Count the SKUs

The Washington Post is running a story alleging that surveys show gun ownership in the U.S,. is at a 40-year low. I won’t link to it.

This is at the same time gun sales are at record highs.

The WaPo’s explanation, is, basically, that all these guns are being bought by the same fourteen survivalists in Idaho.

Mine is that the number of gun owners with a justified fear that “surveys” are a data-gathering tool for confiscations is also at a record high, and therefore that the number lying to nosy strangers about having no guns is at a record high. videochat

I think there’s a way to discriminate between these cases on the evidence.

It’s not NICS records, because thoise get destroyed after a timeout. Thankfully…

In any consumer market, a reliable way to tell if it’s broadening or narrowing is whether manufacturers’ and retailers product ranges are expanding or contracting. SKUs are expensive; having more complicates everybodies’ supply chains and planning and accounting.

In a broadening market, the variety of consumer preferences is increasing. It makes sense to chase them with product variations. In a narrowing one the opposite is true, and you shed SKUs that no longer carry the overhead of their differentiation.

In early-stage technologies this effect can be masked by the normal culling of product types that happens as a technology stabilizes. There was much more variety in personal computers in 1980 than there is now! But firearms are not like this; they’re a mature technology.

So a productive question to ask is this: is the huge upswing in gun sales being accompanied by a broadening of product ranges? Google-fu did not provide a definite answer, but I can think of several indicators.

A big one is the explosion in sales of aftermarket parts for AR-15 customization. If that’s a sign of a contracting market, I’ll eat the grips on my Kimber. Another is the way new product classes keep coming out and being difficult to buy until gunmakers tool up to meet demand. The most recent case of this I know of was subcompact (3.5″-barrel) .45ACPs.

Open question for my blog regulars: can we find good public measures for SKU diversity in this space?

143 thoughts on “Count the SKUs

  1. Another way to check on the reasonableness of this is to do the math: if the same set of existing gun owners are buying all the newly manufactured and imported guns (check out nssf.org or the BATF’s web site for raw numbers, including $$$ since retail sales are all taxed), the back of the envelope calculation I did a while ago would have us owning an average armory of ~$100,000.

  2. Re: yanks and guns. I have met sooo many preachy Canadians and Aussies that love to brag at length about what good little sheep they are when talking to an American. I choose to do what many people contacted in this poll did. I keep my mouth shut and don’t mention the guns I own.

    I have also noticed lately that I very often self censor when commenting on Facebook or some other location where my real identity is know. I may say I own guns but I never detail what they are, primarily because some of my guns have features that cause them to be guns the grabbers will want to confiscate.

  3. Yesterday, I went to an EXTREMELY crowded gun show in Orlando. Attendance was apparently about twice what it was at last year’s July event.

    Standing around, waiting for my background check to come through (along with a lot of other people), I noticed that a noticeable number of the people I talked to were first-time buyers. Nowhere near a majority, but enough to get your attention. Most of the newbies were being shepherded through the process by family members or friends. A decent percentage of buyers were minorities and/or female.

    …and no, I didn’t buy a nice, barely-used Mossberg MVP Varmint in 5.56 NATO with a 24″ fluted barrel, or any spare 20 round magazines, or a bag o’ ammo. Perish the thought!

  4. Gun grabbers aside, firearms owners are well aware our “unbiased” media are more than willing to misrepresent whatever we say, too. Recent examples that spring to mind are Katie Courics gun documentary, an interview with a Bushmaster designer that suggested he never intended it for sale to the public, and a recent politifact “fact-check” about describing a Sig MCX as a “weapon of war”. This was determined to be “half-true” since, despite not being fielded by any military, it does not possess the features common to a “hunting rifle”. A category undefined within the article.

  5. “It’s not NICS records, because thoise get destroyed after a timeout. Thankfully…”

    You may want to consider whether you actually have evidence that the records are being destroyed, or if you are expected to take that part on faith.

  6. I think a lot of new gun-related products could enter the market and do feasibly well simply because of the publicity, public outcry about guns, and the fear that they may be taken away.

  7. SKU = ???

    > It’s not NICS records, because thoise get destroyed after a timeout.
    s/thoise/those/

  8. I can believe that it’s plausible the percentage of households with guns is going down based on my own anecdotal evidence. Of those I’ve surveyed who don’t own guns (i.e. don’t have them in their household), a substantial fraction had parents or grandparents who DID own guns. As those parents and grandparents die off, the number of gun owning households would go down. Those people I know who have guns had parents who had guns. You might try that informal survey yourself if you know anybody without guns and see if it says the same thing. My sample size is too small to conclude anything but does happen to align with the Washington Post’s findings.

  9. Bret: The thesis of this posting starts with people refusing to honestly report gun ownership to surveys. Are you sure your surveys are getting sufficiently higher quality replies?

    Two big factors to add: If you’re in a “probably not” or no issue state, the utility of guns goes way down. Now, that’s only 8 states and 28% of the population, minus those who live in better counties or cities in CA, MA and NY, but it’s still a lot of people.

    There’s also an age factor here. When I took my Missouri required CCW course, the population decidedly tilted towards middle aged and older folk. In a rapidly graying society, with 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, and being much less physically fit to defend themselves without a gun … well, I’m rambling a bit, but how good is your sample space?

  10. > SKU = ???
    Line item on an inventory sheet, basically.

    I know that personally, if a survey asked me about my gun ownership, I’d not participate. Perhaps I might for the NRA, but that’s about it.

  11. Stock Keeping Unit. In this context, the same gun with Evil Black grips and pink grips would have two SKUs.

  12. Harold, I did say my evidence is anecdotal which means that my “sample space” is not representative (a bunch of friends and I – all upper middle class whites who live in pretty safe areas – were sitting around discussing it shortly after the Orlando shooting). I’m only saying it happens to not conflict with the Washington Post findings. Note that in our parents/grandparents time most states were “probably not” and no issue so I’m not sure the utility of guns has changed for the worse.

    I think one mistake in the Washington Post article is that they equate gun owners with pro 2nd amendment folk. That same group of friends that doesn’t own guns (and that includes me) still wants to make sure we maintain the right to own guns.

  13. I’m a new gun owner, since last spring. Yesterday I talked to a couple other new gun owners. I had to. The range was stuffed and everyone was jammed together. Nice guys, let me shoot an AR-15 they were hiding from the wife. For fear she’d find out what it cost, not, I think, fear of confiscation.

    In the 1930s when they made pot illegal, people approved. If you smoked ditchweed in Indiana or on the Mexican border or muggles in Chicago, you were probably just too broke to afford tobacco, and a little ashamed to be poor. Also, tobacco was good for you, and more masculine, and there was a hot new movie, Reefer Madness, showing some salaciously awful things that happen to nice girls who get slipped a mickey. And of course if some kid in Indiana smoked ditchweed, the cops weren’t going to make a federal case out of it and ruin his life. What are you, nuts?
    In the 1960s when gun control started lots of hunters were a little ashamed of being so poor they had to live off squirrel stew. Lots of guys who knew guns really well were ashamed of it- the draft was a giant hassle and really shameful things happen in war. As for the media pretending it was the right’s fault when a communist shot JFK or a Palestinian shot RFK- what are you, paranoid? Next you’ll say the D party will import terrorists and use their crimes as an excuse to disarm the whole country.

  14. The other big indicator is the huge upswing in products produced for and marketed specifically to women. This was a tiny niche category only a few years ago. Now products and ads targeted to women are everywhere.

    And the women are buying and shooting. I see them at the gun stores and at the range.

  15. Michael, Note that some women are new gun owners but their household already had guns (i.e. husband/boyfriend/other family member).

  16. Another thing to look at is the number of FFLs. When Rural King (a farm store) opened in Lafayette, they sold ammo, but not guns. They have a decent selection of ARs now.

  17. A few points:

    1) A 40-year low? Hmmm. After the late-’60s race riots, my father bought an M1 carbine for home defense (which he sold many years later). I suspect that period was some sort of high point for gun ownership.

    2) I also think Bret is correct: I know people whose parents and grandparents own guns, but they do not.

    3) I’d be careful about counting SKUs, because would not California’s silly laws cause manufacturers to create extra, slightly different models to conform?

  18. Eric: As I understand your original post, you want to estimate gun-type diversity with the ultimate goal of estimating the number of unique gun owners. Wouldn’t it make sense to look at alternative estimates for the number of unique gun owners, such as membership statistics from gun ranges, enrollment in NRA gun-safety courses, and things like that? Even though the absolute numbers obtained from such measures won’t necessarily be the same as the absolute number of unique gun owners, their rates of change from year to year should be about the same. For example, if gun ownership is really at an all-time low, the number of newcomers enrolling in safety courses should plummet. Is the NRA seeing anything like that?

  19. > Wouldn’t it make sense to look at alternative estimates for the number of unique gun owners, such as membership statistics from gun ranges, enrollment in NRA gun-safety courses, and things like that?

    Not in this case. Eric appears to want to differentiate between these two theories: (1) increased gun sales indicate more gun owners, and (2) increased gun sales indicate fewer but more active gun owners. The measures you’ve listed would fit both theories, that is, both more gun owners and more active but fewer gun owners would fit any increase in membership statistics; while a decrease would likely be a point against both theories.

  20. The number of Illinois residents holding a FOID card (a one-time requirement for individual gun owners) jumped 33% between 2008 and 2013.

    Special case: before McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010, handgun ownership in Chicago was banned, and they played games with long guns. In 2013, the unique decision of Moore v. Madigan forced the whole to implement a shall issue concealed carry regime, which they apparently have done in good faith, and we’re already reading of government “approved” (not bogusly prosecuted) uses of concealed handguns in self-defense in Chicago (!!!).

    Note, these are the only examples of Heller et. al. changing the facts on the ground, if you don’t count D.C.’s Massive Resistance that has allowed a very few people to legally buy guns. Oh, yeah, Massachusetts can’t outright ban “stun guns”.

    That’s it, which is one reason I’m not so caught up in who gets appointed to the Supreme Court in the next few years.

  21. Wouldn’t it make sense to look at alternative estimates for the number of unique gun owners, such … enrollment in NRA gun-safety courses

    Unfortunately that’s becoming a bad metric, for the NRA in its infinite wisdom is changing those into a hybrid of on-line and classroom coursework. The new curriculum is said to not be very good, a lot of students are bawking at the obvious privacy issues with the on-line component, and instructors are bailing.

  22. Jerry Stratton> Not in this case. Eric appears to want to differentiate between these two theories: (1) increased gun sales indicate more gun owners, and (2) increased gun sales indicate fewer but more active gun owners.

    I’m aware of that. My idea is that people who take “gun safety 101” are far more likely to take it when they buy their first gun than when they buy their tenth. Once “gun safety 101” has taught them how to shoot their first gun safely, they typically won’t need the same course for the second, and then for the third, and then for the fourth, et cetera. Hence, the “fewer but more active gun owners hypothesis would predict relatively sluggish “gun safety 101” enrollment, whereas the “more gun owners” hypothesis would predict higher “gun safety 101” enrollment. You should, then, be able to look at enrollment data and watch which hypothesis pans out.

    A similar argument should apply to gun-range memberships: You only become a member of your local gun range once, whether you go there to shoot ten guns or just one. Therefore, the “more gun owners” hypothesis would predict higher levels of gun-range memberships than the “fewer, more active gun owners” hypothesis would. So, once again, you should be able to test both hypotheses by looking at membership data.

    Granted, I’m not part of America’s gun culture, so I’m not competent to suggest more specific data sets, let alone numeric thresholds. But I’m fairly sure that the general statistical idea behind my suggestions is sound.

  23. > Sweet Jesus – You yanks and your guns.
    > Enough already.

    I guess you don’t want to hear about the beautiful BSA Featherweight .30-06 that I just picked up?

    Just another industry Britain doesn’t have any more.

  24. > SKUs

    This might be something you could get from various gun manufacturers’ PR or marketing department. Tell ’em what you’re doing and ask if they can tell you how many SKUs they have now vs. five or ten years ago.

