Does firearms competency testing do any good?

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.

I’ve struggled with this one myself. Kent is right on, we absolutely do not want the government to have an easy pretext to forbid people from bearing arms; that is too dangerous a power to let government have. Any legal bar should have preconditions at least as difficult for the state as a finding of clinical insanity.

Yes, private-sector competency tests might be a good thing. I’m all in favor of voluntary certification. It’s the produce-on-demand part Kent suggests that’s a little worrying. We’ve got more than enough of “Your papers, please” in America already – it’s not a demand that is compatible with a free society in the long term.

Thinking about it now, though, I’m not sure how much good a firearms competency certification would actually do for basic safety. Such proposals would have the same adverse-selection problem that “gun control” laws do; the people you don’t want armed are exactly the people most likely to flout them. The effect of all such filters is perverse, to disarm only the conscientious and law-abiding.

The most important thing to remember when thinking about this sort of policy issue is a criminological fact I learned from Don B. Kates: that gun crimes and accidents are highly concentrated in an approximately 3% cohort of the population that is also strongly deviant by other measures, including: rates of domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, auto accidents, rates of criminal conviction, and accident proneness. Low intelligence and low impulse control are nearly defining traits of this group. Elsewhere I have borrowed some cop slang and called these people “mooks”.

Your chances of being shot deliberately or accidentally by a non-mook are on a par with your chances of being struck by lightning – such instances are so rare that each one gets individual newspaper coverage (incidentally misleading us to way overestimate the frequency).

The trouble with an (essentially) voluntary certification requirement is that non-mooks don’t need it and mooks won’t bother with it. The criminal mooks would laugh at the requirement the same way they laugh at “gun control” laws, and the mere losers generally wouldn’t have their act together enough to go through the procedural hoops. They’d carry anyway, though, because they’re stupid and thus exceptionally prone to the Dunning-Krueger effect, overestimating their own competence.

Where does this leave private-sector certification proposals? Basically, in the same bad place as “gun control” laws, without the go-directly-to-jail threat. The training requirement might do some good at slightly increasing competence levels among non-mooks, but non-mooks are already so unlikely to shoot each other that I’m doubtful any improvement in safety would breach the statistical noise level.

122 thoughts on “Does firearms competency testing do any good?

  1. There’s a more fundamental problem: adopting such testing gives credibility to the gun grabbers’ argument that only the highly trained, such as cops and soldiers, should carry firearms. The camel may be privately owned, but his nose is still sticking under the side of the tent.

  2. Which sums up the reasons why I specifically state that the reason I carry is because it is a symbolic representation of my freedom and is a demonstration of my opposition to tyranny. Being armed is a form of free speech! I have little reason to think that I will ever need to use my side arm except when, at some time in the future, I may have to refuse to hand it over to the authorities.

  3. If I were a gun control advocate, I would hold Curtis Reeves up as an example of why it doesn’t.

    Like with the elderly driving cars, this makes wonder what a non-governmental answer to dealing with people who aren’t capable of realizing that they are no longer physically, mentally, or emontionally strong enough to carry responsibly would look like. In a free society, how would a family member cope with such a person. Is the only answer to wait until they hurt someone?

    My own grandfather, who was armed to the teeth, was quite compent and sane right up to the day he died at 85. He balanced his checkbook and drew a wiring diagram for me to re-install his home entertainment center several hours before he went. I often wonder what it would have been like if he’d gone senile before his body gave out on him.

  4. It doesn’t matter what you do, any increase in gun-carrying by the non-mooks will directly result in further arming of the mooks, as they will arm themselves by robbing the ‘good’ gun carriers. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that the good people will be able to stop this because they are armed. The mooks are professional robbers, and they know how to do their ‘jobs’. Remember Ponella’s law – “People are smart and stupid at the same time.” When the mooks want something, they know how to get it.

  5. “Mook” as “cop slang”? No f*&%in’ way. It’s well attested street NY street lingo, albeit rare enough to cause some confusion:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vw8t4O9JQM

    True story: the first time I heard it was from a guy in a dive bar near Times Square (ca. 1994) complaining about the disorderly drunks piling into the joint as the area got safer. He was a decently dressed, middle-aged man of the quiet, solitary, dedicated drinking type. He described a mook as a guy who gets drunk and growls at the people around him.

  6. >“Mook” as “cop slang”? No f*&%in’ way. It’s well attested street NY street lingo

    It’s not like there’s some impermeable barrier between cop and street slang. I’ve seen it in a glossary of cop slang; before that in a crime thriller set on the West Coast.

  7. @patrioticduo
    > my side arm except when, at some time in the future, I may have to refuse to hand it over to the authorities.

    That’ll get you dead. There were few groups of private citizens better armed than those guys at Waco.

    When you are a professional snake wrangler, you have to respect the snake, and you have to make sure you never get to the point where you are trapped in a corner with the snake provoked and angry at you.

  8. >It doesn’t matter what you do, any increase in gun-carrying by the non-mooks will directly result in further arming of the mooks

    Doubtful. The criminal-mook population already has its saturation limit of firearms. We know this because (a) criminological informants basically never report crime plans being aborted due to lack of firearms availability and (b) burglary/robbery specifically aimed at firearms is so rare that a description of it from 1980 reads today like a historical curiosity.

    Why go to the bother of robbing people, after all, when all you have to do is pretend to be from a Mexican drug cartel and the Obama administration will give you AR-15s for free?

  9. It doesn’t matter what you do, any increase in gun-carrying by the non-mooks will directly result in further arming of the mooks, as they will arm themselves by robbing the ‘good’ gun carriers.

    You should probably take a look at what has *actually* happened in *reality* before mindlessly parroting such drivel.

    Take note of which trends are rising, and which trends are falling.

  10. That’ll get you dead. There were few groups of private citizens better armed than those guys at Waco.

    Yes. He should obey, disarm, then write a strongly-worded letter to his congressman.

  11. Just an anecdote, but in my home state of Missouri there’s a fairly rigorous 8 hour training regime required to get the state’s concealed carry licence (moderated by any US locality’s license sufficing, since the legislature knew St. Louis and possibly Kansas City would not play ball). The local college has a law enforcement training center with a good range and all that, and the local police establishment jumped right on to this and set up a good program, including giving everyone time with a police oriented “shoot/don’t shoot” training simulator (not a state requirement but very useful).

    They’ve run 100s through the program, the county I’m in, the most populous of our little metro area, has either 2,400 or 2,700 outstanding licenses as of late 2011 (and about 10 revocations, all but 2 temporary due to restraining orders, the latter two due to non-violent crime).

    Anyway, the professor who set up the college’s training program (a retired cop) said they’d only had two failures in the entire history of the course, one was an elderly lady who gave up too soon when she couldn’t rack the slide of a Glock, and the other an old guy who just couldn’t not follow Rule 2 (direction of weapon), who they just couldn’t give a pass on. But they could of course have done this training with ill will and failed to pass many people. And private training is also available.

    Although I’d note this is an area where pretty much anyone who wants to get experience with a gun while they’re growing up or later has no trouble doing so, it’s solidly Red State and culturally Southern. And where the police are known to say things like a woman who used deadly force to defend herself in a home invasion had “an absolute right” (exact words) to do so (when was the last time you heard the authorities tell the media that on the record?)

  12. I seem to be forming the habit of commenting? Here’s how I filter carriers of weapons to include possible concealed carriers.

    I stay away from folks I don’t feel safe around. This may include walking away, running away or backing away slowly. In a gunshop or at a range I may complain loudly on the way out in hopes of improving the breed. Otherwise I don’t complain about loud music from a lowrider, I make no objection to somebody texting in a movie theater – Alamo and other such theaters can make the experience more pleasant at a higher pecuniary cost. In general I try to be polite and if somebody else isn’t I take that as a sign – the rule is don’t go stupid places, don’t do stupid things, don’t hang around stupid people – and maybe doubly so while carrying but when not carrying so……

    That said there is some training that is somewhat beneficial at least short run. When I was teaching Hunter Safety, the sole rule for passing was would the teaching team personally hunt with this child? Would you encourage your family to hunt with this child? Failure meant going through the cycle again or not getting a juvenile licenses and waiting out the years until presumed maturity and certainly majority.

    Just the same seems to me the blog post mentioned is completely misguided. As someone once said: if only the police have guns then it’s a police state. When the NRA controls the guns……… I’m an Endowment Member of the NRA and other such. I was at Cincinnati where my wife and I had a long long talk with Max Rich about what was driving the changes. He thought it was mostly money, I thought it was mostly ideology, we could agree on some ego. That said if the power is too great for the government then it’s too great for a quasi government or even a non-governmental agency. Dr. Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy is a universal.

  13. Jessica Boxer: you are seriously lacking in your imagination of scenarios.

    To quote Jerry Pournelle a while before Waco, “I don’t plan on conducting a point defense against the government”, and nobody who expects or deserves to win allows the other side to set the terms of confrontations.

    And for that matter the religious dissidents at Waco were less well armed than the average Texan, and we’re not even sure any of the BATF agent killed in the latter’s initial surprise attack (by their own admission they started shooting first) were shot by them, and we’re pretty sure at least two were “own goals”, almost entirely sure in one case.

  14. Mandate insurance against wrongful harm caused to others (similar to auto accident insurance); let the market figure out how much training is needful or useful.

  15. @Jessica Boxer – you are implying that I am going to be in some kind of violent confrontation when I refuse to hand over my side arms. You need to read history. Start with say, the disarmament of the German Jewish population prior to WWII. First, I will refuse to hand over my side arms, which will result in my imprisonment – as a political prisoner. Then, I will go off to the prison camps, then I would be starved, worked or gassed to death. It all depends on how far into the fascist process we are. And the sad thing is, people don’t think such a thing is possible in the present. But history is littered with fascist or authoritarian regimes that have disarmed and then murdered their subjects. And those regimes often started off as friendly looking democratic republics.

  16. @Dan
    > Yes. He should obey, disarm, then write a strongly-worded letter to his congressman.

    Good to know that you are continuing your policy of grossly missing my point. You have inspired me to revive my old user name here, the one that you so kindly gave me.

    An armed citizenry is as much a check on government power today as the French Resistance was on Nazi power in Vichy France. Which is to say annoying but mostly ineffective. Much though we might think that the Revolutionary war was won with muskets over the fireplace, the reality is quite different. And the plain fact is that were that war fought today, the Americans would have absolutely no chance against the modern, extremely effective version of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

    Which isn’t to say the citizenry shouldn’t be armed. They should, for lots of reasons. However, shooting police officers is still going to get you dead, no matter how justified you might think you are.

