Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Guns vs Cameras - which are "equalizers" that can prevent tragedy? Plus transparency news

The most recent mass-shooting tragedy sets into stark contrast two national misfortunes.  At surface, they seem similar -- crazed gunmen opening fire on citizens and lethal misbehavior by a minority of bad cops. But in several important ways, the trends are diametrically opposite.

First - random shooting sprees by deeply sick civilians seem to have no end in sight. Over half of the world's deadliest mass shootings that have occurred in the past 50 years were in the U.S., whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.  Limiting easy access to weaponry by psychopaths is one blatantly obvious path. So would be courageous investment in education and mental health...

... but the top Roseburg police official mentioned another option we should add to our list of responses. Said the local Sheriff regarding this shooter: 'You will never hear me mention his name.’  Indeed, soon after, the community at-large responded by adopting this approach

At last! I have only been proposing this for 20 years.  See my article on the Erastratos Effect: "Names that live in infamy. Killers want notoriety. Let's not give it to them."

But to be fair and honest, all of this will just nibble at the edges. In one of the most sad-but-clever satirical gambits, The Onion simply re-posts its gun violence article with updated locations and dates, each time this occurs, with the same title: "No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens." Go read it and laugh while you cry, knowing you will read it again and again, in the future....

== Commentary ==

If I may offer a few of my own spins on our most recent tragedy?

-- First, an extra bit of sadness for me, as Roseburg featured in my novel The Postman. If you know the topic of that book, ironies redouble.

-- Second: across all of these morbid tales, it's worth noting that in not a single case has the perpetrator been brought down by an armed civilian bystander... not once. Ever. Though that is precisely the incantation that the NRA uses, while promoting the Campbellian notion of a gun-lugging population. Voodoo, only surpassed by Supply Side "Economics."

In fact, many mass-shooters have been brought down by heroic  un-armed bystanders - like those three young Americans aboard that French train, a month or so ago - who bravely charge the lunatic, usually while he is changing clips. Of all the NRA's insane positions, their fierce opposition to limits on clip and magazine size is the most criminally culpable, without a single justification in defense of normal gun owners. Only... let me swivel and point out that they do not have a monopoly on craziness here.

-- Supporters of Gun Control share some blame! Dismissing their opponents as "gun nuts," they show no inclination to study the deep underpinnings of the "slippery slope" argument that motivates Second Amendment supporters to oppose even the most reasonable reforms.  This despite the fact that political victories are best won by peeling away moderate pragmatists on the opposing side.

If you take the time to dig deep, you'll find a possible way to get around this obstinacy - and peel off moderates - by offering a fair trade. (Especially since any fool can see that the 2nd Amendment - as currently worded - is by far the weakest in the Constitution. Some day the phrase "well-regulated militia" will be interpreted more strongly! Gun fans need to start negotiating now, for a better amendment.)

But someone has to drop simplistic sanctimony first -- getting practical. And you know it will not be them. See this laid out in detail... along with a pragmatic proposal to give all sides what they deeply need. 

In sharp contrast... the apparent wave of cop-on-black violence on our streets, while tragic, is not an acceleration of the problem, but a sign of good trends taking hold! Because the spread of cameras in the hands of civilians -- protected by recent declarations by the courts and the Obama Administration -- is now giving the poor and minorities... and good cops... at last the 'ammo' they need to start getting rid of bad ones. 

Cameras are proving to be the Great Equalizer that guns were supposed to be... but never were.  (See this forecast on p. 160 of The Transparent Society (1997) and in EARTH (1989).)

One of these trends - while tragic in each case - offers hope for the future. 

The other makes us all want to tear our hair out.

== What's your rating? ==

And... the transparency wars continue!

One to five stars for you? Of course this had to come. Launching soon:  Yelp for people: You will soon be able to rate anyone you have interacted with on this new app: with reviews and star ratings assigned to "your exes, your co-workers, the old guy who lives next door. You can’t opt out — once someone puts your name in the Peeple system, it’s there unless you violate the site’s terms of service. And you can’t delete bad or biased reviews — that would defeat the whole purpose," reads a review in the Washington Post. The launchers of Peeple say they will ban racist and sexist comments, as well as profanity and hateful comments. Yet, announcement of this app has raised a storm of protest on the internet, with potential legal woes down the road.

The good news? This will light a fire under creating real reputation mediation services, a potential billion dollar business – and don’t let anyone tell you that reputation companies already exist. Currently, they are jokes.

== Your data: Sold ==

Want an entertaining jeremiad? Then swing over to the latest from Gregory Maus:  How corporate data brokers sell your life, and why you should be concerned

“For nearly two years, media coverage of the NSA has been near-constant, over concerns about the extent of their data collection on people around the world. But, there’s an even larger behemoth in the shadows gathering information about you. Unlike the NSA, they are accountable to few laws, very little accountability, and no oversight, laughing off investigative inquiries at even the highest levels of government. This is a massive ecosystem, with an insatiable desire to learn every detail of your life and then sell it to those who would use it to persuade you. In effect, it’s a sprawling black market—and as one would expect with a black market, many of the purchasers of this information are criminals who are using it to steal the identities and valuables of many. We can only hope that they’re the worst of the buyers.”

Without any doubt, this is an industry meriting application of searing light and scrutiny.  For example: “MEDbase 200 was selling lists of rape victims for 7.9 cents per name, as well as similarly-priced lists of those suffering from HIV/AIDs, genetic diseases, addictive behavior (conveniently broken down into sub-categories like gambling, sex, alcohol, and drugs) and dementia. The listings were taken down soon after Dixon’s testimony.”

But… isn’t that the point? It was sufficient for such behaviors to be seen for them to be stopped.  To whatever degree they continue, it is precisely proportional to the degree they can get away with it, in secret.  Indeed, that is the only anodyne or answer. It is wholly necessary and wholly sufficient.  Well, almost wholly sufficient. What is not needed is panicky legislation to shut info flows down, with the best of privacy-protecting intentions.  Those selfsame laws will inevitably be used to shelter the very miscreants they are meant to stop.

We need to empower people (or their NGO pallidins) to see better, so they can perceive patterns of info abuse and bullying and apply deterrence upon those who would do such things with our information.

== Vanishing your data ==

And finally... Xerox PARC engineers have developed a chip that can explode into teensy little pieces as part of DARPA's Vanishing Programmable Resources project. Yes... explode.

Who’d want that?  Self-destruction of chips is central to the goal of securing data from thieves — criminal or national. Someday, this chip could be used to keep, say, encryption keys needed to access sensitive data. The self-destruction process can also be triggered not just by a laser, but also via radio signals or a physical switch.

Does this conflict with my goals as “Mr. Transparency”?  Nonsense.  Anyone who thinks that simply has not bothered to read or understand.  


Larry C. Lyons said...

A couple of points to consider.

First off, a common point raised against gun control legislation is that in places like New York, Baltimore and Detroit, gun control doesn't work. However, when you look at where all those guns in places like Baltimore, New York and Washington DC are coming from, they all originate in states with very loose gun control laws. When one can drive less than an hour, pick up some firearms in one state, and sell them for 5 or 6 times as much in DC or Baltimore, its obvious why state or city based gun control legislation will not work.

As for the false notion that an armed populace will prevent such mass shootings, iIt’s an intuitive and appealing idea — that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun. We can imagine it. We see it in movies. At least 80 million Americans have gone into the gun store, laid money on the counter, and purchased that fantasy. And yet it rarely plays out as envisioned.

Moreover a recently published study throws cold water on the idea that a well-armed populace deters criminals or prevents murders. Instead, higher ownership of guns in a state is linked to more firearm robberies, more firearm assaults and more homicide in general. The study's authors found no evidence that states with more households with guns led to timid criminals. In fact, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. Firearm robbery increased with every increase in gun ownership except in the very highest quintile of gun-owning states (the difference in that cluster was not statistically significant). Firearm homicide was 2.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least.

Additionally a 2014 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found a 0.7 percent increase in overall homicides for every 1 percent increase in household gun ownership.

And for those who think mainly in cases and good stories (typical for conservatives) even most cases of these interventions it never pans out. For instance in last year's Las Vegas mass shooting, Jared and Amanda Miller shot and killed concealed carrier Joseph Wilcox after he tried to intervene when two police officers were killed.

A related article with more detailed information

Moreover, if you look at the firearm homicide rate for Canada it is far less than one-tenth that of the US. That can be entirely attributed to the NATIONAL firearm control laws. From 1961 through 2011 (see http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11738-eng.htm), the firearm homicide rate dropped significantly each time firearms were further restricted without a corresponding rise in the homicide rate for other weapons etc. These laws have resulted in a more than 50% decrease in the homicide firearms rate from 1961 to 2011.

Australia is a very good example as well. A study (http://andrewleigh.org/pdf/GunBuyback_Panel.pdf) by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfred Laurier University found that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent in the decade after the law was introduced without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides.

Jeff B. said...