    A raw SKU list would include slings, hats, tie tacs, and other paraphernalia; you’d want the ones just for firearms. They’d have to extract firearms from that; probably matching against ATF recordkeeping or FFL shipping requirements.

  25. Here’s another proxy for gun ownership: voting. Those who own guns are fantastically more likely to vote against gun control, and we’ve not been as as politically powerful as we are today for at least a century (details on request).

  26. > My idea is that people who take “gun safety 101” are far more likely to take it when they buy their first gun than when they buy their tenth

    Possible; I don’t know. Anecdotally, I took it not only before I ever bought a gun, but before I even thought about buying a gun—I took it in Boy Scouts. I also know other people who have taken 101-style courses without purchasing firearms afterward (at least, yet), and also people who buy without taking the courses. The basic rules for firearms safety are pretty simple.

    The same for gun club memberships. I’ve never been a member of one, other than the NRA, which I joined years before I purchased a gun. Also, less anecdotally, I don’t see how more memberships wouldn’t also support the “fewer gun owners, but they’re becoming more active” theory of that the Post put forward.

  27. Only anecdote here – but:

    While I grew up with firearms, bought my first one end of last year

    CCW course I took had a lot of new owners

    Local gun store is expanding women’s night, etc

    A number of gun stores, ranges, etc have reported helping out new people. See also a recent entry on Peter Grants blog on this topic

  28. A useful statistic would be the yearly amount of AR-15 type ammo sold. People who own them are much more likely to shoot them, and require a continuous supply, as opposed to those who keep a .380ACP under their pillows for 40 years and are never heard from.

  29. Back of the envelope says firearms SKU’s are growing in number. Glock products, especially when combined with the aftermarket e.g.. Gabe Suarez in effect adds his own SKUs to the growing Glock line. Ruger just introduced a lightweight Commander in 9mm – there is nothing new under the sun.

    For a devil’s advocacy I could argue that this might be merely a lag in removing SKUs where production has ceased but remaining stock hangs on. New SKUs are covered in press releases and press release aggregators but seldom the last sale for a discontinued model.

    IFF a proxy is worth considering I suggest looking at sights to include iron and optical including red dot, illuminated and traditional scope sights. There are a number of new to market brands each with its own list of products. SIG recently entered the optical and sight market.

    It’s not Idaho survivalists – they are buying 80% frames – but maybe folks from Idaho making their first trip to Africa and planning to go south for hog hunting.

  30. Modeling indicates that the most effective way to suppress (or minimize) firearm ownership in the USA is via memetic indoctrination. In other words, mold people’s mental state during their developmental years such that they fear and shun firearms reflexively. The Washington Post survey article is simply a memetic salvo in this campaign. The covert messaging is that only the wackos own guns and all the good people are disarming, so you should now join the crowd and become popular too. The best antidote for this type of subversion is to invite your friends and acquaintances to come with you to the range. Even if they don’t get hooked, they will at least see that most gun owners are not only normal, but often highly competent, quality human beings.

  31. this is a correction repost, hopefully the moderator drops the first post

    I have a theory that is a bit different.

    If the guns are all being bought by the same people then those people already have guns. This means they will want different guns. For example I maybe need five pistols, per person, but not really more, once I have so many I will insist on a rifle and then a semi-automatic version. Even if I do want multiple pistols, once I have bought two or more I will begin to develop personal preferences and tend to make more interesting choices.

    If the guns are being bought by the many different people then they will all tend to want the same things (a basic self defence pistol or a basic hunting rifle, depending on the reason for wanting the gun). Especially beginners will tend to go for well known models.

    According to my theory, if gun companies are all the time selling to new people in an expanding market of people. then they will minimise the number of SKUs because they can. If, on the other hand, they are selling mainly to experienced gun owners, they will be forced to increase the number of SKUs so that they can match the expectations of that market. I’d also predict that the mix of the market would tend towards more valuable/more specialist weapons, however that might be compensated for by more buying in gun fairs or other cheaper venues.

    I’m not sure what to propose to differentiate between my explanation and ESRs. Perhaps there is a completely different way to measure? E.g. what are the results of anti-drug raids where the inhabitants of the house raided are found to be innocent (perhaps specifically those that turn out to be the wrong address). This should be a reasonably random, untargeted sample of households and the police should certainly record whether they found guns or not. Perhaps with a freedom of information request it would be possible to find out what proportion of households were armed?

  32. I think the statistics are very clear: The number of people owning guns has been increasing at least since 2006.

    The number of people shooting themselves has since 2006 increased faster than the overall population. As suicide track opportunity closely, this means that the fraction of the population with access to guns must have grown.

    Suicides by gun 2006-2014: 16,883 – 21334
    Population USA 2006-2014: 299 – 321 million

    http://gun-control.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=006094
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_States

    For the work on how suicides track opportunity, see for instance the seminal work of:
    “The British Gas Suicide Story and Its Criminological Implications”
    Ronald V. Clarke and Pat Mayhew, Crime and Justice, Vol. 10 (1988), pp. 79-116
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147403

  33. Winter: Interesting hypothesis, but you’d have to tease this signal out from things like the Great Recession starting no later than 2007, and when did the DoD start drawing down troops in the Surge? I.e. if we accept your “suicide track opportunity closely” thesis (and opportunity would then seem to be quite sufficient in all but gun free Japan, the PRC I think, and South Korea as I recall), you might call that a supply side to the a demand side of people in the state where they’re serious about suicide.

    You cite a British study on opportunity (and I’m not doubting it without looking at it), I like to cite a study they did about cancer rates in the areas around nuclear power plants, where there was indeed a correlation … including the sites that had been picked out for future plants where nothing had yet been done at them….

  34. @Harold
    ” I.e. if we accept your “suicide track opportunity closely” thesis (and opportunity would then seem to be quite sufficient in all but gun free Japan, the PRC I think, and South Korea as I recall), you might call that a supply side to the a demand side of people in the state where they’re serious about suicide.”

    All studies I have seen point out that the majority of suicides are done in the spur of the moment. Even a small distraction or delay will reduce the number of suicides drastically. A fence requiring a detour to access railroad tracks reduces the number of people jumping before trains, less toxic pesticides reduce the number of poisoning suicides etc.

    From the “demand” side, there is a steady increase in firearm suicides between 2006 and 2015 with hardly a bump anywhere. This precludes any economic or political events as causes.

    So, I think a rise in gun suicides is a good proxy for a rise in gun ownership (or better, firearm access).

  35. Alan: Interesting thoughts, which I’ll reply to in detail later (I hope, e.g. I have an Evil Black Rifle to torture test this afternoon, my own form of 4th of July fireworks).

    I can immediately think of two additional factors to consider: spare guns and the extreme level at which the AR-10 and AR-15 pattern rifles can be customized without serious gunsmithing (and for that matter, all of those who assemble their own starting with 100% receiver). I.e. I have two 1911 handguns, one for carrying that’s relatively light weight with an aluminum frame and grip safety, plastic mainspring housing, 1 inch chopped of the steel slide and barrel, and a traditional full weight 5 inch all steel for home defense. If one was used in self-defense and seized by the police, I could use the other for both roles in a pinch, but if I was willing to devote more dollars to these roles I’d have backups of both.

    I don’t like the AR-10 direct impingement design or STANG magazines, so I’m not really familiar with the details of it or it’s AR-15 derivative, but it’s obvious the customization and assemble your own things are very big.

    If you want to jump deep in the rabbit hole as of the mid-70s, get a copy of Mel Tappan’s Survival Guns, the minimum armory to get can be quite large, e.g.: carry and home defense handguns, including an backup you also carry for the former, civilian assault and/or battle rifles, the latter in bolt action and/or semi-auto, at least one shotgun for pests of all types and making taking game birds (and maybe rabbits?), .22 LR rifle for pest control, and maybe a handgun in that for that as well, revolver for bigger pests (shot shells for snake were better for revolvers back then I think).

    Lighter weight centerfire utility rifle (a Scout is now a good candidate for that, but an old military bolt can be a good choice with some customization, and you’re more likely to be willing to use it as a “truck gun” (keep it in you’rs all the time), more hunting rifles before hunting bullets became a lot more effective or for varmints (7mm to .30 is overkill for them). .22 LR and and air replicas for cheaper and easier practice (e.g. air rifle in your home if need be), etc. etc. etc. I doubt you’d walk away from his book without at minimum having a desire to buy several dozen guns, it’s dangerous in that way ^_^.

  36. For the suicide literature and “zeitgeist” I’ll take your word for it, I’ve been very fortunate that all but one slight acquaintance in my life haven’t been suicidal. Although I note some serious forms like CO poisoning from running a car in a closed space at least allow for second thoughts.

    Where I’m focusing on is the start of the trend you see in 2006; while it’s hardly necessary for you to postulate why it started then, and I suggested a couple of possibilities, I’m curious as to why then. Plus this is an intensely politicized topic, with a tiny bit of diggiing now I’ve just noticed on a number of non-Wikipedia sites including the CDC’s that they pick 1999 or 2000 as a starting point, clearly because that’s a recent trough going back to 1960, and Wikipedia is suspiciously useless except for a multi-nation graph going from 1960 to 2007.

    Putting together what I can by eyeball right now, the rate was higher than 2014 from 1962 through maybe 1994, then declined steadily through 2000, then was pretty flat though 2006.

    So we need to ask ourselves, why that drop and flat period, and what reversed it? I can’t off-hand think of any factor, “supply” or “demand”, that explains that 1994-2006 period…

  37. Dr. Pournelle and Robert Bruce Thompson were both friends of Mel Tappan – the concerns at the time were somewhat different from today’s concerns. Notice the sub caliber inserts being sold by Chiappa for the survivalist market superseding the long gone sub caliber inserts from Marble and other makers. Thompson has commented on his own blog this week about bogus and real numbers of firearms in private hands. Some wit about the number that have passed through private hands lately but won’t be produced on demand though maybe on need.

    For my money it’s a no brainer to see increasing numbers of SKUs in the gun business. Some of them will be uppers or otherwise not subject to checks. Then too the 14 Idaho survivalists will be stocking up using their enhanced carry permits as a pre-pass background check and so not appearing at all in the studies.

    I don’t have a good feel for net increase in SKUs given the number of guns I’d like to buy that have come and gone on the market while for a breath I tarried. I do believe that many of the newish SKUs are aimed at newish customers. Particularly the shift from blue steel and walnut hunting arms to be proud of – once Winchester Model 94 or 70 now Weatherby, Kimber, Cooper – that may once have been the end of a long slow climb up to nicer and nicer hunting guns in deer camp each fall to the popular .380 and other pocket pieces implies a growing market of first time or early buyers. Michael Bane among others suggests there is a gun culture II that emphasizes range performance over field performance.

    Market clearing prices have fallen dramatically in the AR15 market – a traditional M4gery 6920 peaked at about $15000 for immediate delivery and is now offered all dolled up at less than $1000. I don’t think demand has diminished all that much; I think supply has grown all that much. But also there are substitutes in the AR market – The SIG of Orlando fame, the Tavor SAR and X95 improved SKUs and varieties are up. Gun Digest and Shooter’s Bible publications are available in digital forms but distinguishing different SKU’s as opposed to an eyeball taxonomy of long range short range and cartridge counts looks tedious to develop and test. Maybe Davidson or other online open access source could be crawled for SKUs. Most dealer pages are limited access. I don’t doubt any of several people here could access the various protected dealer pages and that would offer the most potential accuracy and ease of obtaining actual SKUs. I’m still not sure that given an actual SKU I could easily account for while remaining stocks last from we’re counting on Hillary to sell millions of these

  38. Then too the 14 Idaho survivalists will be stocking up using their enhanced carry permits as a pre-pass background check and so not appearing at all in the studies.

    Sounds like you’re talking about NICS checks. Those Idahoans will still statistically show up in terms of Pittman Robertson Act taxes to the extent they buy new firearms and ammo, however the path it reaches them (reloading stuff is not taxed).

