Monday, January 29, 2007

Brin Classics: "The Jefferson Rifle"

I have been asked to post a few of my older riffs and rants... here online for a new generation to share and ponder.

I've been mulling which ones. Then the topic of the Second Amendment and gun control recently came up. Along with the observation that some liberals are starting to nurse fantasies of needing to be armed, themselves, in the era that they see coming down the road.

Of course, at one level, this topic is a special example of one of my frequent complaints, that many issues in modern life are artificially posed as either-or, zero-sum choices between one rigid position and another. I have always felt that Gun Control is especially tipe for "off-axis" compromise solutions. Indeed, it might make a great test for one of my Disputation Arenas. It also serves to demonstrate the poisonous effects that addiction to self-righteous indignation will always have upon intelligent, pragmatic discourse. But that's another topic.

For now (and with a present day afterword), let's go back to an article first written in 1992 and updated circa 1998...

==Guns and the Insurrection Myth==

The issue of guns in America is intransigent. True believers on both sides hold fixed positions, portraying their opponents in the darkest possible terms. Enforcement of the Brady Law has thwarted thousands of ex-cons and criminals from acquiring arms without seriously inconveniencing legitimate gun buyers, but this hasn’t led to a new era of pragmatic compromise.

Polls show that most Americans don’t wish to eliminate personal gun ownership, they simply want more accountability. In 1998, Attorney General Janet Reno made an apt parallel between firearms and automobiles. Both are potentially lethal devices, yet close to two hundred million drivers participate in a system of training, licensing, registration and regulation that results in remarkably low levels of injury, averaged over billions of human-hours on our roads. Despite drunk drivers, pollution, and traffic jams, motorists seem to handle their metal behemoths -- each car filled with flammable liquids -- for the most part courteously, reliably and with great skill.

We accept a state interest in demanding that all drivers be licensed and that all cars be registered and well-maintained. Why not apply similar standards to the other machines most responsible for premature, violent death in this country -- firearms? In California, where the DMV has lately acquired an astonishing reputation for good service, one could envision renaming it the “Department of Motor Vehicles and Firearms”. A hunting shotgun might be treated like a normal car. You want an AK-47? Then take as many tests -- and get as much insurance -- as a professional trucker who wants to drive an 18-wheeler. If your gun is stolen, report it like a missing auto. Fail to lock it up properly? Your insurance rates go up.

Unfortunately, as logical as all this sounds, it won’t ever be tried. Because it fails to address the underlying reason why NRA members resist even mild forms of gun control.

To understand why, try asking even moderate and reasonable gun owners about their underlying nightmare. They'll explain the scenario that drives them to sleepless anxiety is fear of confiscation. To a great many gun owners, any new law, however benign, is simply a step down the proverbial slippery slope, leading inevitably to seizure of all firearms by the state.

Activists on the other side are too quick to dismiss gun aficionados as macho know-nothings. In fact, many NRA members express a coherent philosophy based on a deeply American distrust of government, coupled with a belief that citizen firearm ownership may yet prove to be a bulwark against dictatorship, even as it was in Jefferson’s day.

Are they foolish to think this? Throughout history, there has been a tendency for governments to grow ever more remote and overbearing, until citizens face a choice between submission or rising to teach their would-be masters a lesson. Many on the left today forget that they once had insurrection fantasies of their own, back when Richard Nixon's paranoid agenda seemed bent on stripping political opponents of their rights. There has always been a notion, at the back of the American psyche, that our leaders don’t oppress us because they know we might fight back.

Of course, things were different in Jefferson's day, when a militia of musket-bearing farmers was nearly as well-equipped as a company of professional soldiers. Today, in contrast, how could any ragtag uprising of angry citizens hope to face a technological army, sent to quash a popular revolt? Yet consider -- how many cities could the dozen or so U.S. Army divisions hold and pacify against an angry, united and armed citizenry? One or two urban centers? Maybe three? Remember that the soldiers in those divisions, Americans themselves, might mutiny if ordered to blow up whole neighborhoods with cluster bombs. Certainly any urban rebellion would fail without support from the populace, but in case of a true mass rising, I'd put even money on the people.

No, I’m not arguing that this insurrection scenario is likely or plausible! Certainly we all pray to never see it tested. Those few who declare that it looms on the near horizon are, for the most part, out of touch with common sense.

My point is that the mere existence of such an option, no matter how remote, affects the basic power relationship between government and governed. Jefferson argued that an implicit threat of rebellion counterweighs the natural tendency of states to grab power. It can be argued that this hasn't changed in two hundred years.

Whatever its fallacies or merits, this rarely-discussed mythos is crucial to understanding why millions resist gun control in general, and weapon registration in particular. Innumerable gun owners are deeply convinced that their opponents' real agenda is to compile a comprehensive list of private weapons, so that some future bureaucracy will know exactly where to confiscate every firearm not already in state hands. Talk to them as I have, and don’t be too quick to call them crazy.

The Slippery Slope Syndrome poisons so many issues on the national agenda (e.g. abortion, sex education, the right-to-die.) Fear of an insidious erosion of liberty spurs obstinacy on all sides, thwarting the American genius at compromise. In the case of gun control, we might start toward a solution by noting what NRA members fear most about proposed regulations -- not the inconvenience or paperwork, but a long slide toward confiscation and eventual loss of a traditional (if perhaps illusory) insurrectionary recourse. As a nation, we should consider ways to allay their deep fears, while at the same time demanding action against a plague of firearm-related deaths.

==The Militia Rifle==

Here is a possible compromise, one of many. Moderate gun owners just might accept reforms that treat most personal weapons like motorcars -- including registration, mandatory training, licensing and insurance -- if they were also offered some surety against the dreaded slippery slope. This could consist of a grand compact permanently setting aside one class of firearms from oversight.

Traditional bolt-action rifles and simple shotguns are rarely used by criminals, impulse murderers, or children. They are hard to conceal, slow to reload, difficult to bring to bear in close quarters, and not much help to hit-men or muggers. They have produced victims, to be sure, including some famous ones. Still, these basic firearms wreak havoc at a minuscule rate compared to the carnage spread by other weapons favored by criminals for concealment and rapid fire. They are also the firearms most appropriate for hunting, target shooting and home defense.

Oh , there is one more place where the bolt-action rifle proved itself -- on the battlefield. It was the primary weapon of most armies in both world wars. One criminal using such a rifle can be taken out by any SWAT team. But events in Bosnia and Chechnya have shown that it takes artillery and bloody-minded ruthlessness to root out large bands of dedicated neighbors, supporting and covering each other with hunting rifles.

If matters ever reached total civil war in America, with napalm and carpet bombing, a civilian militia would crumble, no matter how well armed. But in a borderline case, where soldiers and commanders refuse to stomach bombarding citizens, ten thousand men and women with simple rifles just might force a tyrant to negotiate. Maybe. At least it’s a scenario believed by millions.

Okay, such talk about protecting a citizen’s right to a “militia rifle” may sound romantic -- even bizarre to some -- but radicals on the other side are just as quixotic to imagine they will ever rid this society of all personal weapons. Nothing is more likely to cause civil war in America than a full bore effort to achieve a total ban. Neither side has a monopoly on unreasonableness.

Perhaps we should try listening to each others’ fears, instead of simply ridiculing our opponents. It may be the only way to move beyond slippery slopes and silly extreme-scenarios toward the kind of pragmatic problem-solving that we are best known for in the world.

One thing is certain -- the present situation is intolerable. We need a compromise on gun control. If moderate gun owners will accept a constitution-level guarantee, keeping the least harmful class of weapons - a militia rifle - unregistered and forever safe from confiscation, we might finally see automobile-style regulation of handguns, semi-automatics and the other true engines of death that make life needlessly perilous in a decent civilization.


AFTERWORD January 2007:Of course this was written in an earlier, somewhat more innocent age. A time when it was the far-right wingnut jobs who spoke of “black helicopters” and not regular joe soldiers in Iraq, whispering about “Blackwater Helicopters.” A time when the Army Reserves and National Guard were still in their homes, at their jobs, training on weekends and fulfilling the “well-ordered militia” role, instead of being squandered in a foreign adventure, leaving us all wondering what stands between us and peril, if a surprise disaster hits. A time before power began consolidating so heavily among a few thousand golf buddies, that the actual “aristocratic control ratio” may soon be worse than it was when the Founders rebelled against King George and his cronies.

Under those circumstances, might any decent person... even a liberal... ponder a fresh view of the “insurrectionary recourse,” at least in fantasy?

It bears pondering, and not just by liberals and moderates. The top aristos may want to start wondering... do they really want to head down a path that starts to alienate... and even radicalize... a well-armed and super-educated middle class? Over the long run, is that really smart or wise?

ADDED NOTE April 2013:

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, I saw a lot of traffic on this page and decided at supplement some further thoughts.

First, while I have expressed some sympathy for the "slippery slope" fears of NRA-folk, I think they should consider whether to stick to basing all of their hopes upon an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  They almost never recite or mention the first 12 words of the amendment, which appear to put is under considerable ambiguity. Consider if the national mood changed in the wake of some awful events. Some court could drive a bulldozer through the opening offered by those 12 words.