One of the problems with Liberal arguments for gun control is they argue logic against emotion, and in that argument logic never wins. I'm afraid that there are few moderate supporters of gun rights remaining to win over. And I don't see the same aversion to compromise from those seeking restrictions- while some call for the Australia solution, most appear to be seeking something in the middle- common-sense limits that might work if given a chance.

Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station has a twist to his gun control proposal: using the NRA's own gun safety training materials as the basis of laws that emphasize personal responsibility: http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/06/bang-bang-sanity.html. It wouldn't change things overnight, but ideas like this, requiring insurance to own guns, etc. might slowly begin to temper American gun culture.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: (From the last thread) I’m happy to join you in arguing for transparency, but I think it must be founded upon secure communications. The bad guys don’t need a cypher fog on an internet of things. All they need to do is use their software agents to make zombies of our assets and take advantage of our current openness (as in not locking the front door on our homes) to do their harm. One can argue for locking the front door, but that leaves us in the arms race we face right now. How good are the locks? They are as good as the software engineers make them. I want them to be able to use crypto untaxed so the entire home is secure.

In the spirit of your modest proposal, though, I should offer my own for criticism. While I think your cypher tax will create disincentives that harm us in our race against real criminals, I think there is another way to discourage the use of cypher communications. I agree that we should be discouraging it, but at a higher level. Let the basic protocols be secured in such a way that we can refuse communication with unknown agents (robust anti-repudiation is needed), but name everything and everyone with digital certificates and require digital signatures where non-humans communicate and strongly suggest them for humans too. In other words, discourage anonymity when humans communicate and white-list every lower device that is willing to identify itself in a trusted manner. A device that is not on the white-list would be immediately suspect, but might be allowed long enough to establish trust.

The key to discouraging humans from using too much anonymity is one you already know and use here. Humans crave attention much of the time. Since attention is a finite resource for all of us, ration it to those who are willing to self-identify in a trusted manner. Humans who do not crave this attention SHOULD draw our curiosity long enough to figure out what they are doing. Anyone hiding behind anonymity would be a suspected cockroach deserving of an occasional glance just in case their eccentricities should turn harmful to themselves or us. I’m fine with pseudonymity to a point, but I’d still argue for rationing attention to them until the pseudonym has been around long enough to build a stable reputation AS A HUMAN. Obviously, this isn’t a government fix. It is a social rule we adopt over time. I suspect this can be done since it isn’t all that different from ‘shunning’. We have lots of experience with that technique.

What I’m arguing for is strong crypto between devices because humans should not be assigning their rarest resource (attention) to securing them. We should primarily be engaged in creative discussions with each other. Constructive criticism requires lots of attention to concentrate, so establish an incentive structure around crypto that enables reputation systems for humans and our devices. Strong crypto at the device level should enable digital signatures on practically everything. At the human level, that can be relaxed, but only in a rationing sense.

With this approach, the criminals will have to figure out how to hide what they do in the open human level AND/OR beat the strong crypto we use at the device level. I have no doubt they would try both methods, but we should try to make it an expensive proposition anyway. Crime occurs when crime pays, so like any other business, a negative ROI for our competitors should be our objective. Criminals harm our civilization when they encourage us to engage in negative sum behaviors, so they are competitors in that sense.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: (From the last thread)

Some of the others get the problem. It's not that your 'toaster' will send spam. It's that your toaster will serve a sociopath. What it does precisely will change with the times. Criminal industries rise and fall much like legal ones do. I'm suggesting that we should object to our devices serving those who would harm our civilization.

Criminals will find another way to do what they do, but we don't have to make it easy for them.

Jumper said...

You mean "Who's sending the ransom demand, Lieutenant?" "Some innocent guy's toaster."
Right? That's what I think you mean anyway.

Here'a a look at a few crimes armed civilians were able to halt, but it's not an axes-t0-grind article either way; and it admits to the various vaguenesses and unknowns:

Jumper said...

Most people simply won't be secure. I don't know how many friends gave my email address to Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc. (lots) and I routinely get emails with a hundred email addresses on there of people I don't know. You and I are not going to be able to stop them. They will tell the world when their house is vacant because they're in France, they'll mention all sorts of stuff that make them vulnerable in ways that simply weren't the case in the past, and they are going to keep doing it.

Alfred Differ said...

One way to stop a lot of spam is a rule. [! signed >> /dev/null]

If the mail is intended for a person instead of a device, don't give it your attention unless the sender plays by acceptable social rules. Mail between devices can be treated different, but only if we secure the devices well.

I understand that people will leak information useful to criminals. There is no stopping that. It has nothing to do with David's modest proposal on pg 249, though. I'm offering a small criticism from the vantage point of almost two decades into the future from when he wrote it. I'm arguing we'll need something better in order to avoid a disincentive that we know much more about now than we did then.

While I've come to like the jokes we can write about guilty toasters, I'll admit I was a bit more worried about baby-cams informing ex-spouses when is the best time to 'kidnap' their kids. Better yet, they can act to collect information used in the divorce proceedings. Insiders on these cases usually think they know who the criminals are, but those of us outside find it much more murky. Emotions can run hot when the accusations fly, so device-to-device comms really should allow robust anti-repudiation methods. That will require strong crypto even if the video isn't encrypted. Signatures matter.

David Brin said...

Alfred you keep doing this and I have to wonder whence the blind spot. It just does not seem to occur to you that we are talking about CATCHING bad guys when they do bad things and deterring others when they see those bad guys caught and punished. You keep presenting us with scenarios that never once contemplate solving the matter in question by catching, punishing and deterring the malefactors! I wonder why that is… since it is indisputably the only thing that works.

Not one of your cypher systems will do that job anywhere near as well.

D Brin (checking in only occasionally while extensively traveling, sigh)

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I'd love to catch them. I know from my anti-terrorism (just one type of bad guy) training at work that this is usually done with lots of low level information offered by amateurs and aggregated by the protector caste (as you would describe them.) The trick to catching them is to observe them while they are in the open. Catching them might occur afterward, but everything we can do to FORCE them into the open for part of their activity is a good thing, right?

The crypto tax idea on pg 249 discourages US from properly securing comm channels they can use to operate in the open, but where we seldom look. As long as they can make zombies of our assets, they can hide in plain sight. Close that option down and they have to do something else or try something more expensive. No one is going to devote enough attention toward observing unsecured comm channels for us to catch terrorists (or other bad guys) from ‘casing the joint.’ We barely do it enough to catch anyone before they shoot up our schools. ‘Arming’ everyone with cameras helps catch them afterward (by recording what is done in the open) and is the most plausible disincentive we have right now, but we can do better with a cocktail of solutions.

I get that catching them is a big, big deal. I remember your 100>33>18>6>3>1 argument in the book. Catching them is huge. Part of doing that, though, is forcing them into the open. When criminals can use my unsecured assets to harm you, I’m enabling them to hide even if they don’t use a cypher fog. I want to lock down my assets NOT to encrypt my human-to-human communications, but to stop other humans from using them as an attack vector.

Here is the model I have in mind. It’s biological. I don’t give much attention to defending myself from the next rhinovirus I’ll encounter, but I do a great deal to avoid being used by them both to protect myself and to protect others around me. What I do involves almost no attention, though, because my immune system doesn’t need it. I want the basic protocols for device-to-device communication to benefit from a robust immune system that requires little attention from live humans. I need strong crypto for that much like our immune systems need to be able to identify/record every strange thing they encounter.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "The study's authors found no evidence that states with more households with guns led to timid criminals. In fact, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. Firearm robbery increased with every increase in gun ownership except in the very highest quintile of gun-owning states (the difference in that cluster was not statistically significant). Firearm homicide was 2.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least."

Which shouldn't be surprising in the least: if you intend to commit a crime and everyone is armed, better shoot them dead before they have a chance to retaliate.

Beyond petty criminals becoming increasingly violent by expediency, the greatest irony of the gun fetichists is that their "polite, armed" society did exist in the past: it was Paris under Richelieu: back then the intellectual capital of the Western hemisphere had a homicide rate of 80 murders per 100.000 inhabitants: high density of population mixed with weapons (including firearms) being too easily available and the still prevalent medieval notion that one had to answer violently to any slight or taunts less they appeared weak and become the bullies' preys made for a deadly recipe: that the same causes led to the same effects shouldn't be surprising.

ZarPaulus said...

The problem with "Peeple" is that anyone who knows your phone number can post a review.

There's no safeguards against bot or smartmob attacks. One vindictive ex-spouse can post a vicious lie to social media with your number in it and your rating could go down to the negatives.

What do you do about it? The same to them? Your rating is still in the toilet. And how do you prove it's all lies to the mods?

Paul SB said...