    I’m still not sure that given an actual SKU I could easily account for while remaining stocks last from we’re counting on Hillary to sell millions of these

    Or what about the counter-counter revolution we’re seeing against Trump? What if the “antifas” and company escalate beyond the limited but lethal violence of 2008, and with an reportedly understaffed and mostly unprepared city outside the now narrowed by a Federal judge National Special Security Event, blast past 1968 (which I’ve just read in passing about, but what were they doing besides trying to provoke the police?). What if a Trump supporter AKA eeevil Rethuglican who has no right to live is actually killed instead of sent to a hospital as is all too common and ignoreble by the MSM and GOPe? (And if not now, it’s almost certain to happen sooner or later in the next decade or so.)

    When you read NOAA hurricane warnings, there’s a stock phrase that shows up at a certain point, “Rush preparations to completion”, which is exactly what I’m doing except for buying some $$$$ glass for my Evil Black Rifle (not that all that much is required). Which, yeah, is one of those SKUs you can’t buy from the manufacturer any more (fortunately/it is no coincidence that it’s a American version of another nation’s service rifle, so this is not the end of the world).

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  40. I note that, the anti-gun narrative notwithstanding, many gun dealers are (and have been for some time now) reporting record numbers of first-time buyers.

    • >many gun dealers are (and have been for some time now) reporting record numbers of first-time buyers.

      Can you document this?

  41. I’m finding it hard to find much in the way of direct sources and hard numbers, because a lot of reports just cite numbers of background checks without any determination of how many of them are first-time buyers, but reports are out there to be found if you dig around a bit.

    http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/publicsafety/hoosiers-seek-guns-in-record-numbers/article_37f18776-7e96-5ddd-ab53-e9946a2464f5.html — “The number of Hoosiers seeking to buy firearms has increased every year for more than a decade, but this year Indiana is on pace to smash its previous record […]” “We’re seeing more and more first-time buyers with concerns about their own safety, for their home and out in public,” said Rocco Rigsby, retail manager with Midwest Gun Exchange in Mishawaka. “Personal protection handguns are something people are really focusing on right now.”

    http://q13fox.com/2016/06/16/washington-state-on-track-to-set-record-for-number-of-gun-purchases/ makes several references to large numbers of first-time buyers, as well as a 15% increase in CCW permits in two years

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/gun-makers-record-sales_n_2756954.html — article title speaks for itself: “… more first-time buyers race to stock up …”

    http://www.ammoland.com/2015/12/a-million-gun-owners-a-month/ — claims a million new gun owners a month, but does not cite a source for the number

    http://www.range365.com/truth-about-gun-sales reports an increase of 85% in female hunters and 60% in female target shooters from 2001 through 2013, which doesn’t correlate directly to first-time buyers but is an interesting indicator.

    http://www.sunherald.com/latest-news/article49377670.html — “There have been more first-time gun buyers. There have been more women. And there have been customers who’d never before considered owning a gun.” […] “Just an astounding number of first-time gun buyers coming in and buying firearms.”

    I also found a number of articles citing NSSF as estimating that 25% of firearms sales in recent years have been to first-time buyers.

  42. >many gun dealers are (and have been for some time now) reporting record numbers of first-time buyers.
    Can you document this?

    I can’t document it but I know the National Shooting Sports Foundation trade group collects such data from its members with good reliability. Notice that by good reliability I mean the reports are made as indicated. I’m not saying the retail dealers are right or wrong in evaluating their own customers as new or returning or returning after long absence. I know around here that many newish customers are not first time owners or shooters but like me kids whose families left the farm. I got my mother’s first hand me down rifle a Savage/Stevens falling block single shot .22 rimfire at 6 but didn’t buy one for myself until much later.

    Browse the National Shooting Sports Foundation website. Market reports are free to full voting members (multimillion dollar businesses paying multi thousand dollar dues) and not outrageously expensive to smaller business members. Buying a report bearing on this would involve qualifying as an associate member then buying the report.

    Related material posted on the NSSF site include such things as: Target shooting participation up 19% from 34.4 Americans in 2009 to 40.8 million Americans in 2012 Source NSSF and Responsive Management report An Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation in the U.S. 2008-2012. Notice this implies target shooting defined to include what I would call plinking as opposed to shooting targets for score. Action pistol say is way up, bullseye pistol is down.

    I no longer have contacts to help me get such reports but likely enough our host is connected with a short link to somebody who can help. I’d start with the website then maybe a Friends of the NRA event then by asking somebody like Michael Bane who to ask.

  43. @ Harold
    “For the suicide literature and “zeitgeist” I’ll take your word for it…”

    Don’t do that, Winter is either flat out lying or has been extremely selective in the choosing of sources.

    In reality the mental illness we label suicidal ideation is a persistent problem for those who suffer from it, either they successfully fight it or they don’t. Suicides don’t kill themselves because of rock music, role-playing games, video games or gun ownership, they kill themselves because that makes sense to them.

    This strawman is particularly annoying when you realize that that the proponents who are claiming that a negative effect that impacts around 0.03% of the relevant sub-group* as a major problem are actually contributing to the hopeless/helpless meme that IS a major driver behind suicidal ideation.

    @ Winter
    Since gun homicides, which are also claimed to be “impulse driven” dropped by 50% during the same period would you then argue FOR the “accuracy” of the poll? Or would you ignore those stats because it doesn’t support your ‘guns are icky and gun owners are evil/mentally ill’ narrative?

    *Figuring 100 million American citizens more or less have access to firearms.

  44. Minnesota Carry Permit stats

    I shoot weekly with a couple of instructors that teach the classes necessary to get the permit. They both report record class numbers, record numbers of request to stay after class, and their informal raised arm polls indicate that typically more than half of the class has zero or one gun, with the one being shiny new pistols, and the zeros are looking for advice. According to them, the other instructors they know are seeing the same thing.

    FYI, the “stay after class” thing is to try out different pistols. The class requires a live-fire minimum competency exam from the instructor, so they usually bring a pelican case of pistols for the class to use. People that haven’t selected their first gun yet really like being able to pick up and shoot a bunch of them.

    Oddly enough, the Project Appleseed guys aren’t reporting much growth yet. I suspect it will show up after a few years delay as a small fraction of these new gun owners decide that they’d like to learn to hit things with a rifle. (If that appeals to you, find an Appleseed event near you and sign up. I did their 2-day course a few months ago, and it was fantastic.)

    At one of the ranges I shoot at, I’m part of a secret cabal of single-projectile shooters that are gradually taking over the board seats from the shotgunners that have been running it for decades. We added a survey to the membership application to see why people were joining, and we are getting hundreds of new members per year that indicated interest in pistol and rifle, and not trap or skeet, plus a handful that are looking for trap only, and a somewhat bigger handful that are looking for all three.

    Our discussions for the past year have mostly been about figuring out how to integrate all of these new people, and how to make sure that our culture of responsibility and safety reaches them. We’ve been able to station volunteers at the ranges on a few weekend days to explain our rules and etiquette to new members and provide basic instruction. We are talking about requiring potential new members to show up in person to attend some brief classes before letting them apply.

    All anecdotes, I know, but they all point in the same direction, and it isn’t Idaho. This would be a good research project for a student. The question can’t be answered by reason alone, so someone will need to do the legwork to find the data.

  45. @murph
    “In reality the mental illness we label suicidal ideation is a persistent problem for those who suffer from it, either they successfully fight it or they don’t.”

    Somehow, you seem to think everyone is trying to take away your precious phallic substitute.
    http://thedailybanter.com/2013/01/a-gun-wont-make-your-penis-larger/

    http://latest.com/2016/06/sam-bee-eviscerates-nra-and-the-high-capacity-penis-substitutes-they-call-guns-after-orlando/

    But I was only saying that people who want to commit suicide will pick the quickest and easiest means for doing so. And if there is a gun available, they will prefer that over traveling to railroad tracks and waiting for a train. So, if more people use firearms to commit suicide, that suggests that more people have access to firearms.

    I am well aware that this is a complicated question, with irregular swings in total suicide rates, and that readily available means for suicide are suspected to even increase the numbers. But that was NOT my point. I just wanted to show that our host might be right and that the suicide numbers suggest more people have guns.

  46. The local rod and gun club here in Canada has a vigorous and growing women’s shooting club. The guys show up to set up for hunting in the fall, but the women seem to consider the world a year round target rich environment.

  47. clark e myers is very right about the utility of the NSSF’s web site, and many of the $$$ studies they produce have at least executive summaries you can peruse for free, and I’ve never caught them lying (like the NRA, they don’t have to). They also are happy with us unaffiliated members being on their general mailing lists, e.g. when I comes time to call your politicians, they don’t mind in the least including us in their appeals to do so (and those are much rarer than the NRA’s).

    And no doubt they recognize we help spread the info they produce (e.g. monthly NICS data with historical context, adjusted for the irrelevant monthly CCW checks in Tennessee etc. to the best they can), and propaganda (of the good sort, like hunting been safer than golfing (even for deaths, this passes the smell test due to massive efforts in hunter safety and what a killer lightening is), and hunting doesn’t necessarily repetitively stress odd muscle groups like golfing does, heck, for my family’s no blind style, walking/hiking is the big thing), which they provide to us with a minuscule incremental cost thanks to the Internet. And of course their jobs section is open to all.

    Seriously more useful for me than today’s Winning Team NRA, and their coverage of the industry helps fill in lots of important blanks that a shooter and marksmanship oriented org doesn’t follow.

    And, woah, I just looked at their current web page, they’ve gone all in on stuff for us gun owners … they are faced with a really stark choice with the Democratic party aside from e.g. Sanders and Moonbeam Brown going all in on severe gun control. (Sanders defends the “don’t let the lawyers shut down the industry for selling legal and safe when used properly stuff law which saved the industry), Brown never signs all the invidious gun bills he’s presented with. with good reasoning in those cases.)

    And I trust them a hell of a lot more than the NRA, I wouldn’t be surprised if their material is a lot better, although they’re far from getting the megaphone the former has. But thinking further, they could easily become the #2 voice in this area, as the NRA continues to stumble and possibly decline and fall after the Winning Team is forced to retire, and they have no serious competition (at best, the head of the GOA is for some obscure reason regularly allowed to beat the MSM like a drum when they interview him, father and I gather now his son, but that’s it unless you’re tolerant of social conservatism and willing to wade through a lot of chaff in their frequent, no membership required email alerts), the rest at the national level are useless or far worse, except the SAF’s funding of lawsuits and the conference they hold every year).

  48. “Brown never signs all the invidious gun bills he’s presented with”? He signed six this past weekend, not one of which will do anything to punish or impede anyone but law-abiding gun owners.

  49. Winter: Somehow, you seem to think everyone is trying to take away your precious phallic substitute.

    Ah, murph, forgive me for not remembering well enough that Winter is a troll, deserving no benefit of the doubt. Markley’s Law in gun discussion, it’s analogous but to Goodwin’s Law but is a much more reliable tell.

    In reality the mental illness we label suicidal ideation

    Is [expletive deleted] scary. I have a friend who in the process of her doctor trying out various anti-depressants to try to find one that worked, tried one of the standard one’s you’ve heard of, and it quickly gave her suicidal ideation, which of course freaked her out, and me as well when she related the story. She stopped driving as soon as she could get herself home (that’s where it first manifested) and doing other somewhat dangerous things until the drug was out of her system).

    Given how little (i.e. highly negative) we can trust any medical literature that touches on guns, among other things, falling back to general principles like the dangers of suicidal ideation vs. e.g. what I’ll perhaps unfairly label as “drama” is almost certainly more fruitful.

    What about the “No Exit” category of suicides, which I gather are historically noted in other cultures where people are more likely to get forced into terrible situations? I gather this is a big thing in the PRC due to their “One Child” policy, and poisons are a preferred route for women who can’t live with themselves after being brutalized.

