesn’t get done because I am not an active or interested party in the debate. I changed that recently because I learned that a significant setback to the gun control movement was the lack of demands on representatives by constituents. So now I guess every time another mass shooting happens I have a letter to send reiterating the points. I would recommend you choose your favorite ‘solutions’ and be prepared to repeat them often until the postcards hit critical mass.

    1. Corker’s right about Trump’s temperment, but this verges on way too little, way too late. Twitler has a long public track record, a recorded chock full of petty bullying, greed, narcissism, vindictiveness, and bigotry. You knew he was a spoiled, impulsive, mean brat before he got the GOP nomination. You really thought he would pivot and start acting like a grownup? I hope Corker does do Trump some serious political damage on his way out, although it will never fully attone for the sin of supporting Orange Foolious ITFP.

  5. I own a few guns, my brother owns a few, brother in law a few, you get the picture. THIS is the local sales ad in Mondays paper, notice the hunting guns first, then the killing machines next. There is absolutely no need for that kind of weaponry to be available for the general public. Everyone I know agrees.

    http://weeklyad.fleetfarm.com/flyers/fleetfarm-publication?flyer_run_id=269164&auto_locate=true&auto_store=true&locale=en-US&type=2#!/flyers/fleetfarm-publication?flyer_run_id=269164

  6. As usual Chris, another well researched, insightful and impeccably presented piece. You writing is eloquent and powerful.

    Unfortunately, it will have zero impact on the issue.
    This is among the largest terrorist attack, by casualties, in modern U.S. history. Terrorism does not have to have a political agenda to be terrorism. This targeted complete strangers, and instills fear in the general public. This was terrorism.

    If this had been a Muslim, whomever had sold the weapons to that person would be under the intense scrutiny of a dozen government agencies, and would need a damn good lawyer. If that Muslim was a foreign national, from any of a half dozen countries, the puppet tyrant and the entire right wing fanatic wing would be drawing up plans for war.

    But no, he was a U.S. citizen, born and bred. He was aided and abetted by the NRA. Plain and simple. Now, the government and rule of law has broken down so far that it will not take down a domestic network that supports terrorists.

    I was going to suggest that the moral majority, the 90% who don’t own weapons, do something a tad radical. Something about Wayne LaPierre, the rest of the NRA exec and the NRA PR wing being taught an ironic object lesson about their stance on unregistered weapons.

    But no, we apparently live in a civilized society, the grandest in the history of the planet, and talk like that is counter-productive. We get to sit here and tut tut on the web while Rome burns.

    1. These events/changes are depressing. The narrow, uncaring people in charge; the utter disregard for the majority of Americans who lack health care coverage; the right of women to contraception from their employer; sexual orientation rights; voter protection rights – disappearing; so many positions on our appellate courts being filled with young conservatives; our foreign affairs in tatters; our country at risk of nuclear attack; our public education funding stripped; our women’s rights – being stripped before our eyes …………. It’s truly crushing.

      1. And, yes, Texan, far too many Henry Bowmans. Steve Bannon is on the loose and he intends to remake America. So far, he’s been pretty damn successful. Can it continue? Will the people of America allow this to happen? Did we learn nothing from Hitler?

      2. Mary, you have \questioned/commented on my extremist views before. You just invoked Godwin’s law. At what point is it a better outcome to kill hitler and his acolytes than to suffer the outcome of the future without intervention?

      3. EJ

        The problem with saying “kill Hitler” is that before he became powerful, Hitler was just one of many two-bit demagogues. Unless you’re planning to kill all of them or you have magical powers of hindsight, it’s difficult to know which one of the two-bit demagogues will turn out to be the threat and which of them will remain two-bit demagogues.

    2. I tried to log on the Forbes with my WordPress account to reply to that comment, but it wasn’t working. Anybody know how to do that?

      These gun fanatics are reminding me of the protagonists in the classic Greek tragedy tradition. There is something that they fear will happen, and they will do anything to avoid it, even things that are morally repugnant, but their actions serve to cause their worst fears to happen in the end. This Bowman guy rants about confiscation, which Chris’ essay absolutely did not endorse, but to the fanatic even talk of any regulation is but the prelude to gun-grabbing. There is no reasoning with these people- they are perfectly willing to have other people’s children pay the price for their idea of liberty.

      1. Non-subscribers have to use their Google+, FB, etc. That will allow you to read posts, and it used to also allow you to comment; however, I have not been able to do so lately. Possibly they’re allowing only subscribers to comment. Maybe Chris can find out.

      2. In Friday’s Houston Chronicle, Texas-based, Slide Fire, the largest producer of the “bump stock”, announced it was temporarily suspending online sales of its bump stock device “due to overwhelming demand as calls to limit – possibly ban – the devices grow stronger.” A companion company, “Bump Fire Systems” made the same posting on its website. These devices which are capable of spraying a barrage of bullets cost less than $200 and was developed in 2010…to offer the thrill of fully automatic weapons which are very expensive and require an extensive permit.