Larry Lyons post above reminds me of a very important flaw in the way most people think that leads to unintended consequences where it comes to having views and making policies in many arena. The biologist Ernst Mayr, one of the creators of the Modern Synthesis that combines Darwinian principles of selection with genetics wrote a paper back in the 1990's that made an interesting point about how people think. He was pointing out that a huge impediment to most people understanding evolution is that it employs a more subtle way of thinking than what most people do. Most people think of things as types, each individual conforming to a list of characteristics that belong to that type. Darwin employed what Mayr called "population thinking" in which individuals are seen as having a plethora of variable characteristics that only more or less fit into a typology, but are hardly exactly alike (I don't think I'm explaining this well, but I have little time to revise).

The connection to guns is this: many people see "criminals" as a category of people, people who can be assumed will behave in predictable ways, such as becoming much more cautious when the chances of them getting shot goes up. But the data show that when there are more guns available, more crimes are committed, the opposite of what a typological thinker would predict. A population thinker would see that people behave differently under different circumstances. People who would not commit crimes if guns were not available would be more likely to when guns are available. In other words, under certain circumstances people who would not fit into the "criminal" category will exhibit criminal behavior. This makes the typology not very useful where it comes to making assumptions about what policies will have what results. What other misjudgements do we make when we assume that people belong to uniform categories instead of being individuals with idiosyncratic mixtures of traits?

Here's the citation. It might be on the web somewhere, but I have to get back to work.

Ernst Mayr
In E. Sober (ed.), Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology. The MIT Press. Bradford Books 157--160 (1994)

Alfred Differ said...

Systems like Peeple need to be able to authenticate their sources. Bots aren't human and should be disallowed. Can't do that without proper digital signatures. Smart mobs are a different issue. They SHOULD be allowed. It is useful to know who is allied with whom. 8)

Retaliation in kind works against humans... not devices.

Tony Fisk said...

I would suggest that the rating power on something like 'Peeple' be related to the rater's reputation.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

The new app, Peeple, can create a good market for “Reputation Protection Inc.” which I proposed in anterior posts. This is exactly the situation where a company like this can come into play to protect an individual’s reputation from defamation. Tort Law is very specific about what is defamation. It is the general harm caused by being ridiculed, shamed, hated, scorned, belittled or held in contempt by others, and lowers him/her in esteem of a reasonably prudent person, due to the communication of the false statement. Exempt from this are well-known public figures such as politicians, movie stars and ect. Defamation laws protect the average individual much more than they do public figures but with the development of rapid communication via the internet and the phenomenon of “going viral” leads me to believe that some of these laws have become outdated and should be rewritten notably when it comes to procedure. It just takes too long for the defender to receive satisfaction. If someone in Facebook writes untrue statements about you, you can legally sue them but it will take you maybe two years.

The app “Peeple” will probably not be banned because it is already established that Social Media cannot be held liable for content unless it is very illegal stuff but they could be forced to not permit anonymous posts and ratings for example. This is where a new Tort law would be useful. In general “Reputation Protection Inc.” should be good at ferreting out the real persons behind malicious rumors and taking action against them quickly. The transparency that you propose would make the job much easier. Perhaps in the future people on the internet will have to be more careful about what they say just as people are usually more careful about what they say when they talk face to face. Is this a bad thing? Many people once they get on the internet and are anonymous use this concealment to give new ideas and to point out things that they never would dare to do in public but many just use it to sprout hate and general stupidity knowing fully that their reputation in the real world will not be affected. Myself I tend toward the view that people should be responsible for what they say in the real world as well as on the internet but frankly I don’t have an answer to this thorny problem.

Tim H. said...

I'd like to suggest an additional specification to the "Jefferson rifle", a ferrous projectile to eliminate lead poisoning in predators and scavengers. It would also accelerate barrel wear, which the NRA might actually like, being at heart a sales organization.

Robert said...

The one thing I point out to anti-gun control types actually manages to shut them up rather quickly - I point out that while this outcry about gun control has been going on, liberals have been quietly arming themselves.

In short, Conservatives aren't the ones with all the guns anymore, and any attempt to squash liberalism by "taking back our government" will be met by an armed resistance by the very people who in theory would be easy pickings for a well-armed conservative militia. Except liberals are reading the writing on the wall and are preparing for the militant conservatives to try something.

By the way, I think it's time for you to talk about Bernie Sanders and to consider why you have been so dismissive of him... while he continues to build enthusiasm and even manages to do what Obama claimed to do - build a foundation of low-level donors to help fund his campaign. And has nearly matched Clinton's fundraising during a comparable period of time.

It's funny. I've long speculated on the eventual rise of a candidate who planned over the long run to be difficult for opponents to smear, by keeping his or her nose clean, remaining true to views, and the like. And then we find Sanders, an older candidate... who has managed in many ways to remain true to his views and who, after 14 of Bush and Bush-lite (Obama), may have awakened the passions of voters to push aside the toxins that have been festering for years in politics.

Best of all, he does it without smears or attacks. That seems to be something that is truly resounding with his supporters.

I almost feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. She was supposed to have it in the bag. And then a combination of her secrecy and Sanders' message and honesty... and once again it slips from her fingers. She probably would have done better to have been Vice President for eight years under Obama.

Rob H.

Catfish N. Cod said...

It is very good to see the studies cited by Larry above. They provide balance to this ad hoc study in the Washington Post's libertarian op-Ed blog, the Volokh Conspiracy:

Zero correlation between state homicide rate and state gun laws

This article asserts no correlation between gun law strength per state (using Brady Campaign score as a metric) and total homicides. The argument drawn from this is that if guns are unavailable, non-firearm homicides will rise. This is in direct contrast to the study Larry posts, for which I have a shorter link:

Guns Do Not Deter Crime, Study Says

Now Volokh is honest enough to admit that he has controlled for not a single confounder (interstate gun sales? Firearm ownership rates?), and correlation is not causation. The two studies are not perfectly parallel, either, as Monuteaux et al. also investigated robbery and assault rates, a question Volokh did not address. All sides agree that the data are poor and spotty and it is hard to draw conclusions.

But that is the case precisely because the National Rifle Association prevents the CDC, FBI, and other agencies from spending money on such studies! nobody really knows if guns deter crime, or encourage it; if guns make homicide more or less likely in the United States. There is no shame in not knowing, but there is shame in preventing us from finding out. The NRA is terrified by the possibility that they are wrong, so they try to keep us all ignorant.

It's possible that Volokh's argument is right, for instance. Maybe there is something different about American society that makes us more intrinsically likely to kill each other, guns or no guns, than other advanced nations; goodness knows there are plenty of unique things about the USA. It really could be partly our culture, or our mental health system. But why would anyone (except those with financial incentive) want not to know?

Tacitus2 said...

You will get conflicting opinions on whether civilians with concealed carry ever stop mass shooting tragedies. Mostly it is anecdotes and indeed, if somebody is stopped after threatening to kill people or if after they "only" kill or injure a few it might be under the radar screen. Washington Post had a summary of some potential examples a few days back but I don't want to get bogged down on that. Let's agree that it happens rarely and that there is a parallel "cost" in the way of accidental events, lost guns, etc.

The case that is made for monsters preferentially targeting gun free zones has a certain logic to it, if you want to use that term for anything related to insane acts. If I were a college admin I would offer free tuition to a small group of former police/military/? . Announce that this "well regulated" force exists and that no further information will be forthcoming. Hell, my dad was required to practice marching drill when he went to college during WWII, make these worthy men and women earn their free tuition with frequent background checks and trips to the target range.

Much as I sympathize with the DO SOMETHING mantra it is hard to see how any plausible laws or executive actions could do more than some conspicuous signage like that.

I am willing to discuss matters with anyone open to an honest appraisal of the horrible problem at hand. Gun control might dull the talons of monsters. How can we go about creating fewer of them?


Berial said...

I think David's mention of the media not giving the perps name is dead on. Mark Manson has an article that points out that mass shootings are basically non-political terrorism. The shooters, just like terrorists, plan these things out, sometimes for a year or more, and they almost always leave behind PLENTY of work for the media to distribute for them afterwards. And the 24/7 media can't WAIT to put that information out there for them.

David Brin said...

TimH I like the ferrous metal requirement and would demand it for the rifle itself. So that individually each is easily detectable by authorities…. while 10,000 angry dads with rifles can say "Crew your metal detectors."

Robert yes I have been using the same line. The arguments today are over magazine size and background checks, not as a slippery slope but to be sane. Almost no one among liberals (vs leftists) talks anymore about limit in gun ownership. Though treating them exactly like cars is the sensible thing. And my Jefferson Rifle to handle the slippery-slope-to-confiscation paranoia.

I am not very dismissive of Bernie Sanders. Personally, I am sick of senators assuming they know how to be president… though the worst president in 100 years had been a governor. Obama certainly didn't know how and blew his two years with a friendly congress, ONLY getting a lot done, instead of the whole-lot we needed.

Bernie is old. He's a bit wild-eyed. And he reminds me of George McGovern… and that makes me very unhappy.

DO I especially dislike any of his policies? Not really. He is "socialist' by US standards which makes him a centrist by euro-aussie-canadian standards. (Most US deems are center-right.) He's the one we could count on the attack the fox-zoids straight up. So why do I, who call for blue America to sing the Battle Hymn of the public, go "meh" and wish for someone else?