    And FWIW, the only strongly worded letters your congressman cares about are ones that have the words “One million dollars” with your signature at the bottom.

  17. @patrioticduo
    >you are implying that I am going to be in some kind of violent confrontation

    No, what I am implying is that when a policeman is demanding you hand over your guns, it is too late to save yourself. You need to fix the problem WAY before it gets to that.

  18. May not be too late to save others. See e.g. “…..“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family?…..”

  19. A rare bit of heresy on my part.

    The public school system curriculum typically includes 7 to 9 periods of instruction each day, many of which are sadly focused on covert memetic persuasion toward progressive ideals. However, some jurisdictions are experimenting with Charter Schools that incorporate a specific emphasis that may be attractive to certain parents (education as a marketplace). I think there is a place for Charter Schools that are centered around traditional survival skills. In addition to standard core classes, these schools could incorporate all manner of self reliance and self defense education. I’m no Pollyanna and certainly understand the enormous difficulty of making inroads here, but eventually we have to begin thinking strategically, not just tactically.

  20. Joel C. Salomon: insurance is so thoroughly regulated by the state that’s a distinction without a difference.

    Autos are also fantastically more dangerous instruments in practice, they require constant attention to a host of things to avoid lethal accidents, whereas it’s quite easy to avoid them with guns (see previous discussion). Which shows out in the statistics, in 2010 per the
    NHTSA
    there were 32,885 fatalities due to car accidents, and per the CDC
    only 606 with firearms (the CDC’s figure of 33,687 covers all “Motor vehicle traffic” fatalities, including homicides).

    Note that during a period when both the nation’s population and number of guns owned increased by 50%, the absolute number of gun accidents dropped by roughly 200.

    Getting back to insurance, you’ll never see policies covering intentional “wrongful harm to others”, and for that matter a very large fraction of us are covered for unintentional harm by any means through our homeowners or renters insurance. I just checked my USAA renter’s policy and I’ve got 500K liability insurance. What more could you reasonably want?

  21. First, let me endorse wholeheartedly the sentiments expressed in Patrioticduo’s initial post here – the political symbolism of being armed is a centerpiece of my firearms training classes and you’ll note on my website a link to ESR’s essay, Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun. I encourage people to get a concealed permit just to make a point, even if they have no intention of owning a gun – and some have.

    Eric also points out the perverse effect of competency filters, primarily that the lawless will flout them anyway. True, but my point, which I see in retrospect I did not make clear, is this: my thoughts are aimed at the well-intentioned, not the malefactors among us.

    There are armed people walking around with the purest motives who don’t have essential fundamental knowledge, not even of their own limitations. It is possible now to arm oneself and set out in public without so much as being able to safely unload your weapon – and I have seen precisely that. Last spring I conducted a two-person private class for a couple of ladies. One of them showed up with a loaded .38 Airweight in her purse, loose in her purse, I might add, that she had been carrying for several months. Her husband had given it to her, showed her one time how to load it, and nothing beyond that other than to tell her to shove into an attacker’s gut and pull that dingus on the bottom until it went “click.” She displayed a stunning, nay, terrifying, lack of muzzle discipline as she took it from her purse when I said I didn’t want loaded guns at the table. After I released her hand, which I had quickly and firmly pinned to the table, she confessed she didn’t know how to take the bullets out. Yes, blame him and at the same time commend her for finally awakening to the need to learn something about the deadly object she hauled around.

    I have a close friend, a Viet Nam combat vet, who for decades has carried a Glock in a bugout bag he keeps with him at all times and he often has it on his person. We live some distance apart and see each other seldom. Recently, I visited him and suggested we go shoot at a local range, something we’d never done before. We did, and at 15 yards half of his shots were not to be found on the silhouette at all and those that were there were badly scattered. He was, however, proud of the fact that out of 15 rounds, two were lethal hits. Uh-huh. So I asked if he knew what people do after they’re shot with a handgun, the answer being that they keep doing what they were doing before until they bleed out. That was a new thought to him. Then I asked him what he thought would be the potential liabililities of 7 or 8 rounds going down the street, addressed “to whom it may concern.” We had a long discussion thereafter about the efficacy and ethics of being armed in public. He suffered from the typical male fallacy (dare I say, “phallusy” ) that he was born knowing how to shoot well. Any firearms instructor has seen it many times.

    So my idea is to provide to the law-abiding citizen critical information and thoughts that he probably would not get otherwise, forcing it on the lazy, recalcitrant and overconfident with the low-level threat of punishment if they fail to comply and wind up in gun trouble.The lady I mentioned knew at some level that she didn’t have enough information and just happened to stumble across an ad of mine aimed at her type. After seeing his shortcomings, my friend has now set about becoming a competent shooter, both for his own protection and for that of those downrange. The duties and privileges of citizenship must be exercised responsibly (what an out-ot-tune thought that is nowadays!) and when failure to do so endangers others, the least intrusive path possible must be taken to insure that they do. That is what I propose.

    Ref an ESR comment, there would be no grounds for officials to demand to see a certificate (I won’t call it a “permit”) unless it is in connection with investigation of gun involvement in a criminal incident. Open carry, concealed carry, whatever; no official may demand to see it “just because.”

  22. I think that in an anarchist society, a subculture should be responsible for policing it’s own members. As in, part of being a responsible gun owner would be staying on the lookout for the untrained and finding helpful ways to educate them, as demonstrated by @Kent.

    However, I have serious doubts about the ability of gun owners to do a good enough job of this. It seems to me that every shooter I know has no end of stories about horrific incompetence observed at the range or the gun shop, for example:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_WTjjPyd2s
    or:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL1sIUtuJ_A

    Personally, I think the conclusion:
    “The training requirement might do some good at slightly increasing competence levels among non-mooks, but non-mooks are already so unlikely to shoot each other that I’m doubtful any improvement in safety would breach the statistical noise level.”

    contains two errors:
    1. “Some good at slightly increasing”, I’m a misanthrope. I think people are lazy, shiftless and incompetent. I think training requirements would do a lot of good at dramatically increasing.

    2. The fact that it’s rare doesn’t comfort those unlucky enough to get injured in a gun accident caused by an incompetent gun owner. I say regulate away.

  23. [...] there would be no grounds for officials to demand to see a certificate (I won’t call it a “permit”) unless it is in connection with investigation of gun involvement in a criminal incident. Open carry, concealed carry, whatever; no official may demand to see it “just because.”

    What would be the penalties for those officials who blatantly ignore the law today with these sorts of things and would do so with your proposal?

    That’s something that impressed me about the Katrina firearms confiscation inspired Federal law, it provided a private right of action against those violating it. But I think this belongs in the criminal domain, but what I’ve taken to calling the police-judicial complex is entirely unwilling to police themselves outside of the most egregious and documented cases (the latter would seem to be why so many police seem to be more worried about cameras in the hand of civilians than guns, the former can easily get them fired or worse).

    In an environment of largely lawless Democratic Party state and Federal governments (ask about the CCW license list atrocity in Missouri if you’re interested and not familiar, plus e.g. the recent abusive traffic stop in Maryland, and plenty of RINOs are as bad and the media is still on their side when it comes to abusing gun owners), I’m entirely unwilling to give the state a thousandth of an inch of further purchase on gun owners, because I know it will be abused. Especially not worth it for a problem so minuscule in demonstrated magnitude.

  24. @ LS, RE:
    “It doesn’t matter what you do, any increase in gun-carrying by the non-mooks will directly result in further arming of the mooks, as they will arm themselves by robbing the ‘good’ gun carriers. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that the good people will be able to stop this because they are armed. The mooks are professional robbers, and they know how to do their ‘jobs’. Remember Ponella’s law – “People are smart and stupid at the same time.” When the mooks want something, they know how to get it.”

    Criminals are predominantly opportunists. The risk of getting a faceful of ugly functions to lessen the initial threat. And when you no longer know who is packing, you are a lot more selective. Even the dumb ones. Usually.

    Yes there are psychos and socios for whom this is irrelevant. They need to be put down any way before they can hurt anyone, or anyone else.

    I am less concerned about being robbed by a professional than an amateur. Professionals tend to operate with a risk-reward scenario (purposefully or instinctual) and murder or assault with intent, deadly force, or a weapon is bad juju and doesn’t add up. More than likely they aren’t robbing you for your weapons. It’s the amateurs and desperadoes you need to be concerned about. More legally armed citizens are not going to result in a greater number of armed crims. The armed crims made the call to arm themselves long ago and it’s a done deal. The ones who aren’t armed are not because they fear the extra risk/consequence. It’s not because they don’t have access to arms. A few might make the leap, the rest will get better at target selection. Once you know what to look for, it’s not that hard to tell if someone is armed or not (no, this is not universally applicable, but here we are talking generalizations). Training.

    And just because you have a weapon, doesn’t me you need to use it. You get hit by a pro, you play your hand intelligently and you will walk away. As you say, they know what they’re doing. You need to evaluate the total cost of using that weapon (immediate family, how clear and favorable is the opportunity to draw down – what’s the immediate risk delta of dropping them vice the opportunity matrix of it going wrong, etc) regardless of whether you’re in the right.

    And if you’ve done your due diligence before carrying (proper competency and psychological training – which you’d better do if you’re going to carry), that goes a long way to mitigating the risk of the latter mook cats. Situational awareness.

    A professional is targeting that gated community who lives behind they illusion of safety – and a pro is unconcerned with the community rent-a-G.I. Joe force. High rate of “soft” folks there. They aren’t robbing you on the street.

    Desperadoes and amateurs telegraph so much before anything goes down that a reasonably aware person can mitigate a lot. This requires training, and regular scenario practice for the average joe. But you don’t need to be a cop or soldier to get it.

  25. “Why go to the bother of robbing people, after all, when all you have to do is pretend to be from a Mexican drug cartel and the Obama administration will give you AR-15s for free?’

    HAH! And there’s more where that came from…don’t get me started on Syria and Egypt…

  26. I should add I was one of Clayton Cramer’s research minions for his paper taking down the “Concealed Carry Killers” paper. There was no there there, besides the reminder that alcohol and guns don’t mix, but since those incidents happened in residences they were irrelevant to the issue in question. If Josh Sugarmann and his “Violence Policy Center”, by far the most dangerous gun grabber think tank, couldn’t find a real problem with an “if it bleeds, it leads” and mostly anti-gun media well indexed by Google and LexisNexis, we can be pretty sure it’s de minimis.

  27. Jessica says “That’ll get you dead. There were few groups of private citizens better armed than those guys at Waco.”

    The government maintains a monopoly on force. Rifles are useless against tanks, planes and drones. The imbalance in power had far outpaced the “protect my freedoms” arguments. Doesn’t make them wrong or invalid. But the political machine has done wonders in painting citizens concerned about the tyranny of governments as wackadoos. More fighting in this arena needs to be done politically and socially to close the gap. I don’t see it happening. The world has outpaced the 1700′s. And we’ve allowed it to get where it is. The fight is worth having still, but must be done intelligently.