    I bring this up in part because in the US something is increasing the rates for white males, and we can note many things that could push them into a No Exit mode, not just economics and the sexual marketplace (isn’t that said to be one of the biggest reasons in the US, failure of a relationship??), but most certainly including decades of misandrist propaganda, which I gather is now almost totally ubiquitous in US popular media (glad I dropped out of that in 1991), although there’s more to it than that, surely some mental susceptibility is required?

  50. On suicide see Kates and Mauser: Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 30 No.2 p.650 et.seq.. Readily available no extra charge on the web.

    On good data. NSSF is about the only source and it’s properly considered proprietary as marketing and customer relationship material. Our host can ask Clayton Cramer or Larry Correia for an introduction. As an exercise Davidson’s or other major distributor with an online presence can be scraped for an SKU count as mentioned but that would be more effort for less result. Much of the secondary data out there is recycled NSSF press releases with a little bit from the NRA or Second Amendment Foundation. There is plenty of anecdotal information that might suggest a testable hypothesis.

    I agree with Michael Bane about gun culture II and some major changes in gun use and ownership patterns. Sears isn’t selling Browning Superposed shotguns on credit and EasyPay terms to average Americans who just happen to hunt birds. Mike Venturino did a piece for Guns Magazine circa 20 years ago that it’s too late for an eastern kid like him but 40 (then 20) years younger to move west and join the gun Jack O’Connor Elmer Keith gun culture. There isn’t enough open land and game to go around. Making the sacrifice of living poor in the rural west is not enough to get useful tags. Even the locals who don’t have the money for guided hunts are compelled to plan their lottery draws and preference points for years in advance.

    Hence it can be taken as a given that buying, owning and using patterns have changed over the years. Data can be expected to reflect real changes; discontinuities – any data that doesn’t is at best suspicious and incomplete more likely wrong.

    Mostly I think the hypothesis in the original post will not be refuted by NSSF data or cataloging SKU numbers. I suggest there are alternative explanations but I think the suggested one is correct.

  51. Phil Stracchino: and Brown vetoed 4, and hasn’t as of yet signed one (this from the NRA-ILA release (in the original, each is followed by a link to his veto message):

    Senate Bill 894 would require a victim of a crime to report to local Law Enforcement the theft of a firearm within an arbitrary time requirement of five days and the recovery of the firearm within 48 hours….

    Assembly Bill 1673 would expand the definition of “firearm” to include unfinished frames and/or receivers that are “clearly identifiable as being used exclusively as part of a functional weapon”. Depending on how this vague terminology is interpreted, AB 1673 could essentially treat pieces of metal as firearms, subjecting them to California’s exhaustive regulations and restrictions currently applicable to firearms….

    [ If a shoestring is a machine gun, as the BATF ruled from 2004 to 2007 (when they added “if attached to a semi-auto”, but see constructive possession case law)…. ]

    Assembly Bill 1674 would expand the existing one handgun a month law to include ALL guns, including those acquired through a private party transfer….

    Assembly Bill 2607 would expand the class of individuals who could seek a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO).” The NRA opposes the current GVRO procedures because they provide a mechanism for an individual to lose the right to keep and bear arms with no due process of law. AB 2607 would compound these problems by significantly expanding the classes of individuals who could seek a GVRO. This expansion would now include employers, coworkers, mental health workers and employees of secondary and postsecondary schools….

    The below bill has passed the legislature and is waiting to be transmitted to the Governor. The governor must sign or veto legislation within 12 days of the day of transmittal, or it becomes law without his signature. However, if the 12th day is a Sunday or a holiday, the governor has until the next working day to act.

    Assembly Bill 857 would require an individual to request a serial number from DOJ for home-built firearms. Anti-gun advocates are under the impression that criminals who are already ignoring the law will apply for a serial number issued from DOJ prior to use. This bill would do nothing but entrap law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights. Governor Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2014.

    As he did a previous Bullet Buttom law in 2013.

    All I’m saying is that he’s got some sense on this issue, he’s not a “Mr. and Mrs. America turn ’em” hypocritical loon like fellow Californian DiFi. Hypocritical because for a while she had one of the 2-3 concealed carry licenses SF deigned to issue for the whole city/county. Which reminds me of Charles Rangle’s comments after the House sit-in (this is from the bearingarms.com recounting):

    The Daily Caller reached out to Representative Charlie Rangel for a comment on the difficulty of getting a concealed carry permit in New York City and how rare it is for such permits to be issued by the NYPD.

    Rangel replied, “I’m glad to hear you say that very few people get it.”

    “We don’t need that many guns,” he continued. “I didn’t know that briberies were involved in getting a gun, and that is wrong, but overall, if it is difficult to get a concealed weapon permit, I’m glad to hear that.”

    “Law-abiding citizens just shouldn’t have to carry a gun. You’re not gonna push me in that direction,” he said.

    When TheDC pointed out to Rangel that he was making his statements while standing just five feet from a Capitol Police officer, who stood at his post by the House Speaker’s Lobby, he laughed at his own hypocrisy.

    “Well that’s a little different. I think we deserve–I think we need to be protected down here.” Rangel chuckled.

    With further reminds me of fellow NYC metro area (Republican) Pete King, who after that deranged enough to have been institutionalized in better days nutcase shot colleague Gabby Giffords, expressed a desire for a 1,000 foot bubble around important people like him where it would be illegal to possess a gun for the duration.

  52. @ Winter – “a gun won’t make your penis larger”

    Not in the literal sense, but if you’ve ever left your home at night while carrying concealed and then take a walk around the block, you will immediately experience a sense of empowerment that would not be there otherwise. This sensation wears off to some extent if you routinely carry (such as police do here in the US), but the attitude change is palpable and non trivial. You may also experience extended sensory and situational awareness. Carrying a firearm is not about pretending to be something that you are not, it’s about being better at what you are.

  53. My wife is the only one who knows I carry concealed. I don’t tell friends and I certainly don’t tell strangers on the phone.

  54. NICS checks report the type of firearm being bought. Perhaps identifying trends in purchases of similar types of firearms (eg. pistols) and modulating with the rise in concealed carry permits, may give a plausible indication of rising ownership.

    @Winter – I’m not sure your conclusions re: suicide hold much water. The stats there are pretty noisy and it’s a murky subject to analyze at best. It’s also worth noting that no nation has reported statistically significant changes in rates of suicide either side of varying ‘bans’.

    A gun is a highly reliable tool for suicide, for sure. Having access to one would likely result in an attempt being successful. If we could magically vanish all those guns (typically handguns, of course) the impulsive attempt *right then* might vanish, but a person in that kind of mental state – seriously motivated to end their life, not just a cry for help – will find another way…that day, the day|week|month after…somehow. It would seem that the real-world experiences of gun ‘bans’ to prevent suicide do indeed support this.

  55. Something to keep in mind about phone surveys that ask about firearms.

    The number of immigrants (H1-B, Green Card and Illegal) and felons in this country is going up, and has been going up sharply since (IIRC) the 90’s.

    These populations are both less likely to own guns[1] and MORE likely to lie about a gun being present (because it’s either illegal, or because they come from a place with a more oppressive police state and would just rather not say).

    Thus surveys that indicate an “all time low in households owning guns” and “an all time high in people owning/carrying guns” could both be true, if one is expressed as a percent of total population and the other as a percent of eligible population or in raw numbers.

    [1] Back in the mid-2000s I was at a gun store in Silicon Valley and witnessed an older gentleman who “had” to move back to Asia. He had been here a while on a visa that allowed him to purchase firearms, and my assumption at the time was that he “had” to return home. He was trying to sell his collection to the store because he couldn’t take it with him. Gave me a sad.

  56. @Harold — I wasn’t meaning to suggest that he signs them *all*. Only that he does sign quite a few. (And some of the ones he did sign are — IMO — pretty ridiculous.)

    You’ll get no argument from me about DiFi. I tend to think of her as the Wicked Witch of the West.

  57. Winter on 2016-07-04 at 05:09:44 said:
    > All studies I have seen point out that the majority of suicides are done in the spur of the moment.

    How do you determine that?

    Planned attempts are more likely to be succesful than unplanned, and those who are “crying for help” are more likely to (a) lie about their degree of planning and (b) less like to succeed so be over represented in teh sample.

    Oh, and you can’t ask the successful ones if it was spur of the moment, now can you?

    > Even a small distraction or delay will reduce the number of suicides drastically.

    Doesn’t follow. Given the nature of depression, all a “small delay or distraction” will do is push the event somewhere else.

    > A fence requiring a detour to access railroad tracks reduces the number of people
    > jumping before trains, less toxic pesticides reduce the number of poisoning suicides etc.

    A fence and less toxic pesticides just means more people will take barbituates and jump off a tall bridge.

  58. Given the checklist of “suicide signs” including giving away your stuff, I’d say very few are truly unplanned.

  59. There’s the story of the man who suffered terribly from constant hallucinations. They got so bad that he decided that suicide was the only way to get relief from them. He got a gun and shot himself in the head…and survived.

    When he recovered, the hallucinations were gone, making him the only person ever to have successfully performed brain surgery on himself.

    Look out for the gun grabbers’ next move – regulation of firearms as medical devices!

  60. @William O’ Blivion
    “A fence and less toxic pesticides just means more people will take barbituates and jump off a tall bridge.”

    Which was my point. An increase in suicide by firearm suggests more people have access to firearms.

    If you take the effort to read back my comments, you will notice that I never said that firearms increase the number of suicides. That could be the case, or not, but that was NOT what I was writing about.

    Talk about “hair triggers”.

  61. Sound track for this response: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jus3BE9mdfI

    Winter on 2016-07-06 at 02:24:53 said:
    @William O’ Blivion
    > > “A fence and less toxic pesticides just means more people will take barbituates and jump off a tall bridge.”
    > Which was my point. An increase in suicide by firearm suggests more people have access to firearms.

    This is trivially true in that if there are no, or almost no guns in a given group then there will be few if any gun suicides in that group.

    However in the US the *lowest* number cited for gun ownership is around 80 **MILLION**. That is, at minimum the entire population of Germany.

    It’s probably closer to 100 million.

    So yeah, we’d expect a few suicides by firearm.

    This is just like the focus on “FIREARM violence” as opposed to “firearm VIOLENCE”. Is getting beat to death with a bat any better than getting shot to death?

    Is suicide by shotgun gun any worse than suicide by barbituates?[1]

    Firearms are *very* effective tools for a successful suicide because they allow the things you need to get it done–they are deadly, transportable and fast. Pills are deadly and transportable, but take a while (and aren’t always as reliable). Jumping is fast, but not transportable (you have to do it where the bridge/building is), and not always as deadly as one would hope. Cutting is neither fast nor deadly (unless done *right*).

    It is difficult to commit suicide in a public place (well, not with a firearm) because some twit will want to stop you or save you. Handy if you’re only crying for help, but not so good if you really want to die. You can take pills or a firearm to a secluded place, do the needful and be done with it.

    There are lots of reasons people *attempt* suicide. Some people are depressed because their brains don’t produce the right chemicals. Some because they’ve made a series of bad choices (or someone close to them made a series of bad choices) and wound up in a bad spot. Some just want attention, and some have looked at their options and just want the f*k out.

    This difference in pressures and reasons will result in people picking different methods for their “attempt”.

    A friend of my fathers–a surgeon–decided it was time to die (this happened before I was born, so I know very few of the details). He arranged for his wife to go shopping for a few hours, and as soon as she left he filled a bathtub with warm water, took a handful or two of aspirin, soaked in the tub for a while then opened his femoral arteries and his left wrist with a surgical scalpel.

    Pretty much “Gone in 60 seconds”.

    When I was in college there were the stereo typical tortured poets who went after their wrists a few times. Most barely broke the skin.

    You can’t really consider these two types of cases the same thing, and to lump all of them under “suicide” is ridiculous. The second category would NEVER start in with a firearm because they don’t really want to die.