It has already happened.  In the wake of recent mass-shootings, Colorado -- rootin'-tootin, gun-packing Colorado -- just passed some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. The same thing will occur in other states, each time some nearby tragedy rocks and traumatizes the mothers of a region. There is a "ratchet effect" boys and girls, and it does not turn in your favor.  You need a stopgap.  A much better one than the ambiguous Second Amendment.

My "militia rifle" proposal offers you a new amendment.  One that can be couched in clear, unambiguous language that stops any slippery slope dead.  And it would pass!  Liberals would leap to give it to you, if in exchange they could start treating other guns like cars. 

Worth pondering.

David Brin


Anonymous said...

What I want to know is . . . how do we defend ourselves against the Raytheon Pain Ray?

Anonymous said...

Another paranoid tangent for you, Dr. Brin: the neocons must be aware of the American insurrectionnary recourse, ne? And if they aren't blundering idiots, they'd be smart enough to fear it, and plan contingencies as they attempt to destroy age-old democratic institutions. So it's been stated that the American fantasy of insurrection couldn't hold up to a high-tech army, flexing all it's muscle. Look at the changes in the character of the American military--the officer corps being stuffed with radical Christians, whose theology includes a final war against the godless, coming soon. And who, of course, have been taught that the excesses of left-leaning American cities make them the godless, and the enemy. Leading shellshocked and trigger-happy troops fresh home from Iraq, it becomes easily foresee an army of this character clusterbombing American neighbourhoods, turning New York or LA or any of the other once-glorious cities into echoes of at once Baghdad and the Civil War.
2008, the Democratic congress finally succeeds in bringing the troops home... for the biggest October surprise and stab-in-the back seen.
Too paranoid?
Alright, so perhaps a few divisions remain loyal to the People, and not the kleptocrat-corrupted Chain-of-Command. This more realistic scenario is even more terrifying--all of a sudden we really do have the Blue and the Grey, their time come 'round again. To the unimaginable benefit of all enemies of the Enlightenment, and America, everywhere. Whatever comes out of the ashes, it might somehow squeak by as the Land of the Free, but it certainly won't be a Superpower or hegemon.
And with pain and bitterness and desperation mixed with the world's largest stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, it might be nothing at all. But that's just paranoid, right?

reason said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reason said...

So those folks who dream of armed insurrection are the same folks who support the rule of law? Sound like unreformed lynchers to me.

I'm Australian, and we had our insurrections (mostly Irish led against the British colonial administration). They all ended in tragedy for insurrectionists. We admire their courage, but not their common sense. In the end, reform came from non-violent political agitation. Ironic sort of.

Don Quijote said...

If the purpose of the second amendments is to supply the tools necessary to refresh the three of liberty with the blood of patriots, rifles, handguns and knifes aren't the tools.

As hezbollah has shown us the tools are ppgs, manpads, mortars, saw, machine guns, rocket launchers combined with training & discipline.

Anonymous said...

Give me a dozen men and women, a supply of 2x4's, and a city to work with, and I will arm an insurgency the same way the Hungarians did in 1956.

1. Let invaders occupy city. Don't resist openly.

2. When invaders reach the point of sending in small patrols (2-5 men), ambush them... how, with no guns? Well, if one of your ladies is attractive and willing to use it, you use her to lure the invaders into a convenient alleyway, and mug them. A dozen men with 2x4's can take down 2 men with automatic rifles easily, especially if one has his pants down around his ankles. About the time the invader realizes that small groups get attacked and start sending in large groups, you should have enough guns to ambush large groups.

3. When he sends in the tanks, lure them into tight spaces. Shoving a 2x4 into the drive sprocket will stop a tank. Molotov Coctails will eventually force tank crew out. Note that a tight space is critical here: it lets you sneak up to get the 2x4 in the sprocket, and get into throwing range without being machine gunned.

Hiding out in the wilderness ala Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn is the hard way to run a insurrection.

In Budapest, the Hungarians almost drove the Red Army out of town... and would have, with some outside support.

My wife doesn't like the idea of guns in the house with the kids... and with the foster kids we take in, she's right. But a 2x4...

The tools of rebellion are not AK-47s, RPGs and grenades... they are improvized weapons, IEDs, and a willingness to not fight fair... the booby trap, the ambush, the man willing to sneak up with a kitchen knife, the woman willing to flash cleavage...

The penalty for treason is death, and collaboration is treason.

Rifles? The insurgency will acquire rifles. The hard thing to get is men willing to risk thier lives to get the rifles...

Don Quijote said...


You'll have to explain to the Palestinians how your system works, cause despite having a never-ending supply of Martyrs, they can't seem to get the upper hand.

The problem with your model, is that you are assuming that you need to occupy a city to control it, and that you care about civilian casualties.

If a city gives you to much problems, you lay siege to it and then you bomb it to smithereens, see Fallujah or Grosny as recent examples.

Anonymous said...

Make up your mind! The Palastinians have what YOU said they need, and failed. The Palastinians HAVE vast quantities of AK-47's, RPG's, and men willing to die for the cause, why on earth haven't they won already? First you say you need military grade small arms to win, then you say you can't win with them anyway...

Hezbollah succeeded because the Isrealis WEREN'T willing to do to them what the Russians did to Grozny. Hezbollah played the Isrealis for saps: Hezbollah LEARNED from the 1980 Isreali invasion, Isreal did the same thing twice and was surprised when it didn't work the 2nd time.

Anonymous said...

I remember having the "gun control" debate with my brother-in-law from Alberta (the most American of Canada's provinces in terms of outlook).

After doing some digging, I discovered that Canada has historically had about 1/10 the per capita homicide rate of the US, whether or not we had gun control. For most of our history, gun control hasn't seemed to make much difference.

Of course, we also had a different philosophy of government. Canadians were promised "peace, order, and good government", not "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Our Western heroes were policemen like Sam Steele and Inspector MacLeod, not outlaws like Jesse James and Billy the Kid.

I realize that citing "national character" as a reason begs the question "why are the two countries different", and I haven't answered that one to my satisfaction yet. (A friend of mine believes it's because the US was founded by people who were willing to overturn the system, while Canada was founded by people who preferred to work within it -- including those American colonists who disagreed with overturning the system.)

Don Quijote said...

First you say you need military grade small arms to win, then you say you can't win with them anyway...

I think you missed this part of the sentence:combined with training & discipline.

Just having them does not mean you are going to win, but not having them pretty much guarantees that you will lose.

Anonymous said...

The major difference here, as with many other of the splits in the US, isn't just liberal/conservative or past/future. It's Urban/Rural. Which matches up fairly well with voting trends for Democrats and Republicans, in general. In cities, guns mean something entirely different than in the country. People don't go hunting in the city. People in the country think of hunting rifles when they think of guns, people in the city think of pistols for crime. Even just having a gun in the city, in apartments, if it goes off, it can go through walls and into your neighbor, in the country, your neighbor's not close enough.

The urban/rural thing explains a lot of other differences too. People living in a city pretty much have to be more tolerant, at least on the surface. Because you could live next door to almost anybody, or walk by them on the street, or work with them. In some way or another, you're going to meet all sorts of people, which by itself makes it harder to generalize about them, since you've met "those people". In the country, you can go a long time without meeting anybody of a different race/religion/whatever.

Except, of course, in the city you're not likely to meet somebody from the country, except the people who fled the countryside looking for escape or better jobs or things to do after 6pm. And vice versa. So that's probably another reason for gaps in understanding. I'm not sure how that actually applies to the politicians, who are almost uniformly cityfolk, though.

TheRadicalModerate said...

On "slippery slope" arguments:

I've been thinking about a hierarchy of civil disorder. It goes from a stable center outward:

1) Stable debate and compromise.
2) "Slippery slope" arguments, characterized by inability to compromise (i.e., winner-take-all dominates global optimization).
3) Enforcement of orthodoxy of positions--"you're with us or you're against us."
4) Terrorism.
5) Armed insurrection.
6) Civil war.
7) Forced relocation based on some form of group identity.
8) Genocide.

Now, there seem to be powerful restorative forces that push things back towards the stable center, as long as you don't get big deviations. This is that lovely "linear region" that brings a smile of contentment to control theorists the world over. Once you get into that sweet spot, it's hard to get out.

Right now, I'd say that the level of civility in the US, EU, etc. is hovering somewhere between 2 and 3 on my scale. We got as high as 4 occaisionally in the late 60's and early 70's. Iraq is stuck in the 5 to 7 range. The Sudan is at 8.

Some questions:

What are the restorative forces? The biggest one is obviously lots of information in an open context. Are there others?

What are the perturbing forces?

I'm going to argue that the difference between 1 and 2 is the substitution of game theory tactics (the zero-sum kind) for debate tactics. Why does this happen? How can it be reversed?

What causes the transition into the kind of "circle the wagons" orthodoxy we're now seeing in American politics? Again, how can it be reversed?