    The feds are to maintain a standing army, fine. The arena we get to fight in at the moment is forcing effective checks and balances for them to use force internally. One of my favorites is the police departments who are wearing the cameras in addition to having them in their cars. Very promising results so far. If the NSA and what not can spy with impunity on us, then a public servant has no legit argument against to having everything captured when on duty. Yes I know, it’s more complicated, it aids the existing domestic spy apparatus. Clear boundaries have to be set in determining the public square and everything else though.

    My primary reason for carrying is that when I or my people are within seconds of danger, the uniforms are only minutes away. And I know what the bloody hell I’m doing.

    And I wouldn’t exactly call the Waco’s an effective fighting force. There are very, very few effective, organized private groups in this country. A lot of the most effective have already been dealt with by the government. The survivalists (those in the ludicrous camp that is) and the civil war/apocalypse hopefuls are wishing for their fantasies to become reality. They’ll be among the first to die if they do.

  28. >True, but my point, which I see in retrospect I did not make clear, is this: my thoughts are aimed at the well-intentioned, not the malefactors among us.

    OK, I think I get it now. You want certification to solve a problem that looks more pressing to you than it actually is precisely because you are a firearms instructor and that causes you to oversample a small class.

    Yes, the ill-informed lady and the spray’n’pray Vietvet are a potential danger to others. But in the large, the aggregate actual danger from such people is very small. According to CDC figures cited in this thread, the risk of accidental firearms death averaged across the entire U.S in 2010 was just shy of 1 in 500,000. If we bear in mind that gun accidents as well as crimes are concentrated in the 3% mook population, the odds of a non-mook being killed in a firearms accident in the U.S. probably drop to 1 in 10,000,000 or lower.

    In a purely actuarial sense, then, you would be doing more good if you were stumping for more money for earth-to-orbit capability. Odds of being killed by a meteor strike are evaluated as about 1 in 250,000, with the worst risk from big rare city-killers that we could find and deflect if we had a decent presence in space.

    But that risk isn’t prominent to you because you’re a firearms instructor, not an astronomer. See what I mean about oversampling?

  29. Rifles are useless against tanks, planes and drones.

    Again, a serious lack of imagination in scenarios. Not to mention completely ignoring the 21st Century American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, except the salient point that we’re a lot more atomized a society than the ones in those countries.

  30. “they’re stupid and thus exceptionally prune to the Dunning-Krueger effect, overestimating their own competence.” I think you meant “prone”.

  31. “Doubtful. The criminal-mook population already has its saturation limit of firearms. We know this because….”

    No…some other places, maybe….in New York City, no. Everyone here knows about guns, nobody knows about crooks and how they work. You need more cops to comment on the rather airy (and ignorant) comments I’ve read here.

    …just a lone voice, crying in the wilderness….

    BTW – the NYPD term for those you refer to as ‘mooks’ was ‘skels’ (ca. 1970s – 1980s). Don’t know what it is now.

  32. Harold says “Again, a serious lack of imagination in scenarios”

    (A) I was talking specifically about Waco. Tanks and planes was literary construct highlighting the disparity of force in that confrontation.

    (B) Rifles are not IEDs, vests, or RPGs.

    “Not to mention completely ignoring the 21st Century American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan”

    I have a fairly solid grasp of what our experiences were there. Their methods aren’t going to work here for long here for a great many reasons. Maybe I’ll comment more on that later, it will be too long a post on why for now.

  33. LS: Why on earth would the “criminal-mook” population in New York City need an abundance of guns? The city has limited legal gun possession to a bit over 50,000 each for handguns and long guns (this came out when the lists for each were recently published; I personally counted the number of handgun licencees from the raw data). When you factor in the populations towards which those licenses are skewed (rich/powerful/political and retired cops), and the trouble an unlicensed victim would get into, the risk to a criminal of effective self-defense from a vaguely well selected victim are about nil, right?

  34. WCC: (A) Which explains why you devoted so much more digital ink on “citizens concerned about the tyranny of governments”, and “survivalists (those in the ludicrous camp that is) and the civil war/apocalypse hopefuls”…. You’ll have to forgive me for mistaking the thrust of your argument.

    (B), Again, I say “again, a serious lack of imagination in scenarios”.

    Let me close with one hint, the modern maxim, this version as stated by Commandant of the Marine Corps, “Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”

  35. @Harold and @WCC
    Ohhh, someone get the popcorn, I totally want to hear Harold explain to us all how WCC is so very, VERY naive and unimaginative.

    WCC, you don’t know anything about this stuff, right? LOL.

  36. Good to know that you are continuing your policy of grossly missing my point.

    I understand you perfectly. It is your poorly-aimed ‘point’ that has missed its mark. Police are not supermen, nor are they trained to superhuman standards. A well equipped, trained and mentally prepared person/group is an effective counter to such a threat. You do not need to attend Thunder Ranch to rise to the challenge.

    Anyway, killing police is not the real challenge, dealing with the aftermath is. Of course, if you’re going to kill anyone, cop or not, you had better be damned certain of your righteous cause. If you’re stupid enough to just decide to up and shoot a cop, be ready for the shitstorm…however, we cannot consider such scenarios in isolation….the context is important. In this case, we’re talking about armed actions in the context of government-ordered disarmament of the population. A very different game of chess. One that requires far lengthier exposition than mere quips on a blog can provide.

    The grunts/footsoldiers of government (aka police) are greatly outgunned by the civilian militia. If the government ordered such agents to turn their weapons on us, they would be destroyed or routed within weeks…maybe days, depending on our strategy. Think about it – we already have them totally surrounded – we know who they are and where they live (read between the lines). They have everything to lose, and it can be lost in a flash. They would be wise to heed this.

    Now, as for the military, that’s a more interesting debate. Certainly there are Oathkeepers that would stand with us, should they be ordered to turn their weapons on Americans. Nevertheless, if the American military were ordered by the President to deploy their hardware (tanks, planes, drones & whatever) against the people, don’t you think that we would be *way* beyond the point of debating the futility of action versus capitulation? Any government that utilizes such force against people is no longer a legitimate government, it is an enemy, and we would be in an actual state of civil war (unlike Lincoln’s war).

    You picked an inappropriate example (French resistance) to bolster your point. Better examples would be found in places like Afghanistan, Vietnam….or indeed right here in Athens, Tennessee. We don’t have the more exotic hardware that our military enjoys, but we enjoy greater parity than you evidently credit us with.

    You have inspired me to revive my old user name here, the one that you so kindly gave me.

    You are free to adopt whichever moniker you deem appropriate :) I like your icon best of all.

  37. @Dan;

    WRT your post – some good stuff there WRT to the scenarios you illustrate.

    You may already know the following, but I’ll throw it out there – if we arrived at the point of having to worry about blue or khaki goon squads incoming, the situation will not be quite as you describe. There is currently a large cross-agency effort underway involving DHS, FEMA, some of the other suit battalion agencies, certain police agencies, and the National Guard. They have set up a number of mock environments are working up op scenes and responses to deal with civil unrest. They didn’t explicitly state civil unrest. But the environments resemble American locations awfully closely, so I wonder.

    Why the NG? Other than the fact that they are more ideally suited for internal work, it’s a political layer between them and the full-time professional military. Don’t think the distinction will matter, but then, I’m not a politician.

    Also, for a number of the reserve forces (different than NG), they have changed somewhat. They are using several of them kind of like manpower (the employment agency). Where they reach out and activate them for as little as a day. Reservist leaves the office for day, changes into uniform, checks in at the base. One example of this is the drug interdiction pilots in Florida.

    Not tossing around conspiracy theories here – big data is a passion of mine and correlations are interesting.

    Anyway, that’s the scenario that would most likely occur vice the initial police assault force should that moment ever arise.

  38. Also the current sit in Detroit has opened the door for the NG to be deployed in a purely armed and ready role internally to the US for common, daily policing with no stated exit strategy. It’s acceptable in the minds of a lot of folks now. For our safety you know.

    Beginning to overturn the negative view they earned themselves for their idiocy in 60′s. We’ll see what happens I reckon.

  39. @Dan
    > A well equipped, trained and mentally prepared person/group is an effective counter to such a threat.

    You are entirely incorrect. A single policeman is but the tip of the iceberg. What you going to do when a couple of SWAT teams with some tanks come to grab your guns? I assure you, in the eyes of the court there is almost nothing that is considered a righteous cause in terms of armed force against a police officer. And a police officer carrying out a specific order from the government? Not a chance. Remember, the people who survived Waco went to jail.

    > If the government ordered such agents to turn their weapons on us, they would be destroyed or routed within weeks…maybe days, depending on our strategy.

    Unlikely, nonetheless, that isn’t the way they would do it. It isn’t the way they have done it historically, and it isn’t the way they would do it today. Once you get to that battle, you have already lost the fight. I am sure there are a few civilians who would be prepared to take “from my cold dead hands” literally. But their numbers are tiny compared to the total population of gun owners.

    > don’t you think that we would be *way* beyond the point of debating the futility of action versus capitulation?

    Your fantasies of Obama the gun grabber notwithstanding, that is not how it would happen. Civil rights are not taken away in one big bang. They are taken away piecemeal, to protect us from terrorists, or global warming or to protect the children. Divide and conquer is a very effective strategy.

    > Any government that utilizes such force against people is no longer a legitimate government,

    This might be your view Dan, however, you have to convince 300 million others, and you would have an extremely hard time doing so. Especially without access to any communication channels in your backyard bunker.

    > Better examples would be found in places like Afghanistan, Vietnam

    These are two very different places. Afghanistan is a challenge because of IEDs and other explosives not small arms. Vietnam was a proxy war. If you take your Lexington Green stand you are going to be too dead to blow shit up.

    Bottom line is, as I said above, if the policeman is demanding your gun, you are too late to fix the issue. It needs to be fought today in the court of public opinion. Lexington Green looses big time when fighting against a force specifically trained to deal with small numbers of lightly armed people, who will very quickly receive the moniker “terrorist”.

    I wonder how many in the military will really stand up for the “domestic terrorists” when faced with the suspension of posse comitatus, and an order to fight the terrorists who are “destroying the American way of life”.Not too many to be easily dealt with under the UCMJ I venture.

    But perhaps I am too pessimistic. I am after all just a fluffy girl in a man’s world, so what do I know about these things?