    There are HUGE differences in the way different cultures view suicide (a really good book you should read is “The Samurai, the Mountie and the Cowboy” by David Kopel. You won’t (or maybe you would) like his conclusion, but he brings a cross-cultural analysis to the debate which points out that different culutures have different values, expectations etc.

    > If you take the effort to read back my comments, you will notice that I never said that
    > firearms increase the number of suicides.

    Given your persistent and illogical opposition to adults being allowed to own firearms, and your other ideological positions as voiced here, concluding on the basis of your statements that you believe that firearm ownership leads to increased suicide (or at least are prepared to argue it in furtherance of your goals) is entirely consistent with what you wrote.

    You didn’t say it outright, but it was built in to your argument that if you make it more difficult for people to commit suicide (fences etc.) then it would save lives. The implication being that if you made it harder for people to get guns there would be fewer suicides.

    My contention is exactly the opposite–that gun prevalance has nothing to do with the RATE of suicide. I do not assume that people who have suicide ideation are completely irrational. They plan, they consider, and they execute. To the extent that they execute their attempt “in the spur of the moment” it is because they have put themselves in a place where they *can* do it, and work themselves into it. For some classes of suicides that moment might pass and they go on to either do it some other time, or their problem resolves itself etc. For others they have built a solid plan and have good more-or-less rational reasons and they execute their plan. The more “rational” their decision to kill themselves the more deadly and effective methods they will chose.

    > That could be the case, or not, but that was NOT what I was writing about.

    Right. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

    [1] Yes, it is. Mostly because it’s a LOT harder to clean up, and because it’s noisy and will disturb the neighbors. If you’re going to kil yourself have the decency to do it in a clean, orderly and quiet manner.

  62. The media made this claim before but last time, there were fewer contrary stats.

    Funny enough the same media at various points has reported firearm ownership is up in every nation including the UK where firearms certificates for non shotguns are up 50% and Australia where I read its up 35% . That isn’t a huge number but its substantial

    The US is also in the same situation. My personal guess is that a lot of people who didn’t before now have a gun or two, a high point pistol, a shotgun something for defense . Quite a few have privately acquired firearms and they aren’t talking

    What the presstitutes are doing is of course trying to convince the few people that trust them that “No really the emperor is fully dressed and that no one has a gun” . Mainly its to keep their own people from defecting and getting guns too.

    And as for polls, I used to a pollster. Our methodology was utterly unreliable. It depended depend on being able to reach people willing to talk to you. When I did polls, people were far more open and everyone had a land line and even than they were pat real, part bunk

    These days, people don’t trust anyone and are much harder to reach. I put no stock in them.

  63. > Which was my point. An increase in suicide by firearm suggests more people have access to firearms.

    No, an increase in the proportion of suicide by firearm (vs suicide by other means) would suggest more people having access to firearms. Pointing to a simple increase in the numbers/rates of suicide by firearm while ignoring any changes in non-firearm suicide numbers/rates doesn’t tell us anything about increased or decreased access to firearms.

  64. A common gambit of the antis, unfortunately, is to scream about numbers of deaths involving firearms while completely ignoring deaths in the same category that do not involve firearms. The thing to get upset about is not that slightly over 21,000 Americans committed suicide using a firearm (using the most recent year for which complete compiled numbers are available); it’s that almost 43,000 Americans in total committed suicide in that same year. But if you’re a gun control advocate, those other 21,500 or so people aren’t important, because they didn’t use a gun.

    That ratio, by the way, has shrunk; firearm suicide has dropped by about 10% since 1999, while total reported suicide in the US has gone up by about a third, particularly during and since the banking crash. Firearm suicide as a proportion of total suicide rate has dropped from two thirds to a little over half. The anti-gun zealots seem to have no answer for this in their narrative that guns cause suicide.

    Useful URLs:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html?_r=0
    https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

    The NYT article reports that firearm suicide decreased since 1999 from 37% of female suicides to 31%, and from 62% of male suicides to 55%, while suffocation (including hanging and other forms of strangulation), for which nearly everyone has access to means, increased from 20% to 25%. Hypothesized factors in the increased suicide rates include social/family breakdown and economic despair. There is a strong historical correlation between economic hardship and suicide rates, with the US’ all-time peak (22.1 per 100,000) having occurred during the Great Depression.

  65. @Deep Lurker
    “No, an increase in the proportion of suicide by firearm (vs suicide by other means) would suggest more people having access to firearms.”

    That is fair. But with half of all suicides committed using a firearm, the distinction will be difficult to make.

    This means that if the proportion of suicide by firearm is stable or declining, the Washington Post must be right, there are less people owning guns.

  66. “This means that if the proportion of suicide by firearm is stable or declining, the Washington Post must be right, there are less people owning guns.”

    Or, there could simply not be a rigid correlation between the two.

  67. > This means that if the proportion of suicide by firearm is stable or declining, the Washington Post must be right, there are less people owning guns.

    This is sloppy thinking to the point of being nonsense.

    “Evidence for” and “proof of” are two different things. There will be “evidence for” many different claims, even those that turn out to be false. “Proof of” means that a claim has been shown to be true.

    A declining proportion of suicide by firearm is evidence for – but not proof of – fewer people owning guns, just like the increased number of gun sales is evidence for, but not proof of, more people owning guns.

    A stable proportion of suicide by firearm is not even evidence for fewer people owning guns.

  68. Deep Lurker, belying his name says:
    “No, an increase in the proportion of suicide by firearm (vs suicide by other means) would suggest more people having access to firearms.”

    And Winter says:
    “This means that if the proportion of suicide by firearm is stable or declining, the Washington Post must be right, there are less people owning guns.”

    Neither of these is true.

    Ya’ll are treating all suicides and all attempted suicides as if they were the same, and that is simply not the case.

    Different culture, motivations and the level of desire to actually die play a huge part in the choice of method. There are simply way too many variables to make such a simplistic assertion.

  69. Exactly. The observed decrease in the proportion of suicides that utilize firearms is evidence of precisely one thing: A higher proportion of successful suicides are choosing methods other than firearms. Any inference from this to hypothetical lower rates of firearms ownership is nothing more than that — an inference based on the unproven (and unprovable, except by enforced registration of all firearms, an action which the government is currently legally prohibited from taking) assumption that the choice of firearms as suicide method is a constant as a proportion of total gun owners. (In fact, it is also silently assuming that the ratio of successful suicides by gun owners and non-gun-owners remains constant, regardless of method actually chosen.)

    We could, to the contrary, assume that the proportion of gun owners who obtain concealed carry permits is an approximate constant, and then infer from that that the very substantial increase in numbers of concealed carry permits directly implies that there is a large increase in the number of people who own firearms. But it would still be exactly the same thing: an inference based upon an unproven and unprovable assumption.

  70. This “discussion” in suicides is a very nice illustration of how discussions on this forum tend to devolve into fact-free opposition to every allusion to facts and reality.

    What happens is that fault will be found in any proposal and any real fact. But never will there be any evidence brought up that might support this criticism.

    I recognise this disdain for facts and reality from 19th century Romanticism. These people also were convinced they could understand the world from their arm chairs.

    But calling Libertarianism a “Romantic movement” is not really a shocking revelation.

  71. If a firearm is supposed to be my penis substitute/compensation, and you’re trying to take it away from me, doesn’t that mean you’re trying to castrate me? Why are you so obsessed with my sex life?

  72. @Winter – just when I thought you might continue to engage in something thoughtful…you go and throw in the towel with that all-too-predictable “you just don’t want to deal with reality” cheap shot, and high hat your way out of the room. Feeble.

  73. I *have* been contacted by surveyors asking about firearms ownership. I stated that my home never has nor ever would have guns in it.
    There’s no way I want someone whose sole interest is to sell my information knowing that I have a couple dozen guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammo sitting at the ready. It’s no ones business to find out until they stack-right on my door.

  74. A certain percentage of shooters are reloaders. I don’t know if it is a stable percentage so this might not work but if the YOY sales of entry level reloading equipment is increasing wouldn’t that indicate that there are x-number of new shooters?

    Increases in gun rag subscriptions and sales of books like Ayoob’s Combat Handgunnery or the various CCW how-to books would track with new shooters.

    Non SKU things that could help (maybe): One could survey firearm-centric message boards to see if there has been an uptick in new accounts.

    Look at Google and Bing searches on specific topics such as “buying a gun”, “learning to shoot” “ccw class near me” and such like to see if those have gone up.

  75. Warren: Good idea. Google trends shows a spiky but generally upward line for “buying a gun” since 2004. And for these terms over that time:
    buying a rifle +170%
    gun buying laws +140%
    buy a gun +70%
    buying a handgun +50%

    “Concealed carry permit” has had an extremely large rise over that time, as have these:
    concealed carry states +900%
    utah concealed carry +600%
    concealed carry reciprocity +350%
    reciprocity +350%
    utah carry permit +350%
    concealed weapons +300%
    permit to carry +300%

  76. Objectively, what is the value and usefulness of an accurate assessment of the growth of new firearm owners? If you are in government (and fearful of an incipient insurrection), then this could help you assess the magnitude of the opposition. If you are currently a firearm owner (and fearful of an incipient government tyranny), then this could help you assess the magnitude of potential allies. If you are the media (and hoping to promote a civil disarmament meme), then an accurate assessment is irrelevant. It seems to me that a better use of one’s time is simply to recruit your friends and neighbors into the firearm owners fraternity. Even a pacifist will jump on the bandwagon if he thinks that everyone else on the block, except him, is packing.

  77. “Objectively, what is the value and usefulness of an accurate assessment of the growth of new firearm owners? ….. If you are the media (and hoping to promote a civil disarmament meme), then an accurate assessment is irrelevant….. ” Granted there is an argument that the media will always lie to promote a liberal cause and therefore the media is neither a user of truth nor a source for objective truth

    The value and usefulness of an accurate assessment is as always to avoid in the general population the consequences of

    The false-consensus effect can be contrasted with pluralistic ignorance, an error in which people privately disapprove but publicly support what seems to be the majority view (regarding a norm or belief), when the majority in fact shares their (private) disapproval. While the false-consensus effect leads people to wrongly believe that the majority agrees with them (when the majority, in fact, openly disagrees with them), the pluralistic ignorance effect leads people to wrongly believe that they disagree with the majority (when the majority, in fact, covertly agrees with them).

    Where I live everybody on the block is packing. I live with a baker’s dozen of other survivalists just south of West Yellowstone. Still I think there is some value in truth and in suggesting that a policy to be implemented only with the aid of big lies may be an inferior policy. Hence if in fact it can asserted with modeling techniques that the general level of gun ownership in the general population is increasing there is some utility. Cardinal utility as an aid in setting priorities is beyond my modeling ability.

    The NRA made a public statement in response to the original assertion that although numbers of guns be increasing numbers of gun owners is decreasing. The NRA pointed out that survey results are much more volatile than numbers of gun owners possibly can be. That is the survey results jump around even faster than gun sales so if the low numbers of gun owners be true then the growth in numbers of gun owners exceeds even public sales figures and vice versa on the downside given the jurisdictions in which even private sales or any transfer must be through a dealer. Asking a hunting buddy to hold the guns while you climb a fence then holding the all the guns while s/he climbs the fence in turn is wise behavior except in Washington State where it’s a felonious transfer. Thus there is every reason to believe the surveys are inaccurate which of course implies nothing about what the accurate figures might be. But we can hypothesize and test.

  78. @Dan
    “@Winter – just when I thought you might continue to engage in something thoughtful…you go and throw in the towel with that all-too-predictable “you just don’t want to deal with reality” cheap shot, and high hat your way out of the room. Feeble.”

    Reality, the thing with facts and data? I see precious little of it here. But that must be my bias, obviously.

    Anyway, how are you guys reacting to this (new?) attack on the second amendment?