For societies in the more extreme forms of incivility, what are the determining factors that allow them to re-stabilize--or not? Examples: Bosnia and Kosovo are stabilizing after forced relocations were largely completed. (There are some before-and-after demographic maps in the Wikipedia articles on Bosnia and Kosovo that are very illuminating on this topic.) On the other hand the Sudan not only completed a forced relocation but is going on to try to exterminate the enclaves that were created. What's the difference? Is it only outside military intervention?

A lot of these are old questions. However, there are clearly some very powerful, poorly understood system dynamics going on. Surely there's a unifying theory to be discovered here.

Anonymous said...

David: Is "the actual “aristocratic control ratio” may soon be worse than it was when the Founders rebelled against King George and his cronies." a joke? "may soon be"?!? The current situation involves MUCH more concentrated and authoritarian power than the British ever claimed. (OTOH, I think that the founders were in general severely wrong to revolt, and only near-miraculous self control on the parts of Washington and Jefferson as acting presidents prevented dictatorship, violence isn't always wrong, but that's the way to bet long odds, even when it's proposed by the good guys)
Otherwise, Great essay!

Andrew Smith: It's not ironic. The people who came up with tinfoil hats were explicitly thinking about Masers.

I like theradicalmoderate's post a lot, but sadly have little to add. Here's a simpler question though.
"how do you distinguish between an opponent who will accept a compromise and one who will see partial victory as authorization to step up their activities. Israel has tried repeatedly to "compromise", and it hasn't worked. Ditto Chamberlain with Germany. OTOH, the British were able to buy freedom for their slaves and avoid any equivalent to the US Civil War.

TheRadicalModerate said...

On "aristocratic power ratio":

Anybody got any semi-reliable data on whether the distribution of income (which I'll use as a proxy for "power") follows a power law distribution? If so, note that the emergence of hugely powerful individuals is a natural consequence of a population growing larger.

I would expect a power law distribution, since this is a hallmark of scale-free networks and other complex systems. In fact, any deviation from such a distribution would be a very scary signal.

David Brin said...

Tyler, your vision of the US Officer Corps is misguided and wrong. Yes, we may be headed toward the dark territory you describe. If the Bushites are allowed to continue their political purges at the top and to keep stuffing the military academies with zealots, at the bottom. But at present, the description that you offer is not only insulting, but deeply dangerous.

At present, the Officer Corps is, without any doubt, the third best-educated clade in American life, just after university professors and medical doctors. They are probably the most adult, dedicated, profoundly skilled and professional group of people the world has ever seen. And if they wear crewcuts and have been largely republican for the last couple of decades, that is at least as much the fault of the American left as anything else. Left wing hostility DROVE AWAY American churches and the military people, who were (once upon a time) the biggest proponents of reforms like civil rights.

Like driving ROTC off all northern and coastal university campuses, giving southern colleges a monopoly on supplying non-academy officers. Oh! That is so smart.

I am deeply saddened that you envision such people capable of blithely bombing American cities. I know more of them than you do and I am glad that I can tell you that they will not. Cannot. Many more thousands of them will have to be canned, purged, driven into retirement and replaced before such things become possible. The pity is that so few liberals and moderates today have a clue what it is that today protects them, not only from foreign threats but from the Big Coup. These are the people who stand between us and a very cold wind. We must reach out to them.

DQ you are obstinate. You once again, skim without bothering to absorb what my essay said. You might still disagree, but in an informed way.

Hawker, the scenario you describe depends upon three things.
(1) An occupying power that does not penetrate your movement with spies and agents provocateurs - but if we are in a "culture" civil war, neighbor reporting on neighbor, you will need a lot more than 2X4s, you'll need humint and counterspies and luck. Tons of it.
(2) An occupying power unwilling to carpet bomb.
(3) Some clear and achievable political goal. Otherwise, you are just killing. COuntrymen in uniform.

DQ, those who have been controlling the Palestinians for 60 years, keeping them funneled in camps instead of welcoming them as refugees (as happened to ALL other refugee peoples, BTW) do NOT want the Palestinians to have any success. Not any. At all. This blatant scenario... and the insipid inability of the left to see through it... is tragic and overwhelmingly awful.

Michael, you exaggerate. In 1775, most of the ACTUAL LAND SURFACE of 6 of the 13 colonies was owned by a dozen families. The ratio was higher then. Much higher. But give us time. We are climbing from the flattest social hierarchy in human history (at least among white citizens.) It will take a while longer to match 1775... or even 1933.

But that's what makes the kleptos so pathetic, hypnotizing themselves with delusions of inherent superiority and historical mission, while utterly ignoring the logical end point of all this. They aim to restore aristocratic rule. And yes, 99% of human history was that way. But never with such a vastly educated and technologically empowered populace. Psychologically, the kleptos MUST perceive that populace as easily manipulate, easily divided fools. And there is some support for this in recetn "culture war." But in profound short-sightedness, they imagine this can go on indefinitely while they re-gather aristocratic privileges.

It really is rather sad. Because the old class resentments WILL return. And when they do, we'll see a time when thousands of key members of any hierarchical staff will be able to use monkey wrench tactics to bring feudal empires down. A modern society relies upon the goodwill of its skilled upper-middle class. When these people wake up to what has happened, a lot of kleptos may wish they had pondered the wisdom of satiability.

Alas, it saddens me that so few of you seemed interested in the main ideas of this article. But at least you were more on topic than commenters on DailyKos, when I cross posted there.

Anonymous said...

David, I will concede points 1+3.
Point 2 though, I will point out...
If you want to own a piece of ground, it's not enough to try to bomb it flat. Carpet Bombing, in and of itself, cannot take a piece of ground. Look at Monte Cassino. Look at Operation Cobra, where it took two tries to get a breakout. You don't 'own' a piece of ground until (as someone put it) you can stand out in the open on it with your hands in your pockets.

But I will admit that DonQ is right, that such a 'insurgency' that I plot would not work without discipline... but there's more than one way to acquire discipline. Believe me, the survivors of such a insurgency will be disciplined... but it will be a brutal learning curve in the strictest form of military schooling there is, where the failing grade is delivered by a bullet.

But this is fantasy material right now, stuff that isn't going to happen if I can help it. So, I'm going to reread the original blog entry and see if there's anything I can intelligently comment on instead of playing "Red Dawn: Part II" games.

Anonymous said...

I just read Michael Ondaatje's memoir, "Running in the Family", which is about a well-to-do family in Sri Lanka. One of the anecdotes he shares is of rebels taking over a government office, finding all the registered gun files, and then going door to door. It didn't turn out too bad for the Ondaatjes (the rebels weren't malicious, and played cricket with the kids when they were done), but it could have turned out badly. It doesn't have to be the government that uses registration to confiscate guns.

I think your idea of a "militia rifle" is a good idea, and helps skirt the confiscation issue. Besides, Rifles are more accurate and generally cheaper than pistols. Oh, I might recomend AK-47. It has some wonderful ideas about how to bring accountability to firearms.

I might chime in that gun training should be mandatory in our high schools, for all the same reasons Sex Ed is often mandatory. I don't think that the program proposed by the NRA should be used, simply because those kind of programs shouldn't be made by lobbyists. Still, it shouldn't be too much to ask high-schools to develope their own programs, ones that actually require students to use a gun. Maybe they could borrow BSA material, and make all students earn the Rifleman merit badge.

Anonymous said...

There's a big counterexample to the myth of the armed citizenry standing up to a hated oppressive government.

Iraq under Saddam.

Iraq had one of the most heavily armed populations anywhere. There were guns EVERYWHERE in Iraq, and they're being used now. When Saddam ruled, they weren't being used to fight against him. The reason was that Saddam had better weapons, such as planes filled with poison gas, and did not hesitate to use them.

Syria has taken similar measures. To quote Thomas Friedman:

In February 1982 the secular Syrian government of President Hafez al-Assad faced a mortal threat from Islamic extremists, who sought to topple the Assad regime. How did it respond? President Assad identified the rebellion as emanating from Syria's fourth-largest city — Hama — and he literally leveled it, pounding the fundamentalist neighborhoods with artillery for days. Once the guns fell silent, he plowed up the rubble and bulldozed it flat, into vast parking lots. Amnesty International estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed in the merciless crackdown. Syria has not had a Muslim extremist problem since.

You can't hide in a city if your enemy is willing to just go and level it - dictators are notoriously willing to kill one hundred innocent civilians in order to kill one insurgent.

Anonymous said...

Zech, you beat me to it. I'm one of those who understand the need for defense, and yet will not keep a firearm in my house. At the same time, my son (who has yet to emerge from reflecting my own political opinions) is in Scouting. While he agrees with my distaste for killing weapons, he understands why I insist he take the Rifle course and learn which end to hold on to.

As far as a militia rifle goes, doesn't Switzerland require all households to keep and maintain militia rifles? What's the gun crime rate there?

