Yesterday I posted about how the streetlight effect pulls us towards bad choices in systems engineering. Today I’m going to discuss a different angle on the same class of challenges, one which focuses less on cognitive bias and more on game theory and risk management.
In the face of uncertainty, buy options. This is a good rule whether you’re doing whole-system design, playing boardgames, or deciding whether and when to carry a gun.
Dave Kopel gives us a fascinating account of the divergence between American and British gun culture in The American Indian foundation of American gun culture. I learned some things from this article, which is not a trivial observation because I’ve studied the same process from some different angles.
While Kopel’s article is excellent of its kind, it stops just short of some large and interesting conclusions that immediately present themselves to me, upon reading his evidence, because I think like a science-fiction writer. A significant part of that kind of thinking is a broad functionalist perspective on how societies evolve under selective pressure – a drive to look beyond specific historical contingencies and ask “What is the adaptive pressure motivating this social response? Can we deduce a general law of social evolution from this case?”
I’m going to anticipate my conclusion by coining an aphorism: “Decentralized threats are the mother of liberty.” Kopel’s account of how the American and British traditions of citizen arms diverged illustrates this brilliantly.
Dear NRA leadership: are you out of your fucking minds?
Supporting a ban on bump stocks in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre is a terrible idea, for all the usual reasons that there has never been any case in the history of the known universe in which supporting a ban on firearms or their gear was a good idea. You used to know this.
So, the Washington Post publishes yet another bullshit article on gun policy.
In this one, the NRA is charged with racism because it doesn’t leap to defend the right of black men to bear arms without incurring a lethal level of police suspicion.
In a previous blog post, I considered some relevant numbers. At 12% of the population blacks commit 50% of violent index crimes. If you restrict to males in the age range that concentrates criminal behavior, the numbers work out to a black suspect being a a more likely homicidal threat to cops and public safety by at least 26:1.
The Washington Post is running a story alleging that surveys show gun ownership in the U.S,. is at a 40-year low. I won’t link to it.
This is at the same time gun sales are at record highs.
The WaPo’s explanation, is, basically, that all these guns are being bought by the same fourteen survivalists in Idaho.
Mine is that the number of gun owners with a justified fear that “surveys” are a data-gathering tool for confiscations is also at a record high, and therefore that the number lying to nosy strangers about having no guns is at a record high. videochat
I think there’s a way to discriminate between these cases on the evidence.
An underappreciated fact about U.S. Constitutional law is that it recognizes sources of authority prior to the U.S. Constitution itself. It is settled law that the Bill of Rights, in particular, does not confer rights, it only recognizes “natural rights” which pre-exist the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and which – this is the key point – cannot be abolished by amending the Constitution.
A&D regulars will probably not be much surprised to learn that I’m something of a topic expert on the history of the duel of honor. This came up over on Slate Star Codex recently when I answered a question about the historical relationship of the duel or honor with street violence.
I’ve read all the scholarship on the history of dueling I can find in English. There isn’t much, and what there is mostly doesn’t seem to me to be very good. I’ve also read primary sources like dueling codes, and paid a historian’s attention to period literature.
I’m bringing this up now because I want to put a stake in the ground. I have a personal theory about why Europo-American dueling largely (though not entirely) died out between 1850 and 1900 that I think is at least as well justified as the conventional account, and I want to put it on record.
After 20 years of evading joining the NRA, I finally did it last week.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the NRA because, despite the fearsome extremist image the mainstream media tries to hang on it, the NRA is actually rather squishy about gun rights. A major symptom of this is its lack of interest in pursuing Second Amendment court cases. Alan Gura, the civil-rights warrior who fought Heller vs. DC and several other key cases to a successful conclusion, was funded not by the NRA but by the Second Amendment Foundation. Also, in the past, the NRA has been too willing to acquiesce to unconstitutional legislation like the 1986 ban on sales of new automatic weapons to civilians.
So, you might well ask: why am I joining an organization I’m dubious about now, when the gun-rights cause seems to be winning? Popular support for Second Amendment rights is at record highs in the polls, a record seven states now have constitutional carry (no permit requirement), Texas just became the 45th state to legalize open carry last week…why am I joining an organization I’ve characterized as squishy?
One of my regulars, mindful of the forensic analysis I did on the Michael Brown autopsy photos last year, has asked me to comment on the Laquan McDonald shooting from my point of view as a pistol and self-defense instructor.javporn
The fast version: I would have said this was what cops call a “good shoot” if it had stopped at the first two bullets. It didn’t. I don’t think this was murder one, but it was at least criminally negligent homicide and those who covered it up should be prosecuted along with Van Dyke.
An expectation of casual, cynical lying has taken over American political culture. Seldom has this been more obviously displayed than Barack Obama’s address to police chiefs in Chicago two days ago.
Here is what everyone in the United States of America except possibly a handful of mental defectives heard:
One of my followers on G+ asked me to comment on a Vox article,
What no politician wants to admit about gun control.
I’ve studied the evidence, and I don’t believe the effect of the Australian confiscation on homicides was significant. You can play games with statistics to make it look that way, but they are games.
As for the major contention of the article, it’s simply wrong. 80% of U.S. crime, including gun violence, is associated with the drug trade and happens in urban areas where civil order has partially or totally collapsed.