        Let’s see – 2010 – who was president? Coincidence? I am deeply suspicious of any gun control proposal that has the support of the NRA. As Democrats noted: they want this discussion to go before Congress, not through federal agency regulations and presidential executive order.

        It has been stated that the single best thing that has happened to boost gun sales was the election of our first black president. Coincidence #2?

        http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/Texas-manufacturer-of-bump-stocks-halts-new-12257037.php

  7. A question about purchasing weapons. Does a national database exist that has the purchasing history of every registered gun owner that a seller could cross reference across the nation? Seems to me that Paddock’s sudden increase in purchasing should have set of some alarm bells. He went to several different states to buy guns and it just seems as if someone could have taken a look, gotten alarmed and called authorities.

    As someone said previously, when America put gun rights over the deaths of children we lost our soul. The right wing nuts are already screaming false flag funded by George Soros and the “demoncrats” and other paranoid delusions that are ridiculous. Anything but “hey, we have a problem”.

    1. I have read that federal law allows the collection of firearm registration, but prohibits sharing of this information, or storing it beyond a stipulated time frame. But, when read in context with other information, it’s more complicated.
      https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/fact-sheet/fact-sheet-national-firearms-act-nfa
      https://www.concealedcarry.com/law/are-guns-registered/

      https://www.nraila.org/issues/registration-licensing/

      https://www.atf.gov/firearms/national-tracing-center

    2. ooh ooh, I know. The gun dealers are expected to record the pertinent data on gun sales and maintain it indefinitely. The information must NOT be kept in a centralized database. When the dealer goes out of business he/she must send the ATF his records. Here is Jordon Kleppers video.

      https://www.facebook.com/thedailyshow/videos/10155551023116800/

      So that means the initial sales of new guns, if done correctly by an honest dealer, can be traced by serial number. However once the original owner sells it or it is “stolen” there is no way to trace it.

      As Doug once said, there is no “gun show loophole” more simply a private sale loophole.

  8. Great article…you allude to our history of gun violence, which also brings to mind another American problem – i think gun violence, not just guns, thrills people. I think many Americans love the power guns represent, and love the increasingly growing proof of the power they could yield over others if they chose to. I’m just not sure that a lot of people care, as their immediate reaction is never a tear but rather an enthusiastic, rabid excitement of retaining a privilege. Who did it? Was the person a terrorist or a poor soul with “mental problems” (clutch my pearls)? What ammo did they use? What caliber? How did they plan it? How did they transport it?

    I’m sick of crying when this happens, and sick of people’s barely concealed excitement. Wonder why this won’t change? Why change a state-sanctioned high from your drug of choice?

  9. EJ

    While I do not wish to be disrespectful to citizens of the American Republic about their national tragedy, I will once again point out the following statistic: Switzerland and Sweden have similar firearms murder rates.

    Sweden has some of the strictest firearms laws: all guns must be kept at a gun club, hunting weapons may only be carried in hunting areas at certain times of year, and there are very strict registries of weapons. Sales between gun owners are heavily controlled. Gun collections must be registered with the police and may be inspected.

    Switzerland has… well, unusual gun laws. Every able-bodied adult male Swiss is required to own a gun (and is given such a gun at taxpayer expense) which until a few years ago had to be kept in their home. Failure to regularly report for practise with this gun will result in the loss of voting rights. As a result of this training, many Swiss people purchase their own leisure firearms as well.

    Switzerland and Sweden have very similar firearms murder rates (1.9 per 100,000 versus 2.1 per 100,000.) They’re otherwise similar nations, being wealthy countries with populations clustered around urban centres but with a large thinly-populated rural hinterland, which makes for a good comparison.

    (That said, Switzerland has much higher rates of gun-accident deaths and gun suicides than Sweden.)

    1. Finland belongs in that category as well. Depending on which list (and criteria) you use, Sweden and Finland have higher-per capita gun ownership rates than Switzerland. The Swiss stats are messy because so many of their guns are technically government owned. When you count the govt weapons in private possession, they surge up close to our numbers. It seems that it’s those accidental/incidental death rates that tell the story about mass gun ownership.

      1. Switzerland also does not have a standing army, where a lack of cominating military focus may allow more flexibility to exert civil authority over guns. They don’t have to “feed the monster” as we do in the U.S.

      2. EJ

        It’s definitely an interesting difference, I agree. There needs to be proper academic study of what causes firearms murder rates, and what distinguishes Switzerland and Finland from the US.

        If only, as you point out, it were possible to make a study.

    1. David Frum is correct, of course, which is why this debate is so demoralizing: we as a country have lost the ability to implement effective policy even when the evidence is overwhelming, and effective measures are already well known. That is the case whether it’s climate change, health care, gun violence, etc, etc.

      David Frum is correct because, from Chris’s list, the only lie that matters is #8, and that is precisely the one we can’t talk about, so we end up arguing about all the other lies, wondering why we never make progress.