    The Second Amendment was ratified to preserve slavery
    http://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/the-second-amendment-was-ratified-to-preserve-slavery/

    Especially as the parallels with the killing of a black man carrying a licensed gun are so obvious:

    The Second Amendment was never meant for black people
    http://fusion.net/story/322630/second-amendment-black-people-philando-castile/

    (Just to make it obviously clear: I am NOT expressing an opinion on the content of the piece. I am asking how the community of committed gun owners is going to react to this new line of attack. If you do want to know my personal opinion, it is that to me the reason a law was written two centuries ago is utterly irrelevant to how it is implemented now. )

    • >The Second Amendment was ratified to preserve slavery

      It’s simple. This claim is not new, and Carl T. Bogus is lying like a Michael Bellesisles. He is misquoting and selectively editing founders such as a Patrick Henry. It is incidentally true that southern militias suppressed slave revolts, but to suppose that IIA was adopted to protect slave patrols from federal abolition is to ignore what the majority of delegates from non-slave states thought and said about it and the entire body of later IIA jurisprudence.

      More refutation here: The Second Amendment Was Not Ratified to Preserve Slavery.

  79. Hey Eric –

    Stranger over at extranosalley.com is a gun statistics geek. He covers gun sales from time to time. I haven’t seen him address SKUs specifically, but if any single individual on the net has that information, it’s likely to be him. It’d be worth pinging him to see what he has.

  80. @Winter – I think you can google plenty of quality responses to those ludicrous articles.

    Of far greater significance is the racist genesis of modern ‘gun control’ laws.

  81. Dan, given that all gun control efforts after that first little pre-Civil War bit to suppress dueling were racist (slaves, freedmen, immigrants), only slowly extended to the rest of the population as governments naturally do, well, Winter would have a lot of reading to do….

  82. @winter

    Data? During the last big gun thread winter manged to either studiously ignore any posts with data or stated that he didn’t want to get bogged down arguing “numbers” . Short on Data indeed.

    While the simplest solution, that winter is arguing dishonestly, is usually the best, I suppose we can’t totally dismiss the possibility that his is projecting his own psycho-sexual inadequacies on anyone who will listen.

    Remembering that internet debates are a spectator sport, I’ll leave some more info for anyone who wants to investigate the matter honestly.

    http://www.guncite.com/

    and more specifically

    http://www.guncite.com/journals/reycrit.html

    I may try to dig up my old posts in the last thread , too.

  83. Eric, you are playing a losing game.

    Gun control cowards do not believe any of their cowardly lies. They are well aware that we are right and good, and that they are lying and evil. They are well aware that our nation’s veterans support gun rights unequivocally, and that they are cowards who let their criminal friends rape their wives and children.

    We are losing because you and the other pro-2A activists will not call for violence against the infinitely evil gun control devils. Instead of this bullshit of “Why are gun control activists so violent,” how about we take control by harming them and gloating about it, daring them to do something about it?

    I was stripped of my honor as a former Marine by the crafty gun control subhumans and their insinuation that no gun rights activist ever served in the military. I know someone will say, “It doesn’t matter as long as YOU know you served,” but that is BULLSHIT. I didn’t serve so I could be some forgotten saint sitting on a mountaintop by myself. We owe it to our veterans to acknowledge that they DID serve, and that they OVERWHELMINGLY support 2nd Amendment rights.

  84. So … your solution is to prove their worst and foulest accusations correct?

    Doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me.

  85. You have a better solution?

    Contact me when you have been stripped of your honor as a former Marine, as I was.

  86. First up — thank you for your service. I should have said that up front. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

    But I still don’t think that fulfilling the antis’ worst fears is any way to convince them that they’re wrong. It is almost the worst of all possible strategies. It would play right into their hands. If you WANT to see real momentum behind a Constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, go right ahead. But don’t expect me to stand beside you if you do. What you’re calling for falls into McVeigh-Nichols territory.

  87. @ Ken

    The persons and movement advocating for increased gun controls are not-so-much evil individuals as they are self-serving statists. Their survival is tied to parasitism, and they need a heavy-handed governmental authority to ensure their long term access to the necessities of life. It is perfectly logical for them to pursue this agenda because the host organism may eventually seek to rid itself of the parasites. Violence is not an optimum strategy. If you stop feeding them, they will either morph into productivity or die out naturally.

  88. One man with basic training and a 10-shot semi-auto rifle brought the Dallas PD & SWAT to a standstill for hours.

    Tell me again how a few million armed Americans couldn’t possibly overthrow the government.

  89. I was stripped of my honor as a former Marine by the crafty gun control subhumans and their insinuation that no gun rights activist ever served in the military.

    What do you actually mean by this phrase? That you were court-martialed, or punished, or denied veteran status, or what? Or are you saying that you lost honor because somebody said no gun rights activist ever served?

  90. @TomA

    Libertarians keep saying ‘statists’. Maybe that’s what you believe, but it’s mostly false. Most people that you call statist want the state to do A, B, C, D, and E; possibly F and G, but not usually much more. They have a list of things that they want, and they might well vote against anything more.

  91. @EMF, you’re missing the point.

    The problem of statists is not the length of any individual’s list of what the state should do “for” you. It is their unshakeable certainty that the state MUST do these things “for” you. Whether *you* want them done, or not. The state knows what’s good for you better than you do, and is obliged to act to protect you from yourself and your own foolish notions of what you want in life.

  92. Just in case someone is looking for the “brain surgery by suicide” story, here’s one, though it’s about OCD not hallucinations.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/25/us/brain-wound-eliminates-man-s-mental-illness.html

    BTW, ESR, do you read these comments and/or your mail and do you have any comment about these and other Applebaum things?

    http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/jacob-appelbaum-tor-project-suspension-sexual-misconduct-victims/

    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2858345-Statement-by-JB-for-IMMEDIATE-RELEASE.html

    • >BTW, ESR, do you read these comments and/or your mail and do you have any comment about these and other Applebaum things?

      I do, but don’t consider that I have enough factual knowledge to comment.

  93. Didn’t you get the memo? All guns are forged in Mount Doom by the Dark Lord himself, and warp the souls of all…like Gollum’s ring.

    Mine must all be cheap dwarvish knockoffs. I don’t get any groovy eeeevil vibe.

  94. The technical definition of a statist is one who thinks that the state can define morality. Usually in the modern day this revolves around some appeal to social contract theory.
    A statist isn’t necessarily a totalitarian, but they believe in following the statutes, just “because it’s the law”

  95. @DocMerlin –

    The technical definition of a statist is one who thinks that the state can define morality…. A statist isn’t necessarily a totalitarian, but they believe in following the statutes, just “because it’s the law”

    The unavoidable problem with this is – it leads to the soft despotism of laws ‘for your own good’ and the death of innocents at the hands of the State. Heinlein got this one right nearly 40 years ago:

    Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

  96. @ DocMerlin

    Throughout our specie’s evolutionary history, we have driven by hardship and competition to become a sentient and dominant life form on the planet. This occurred in an ancestral environment that largely consisted of a gauntlet of existential trials.

    With the recent advent of civilization, technology, affluence, and a parallel memetic evolutionary channel; the paradigm has changed. A large cohort of our population now votes for living rather than works for a living. This is essence of the statism pandemic. And it is anti-evolutionary.

    Parasitism is now incentivized and rewarded. Modeling strongly suggests that this species pathology must end in collapse; and the transition can be sudden. In other, it’s not just about a spasm of bad governance.

  97. Pardon me for being amused that you’re talking about paradigm change while still clearly thinking in outdated paradigms.

    This thread is drifting further and further off original topic. But…

    Many of the attitudes of our society have historically been shaped by the twin factors that there was guaranteed to be work for everyone who wants it and that continued labor was essential in order to survive. This started to change in the eighteenth century with industrialization, and the change became much more dramatic in the twentieth century as automation became common. Now in the 21st century, not only are we greatly increasing automation, but AI is beginning to enter the picture, and computerization is vastly increasing the power of individual workers. We design new ships and aircraft in months. We construct major bridges as prefabricated kits and assemble them on-site, sometimes in a matter of weeks. Our productivity is incredible, and the amount of manual scut-work is shrinking fast. This is getting us better products for lower [real] prices, with less manual labor.

    But a side effect of this is that there is not enough labor to go around any more. And this is accelerating. The paradigm that you are a lazy parasite if you don’t work at least forty hours a week for your living falls apart when there is not enough work for everyone to do so. And you know what? There are people alive today who can remember when the laborer’s working week was sixty hours. Some European nations have already reduced the work week to 35 hours. There’s already talk in places of reducing it further. Four-day work weeks with three days off, or six-hour workdays.

    The times they are a’changin’, as the song has it. And paradigms need to change with them. We are *on our way* to a post-scarcity economy. And we need to start thinking about what that means, and how we’re going to cope with it. And the first thing that has to go out of the window is the idea that if you don’t have a full-time job, you’re a useless parasite who deserves to starve.

    We’ve had paradigm changes similar to this before, though not nearly on such a scale. They didn’t bring us to rack and ruin. They brought us the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason. And in all of these there were still those who grumped and grumbled about the decay of society, and opined that we should all return to the good old days when everyone (except them) worked in the fields fourteen hours a day, six days a week and hardly anybody knew how to read.

  98. Pardon me for being amused that you’re talking about paradigm change while still clearly thinking in outdated paradigms.

    Rather amusing then that you would then proceed to bring up the oldest, overused, and most tired drivel imaginable.

    There is no such thing as a post scarcity economy in an entropic universe, there is only more than the average baseline knows what to do with at this particular time.

    • >There is no such thing as a post scarcity economy in an entropic universe, there is only more than the average baseline knows what to do with at this particular time.

      Foo is correct. In the absolute best case you would always be limited by heat-dissipation capacity. Physics is a bitch that way.

  99. Excuse me, @Foo, you are deliberately splitting semantic hairs. We all know what is meant by the term post-scarcity economy. To quote Wikipedia for a concise definition,

    “Post-scarcity is a theoretical economy in which most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely.”

    If you truly think that the entropic nature of the universe prevents the above, you are … let’s just say unclear on the concept. By the standards of the Middle Ages — or of much of the third world today — we in the Western industrialized nations already *have* a post-scarcity economy. It just hasn’t trickled down to the rest of the world yet — but we’re working on that, too.

    (Having the global energy/resource budget to *support* it worldwide is a separate problem, and by no means whatsoever a trivial one.)

  100. By the standards of the Middle Ages — or of much of the third world today — we in the Western industrialized nations already *have* a post-scarcity economy.

    The defense rests.

  101. @ Phil Stracchino

    I think you may be new here, but I will try to be concise.

    Our species evolutionary lineage is about 2+ million years, and the modern era (last several millennia) is but a tiny fraction. Most of our evolutionary heritage derives from the Darwinian processes that occurred over this very long history.

    About 200,000 years ago, we began to develop complex language and that likely instigated the brain encephalization that led to our sentience and self-awareness. We then acquired the ability to reprogram our young after birth, and instill them with knowledge that improved their survival and robustness. This led to memetics as a new evolutionary mechanism.

    I don’t know why you have intuited the terms lazy and starve into my comment, but that does not reflect my point-of-view. The modern day mechanism of politics and governance has created a new feedback loop in which people are seduced into dependence and eventually reprogrammed into becoming parasitic (think of it as harmful addiction like heroin). No one starts out wanting to become a parasitic ward of the state, lose their self-respect and self-reliance, and become a cripple whose only value is to reliably vote for the candidate that promises the most goodies, but it is happening nonetheless, and at a faster rate.

  102. “We are trying to unravel the Mighty Infinite using a language which was designed to tell one another where the fresh fruit was.”

    – pterry

  103. Post-scarcity as a term implies that economic activity is about fulfilling human needs. In reality it is large about competing for social status.