Outside those areas, the U.S. looks like Switzerland or Norway – lots of guns, very little crime. Those huge, peaceful swathes of high-gun-ownership areas show that our problem is not too many guns, it’s too many criminals.
Stephen P. Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich is a book that every advocate of “gun control” in the modern U.S. and elsewhere should read – but almost certainly never will.
Most other historians have ignored or outright suppressed the role of weapons law and weapons confiscations in the Nazi imposition of totalitarianism on Germany before World War II. Thus it is forgotten that the legal pretext for the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938 was the confiscation of all firearms from Jewish owners. And that most of the first major wave of Jews sent to the concentration camps went there on charges of illegal possession of weapons.
Gun control was not an incidental feature of Nazi tyranny, it was one of the central tools of totalitarian repression and genocide. If Halbrook’s book had no other virtues, the reminder of this stark fact would be enough to recommend it.
Before you read any further, go look at the drawing accompanying the New Tork Times article on the autopsy of Michael Brown,
There’s a story in that picture. To read it, you have to be familiar with pistol shooting and the kind of pistol self-defense training that cops and amateur sheepdogs like me engage in.
In the remainder of this post I’m going to walk you through the process of extracting the story from the picture.
My distant friend Kent Lundgren, one of the most capable and thoughtful firearms instructors out there, has written a blog post addressing the tricky question of how we might filter potential carriers of concealed weapons for competence without involving the government.
Everybody knows, or should know, the basic rules of firearms safety. (a) Always treat the weapon as if loaded, (b) Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy, (c) keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, (d) be sure of your target and what is beyond it. (These are sometimes called “Cooper’s Rules” after legendary instructor Col. Jeff Cooper. There are several minor variants of the wording.)
If you follow these rules, you will never unintentionally injure anyone with a firearm. They are easy to learn and very safe. They are appropriate for civilians.
Some elite military units have different rules, with a different tradeoff between safety and combat effectiveness. I learned them from an instructor who was ex-SOCOM. The way I learned them is sufficiently amusing that the story deserves retelling.
A few weeks ago I blogged an alternate-history story in which the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was abused and distorted in the same ways the Second Amendment has been in our history. The actual point of the essay, though, was not about either amendment; it was about how strategic deception by one side of a foundational political dispute can radicalize the other and effectively destroy the credibility of moderates as well.
Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine yourself in an alternate United States where the First Amendment is not as a matter of settled law considered to bar Federal and State governments from almost all interference in free speech. This is less unlikely than it might sound; the modern, rather absolutist interpretation of free-speech liberties did not take form until the early 20th century.
In this alternate America, there are many and bitter arguments about the extent of free-speech rights. The ground of dispute is to what extent the instruments of political and cultural speech (printing presses, radios, telephones, copying machines, computers) should be regulated by government so that use of these instruments does not promote violence, assist criminal enterprises, and disrupt public order.
The weight of history and culture is largely on the pro-free-speech side – the Constitution does say “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. And until the late 1960s there is little actual attempt to control speech instruments.
Then, in 1968, after a series of horrific crimes and assassinations inspired by inflammatory anti-establishment political propaganda, some politicians, prominent celebrities, and public intellectuals launch a “speech control” movement. They wave away all comparisons to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, insisting that their goal is not totalitarian control but only the prevention of the most egregious abuses in the public square.
I suppose it was inevitable, in a good way. Some friends of freedom have begun a project dedicated to developing and sharing open-source designs for firearms that can be manufactured with a 3D printer. Read about it here at Defense Distributed.
I approve, of course. I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force. As 3D printers become less expensive and more ubiquitous, this could be a major step in the right direction.
After the Aurora theater shooting, it was of course inevitable that the jackals at the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy vendor would be trying to make a political meal from the victims’ corpses before they had even had time to cool to room temperature. The usual round of inane honking about “common-sense gun control” ensued just as if this psycho (like most others) hadn’t cheerfully violated several laws well before he pulled the trigger.
But enough about the usual idiots; let’s talk about “Gun-free zones”. We’re told the movie theater had a sign up announcing its “gun-free” policy. Yeah, and how well did that work out for ya?
Try as I might, I am unable to comprehend the thinking of people who put “gun-free zone” signs in theaters, or on homes, or anywhere. How do they not get that criminals and madmen will read this as “Get your tasty defenseless victims, right here?”
At least “gun-free” signs on homes generally only jeopardize people stupid enough to put them up. “Gun-free” signs and policies in public spaces are another matter; whatever gibbering moron at Cinemark mandated this one painted bull’s-eyes on a theater-full of innocents.
Two fantasies caused that massacre. The obvious one was James Holmes’s delusional identification with the Joker. The less obvious one was the pious belief that wishing firearms out of sight will keep bad people from doing bad things. Holmes is an obvious psychotic who’s still trapped in the first fantasy; to prevent needless deaths, the rest of us must get free of the second.
For myself, from now on I plan to willfully violate every “gun-free zone” policy I run across. If enough sane people do likewise, perhaps the next massacre can be prevented.
Today we scored what may be the most important civil-rights victory since the Heller ruling in 2008. Woollard v. Sheridan was found for the plaintiffs, and
Maryland’s law requiring concealed-carry applicants to show “good and substantial reason” for their permit applications has been found unconstitutional.