I don't think he'd win. And what matters is getting even a below dog in2016, if he's a democrat. It's the Supreme Court, stupid. And the next gopper appointees will lock us into feudalism for a thousand years.

David Brin said...

Tacitus just showed us why I keep insisting there's a "sane fringe" to conservatism, even today. I find all of what he just said reasonable.

Now, how about those bargaining chips? We give you campus WRM (well-regulated militia) and you give us true and complete background checks via nationwide database that is under neutral, third party seal? And clip-size limits?

Here's the problem in a nutshell. YOU would negotiate with us. I know a couple of dozen other conservatives who would. (They also acknowledge climate change.)Indeed, I value your input and wish there was such a negotiating table with strong sane conservative voices!

And yet, all 25 or so of you are still bona fide crazy. In utter denial over one fact. Pure fact. That your "side" has gone insane and you are relics of a bygone time.

gollor said...

Plenty of times has armed bystanders or victims taken down an active shooter, both with and without a gun. For some odd reason these events rarely make national news. I suppose because less people died so it doesn't make as good a headline.

Some recent examples:
7/26/2105 Man shooting at several people stopped by armed civilian in Cincinnati
5/31/2015 Shooter in a liquor store forced to flee by armed customer in Rockdale County, Georgia
5/22/2015 Fight in a barber shop turned into an active shooting in West Philly, stopped by a civilian with a gun outside the shop
5/8/2015 Shootout in a skate park in Albuquerque stopped by a civilian with a gun
5/5/2015 Several firefighters with CWP drew their weapons to stop a man in New Holland who showed up with a gun firing several shots in the air and at vehicles.
4/19/2015 Uber driver stopped an active shooter in Logan Square, Chicago, IL

These are just a few examples of where a potential or actual active shooter event was stopped by a civilian. The numbers of these incidents are just a small fraction of the more general events where a civilian with a gun stops a crime.

ALL of these incidents are just a tiny fraction of violent crime, why does it feel more important when a several people are shot at once a few times a year, instead of the THOUSANDS of times a year when only a couple of people are shot.

Second: across all of these morbid tales, it's worth noting that in not a single case has the perpetrator been brought down by an armed civilian bystander... not once. Ever. Though that is precisely the incantation that the NRA uses, while promoting the Campbellian notion of a gun-lugging population. Voodoo, only surpassed by Supply Side "Economics."

Robert said...

Well, Dr. Brin? Write an actual article on Contrary Brin that focuses on Bernie Sanders, points out his good points, his flaws, and why you think his winning the Democratic Primary is a bad thing. And reflect on this Goldwater angle... and not only how this could be true, but also how things differ. After all, did Goldwater have such a powerful upwelling of support during the pre-primary season?

Right now, it is looking more and more likely that Hillary will lose the primary or so damaging things by winning that she loses the general election (despite Trump causing issues with Republicans)... and that the only way she has a chance of winning peacefully is if Sanders suddenly took seriously ill or died of natural causes and she then sang his praises, commented on how his views are quite important and she takes them seriously, and accepting his followers into her camp with open arms.

It won't happen. Even if Sanders did drop out because of health issues, Clinton has a well-developed ego that gets in her way. It did when Obama started beating her. Her handling of the e-mail idiocy suggests this hasn't changed.

Clinton will probably lose New Hampshire and may lose Iowa. If Sanders manages significant momentum and has very close races after that, her campaign will pull out every stop and the end result will be a weakened Democratic Party. Even if she wins the Presidency, the Republicans will hold the House and Senate by using everything she said against the Democrats running for office.

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

And yet, gollor, whenever I go to search for such things, I find at least as many cases where someone trying to play John McClane made things worse, either by shooting the wrong person (often another McClane fan) or by getting themselves shot because everything they know about warfare they learned from movies. (Hint: Standing up to take your shot makes you a target, not a hero. And full-auto fire is almost never employed for effect, and should definitely never be used if anyone besides your target is present downrange.)

For instance, there's an interesting story that came out of Texas last month...


(Hey, I can argue with anecdotes too!)

Tacitus2 said...

I suggest we not argue about whether concealed carry could/has/will prevent a tragedy. Or whether it could/has/will have unwanted and unhappy side effects. Honest people will concede both. Dishonest hyper partisan view points are not worth fussing over.

Robert and others, we are in a very strange time politically. Every notion that I have about what would make a good president is being stressed. Too young or too old? Not enough experience or too long entrenched and part of the problem? Worthy principals and/or new ideas versus ludicrously un-electable.

I still think Trump flames out but have to admit I was predicting he would be on a firey reentry trajectory before now. I find myself looking on Joe Biden with sympathy....this disturbs me to no end. I know many here think the Clinton email matter is of little import but suspect that events in the next few weeks will show otherwise. I wish some of the "great on paper" candidates on each side could generate double digit poll numbers. I find Carly and Carson interesting, worthy even, but maybe as VP....just not enough there to turn over the nuke codes.

But don't assume my predictions have much significance. We are in odd and perilous times.


David Brin said...

Nearly all of the cases gollor cites (citations please!!) turn out to be gang shootouts! Of course both sides are armed, in those cases! And if one side is "gooder" or less bad than the other? We are then compelled to call them "armed bystander civilians??

Robert, I am traveling for a month, please hector me to do the Sanders bit after November 15. Reiterate and remind me then?


A.F. Rey said...

Citations are important. Off the top of the list:
7/26/2105 Man shooting at several people stopped by armed civilian in Cincinnati


The headline is a bit misleading. The guy started shooting at the "armed civilian" first, not at the "several people." The guy was arguing with the civilian's sister. (Odd that the civilian was able to hit the guy even after the guy got three shots off at him.) Only after the guy was hit and went inside did he shoot at "several people"--the civilian's sister and her child.

So this wasn't some rampage shooting where a guy saw what was happening and stepped in. It was a dispute where the guy stepped in, guns were drawn and shots fired.

David Brin said...

Then it was a duel or gang violence, having zilch to do with the problem. Again, no examples. Ever.

Tacitus2 said...


An assortment of cases if you are interested. Some seem more compelling than others. The writer is certainly of the conservative persuasion but I don't think you will fault me for quoting WaPo.


Tacitus2 said...


Politico has another take, on some of the same cases.

As I said earlier, acknowledge that it is possible but fraught with danger.


David Brin said...

Tacitus your general statements often offer us wisdom... then you turn around and speak of Fiorina and Carson?

We know Carly very well in California and rejected her by a sweeping landslide, not for "lefty" reasons but because she's a crazy, unscrupulous opportunist who would rather lie than tell the truth about whether the sun is shining. Show us something she ever did well. My friends at HP said her departure was one of the happiest moments of their lives.

Carson I believe to be sincere... and that may be even scarier. He genuinely and passionately believes in the War on Science and on All Professionals.0 His ignorance about governance, law and the outside world is worn by him as a badge of great pride.

I know next to nothing about Kasich and am willing to learn. Jeb knows how to govern... and as a Bush would again make the US a satellite satrapy of the Saudi Royal House. Cruz is a monster.

I kind of like Rubio on a strict basis of affect and impressions, which is the American way of judging these days. Hi policies are atrocious, of course, though he at least seems to want to be human. And do we realy want another first term senator... who this time would bring back every Bush era gop factotum to recreate the most corrupt pack of country rapists since the Harding years?

Robert said...

I'll try to remember, Dr. Brin. No doubt even if I forget that you want me to remind you, I'll still bring it up. ;)

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...


The concept of leadership from outside our usual political class has appeal. Neither party has given us great men or women in recent times. No, I don't find either Carson or Carly to be somebody I would vote for, and I think I said that.

To a certain extent both are novelty candidates. "Hey, we Republicans can find a female/black candidate too!" And that is worth something I guess. Keeps the Dems from total complacency.

Agree on first term Senators being a bit "green" and not in an envirnomental sense. Did I mention that I actually would consider Biden as a viable option? That should tell you how mixed up the field is right now.

Of course much of the rest of your post is same old, but you have your opinions and are welcome to climb on the soapbox whenever you wish.

I hope your travels are more fun than work.


locumranch said...

At the heart of the Gun Control question are the concepts of Equality, Obedience, Probability Fallacy & Acceptable Risk:

The first, Equality, is a both a common & false assumption. Although humans are roughly equal 'on average', we forget that the idea of 'average' is abstract mathematical fiction and, insomuch as the concept of 'average' is fictional, so is the foundational concept of human equality because human variation demands relative inequalities in size, power, strength, ability, fitness & intelligence (else Darwin is moron), leaving us only two historical pathways to the 'equality ideal': Harrison Bergeron (requiring graduated penalties to keep everyone equally weak) or an Isher Weaponshop equivalent (arming everyone so they are equally empowered), the first option being a subset of tyranny (as 'keeping everyone weak' requires tyrannical external authority) and the second option being prone to anarchy (as in 'too many chiefs & not enough indians').