    Every such theoretical topic needs to be built on a correct view of human nature. To my best knowledge (EDSC model) humans originate as a species of great apes that already dominated their ecology before evolving intelligence, hence reproductive advantage was conveyed mostly by intra-species competition. Groups, tribes of hominids making war on each other and also trying to grab the chieftains role in their own group precipitated the evolution of intelligence, which is primarily a social intelligence, an intelligence primarily evolved for cooperating-for-competition, engaging in coalitionary violence i.e. tribal war. http://www.ehbonline.org/article/S1090-5138(04)00059-5/abstract

    It is not 100% clear yet why the evolution of human intelligence was such a runaway, self-reinforcing feedback process i.e. why aren’t there semi-humans around. My theory, which is not yet confirmed by mainstream science but at least has the advantage of proposing a viable runaway feedback process, is that the primary goal of this social competition was for males to gain females. Intelligence helped a male reproduce. However intelligence i.e. larger heads also made childbirth more difficult and dangerous and infants developing slower, making maternal investment higher hence motherhood on the whole more valuable and mothers, women more desirable, more competed for. Thus the very process that helps in the competition: the evolution of intelligence, made the prize of competition more valuable, thus generating a feedback process. Again, this is only a hypothesis, but is there even another one that can be predict why intelligence got so runaway evolved?

    The point is, the economy is not about human needs. It is about social status, prestige and dominance. Needs can just be generated by advertising. Predictably, advertising focuses on products giving one social status. The real deal is that selling a lot of products gives one a kind of status, the status of being rich. The problem is, it is politically fragile. There are intellectuals and bureaucrats who want to redistribute social status from the rich to themselves, by taxing and regulating them, this is largely called the political left. As they keep rewriting legislation and of course the rich push back and put their backdoors into legislation, there is no guarantee that this game is going to keep having anything to do with serving the real or generated need of the common people. The rules keep changing and they are less and less about “sell something people are willing to pay for”. If the rules are sufficiently rewritten, the economy could become masturbatory. Or it could at some point go in the direction of violent, fighting-type competition.

    • > Again, this is only a hypothesis, but is there even another one that can be predict why intelligence got so runaway evolved?

      I know of at least one other possible accelerator. Not that I’d say your model is wrong. it’s pretty close to what anyone willing to look at evolutionary dynamics in a clear-eyed way seems to come up with. But, for example, you ignore the fact that inter-female competition competition to attract high-status mates could also drive an social-intelligence arms race. Indeed, behavioral differences between men and women today suggest that sex-linked genes cause women to average higher in social intelligence, suggesting that in the EAA men didn’t need it as much.

      A more heterodox idea was popularized by John W. Campbell, the co-inventor of modern SF. He riffed off evidence that manhood-initiation rituals are very nearly a cross-cultural universal with certain persistent common traits to suggest that some early hominids developed a custom of testing adolescents to see if they could override instinctive aversion to threatening pain – e.g from genital mutilation, cicatricing of the skin, etc. Those who failed to do this on verbal command were killed and eaten before they could reproduce.

      Campbell thought that wherever this custom first arose, it accelerated selection for language use and what neurologists now call executive control by the frontal cortex (Campbell didn’t have that language, but it’s clearly what he was driving at). Over generations this gave the descendants of the band that invented it a selective advantage in intertribal warfare. I think Campbell’s theory is quite plausible and neatly compliments the social-arms-race model.

      But I disagree with your claim that the economy is not about human needs. You’re ignoring the fact that as people scale the Maslow hierarchy due to abundance their needs change, growing more subtle. And you’re confusing status-seeking by producers with status-seeking by consumers, which is fatal to predictive modeling because these generate very different consequences. Finally, you’re exhibiting some of the narrowness of a wealthy First Worlder tending to forget that subsistence problems really do exist.

  104. @ESR

    Yes, Robin Hanson on overt/covert mating – basically women competing to be the actual wife of the chieftain, not just his mistress, and while the mistress is largely selected for looks the wife is selected for more brainy traits – probably matters, too: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/08/billandme.html

    I don’t really understand where the pain tolerance model is coming from. In a battle, you don’t even feel injury, endorphins override it, only after that. We have countless accounts of this by soldiers. Few fights were lost because it had hurt too much.

    Status-seeking by producers vs. consumers: well, Say’s Law, people produce in order to consume. OK, I get it, there are all kinds of prestige attached to smart inventions, high ranking or prestigious jobs, and other achievements, that don’t necessarily cash out in luxury consumption and respected on their own right. Fine. But do the people who flaunt cash are really flaunting cash, or are they actually trying to send an “see, I have earned it, this proves what a great producer I am” message? To me it really looks intertwined. Generated prediction: high achievers don’t try to look like bored rich heirs. Bored rich heirs more often try to look like high achievers (and usually fail). A more immediate one: to what extent does food or wine snobbery signal “I can buy expensive things” vs. “I am intelligent, sophisticated, can tell subtle differences apart” which in turn sends a signal about intellectual production ability as well? In short I think these things are going to be difficult to separate.

    As we move up the Maslow pyramid, our needs change into desires. This is an important difference. A need is something that if unfulfilled arouses the compassion of other people, who often feel some amount of moral compulsion to help. A desire is something, if unfulfilled, well, that is just seen as life. Unfulfilled needs generate moral crusades for redistribution and whatnot, unfulfilled desires rarely so. Of course, it is true that the definition of needs i.e. the things whose lack arouses compassion tends to climb as a society climbs the Maslow pyramid. Even towards animals – there is an urban legend of an EU regulation prescribing giving toys to pigs, because even livestock being bored feels cruel to some now.

    Subsistence problems exists, but talking about post-scarcity means starting from an assumed point of development where they are long forgotten.

    • >I don’t really understand where the pain tolerance model is coming from. In a battle, you don’t even feel injury, endorphins override it, only after that.

      I wasn’t emphatic enough about the important part. In Campbell’s model, what’s being tested in initiatory rites is the ability to process language and comply with verbal commands under pain and stress. If you don’t understand or cannot retain the command to remain still and tolerate injury, you die. If you understand it but lack the self-control to execute it, you die. Initiation rites do not pre-adrenalize the subject.

      >Subsistence problems exists, but talking about post-scarcity means starting from an assumed point of development where they are long forgotten.

      We’re not there yet, even in First World countries. Hell, even I have to worry about money for living expenses – and I’m bright and accomplished with as close to no signaling-consumption habits as you’re likely to find.

  105. @TheDividualist –

    As we move up the Maslow pyramid, our needs change into desires. This is an important difference. A need is something that if unfulfilled arouses the compassion of other people, who often feel some amount of moral compulsion to help. A desire is something, if unfulfilled, well, that is just seen as life. Unfulfilled needs generate moral crusades for redistribution and whatnot, unfulfilled desires rarely so. Of course, it is true that the definition of needs i.e. the things whose lack arouses compassion tends to climb as a society climbs the Maslow pyramid.

    The last sentence in your paragraph contradicts (and defeats) the entire premise of the first part of it. Besides, (to use your language) unfulfilled desires can engender a response to help fulfill them – ever heard of a “sympathy fuck”?

    @ESR –

    > Subsistence problems exists, but talking about post-scarcity means starting from an assumed point of development where they are long forgotten.

    We’re not [there] yet, even in First World countries. Hell, even I have to worry about money for living expenses – and I’m bright and accomplished with as close to no signaling-consumption habits as you’re likely to find.

    I would respectfully submit that you could be earning more than enough money for your needs, desires, and even a bit of ephemera – if you were willing to “work for ‘The Man'” in whatever alias it presented itself. There are good-paying, interesting jobs in the open source community – but you wouldn’t be able to work full-time on your own interests, or necessarily live wherever you wanted to. Alternatively, you could just suck it up, work at something less than fully interesting but dead easy, and spend your spare time and energy working on OSS projects (like I try to).

    • >I would respectfully submit that you could be earning more than enough money for your needs, desires, and even a bit of ephemera – if you were willing to “work for ‘The Man’” in whatever alias it presented itself.

      You are quite right. But in a truly post-scarcity culture I wouldn’t have to make that choice.

  106. There is a way to fake a post-scarcity economy, but the results aren’t exactly pretty.

    What you need is production capacity several orders of magnitude above the demand in your society, and some way to “manage” the demand so that the citizenry is unaware of how much more they could be getting under a market system.

    The mechanism is as follows:

    1. Decide on your selection of goods.
    2. Produce many times as much of each good as could be used by the entire population.
    3. Manipulate the mental state of the citizens so they are perfectly happy with the selection of goods you have provided, and can’t even conceive of anything that you haven’t provided.
    4. Try to recycle, dump, or stockpile the inevitable waste that you are forced to generate in order to maintain the illusion of “post-scarcity”.
    5. Hope to $DEITY that you don’t have any sort of black swan show up. Otherwise you are screwed because you can’t adapt.

    If you want to see an example of this kind of economy in action, and what it leaves behind, go watch Wall-E.

  107. The problem with your idea that post-scarcity is impossible is that basic needs are fungible. When you have a an economic base large enough that it can produce enough food (enough calories and enough of each particular nutrient), enough shelter, etc, for everyone, and push for a policy which violently objects to the notion of actually doing so, your motives are suspect.

    The assertion “that the citizenry is unaware of how much more they could be getting under a market system.” makes no sense. They’re not getting more if you produce a greater selection of goods that you demand more of their money for… at best they’re arguably getting better things. At least, the ones who aren’t starving in the street.

  108. @Random832

    >When you have a an economic base large enough that it can produce enough food (enough calories and enough of each particular nutrient), enough shelter, etc, for everyone, and push for a policy which violently objects to the notion of actually doing so, your motives are suspect.

    I don’t know whether it worths responding because it sounds so much like you are trying to make a morality tale. But generally speaking, there is already enough food and shelter produced for the first world, and it is even adequately distributed, and even getting it done in the third world does not seem that very far. It is far more about messy, stupid, violent, corrupted human choices than about inadequate production or distribution policies. The primary reason we can’t get third world farmers raise genetically engineered golden rice in adequate numbers is that they are afraid random bands of criminals or unstable exploitative governments will take it. In the first world, there are homeless shelters, but many homeless don’t go there because they don’t want the other homeless steal their stuff. There are foreclosed houses sitting empty, but you cannot just give it to the homeless because that gives a strong incentive to owners to declare bankruptcy and stop paying, if they are going to get a house anyway. In short, it all boils down to the difficulty of managing messy, corrupted, violent, selfish human choices, not about managing production or distribution. Production and distribution, if you include all the young idealists who volunteer at soup kitchens (or not so idealists, if you consider it helps at getting in a good college), is in itself almost solved in the first world and a bunch of genetic engineering could solve it in the third. This isn’t the issue, the issue is dealing with all the people who constantly fuck it all up due to selfishness, violence, sheer stupidity, or something else.

    The kind of policy that could actually make it happen would be simply one of predictability where people can invest into something like farming because the outcomes are predictable. Predictability means safety and stability. For example, third world farmers could raise genetically engineered food if they would be protected both from random criminals (safety) and arbitrary random stupid taxation and corruption and government policies (stability) so I guess an efficient, small, irresistibly strong yet generally non-meddling framework of government rolled out worldwide. Since safety and stability, predictability, sounds something like an amalgame of libertarian and reactionary ideas, I suppose you could find a lot of support for those.

    There is one societal enemy of generic prosperity, including enough food and shelter to go around, and that is unpredictability, also known as chaos. Unpredictability ensues when crime is not efficiently suppressed or government does not keep its promises, or what is even worse, it doesn’t even have any other promises than to make whatever happens to be popular happen.

    One core issue with democracy is the lack of promises. Who could make them? Politicians today can promise that they will keep giving a huge tax break to farmers who raise staple foods, in order to ensure everybody gets fed. Great. Next year the people elect someone else and the promise is void. As a result, there is a less incentive to invest into that kind of farming: or really, into anything, because we can never expect our legal, political, regulatory circumstances to survive the next election so how even to make long-term plans? With a king, at least we had a chance if he promises a tax break to staple farmers when whe is 25 maybe, maybe he will stick to that when he is 55 and in 30 years you paid off the mortgage. Or something. And this lack of stability and kept promises is what keeps people from the kind of investment, coordination and planning that would result in what you want.