      A white “patriot” running around in the forest with his stash of semi-automatic rifles, with fantasies of playing John Wayne when a black man comes to spoil his womanfolk, or the liberal elite come in their black helicopters, doesn’t really care about the rest of the lies. Tell him he’s putting his children’s lives in danger by having guns in the house, and he’ll accept that risk, because (what he won’t tell you is that) he believes the risk of “the other” (however he defines it in his paranoid fantasies) harming his kids is far higher. But we’re not allowed to address that fear of “the other”.

      Chris makes a good point that while the rhetoric is that they want to defend us against the government, their real goal is to be an instrument of the govt, at least as long as that govt quietly condones their racism or sexism. Which I think explains why they went so berserk and so much crazier during Obama’s time. The govt was under the control of a black man: all of a sudden, there was a real risk that they might find themselves on the wrong side of racial power politics, and be wiped out like the Black Panthers. Of course, that never happened, but lunacies like Jade Helm show that they were certainly very worried about that possibility.

      Of course, you can’t re-cork crazy. Once it’s out of the bottle, it’s out. Which is why even though they now have a President that fondly embraces even the most extreme of their delusions, they’re not crawling back under their rocks.

      These groups are basically right-wing, pro-govt vigilantes, and the problem with those groups is, they start looking no different than the terrorist groups they’re originally formed to fight. That is *always* the end result, and it never ends well.

      For a peek into the future, just look at the history of the AUC in Colombia. Started as a response to far-left violent groups like the FARC, and quietly supported by the country’s military, they soon became drug runners and extortionists themselves, carrying out massacres and terror campaigns little different than the FARC itself.

      Or take the “citizen protection groups” outright started and officially blessed by the govt as a counterweight to the drug cartels, collectively labeled the Convivir. They now oppress the citizenry as much as any cartel, and are as deeply involved in criminal activities (http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/the-legacy-of-colombia-vigilante-security-the-convivir)

      But I guess banning bump stocks should take care of it…

      1. EJ

        If you’re willing to look further back in history, La Cosa Nostra itself is thought to have begun as a vigilante movement before turning into an organised crime movement.

        This is one of the reasons why vigilantism is a bad thing. Not the only reason, but a reason.

      2. It is against the law to convert a firearm into a fully automatic weapon. Yet, the “parts” that are used in such conversions (several, including the bump-stock) are legal for purchase. The trick is that once you connect the device to the firearm, that is when the law is broken. It’s not like illegal drugs where mere possession is grounds for charges. So – let’s go to the heart of the matter and prohibit the manufacture, sale, and possession of any devices capable of rendering a gun into full automatic status.

        But, I hear you and agree that the NRA is picking the low hanging fruit to deflect a more serious discussion about gun legislation. It also gives MoC “cover” for taking an action sanctioned by the NRA where they show sensitivity to gun violence and don’t lose their donation benefactors.

        This article offers an interesting historical perspective on bump stocks. Once again “It’s Obama’s fault!”

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/oct/06/national-rifle-association/nra-claim-obama-approved-bump-stocks/

  10. The treating of guns like cars (license, testing, insurance) is the absolute best compromise for this problem. The attempted rebuttals that I’ve heard (car ownership isn’t a Constitutional right! Poor people wouldn’t be able to have guns!) are feeble, and wouldn’t stand a chance in a real debate. But we can’t have a real debate, for all the reasons you mentioned, and our chances of having nice things are decreasing because of all the irrationality.

    I seriously wonder if we’ve hit that critical mass of ignorance which makes a functional republic impossible to keep.

    As for the Off Topic, I agree the accessibility issues make it easy to overlook, forget that it’s there.

  11. In 1967, a certain Governor of California, Ronnie Reagan, passed a law banning open carry and created one of the strictest gun control regimes in the country. The NRA supported it. Yes, that NRA.

    Why the difference from today? Easy. In 1967, the most worrisome group advocating open carry was the Black Panthers (started in Oakland to defend African Americans from police killings; sound familiar?).

    The 2nd Amendment only applies to white people. The minute minorities or Muslims start exercising their 2nd Amendment rights, is the same exact minute that gun control measures start being passed again.

  12. Off Topic is not visible enough to satisfy the speed with which news develops. It’s kind of “secret” and easily forgotten – especially for newbies to your blog. If there were a section on your home page that linked to the Off Topic page, it might engender more interest. You have a running thread of tweets on the right side of your page…why not consider replacing this with commentary on Off Topic? Alternatively, a list of current topics. Those are a couple of thoughts for your consideration. I know it’s a lot of work just to manage your main post, so would understand if you didn’t want to spend more time on Off Topic.

    1. EJ

      In my opinion, Off Topic feels like a “cool kid secret clubhouse”, which makes it feel unwelcoming to new people and thus discourages the existing community from posting there too.

      While I am not a technology professional, I would suggest that observing how people use technology and building it to suit those patterns of usage, is a better idea than trying to encourage people into patterns of usage that suit the technology.

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