The second, Obedience, revolves around the Authoritive Ideal which (in & of itself) presupposes the existence of INEQUALITY for, without inequality, there can be no assumption of merit, relative worth, superiority (as compared to inferiority), hierarchy or any type of graduated command structure, leading (again) to tyranny in the case of hierarchal authority (Stanley Milgrim, 1963) or anarchy in the case of too much equality.

The third, Probability Fallacy, is a foible most modern, lending itself (easily) to 'Zero Tolerance' irrationality, allowing for grossly distorted Risk/Benefit ratios. Indeed, guns are potentially dangerous, correlating with about 33,000 US deaths/year (about half of which are suicides, btw), yet so are automobiles, prescription drugs & alcohol, all of which average about a 0.01% risk of death/year. Note, also, that the US citisen is 500 X more likely to die of cigarettes than firearms & the chance of a US citisen dying from Domestic Terrorism (something everyone seems terrified of) approximates ZERO.

The fourth, Acceptable Risk, is the most irrational of the lot. How many TRILLIONS have US spent to prevent Domestic Terrorism despite a statistical risk of ZERO? How many freedoms have we given up by virtue of the Patriot Act to 'feel' 110% safer? We also know from personal experience that 'Zero Tolerance' Prohibition doesn't work: It failed in the 1920's; it failed on abortion; it failed as a global drug policy; it will fail with global terrorism; and it is most certain to fail with transparency too.

Nothing in this world is certain: Life is uncertain, uncertainty entails risk; and risk is inescapable. Either deal with it -- embrace life & its uncertain freedoms -- or opt out. Too bad, so sad, that the West (for all its 'enlightenment') appeares to be opting out, preferring to experience life via electronic media, as privileged couch potatoes, rather than risk any material contact with messy, unsafe or unsanitary reality. We can only hope that 'What Comes After' will love life more than we do & be willing to take any risks to gain the stars, even if it means blowing up boatload of Sally Rides every day until we get there.

Either take some risks when you travel, or don't bother travelling at all.


gollor said...

Johnathan S,

Attempting to dismiss my statements with "argument with anecdotes", shows a failure to understand what I was trying to point out to David.

I was directly addressing David's comment that "-- Second: across all of these morbid tales, it's worth noting that in not a single case has the perpetrator been brought down by an armed civilian bystander... not once. Ever.".

The incidents I posted, show that statement taken as a proposition in an argument does not hold true. Armed bystanders have stopped active shooters, more than once.

And if you're going to cite a story, use the local news link not 3rd party politico's distorting of the article to help their point, however slight or insignificant that point might be.

If you're going to propose that you can "find at least as many cases" where someone screwed up with a gun, then you could at least attempt to do so, rather than post one example. That certainly produces a weak comeback. You might also lay off the red herrings (standing up to shoot - presumedly with no cover; full auto fire; gun safety), none of which had anything to do with what David said, or my response to it.


Unfortunately, my cut and paste of my text into the comment box ganked all my links.

7/26/2105 Cincinnati
Argument between two people that escalated to one of them firing indiscriminately at the others friends and family. Nothing to indicate gang violence.

5/31/2015 Rockdale County, Georgia
Guy shoots up liquor store, armed civilian fires back, he flees where he's cornered at his home. How is that gang related?

5/22/2015 West Philly
A fight in a Barber shop that escalated into indiscriminate shooting at customers, stopped by armed civilian. Again, no gang connection listed in the news article

5/8/2015 Albuquerque
At a skate park, another fight that lead to indiscriminate killing, stopped by armed civilian.

And the most clearly representative of the more typical active shooter situation:
5/5/2015 New Holland
Guy shows up to shoot up some fireman, evidently not realizing some of the firemen had CWPs, he fires a few shot in the air and at cars; while the firemen with drawn guns show great restraint by not fragging him.

4/19/2015 Chicago, IL
Uber driver carrying concealed, parked at Logan Square, witnesses man firing indiscriminately into crowd, jumps out of his car and shoots the gunman.

None of the news articles indicate gang violence; but even if they did, how is a gang member who goes active shooter and worse or better than your typical madman active shooter? They all have serious mental issues if they can take a gun and start firing it indiscriminately into a crowd of humans.

"Then it was a duel or gang violence, having zilch to do with the problem. Again, no examples. Ever."

The last two I mention are clearly active shooter situations. You can cling to your position, of course; but it seems more and more you talking really loud with your fingers in your ears.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: I’m offering a translation service today.

Equality: We are roughly equal, but not exactly due to biology, therefore Bergeron or Weaponshop.
Comment: non sequitur

Obedience: Obedience > Authority > Inequality because the assumption of merit, relative worth, and hierarchy are implied. Heirarchy > Tyranny or Anarchy. Back to Bergeron or Weaponshop.
Comment: A platonic chain that leads the reader by the nose to the earlier non sequitur.

Probability Fallacy: Focus on relative risks. Other things are more dangerous.
Comment: True enough, but that’s not how humans think. We are risk managers who focus upon risk we can alter through our own actions. ‘Acts of God’ are accepted, but we don’t agree on what constitutes the set of AOG’s.

Acceptable Risk: Irrational. Examples given as questions lead the reader to assume truthiness. Emotional play because of a short Platonic Chain. Acceptable Risk > Zero Tolerance
Comment: When a large group of people engage in a behavior a small group considers irrational, there are two basic possibilities. The small group might be right or they might be blind as to what is going on. Both possibilities can coexist.

Wrap-up: Life is uncertain. Deal with it.
Comment: Review AOG comment.

I have an issue with people who write off these shooters as AOG's.

David Brin said...

Gollon the fire station and Uber events might sorta fit. All the others... and probably the fire station... and personal altercations with direct others. All except the uber would likely have been better with fewer guns, all around. The uber story fits, but note that by its very nature (an uber driver) it only happened recently.

If this is the best you can do, then your lame and rare exceptions prove the rule.

Anonymous said...

I don't find the 2nd Amendment particularly weak. It only appears weak with the Scalia interpretation of "bear arms" to mean carry around. My twenty year old Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase "to bear arms" to mean "to serve as a soldier, to fight." That is the only definition.

So the founding fathers can only have intended the 2nd to mean that the Federal government could not outlaw state and local militias. This, of course, would have been meaningful to the founders because the opening battles of the Revolution, Lexington and Concord, were fought between militias and British troops moving to confiscate militia weapons and ammunition.

locumranch said...

Both Alfred & David give nice examples of (limited; dichotomous) qualitative thinking & straw-man argument

(1) Violence is bad;
(2) Guns facilitate violence;
(3) Ergo, Guns are bad.

Both expect to 'win-win' things of value (freedom, security & the stars) without any the negative trade-offs inherent in reciprocity (the mutual or cooperative interchange of favours, privileges, responsibilities & penalties); both have faith in the positive-sum highs of equality (autonomy; freedom; power-sharing) without accepting its equally negative-sum lows (interdependency; the tyranny of the masses; mutually assured destruction); and both appear to have 'zero tolerance' for ANY amount of potentially negative (and/or violent) equity blow-back.

My sarcastic advice for them:
(1) Give up your rights, freedoms & dreams now or risk losing them;
(2) Trust in the tyrannical beneficence of external authority (Alfred's AOG); and
(2) Don't travel because travel implies a certain reciprocality of both negative & positive outcomes.

Or, to restate my arguments in the qualitative terms that they understand, they must be prepared to:
(1) Accept both the positive (good) & negative (bad) aspects of Reciprocal Risk;
(2) Expect that every 'positive' thing (such as Equality) to come conjoined with negative consequences; and
(3) Either 'Bear Arms' or 'Bear Chains'.

When watering the tree of liberty, the blood of innocents is the (blood) price we pay to be free of tyrants.

Alfred Differ said...

Translation service: “Guns > Violence > Bad” offered as my Platonic Chain.
Comment: It isn’t. I’m a libertarian and tend to favor private ownership of guns. If what people do with them involves criminal behavior, we already have crimes on the books to cover them. Only people can be criminals.

Negative sum thinking: Irrational expectations regarding negotiations required to acquire freedom, security, etc. Zero tolerance (yet again) for negative consequences.
Comment: Unsupported argument for ‘irrational’ categorization of behavior. Lack of personal knowledge regarding my position on zero tolerance. Sure, I’m quite optimistic about positive sum scenarios involving freedom, security, and all that where we wind up with what we want, but I AM willing to negotiate. Don’t expect me to trade freedom for security or visa versa, though. That’s a stupid trade. Security requires freedom.

Sarcastic advice: Suggestions from out of the blue.
Comment: Huh?

Less sarcastic suggestions: Good comes with Bad. (covers 1 and 2). Zero sum suggestion regarding arming oneself.
Comment: Pfft! Accept YOUR description of what is possible?! Not likely. You simply aren’t smart enough to know what is. No one is. No one ever has been. We find out by trying to do the impossible. We learn what isn’t yet known… by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Humanity is a giant search engine examining Creation and she likes ambiguous responses.