As far as the persistent "concealed weapons are a surefire defense" argument, which seems to be the consistent fallback argument, I have this to say. A pistol has but one purpose, and one function: to kill people. There is no "stun" setting on a handgun (and if there were, the whole nature of this argument would be vastly different...). I have a son and two daughters, and they (as well as my wife and I) are enrolled in martial arts training which emphasizes defense and disarming tactics. I want them to enter the world confident that they can handle themselves without needing to resort to killing force.

Don Quijote said...

We are climbing from the flattest social hierarchy in human history (at least among white citizens.) It will take a while longer to match 1775... or even 1933.

Table 3: Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in the United States, 1922-1998.
Year | Bottom 99 percent|Top 1 percent
1922 | 63.3%| 36.7%
1929 | 55.8%| 44.2%
1933 | 66.7%| 33.3%
1939 | 63.6%| 36.4%
1945 | 70.2%| 29.8%
1949 | 72.9%| 27.1%
1953 | 68.8%| 31.2%
1962 | 68.2%| 31.8%
1965 | 65.6%| 34.4%
1969 | 68.9%| 31.1%
1972 | 70.9%| 29.1%
1976 | 80.1%| 19.9%
1979 | 79.5%| 20.5%
1981 | 75.2%| 24.8%
1983 | 69.1%| 30.9%
1986 | 68.1%| 31.9%
1989 | 64.3%| 35.7%
1992 | 62.8%| 37.2%
1995 | 61.5%| 38.5%
1998 | 61.9%| 38.1%

Sources: 1922-1989 data from Edward N. Wolff, Top Heavy (New Press: 1996). 1992-1998 data from Edward N. Wolff, "Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983-98," Jerome Levy Economics Institute, April 2000.

Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power

It's done, and we are on our way to match 1929. Welcome to the new gilded age...

Don Quijote said...

DQ, those who have been controlling the Palestinians for 60 years,

You'll have to let me know who "those" are...

considering that 3,298,951 live in the West Bank & Gaza Strip (Territory under Israeli control), 2,472,501 live in Jordan and another 1,012,741 live in Israel.

Palestinian Population Worldwide

David Brin said...

DQ: Tens of millions of Hindus and Muslims were refugees in 1949. They settled in where they were welcomed, and then made new lives. More than a hundred million migrants came to America, settled in and made new lives. Even amid African maelstroms, the tendency is for camps to be temporary and for people to drift to nearby towns and make new lives.

Only one people has been deliberately kept crammed into camps for 60 years. And not allowed - by their Arab "friends" - to drift into Arab nations and cities and towns in order to make new lives. After 1967, Israel DID allow such drift, into Ramallah etc and the beginnings of commerce and new lives could be seen.

But Arab states have a strict embargo against any commerce with those cities.

The purpose of it all? To create attitudes of misguided sympathy exactly like yours, throughout the western world. Precise and cruel action aimed at a precise and cruel effect. And you are the unwitting collaborator in that policy.

Let me add tho, that your OTHER response - with that statistical breakdown about wealth disparities sure looks on-target and damning. Much better!

Except... I have some skepticism toward the source.

In fact, I would lay 2:1 odds that the stats you cite are outright fabrications. In 1933 home ownership was just about nil in the cities. And nearly all farm families were sunk deep in debt. Today, the value of middle class homes (I have heard) makes up almost a quarter of the total value of privately owned property in the US. So how could those stats even be remotely right?

Someone, please look into that source.

As for guns as enforcers of decent behavior, this idea was promulgated by John W Campbell, editor of Astounding Magazine. He pushed Robert Heinlein into making it the theme of the 1st half of BEYOND THIS HORIZON. (The 2nd half is fascinating!)

"An armed society is a polite society" he preached. Because the intemperate and rude quickly get shot in the back, as happened often in the Wild West.

Oh it's logical. Except that brash young males are NOT logical. They are much more like the prancing pushy and reckless fools in Romeo and Juliet. Only when you are reckless with guns, many lives are ruined. Just look in the ghetto, where the experiment is run in real time.

If it runs for 500 years, genetic evolution should make us more polite by nature. More slow tempered and reasoned. But who can afford 500 years of this?

In The Transparent Society I say that Campbell was RIGHT! A people who are armed with equalizing tools that enforce decent behavior WILL be more free and able to enforce politness! Only those tools will be cameras.

One nice thing about cameras. Shooting first - or in the back - does not guarantee victory. Moreover, if you shoot first, and find that you were wrong, it is possible to say "I'm sorry."

Rob said...

Since this would be EPU'ed if I posted it on the Adopt An Ostrich threads:

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2007 AT 9:30 a.m

The hearing on “Preserving Prosecutorial Independence: Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?” scheduled by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 9:30 a.m.

Senator Schumer will preside."

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Page

Rob said...

Well the link didn't work right, I'll try again:

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Page

And in case THAT doesn't work, here it is in non-link form:

Don Quijote said...

Let me add tho, that your OTHER response - with that statistical breakdown about wealth disparities sure looks on-target and damning. Much better!

Except... I have some skepticism toward the source.

Here is the source, you'll notice the review by Brad DeLong, stating "According to his numbers--which are lousy, but are nevertheless the best we have or are likely to acquire-- "...

Only one people has been deliberately kept crammed into camps for 60 years. And not allowed - by their Arab "friends" - to drift into Arab nations and cities and towns in order to make new lives. After 1967, Israel DID allow such drift, into Ramallah etc and the beginnings of commerce and new lives could be seen.

So are you telling me that you are in favor of ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and Gaza since that is where the majority of Palestinians live?

David Brin said...

Complete bullshit. What I favor is unlocking the gates and allowing people who want to get jobs and bring their families to friendlier places be simply allowed to do so.

By phrasing things in prissy indignant ways, to neglect to mention the PRAGMATIC effect. The Hindus and Muslims who swapped lands in 49 India's partition suffered... and built new lives. That OPTION was totally denied the Palestinians, by their own supposed comrades...

...even though all of the homes of the jews who left Arab lands for Israel stood vacant and ready -- in EXACTLY equal numbers.

You writhe and evade the blatant fact, that YOU were the purpose of this deliberate persecution of one unfortunate group of Arabs, by all the others. YOUR attitudes are exactly what 60 years of torment were aimed to achieve. Moreover, the cynical governments who declared this imprisonment policy were not struggling for their very lives/

Isreal, for all its many faults and mistakes, has been on a knife edge of anihilation for all that time. Yet you hold them to high standards that you would never think of holding her enemies to.

Anonymous said...

"An armed society is a polite society" he preached. Because the intemperate and rude quickly get shot in the back, as happened often in the Wild West.

Oh it's logical. Except that brash young males are NOT logical. They are much more like the prancing pushy and reckless fools in Romeo and Juliet. Only when you are reckless with guns, many lives are ruined. Just look in the ghetto, where the experiment is run in real time.

My favourite counterexample is Somalia. If all it takes is guns to make a polite and safe society...

I teach high school. Most of my kids are the same age as the characters in Romeo and Juliet. The thought of them with swords is bad enough -- guns would scary the willies out of me.

Anonymous said...

Re: my paranoid tangent. I worded the scenario wrongly in my post, I can see that. I don't suppose the rot extends to any major portion of the Officer Corps--though I admit, I'm very much ignorant; I have no contacts within that distinguished body. But my scenario does not require but a small portion of officers to be corrupted by radical Christian theology--it would surely require a large portion of the army if the point were to occupy and enforce a dictatorship, but that isn't the point. The point is to cause chaos and bloodshed such to bring America to its knees. This scenario calls for not all the troops to come home at once-- no Operation Magic Carpet from Iraq, but a phase out. The majority of the fighting army, that loyal to the American people, would be left in Iraq when the trap was sprung, leaving only those that were misjudged, or ill-equiped reservist and national guard units to combat the small quadre of battle-hardened troops. Still outlandish, but perhaps less so? I should have included that qualifier in the original post, so as not to have accidentally slandered the officers of the American military. In my defence, it was 2AM, Eastern Standard; I shall make a note to post only at less-ungodly hours so I don't leave out integral parts of my argument.
It's still bloody paranoid, and quite unlikely; even if such a plot were put into effect, the sane and loyal elements of the military would likely see through and put a stop to it before innocent civilians would come into any danger. Well, innocent American civilians, anyway.

re: The bolt-action rifle being the best weapon for home defence (just to bring us back on topic) perhaps in the country or suburbia, but in a small apartment, there's just not enough room to properly bring a rifle to bear; I'd be better off just using the butt of it to club any intruder than trying to shoot. Same applies in houses with smallish rooms, but only if you're unlucky enough for an intruder to show up in one before you have the gun ready. Also have the problem mentioned above of rifle shots going through walls, into neighbours, et cetera.
Best weapon for _house_ protection, perhaps? I suppose the NRA doesn't find many members in urban centers, anyway.

Of course, look North. As Anonymous stated, the homicide rate has remained 1/10 of that in the 'stateside up here regardless of gun control. Of course, the current gun control system hasn't really been given time to work, but the number of handguns in the hands of gangs and the like--the people the laws were brought into play to get keep such weapons from-- has in no way gone down. Helped by smuggling operations from the Land of the Free, many contend. A better solution for this country would likely be an outright ban on handguns for private use and no money-wasting registration on hunting rifles. But that's totally off-topic... not even the nation we're supposed to be talking about.