  40. @Harold:
    > and the local police establishment jumped right on to this and set up a
    > good program, including giving everyone time with a police oriented
    > “shoot/don’t shoot” training simulator (not a state requirement but
    > very useful).

    I would be very interested in being able to spend some time in one of these. At the same time, I’m not certain that police-oriented simulators are as valuable in the general case. Police are expected to be sent to unknown locations with vaguely-worded problem descriptions and are required to deal with them. Shoot/no-shoot matters because there’s a pretty good chance you don’t know who’s who, and what they’ve been doing. You are also expected to arrest the bad guys.
    Non-police with CCWs are not expected to go into unknown locations. You’re dealing with unexpected threats which are readily apparent. The guy who just ran into the gas station with a shotgun and threatened the cashier – that’s the bad guy. If you turn around the corner and see somebody holding a gun and they aren’t a threat to you – you don’t shoot. If things get really crazy and you don’t know what’s going on, you can leave – the police can at best momentarily retreat until backup arrives.
    As with everything else in life, it’s a broad spectrum – security guards are clearly in the middle of that range. I’m always in favor of people getting more training, though I’m leery about mandating particular types of training without a really good reason.

  41. >There’s a more fundamental problem: adopting such testing gives credibility to the gun grabbers’ argument that only the highly trained, such as cops and soldiers, should carry firearms. The camel may be privately owned, but his nose is still sticking under the side of the tent.

    The average beat cop is probably less well trained and less practiced and proficient (much!) with firearms than the average non-LEO (note I did NOT say ‘civilian’, cops are civilians too).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhIJOVD8hwY

    Certain police departments take that to notorious extremes, like NYPD which is so poorly trained and untrustworthy with firearms that officers are forced to carry weapons where you can barely actually pull the trigger.

    Which makes the whole thing really very amusing. Frustrating at the same time.

  42. Jessica, you are utterly failing to appreciate my perspective on this issue. Perhaps you desire to be combative due to past disagreement. I am not a conspiracy wacko, or “Obama gun grabber” nutcase, nor do I harbor militia rambo-like fantasies about gunning down hordes of SWAT guys. As I said, this is a subject for considerable exposition. Your flailing commentary is not useful to me.

    @WCC – yes, I was aware of such relationships. Thank you for providing more food for thought :) It is an unpleasant subject to consider, but a failure to consider it is perhaps the greatest sin.

  43. >You are entirely incorrect. A single policeman is but the tip of the iceberg. What you going to do when a couple of SWAT teams with some tanks come to grab your guns?

    You’re talking past each other.

    Jessica, where Dan is correct is that armed civilians can be decisive in the event of a legitimacy collapse. We saw this most recently during the fall of the Soviet empire and the attempted Communist countercoups in the early 1990s; the last American precedent was the Battle of Athens< in 1946.

    Winning an insurrection against the entire weight of a unified modern state is, I agree, highly unlikely. But you don’t get line military confronting civilians until and unless the popular support of any government has nigh-evaporated. In these situations the military is relatively easily neutralized by determined popular resistance – it could fire, but it won’t. Morale collapses along with the government’s popular legitimacy. Units will refuse orders. Their officers will refuse orders.

    The post-1989 history of what is now the Former Soviet Union illustrates that this rule holds even in non-democracies. Armed civilians stopped tanks, not by firing on them but by being ready to fire.

    Thus, armed civilians still serve the function intended in the U.S. Constitution even though the gulf in combat power between them and military regulars has greatly widened.

  44. Jessica Boxer: it already has been fought out in the court of public opinion, and the gun grabbers have catastrophically lost. As I mentioned in the previous thread, it’s now easier to list the states that aren’t de jure or de facto shall issue: California (not so bad in many rural counties), Hawaii (total ban), Maryland (which is surprisingly good about people with imminent threats), Massachusetts (but not in most of the western cities), New Jersey, New York (ditto for most upstate counties), and Rhode Island is mixed. As as you might have heard, the 9th Circuit court appears to be currently in the process of forcing California from may/not in practice to shall issue. Of course the latter is not what you’re talking about, but if seen through it will change people’s minds, I believe.

    Our response to Obama’s potential and later attempted gun grabbing was to buy more guns than ever before; last August ended a 38 month run of increased gun sales by gun dealers, each month compared to the one a year ago. Lately we’ve seen an astonishing run on every rifle of military utility, and the last supply of affordable bolt action military surplus is running dry (Mosin–Nagants at a price of ~150 2013 US$).

    I see no evidence that outside of a few Blue states and regions there is or would be any support for a confiscation, and if you’re “just a fluffy girl” I might surmise doesn’t own and know how to use a rifle of military utility, should we pay much attention to your opinion on this subject?

    Well, aside from you being spot on with the principle that the “hearts and minds” need to be won. Heck, that’s gone so far that post-Katrina the Congress passed a bill outlawing the sorts of confiscations that happened during it and included a private right of action against those responsible to put teeth in it. Obama even voted for it (!).

    Although you’re still focusing on the wrong tactical and strategic direction. Don’t think defensive Waco, think offensive/counter-offensive. Think about, oh, a non-crazy Chris Dorner … times 10 million, the so-called Three Percent.

  45. @esr
    > Jessica, where Dan is correct is that armed civilians can be decisive in the event of a legitimacy collapse.

    The matter at hand is some commentator’s threat that he would violently resist having his firearms taken from him. My point was that such a thing would not end well, and Dan accused me of being a defeatist, turn your guns in and write to your politician.

    Notwithstanding the specific incident, the Battle of Athens that you mention — which I had never heard of — any confrontation at a level much about Sheriff Goober and his Deputy Cousin Cleatus is not going to go well for the “cold dead hands” crowd. If for example, the state government cared about this (and they would today) then things would have gone very differently.

    Any organized tyranny would at most have to deal with a French Resistance style mosquito bite from all the millions of small arms, and pipe bombs that a disorganized, disconnected resistance could muster. The purpose of such a resistance is mostly to wait out the natural demise of the tyrant either by the Normandy landings, the Americans leaving or the historic forces that tore apart the Soviet Union. Or, in our case, wait out until the French saw the strategic advantage in supporting the American Revolution.

    Which is a useful thing, I suppose. But I assure you, a basement full of AR-15s won’t do you much good when the gun grabbers come a calling.

  46. @Jessica:

    You’re thinking is way too small and narrow. If you wait to oppose any gun confiscation until the entry team is breaking in your door, it may be too late for you but you’ll certainly serve as a warning to others. Word spreads better now than ever before.

    Gun grabbers generally have homes to go to, and lives. And they are not bulletproof. (Even in totalitarian societies where the populace is supposedly downtrodden, there’s a reason the secret police is *secret*, and they wear masks.) There are a LOT more gun owners than there are confiscators, in any feasable scenario in the US simply by virtue of the number of legal gun owners.

  47. I hate to have to point out something so obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention…

    There’s a *reason* why bullying lefties like to hire and ship in busloads of ‘protestors’ to the homes of people they are trying to intimidate in whatever their cause-du-jour happens to be.

    “I know where you live” are very bloody scary words.

  48. Kent said: So I asked if he knew what people do after they’re shot with a handgun, the answer being that they keep doing what they were doing before until they bleed out. That was a new thought to him.

    Well, sometimes (and often enough that someone thinking about the issue has to keep it in mind).

    I have it on multiple good authority, however, that most of the time when you shoot someone with any handgun at all, especially a full-power normal round, they fall over and start screaming.

    Which is not the slightest bit surprising, is it?

  49. @Harold
    > Jessica Boxer: it already has been fought out in the court of public opinion,

    You are misreading between the lines Harold. I am a passionate advocate for the RKBA, however, the argument that they form a significant defense against a tyrannical government just doesn’t hold water. There are plenty of other good arguments for RKBA, but that one just doesn’t wash.

    > if you’re “just a fluffy girl” I might surmise doesn’t own and know how to use a rifle of military utility, should we pay much attention to your opinion on this subject?

    No I don’t but I have recently secured the promise of such an experience in exchange for the purchase of some alcohol. I am, however, both the owner of and a reasonable shot with a handgun, and not too bad with some of the rifles I have had the chance to fire.

    Does that qualify me to comment? Or can I simply qualify to comment based on the utility and rationality of the case I am making rather than having to suffer under the opposite of an appeal to authority?

    > Think about, oh, a non-crazy Chris Dorner … times 10 million,

    You are using as your exemplar a guy who, because he was, perhaps, unfairly dismissed from his job killed four entirely innocent people and badly injured several others? And then put a bullet through his own brain because he didn’t have the balls to face the music for what he had done? I think you need to find a better hero.

  50. Garrett: While the police oriented simulations did have the obvious difficulties you point out, they were still a useful exercise, especially if you had the mental flexibility to temporarily don a cop’s hat. They made it quite clear what was demanded of them vs. what was prudent for us, and as I recall in all the scenarios there was at least a part that was directly applicable to us civilians.

    For instance, a situation where an apparent intruder was lying on the floor with a very irate apparent home owner over him with a shovel. At that point, the situation appeared to be under control, the guy on the floor was unarmed, injured, and totally defeated. And that was especially true after you, the police officer, arrived … until the guy with the shovel swung it at the other guy’s head, which was not surprising in the intensity of the scenario. That proved to illustrate well when you were and weren’t justified shooting, even if taking off the cop’s hat you as a civilian would not be obligated to protect. In fact, that was the cleanest “don’t shoot/SHOOT!” case and that’s probably why they showed it first.

    Another was a confrontation with two people in a dark alley, and was a relatively simple lesson in CONSTANT VIGILANCE! As when and if either of the two turned out to be a lethal threat.

    The one I did was the nastiest (all of us watched all of them, each of us did one). It was an initially very confused situation, where you couldn’t clearly tell if the most visible guy with a shotgun was a good guy or bad guy (prior to doing these they told us one or two first hand stories of almost shooting a fellow plain clothes officer who did something really dumb and the like). The key was his shotgun was pointed in the direction of the innocents, not the clear accomplices, and I don’t feel too bad about missing that, they said only one person had ever caught it.

    After that is was a straightforward hostage situation, and the officer running it afterwards said the firm rule was to never let the criminals get away with the hostage, he or she is killed in most of these cases. It’s pretty easy to translate this into a civilian situation with a loved one as the hostage, where you believe you have an obligation to protect, vs. the cop saying he’d be in big trouble with his superiors (not to mention everyone else in town!) if he didn’t try to stop the escape.

    Others were more problematic, but they still had a “at what point are you justified in shooting” decision point, and since we civilians (at least in theory) share the same rules, they were useful exercises, even if you yourself were never explicitly threatened.

    Being presented with these scenarios and trying to make the right decision in real time was extremely valuable, not to mention trying to fire (an unfamiliar) Glock with a laser if and mostly when came time to shoot.