Seriously, dude. Why in the world would you think people know enough to know what can’t be done? We’ve barely scratched the surface of possibilities using science to address the simplest, unambiguous questions. The larger questions live in a solution space with a bazillion dimensions and for all we know the boundary between order and chaos there is highly fractal. Even our simple questions lead to fractal solution sets where one can’t get a straight answer from Creation. It seems to me that the wisest approach to all this is to assume little until Creation demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that something isn't plausible.

Blank Reg said...

"across all of these morbid tales, it's worth noting that in not a single case has the perpetrator been brought down by an armed civilian bystander... not once. Ever. "

NOT true. A shooter was stopped by a bystander with a CCW permit in Clackamas Town Center (near Portland) a couple years ago. No one in the anti-gun left wants to talk about that. The perp began to do his carnage act, when the hero drew his weapon and aimed. The shooter saw the man, saw the gun aimed at him, quickly reassessed his options, ran into a stairwell, and took himself out. The local hero never even had to fire a round. He just aimed with deadly intent. Crisis averted. 2 deaths, one injury. Could have been a LOT worse.

This may very well happen in America on an almost daily basis. We just would never hear about it.

Paul SB said...

Something I have noticed that is left out of the gun debates is the fact that in the U.S. we have unusually free access to guns, yet a majority of people do not own them (though gun ownership varies geographically). Huge numbers of people live their lives paycheck to paycheck, guns are rather expensive, and unless you are one of those rare birds who makes money off of what you shoot, they aren't really helping you in any tangible way. So most people simply don't own guns, regardless of whether they are for or against gun control. Ages ago I had a roommate who was a right-wing extremist. He owned a gun, though he never had any actual use for it until he landed a job as an assistant to a private investigator. However, he went through a number of jobless spells, and though he was a true believer in the value of firearms, they were the first things to go to the pawn shop.

Given the expense and lack of practical use of firearms, their value as a crime deterrent is hit or miss (pardon the pun). The calculus depends on just how crime-ridden a particular area is, and just how reliable the local constabulary is. I had an osteologist buddy from Montana who was a pretty open-minded person generally, not someone who would be embraced by a majority of conservatives, but she was a staunch supporter of the NRA. Having grown up in a rural area where the nearest sheriff's station was more than 2 hours' drive away, I understand her argument, though I don't think her argument is valid in a large urban area. Maybe what we need are different rules for different places, though that might be difficult to enforce, given the mobility created by our modern technology.

Any serious proposals? (I wouldn't take "let anyone do whatever the Hell they want a very serious proposal, nor the opposite extreme of confiscate all the millions of firearms in people's hands today.)

Paul451 said...

Blank Reg,
"We just would never hear about it."

Seems unlikely, given how much effort is made to dig up every single example (including those that aren't particularly relevant, such as personal arguments that turn into shooting) and spread it far and wide on right-wing sites.

Tony Fisk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Fisk said...

Sort of on the camera side of the argument, although I daresay it'll cause some to go and get their guns...
Wikileaks has just released the finalised TPP agreement.

(edit: corrected link)

Catfish N. Cod said...

I believe it is here appropriate to recall one of Heinlein's quotable quotes, from "the Notebooks of Lazarus Long", a soapbox character if there ever was one:

“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”

We are still throwing out anecdotes, and Blank Reg's point on what healthcare quality control would call "near miss events" is well taken. It may be harder to collect data on such given that a crime was deterred. But to truly know what the benefits of guns are -- to balance with the risks -- we should have that data.

I keep harping on this because I think it not only our duty to properly investigate, but because I think it can break the NRA stanglehold. If you really think this is working, put up the data! One side collects near miss events -- only ones verifiable please-- the other gun deaths. Not just the sordid stories that make for great PR. And not stories the good ol' boy tells his friends over beer, the way you tell about the fish that was THAT long but you threw back. Put up or shut up.


Here is a possibly crazy idea. What if the cameras eventually get so small, cheap, and low power that the camera and its hard drive can be integrated into the gun itself? What would be the implications?

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, I think this article from Jim Wright over at Stonekettle on people using guns inappropriately while trying to be "big damn heroes" may be relevant to this discussion. It includes several stories of what could be called attempts at vigilante justice which don't go well. It's a good counterpoint to claims that an armed citizenry will stop mass shootings and the like.

And given that I recently saw a video of a store owner refuse to let a robber take money from his till, hosed him down with a fire extinguisher, pulled him onto the counter and took advantage of his low-riding pants to spank that asshole's ass, and then a customer came up and gave the bastard a few kicks in the side?

We don't need guns to protect ourselves. If you are scared and have a gun, you may make things worse... or never use the gun. If you choose to act, without a weapon, you can do things. As has been shown over and over again... especially with the fourth flight during 9/11.

Rob H.

locumranch said...

Perhaps people like Rob can deter crime & protect themselves through sheer force of will, but this is something we can never know, because people like that (1) seek refuge from danger in a crowd (herd mentality), (2) refuse to accept personal responsibility for their own (sheepish) well-being, (3) prefer to delegate their 'self-protection' to external (gun-toting) law enforcement authorities and (4) forget that 'deterred crimes' are (literally) non-events that cannot be counted, giving rise to the Nanny State protection racket wherein Rob-like individuals can hide from imaginary boogeymen behind their mother's 'maternalitarian' skirts while she whispers a soothing 'Trust Me' in his ear.

Oh, Momma: Say those two words again in Yiddish for me.

Praise be the heroes from Flt4 on 9/11 who sacrificed their own lives for the benefit of the Herd.

Robert said...

And once again Locum goes running at the ball, only to have it pulled out from under him by his own mental fallacies and inability to see anything but the delusions of his own importance.

Locum, would you have preferred the people on the fourth plane to have done nothing and let the terrorists have crashed their plane into another building? Because if they did nothing, like you advocate, that is what would have happened.

As for "people like me" - I'm not saying I'm one of these people. I've not been put in that situation, though in an emergency situation where my MERT training was viable, I froze and had to force myself to move forward and help those who'd been hurt. So I don't see myself as one of those who'd move forward and help tackle a terrorist. But I might very well be one of those who followed the first couple and lent a hand even as every instinct in my body screamed to stay down.

You listen to that voice, it seems. It says "why bother? It's doomed to failure." And then you deride those who act despite that voice. You cast down those who succeed despite your belief they will fail.

And I am left to wonder. Why do you bother to argue this point? Your arguments are doomed to fail, after all. Why bother saying a word? By your own philosophy and belief structure, you know it's a fool's errand.

Rob H.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Locum, would you have preferred the people on the fourth plane to have done nothing and let the terrorists have crashed their plane into another building?"

Was Cheney still in the White House when the fourth plane crashed?
(That's a sarcasm: I'm not actually advocating the notion that murdering 3.000 people would have been an acceptable collateral if Cheney had been killed in the attack: who do you think I am? A Pentagon bureaucrat?)

Robert said...

Three aircraft had already been crashed into buildings at that point. It was known the terrorists would do the same with a fourth. If any military aircraft were in the air, they would have shot down the last jet, over Washington D.C. itself, and caused significant loss of life from debris and fires.

For that matter, doesn't the White House have antiaircraft batteries?

Rob H.

locumranch said...

It is for rare moments like this one (wherein we agree) that I perseverate. Most certainly, you are not "one of these people", one of these so-called "heroes", who sacrifice their own self-interest for the collective good, for if you were then I could excuse you for nearly everything. Instead, the collective 'you' self-identifies as selfish users & 'entitled demanders' who, through the offer of false praise & gratitude, seek to encourage self-sacrifice in any number of credulous others, so these others may pay the ultimate price while you benefit without consequence, whereas lapsed idealists such as I, who have seen the error in their altruistic ways, have thrown themselves on to their last metaphorical grenade for the collective you, a sentiment well-expressed in 'Batman Begins':

"(We) don't have to kill you ... but (we) don't have to save you (either)", so you may want to reconsider & buy a gun ;)


Susan Watson said...

"random shooting sprees by deeply sick civilians"

Both sides of the debate talk as though mental illness is the reason shootings occur. This may be true about mass shootings long planned, but the majority of gun deaths occur one or two at a time.

Gun owners can't imagine that they would ever do anything like that, but any human can be temporarily mindless in the grip of anger, fear, confusion, despair, jealousy, inebriation or just plain good old offended pride. Without a gun nearby the moment passes harmlessly, or at least without death.

DB, you make a good argument about the slippery slope but I think there may be more to it. I think some men I have known well, including my father and my first husband, absolutely did not believe their own judgement had ever been impaired. That was just something that happened to other people, but NEVER to them.