Anonymous said...

For cityfied home defense, I think a large knife and a cell phone will work best. In the close quarters of my home, the fact that I know where the furniture is gives me an advantage, and 911 on a speed dial to call for help sounds like a really good idea.
(During my time as a MP, I was told the most important item on my belt was the radio: use it to call for help. The most dangerous item (to me) was my own pistol. An awful lot of policemen have been killed by thier own sidearm.)

Making a gun control law where a permanent exemption is made for bolt action rifles sounds good in theory. The fact my father owns a Swedish built 1917 Mauser (same gun the Germans fought two wars with, made under liscense in Sweden) that I might be able to acquire makes me like it even better. Too heavy for a child to use, not favored by thieves (my father had a pistol stolen, but they didn't touch the rifles), easy to use and maintain, and uses the oh so popular 7.62 NATO round.

Anonymous said...

In semi-related news, here's a cogent comment about nanotech and transparency, very similar to the whole "stupid young men do more damage with swords than with guns" idea.

Don Quijote said...

Complete bullshit. What I favor is unlocking the gates and allowing people who want to get jobs and bring their families to friendlier places be simply allowed to do so.

I'll quote Moshe Dyan: with regard to the Palestinians, we should tell them that they will live like dogs and whoever will leave will leave

Sounds a whole lot like ethnic cleaning, so far it hasn't worked.

There are 6 million Israelis, of which 20% are Palestinians with Israeli Passports, and over 3 million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, Demography is a bitch.

If any other country did the crap that Israel does on a regular basis, they would be considered members of the Axis of Evil.

This is one issue on which we are in absolute and complete disagreement.

Best weapon for _house_ protection, perhaps? I suppose the NRA doesn't find many members in urban centers, anyway.

Double barrel sawed off 12 gauge shotgun.

Anonymous said...

Uh, that should've been "less damage with swords", sorry.

David Brin said...

Tyler, you must modify your sci fi scenario (and I will only deal with it on that level) yet again.

1- it is the AirForce that appears to be the most infected.

2- if you want a good story, you need to do more with the loyal Army and reserves in Iraq than simply leave them there. They might come home VERY angry.

Hence your paranoid thriller starts writing itself. Under the garish scenario, the whole purpose of this war was not only to squander our treasure, divide our nation, drive away our allies, ruin our world popularity and leadership, and sequester all our land forces in a far away adventure, with no chance of helping the homeland in an Emergency. The real plot starts when that faraway force is suddenly assailed with some crushing blow, aimed at eliminating the expeditionary force...

...exactly what happened to the Periclean Athenian expeditionary force sent to Sicily, in the time of Alcibiades.

Now you take your thriller to the next level with a SMALL cadre of well-placed loony officers, in the one service where a few loonies could do the most damage....

Yes Don, I recognize that you have swallowed the hook, the line and the sinker. Someday maybe you will be vastly outnumbered by vicious, unreasoning fanatics who want only to kill you and all you love. I hope you'll find more sympathy then than you give now.

nick t, I don't know why you called that screed cogent. It was one of the stupidest scenarios I have ever read and showed total ignorance of even a glimmer of what "reciprocal accountability" means.

reason said...

The Anonymous from Canada, made an important point, the same one Michael Moore made in "Bowling for Columbine" (in amongst all the ratbaggery) it is not just the guns.

In fact, I think the extreme resistance to gun control is a symptom of the problem not the cause.

It always struck me, part of the problem is the USA's obsession with winning. America doesn't treat its losers with enough respect, it doesn't have many myths of heroic losers. So the competition becomes too desperate. Then there is the Southern heritage of race problems and lawlessness. A sort of paranoia, that breeds a shoot first and ask questions later culture. (And that naturally ends in a downward spiral, as others are forced to adopt the same approach in order to survive).

To all those who insist that firearms in the house are a good protection, a quick question ...
Do you practice in the dark, when drunk and half asleep? And doesn't your readiness to shoot intruders, increase the chance that they will be armed and prepared to shoot back?

It is the old problem with naive extrapolation, what works for one individual does not always scale up for a whole society. The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

Anonymous said...

David, even if it's a stupid scenario in the details its basic point still makes sense to me - that reciprocal accountability is most effective at stopping someone once they've started behaving antisocially, but with certain technologies that's nowhere near sufficient because the first antisocial behavior by an individual might be enough to end the world. (e.g. if everyone had a hundred pounds of enriched uranium, I'm not sure any amount of transparency and accountability would be able to prevent someone from eventually building and setting off a nuke, and a home nanoassembler is even more dangerous.) I probably don't understand what reciprocal accountability means either, though, so I'd appreciate if you could explain just how it solves this scenario.

Anonymous said...

I think your request to have americans register guns is fair. However one does not need to consider a slippery slope to see where this could become dangerous for citizens. Gun laws historically have been racist in origin, Jim Crowe, and were used by the Young Turks of the Late Ottoman Empire to justify the imprisonment, muder and deportation of Armenians during the First World War.

TheRadicalModerate said...

If you're really serious about registration to ensure legality of seller, legality of purchaser, and proficiency of purchaser, but you also want to assuage confiscation fears, you could always go to some kind of blind authenticator:

1) Buyer gets his proficiency certification, which contains some kind of blind private key and a public key that's left in the registration database.

2) Buyer buys the gun and presents proficiency.

3) Seller submits the proficiency key and his own license to the registration repository, which spits out a certificate of registration.

4) Registration can be verify on demand without the identity of owner being compromised.

A bit of an arm-wave. I'm sure what I just described is attackable, but I'm also sure you could make such a system secure.

Joel said...

"the value of middle class homes..."
...are based on wildly speculative investments, from what I can see.

Most are in suburbs, quite a few are mortgaged beyond even their inflated appraisal value, and the ones which saw the steepest uptick in market value a few years ago are now very, very difficult to sell at a profit. A lot of very smart people that I've read are predicting that all the creative lending practices of the past few years will cause a huge wave of foreclosures very soon.

They have some intrinsic value, but, as my friend from Ethiopia said, "they're made of cardboard." And they loose even that value if they go unoccupied, as so many do.

On guns: I think a lot of inner-city violence can be better understood as military casualties of disputes between feudal micro-states. The "legitimate" authorities shoulder most of the burden of enforcing some tempting state monopolies, but also work to de-stabilize the organizations that use that revenue. And this kind of power structure only crops up in areas where the larger government has lost its legitimacy with the population, and only when the smaller group can earn some legitimacy: when I lived in downtown Oakland, my roommate retrieved her stolen bike in a single evening by going to the local gang, whereas the police would have been worse than useless to her.

See this for more:

Anonymous said...

I like the comparison of the drug gang leaders with corporate executives...

He quotes the gang leader as saying something like "You have to [keep your own salary high even when profits are falling], or else you'll look weak and shit." He then wonders how much of an influence appearing "weak and shit" is on the behavior of actual corporate executives. Perhaps another excuse for ridiculous executive compensation is the need for the CEO to appear effective; in the absence of real information, price often serves as a proxy for quality. "Our guy must be twice as good as the other guy, because we pay him twice as much!"

rwc said...

David, for your proposal to gain any political traction amongst 2A proponents would probably require "The Jefferson Rifle" be the currently issued US armed forces rifle. Or perhaps the semi-auto version, the AR-15.

That would be "enough rifle" for most 2A proponents, but I assume "too much rifle" for most "gun control" proponents.

Anonymous said...

If the refugee camps are all part of an Arab plot to keep the world sympathising with the Palestinians, why are the West Bank and Gaza Strip still brimming with refugee camps 40 years after Israel conquered them?

How exactly has Jordan managed to keep the Palestinians "crammed" into refugee camps despite giving them (ever since 1948) full Jordanian citizenship and freedom to live anywhere in Jordan they want? (Note that until 1988, this included all West Bankers, as well as the refugees in Jordan - in other words, half of all Palestinians; even now, it amounts to a quarter.)

If freedom of movement is the key to resolving the Palestinians' problems, what have Israeli roadblocks, curfews, and annexations done for this?

If the Chechens, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars, and most lately southerly Iraqi Kurds have all returned to their homes decades after being exiled from them, why not the Palestinians?

Where exactly were "the Arabs" supposed to get all these Jewish homes in 1948, when Jews had barely begun to leave the Arab world - a process that would mostly take place over the next twenty years, with timing, degree of pressure, and chance to sell their property first depending very much on the country - and much of the Arab world wasn't even independent itself yet? And why should the Arab states in 1948 have prioritised resettling the Palestinians in other people's homes, as long as it seemed possible that they could bring them back to their own homes in the near future?

In any case, I suspect you misunderstand the nature of these refugee camps. If your mental image is of a bunch of tents, I suggest you examine some pictures.


Anonymous said...