  51. >> Think about, oh, a non-crazy Chris Dorner … times 10 million,

    >You are using as your exemplar a guy who, because he was, perhaps, unfairly dismissed from his job killed four entirely innocent people and badly injured several others? And then put a bullet through his own brain because he didn’t have the balls to face the music for what he had done? I think you need to find a better hero.

    Do you always turn your brain off on purpose when it suits you?

    It’s not a value judgement, and Dorner is nobodies ‘hero’. I don’t think anyone said anything to that effect. But one man with a rifle and bit of determination, even an apparent idiot like Dorner (from what little I’ve read about his actual performance in uniform, yes, idiot) can totally paralyze a substantial portion of the *country* for days. THAT is what he’s talking about, the disproportionate effect one determined man with a rifle can have.

  52. Fluffy Girl in a Man’s World: For now I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on the tyranny issue, and please note that I answered the question in the affirmative after asking it. But our disagreement on the general principle means discussing the fine details of it are futile, and you can’t be expected to own a rifle of military utility for that purpose, although you ought to for other emergency situations. Mel Tappan, I think, commented that a handgun is like a first aid kit, it’s not what you’d choose if you knew you were going to be in combat, but it’s something you can have with you all the time. And of course it’s a tool to use to reach your rifle.

    As for Dorner, the exemplar is not him but how unproductively bat-shit crazy the authorities became in the face of his threat. Multiply that by 10 million and I don’t think it’s as clear as you think it is who’d “win”.

  53. @ Sigivald, RE: “I have it on multiple good authority, however, that most of the time when you shoot someone with any handgun at all, especially a full-power normal round, they fall over and start screaming.”

    Not if you do it right…

  54. Harold on 2014-02-14 at 14:15:47 said:
    “LS: Why on earth would the “criminal-mook” population in New York City need an abundance of guns?”

    They don’t need ‘an abundance’. The point is that civilian guns will get taken in robberies, often. Some will be fenced, others will be otherwise disposed of directly to criminal associates. Often, after a robbery, or other crime, the crook needs to simply ditch the weapon and walk away. An abundance simply makes it easier for them.

  55. “Mel Tappan, I think, commented that a handgun is like a first aid kit, it’s not what you’d choose if you knew you were going to be in combat”

    Sage. Was drilled into us that if you’re using your sidearm something has probably gone seriously wrong…

  56. Just a few points of interest

    If you haven’t read Waco vs Romanian Rules I recommend it, the short version is that those poor deluded off brand 7th Day Adventists living on that farm in Mt Carmel LET THE LEO’S LEAVE AFTER THE LEO’S RAN OUT OF AMMO

    Sorry for the all caps but this is an important point that is constantly missed, the Davidians didn’t have to let the LEO’s leave unscathed, when the LEO’s called for a time out the Davidians were amendable, a decision that ultimatly led to their being murdered by state actors.

    Current Events: A new ruling out of the Ninth Circuit on the legallity of banning the carry of firearms & the suprise from the CT state actors on people ignoring the law requiring them to register their ‘assault weapons’, both seem relevant to the conversation here=)

  57. “Does firearms competency testing do any good?”

    Answer: No. Next Question.

    Insurance? sure, we’ll just use State Fiat to set the cost of insurance at 1 million dollars a year to buy a gun. Oh, and you cant buy a gun without insurance…which you can’t get unless you have a gun… They’re already -doing- this kind of shit, real time. See Washington, DC. or Chicago.

    Seriously, there is no legal means of filtering for bad/stupid that the State will not pervert. -None-.

    No. Not that one either. The State has entire buildings full of people it pays money to, to work full time on ways to nibble away at citizen armament.

  58. @ ESR RE: OK, I think I get it now. You want certification to solve a problem that looks more pressing to you than it actually is precisely because you are a firearms instructor and that causes you to oversample a small class.
    That’s an excellent observation, Eric, and probably correct. More than anything else in this thread it will cause me to reconsider the whole proposition. I still don’t much care for the idea of the oblivious wandering around with a gun at hand but if there is no demonstrable hazard, then, well, so what, I suppose. If I were Emperor of the World, though, everyone who carries, from Barney Fife to Stephen Seagal would be on the range for 100 rounds once a week (tongue in cheek, for those who don’t know me.)

    @ Sigivald, RE: “I have it on multiple good authority, however, that most of the time when you shoot someone with any handgun at all, especially a full-power normal round, they fall over and start screaming.”
    Perhaps, but that’s not the way the smart money bets in a survival situation.

    @ WCC, RE; “Not if you do it right…”
    True, but odds are you won’t do it right unless you have spent time on a bandit squad of some sort and have experience keeping your head when under threat of imminent death.

  59. Modeling suggests that the most likely transition to tyranny in the US would be a gradual co-opting of a majority of the population via growth in government entitlement programs. In this scenario, a large cohort of people would lose the ability to support themselves independent of government and eventually ally with political leaders that promise to continue this support. You then mix a polarized/divided nation with a severe economic crisis and a charismatic leader/party is bound to arise and claim a popular mandate for instituting harsh “reforms.” Thereafter, a persistent erosion of civil liberties would occur in reaction to both natural and false flag provocations. Now you need an external threat in order to implement an over-the-top power grab. This takes place over a decade or so and ensures that the needy will outnumber the productive by a large margin.

    In the above simulation, guns do not play a major role in determining the outcome.

  60. @Harold: Thanks for providing some details. It sounds like a great learning experience. I definitely would not want to have the job that police have. Too much danger, too little pay, and too many unethical laws to enforce. All with a nice “abuse me” sign on your forehead.

  61. @TomA Re: 2014-02-14 at 20:33:58

    Ahhhh…America circa 2014…

    Still I have a hard time believing those in the political arena could conduct themselves so purposefully and effectively today…and yet…maybe all that could occur as a byproduct though…

  62. @Kent RE: “True, but odds are you won’t do it right unless you have spent time on a bandit squad of some sort and have experience keeping your head when under threat of imminent death.”

    No argument here. When I teach civilian firearms, I incorporate certain psychological aspects into my curriculum through scenario modeling. Nothing can ever simulate the real thing but you can lay the groundwork and introduce the frame of that stress to a student’s consciousness. Good results can be achieved surprisingly quickly with a little dedication. I simulate as close as possible to an encounter. Giving a student one more percent of an advantage, decreasing the potential danger to themselves and others by even the slightest fraction is I think worthwhile.

    And I absolutely agree with your philosophy on training tempo. I wish it were the default mindset and that it was economic in time and cost for all who carry. A little a day goes a long way and all that.

  63. @esr:

    You want certification to solve a problem that looks more pressing to you than it actually is precisely because you are a firearms instructor and that causes you to oversample a small class.

    A lot of regulatory capture starts off in this sincere fashion. At the start, it’s just a coincidence that people need more of whatever is being sold by the experts. It never stays a coincidence for long, though.

    @Fluffy:

    any confrontation at a level much about Sheriff Goober and his Deputy Cousin Cleatus is not going to go well for the “cold dead hands” crowd.

    The tide may be changing, at least in Texas:

    http://www.khou.com/news/texas-news/Man-Charged-With-Killing-Burleson-County-Deputy-No-Billed-by-Grand-Jury-244083501.html

    @wcc:

    they fall over and start screaming

    Not if you do it right…

    Depends if the targets are resolute or merely opportunistic. If the latter, making a screamer might be useful.

  64. Completely OT:

    Eric, do you have any updates on forge/tracker/ForgePlucker stuff, or any recent exposure to current trends in the forge area? Over the last couple of days, I’ve looked at the usual suspects, and also things like RedMine (which may not be settled yet from its recent fork) and allura (which may or may not be abandonware — I don’t quite know how to read it).

    At work we currently use subversion integrated with FusionForge. A loose-cannon group decided we needed to upgrade. I can only explain the stupidity by way of example: they were trying to convince us to use sharepoint instead of subversion…

    Anyway, their “solution” is some weird sharepoint/bugzilla hydra. (I originally wrote hybrid, but for some reason that didn’t look quite right.) The training session on this, where it was all presented as a fait accompli, did not go over well. It’s not good for my health to get that angry.

  65. Greg on 2014-02-14 at 15:56:29 said:The average beat cop is probably less well trained and less practiced and proficient (much!) with firearms than the average non-LEO…

    Possibly true if one refers to non-LEO gun owners. Certainly not true for the entire population of non-LEOs, most of whom have never fired a gun even once; many of whom are young children.

    If one makes the criterion “proficient with a handgun”, that would tighten the comparison further. Many firearm owners are hunters who have rifles or shotguns and never or rarely touch handguns. There are also many handgun owners like Ms. Loaded .38 in the Purse, who have a gun but never learned anything about using it and never practice with it.

    There is a population of handgun owners who own handguns because they enjoy shooting handguns. Those people are better with handguns than police who carry handguns as a job obligation and almost never use them. That shouldn’t be a surprise. But they aren’t typical of handgun owners. The more people who get handguns for self-defense, the fewer owners there will be who fire them regularly.

    This ties back to ESR’s original issue. Should there be any “competence”-based restriction on gun acquisition? Because the wider gun ownership spreads, the further it moves from people who are gun hobbyists and will voluntarily become competent gun owners.

  66. >Eric, do you have any updates on forge/tracker/ForgePlucker stuff, or any recent exposure to current trends in the forge area?

    Alas, no. It’s still top on my list of large problems to tackle if nobody else gets there before I do. but my efforts to clear the decks so I can do it are proceeding only slowly.

  67. Another OT: Do you plan on updating “Understanding Version Control” (http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/version-control/version-control.html)? Perhaps as a byproduct of converting Emacs from Bazaar (formerly Bazaar-NG, not mentioned in UVC) to Git (mentioned, but no detailed description)…

    Nb. “Understanding Version Control” was cited in “VersionControl by Example” by Eric Sink (http://www.ericsink.com/vcbe/) – the “three generations of version control” idea.

    Nb. In my opinion “container identity” aka “rename tracking” (as opposed to “rename detection”) may go the way of more sophisticated file-level merge algorithms (like Codeville), where 3-way diff is good enough in practice and has the advantage of being easy to understand if/when there is conflict.

    Nb. Branches. Branching (and merging) is important.

  68. >Do you plan on updating “Understanding Version Control”

    Yes, but I cannot predict when it will happen. Maybe after I finish the Emacs repo conversion.

  69. There are also many handgun owners like Ms. Loaded .38 in the Purse, who have a gun but never learned anything about using it and never practice with it.

    While that’s certainly true, there are so many anecdotes of these people successfully and responsibly using handguns in self-defense we have to acknowledge some things. Likely including the accumulated genius of centuries of improving ergonomic handgun design.