It's like the fovea in the retina... just a big blind spot right there in the middle of it all.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Susan, I hate to have to say it, but it turns out to be the case that mental illness is (as far as we can tell) the cause of most singleton deaths by gunshot wound as well. It's just that most of those are suicides. According to the CDC, there were 41,000 suicides in 2013: 21,000 by gun and 20,000 by all other means combined. (Suffocation is the second largest.) Mind you, that's successful suicides; 836,000 ED visits in total took place for self-harm. I admit that not every suicide is for mental Illness; there do exist people who commit rationally chosen medical suicide, usually to prevent pain or suffering. But by that token, none of the firearm deaths qualify: no one uses a firearm to reduce pain or suffering.

In the same year there were 16,000 homicides, and 11,000 of those were by firearm.

Totaling, that means that of the 57,000 lives deliberately taken in 2013 in the United States, better than two-thirds were suicides; and that the same ratio applies to deaths by firearm. Firearms account for half of the suicides, but around 70% of the homicides. Even if it is true that the multiple-death, psychosis-driven shooting events are a minority of firearm homicides, the statistics suggest that around three quarters of all deliberate deaths by firearm are associated with mental illness.

None of this addresses how easily we can affect these matters effectively via public policy, or the tradeoffs. Two things I do know: (1) mental illness can't be claimed to be the biggest driver of firearm deaths, for it surely is, and (2) the NRA is not serious about mental illness being an alternative to gun control, because it also has a policy to promote legal bars on physician screening for the combination of gun ownership and mental illness.

Susan Watson said...

Hey CNC- Good points.
Still, is it fair to say only the mentally ill ever experience a (potentially passing) moment of despair? If so, why does the U.S. have so very many more mentally ill people than other first-world democracies?

Alfred Differ said...

English needs an extra second person pronoun. Maybe two.

you all = y'all (plural you)
everyone as one = m'you (plural you referring to group thinking mob)
Are there more?

@locumranch: You are asserting behaviors for m'you. I don't believe you are correct. If your intent was to assert them for y'all, you can't be correct because populations are inherently diverse. Like you said earlier, we aren't all the same.

locumranch said...

'Danger to self' and/or 'danger to others' is currently considered a 'hard' medical criteria for mental illness, whereas current medical estimates for 'soft' mental illness vary from a (chronic) 34% to (acute) 50% of the total Western societal population, so much so up to 50% of the opinions expressed here are certifiably insane, especially those that deviate more than 1 SD from the undecided moderate mean, which (in turn) suggests that risk-aversion, cowardice and apathy are the only true reflections of what is now considered modern sanity. Tacitus & any mental health professional can confirm these numbers if they care to.

So, whether you choose to self-categorise as "y'all" or "m'you", "f'you", because it means "f'all" to those compassion-fatigued failed idealists who are past caring.


Tacitus2 said...

I have mentioned it before, but perhaps uniquely among this community I have actually been held at gunpoint (my wife and one month old son too) by robbers who a short time later actually did murder somebody in a heist gone bad. It makes me less fond of guns than the average conservative I suppose.

If one of my hot headed friends had a concealed carry weapon things could have gone badly indeed. Or, in an alternate reality, had somebody walked in the front door at the wrong moment and the robbers panicked and opened fire, maybe a couple of well timed shots would have saved our lives. Don't know. Don't ever want to be there again.

These were not crazy people, just desperate druggies. It was over in about two minutes. I could tell you a few things about how disparate eye witness observations are...

Not sure what locum is asking me to comment on. But I will say that the percentage of ER visits for suicidal thought/action/plan/attempt is very large and very heterogenous. Maybe 10 percent are serious risks.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Suicide and Guns
Guns are a much more efficient way to actually kill yourself,
Other methods have much lower "success rates"
As a lot of attempted suicides don't do it again
One of the effects of guns should be to increase the actual suicide rate

I had a look at suicide by country
If the guns in the USA cause greater success (in suicide) then I would expect to see higher suicide figures
It's a bit woollier than that
Countries that have "honorable suicide" as part of their culture top the table
(like Japan at 18/100,000)
Countries that have a lot of church pressure against suicide are at the bottom
(Like the UAE at 3/100,000)
So I compared the USA to the UK
The US suicide rate is 12/100,000 double the UK one at 6/100,000

Then to Italy because the US is a LOT more religious than the Brits
Italy - 4/100,000

So I would say that the evidence is that guns effectively increase the suicide rate in the USA by between 2 and 3 times

A bit less than the survival rates would predict

Alfred Differ said...

@ locumranch: Regarding compassion fatigue let me say ‘thank you’ as one of the people saved by people like you. It’s a small thing to say, but I’m alive and damn thankful to a number of people I can barely recall.

Let me also suggest that a person who is suffering compassion fatigue isn’t in the best position to evaluate the successes going on around them. My first kidney doctor got the tough job of telling me of my dire circumstances. I’m in a lot better shape now two years later, but he doesn’t know and probably never will. For all he knows, I’m already dead. For all he knows, I could be alive and ungratefully miserable. There were many plausible futures that lay ahead of us after the brief time he helped me, but he has no information regarding which one came true and no financial motivation to find out. He might not even have the right frame of mind to understand the information even if he had it. He barely knew me and I wasn’t exactly at my best.

Be cautious when assigning motivations to all of us. The average is a fiction that is useful at times, but fails when you look at individuals and their minutia. The ‘you all’ group is diverse, so while behavioral averages might work in well understood settings, they won’t predict us all. Small sets of people can diverge enough to change everything for good or bad. If you want to recognize some here as belonging to a small set, you’d be on safe ground making the claim. If you want to argue we are wrong about what can be done, though, I’m just going to offer you a hug to deal with your fatigue and then smile and wait for you to return to sanity.

Regarding our hard medical criteria for mental illness, I suspect most everyone would qualify as ill if we include danger to others. Therefore, it is a stupid metric without a great deal of supporting diagnostic measures, right? Our most recent evolutionary advances can probably be tied back to stupid things we did and managed to survive well enough to have a few kids to carry on the traits. For example, why would anyone have the ability to digest cow’s milk? Hmpf. Some ancestral fools decided to live far to the north off of poor quality grain and too little sunlight. Sounds to me like they were dangers to themselves AND others. We (plural meant as singular) survived it, though. Humanity changed. An armed society might not be a polite society now, but it will be if we keep trying over a few generations. WE will be the ancestral fools if so.

David Brin said...

Notice Mr. Blank Reg never offers a citation we can check, just hearsay. The earlier "Uber guy" citation does offer a link… that is weak and lurid, and, because it is an uber-guy it is clearly very recent. And nearly all the so-called armed-citizen-savior situations take place in environs and situations that are either interpersonal or gang shootouts or crimes other than mass-slayer events.

Still, I will admit that… "not one example, ever," may be wrong. I am occasionally forced to back off of such challenges when confronted by a counter example. (Though never once a counter-example showing Supply Side "voodoo economics having ever worked, once, ever and I mean ever.)

So? Such single point counter examples only mean it's still ALMOST none. And those who point to one case and then say "see? It pays to flood the streets with guns!" are flaming-illogical dopes. As for those who cal ME a "leftist" ??? They prove thereby they cannot even be bothered yo learn a thing before spouting off.

AND YET… to make things absolutely clear I do NOT object to gun ownership or even concealed carry permits. (Open carry is an aggressive act by genuine SOBs with the sole intention of scaring and intimidating their neighbors.) I have no objection to there even being large numbers of quietly armed, licensed and very well trained and insured civilians with discreetly hidden private weapons! If they have been vetted, background checked, taken extensive classes, and above all satisfied an insurance company etc that they are calm grownups, then in fact, their presence might… just might… add more to our safety than detract from it. (Even better, you have to train to be a reserve police officer and spend 5 days a year on shared patrol.)

That is very different than what EITHER the far-left or the mad entire-right want. Yet it is sensible, treating weapons the same as cars. The only reason anyone could possibly object to this is the "slippery slope" fantasy. And I offer up a unique and satisfying solution to that in my Jefferson Rifle essay.

Susam W thank you. Yes, it's mostly males who insist that they are never wrong… though I was raised by a woman who indulged in that firm belief. It is a reason we have civilization.

db exhausted on the road

Susan Watson said...

DB- Now that you mention it, two of my sisters are that way inclined as well. I make up for the rest by being spectacularly and undeniably wrong as often as possible. Wishing you good dreams-

Gunner Jacky said...

Thanks for this amazing article.Both guns and cameras if not being used properly can be harmful for others as well as yourself. The guns are supposed to be the means of safety and only be used when your existence or survival is endangered. It is not a status symbol and should not be used to bribe, threaten or for attempting crime. In America the no of guns is vast but then you can simply visit any Firearms safety training classes and get one for yourself. So the people needs to be trained well and moral duties should be taught to them before allowing them to use that Gun.

Deuxglass said...

I think I will wade into the gun regulation area.