No, no, *MY* tribe cannot be responsible for the theft of land, the murder of children, racism, bigotry, aparthied, and ethnic cleansing.

That's what you Goyim do to us.

No matter what the historical record shows, no matter what current events show, My tribal affiliation and it's importance to My self image trump reality.

We are the victims, no matter what, because we have always been the victims. Nothing we do is evil, because everything a "victim" does can always be called self defense.

Let thousands die, I will not admit Plan Dailat existed, I will not admit that Arab Nations pressured Jews to leave *after* Israel expelled three quarters of a million people.

I will never, ever publicly admit that Dair Yasin happened six weeks before any Arab power declared War, and that the newborn State of Israel refused to punish the War Criminals who committed this massacre - just as the same State covered for Sharon forty years later.

Like Weizman, I believe that some people just continue to "not take into account the fact that there is a fundamental qualitative difference between Jew and Arab".

I believe that the tribes of the Great North Woods were really responsible for the suffering of the tribes of the Eastern Seabord, because they did not take them in as they fled European Settlers.

I blame the Zulu for the suffering of the Koi-San, because they did not assimilate them when they fled Afrikkaner guns.

The order of operations can be modified as best suits my need to deny that my Tribe is flawed.

I know an ostrich who really does need help.

Kieran O'Neill said...

I like the idea of the militia rifle. It doesn't seem too far off the UK's approach to gun ownership, actually.

Another approach occurred to me, based on Switzerland's 100% male conscription / gun ownership and related low gun crime (which could of course also be related to a low Gini coefficient): only allow people with past military or law enforcement experience to own guns. Or, do what Israel does and make the age of legal ownership much higher for those without prior service. Want to own a gun? Serve in the army or police force first, learn how to use the thing properly and responsibly, then get one.

Jane Shevtsov said...

Most die-hard "we have to be ready to resist a tyrannical government" types won't accept this, but nonviolent resistance works much more reliably (75% success rate) than violent resistance (25). (See and the book A Force More Powerful.) Police and soldiers are often reluctant to shoot unarmed protestors but have no such compunction against shooting an armed person, since the latter poses a much greater threat. Compare the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (nonviolent) with those in Lybia before the NATO intervention, Syria and Yemen (violent).

Douglas Kruse said...

Has anybody ever thought that the reason America is a violent place is because we are a violent people? We worship violence, glorify in it. We see violence all the time as entertainment, as sports. We love to be violent. Look at how often we happily jump into one war after another. Violence is in our lexicon, listen to how often we use violence in our communication. I would almost say violence is an american birthright.
The only good news is that we as a species are not as violent as we used to be. Maybe if Americans would quit glorifying violence things will improve even faster. I doubt that will ever happen tho.

Pawyilee said...

How does The Jefferson Rifle comport with the The Jefferson Embargo?

Unknown said...

That's not really all that moderate of a suggestion. You propose amending the Constitution to infringe gun ownership rights, well except for this one class of guns we pinky promise we'll leave alone. Oh and you'll need to license and insure your guns (thereby making it a privilege, not a right). Which is a defacto barrier to gun ownership the same way poll taxes disenfranchised voters.

jsharbour said...

David Brin said:
One thing is certain -- the present situation is intolerable. We need a compromise on gun control. If moderate gun owners will accept a constitution-level guarantee, keeping the least harmful class of weapons unregistered and forever safe from confiscation, we might finally see automobile-style regulation of handguns, semi-automatics and the other true engines of death that make life needlessly perilous in a decent civilization.

This scenario is surprisingly short-sighted and ironic for this gifted thinker. Given his comparison between gun regulation and car regulation as an analogy, one must follow the analogy to the extent implied by his statements about gun control. Based on this argument, one would expect that ONLY ECONOMICAL CARS will be allowed to register legally, be granted unhindered rights, while it will be illegal to drive the "harmful class of cars" (Ferraris, Shelbys, Porches, Lambos, Priuses, etc).

Anonymous said...

Not only a well-armed and super-educated populace, but one that has computer-network attack skills that our military is just now starting to develop, and of which our civilian government has just begun to dream.

A second American civil war is a thing too horrific to contemplate, but our leaders are slowly and surely following the historical pattern, and leading us down that road.

The notion of an American public throwing off that government with rifles is relatively absurd. An American public throwing off that government with rifles and sophisticated hacking techniques that utterly disrupt and disorganize the government command and control infrastructure? Not so far-fetched.

I dearly hope it doesn't come to that.

Danny Adams said...

And in the meantime, anti-gun regulation advocates continue defending their case by posting fake Founding Father quotes about needing guns to protect us from our own government, etc.

Danny Adams said...

And in the meantime, anti-gun regulation advocates continue making their case by posting fake Founding Father quotes about needing guns to protect ourselves in case the government turns evil, while ignoring the real Founding Father quotes about how the right to gun ownership is permanently tied in with the duty to serve your country.

Michael Z. Williamson said...

I saw that before. It's laughingly naive and I told you so. If the government gets to define the right, they can redefine the right.

And if you're only allowed one tool to fix your car, why shouldn't it be a screwdriver? Different guns serve different purposes.

I propose we have the Jefferson Typeweriter. The IBM Selectric does everything one needs to type up clear, readable prose for distribution by mail. It's more sophisticated than the Founders envisioned, but not so sophisticated as to make, say, rapid downloading of child porn possible.

Everyone would be allowed one Jefferson Typewriter, thus ensuring the safety of the First Amendment.

Seem fair?

I'd also venture to guess that all the bleats about "neocon fantasy" about insurrection are from civilians with no credentials in armed force or strategic studies.

Frankly, given our email exchange last time you posted this, I am disappointed that none of my lengthy response at the time had any effect.

Apparently, you do believe you have a better grasp of my own field than I do. Dunning Kruger effect in full blow.

It's disappointing, sir.

As for your "neocon! Neocon! Neocon!" respondents, I would remind them that hate and stereotyping are not liberal values.

Cite to follow due to response limits:

Michael Z. Williamson said...

But here's the cite that ends the debate:

There are many reasons why the militia was thought to
be “necessary to the security of a free state.” See 3 Story
§1890. First, of course, it is useful in repelling invasions
and suppressing insurrections. Second, it renders large
standing armies unnecessary—an argument that Alexander
Hamilton made in favor of federal control over the
militia. The Federalist No. 29, pp. 226, 227 (B. Wright ed.
1961) (A. Hamilton). Third, when the able-bodied men of
a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better
able to resist tyranny.
Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ ( 2008 )


The most significant of these commentators was Joseph
Story. Contrary to the Court’s assertions, however, Story
actually supports the view that the Amendment was
designed to protect the right of each of the States to maintain
a well-regulated militia. When Story used the term
“palladium” in discussions of the Second Amendment, he
merely echoed the concerns that animated the Framers of
the Amendment and led to its adoption. An excerpt from
his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United
States—the same passage cited by the Court in Miller34—
merits reproducing at some length:

“The importance of [the Second Amendment] will
scarcely be doubted by any persons who have duly reflected
upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence
of a free country against sudden foreign invasions,
domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of
power by rulers.

...."The right of the citizens
to keep and bear arms has justly been considered
as the palladium of the liberties of a republic, since it
offers a strong moral check against the usurpation
and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even
if these are successful in the first instance, enable the
people to resist and triumph over them."


3. Relationship between Prefatory Clause and
Operative Clause
We reach the question, then: Does the preface fit with
an operative clause that creates an individual right to
keep and bear arms? It fits perfectly, once one knows the
history that the founding generation knew and that we
have described above. That history showed that the way
tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the able bodied
men was not by banning the militia but simply by
taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or
standing army to suppress political opponents. This is
what had occurred in England that prompted codification
of the right to have arms in the English Bill of Rights.


Story’s Commentaries
also cite as support Tucker and Rawle, both of
whom clearly viewed the right as unconnected to militia
service. See 3 Story §1890, n. 2; §1891, n. 3. In addition,
in a shorter 1840 work Story wrote: “One of the ordinary
modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without
resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it
an offence to keep arms, and by substituting a regular
army in the stead of a resort to the militia.” A Familiar
Exposition of the Constitution of the United States §450
(reprinted in 1986).

"Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 35–36 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding."."

All from District of Columbia vs Heller, 2008.


End of discussion, thank you.

rewinn said...

@Michael Z. Williamson :

"End of discussion, thank you" means "STFU"

In other words, you concede you've lost. Thank you. The door is over there.

Now, if you want to have an adult discussion, keep in mind that the Supreme Court opinion you cite is a legal opinion, not to be confused with historical facts. Our Supreme Court in general and this court in particular is fond of picking-and-choosing factoids that suit its previously selected position on the legal outcome of a case. That's why they are called "legal opinions" and not "scientifically established facts"; it is also why that court frequently overturns its previous opinions.

It may well be that in among the vast 18th-century literature arguing for and against elements of the new Constitution, there may be some approving mention of the murder of elected government officials. You can find almost anything if a debate goes on long enough. But in historical practice, the first use of the 2nd Amendment militia was to suppress an anti-tax rebellion. The Amendment was ratified in 1791 and that very same year, President George Washington used 13,000 militia troops to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. The Founders said a great many things (... and they didn't always agree with each other...) but when it came time for action, the militia's purpose under the Constitution was to protect the Constitutional order. This only makes sense, if you think about it.