    The problem is to never try to make into a morality tale. Even more importantly, never try to assume it all depends on political will aimed at the end result – it is not simply about really wanting to feed everybody and then making a law to make it so, that would be nothing but the morality tale encoded in law, and as such useless. Actually intelligent politics is about a fine-tuning of incentives, with the assumption that people are going to be selfish and listen to incentives. Morality plays little role. (Actually, morality is in itself a roundabout incentive, as in, trying to gain prestige by not looking too selfish. But this in itself is not tuneable.)

  109. > But generally speaking, there is already enough food and shelter produced for the first world, and it is even adequately distributed,

    “Everyone” in my statement above was meant to even include those who can’t or won’t work. When people being required to work to survive is no longer a real economic necessity, it becomes an attempt to impose an idea of morality (i.e. that choosing not to work is immoral) on them.

  110. > There are foreclosed houses sitting empty, but you cannot just give it to the homeless because that gives a strong incentive to owners to declare bankruptcy and stop paying, if they are going to get a house anyway.

    And if that happens I suppose the sky falls down?

    Anyway, those houses surely wouldn’t end up costing that much if they were all put on the open market at once; my understanding is that the biggest real obstacle to that is tax debt attached to them. The only explanation I can think of for why it’s not done is in order to keep property values high to protect the asset values of landowners.

  111. @Random832 –

    > [M]y understanding is that the biggest real obstacle to that is tax debt attached to them. The only explanation I can think of for why it’s not done is in order to keep property values high to protect the asset values of landowners.

    Also so the taxing district can maintain the fiction that there is this yuuuuge pile of revenue due to them. Since almost all of this will eventually get written off, its only purpose is to try to [a] convince bond-rating agencies and lenders that the district is in better shape than it is, and [b] con the other taxpayers into thinking that there’s (going to be) enough revenue for all the ‘pie in the sky’ promised, without having to raise their taxes.

  112. Jay Maynard on 2016-07-03 at 08:09:40 said:
    > You can never have enough tools, booze, fast cars, computers, or firearms.

    My father had this friend (I think his name was Dr. Stewart) who was a…collector is the wrong word, but hoarder is a little too harsh.

    He had a 1911 in EVERY room in the house. One on top of the fridge. One stuffed inbetween the seat cushion of his easy chair. Bedroom night stand etc.

    In his basement he had *TABLES* full of rifles. And by “full of” I mean he had a layer of guns, then a thick layer of newspapers, then a layer of guns, and then a thick layer of newspapers, 3 or 4 thick.

    This was the stuff that wasn’t in the safes.

    I would argue that he was the example that breaks your rule.

  113. Ken on 2016-07-11 at 17:37:00 said:
    > They are well aware that our nation’s veterans support gun rights unequivocally,

    That is simply not true. There are 10s to 100s of millions of “veterans” all across the political and intelligence spectrum. There are many on the left side of both of those spectrums who do support limiting access to firearms to greater or lesser degrees.

    Heck, MOST people agree that there are limits to the 2nd amendment. And by most I mean something like 99%. No one sane argues that a 12 year old should be able to buy a submachine gun over the counter (If automatic weapons were regulated to the same extent as semi-autos, think how cheap a STEN could be produced) .

    There are veterans like Betraus who are perfectly willing to take away your and my right to defend ourselves and our families.

    > and that they are cowards who let their criminal friends rape their wives and children.

    No, they will let their criminal friends rape OUR wives and children.

    Note that the brave, brave stand takers in the California Legislature exempted themselves from the same rules that the rest of the idiots[1] in their state have to live by.

    > We are losing

    No, we are not.

    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rtc.gif

    > I was stripped of my honor as a former Marine

    Bullshit.

    > by the crafty gun control subhumans and their insinuation that no gun rights activist
    > ever served in the military.

    Bullshit.

    No one *EVER* doubts for a heartbeat that I’m a former Marine (and Army National Guard, and Air Force Reserves and civilian contractor in a war zone).

    I’ll go further and state that in 30 years of arguing in person and on the internet regarding gun control *no one* has ever suggested that most of us (veterans) are generally in favor of any sort of widespread gun control.

    > I didn’t serve so I could be some forgotten saint sitting on a mountaintop by myself.

    You didn’t serve to use your service as a stick to browbeat people.

    Anyone who uses veteran status on *either* side of the debate is, honestly, proving why we need the 2nd amendment.

    > We owe it to our veterans to acknowledge that they DID serve, and that they
    > OVERWHELMINGLY support 2nd Amendment rights.

    Almost everyone supports 2A rights to one degree or another.

    The question, as the philosopher Il Duce puts it “…do you possess the constitution, the depth of faith, to go as far is as needed?”

  114. @Random832

    I get it, you’d prefer an amoralistic approach, not pushing morality on people. Why, that’s easy! Just simply ignore everything like compassion, empathy and decency – simply give no fucks about human suffering and death. Then you are not pushing a morality of work ethic on anyone – they are perfectly free to suffer and die. Deal?

    Maybe not. My point is, you are not actually not being moralistic. You are just taking one kind of morality, that of compassion, for granted, as an assumption, after we all are decent human beings and so on, and not recognize or admit this is a morality, and then attack another morality as if only that was moralistic. This isn’t honest enough.

    It is more honest to admit it is simply two competing moralities at play.

    Are you young? I see this approach at some college students, to adopt a position of moral nihilism, because it seems cruel to force certain behaviors on others. They tend to ignore that it is morality itself that forbids cruelty, sadism or indifference, that true amoralism is not a reign of tolerance but a reign of might makes right and intolerance of the mighty against the weak. The issue is largely when people haven’t yet faced enough shitty people in life, they sort of tend to take it for granted everybody is decent.

    So it is two kinds of moralities competing, not amoralism and moralism. And the big difference is that one is sustainable and one is not.

    There is a new method of analysis that emerged only lately, the theory of signalling arms races. People like to seem as good compassionate nice people or at least to feel subjectively so. So they support ideas that generally signal caring towards others. The issue is, that becomes then the next normal and others will keep raising and raising those kinds of bets.

    As a European I have many sad stories about it. Like the textbook Swedish socialism. It emerged as a morality of compassion. “Please someone think of the poor!” If they would have kept it to ethnic Swedes, who are generally a law-abiding and efficient folk, it may even have worked, certainly there well all kinds of problems with it but it could have sort of limped on. The trouble is, once that became the new normal, other people who still wanted to look or feel nicer and more compassionate than others, had to raise the bet and signal something even more compassionate: “Please someone think of the third world poor!” and then they opened the gates to immigration and now it is quickly approaching being a hellhole. All this because the goodness arms race goes on and on on and does not stop where you would want it to stop. It is a runaway feedback process.

    One possible way to solve it is to have a self-balancing, self-limiting morality. This is largely called quid pro quo, reciprocity, even reciprocal altruism: you help people, but expect them to give something back (or give forward) or else you will stop doing so.

    The idea that people of a certain IQ level will be unable to give something back or forward, because their jobs get automated, is certainly not impossible. But if you want to argue that, on a technical, not moral level, please build a model that includes the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moravec%27s_paradox

    It still does not invalidate the principle that in order to avoid any runaway goodness signalling feedback process, morality must be firmly reciprocal. I have one idea what the perpetually unemployable can offer in return for a lifetime of basic income: voluntary sterilization. At least in that case we must only bear the burden of paying them a living for one generation only. This is the minimal level of reciprocal fairness on their part. (I am writing from a position of confidence that my child will be smart enough to be employable in the future economy. She looks like an artist type – which is not a very employable skillset today, but in an automated economy everything should so cheap that one can make a living by selling the odd artwork here and there. If not – then I don’t want grandchildren.)

    BTW factor that in your model that an automated economy should be extremely cheap – food and shelter costs the wage of like 1 hour of work per month even on an unregulated free market. The mother of all deflations. The problem is, mainstream economists and governments keep telling us deflation is bad. Which means things can’t have a cheap price. But the whole point of automation is to have cheap costs. High prices, low costs, what does that give? Either gigantic profits or gigantic taxes. (Or even if you go a Soviet state owned way, it probably still means gigantic revenue for the state.)

    And this is where I have to emit a loud “wake up, sheeple!” this is essentially how it looks today: the educated classes scare us with predicting gigantic profits, and essentially want gigantic taxes instead. To be spent by THEM. By the social programs THEY manage. It is the interest of the mandarins and managers, not the common people. For the common people there is a far more direct way to prosper: deflation parallel with automation: simply letting prices become dirt cheap. And that is the obvious way, and should be obvious if not the educated classes would not teach us absolutely bullshit in order to let them spend that money instead of letting the customer save it. The bullshit is largely “deflation prevents investment” which is not actually true.

  115. The bullshit is largely “deflation prevents investment” which is not actually true.

    Um. I don’t know about that, but it certainly hurts employment; people really hate nominal wage drops.

    Also, a recommendation for some loosely connected SF:
    I just read through Bumsider, by C. C. MacApp. Not all that bad, and pretty unrealistic as it goes (heavily zeerusted, and the slang is weird, but whatever), and one of the main features of the book is the conflict between the Insiders (who live in a post-scarcity economy, and aren’t allowed (legally) to work much over 20 hours a week [not that many of them work either]), and the Bumsiders, on the other side of a barrier, who are struggling to survive. Worth a read, if you can find it anywhere (I found it in a used-book store).

  116. @TheDividualist
    >The mother of all deflations. The problem is, mainstream economists and governments keep
    >telling us deflation is bad. Which means things can’t have a cheap price.

    You don’t understand what deflation is. Deflation is when prices *and wages* go down in tandem. Things being cheap is neither deflation nor inflation. If, say, a dozen eggs cost $1000000, but you made $1000000000 an hour, that would (a) be inflated, and (b) be really cheap on the eggs. If a dozen eggs cost 10¢, but you only made 1¢ an hour, that would (a) be deflated, and (b) be some really expensive eggs.

    (And yes, in Bumsider, if you’re Inside, food is really cheap.)

  117. I don’t think that your core assumption that “a reliable way to tell if it’s broadening or narrowing is whether manufacturers’ and retailers product ranges are expanding or contracting” has strong support in favour of it.
    For example, an alternative explanation for product ranges expanding might be that SKU’s have gotten cheaper. (Not the least thanks to advances in planning and logistics software).
    When I look at cars for example I see that the number of models and model variations is currently vastly bigger than it was, say, two decades ago. Total car sales have however not increased that dramatically.

  118. > I wasn’t emphatic enough about the important part. In Campbell’s model, what’s being tested in initiatory rites is the ability to process language and comply with verbal commands under pain and stress. If you don’t understand or cannot retain the command to remain still and tolerate injury, you die. If you understand it but lack the self-control to execute it, you die. Initiation rites do not pre-adrenalize the subject.

    This sounds amazingly like the Gom Jabbar trial that Paul Atreides underwent in Dune. He had but to comply with the simple directive “do not remove your hand” and thus avoid the excruciating pain, under the explicit threat of death for disobedience. I wonder if Herbert was familiar with the Campbell model.

    • >I wonder if Herbert was familiar with the Campbell model.

      I think that is very likely. Dune was originally serialized in Campbell’s Analog.

  119. Regarding the suicide numbers going up, has anyone considered that the Baby Boom generation is now of the age where statistically, suicides are highest (especially among white males)?

  120. Heh. Plenty of comments, but I wanted to say: I always lie on surveys, unless they’re paying me. It would be immoral to accept money for a lie; but if they’re just fucking around with statistics, then so am I.

  121. You could also effectively get around the problem of a significant fraction of gun owners not answering surveys (if indeed that is a problem) by asking people how many guns they own.

    It also occurs to me that if a smaller proportion of households are buying ever more guns, then that would also lead to a broadening of selection. I can only speak for myself, but I’m definitely not going to buy another 10/22, carbine, .270 hunting rifle, etc. I’m going to buy a different tool.

  122. I’m not sure if this will help, But I know a lot of people who would be, let’s say, unlikely to mention gun ownership to pollsters – or doctors, or any other nosy sorts.

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