    And as shown in the statistics, and the Violence Policy Center’s abject failure to find a significant problem with such people, that however they make us experienced shooters cringe (my father took me and all my siblings out hunting with him starting at age 3, and started teaching me how to shoot in kindergarten), in practice they aren’t a real problem. And I claim, not enough of one to give the gun grabbers any more tools to hurt us with, like this proposal inevitably would.

  70. @Harold:

    Good points. I’d just like to add that the gun grabbers would be much more likely to use you as an example than they would the lady in question. Unhealthy obsession and all…

  71. Patrick Maupin on 2014-02-15 at 10:42:09 said:
    @Harold: …the gun grabbers would be much more likely to use you as an example than they would the lady in question. Unhealthy obsession and all…

    It does seem to me that there is not very much anti-gun rhetoric about incompetent gun owners. I can’t recall seeing any reports about innocents killed or wounded by bungled self-defense with guns for many years. (I vaguely recall one from at least 25 years ago.)

    One would expect such incidents to be trumpeted by the anti-gun forces.

  72. >One would expect such incidents to be trumpeted by the anti-gun forces.

    The obvious conclusion (backed up by what I know about the statistics) is that such incidents are so rare as to be unavailable for trumping.

  73. Patrick Maupin: “Good points. I’d just like to add that the gun grabbers would be much more likely to use you as an example than they would the lady in question. Unhealthy obsession and all…

    An example of what, and in what context?

    They’ve been Othering gun owners for my entire life, let along the politically aware portion of it. I am “obsessed” with the political fight for the RKBA since the early-mid ’70s when I first read of the BATF’s post-GCA of ’68 atrocities, with defense of self and loved ones when I first started living with one of the latter (in the Boston metro area, so that was limited to a shotgun in the apartment), and finally due to the nationwide sweep of concealed carry and my home and home town getting trashed with a tornado (resulting in unforeseeable changes that are still playing out, although not noticeably higher crime as of yet) with carrying concealed whenever I can when I leave home.

    But I have so much law abiding company, including 7.5 or so million fellow concealed carry licensees, that that doesn’t seem to be working. E.g., at net, more pro- than anti-gun legislation was passed in the wake of Sandy Hook, I doubt without the sea change of opinion shall issue would have been resolved so easily in Illinois, 3 Colorado gun grabbing state legislators are now spending more time with their families and there hasn’t been a regularly scheduled election yet, we seem to have ridden out the newest big threat (Bloomberg and his billions), etc. etc. etc.

  74. @Rich Rostrom:

    It does seem to me that there is not very much anti-gun rhetoric about incompetent gun owners.

    Oh, there is. But it’s all about incompetent storage and somebody not thinking of the kids (ironically, one of the few places where this may be true).

    @Harold:

    > An example of what, and in what context?

    To paraphrase the logically ludicrous, yet emotionally compelling to some, argument:

    The Columbine shooters had an unhealthy obsession with guns. The Armed and Dangerous crowd has an unhealthy obsession with guns. The lady who tossed the gun in her handbag, not so much.

    But I have so much law abiding company, including 7.5 or so million fellow concealed carry licensees, that that doesn’t seem to be working.

    You realize that’s only 2.5% of the population, right? Yes the pendulum is doing OK right now.

  75. One would expect such incidents to be trumpeted by the anti-gun forces.

    Echoing esr, as I’ve mentioned above, the Violence Policy Center tried really hard with concealed carry holders and failed, except of course as citable propaganda, in e.g. the Woollard v. Gallagher Maryland concealed carry case the Supremes punted on.

  76. Anti-gun owner rhetoric is “all about incompetent storage and somebody not thinking of the kids (ironically, one of the few places where this may be true).

    Never forget to call the corresponding laws the gun grabbers are pushing as “lock up your safety” ones, and cite the tragedy in California (natch) where one resulted in the deaths of two children at the hands of an insane, naked, pitch fork wielding home invader. The grandmother’s words on this are particularly moving.

    Counterwise, Massad Ayoob in Combat Handguns (and likely collected in a book by now) listed a bunch of cases of children and teenagers responsibly using guns in self-defense, and there have been more well publicized cases since then.

    In the most amazing case he cited, a freaking toddler (I swear I am not making this up) followed his mother’s instructions to never touch her Raven .25, but realized they didn’t apply when a man was brutally raping her, retrieved it from its hiding place, put it to the head of the rapist and put paid to his assault (and I think life).

    As I keep saying, the anecdotes of the seriously untrained who successfully and responsibly use guns in self-defense are astounding.

  77. Ms. Boxer says:
    [quote]There were few groups of private citizens better armed than those guys at Waco.[/quote]

    There are people more deadly with a single .38 revolver than every man in that compound. I know one or two.

    Having lots of guns is nowhere near being really, really willing to put a bullet in someone’s face RIGHT NOW.

    This is the biggest hurdle the modern, civilized male faces. To strip off that facade and to do violence with the intent, as the philosopher Conan says, “To crush your enemies — See them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”. We’re soft, and we fear the consequences. Criminals don’t (as much) fear the consequences. Whether because their planning horizon is only a few hours long, or the consequences are not as bad for them.

  78. >To strip off that facade and to do violence with the intent, as the philosopher Conan says, “To crush your enemies — See them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

    I think there are ways that a civilized man can achieve ferocity in the here and now without being so…conanistic. Determination to protect the weak, a passion for liberty, a thirst for justice.

  79. >I think there are ways that a civilized man can achieve ferocity in the here and
    > now without being so…conanistic. Determination to protect the weak, a passion
    > for liberty, a thirst for justice.

    Let me be clear:

    I am not talking about abandoning the rules of civilized behavior in one’s day to day interactions. I am talking about that moment when it becomes clear that civilized resolutions are on the drop down.

    Short story, a buddy of mine had a kid who was diagnosed ADHD (this would have been in the early 90s). His little brother had been beaten by a bully. Said older kid LOST HIS SHIT, yanked the antenna off a car and proceeded to lash the living crap out of said bully. Over 130 stitches.

    It took three teachers, including the head phys. ed. instructor to subdue him.

    He was 14 years old, and a bit growth stunted from the speed they’d been feeding him to keep him focused at school.

    He was not fighting by civilized rules. They were. If he had been a “full grown many” he would have eaten them for lunch. As it was he did pretty well for a while.

    If it comes to the fight, whether it be fists, rifles, whatever, when it’s on it needs to be FULLY ON. Doesn’t matter whether you’re fighting to protect your little brother from bullies, to throw off the yoke of oppression, or because the guy who owns the door you’re kicking in is trafficking in human beings. Well, maybe if you’re protecting your little brother from bullies you might want to put deliberately lethal force off the table, but YKWIM.

    Too many people today (and this may have been true for eternity, see Heraclitus.

  80. I don’t know if this is true (I don’t know that much Buddhist history), but I’d
    like to illustrate a point with an anecdote a friend told me about early Tibet:

    It was against the edicts of Buddhism to harm any living thing.
    So, instead of beating or shooting people they didn’t like, the
    religiously-affiliated ruling class would strip them and bind them to stakes
    where they’d be killed by the elements. After all, setting someone up to die
    isn’t the same as killing them, right?

    That’s what’s happening with the gun debate right now. You see, those who want
    gun control aren’t at risk. They live in high-class neighborhoods with police
    who respond to reports of crimes, and don’t generally harass, beat, rape, or
    abuse the citizenry.

    The popular argument is that training (no matter how bad), mandated insurance,
    mandated locks, and so on are worth the cost if they save even one life.
    Because the lives they will cost — the battered woman whose ex is about to walk
    through a restraining order, the poor guy trying to protect the till at his
    barber shop (his family’s only sustenance), the young woman trying to make it
    in a bad neighborhood because leaving would mean abandoning her family — aren’t
    worth notice. After all, gun regulations and weak self defense laws didn’t kill
    them, an angry ex-boyfriend and a couple of street thugs did!

    I spent time arguing on IRC today about the dangers and bad manners in Chicago
    with a guy from the NW (read: rich) side. He first dismissed my observations
    because they didn’t match his. Then he figured out the difference: I’m from the
    south side, and that’s where I return to visit family and loved ones. “Well,
    that’s what happens on the south side, don’t go there, they’re animals.” he told
    me, “if I were a cop, I wouldn’t want to risk my life there either, I wouldn’t
    do anything”.

    You see, gun control “works” if you are rich enough to spend all your time in
    places where there’s no violence anyway. Gun control “works” for those wealthy
    enough not to be priced out of legal gun ownership, who won’t have to choose
    between their family’s lives and safety in the near term, and state retribution
    in the medium and long term.

    It’s nice and all that that people like ESR and friends can own guns. He made
    excellent points in http://catb.org/~esr/guns/gun-ethics.html about how firearm
    ownership impacts thought and citizenry. However, for many people, the rights
    ensured by the 2nd Amendment are a lot less philosophical in nature, and the
    costs of gun control measures are a blockade, not merely an inconvenience.

    We’ve had this argument before, by the way: poll taxes and right-to-vote qualification tests have been ruled
    unconstitutional, because they are just a way to limit the ability of the poor and unliked
    to vote. All fees and taxes on firearm ownership are exactly as
    unconstitutional — we just haven’t gotten society to come around that far yet.

  81. @Susan: Yes, you’re right, gun control doesn’t work for the people in the urban ghetto, but unfortunately, liberalizing our gun laws doesn’t work for them either. If you try to live the straight life there, and work at a steady job, you have to go to work, leaving your family vulnerable. If your spouse takes care of the kids, and also carries, the kids still have to go to school, where you can’t protect them. The gangs will get them, and they will get you too. I know you train and train, etc., and are confident in your abilities to defend yourself, but without a gang behind you, that will exact revenge for your death, you won’t last two weeks. There are simply too many ways for them to kill you….

    That’s the difference between guns in the hands of ordinary people and in the hands of the cops. The police are a gang, and work at it full time. They exact revenge on those that threaten them. It’s a big difference.

  82. >but without a gang behind you, that will exact revenge for your death, you won’t last two weeks.

    LS, I know something about Susan’s history that you don’t. I’m afraid you just made rather a fool of yourself. Ah, well, she’ll be gentle. Probably.

  83. Susan, that was one of the most enlightening and useful posts on the gun control issue that I have come across in a very long time. It hits on many important themes including the covert agenda of the privileged class, the actual harm rendered to the most disadvantaged classes in our society, and the fostering of powerlessness that keeps people from standing up for themselves. It’s not about guns, its about control. And more insidiously, its about maintaining the status quo for those who have long lost their survival skills and would fair very poorly should a world of hardship return to them.