The real question is not whether gun control or cameras are the answer but rather how to prevent random mass killings. In the US the preferred method seems to be by guns but people in other cultures prefer to use other means to kill such as knives or running a car in a crowd. If all guns were banned I don’t think it would make much of a difference to those who want to kill in mass. There are many other ways to do it. The perpetrators of these killings planned their acts well ahead in time. The gun is the means and not reason. With a little thought they can come up with many ways to do the same thing. Banning guns could lower the incidence of murder by temporary rage and anger but it would not affect those who want to kill many people all at once nor would it affect gun use by criminals who already have the means to acquire them without going through background checks. Using the example of the mass shooting as a reason for gun control is just transposing the problem and is intellectually dishonest yet so many people fall into this reasoning. I am for stricter gun control but let’s compare apples with apples and not oranges.

Are these individuals sane? Clearly their behavior is not normal but our society throws around the word insane in the most irresponsible way. I would say the only truly insane are schizophrenics and only for the ones most heavily touched at that. These people can plan their acts in a most logical and methodic way. In this they are not insane but their motives are. Joseph Conrad in “Heart of Darkness” accurately describes this type of individual when he said Kurtz was sane but his soul was sick. I can’t think of a better description. How can you spot and heal a sick soul before another tragedy occurs?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Deuxglass

Nice theory
Shame about the facts

Other cultures simply don't have the mass killings - take away the guns and the vast majority of the massacres go away
We even have a country that actually did do that (Australia)

Then you have all of the other gun deaths,
Accidents, Suicides,

Tony Fisk said...

'Mental illness' is a vague term that could be applied to just about everyone at some point in their lives. A bit like colds: We all get the blues, but some unfortunates have chronic fatigue syndrome.

The thing with guns is that the advantage goes to whoever pulls first. That, I think, is why the 'armed bystander' is such a weak protection, and a poor argument for carrying.

David Brin said...

Cameras are so much better than guns. You may be the quickest draw. But that does not make you win. And if you made a mistake, you can apologize.

Deuxglass said...

Duncan Caincross,

There have been mass killings in Germany, Norway, France, China, Thailand and many others not to mention what we see in Africa. Sometimes they used guns, sometimes cars, sometimes knives, sometimes by fire and sometimes just a bomb. The American culture is not unique in that. Other cultures have the same problem as we do concerning these types of individuals. It has also happened in Australia after guns were reduced. Deliberately setting fires seems to be the new wave there. You look at the facts. They are there and easily accessible. We as a culture are more violent than some but by no means are mass killings limited the US. As for suicides guns are used but each country has their own preferred methods for that. You are right in one thing, gun accidents are a big problem.

Jumper said...

There is one difference between auto accidents and gun killings, of course, the vast majority of auto deaths are accident and gun killings aren't. See
There is a belief that deliberate acts and accidents are qualitatively different and that the deliberate acts may somehow be more amenable to prevention.

I really liked reading the proposition that "bear arms" means "serve." I have never heard it put that way and will think about this some more.

There are many controls on guns which are not even part of the debate and ought to be, such as stricter laws on allowing minors access to guns, or diagnosed mentally ill people, or especially, drunks (legally drunk) handling firearms - even in their own homes, if discharge can penetrate walls, such as apartment buildings.

Not all suicide is an act of a mentally ill person. Some people come to rational reasons. See Hemingway.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

"Cameras are so much better than guns. You may be the quickest draw. But that does not make you win. And if you made a mistake, you can apologize."

As a general rule I would agree with this statement pretty emphatically. As a general rule I don't like doing anything that can't be undone if it turns out to deliver unintended consequences I didn't want. But there's a subset of people who would not see this as an either/or proposition. They would see both as a means to glory and a way to spread their propaganda. Terrorists film themselves killing their enemies, racist lunatics take pictures of their enraged visages with firearms and post them on the internet, etc. The proliferation of electronic communication creates a platform for decent human beings to disseminate their decency, but it also provides the same opportunity for the loonies and the slimeballs, to say nothing of what happens when juveniles get camera phones (so much for rational actor models).

Not everyone who commits murder is insane - violence is a strategy, like a professor I knew who once had his vacation flight cancelled and was rushed off the plane because some company executive took a million-dollar life insurance policy out on his wife then put a bomb on the plane. There's a difference between insane and evil. As difficult as it can be to identify those who need mental health treatment, there seems to be even less we can do about assholes like that until they actually commit the crime and there is a body count. I strongly suspect that culture does play a big role in determining how many assholes there are in society - meaning selfish scumbags who would blow up a passenger jet to collect the insurance money and similar analogs. American culture tends to glorify the rich and successful, on the one hand, then turn a blind eye to the means by which they became rich and successful, even glorifying those who did it by behaving badly, whether it's movies that give glory to gangsters or TV that paints administrators who fire all their employees.

Perhaps we need more human decency memes, more awards and attention for those who demonstrate human decency rather than excellence in screwing your fellow human being. It might help to counter the negativity bias malaise of our times. At most high schools in America athletes are given trophies and medals, but virtually nothing is done to honor those who perform academically in what are supposed to be academic institutions. I started making little medallions for students who do well on research projects in my classes to counter that, though when I make similar suggestions to administration or even most teachers I get a lot of pats on the back and "great idea" but little action.

Deuxglass said...


When I said mass killing by auto I was referring to some incidences in France where people have deliberately driven into a crowd at very high speed resulting in several deaths including children. It has happened several times and of course in the media these people are referred to as crazy and have mental problems. Stuff like this doesn't make the headlines in the US but it does here.

I believe you are thinking of suicide by car and not mass murder by car.

Jumper said...

Deuxglass, I was spurred to mention the auto deaths by locumranch's 9:54, mostly. I'll assume suicide by car, and assault by vehicle resulting in death, are fairly rare. I hope so! It is reported in the states when it occurs.

On the same topic but separate, I will repost this with a stronger recommendation, as it has seriously interesting numbers:

Deuxglass said...

Duncan Caincross,

Since you mentioned facts if you look at the number of deaths from mass shootings and correct them for population you find the US in the center of the pack of developed countries in mass shooting deaths PER CAPITA on par with Switzerland and way below Finland . These figures show that restrictive gun control will not lower mass shooting. Mass shooting is a completely different problem from gun control. I am for more restrictive controls but it sickens me to see public figures using them in a cynical manner to forward their own agendas instead of addressing the real problem.

Deuxglass said...


Yep. If you want to kill yourself a gun gives you the best success rate, no question there. Suicide by car is really hard to distinguish from just an accident. Insurance companies know this but really can't quantify it as in "Death of a Salesman".

David Brin said...

I note that even here, no one discusses the topic that I keep raising… of how to craft a compromise that is positive sum, giving all side not what they want, but what they need.

Et tu? Even hère? After years of harranguing about positive sum thinking?

Never mind. I've got a new posting up. Continue arguing here if you like. I have put out milk and cookies. But I am moving…


Jumper said...

I agree with Jim Wright's ideas on adding the NRA's own gun safety rules to law. It seems close to positive sum thinking as well as compromise. As pointed out previously.
In this essay:

I can't do better.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Gun ownership has been in decline for many years now. Only 32% of households own guns vs 50% in the early 1980’s. Gun sales are up but those sales are concentrated into fewer hands. Instead of a couple of guns enthusiasts now own ten each. The trend is down and will continue to decline. To build a consensus we should concentrate on limiting the total number of guns each citizen can own rather than trying to find common ground on the principle of gun ownership in itself which will always be contentious and ultimately self-defeating. Policy-makers who have gun-owning constituencies should be made to see that they are on the wrong end of the trend of overall gun ownership and that sooner or later the non-gun owners will vote them out if they make this their main political platform. This will induce them to compromise. You can definitely make a case for the citizen to have the right to carry arms but it is easier to come up with a compromise limiting the number each citizen has the right to own than to try to force a ban or something close. It is a small step but can be one policy-makers can swallow. It gives them a way out of the gridlock we have now. Agree to the general principle but also agree to limit the number. When the holdouts see that their voter base is starting to be reduced to those who own ridiculous amounts of guns clearly over and above what any reasonable person needs then maybe they will be conducive to comprise. That is the way to go.

Deuxglass said...

I wrote the above piece.

gollor said...


You make great points in your blog post, and I agree with nearly all of them. I regret my nitpicketiness kept me from starting out my reply that way. The mass murders and how they are covered, in general really chaps my hide. I totally agree that when someone commits mass murder they've lost any right to acknowledgement by society.

The relative rarity of these events combined with the equal rarity of civilians carrying makes it hard to create a large sample of clear cases. It seems like a good thing that we don't have hordes of armed citizens stopping hordes of maniacs shooting up public places. I'm glad I had trouble finding clear examples for you to shoot down.

Sorry if I didn't help engender the kind of conversation you'd hope to see on this post. But I do have a few more things to say about it, so I'll do it

Jammie Cutts said...

Nice blog, keeping gun is not a bad thing but using it in your wrong deeds is not that good. So you must join any Firearms safety training classes and know about the pros and cons of keeping any firearm and why and when to use them.

Exotic Beauty said...

i love your blog
keep up the good work:)