In pragmatic terms, the 2nd Amendment is relevant today as a form of resisting tyranny as is the 3rd Amendment's limitation on quartering troops or the 7th amendment guaranteeing trial by jury in common law cases exceeding twenty dollars. Did anyone see the gun movement throw its weight in opposition to the Patriot Act or the invasion of Iraq based on plainly faked "intel" without a declaration of war? Even if the gun movement *could* slaughter the Palace Guard with its toy Bushmasters, it would not; history tells us that it would *join* the Palace Guard.

Gun registration and limitation on clip sizes (...the bolt-action rifle may be consider the ultimate limit on clip size ...) are pragmatic responses to real problems, especially when covered with universal mental health care (...which appears to be logical outcome of the gun movement's current attempt to say the problem isn't the guns, it's the nuts. But few have so far accepted that they're demanding "Obamacare" be extended to mental health....)
The utter rejection of pragmatism by gun extremists would be a matter of humor if it were not so costly to our nation. We may reasonably debate whether Dr. Brin's proposal would be effective, but to argue whether it would be constitutional is idiotic; by definition, constitutional amendments are constitutional. To argue whether it is inconsistent with the designs of the Founders ignores the actual conduct of the Founders in using the militia to suppress rebellion in 1791 (and their descendents in 1861).

If forced to give an opinion, I think the Jefferson Rifle is an interesting idea, but in practical application it would fail as a barrier against tyranny because people with authoritarian personalities favor tyrannies, so long as it is tyranny directed against others. However it is, at worst, a harmless experiment and therefore worth conducting.

But I forgot; this discussion is ended, so additional facts are not to be presented to the court.

PavePusher said...

@ Hawker Hurricane: It's a lot easier if you start with rifles in hand. Really.

PavePusher said...

@ Tyler August: Sir, your stereotyping of the military is both fact-less and vile. I suggest you watch a little less MSM and perhaps get out and meet some of these fine people.

PavePusher said...

@ Doug S.: The flaw in your assertion is that no-one has ever claimed that an armed Citizenry is a guarantee of anything. Only that a disarmed Citizenry makes any attempt at revolt very much more difficult.

PavePusher said...

@ praxcelis: Given that firearms in most defensive instances are rarely fired, and that only 1 out of 10 people actually hit by gunfire die, your claim to lethality is rather over-exagerated.

And if you think that hand-to-hand martial arts are not lethal force, you are getting some really bad training. Also, what about the many people for whom un-armed combat is not possible due to lack of funds/opportunity for training, physical disability, etc?

PavePusher said...

@ Jane Shevtsov: Non-violent resistance does not work without the threat of violent resistance lurking closely behind. Please re-check your history. It's true every single time.

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James said...

This is disappointing. I really like your other work, but this article is just wrong.

You propose the same "compromise" that's been offered to Americans for the last hundred years or so, since gun control started with a vengeance. Namely, "You can keep that gun if you give us this one. Really. We promise. Until we come for that one 10 years from now."

American gun owners have already made too many compromises. The NFA of 1934, the GCA of 1968, the Hughes Amendment of 1986. The host of ridiculous, nonsensical, byzantine state gun control laws (I'm looking at you California, who revises the gun control laws every year) that have no discernible effect on crime rates. These were all "compromises". But, one party giving up something and the other party taking something is not a compromise in any meaning of the word.

Even if you're plan were implemented fairly and honestly (doubtful given the nature of politics) it would result in a type of class system where the rich are allowed the right of effective self defense but not the poor. If this were any other right we were talking about (and it IS a natural right, guaranteed to all, not just Americans, for if you aren't allowed to defend your life what do any other rights matter) people everywhere would be outraged. Pay a poll tax to vote on certain issues? Offensive.

Semi-automatic, magazine-fed firearms are the most effective means of self-defense. They tend to be lighter (for those with less upper body strength), more adjustable (for different body types), easier to reload, and have a higher round capacity (for multiple attackers). That's why police officers and military members are armed with them, they are the best technology for what they do. They are the current pinnacle of firearms technology. Why should the average citizen be limited to self-defense technology that's about 150 years old?

If you've made the horrible decision that you have to shoot someone, then do it properly, quickly, and with the least chance of harm coming to the innocent that you are protecting.

The Blog Knight said...

Mr Brin,

With respect, you need to speak to anyone with a modicum of self-defense knowledge. Your "Jefferson Rifle" is appropriate for home defense? Not even remotely, sir. If you believe that, I would not want to live within 1000 yards of your home. A rifle round in the calibers typical of bolt action rifles, even in a proper defense holllowpoint, will over-penetrate modern building materials so severely as to be a threat to at least the next residence in the direction of fire, and possibly several. You would certainly not want this situation in a suburban neighborhood - much less a city block or apartment building.
Your focus on rifles isn't even really useful, if you'll forgive me saying so. Rifles of ANY type are so rarely used in crimes, that fists, hammers, and knives outweigh them massively each and every year. I've yet to see a suggestion for registration, training, and testing for those...
The real source of crime with firearms in America is gang members in urban areas, using handguns. And the answer to that problem is complex, but not intractable. Step one would be to focus on people and their (criminal and/ or insane) behaviors, and stop blaming scary-looking black rifles. They truly aren't the problem; if you define the problem as reducing criminal use of firearms. Crazy is hard to predict, you can only try to prevent outbursts with better identification and treatment. A nation-wide NICS would be helpful, but not a complete solution. The monsters responsible for the recent atrocities could have as easily driven vehicles at high speed into crowded venues full of innocents, and done as much or more harm. And, as you note, those are licensced and regulated.
We need better care for the marginalized; the courage to identify them; ("See Something, Say Something" needs to apply to more than abandoned luggage!) and the will to address the criminal organizations robbing our population centers of their peace and security.

abprosper said...

To make such a proposal work you'd have to make the anti gun ownership people trustworthy.

Take the UK as an example, as late as the 1980's all kinds of firearms could be owned with modest difficulty. And note there were few gun related crimes

However a lunatic shot up a school in Dunblane and the anti firearms forces used he political hysteria to get confiscation.

Same thing happened again in Australia and was attempted here after the shooting in Connecticut, gaining only a few state law changes.

Over the years the gun control proponents claimed there was no slippery slope and guess what, it pretty clear to everyone that they lied.

First you get regulation, than registration than confiscation. Thanks but no thanks.

Not too that most gun control people are true believers will cheerfully lie, deceive and use any underhanded political means (c.f New York and Colorado) to achieve their goals.

And while I don't consider our host untrustworthy or among them , the number of gun control proponents that are like him and are honorable people with well thought out ideas h is slight.

Because deceit and emotionalism are the prime weapons of that crowd (not Dr. Brin's reason here) suggests clearly that they are no to be trusted and that compromise is simply not worth it.

They have nothing to offer anyway other than taking less now and more later.

Pay the Danegeld you'll never be rid of the Dane as it were.

Brad Handley said...

As a word smith I find your misuse of the definitions to be disappointing. You should know better to to deliberately distort words. You said, " Some court could drive a bulldozer through the opening offered by those 12 words."
Mirriam Webster -
"Militia #2) the whole body of able-bodied citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service." This covers 60% of all Americans. Try to bulldoze that.
The state has the right to impose limits, the federal government is forbidden this right.
David said, 'Today, in contrast, how could any ragtag uprising of angry citizens hope to face a technological army, sent to quash a popular revolt? Yet consider -- how many cities could the dozen or so U.S. Army divisions hold and pacify against an angry, united and armed citizenry?" But what if the revolting citizens would probably have control of the Nuclear Missiles in the Heartland and the B-52 Bombers and many other things. There is a reason that large military bases are in conservative, gun culture states. If the gun culture citizenry were to revolt much of the military could go with them because these are there cousins and brothers and sisters.

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George Rifle said...

Other countries don't have the problems that the United States does. Other industrialized countries don't have tens of thousands of gun deaths per year, or regular mass shootings, or a population as armed as it is violent.

rwc said...

Your Jefferson rifle is now commercially available:

Toshi said...

My opinion is that personal owner shouldn't be restricted but yes accountability does matter. The concerns should keep an eye out on how the death toys are being used by their owners.

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Larry C. Lyons said...

Bolt Action Rifles are slow to reload? About a century ago during the first Battle of Mons, the Germans thought that they were facing massed machine guns, because the British soldiers were firing and reloading their Lee-Enfield SMILE rifles so fast. Moreover its a truism that a single man with a flintlock in the right place at the right time is worth more than a modern regiment an hour late and 10 miles from where they should be.

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Anonymous said...

These comments are typical in that they focus on what I regard as a largely diversionary topic, whether as an intended tactic or not.

In the US we have flexible government under the administrative control of many. That will probably forestall any situation that would precipitate a civil war or government led mass extermination effort, although nothing is guaranteed.