  84. “LS, I know something about Susan’s history that you don’t. I’m afraid you just made rather a fool of yourself. Ah, well, she’ll be gentle. Probably.”

    @esr: I can take it. I know that I am out of tune with The Narrative as told by most of your blog readers. As Beloved Leader, you are probably the one most heavily invested in it…but my own life experiences tell a different story.

  85. >I know that I am out of tune with The Narrative as told by most of your blog readers.

    That’s OK. The blog’s ecology requires one (1) grumpy old contrarian. If you didn’t exist, we would have to invent you.

    :-)

  86. There is a legend recorded within the annals of The Jargon File, it recalls one of the exploits of an ancient blade of great power known only by the name “Cluebringer”. It is time that the blade was found and remade.

    Renewed shall be blade that was broken, and the capless dunces again shall be capped.

    – Foo Quuxman

  87. @LS:

    Been there, done that…for a lot more than two weeks. I’ve spent the majority of my time for a matter of years in a place so violent the police weren’t allowed to enter. I’ve also raised a special needs kid on my own, without .gov assistance, on about $700/month.

    These things can be done. Firearms help. Martial arts ability helps. Social engineering ability and an understanding of the neighborhood helps. Knowing how and why violence happens, how victims are chosen, and how to manage resources in those circumstances helps. I won’t explain it all here — the explanation would be a book — but I’ll point out a few things:

    Gangs, it turns out, aren’t that great at killing people. However, they operate in a world of scared habitual victims and mindless junkies, so it’s easy to step on people, be a predator, and feel powerful. You’ll note they accidentally kill the four-year-old down the street about as often as they kill who they want to.

    If you know how to pull it off, taking the tack of “I don’t have a problem with you as long as you stay outside my boundaries, but violating my boundaries will cost you” can be very successful. However, you must be able to back it up or it’s open season on you. It helps that good guys more often have the discipline to train than bad guys.

    Get to know the big fish if you can. They have no reason to hurt you — they want drugs, money, power, and you have none of that to give — so as long as you aren’t a threat, they’ll treat you on very businesslike terms. Police involvement is expensive. Having their soldiers get shot without any gain in territory or resources is expensive. Chaos in the neighborhood is expensive.

    Beware the guppies — they’re over-emotional and insecure, thus prone to irrational behavior — at least the big fish generally act in self interest.

    Keep your contact with non-straights* to a bare minimum, and only within strictly defined APIs so it can’t spin out of control on you. Don’t associate with addicts, even the functional ones, they’re too unpredictable. Don’t lend or borrow money.

    There’s more — a lot more — but this comment is already too long. My point in this is that it *is* possible to create a bubble of mostly-safe in the middle of chaos and violence if you know how to keep the smart, self-interested ones out (by raising the cost and lowering the reward) and are ready to put down the dumb, irrational ones should it come to that. When doing the right things becomes second nature, the processing overhead goes down and you don’t have much stress or fear about it.

    A great bonus to this is that most street thugs have *no* idea how to understand someone who’s clearly not a predator yet clearly not afraid. They see the world as predator vs. prey, and don’t usually have social scripts for how to deal with those who are neither.

    A final note on cops: cops aren’t generally interested in dying for you. They have families to look after, too. Even the not-corrupt ones will often act on behalf of the bad guys in the name of “keeping the peace”. I’ve had them try to illegally disarm my father or I and try to intimidate us into removing security cameras from our property in order to “not stir things up” when street thugs got pissy. Some police officers treat one another like family and will seek vengeance on those who harm their brothers/sisters, others are more into self-preservation.

    As for my kid…part of the reason I moved to my current city is to keep him out of war zones. I could manage raising him in the ghetto if I had to. I have friends who have done it. I wouldn’t like it very much, though.

    * “Straight” here is used in the sense of “someone on the straight and narrow”, not with reference to sexual orientation.

  88. @Susan: Great reply. Everything you say is true. I managed it, too, but without martial arts and/or guns. That’s the point. Adding more guns won’t help.

  89. >Adding more guns won’t help.

    Susan’s experience says differently. The difference between being male and thus presumptively able to handle oneself in a scrap and not is relevant here.

    A related point is that being the kind of person who carries a gun and can use it competently gets you out of problems that the gun considered purely in itself will not. Specialist predators have a nose for prey and are sensitive to this sort of nuance.

  90. @LS

    Having a gun won’t *always* help, but it very well may help, and often does. Rory Miller explained it better than I would under “The Virtue of the Unprepared” in this blog post: http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/2014/01/3-tropes.html

    The TL;DR of that is that going into a dangerous situation without the best tools you can afford to have on hand is pure stupid. Yes, I can make do without a gun if I have to. No, I’m not going to if I can avoid it. Especially considering that many people in these situations lack many of the non-gun tools I have, I won’t put up artificial barriers to their owning firearms. It’s just plain wrong.

  91. Sorry, LS, but in an environment where the bad guys have guns and the good guys don’t, the bad guys win every time. Less guns in the hands of bad guys might be a good thing, but so would a new Mercedes E63 AMG 4Matic wagon in my garage that I didn’t have to pay for. Both are equally as likely.

    Let’s deal in reality here.

  92. I would add that carrying often has a helpful side-effect in that it can induce a heightened sense of situational awareness, which more often than not is what keeps you out of harms way.

  93. “Let’s deal in reality here.”

    Yes, let’s…one aspect of reality, which really affected my thinking on this stuff, was the time I was actually robbed at gunpoint in the elevator of the apartment house I lived in back in Brooklyn. It was certainly real enough for anybody. The virtue of being unprepared was that, after giving the two robbers the grand sum of $22 I had, they went away….

    Suppose I had been ‘prepared’. In the particular situation I was in, I would have HAD TO SHOOT. We will assume that I would have been successful, and now one of the robbers is lying dead or wounded. Now I have to face up to:
    1. Hours of police investigation.
    2. The grand jury run by a politically sensitive DA.
    (Note that, the above will be affected by the testimony of the surviving robber. There could be no justification for shooting him, and who knows what cockamamie story he would tell. Another factor is the ‘white guy in a black neighborhood’ thing. The neighborhood was where a Korean grocer put his hands on a black woman customer and there were weeks of demonstrations, led by Rev. Sharpton. You guys look for ‘what actually happened’. People in poor, ethnic neighborhoods don’t do that – they go for ‘one of them shot one of us’.)

    All in all, $22 was a small price to pay to avoid getting ‘Zimmermanned.’

  94. >There could be no justification for shooting him

    In your scenario, you would have had had excellent justification for shooting him. He had just attempted to rob you, and leaving him alive would have exposed you to large risks which you had done nothing to deserve. Both of them dead would have been the right outcome, the outcome they worked hard to earn.

  95. “The virtue of being unprepared was that, after giving the two robbers the grand sum of $22 I had, they went away….”

    You got lucky. Full stop. They could just as easily have killed you, then and there.

    Being a robbery victim is this far > < from being a murder victim, and the difference is entirely the kindness of the robber.

    As for the neighborhood: Living in New York City with its draconian anti-civilian firearms laws simply makes criminals bolder. Criminals greatly prefer unarmed victims.

  96. “You got lucky. Full stop. They could just as easily have killed you, then and there.”

    NO. I spent years as an auxiliary policeman, listening to gun robbery calls. Lots of them. Never heard one where the victim got shot. Of course it does happen; when it does you read or hear about it, but it’s only in a really tiny percentage of robbery cases. Actual shootings are quite rare.

    “In your scenario, you would have had had excellent justification for shooting him. He had just attempted to rob you, and leaving him alive would have exposed you to large risks which you had done nothing to deserve. Both of them dead would have been the right outcome, the outcome they worked hard to earn.”

    I’ve heard a number of people advise shooting both, just so you don’t leave someone alive who will give perjured testimony against you. I would advise against it. The investigators will know that your story stinks, and it will unravel in the squad room.

    As to what they deserve…I have no liking for armed robbers, but these guys ‘followed the script’. They pointed the gun and took my money. In doing their brief search, they found my auxiliary police ID, but stayed cool and didn’t take it from me. Robbers want money, not more trouble. I didn’t like getting robbed, but given a choice, I definately would not want to shoot them. Our police system is simply based on the fact that career criminals cannot continue to commit crimes day after day, the way honest people can work at a legit job. They all get caught eventually. That’s why our prisons are always overcapacity.

    My whole point here is that wholesale arming of the populace is not going to solve our crime problems. I know that a bunch of you are going to jump in here and point out that crime is down while gun ownership has gone up, but correlation is not causation, and crime has been trending down in the US for some time now. It does not depend on esr and Jay and Susan carrying their favorite guns around.

  97. >My whole point here is that wholesale arming of the populace is not going to solve our crime problems.

    On the other hand, killing the criminals – and making would-be criminals terrified of that fate – certainly would solve the crime problem. And, in fact, there is observational evidence from places like Kennesaw GA that wholesale arming of the populace in fact goes a damned long way towards solving the crime problem.

  98. “NO. I spent years as an auxiliary policeman, listening to gun robbery calls. Lots of them. Never heard one where the victim got shot. Of course it does happen; when it does you read or hear about it, but it’s only in a really tiny percentage of robbery cases. Actual shootings are quite rare.”

    All it takes is one time that you’re on the “quite rare” side of the ledger, and you’re just as dead as if they weren’t “quite rare”.

    Being robbed at gunpoint is enough to put anyone in reasonable fear for their life. That is justification in any reasonable jurisdiction (one that allows people to arm themselves outside the home for their own defense and that of their loved ones) for the use of lethal force. And no, shooting them both is not unreasonable in that context. The second guy may or may not have a gun, even if he doesn’t show one.

    I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six.

  99. Let me move away from my last few comments because I want to tell a story, one that relates to the actual OP…never mind the citizenry – are the cops that competent?

    It was about ten years ago, when I was still working in Manhattan. At about 11PM I was walking up 48 Street, just reaching 6th Avenue, when I noticed a car parked at the corner with some (plainclothes) Street Crime Unit guys inside. As I approached, another one of them, who was outside the car, passed in front of me and joined his partners. When he did so, I heard a clatter. I looked down, and there in the gutter at my feet lay a Browning Hi Power. I looked over and gave the guy what I hope was my best ‘WTF? look’. Sheepishly, he came over and retrieved La Pistola, casually stuffing it into the back pocket of his jeans…

    The Hi Power is certainly a very fine gun….but it was designed as a military holster pistol and can’t be treated as one of those pocket-sized .32 ACP jobbies, especially if your occupation consists of jumpiing out of a car and grabbing people who don’t want to be grabbed. You’d think that cop would know this.

  100. Well, there are certainly cops who take their duty to be armed seriously and work hard at getting it right. Then, there are those like the idiot you just described. As you might suspect, the majority fall somewhere in the middle.

    One of the gun grabbers’ favorite memes is that only those with special training should be armed, like cops and soldiers, because it takes serious training to carry safely. The truth is rather different.

  101. LS: I think you’re extrapolating too much from a near unique situation in NYC where the subjects (can’t call them citizens) have been politically disarmed starting in 1911, and in modern times the police-judicial complex are frequently on the side of the “professional” criminal.

    And no, shooting them both is not unreasonable in that context. The second guy may or may not have a gun, even if he doesn’t show one.

    Jay Maynard: The law doesn’t see it that way. If the second guy is not presenting a threat of lethal force you aren’t allowed to use lethal force on him.

  102. The written and performance tests for competence to operate a motor vehicle don’t seem to do all that well.

    Instead of welding up another Locost 7, I might recreate the truck prop used in “Damnation Alley.”

  103. @ESR you wanted to review Anti-Fragile and this may be the good occasion to do so. Taleb’s answer would be: the ethics of having skin in the game. Basically any three people can certify a fourth one to carry a firearm if they are willing to share the punishment if the fourth one does anything illegal with it. Or at any rate find a method that puts those people in a certifier role who have a lot to lose if the decision is wrong.

    How does it differ from simply letting anyone carry and just punishing them if they do something wrong with it? How does it differ from a society without speed limits or where anything is allowed except direct harm to others? The problem is, an individual can be insane or irrational have very unusual preferences so it cannot be trusted that each individual always understands his best interests. However if and when people have to share responsibility, i.e. someone must approve an individual taking a dangerous choice but it is also guaranteed that the approver will also share the consequences of that choice, then you can expect roughly rational decisions.

    I think when your ancestors came up with the whole idea of trial by jury they had a similar idea… that the average farmer serving jury duty has both kinds of skin in the game, he neither wants to have dangerous criminals roaming around nor he wants to put people unjustly in prison – he is average enough to not live in a very, very safe neighborhood, yet powerless enough to easily imagine that he himself would not be safe if innocents get sent to prison on a regular basis.

    Randomly selected ad-hoc juries also prevent power accumulating in a few hands. This is a good idea you can apply in other aspects of life – such as this.

    The crucial insight: you don’t need official experts. Averagely rational people with a lot of skin in the game just do it fine.

  104. >Basically any three people can certify a fourth one to carry a firearm if they are willing to share the punishment if the fourth one does anything illegal with it. Or at any rate find a method that puts those people in a certifier role who have a lot to lose if the decision is wrong.

    That’s very clever. I think Taleb’s and your insight about having skin in the game is sound.

    But it doesn’t address one of the critical problems: who is going to enforce this certification, and how? The answer ‘government’ is not acceptable; we already know exactly what escalating chain of abuses that leads to.

  105. Basically any three people can certify a fourth one to carry a firearm if they are willing to share the punishment if the fourth one does anything illegal with it. Or at any rate find a method that puts those people in a certifier role who have a lot to lose if the decision is wrong.

    How does it differ from simply letting anyone carry and just punishing them if they do something wrong with it?

    How about “Retail collective guilt is not an American principle”? Reminds me of stuff I’ve read about the Tokugawa shogunate; some of the stuff we find … interesting about modern day Japan is the result of utterly vile policies (by Western standards, at least) which would harshly punish a group if one of its members misbehaved.

    Also violates the general concept of the presumption of innocence, unless you want to e.g. go in the direction of Original Sin (which as a favorite history professor of mine claimed was an empirical observation :-).

    (And as well discussed in this thread, it’s a proposed solution for an almost non-existent problem.)

  106. As I alluded to in an early post, why shouldn’t basic survival skills (or call them good citizen skills) be a social education imperative? Why not use the existing eduction systems (both public and private) and start when kids are relatively young? Do not use government to require this branch of education, but instead, offer an incentive such as a tax break to families (or NCLB auxiliary funding to school systems) that offer this curriculum. A lot more tangible good will come of this strategy versus teaching kids that global warming is real.

  107. I never could understand how anyone can fail to value their life so utterly that they would utter words like “shootings are rare” as a rationale for not being prepared. We even see the phrase “the virtue of being unprepared”….VIRTUE? In what backwards universe can a failure of preparation be considered virtuous?

    Whatever personal exposure one has to crime, whatever the sample, even if it does seem “rare” that shootings occur, the simple truth is that thousands upon thousands of criminal homicides – by gun, knife or other cause of violent trauma – *actually* happen every year. Each and every innocent life extinguished is real and irreplaceable. This is not some abstract concept, nor a pile of beans to be sociopathically counted under the “dead” column, but real individual lives that had real value to all those orbiting them.

    Given that such killings do occur, and given that evolution has not (to my knowledge) granted us the gift of telepathy, why would anyone prefer to leave the decision over the future course of their life, in the hands of someone that by definition demonstrates direct contempt for that life? *By definition* What do you imagine lies behind the implicit “or else” of a crime against the person? The threat of force, of violence, against your life.

    It’s not the wallet, the car or the $22 that justifies shooting the perp….it’s the threat of violence behind it. We should really be asking the criminals whether they truly believe a wallet to be worth their life, not the victim. Of course, they tend not to make themselves openly available for debate for some strange reason.

    If you are sincerely incapable of being armed for whatever reason, fine. All are not equally suited to the task. But those that are capable yet choose voluntary vulnerability are guilty of weakening society, in a manner similar to those that jeopardize ‘herd immunity’ by shunning certain vaccination. I would not force them to own/carry a gun, much like I would not force a vaccination upon a person, but I will not ignore their negative influence.

    I train. I carry. I choose to be part of a positive influence.

  108. There are a couple of things people might do by themselves or in addition to being armed. Hat tip Mas Ayoob – wrap a generous price of a fix around a matchbook and carry it in shirt pocket or otherwise non-threatening location. On demand flash the bill(s) and throw it in a convenient location. This leads to anything from a done deal and cheap at the price to a distraction.

    Similarly some have suggested at home leaving a hundred dollars or as appropriate prominently displayed or on top of the silver chest or as appropriate for the person who again just wants a fix and is willing to settle for that with no further ransacking and damage.

    Reverting to the original question as posted “Does firearms competency testing do any good?” Leaves open to whom and doesn’t address required. The answer is of course yes. If you can’t do it on the exam you can’t do it in real life. Maybe a par time on the IDPA qualifier and shoot a match to demonstrate. For those who want it there is more or less free basic instruction from the NRA including the Eddie Eagle program, various hunter safety programs and fairly cheap volunteers over most the country for basic instruction escalating to the Appleseed Project and on up at affordable prices. Nobody but the teacher and the student have to see the grade but of course success should be rewarded with bragging rights.

    However most of the discussion has been answering a different question. Does mandated firearms competency testing do any good when the Government demands the testing and enforces it with all the force of the Government but delegates the actual testing and grading?

    Likely there would be some de minimis good. Likely there would be adverse effects. If the idea is that saving even one life is worth something then the opportunity cost of any government program (I repeat any government program) is children killed who would have been saved by vitamins, electrolytes and clean water. Money spent at the DMV is money that could have saved children in sub-Saharan Africa and other places.

    I have grave doubts about the health of an organism that values the parasite over the host but that’s something for another time and place.

  109. > I have borrowed some cop slang and called these people “mooks”.

    I haven’t heard “mook” in that context before – I’ve usually heard “goblin” or “tango” (although, I do believe tango is more of a military or SWAT term). Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  110. >I’ve usually heard “goblin” or “tango”.

    To my knowledge, which may be incomplete, these differ significantly from “mook”; “tango” is military (especially SpecOps) field jargon for a terrorist, while “goblin” is a term of abuse for violent criminals that circulates mainly in the civilian gun culture and may have originated with Jeff Cooper. I am unsurprised to hear that SWAT teams have adopted “tango”; a lot of those guys are SOCOM wannabes.

    The semantic field of “mook” differs in that a mook is not necessarily actively criminal or dangerous – the sense is “lowlife/loser who we wouldn’t be surprised to have to bust someday”.

  111. “On the other hand, killing the criminals – and making would-be criminals terrified of that fate – certainly would solve the crime problem.”

    Is it possible to make criminals terrified of being shot, given that most belong to a group that has sufficiently high time preference (i.e., is incapable of thinking about the future and changing today’s actions based on likely future outcomes)? You’ve said yourself that criminals have high time preference.

  112. “Does mandated firearms competency testing do any good when the Government demands the testing and enforces it with all the force of the Government but delegates the actual testing and grading?”

    The government already does this for amateur radio licensing. Volunteer examiner organizations administer and grade the tests. If they give you a Certificate of Successful Completion, the FCC will issue you a license.

    Here in New York, volunteers administer the required Hunter Safety Course that you must take and pass before they will issue a hunting license.,

    So, the government says, ‘Yes’. I’m sure that the NRA would be happy to set up such a system. Since the exams would be in private hands, the government would not be able to restrict gun licenses arbitrarily.

  113. Hard to run a double blind controlled experiment. Both comparison across jurisdictions and interviews imply that criminals as a class – and even the criminally insane – follow market forces.

    That alone says nothing about elasticity of demand for not getting shot. On the other hand do people wonder why the bag men for the mob – in general terms, gambling both licit and illicit seems to thrive with limited exceptions – are not high crime targets?

  114. There’s a difference between the FCC delegating ham testing to volunteer examiners and the government delegating firearms testing to the NRA: the FCC considers it in the public interest to have more hams, but the government (think BATF) would consider it not in the public interest to have more firearms licensees. All they’d have to do is set the standards high enough to be impossible to meet.

  115. Technology is moving so fast these days, in terms of sophistication and miniaturization, that it’s only a matter of time until someone develops personal carry threat awareness enhancements and sensory amplification aids. Wariness is part of our evolutionary heritage, but if you grow up in a protective social bubble, you likely will never acquire the habit of threat assessment at a distance or dangerous environment avoidance. These are good skills also.

  116. >>but without a gang behind you, that will exact revenge for your death, you won’t last two weeks.

    >LS, I know something about Susan’s history that you don’t. I’m afraid you just made rather a fool of yourself. Ah, well, she’ll be gentle. Probably.

    He has also independently re-derived the concept of the militia, and one of the reasons for it. Curiously, they used to call bad neighborhoods ‘Indian country’.

  117. Nassim Taleb distinguishes between “skin in the game” and “neck on the line”. The former shares some of both the upside and the downside. The latter only the downside, often with disproportionate consequences.

    If someone doesn’t share part of the upside then all the incentive is to do nothing.

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