In the 70's, me, my wife and one year old were living in a duplex when a band of well over 20 Hells Angels roared up and parked at the curb. I grabbed our gun and took position where both doors to the place were in good range and visibility while my wife took our baby to another room. We kept silent, and two of the riders went next door. Later I found out my neighbor had misdirected them to my house in an effort to evade them. This was at a busy city intersection of two four laners.

We now live on five acres, wooded and undergrowth rich, in the country, ten miles from a wolf release center. Bear scat is frequently deposited within ten feet of our house and coyotes and deer are far more common visitors than people. When I'm working outside, I'm certain that animals I've been unaware of look at me from time to time within striking distance that would scarcely afford me enough time to raise and fire a rifle, but it takes about 1/4 second to draw and accurately fire my pistol. (I'm a qualified Navy Marksman.) Secluded homes make attractive targets for home invaders and a poor place for wielding rifles in surprise encounters.

The situations when firearm defense is realistically practical are very common in urban and rural areas, and city-wide riots are certainly well known in the US. We don't have to resort to civil war as the justification for defending ourselves in the most effective and often most practical and justifiable manner. That most certainly requires training, but not any accessible list of guns.

If the purpose of control is to keep certain persons from obtaining firearms, (given that they often have them when controls are implemented), those persons are easier to find than their guns.

We have records of felons, but lack records of the mentally incompetent. Make records. Those should be the only records used for determining whether to sell or give away a firearm. To compile a list of owners and their guns is to invite gun theft, which should be self evident to every thinking person. For example, is your SSN permanently so safe from every identity thief that you would bet your life on it? That is what gun registration nuts are demanding gun owners to do. Law enforcement is not devoid of corruption, and a gun location list would be very valuable to the same people you want to keep restricted from guns.

Anonymous said...

@Michael Z. Williamson

"Oh, wait, it was the LEFT that abandoned Vietnam..."

Like hell. I was a "lefty" when I joined in '73. The whole of the sane portion of the country was sick of Vietnam, even then! I came out of the service as a "lefty" too.

"Bleeding Hearts" are not all misers mis-characterizing themselves as conservatives.

Anonymous said...

Patriots are not all liberals either.

Anonymous said...

What we see from the comments here, and from the news and from studies, a person with a firearm tends to think anyone coming to their door is a threat.

Good old USA, where knocking on the door is considered an executable offence.

Alex said...

This isn't far off what you initially proposed. For all those who support and advocate for gun ownership, can we reach a reasonable compromise of the sort that I've been posting elsewhere (and gotten decent support from even those who advocate for gun ownership)? Here's my post: I have never advocated taking away the right to have a gun, but I don't think that precludes reasonable gun laws, like putting people through a licensing process like you do with a car. People without licenses shouldn't be able to get a gun or ammo any where, and people who do have a license will have to pass the same kind of tests that you do with a car for safety. That might not cut out all gun violence but it sure would cut it down considerably, especially if we improved our screening process to at least exclude mentally incompetent, violence-prone, and those on terrorist lists. That doesn't sound unreasonable to me given the amount of deaths and woundings that we are seeing here only in this country. When guns are reduced or controlled, such violence almost always goes down dramatically. Can we get to a reasonable compromise like this? We should probably add laws, if necessary (some are on the books already) about ghost buyers, etc. But couldn't a version of this work? We wouldn't have to register guns, but people would have to have a license to buy, use or have them, or to get ammo. Maybe give people a two-year window to get their license. Maybe have a reasonable age limitation with permit status (under adult supervision like cars) for younger gun users that might vary a bit from state to state. Is there room here to compromise at all? After nearly a thousand mass killings since just Sandy Hook, we need to do something in this country. If only the wacko paranoid fringe is listened to, then we are in deep trouble.

Travc said...

Compromise approaches will simply not work in the current political landscape. On the right, almost all the incentives align to taking an absolutist position on guns (and lots of other things).

- Gun-rights advocates have gotten a lot more extreme. This is due to primarily to demagoguery and propaganda stoking anti-government (and racial) fears.
-Due to our stupid electoral system, these extreme gun-rights advocates have vastly more influence than their numbers would justify. This also feeds back into making more 'centrist' Republicans extreme on gun issues since it has become a tribal identifier.
- Gun control advocates have NOT gotten more extreme. However, many on the right are absolutely certain that the left has become much more extreme, dogmatic, and powerful.
- This same dynamic applies to a lot of other issues, though guns are a very clear case.

The BBC has a good short article on the asymmetry of the political debate/landscape:

Killbasa said...

People in the comments love guns so much even though events in US are keeping proving that when you own a thing that is designed to kill, it will kill...

Unknown said...

All the nations had their own issues with their people and they had issues with their judiciary system. all the people can never be kept happy at the same time. You people can go for the firearms training centers to know about the gun laws in detail but following them strictly is solely upto your will. Illegal buying and selling of anything is actually a great problem for any nation, but when it is associated with guns then it simply becomes really difficult for the government to ignore.
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Anonymous said...

Ahhh...haven't insurrections in American cities already been crushed by the National Guard? I've seen footage of tanks rolling into Detroit during the 60's Detroit riots, and battling snipers. As I recall, those riots started when a party to welcome a black serviceman home from Vietnam was busted up. The National Guard obviously had no problem with that.
Oh, and as an Australian, might I contradict a previous poster and note that lasting change was brought about by the violent insurrection of the Eureka Rebellion. The insurrection itself was crushed by the military, but the Governor caved in when the population showed their total lack of support for him by acquitting all the rebels that were brought to trial. (The juries gave their reason for acquittal as 'mistaken identity'--an obvious 'stuff you' to the government).

Anonymous said...

So to add to what I said just that instance non-violent resistance was successful where violent resistance had clearly failed.

Anonymous said...

That only works with a functioning justice system. Right now there are serious issues with the USA justice system, where people are not punished equally for comparable crimes. You're more likely to get away with murder if you're a white male, despite video evidence. Selective acceptance of stand-your-ground defenses is only the most obvious example.

Anonymole said...

Hey Dave,

The conservatives, I believe, are feeling it. And know that without some concession, they will lose in the next two elections. This will probably prompt some mediocre gun purchase background check legislation. They will leave weapons of war still available for sale, no doubt.

But, it's not really any of these arguments that matter. It's what those in power care to back, or not. This high school march of students who will soon be voters, will, I believe, overwhelm the populace and there will be one factor come this November: If you do not support rational firearm legislation -- you will be voted out.

Regarding rational firearm legislation? It's a problem of shot volume. As you point out, bolt action rifles, shotguns, and revolvers have lengthy reloading times. That should be the focus of gun laws.

Amend the 2nd to ensure that all civilian weapons can only hold 6 rounds and must have permanently fixed magazines and/or are loaded only through the breach.

Always a pleasure to read your cogent thoughts.

Hank Roberts said...

> If moderate gun owners will accept a
> constitution-level guarantee, keeping
> the least harmful class of weapons
> - a militia rifle - unregistered
> and forever safe ....

Problem will be convincing the self-designated "militia" members to loosen their grasps on more harmful weapons.

My favorite hang gliding site is near a popular shooting site (unregulated National Forest land) and I rarely if ever hear bang .... bang .... bang .... (single shot)
Instead it's Brrrrrrrrrap Brrrrrrrrrap (big magazine)
With the occasional BOOM as someone sets off a homemade munition. Though the county sheriff usually does, on national holidays, park a vehicle in the area and take a few of the bomb-makers away for public safety.

My fear is that even the "moderate" gun owners out there nowadays would consider the Jefferso Rifle a wimpy toy, rather than something to be proud of.

And there are complications. One of our local problems is gangs of men killing black bears to gut them and sell the gall bladders, apparently a popular item for self-medication in some places. Again, not a candidate for Jefferson Rifle ownership, I'd guess.

R. Anthony Steele said...

We cared about the dead children in Waco, but we were powerless to stop them from being killed. We cared about the dead children in Sandy Hook, and we were stopped from preventing the next hundred, the next thousand mass shootings from occurring by people too stupid to know they were part of a death cult. We care about the dying biosphere all around us, and we are similarly being thwarted by these same stupid people who want desperately for their god to prove them right.

Those people? They are insane. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is insane to kill yourself when there is no need. When no sacrifice is needed. When suffering amounts to having to walk rather than drive. Cook rather than eat out. Not have the firepower on hand to take down an army single handed, just because you want to have it. They are insane, and we should not be listening to them when it comes to determining our, and our children’s, future.

From my article:

I have another article that I think speaks to your proposition of militia rifles: in which I propose that semi-automatic weapons of any kind simply be reassigned to the same category as fully automatic weapons, making the cost of ownership for those weapons as prohibitively high as machine guns. It is either that or we have to reinstate some kind of military draft that will ensure that everyone is trained with weapons and that everyone is issued a weapon that fits their training. As I say repeatedly on this subject, pick one of those two options because either one could be done quite easily when compared to the more radical suggestions of confiscating firearms or repealing the second amendment.